In the News
DH: Registered Focus on the safety & quality of care - A new framework to regulate the safety & quality of health & social care services has been published by the Department of Health. Subject to Parliamentary approval, from 2010/11, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) will register all providers of health & adult social care services against a single set of registration requirements that are focused on the safety and quality of care.
The new registration requirements replace the core Standards for Better Health (which apply to the NHS) and the National Minimum Standards & Regulations (which apply to social care & independent sector health providers).
Without registering with the CQC, it will be illegal for health & adult social care organisations to provide services that are in the scope of the new framework. To maintain their registration, providers will need to demonstrate an ongoing ability to meet all the requirements.
In addition, all 8,500 GP practices and 9,000 high street dental practices will be required to register with the CQC, regardless of whether they provide solely private, solely NHS services, or a mix of both. For the NHS, registration with the CQC against requirements on healthcare associated infections (HCAI) will be implemented from April 2009.
A March 2008 consultation on the ‘framework for the registration of health & adult social care providers’ sought views on which services should be within the scope of the new registration system and what requirements providers need to meet to be registered. The response has now been published, together with a new consultation (closes 29 May 2009) asking whether the proposed content of the draft regulations fulfils CQC’s stated policy aims.
Newswire – SDC: Continual Growth is not always beneficial - The Sustainable Development Commission’s report - Prosperity without growth? - says that ‘the current global recession should be the occasion to forge a new economic system equipped to avoid the shocks & impacts associated with our reliance on growth’. It calls on leaders to adopt a 12-step plan to make the transition to a fair, sustainable, low-carbon economy.
The report finds that our current financial crisis is directly linked to our pursuit of growth. Our reliance on debt to finance the cycle of growth has created a deeply unstable system which has made individuals, families & communities inherently vulnerable to cycles of boom & bust, while increasing consumption does not make us happier.
The report shows that economic growth has delivered its benefits at best unequally, with 20% of the world’s population earning just 2% of global income. Even in developed countries, huge gaps remain in wealth & well-being between rich and poor.
The pursuit of growth has also had disastrous environmental consequences. Based on a moderate level of growth of 2% per year, meeting 2050 carbon reduction targets would mean achieving a carbon content of no more than 6gCO2 for each dollar spent - a staggering 130 times lower than the average carbon intensity today.
The report proposes a plan for government to develop a new macro-economics for sustainability, which does not rely for its stability on growth and expanding material throughput.
DH: Deprivation of liberty is a serious issue - Some of the most vulnerable people in society will be better protected against abuse and poor care as a result of new legislation which came into force on 1 April 2009. People who ‘lack capacity’ in hospitals & care homes will now be protected by a new law known as the 'Mental Capacity Act Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards'.
It introduces new safeguards, so that, if a care home or hospital needs to deprive someone of their liberty for their own safety or wellbeing, they must now apply for permission. The law only applies to people in care home and hospital settings who are unable to make decisions on their own care or treatment and who need to be deprived of their liberty ‘in their own best interests to protect them from harm’.
These safeguards mean that, if a hospital or care home wants to deprive someone of their liberty to keep them safe from harm, they must apply to the local health trust or council for permission. This triggers a series of six assessments carried out by trained assessors. At any stage, the person or their representative will be able to appeal against their deprivation of liberty to the Court of Protection. In an emergency, the hospital or care home can issue an urgent authorisation, for 7 days, which speeds up the normal process of authorisation.
Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and local authorities (designated as 'supervisory bodies' under the legislation) will have statutory responsibility for operating & overseeing the MCA DOLS whilst hospitals and care homes ('managing authorities') will have responsibility for applying to the relevant PCT or local authority for a Deprivation of Liberty authorisation.
CQC: CQC given a bigger stick - The Care Quality Commission has published details of the new enforcement powers that will help it protect the health, safety and welfare of people who use health & adult social care services and to improve the quality of these services.
CQC has new powers to issue warning notices & penalty notices, and in extreme circumstances, to suspend or cancel the registration of organisations who do not meet essential standards of quality. Alongside the policy, CQC has set out nine priority actions that address points made as part of a consultation on the powers.
DH: Piloting models of Care - Patients in 16 pilot sites will benefit from a trial to see how health & social care services can join together to increase quality of care. The £4m scheme has been designed to look beyond traditional health & social care boundaries to explore how services for patients & service users can be improved and best practice identified.
Each site has developed new methods to help respond to particular local health needs. The health issues being tackled in each pilot include dementia, care for the elderly, substance misuse, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and end of life care. The methods involved vary widely and include: partnerships, new systems and care pathways that span primary, community, secondary & social care.
The pilots start in April 2009 and will run for two years. They will be evaluated over three years against a set of national and local measures, including impact on health outcomes, improved quality of care, service user satisfaction, and effective relationships and systems.
HC: 45+ years of tax NI contributions ignored! - People over 65 are often denied access to the full range of mental health services available to younger adults, according a Healthcare Commission (HC) report published recently. In its study of services for older people at 6 specialist mental health trusts, the Commission found some evidence of high quality care where there was good integration of health & social services. It also found good support & training for carers at some trusts.
However, the study showed older people were often unable to access the full range of services, including: out of hours services; crisis services; psychological therapies; drug and alcohol misuse services. The HC is also concerned that there is limited national data available on the quality of specialist older people’s mental health services, which would allow performance in key areas to be analysed more fully.
Findings show that older people were often prevented from accessing care because of stretched services or a lack of age-appropriate care. Some staff said patient groups considered to be of high risk to the public or where government targets were applicable were often prioritised, leaving older people’s services lagging behind with little funding.
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OS: Sir Ranulph Fiennes last week honoured a 6-year-old climber at The Ordnance Survey Outdoors Show.
Often called the world’s greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph met Tom Fryers, who is the youngest person ever to climb all 214 summits in the Wainwright Guides to the Lake District.
Tom undertook the climbs to raise money for Community Action Nepal and the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital in Sheffield, where he was treated as a baby . He has climbed over 150,000 feet and walked over 480 miles in pursuit of his goal and raised over £5,500.
BERR: The UK Atomic Energy Authority has announced it intends to offer for sale its commercial arm, UKAEA Limited. The UK Atomic Energy Authority is wholly owned by the UK Government.
The UK Atomic Energy Authority is seeking a purchaser for up to 100% of the issued share capital of UKAEA Limited, which provides nuclear decommissioning, waste management and site environmental remediation services and nuclear new build support services under contract both in the UK and overseas. The Government has indicated that it would consider retaining a stake in UKAEA Limited.
DIUS: The National Weights and Measures Laboratory has changed its name to the National Measurement Office from 1 April 2009. The move reflects the fact that the NMO will expand to assume responsibility for the National Measurement System with the Unit responsible transferring from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).
The National Measurement Office will continue to be an Executive Agency of DIUS and will be responsible for all aspects of the national measurement system, which includes investment in the UK's scientific measurement infrastructure and policy on national legal measurement.
OS: Further support to help route lorry drivers using satnavs has been announced recently with the release of new ‘steep road’ information from Ordnance Survey. The mapping agency, which provides road network data to the satnav industry, is the only organisation to have mapped the location of every steep road gradient in the country.
The steep hill data complements the existing information on road weight, width & height limits that Ordnance Survey first published in 2006. An HGV specific satnav relying on both sets of data would not only be able to route efficiently, but could also avoid sending drivers down unsuitable roads.
TfL: London Underground and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have launched a photo competition (closes 31 May 2009) to encourage Londoners to use the Tube to discover the Capital’s rich & varied bird life. 42 bird species have been recorded on London Underground property in recent years with an even greater number living in a surprising variety of habitats just a short stroll from the Tube.
Birds should be snapped within a 5 minute walk of a Tube station with entries judged according to their relevance to the theme, originality and quality of the photography. Prizes include an annual pass to RSPB reserves, a family pass to the London Transport Museum and bird-related goodies including books and bird feeders. Winners will be notified in July.
ESRC: Over the past decade the growth in Business Schools has created a global market for well trained staff who are already in short supply. In the UK, approximately 450 academics are recruited into business schools annually. But it’s not enough to keep pace with increasing student demand for business education.
Through a new Fellowship scheme, the Economic and Social Research Council, together with funding from the Society for the Advancement of Management Studies, a charitable trust, will provide financial support for talented individuals in their early to mid-career stage who have 5 to 15 years’ experience after completing an undergraduate degree.
A new website has been launched to provide a one-stop-shop for information about the new Fellowships, training activities and career pathways. The aim is that cohorts of Fellows coming into academic management and business studies will be able to network and learn from each other as they progress.
NE: Woodlands, countryside & parks have become out of bounds to a generation of ‘cotton wool kids’ with fewer than 10% playing in such places, according to new research results revealed by Natural England. In addition, 24% of children said they visit a patch of nature near their home on a weekly basis, compared with over half of adults (53%) who visited a local nature patch weekly when they were young.
The survey was produced to mark the launch of Natural England’s ‘One Million Children Outdoors’ programme, which aims to encourage more children to visit places such as nature reserves and environmentally friendly farms.
The programme, which aims to introduce 1m children to the natural world over the next 3 years, was launched at the Natural History Museum's wildlife garden, together with a new family guide to British wildlife - The Bumper Book of Nature.
British Wildlife Photography Awards (BWPA) - The inaugural BWPA is launching its ‘Call for Entries’ lasting until Friday 31 July 2009. Natural England is sponsoring one of the seven categories, ‘Wildlife in Your Locality’ and one of the 2 Awards for young people (School and Youth Community Award).
BERR: A new streamlined process for resolving disciplinary & grievance issues has come into effect. The central aim of this is to reduce the number of people going to employment tribunals and simplify the system for dealing with workplace disputes.
Employees & employers will be able to call the Acas helpline for impartial & confidential advice on the options available for resolving workplace problems. They will also be able to access a free early conciliation service for certain types of cases, with the aim to reduce the need for people to enter into full tribunal procedures.
BERR: A new Office for Life Sciences (OLS) has been created to address key issues affecting the pharmaceutical, medical biotech and devices sectors. The OLS is tasked (by the end of July 2009) with taking action to make a real difference to the operating environment for life sciences companies by working across Government to address a range of key issues, including those raised in The Review and Refresh of Bioscience 2015.
Working with Departments responsible for these areas, the ‘virtual Office’ will co-ordinate national policy, undertaking work to build a sustainable and integrated life sciences industry in the future. It will look at what steps can be taken to improve access to finance for SMEs and to stimulate investment in the life sciences industry.
It will also be considering how the NHS can be more effective as a champion of innovation, possible ways of getting medicines onto the market faster, how the UK can become a more attractive base for clinical trials, and effectively market the industry globally.
DWP: The creation of a statutory tower crane registration scheme to improve tower crane safety & public confidence in their safety has been announced. It has been agreed alongside a package of measures to improve tower crane safety and is likely to be in place by April 2010. A voluntary system will precede the statutory scheme and should be in operation later this year.
BERR: Debt collectors have agreed with Government to give 30 days' breathing space to borrowers struggling to repay debts. The new 30-day rule, agreed with the Credit Service Association (CSA), which represents debt collection agencies, will start once an accredited debt advisor has been appointed.
In addition CSA members will be required to inform borrowers of the availability of accredited advisory services. Accredited debt advisors include: Citizens' Advice Bureaux, Advice UK, The Consumer Credit Counselling Service
The new 30-day rule is being written into the CSA's existing code of practice which governs their 300 members. It means that debt collection agencies will not contact debtors to pursue debts for 30 days once they have been informed that an accredited debt advisor has taken on the case. This will allow an accredited debt advisor to negotiate with creditors and the collection agency so that a plan for repaying the debt can be agreed.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
ScotGov: From April 2009 the Energy Assistance Package will replace the Central Heating and Warm Deal programmes. A network of Energy Saving Scotland Advice Centres throughout Scotland will help deliver the scheme, which acts as a one-stop shop for assistance with reducing fuel poverty.
For the first time, families with children aged under five, or children with a disability aged below 16, are eligible for significant assistance where they are in receipt of benefits. As well as providing central heating & insulation, incomes will be boosted with free benefit and tax credit checks. Tariff checks will also ensure people are paying the correct amounts on their bill.
WAG: A new action plan to promote positive behaviour & attendance in Wales has been launched by Children, Education Lifelong Learning and Skills Minister Jane Hutt. Called, Behaving and Attending, the plan is the response to the National Behaviour and Attendance Review (NBAR) which was published in May 2008 by Professor Ken Reid and his independent Review Group.
The Action Plan will shape the direction & pace of Assembly Government policy, impacting on the lives of children & young people by putting in place new approaches & processes promoting positive behaviour and attendance and developing a consistent approach across Wales.
Defra: Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has given the go-ahead for the South Downs to become England's ninth National Park. The new 627 square mile protected area will be home to an estimated 120,000 people, stretching from Beachy Head to the edge of Winchester, in line with an independent inspector's recommendations following a 19-month public inquiry.
A new South Downs National Park Authority is expected to be established by April 2010 and become fully operational a year later.
HO: A new system to crack down on bogus colleges and fraudulent applications from foreign students has so far screened out almost a quarter of applications from independent schools, colleges and universities the Government has claimed.
More than 2,100 universities, independent schools and colleges have applied to accept international students. Each institution has been assessed or visited by UK Border Agency officers as part of the vetting process. Already around 460 institutions that don't make the grade have been rejected.
Last year tuition fees from international students totalled £2.5bn - the Tier 4 rules ensure that institutions who benefit from having international students on their books take responsibility for ensuring students arriving from outside Europe comply with the conditions of their leave to be in the UK.
DECC: A new £500,000 fund has been launched to help environmental entrepreneurs and small businesses develop their ideas to generate electricity from the River Severn's tidal power. The Severn Embryonic Technologies Scheme is designed to deliver:
* a support package which will comprise expert advice & grants
* an assessment of potential in terms of technical feasibility and environmental & other impacts
* a route map to deployment for promising technologies
The fund is open to new proposals as well as those submitted to the feasibility study in response to last summer's call for proposals. The closing date for bids is 1 May 2009
ScotGov: More than a thousand proposals from rural businesses & communities have been awarded £67m from Rural Priorities, as much as the previous three funding rounds put together, it has been announced. Successful applicants have included a dairy business in East Lothian, who will use their grant to develop the business and give it a competitive edge, and a renewable energy project for a small company in Orkney.
This latest round of Rural Priorities funding was opened up in response to stakeholder demand and has been marked by an unprecedented number of applications for agri-environment projects.
DCMS: Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has intervened in the public dispute about proposed library closures in the Wirral, calling a local inquiry to test whether the Council's plans are consistent with their statutory duty to provide all residents with a comprehensive public library service.
If the proposed changes to the library service are found to fall short of duties to provide a 'comprehensive & efficient' public library service, the Inquiry will also include practical steps that should be taken by the Wirral to put things right. The Inquiry will be the first of its kind since 1991.
The outcome of this Inquiry should also offer assistance to other library authorities in understanding the Department and Ministers' approach to library authorities' compliance with statutory duties and is expected to form part of the DCMS Library Review, to be published in June 2009.
Defra: Representatives from the farming industry have met with Environment Secretary Hilary Benn to discuss skills training. The Agri-Skills round table was convened by Mr Benn to discuss how to improve access to training for 21st-century farming.
There are a range of options open to farmers for skills & knowledge development including on-the-job training, short courses, in-depth accredited courses, and apprenticeships. The purpose of the round table is to develop a clear & simple system so that farmers know where to go for advice on assessing their skills needs and on the most appropriate form of training.
LLUK: Lifelong Learning UK is leading a process of data collection about the workforce to ensure there is a better understanding of those operating in the lifelong learning sector.
As part of a data collection process revision, Lifelong Learning UK has now created an online consultation portal for all those involved in submitting data to discuss any aspects of the collection. The portal will enable frequent & simple interaction and will build a community of users to assist each other.
Defra: Decisions about how to handle animal diseases would move to an independent body under proposals announced for consultation (closes 30 June 2009). Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, said the proposals would see a new independent board established to make decisions about animal health policy & delivery, made up of members with knowledge, experience and skills in the livestock industry, animal health science & welfare and relevant public health, consumer & wildlife issues.
In a disease outbreak, key decisions such as movement controls will be made by the Chair and Chief Executive of the new organisation, on the advice of the Chief Veterinary Officer. The earliest the new independent body could come into operation would be 2012.
CLG: New proposals for the full disclosure of senior staff pay & perks at local councils have been announced by Local Government Minister John Healey. The consultation (closes on 22 June 2009) proposes changes to the Accounts & Audit Regulations (2003) creating a new legal requirement and could require up to 475 local authority bodies to include detailed senior pay information in 2009/10 annual statement of accounts.
The new remuneration disclosure rules would require councils to set out full details for around 2,500 specifically identified senior posts (including temporary senior appointments) covering salary, bonuses, pensions, perks and compensation pay offs.
Additionally, the proposals build on the standards set in central government by also requiring councils to publish a head count, in narrower £5,000 band increments, of all staff taking home more than £50,000 a year.
WAG: A new action plan to identify people at risk of blood borne viral hepatitis and to improve care for people living with the infection has been issued for public consultation (closes on 22 July 2009) by the Welsh Assembly Government. Hepatitis B and C are viruses that spread from person to person by contact with infected blood and mainly affect the liver.
These infections can cause serious diseases and even death, but can be prevented and are treatable. The risk of catching hepatitis B and C increases if people partake in high-risk behaviours such as injecting drug use and unprotected sex. It is estimated that between 12,000 – 14,000 people in Wales are chronically infected with hepatitis C, the majority of which are unaware of their infection.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has issued a consultation paper seeking views on whether the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) should provide extra protection for holders of temporary high deposit balances in the event of the failure of a UK bank, if the EU Deposit Guarantee Schemes Directive provides the UK with the scope to provide such protection. There would be a monetary limit of £500,000 and a time limit of six months for claims.
DH: A consultation on the framework for the registration of health & adult social care providers, published 25 March 2008, sought views on which services should be within the scope of the new registration system, and what requirements providers need to meet to be registered. The response has now been published, together with a new consultation (closes 29 May 2009) asking whether the proposed content of the draft regulations fulfils CQC’s stated policy aims – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
Defra: Views are being sought from farmers and other interested parties on how the new EU rules on the electronic identification of sheep & goats can best be implemented in England through a consultation (closes on 23 June 2009) - See ‘EU legislation, initiatives’ section for more information.
LBRO: The Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO) is seeking views from local authorities on how they can provide more help to businesses. It has produced draft advice & guidance - 'Better Local Regulation: Supporting businesses in recession and beyond' - and is welcoming comments (by Friday 29 May 2009) from councils, business, consumer groups, and national regulators. The final guide will be published ahead of the LGA Annual Conference in July, and launched there ~ See ‘Business and other Briefings’ section for more information.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
DH: People with autism will benefit from better services, with the help of a new blueprint for commissioning high quality care. Care Services Minister, Phil Hope, is calling upon the NHS to help drive improvements in services for people with autism, starting with using the best practice guidance.
The guidance - 'Services for adults with autistic spectrum conditions (ASC): good practice advice for primary care trust and local authority commissioners' - was published to coincide with World Autism Day. It comes ahead of a consultation for the first national strategy for adults with autism to be launched later this month.
HA: Updated guidelines for highways maintenance engineers & contractors to make temporary traffic management at road works safer and more effective have now been published. Revisions to Chapter 8 of the Traffic Signs Manual have been taking place over the past 2.5 years as the Highways Agency seeks to make road works safer and less stressful for both road users and road workers.
Updates include revisions to the requirements for signage for road users experiencing emergencies (such as vehicle breakdowns) in roadworks, part-time or short-term contra-flow permissions (where, subject to a risk assessment, single lane crossover may now be permitted, enabling part time or short term contra-flows to be operated) and expansions to the scope of the guidance (such as new sections on works near tramways).
CO: Government departments are continuing to improve as they prepare for the challenges of the next 10 years, according to the latest round of capability re-reviews. The reviews (published by the Cabinet Office) outline the progress made by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Department for International Development (DFID), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
The FCO and Defra both showed significant improvement in their ability to lead & deliver, while maintaining high scores in strategy. DCMS improved on all 3 measures of strategic thinking, the MoD has continued to improve in strategy and DFID once again performed extremely well in all fields.
Defra: An updated overview of biodiversity in the UK has been published by Defra, which helps gives insight into the health of our natural environment. Biodiversity is the variety of individual species, the genetic diversity within species and the range of ecosystems that support them.
These 18 indicators were agreed in 2007 by the UK Biodiversity Partnership to summarise some of the key priorities for biodiversity in the UK. They include the population status of: key species; plant diversity; the status of priority species, habitats & ecosystems; genetic diversity of rare breeds of sheep & cattle; protected sites; management of woodland agricultural land & fisheries; impacts of air pollution & invasive species; expenditure on biodiversity; and the amount of time given by volunteers to nature conservation activities.
General Reports and Other Publications
DECC: More than 100 port operators, developers, investors and wind manufactures from across the UK met recently with the Government discuss a potential bottleneck in offshore wind farm development. The UK needs ports with the capacity to handle large vessels and with available space for wind turbine manufacturers and their supply chain.
QAA: The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has published a new subject benchmark statement for youth & community work.
Subject benchmark statements are used for a variety of purposes. Primarily, they are an important external source of reference for higher education institutions (HEIs) when new programmes are being designed & developed in a subject area. They provide general guidance for articulating the learning outcomes associated with the programme but are not a specification of a detailed curriculum in the subject.
HC: Almost half of people needing specialist community mental healthcare still do not have a number to contact out-of-hours if they are in a crisis while 55% of people with schizophrenia have not been offered recommended psychological therapies.
The Healthcare Commission published a report detailing progress by all 68 NHS specialist community mental health trusts since it reviewed community adult mental health services in 2005/06. The Commission said there remained significant room for improvement before all trusts were meeting best practice & guidelines by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).
NE: England’s most familiar landscapes, their wildlife & habitats, will experience wide-ranging changes in the face of climate change and significant changes to the way we manage our land are needed to allow our natural environment to adapt, says Natural England. The 4 reports form part of a wider project aiming to help identify local management responses that will better enable the natural environment, and our enjoyment of it, to adapt to changing climate conditions.
The Climate Change Character Area reports focus on 4 treasured, and very different, English landscapes, the:
* high fells of the Lake District
* woodland and chalk grassland of the Dorset Downs and Cranborne Chase
* varied, farmed landscape of the Shropshire Hills
* low-lying wetlands of the Norfolk Broads
RoCPFE: Sir Andrew Foster has published his report, following his independent review (The Review of the Capital Programme in Further Education) as requested on 28 January 2009 by the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Chair of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).
Sir Andrew has reviewed the circumstances that have led to the current position of the Building Colleges of the Future programme, managed by the LSC and reports on what lessons can be learned. Within this, he has assessed existing LSC processes, and considered how they can be enhanced to deliver more effective management of the programme in the current economic environment and beyond.
Toni Fazaeli, IfL's chief executive, said: "Further education college teachers and trainers have a vital role to play in tackling the economic downturn and minimising its impact on individuals, employers and local communities. It is essential that they should be given the kind of accommodation needed, in order to achieve this important economic mission”.
Ofsted: Ofsted’s report - Physical Education in Schools 2005/8: working towards 2012 and beyond - has a positive picture for PE and school sport. Mountain biking, dance, martial arts, and yoga are putting PE back in favour with pupils.
Pupils are taking part in a wider range of activities than previously associated with the subject. Creative approaches to PE have encouraged pupils not keen on traditional team activities and reduced disaffection & improved engagement.
LLUK: Lifelong Learning UK is delighted to announce the publication of ‘College Voices’, a collection of inspirational stories. These remarkable portraits, painted by author Janet Murray and originally published in the education section of The Guardian, are a clear testament to the power of lifelong learning in general, and further education in particular, and their ability to be a catalyst for positive change in people’s lives.
The stories in the book illustrate the transformational quality of lifelong learning: given the right support, people from all paths of life find the strength to overcome adversity & difficulties and find the confidence to pursue education again.
‘College Voices’ is available on Amazon.co.uk and proceeds from the sale go to Skill, a national charity promoting opportunities for young people & adults with any kind of impairment in post-16 education, training and employment.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission has commended the majority of NHS trusts for improving infection control.
In the latest measure to drive improvement, it registered for the first time 388 NHS trusts to provide care after carrying out an assessment of whether they meet government regulations for managing infection.
While CQC registered all trusts, it made registration of 21 trusts subject to conditions, which are legally enforceable and must be met within agreed timescales or enforcement action will follow.
To register, trusts must meet government regulations aimed to ensure that patients, workers and others are protected against the identifiable risks of acquiring a healthcare-associated infection, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Next year, a wider registration system is being rolled out covering the regulation of the NHS, independent healthcare and adult social care. This single framework will cover the whole range of quality & safety issues and the system will be subject to a full consultation over the next year.
NAO: A National Audit Office report on UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) has found that, 3 years into its five-year strategy to deliver improved support to UK exporters, it is close to meeting most of its performance targets. UKTI lacks, however, sufficiently robust measures of the costs of delivering its individual services. Without such information it is hard to show that value for money is being optimised.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has submitted the 5th of their regular reports to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the rural impacts of the recession, which help inform his contribution to the National Economic Council, which meets weekly to consider impacts of the recession and recovery measures. The latest report examines housing in rural areas.
Ofsted: Ofsted has published published a ‘good practice’ report on English & modern foreign languages for college courses. The survey looks at the best English & modern foreign language provision in colleges, placing an emphasis on effective teaching & team-working, study visits & cultural activities and overseas work placements through employer links.
Legislation / Legal
MoJ: By forming Legal Disciplinary Practices (LDPs), law firms can now be owned by different types of lawyers, and a proportion of non-lawyers. LDPs are a milestone on the journey to alternative business structures, which will allow for full non-lawyer ownership and for law firms to be listed on the stock exchange.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority, the regulatory arm of the Law Society, is planning to regulate these new types of practice from 1 April 2009. Previously, Law Society-regulated bodies could only be owned by solicitors. Similarly, powers have been commenced which allow the Council for Licensed Conveyancers to regulate LDPs.
CLG: Fire safety regulations for sub-surface and underground railway stations have been published. The regulations maintain the existing standard of safety required brought in following the Kings Cross tragedy in 1987, while the accompanying guidance makes the requirements clearer, easier to understand and enforce.
There are sub-surface & underground railways London, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne and Birmingham. Sub-surface railway stations are those with at least 1 enclosed platform partially under a building or within a tunnel. The regulations come into force on 1 October 2009 after a 6 month transition period.
DfT: Under the new laws drivers - including hauliers - living outside the UK will no longer be able to escape the penalties faced by UK offenders. The Police and examiners from the Vehicle Operator and Services Agency (VOSA) can now collect on-the-spot payments from alleged offenders who cannot provide a satisfactory UK address.
Those caught committing an ‘endorsable’ offence will also have penalty points put on their UK driving record, which could lead to them being banned from driving in the UK. VOSA examiners will also be able to issue fixed penalty notices to drivers of heavy goods vehicles from both the UK & abroad, in addition to immobilising vehicles where driving hours, weight or vehicle safety rules have been broken.
OFT: The OFT has welcomed a Court of Appeal Judgment confirming its views on the application of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 (UTCCRs) ahead of a substantive hearing against Foxtons Limited during the week commencing 27 April.
During the preliminary stages of these proceedings the OFT appealed against a ruling by Mr Justice Morgan which accepted arguments from Foxtons that any injunction on unfair terms could only apply to future contracts, rather than preventing the use or enforcement of unfair terms in existing ones.
The Court of Appeal has now overturned this ruling, confirming the OFT's long-held view that it can take enforcement action under the UTCCRs to protect consumers in relation to both existing and future contracts.
HO: The Home Office will look at proposals for introducing compulsory licensing to tackle the limited number of wheel clamping companies whose dodgy practices include:
* excessive penalties for releasing clamped cars
* towing cars unreasonably quickly after being clamped
* hidden, missing or confusing signs warning drivers that clamping takes place
* a lack of any appeals process for drivers
Currently, any individual undertaking wheel clamping must hold a frontline licence from the Security Industry Authority (SIA), with supervisors or directors holding a non-frontline licence. The new proposals would make it mandatory for the company itself to be licensed to help ensure it upholds standards of conduct, which will be enforced if they are not met. The Home Office will launch a formal consultation at the end of April considering how best to regulate the industry.
OFT: The OFT has announced that it is to streamline its investigation into unarranged overdraft charges by focusing on the terms of three banks in particular (Lloyds TSB, HSBC and Clydesdale). The aim is to progress the case in the shortest & most efficient way possible and the OFT has written to all the banks under investigation to outline this decision. The OFT expects to reach final conclusions on fairness later in 2009.
The OFT believes that the terms of the three selected banks provide the best representative selection of all the banks' unarranged overdraft charging terms and therefore the outcome of this more focused investigation will be relevant to the assessment of other banks' terms.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
Defra: Views are being sought from farmers and other interested parties on how the new EU rules on the electronic identification of sheep & goats can best be implemented in England through a consultation (closes on 23 June 2009). The UK has been pressing hard in Europe for changes that will help to reduce the burden of EID and individual recording on the sheep and goat farming industry.
The Government has already secured a number of changes to the EID regulations which will considerably reduce the burden on farmers, including delaying the date of implementation until December 2009 and securing a derogation from the need to electronically identify animals which are intended for slaughter under 12 months of age. If the UK applies the slaughter derogation, the EID regulation will only affect the one sheep that is retained for breeding out of every five sheep born.
While continuing to press for further improvements, the Government is preparing to implement the new system by the EU deadline of 31 December 2009 and is seeking views on how to make the costs of implementation as low as possible.
HO: The Home Office claims that victims of human trafficking will receive better protection & support under new measures which came into force in the UK on 1 April 2009. The Council of Europe Convention Against Trafficking in Human Beings creates minimum legal rights for victims and strengthens the UK's ability to catch the criminals that exploit victims of trafficking.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: The Big Lottery Fund is helping village life in England to weather the economic downturn by announcing close to £19m to revive village halls & centres at the heart of communities across England. 55 villages up & down the country will be strengthened as their village halls begin much-needed makeovers or build new ones from scratch.
CO: The Cabinet Office has announced that thousands of small charities will save a total of up to £5m a year as the Government cuts red tape by raising the income thresholds above which stricter accounting rules apply. All charities, including those with annual incomes under £25,000 must prepare accounts and make them available on request.
Key income threshold changes, coming into force from 1 April 2009 include:
* Raising the threshold above which charities prepare accruals accounts from £100,000 to £250,000 - around 11,700 in this category will benefit.
* Raising the threshold above which accounts must undergo external scrutiny from £10,000 to £25,000 - benefiting around 37,000 charities.
* Increasing in the threshold above which charities submit annual accounts and Trustees Annual Reports to the Charity Commission from £10,000 to £25,000 - this will benefit around 23,000 small charities.
Business and Other Briefings
BERR: The Department for Business has announced that the design & rollout of Solutions for Business, its streamlined portfolio of business support products, is complete with over 3,000 schemes reduced to 30.
To conclude the rollout, 9 products joined the portfolio last week and, from 1 April 2009, Train to Gain and Business Link brokers will come together in a new service under the Business Link brand to offer advice on skills, reinforcing Business Link's role as the main route to government support.
HMT: Businesses will be able spread payment of this year's inflation up-rating (of 5%) to Business Rates over 3 years, under new legislation announced by the Government. The majority of independent economists expect RPI inflation - which has now fallen to 0% - to turn negative at the end of 2009.
The impact of up-rating if RPI is negative would be to reduce total business rates in cash terms in 2010-11. However the Government recognises that many businesses also need help now to ease cash flow.
The Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO) is seeking views from local authorities on how they can provide more help to businesses. It has produced draft advice & guidance - 'Better Local Regulation: Supporting businesses in recession and beyond' - and is welcoming comments (by Friday 29 May 2009) from councils, business, consumer groups, and national regulators. The final guide will be published ahead of the LGA Annual Conference in July and launched there.
To support local authorities in providing more effective regulatory services, the guidance covers areas including: principles of better regulation; engaging to understand business needs; effective targeting and delivering local priorities.
DSA: If you are a driving instructor, transport operator, motorcycle instructor, driving instructor trainer or a lorry, bus or taxi driver, the Transport Office Portal currently offers you online access to a range of Department for Transport (DfT) transactional services & tools, many of which are owned by DSA. From 1 April 2009 you should access most of those services through the Business Link – Transport and Logistics webpage.
You will still be able to find the information you need. There will be a new theme of Transport on the ‘My Business’ section of Business Link's website and, for a while, customers still using the old Transport Office web address will be redirected automatically.
HMRC: As part of wider reform of the tribunals system, the tax appeals system changed on 1 April 2009. New guidance explains how the revised appeals system works for all the different taxes & duties affected, across both direct and indirect tax.
All of the previous tax tribunals, including the General Commissioners, the Special Commissioners and the VAT & Duties Tribunals, are now combined within the Tax Chamber of a new First-tier Tribunal. A new Upper Tribunal will hear appeals from First-tier Tribunal decisions.
Before an appeal is considered by the new tribunal, customers have a new statutory right to a review of the issue by someone in HMRC who has not previously been involved in their case. The online guidance explains the various options open to customers, including what they need to do and when.
Following representations from the First Aid training sector regarding the application of the Social Security (Categorisation of Earners) Regulations 1978 (the Regulations), HM Revenue & Customs has published a Brief regarding the application of the Regulations and amended guidance.
HMRC: Revenue & Customs Brief 24/09HMRC has set benchmark scale rates for particular day subsistence expenses that HMRC will accept for all employers.
Revenue & Customs Brief 22/09HMRC: The fuel duty increases announced at the 2007 and 2008 Budgets and confirmed at the last Pre-Budget Report will go ahead on 1 April 2009.
Modernising tax relief for business expenditure on cars. This brief provides details of revisions to the draft legislation that was published in December 2008.
HM Revenue & Customs announces four changes to simplify the Standard Method to help reduce compliance costs for businesses.
HMRC: Revenue & Customs Brief 18/09This brief announces a change in the treatment of VAT Bade Debt Relief claims made when the net VAT due on a return has not been paid or has been partly paid.
This Brief gives details of the Capital Gains Tax and Income Tax position of people who were shareholders in Bradford & Bingley plc and members of employee share schemes on 29 September 2008 when the company was taken into public ownership.
HMRC: Revenue & Customs Brief 12/09Explains HM Revenue & Customs' view that the 'error or mistake' provisions cannot be used to substitute a claim for plant & machinery allowances for an earlier claim to industrial or agricultural buildings allowances in respect of expenditure incurred in a closed year.
The Corporation Tax Act 2009 (CTA 2009), produced by the tax law rewrite project, has come into force for corporation tax purposes for accounting periods ending on or after 1 April 2009.
HEFCE: Knowledge Transfer: Delivering a Route to Growth - How HE institutions can add value to the UK economy - 7 May 2009 at 1 Great George Street, London.
AURIL is hosting an event to increase awareness of the contribution of knowledge transfer in meeting the downturn challenge (short & long term) and to share good practice across the HE sector on what is working on the ground. The event is sponsored by HEFCE and supported by Universities UK.
AURIL is inviting members to contribute to this FREE event which will highlight how they can help in this current economic downturn. It will provide poster space, table and a uniform template so members can promote & disseminate their best programmes. Note the deadline for submission of posters is 15 April 2009.
ACE: The Arts Council has teamed up with the Centre for Public Policy to host a wide ranging discussion on how to sustain excellence in the arts during the recession. The seminar - Maximising the importance of arts and culture through the economic downturn - will take place on the 24 April 2009 at The Brewery in central London.
The seminar will bring together key figures from the arts world to discuss how arts & culture can best be supported, so they can maximise their impact and maintain their quality & excellence during the downturn.
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