In the News
LSN: What will be the ‘view from the mountain top’ with regards to training - During fringe events at this year's party conferences, the Learning and Skills Network (LSN) launched ‘Beyond Leitch: Skills policy in the upturn’. This is the first research report to come out of their new independent think tank, the Centre for Innovation in Learning.
Government strategy is based on the belief that the quality of the UK's skills base is the crucial determinant of the nation's economic future. But the Leitch agenda and its assumption of growing employer demand for training looks less appropriate in the current climate, which raises questions as to its appropriateness in the long term.
This report examines the impact of the recession on training & skills needs and considers the likely future implications for skills policy. It analyses how the skills system has coped with the changing needs & pressures brought about by the recession, what lessons can be learned and whether the system can be more flexible & effective in driving the economic upturn.
CQC: It is not just a possible pay freeze that NHS staff are concerned about - The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is encouraging NHS employees to provide feedback on their experiences at work by participating in the seventh annual NHS Staff Survey. More than 300,000 staff in 392 trusts will be asked to participate and the Commission encourages staff in all sectors & roles in the NHS, to take the opportunity to give their views.
CQC, NHS Trusts and the Department of Health will use the information gathered to inform local & national changes in working conditions to not only help staff feel valued, but ultimately improve the quality of care for patients.
The 2009 questionnaire is largely similar to that used in previous years and will allow Trusts to track progress over time, with additional questions on staff engagement and health and well being.
BIS: No more room at the UK Inn, which could be liable to flooding! - The Government Office for Science has begun its latest Foresight project examining how future environmental change could affect human migration in the long term around the world. A growing, urbanising global population over the next 50 years will create demand for more food, energy and water.
Many modern ‘megacities’ are located in coastal areas or river deltas, which are vulnerable to flooding and sea-level rise. Changes to the climate could lead to reduced crop productivity in many regions, desertification and increased levels of water scarcity.
A wealthier population will mean substantially greater demand for food, which must be produced from the same land area, with fewer inputs, at the same time as coping with climate impacts and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This threatens to create a ‘perfect storm’ of global events. A likely impact of environmental change & population growth is an increase in global human migration as people move to cope with a deteriorating environment.
The Foresight project will explore:
* The global patterns & impacts of migration over the next 50 years arising from environmental change
* The challenges that could result from changing migration patterns & how these might be managed.
Newswire – HCA: Filling in the gaps - Land redevelopment opportunities, including new homes, in London are set to be ‘transformed’, thanks to a new freely available online tool, launched by the London Development Agency (LDA) and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).
Open to all, the London Brownfield Sites Database is the country’s most comprehensive database of land available for redevelopment. This is accompanied by a London specific Best Practice Guide to brownfield land in London.
The Database records around 2,300 previously developed ‘brownfield’ sites across London, equivalent to more than 2% of the land in Greater London. This is an increase of over 1,000 sites than was recorded on the previous National Land Use Database (NLUD) system. Using up-to-the minute Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping, this includes transport routes, deprivation, social infrastructure, as well as heritage and natural environment assets.
At a time when developers are seeking greater certainty over site availability & site suitability, this information will help to establish clear redevelopment opportunities. London Boroughs can also use the data to inform their policies, site specific allocations and housing & employment land availability assessments.
OS: Technology stops their enjoyment being coloured - For many people map reading can be a struggle, but for the hundreds of thousands that are colour-blind it can be an even more arduous experience. Help may be on the way though, thanks to a new product - OS VectorMap - from mapping agency Ordnance Survey that can be specifically styled to make mapping easier on the colour-blind eye – See ‘Industry News’ section in website version of newsletter.
Industry News: Work / Operate smarter to cut costs – Public sector managers are now under immense pressure to squeese savings from primarily Back Office budgets, including building management budgets. However 2 other high priority issues have to be taken into account:
* The need to meet new environmental UK & EU standards and legislation
* The need to offset projected (by Ofgem) rises in future power costs by improved management of / reducing demand
The twin pressures of the geometrical rise in the importance of ICT relating to an organisation’s service delivery, since the late 1980’s, combined with the astronomical increases in energy requirements to power / cool / heat / secure / maintain a safe environment for staff & their ICT equipment has changed this budget area into a business critical issue.
No longer can these functions be left to relative ‘amateurs’ to use trial & error to find the optimum solution for the most cost effective / comfortable building environment. Increasingly organisations are turning to solution suppliers such as CDC to provide the intelligent management systems that create optimum solutions.
After all, the odd £m here & there starts to add up. So much so that central government (for example) estimates that it should be able reduce the cost of data centres by £900m in 5 years, with an ongoing saving thereafter of £300m p.a.
For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
STFC: The Sunday Times article of 4 October 2009 on UK involvement in the European particle physics laboratory CERN and high profile global astronomy projects, such as ALMA, is incorrect. The article has misquoted the Chief Operating Officer of STFC, Professor Richard Wade and taken other comments out of context.
STFC's position in relation to the LHC is made clear in their Vision document, published in July 2009, which states that ‘our highest priority in particle physics is to exploit the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN’. Particle physics delivers significant benefits to the UK economy, as demonstrated in the joint STFC-Institute of Physics publication Particle Physics - It Matters published in May 2009.
ScotGov: A national conference - organised & run by pupils - has been held that will encourage young people to take action over sustainable development issues. Inverkeithing High, Bellahouston Academy and Peebles High are leading 'eco-schools' and pupils from the 3 secondaries worked together to organise a conference where they could share the work they are involved with in their schools & communities.
The Eco-Schools programme is an international initiative designed to encourage whole-school action for the environment. Schools can apply for 3 levels of award - Silver, Gold & Green - with specified criteria at each level.
ScotGov: Scottish social workers have begun receiving advice from a new hub of child protection expertise - the first in the UK - as they work to keep young people safe from neglect or abuse. The Multi-Agency Resource Service (MARS), based at the University of Stirling, is helping child protection professionals work through difficult cases and share good practice to help spread successful approaches across Scotland.
NA: A new partnership between JISC, the University of Sunderland, the Met Office Hadley Centre and the British Atmospheric Data Centre has enabled the use of historical naval logbooks in ground-breaking research on climate change. The logbooks include the famous voyages of Charles Darwin's ship, the Beagle, Captain Cook's HMS Discovery and William Parry's polar expedition in HMS Hecla.
The UK Colonial Registers and Royal Navy Logbooks (CORRAL) project has digitised nearly 300 ships' logbooks dating back to the 1760s and, for the first time, the accurate weather information they contain is being used as scientific data to reconstruct past climate conditions. Modern researchers are able to find out what the weather was like anywhere in the world on a particular day.
A fully searchable version of the logbooks, which also include unique accounts of life on board ship and the lands encountered on the adventurers' voyages, will be available on The National Archives' website in 2010.
HO: Design students from across the country are being invited to propose ways to prevent a vehicle-borne terrorist attack in a crowded place in the Public Spaces, Safer Places competition. The competition brief is based on a fictional site, described as the country’s largest nightclub.
Students can provide solutions to deal with different styles of vehicle borne attack or provide innovative proposals that will enable site owners to verify vehicle entry at specific vehicle control points in the site (both are described in the brief). The competition will close on 11 December 2009 and an award ceremony will be hosted in April 2010.
OS: 8 lucky schoolchildren spent the day unearthing archaeological remains with Channel 4’s Time Team after winning a competition run by national mapping agency, Ordnance Survey. The winners met with presenter Tony Robinson and the rest of Time Team in Litlington, Cambridgeshire, where an exciting dig had already begun for the show’s new series. The winners were able to tour the trenches and be on hand as a Roman Villa was uncovered.
The competition was run as part of Ordnance Survey’s Free maps for 11-year-olds scheme, which offers every Year & Primary 7 pupil in the country a free OS Explorer Map. It is one of the largest educational resource initiatives of its kind, with the 5 millionth map given away last year.
Every school in the country still has the chance to order their pupils’ maps for the 2009 scheme and enter this year’s competition to win an ‘all-expenses paid’ trip with the Field Studies Council in Exmoor National Park. Competition entry forms will be delivered with the maps to all schools that order by the closing date of the 30 November 2009.
HO: A crime-fighting project has won top spot in the national Tilley Awards ceremony after delivering a 90% drop in incidents of metal theft. Operation Fragment was set up by Avon & Somerset Police to tackle a spate of metal thefts at schools, churches and community buildings.
Working with local councils and metal dealers police launched a series of crime reduction campaigns including presentations to church wardens and school staff on how to improve security. Test sales were carried out on metal dealers and intelligence led checks were made on suspicious vehicles. The operation led to a drop in thefts and an increase in arrests.
ScotGov: Two of Scotland's world-renowned science institutes are to join forces to form a new powerhouse for research into food, land use and climate change. The Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) and the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute have agreed in principle to unite, strengthening Scotland's rural-environmental research capacity and further enhancing their international competitiveness.
It will be the first institute of its kind in Europe and the new organisation is expected to create an international office to reinforce its global presence. SCRI and the Macaulay already have extensive global links: SCRI has international development links to Africa & trade links to China and the Macaulay is active in more than 40 countries worldwide.
HMT: Over 6m people aged 50 & over can now take advantage of a £3,000 increase in the tax-free ISA allowance, with the limits rising to £10,200 (up from £7,200), of which up to £5,100 can be saved in cash (up from £3,600). From 6 April 2010 the ISA increase will be available for all, regardless of age. Over 19m people currently have an ISA and the increase could directly benefit over 5m people.
HEFCE: Over 7,000 young people have been inspired & encouraged to apply to university through the support of student mentors following the success of the Aimhigher Associates scheme, which is now to be rolled out nationally across England.
BIS: Last week, rocket scientists have headed down to Earth and back to school as part of World Space Week - the largest annual public space event on the planet, which celebrates the contributions of space science & technology to human society and involves all the world’s space-faring nations.
The UK space sector is second only to the United States in space science, supporting 68,000 jobs and contributing £6.5bn to the economy. UK science & engineering expertise features in over 40 operational missions– from Herschel, the largest space telescope ever built – to Galileo, Europe’s first satellite navigation system.
World Space Week will be followed by space-related events during the half-term holiday, including activities at the National Space Centre in Leicester to highlight all the different nations involved in space missions.
PCS: The PCS union has accused the government and the Conservatives of ‘playing political football with civil & public servants' lives in a bid to outmanoeuvre one another on public sector pay & job cuts’. Responding to the government’s & Conservative’s announcements to cap pay increases and freeze the pay of civil & public servants, the union warned that the two parties were damaging the morale of hard working staff at a time when people needed public services the most.
With 40% of people working for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) getting no pay rise last year and half the civil service earning less than £20,000, the union went on to say that low paid workers should not be penalised for the failures of the City. IDS, the independent pay monitoring body, is predicating pay rises of 2-3% next year for the private sector,leading the union to warn that the gap between the civil service and private sector will continue to grow.
ACE: Unlimited, the UK’s largest arts & disability programme has been launched by London 2012 as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The £3m programme is the result of a 3-year consultation process across the disability, arts and disability sports sectors.
MO: Global warming could melt the vast Greenland ice sheet beyond ‘tipping points’ from which it would only partially recover even if global carbon dioxide concentrations returned to levels prior to the industrial revolution. Previous studies have already shown that the ice sheet, covering an area of about 1.7 million km², could melt completely over a few thousand years if global temperatures rise unchecked. This would raise sea levels by up to seven metres.
This latest study used a sophisticated climate model coupled to a 3D simulation of the ice sheet to predict changes over thousands of years — a method pioneered by the Met Office Hadley Centre. Scientists found there were ‘tipping points’ in the melting of the ice sheet which, when crossed, meant that the ice sheet may only recover to certain levels even when temperatures returned to pre-industrial levels.
ACE: If you’re looking for a different way to spend an evening without spending any cash, then some ‘legendary’ characters would like to recommend your local theatre. Stars of the hit BBC3 series 'Being Human', including Aidan Turner (brooding vampire Mitchell), Russell Tovey (conflicted werewolf George) and Sinead Keenan (George’s girlfriend Nina) are all huge fans of live theatre and they’re urging students across England to try it – for FREE – with the Arts Council England scheme - A Night Less Ordinary.
During the first 3 months of the scheme, more than 50,000 free theatre tickets were given away, but there are hundreds of thousands more available to anyone under 26. With over 200 theatres across England taking part there’s a theatre event to suit everyone – from comedies to tragedies, musical theatre, dance, modern mime, plays, circus and much more.
ACE: Dame Liz Forgan, Chair of Arts Council England, last week told a gathering of the UK’s libraries to join up with the wider cultural sector and “reinvigorate the role public libraries play in championing the value of reading”.
Speaking at the Public Library Authorities (PLA) conference in Bristol, she discussed the Arts Council’s Taking Part research which revealed reading had the highest level of public participation of any artform, creating an ‘unseen army of support’ for libraries to utilise.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government is carrying out a major survey of citizens in Wales as part of its commitment to public service improvement.
The survey, to be carried out in every local authority area in Wales between now and February 2010 will enable WAG &other public service bodies to:
* Assess people’s views & experiences of public services
* Monitor trends in the views & needs of people in Wales
* Assist in developing policies, for example on environmental issues & the internet
*Set priorities and target resources to meet needs
ScotGov: Every pupil in Scotland will be taught the key personal finance skills they need to be successful in the future. Research published by the Scottish Government into the range & effectiveness of financial education across the country, found that while many schools have 'excellent practices in place, provision for pupils is variable'.
Ms Hyslop has asked Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) to create a partnership team to address the research report's recommendations and to produce a delivery plan that will drive forward financial education improvements. The Cabinet Secretary said the plan will ensure good quality financial education is delivered to every pupil in every school in Scotland through the new numeracy curriculum.
ScotGov: Getting vaccinated is the best way for vulnerable people to protect themselves from the consequences of seasonal flu. That was the message from Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon as she launched the annual seasonal flu vaccination campaign. 3 groups of people are entitled to free seasonal flu vaccinations:
* Those aged 65 years of age & over
* Those with a medical condition which puts them in an 'at risk' group
* NHS healthcare staff
A separate vaccination campaign will begin in the next few weeks to vaccinate people against the H1N1 pandemic flu virus.
ScotGov: Nurses & midwives returning to work to help in any worsening of the H1N1 outbreak will have their re-registration costs paid for by the Scottish Government. The Nursing & Midwifery Council has written to former members whose registration has lapsed in the previous 4 years to encourage them to re-register. This would make them available to employers in the event of a surge in the pandemic. There are approximately 9,500 nurses & midwives in Scotland who would meet the criteria set out by the NMC.
DFID: Douglas Alexander has said that ‘We need a World Bank in practice as well as in name’, in Istanbul, ahead of the Bank’s annual meetings. He added that ‘now is the opportunity for the most fundamental reform of Bank representation since it was created in 1944’.
The International Development Secretary confirmed the UK will push for at least a 3% shift in voting power in favour of developing countries by April 2010. He also called for Bank shareholders & management to spread and deepen commitment to create a more responsive, client-driven organisation, saying ‘client partners too often had concerns about heavy & inflexible procedures, a lack of decentralised decision making, and slow transfer of money to low-income countries’.
DECC: The final details of the Government's scheme to save organisations money on fuel bills and to reduce carbon emissions have been unveiled by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme is a new regulatory incentive to improve energy efficiency in large public & private sector organisations.
Large energy users in business & the public sector will be required to take part in the scheme from 1 April 2010.
The scheme is mandatory and will save participants around £1bn per year by 2020 through cost effective energy efficiency measures that are not yet being taken up. It will also deliver emissions savings of at least 4.4 Mt CO2 per year. The registration window for CRC will begin in April 2010 and last until the end of September 2010.
WAG: Education Minister Jane Hutt has outlined her spending priorities for the draft Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills budget which stands at over £2bn in 2010/11. In addition to allocating significant funding to meet the WAG’s One Wales commitments, the Minister has made an additional £20.5m of funding available to help those young people who have been hit hardest by the economic downturn.
HEFCE: The HEFCE is committed to developing higher education (HE) centres and 6 proposals under the New ‘University Challenge’ initiative have been identified as being of good enough quality to go forward. The Government announced the New 'University Challenge' in March 2008, asking HEFCE to develop a programme to support new HE centres by 2014.
As a result of the Board’s decision, lead HEIs whose proposals have met their criteria are being advised to wait till Spending Review decisions for the period 2011-14 have been made, before doing further work on developing full business cases.
ScotGov: Up to 75,900 students, or 68% of the eligible student population in Scotland, will see their income increase in the next academic year, under new measures announced by the Scottish Government. ScotGov is to use the £30m - set aside as part of the spending review for improved student support - to focus on increasing the income of the poorest students during the recession, including:
* Providing £2m to increase the funds available to students with additional childcare costs
* Creating a grant for independent students, benefiting students who were previously solely reliant on loans
* Increasing grants for the poorest students receiving the Young Students' Bursary
* Increasing the maximum level of the income-assessed student loan
DECC: Research published last week from the Department of Energy and Climate Change reveals that over 50% of people questioned don’t believe climate change will affect them and only 18% of respondents think that climate change will take effect during their children’s lifetime.
The results showed that a big motivator for people to take action on climate change is the knowledge that it will impact on the next generation. 74% said they would make changes to their lifestyle now if they knew climate change was going to affect their children. The Government wants to educate people on the dangers of climate change and has launched its first ever direct public information announcement confirming the existence of climate change and its man-made origin.
DH: 20 sites across England have been selected to participate in a study to identify the benefits of Personal Budgets for health and the patient groups who will benefit most from them. Earlier this year the Government pledged its commitment to creating a more personalised & responsive NHS by selecting 70 sites across England to pilot personal health budgets. The budgets give patients the freedom to choose the support services they want for themselves or a family member.
The study will be conducted through a partnership between three existing research teams at three institutions including the University of Kent. The full evaluation will last 3 years, with newsletters, research summaries and interim reports made available online.
WAG: Almost 600 Corus Strip Products UK (CSP UK) employees in Wales, are to benefit from skills support worth £1.1m in ProAct funding, First Minister Rhodri Morgan has announced. ProAct is the Welsh Assembly Government’s flagship training scheme aimed at helping viable companies who are facing difficulties during the economic downturn by providing funding to upgrade training for employees.
Employers can receive up to £2,000 per individual for training, and, in theory, up to a further £2,000 per employee for a wage subsidy whilst that training is being undertaken.
WAG: Public sector organisations in Wales are set to save an average of 16%, or over £2.4m, per year from reduced hire vehicle costs and carbon emissions under a new all-Wales agreement for spot hire of Cars, Commercial and Specialist Vehicles.
Organisations including Local Authorities, the NHS, Education and the Emergency services spend in excess of £15m a year hiring vehicles ranging from cars & mini-buses through to refuse trucks & road-gritters - usually involving a time-consuming & expensive European tendering process, duplicated across Wales.
Value Wales is running a programme of collaborative procurement with various partners. The Welsh public sector sourcing plan ‘Smarter Buying – Sharing Success’ was produced in July 2006 and its implementation has to date saved over £93m across the Welsh public sector.
DCSF: A programme for children who struggle with basic maths could save the taxpayer £ms and break the historic link between deprivation & low-attainment, according to research into pilots of the Every Child Counts scheme.
The results show that 2,621 of the lowest achieving 6 & 7-year-olds, many from poor backgrounds, made almost 14 months progress on average after just 20 hours specialist one-to-one or small-group tuition - four times the normal rate of progress.
The scheme is now expanding this year to 12,000 Year 2 pupils, with an additional 460 teachers trained on top of the 207 existing staff. The scheme will go nationwide in September 2010.
DCSF: Children’s Minister Delyth Morgan has launched a consultation (closes on Tuesday 29 December 2009) to update the rules governing ContactPoint. Since the law governing ContactPoint came into force in August 2007, the system has been built, tested & subjected to security checks. The Government is proposing to make some minor changes to the law.
ContactPoint was developed in response to a key recommendation of the Laming Inquiry into the tragic death of Victoria Climbié. It provides a quick way for practitioners to find out who else is working with the same child or young person. It will support better communication among practitioners across education, health, social care & youth offending, in the statutory & voluntary sectors.
ScotGov: Interest free loans are to be offered to householders to help them cut their fuel bills and reduce emissions. A sum of £2m is available this year for a pilot loans scheme to help people improve insulation, replace inefficient boilers or install small scale renewables.
The news comes as the Scottish Government publishes 'A Consultation on the Energy Efficiency Action Plan for Scotland', a package of existing support & ideas on how energy could be saved to cut emissions and boost the economy (consultation closes on Tuesday, 5 January 2010).
The new Energy Saving Scotland Home Loans will provide interest free loans between £500 - £10,000 to enable householders to finance measures in existing homes including loft and wall insulation, small scale renewables and many others.
ScotGov: Proposals to protect unauthorised tenants where a property is being repossessed have been published. Changes relate to a landlord letting out a property, without informing the lender, in breach of a mortgage agreement. In the event of repossession of a property, any unauthorised tenants have limited rights. It is estimated that up to 300 households a year are affected
The Scottish Government is consulting (closes 6 November 2009) on more protection for unauthorised tenants. If there is support for the measures, the Government will propose amendments at Stage 2 of the Home Owner and Debtor Protection (Scotland) Bill.
HMT: HM Treasury has published a call for evidence (will run until 11 December 2009) on the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and of the UK's anti-money laundering policies & procedures under them. The Call is designed to help inform a review of the Regulations, and look at how effective & proportionate the UK's anti-money laundering rules are.
The Call for Evidence is in two parts. Part A of the call for evidence is aimed at money-laundering experts & practitioners, such as businesses supervised under the Regulations & money laundering supervisors. Part B is focused on private individuals & business customers.
Ofgem: Energy regulator Ofgem has highlighted the challenges to Britain’s gas & electricity supplies. Chief among these challenges are a growing exposure to a volatile global gas market and power stations nearing the end of their life.
Ofgem has drawn up four energy scenarios to assess the energy security risks over the next 10-15 years. They reveal a range of potential risks to supplies when exposed to shocks. Further, Ofgem identifies the need for investment of up to £200bn in power plant & other infrastructure over the next 10 years to secure both energy supplies and climate change targets.
The need for this investment arises at a time of volatile world energy prices and Britain’s increasing dependence on gas imports. Ofgem will be putting forward proposals in the New Year based on a consultation (closes 20 November 2009) to ensure that Britain’s energy industry can meet the challenges ahead. National Grid’s forecasts for this winter show that gas & electricity supplies are likely to be adequate, with a substantial reserve margin in electricity.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
FSA: 77% of people are not aware that bread & breakfast cereals are among the daily foods that contribute most salt to our diet, a new Food Standards Agency survey reveals. The survey’s publication marks the launch of the latest stage of the Agency’s work to reduce people’s salt intake.
The salt levels of these foods vary across brands, so the campaign encourages people to reduce the amount of salt we eat by checking labels on foods and choosing those that are lower in salt. Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which triples the risk of heart disease & stroke and doubles the chance of dying from these diseases. SACN have confirmed that the population as a whole would benefit from reducing their intake to a maximum of 6g per day.
CLG: ‘Drowning’ in the toxic smoke of a house fire is the risk you take if you do not have a working smoke alarm. That is the stark message being delivered in the new 'Fire Kills' advertising campaign launched by the Department of Communities and Local Government.
Two to three breaths of toxic smoke will affect your ability to breathe, a sensation similar to drowning, as shown in a new advert. Just 2 - 3 breaths and you're unconscious. The aim of the campaign is to encourage a long term behavioural change in the public so that weekly testing of their smoke alarms becomes a habit.
Fire & Rescue Services in England offer free home fire risk checks to identify potential fire risks and advise what to do to reduce or prevent them. This may even include the free installation of a smoke alarm.
HMRC: Many people who are entitled to a cash increase in their income are missing out simply because they assume they are not entitled to Working Tax Credit (WTC), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has claimed. HMRC has therefore set up an online calculator enabling anyone who thinks they might be eligible for WTC to quickly find out for sure whether they are likely to be entitled - and by how much.
The average amount of WTC unclaimed is £1,600p.a., so some people will qualify for significantly more. WTC is payable to people who are in work & on a low income and you don’t have to have children to qualify.
HO: The UK Border Agency has published revised guidance for employers & education providers who sponsor migrants under the points-based system and has enabled education providers to use the sponsorship management system for the first time.
The sponsor guidance has now been split into separate documents for employers (Tiers 2 & 5 of the points-based system) and for education providers (Tier 4). Both guidance documents, together with a list of changes from the previous guidance, can be downloaded from the page of this website.
DH: Football legends John Barnes, Ian Wright, Gianfranco Zola and teams from the Premier League have teamed up with the NHS to launch Smokefree United, a virtual club of quitters that provides coaching & support to help football fans & players to stop smoking.
In addition to quitting advice, footballers & fans who sign up for Smokefree United will receive motivational emails from football hero Ian Wright encouraging them to stop smoking, as well as the chance to win money-can’t- buy prizes such as the chance to play a game on the pitch of the team they support.
According to new research conducted on behalf of the NHS Stop Smoking Service, 41% of male smokers in England play football and 82% of them are concerned about the effect smoking has on their performance and want to quit.
Newswire – IDeA: After 10 years of celebrating & sharing, the Beacon Scheme is ending. It is being replaced by the Local Innovation Awards Scheme, which rewards partnerships that can demonstrate how their innovative services bring real benefits to citizens. The new scheme is now open for entries and applications close at 5pm on Tuesday 27 October 2009.
The aims of the scheme are to:
* identify, acknowledge and spread innovation & excellence
* raise standards by promoting best practice through peer learning & knowledge transfer
* improve services to make a real difference to quality of life and life chances for individuals & communities
* give national recognition to local, frontline services & partnerships.
Newswire – GC: The Gambling Commission (the Commission) and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) are backing a new leaflet designed to help landlords keep poker legal in their pubs. The Commission has produced the leaflet titled - Poker in pubs: advice on allowing poker in alcohol licensed premises - as part of a campaign to educate the licensed alcohol trade about the law on equal chance gaming.
Low stakes poker is permitted in pubs as long as stakes are kept below £5 a head and £100 per premises per day. A significant number of poker leagues operate legitimate low stakes poker around the country, but there is some evidence of restrictions being breached.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has launched a ‘Safer food, better business’ (SFBB) pack especially for childminders. Many childminders are now covered by food safety regulations and the pack has been designed to help them comply with these regulations with as little paperwork as possible.
It is based on the same principles as the other SFBB packs, but it is shorter,and has advice tailored to childminders, including information on feeding babies & children, cooking, cleaning, chilling and looking after a child with a food allergy.
WAG: The number of recorded fly-tipping incidents in Wales has fallen, but Environment Minister Jane Davidson is calling on people to remain vigilant so we can end this blight on the country. Through the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act the Welsh Assembly Government has introduced measures to enable local authorities and the Environment Agency Wales (EAW) to react more effectively to fly tipping.
ScotGov: Reducing the number of problem drug misusers and disrupting the illicit drugs market can bring huge social & economic benefits to Scotland, Minister for Community Safety Fergus Ewing has claimed.
The Minister was commenting on the publication of two related research reports - Estimating the National and Local Prevalence of Problem Drug Misuse in Scotland and Assessing the Scale and Impact of Illicit Drug Markets in Scotland. Both reports were commissioned by ScotGov & ISD Scotland and are based on data from 2006.
DH: Almost 1m more people registered to become organ donors in the last year and hundreds more lives were saved in the UK through organ transplants according to a new report, which details the progress made in the first year of the Organ Donation Taskforce Implementation Programme. The programme was set up by the Government to increase organ donation by more than 50% by 2013 with the aim of enabling the NHS to carry out more than 1,400 extra transplants every year.
The Programme aims to do this by implementing the 14 recommendations of made by the Organ Donation Taskforce in January 2008.
ScotGov: A 'significant fall' in NHS Scotland's sickness absence rate in the past 2 years has made staff available for 1m more hours of patient care, according to latest figures. The reduction - from 5.55% of all working hours in 2006-7 to 4.95% in 2008-9 - represents a 'sustained downward trend'. The Scottish Government has given more than £300,000 to NHS boards across Scotland to fund projects designed to reduce rates of sickness absence.
DCSF: In response to the Statistical Release - Permanent and Fixed Period Exclusions From Schools and Exclusion Appeals in England, 2007/08 - Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said: “It is positive to see the rate of exclusions decreasing indicating that behaviour in our schools is getting better”.
General Reports and Other Publications
CRC: Research report & case studies from the Commission for Rural Communities show the diverse ways accessibility planning is able to deliver a range of innovative ways to help improve access to a range of services for rural areas.
As part of the Local Transport Plan process, transport authorities are required to carry out a process of accessibility planning. This aims to improve social inclusion for disadvantaged groups and areas, by enhancing access to work, schools, healthcare, food shops and other key services in a co-ordinated & systematic manner. Local authorities are due to produce their 3rd Local Transport Plans in 2010.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published the findings of a new survey testing for campylobacter & salmonella in chicken on sale in the UK. The survey showed that campylobacter was present in 65% of the samples of chicken tested. Salmonella was in 6% of samples, 0.5% of these samples contained S. enteritidis and S. typhimurium.
As part of the Agency’s work to reduce levels of campylobacter in UK-produced chicken, an international conference on campylobacter is being organised for 2010.
TfL: Electronic countdown systems, at pedestrian traffic signals could give people clearer information about how long they have to cross the road after the green man has gone out, according to a new study for Transport for London (TfL).
Many pedestrians assume the green man displayed at junctions is the only safe time to cross the road. In fact, the green man signals the invitation to start crossing the road. The blackout period that follows the green man at junctions then continues to give people the right of way to complete their crossings before the red light is displayed & vehicles are given their green light to move.
Ofgem: Proposals to beef up safeguards to protect vulnerable customers from disconnection have been published by the energy regulator Ofgem. The proposals follow a joint review with Consumer Focus that was prompted by evidence from the Consumer Focus Extra Help Unit of a number of disconnections of vulnerable households last winter.
The review found that while there is much good practice across energy suppliers to protect vulnerable customers from disconnection, there is still room for improvement. Ofgem is proposing to change current supply licence conditions to oblige suppliers to investigate proactively the customer’s circumstances to establish they are not vulnerable before they disconnect them. It is also seeking a commitment from all suppliers to re-connect within 24 hours a customer who has been disconnected, who subsequently turns out to be vulnerable.
The review is a part of a wider review of energy suppliers’ debt management & prevention practices Ofgem is carrying out with Consumer Focus that will be completed by the end of 2009.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government and local councils have now completed 200 new or refurbished schools in the period April 2007 to March 2009, according to figures from the Scottish Parliamentary Library (SPICe). Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop said a further 36 had been completed since then and the total of 236 compared with 205 during the four years of the previous parliamentary term.
EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission (Commission) have launched a new report into how a range of UK organisations have established equality policies encouraging employees from diverse backgrounds to participate fully in the workplace. The report will be used by the Commission to develop guidance for employers on implementing effective equality policies.
The report looks at 8 employers - including BT, Asda, the British Library and North Wales Police - to see what policies & practices they have adopted to encourage lesbian, gay, bisexual and older employees and those with differing religions or beliefs to take up recruitment, promotion or advancement opportunities in the workplace.
Legislation / Legal
NE: Recently Natural England announced changes to the licensing situation, which will be implemented from 1 January 2010, regarding the control of monk & ring-necked parakeets. Some media reports have indicated that Natural England is calling for the eradication of these species. They are not.
Other reports have suggested that because of the licensing changes, both species are now classed as pests and can be freely removed by members of the public. This assertion is completely inaccurate and it is important to emphasise that the licensing changes do not affect the legal protection for either of these species.
It remains illegal for anyone to kill or interfere with monk and ring-necked parakeets, except in exceptional circumstances. These circumstances are defined in special licences that enable people, on land they own or occupy, to deal with specific problems caused by parakeets.
WAG: Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones has outlined developments with regard to the proposals to secure legislative competence for the Welsh language for the National Assembly for Wales. WAG is committed to seeking the power to enable the National Assembly for Wales to legislate to confirm official status for both English & Welsh, linguistic rights in the provision of services and establish the post of Language Commissioner.
The Minister is looking to develop an Assembly Measure before the end of the Assembly term in 2011 which will allow Ministers to deliver on their One Wales commitments on the Welsh language.
MoJ: Changes to the Criminal Procedure Rules, affecting procedures used in magistrates' courts, the Crown Court and the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal, came into effect last week. This is the eighth amendment of the rules.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has announced that banks have agreed to make personal current account costs more transparent and the switching process more reliable & trusted. This announcement follows the OFT's 2008 market study, which identified 3 major problem areas - transparency of cost to consumers, real and perceived difficulties over switching and the way in which unarranged overdraft charges function.
The OFT is taking steps to help consumers understand & compare the costs of their accounts through new advice & tools, including an interest calculator, on its Consumer Direct website. A new consumer guide & websitewill be made availableas part of efforts to increase consumer awareness of the automatic switching process.
The OFT is pursuing a separate investigation, alongside the market study, into the fairness of unarranged overdraft charging terms under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. The OFT expects to make more substantive comments on unarranged overdraft charges in due course after the pending Supreme Court judgment.
GC: The Gambling Commission (the Commission) has published a set of documents, which restate the principles that guide its regulatory approach and replace the previous versions published in 2007. The documents have been revised to take account of the Commission’s experience since the Gambling Act 2005) came fully into force in September 2007. Amongst other things the documents emphasise the Commission’s pursuit of the Hampton and Macrory principles in promotion of the licensing objectives.
There are 4 documents:
* a revised Statement of principles for licensing & regulation
* a revised Licensing, compliance & enforcement policy statement
* a revised Statement of principles for determining financial penalties
* a new document entitled .Licensing & regulatory decisions: procedures & guidance
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
FSA: Lord Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), has set out the factors that will determine the success of plans to change the structure of regulation in Europe. The EU has agreed major changes to the structure of regulatory & supervisory cooperation in Europe to introduce greater integration and coordination between regulators. Lord Turner also warned about the risks that remain for host countries from cross-border banking business.
ScotGov: Internationally important populations of 2 rare species of water bird are to receive greater protection with the classification of a new Special Protection Area (SPA) under the EC Birds Directive. The new SPA is West Inverness-shire Lochs. This network of 8 lochs to the west of the Great Glen supports an internationally significant population of black throated divers. It also represents one of the main concentrations of breeding common scoter in Great Britain.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
CO: Cabinet Office employees have got behind the Donate Don’t Dump campaign to raise money for Age Concern and Help the Aged by donating items of clothing and accessories. Members of staff donated over 900 items of high quality unwanted clothes & goods.
The campaign, which was set up by the Association of Charity Shops, featured in the BBC programme Mary Portas Queen of Charity Shops. It aims to improve the quality & quantity of donations to charity shops and to encourage more people to give.
LLUK: Third sector organisations in Scotland that are affected by the recession can apply for support from a £1.7m Resilience Fund. Grants of between £10,000 & £100,000 will potentially be available. The fund, which will be open for 5 weeks from late October, is being delivered as a ring-fenced part of the £12m Third Sector Enterprise Fund.
Organisations seeking information on the funding, or potential applicants, should contact Mary Lyden on 0141 305 4176 or Polly Chapman on 01463 663918.
DH: New funding is to be given to the charity My New Hair to help cancer survivors, hairdressers and NHS staff work together during hair re-growth following treatment. My New Hair is a charity established by celebrity hairdresser Trevor Sorbie which focuses on providing training for hairdressers to help them understand the unique needs of both cancer survivors and their hair at this difficult time.
The charity also provides advice & information for patients and NHS staff on wig styling, hair loss and re-growth which can be confusing and poorly understood.
Business and Other Briefings
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published its final rules on the liquidity requirements expected of firms. The new rules will require changes to firms’ business models and will bring about substantial long-term benefits to the competitiveness of the UK financial services sector.
It plans to phase in the quantitative aspects of the regime in several stages, over an adjustment period of several years. This is to take into account the fact that all firms at present are experiencing a market-wide stress. The qualitative aspects of the regime will be put into place by December 2009.
BIS: The government claims that the climate for doing business with Kuwait has been boosted with the signing by the UK of a trade treaty with the Gulf state. An IPPA is a treaty designed to guarantee fair treatment for the investments of individuals & companies in an overseas market - and to allow for a level playing field by ensuring they are treated in the same way as local companies and other foreign investors.
The UK already has similar agreements in place with over 100 trading partners. They can & often do encourage UK investment overseas and foreign direct investment into the UK, by signalling a commitment by both Governments to open and transparent investment markets.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) and Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance (MPPI) firms have agreed an industry-wide package of measures for consumers, including refunds of around £60m. The industry has acted in response to FSA concerns over recent increases in premiums and reductions in what customers are covered for under their policy.
The FSA’s concerns centred on the terms permitting these changes and how clearly they were disclosed. The FSA expects its concerns to be addressed by the agreement reached. Firms will contact customers if their policy is affected, and will make all refunds by the end of June 2010.
HMT: HM Treasury has published a call for evidence (will run until 11 December 2009) on the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and of the UK's anti-money laundering policies & procedures under them. The Call is designed to help inform a review of the Regulations, and look at how effective and proportionate the UK's anti-money laundering rules are – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
HMRC: Revenue & Customs Brief 62/09HMRC has revised its policy on input tax recovery on the costs of staging shows (production costs) for which the theatre's admissions are VAT exempt. It follows the tribunal decision in Garsington Opera Limited.
OS: For many people map reading can be a struggle, but for the hundreds of thousands that are colour-blind it can be an even more arduous experience. The traditional rainbow of cartographic colours – green for grass-land and trees, red for main roads & public footpath, and blue for motorways & rivers – can become indistinguishable, therefore making map reading extremely difficult.
Colour blindness is the result of damage to the specialised ‘cone’ cells in the eye which make colour vision possible. It is the most common genetic disorder among humans, afflicting mostly men, with around 8% unable to tell the difference between reds & greens. Instead these colours appear as shades of grey or brown, making it difficulty to interpret the colour‑coded features shown on maps.
Help may be on the way though, thanks to a new product - OS VectorMap - from mapping agency Ordnance Survey that can be specifically styled to make mapping easier on the colour-blind eye.
The new OS digital mapping has been developed to be customisable, allowing for the creation of colour-blind-friendly styles, which to most people will look very strange but could help avoid future confusion for those with the condition.
CLG: Ocella Software Systems Limited has launched the first Connector for the Planning Portal e-Consultation Hub, which provides a fully integrated online consultation solution for Local Planning Authorities. The Hub is the only e-consultation method which actively works to improve standards in planning, a key part of the recent Killian Pretty recommendations and delivers the full benefits of a joined up e-Planning system.
South Oxfordshire District Council has been working in partnership with Ocella during the development phase and has been the pilot site for the first Connector. The pilot was a success and South Oxfordshire District Council went live with the Connector on 30 September 2009.
MO: Met Office climate science has been used as part of a major new book, highlighting the impacts of climate change on our health. ‘The Health Practitioner’s Guide to Climate Change’ focuses on the health benefits that can be realised by tackling & adapting to a warming world. It is hoped that the publication will be a particularly useful reference for anyone involved in the health sector.
Joining forces with other leading organisations in the field, the Met Office Hadley Centre has authored the first chapter, which concentrates on the science behind climate change.
OS: Delegates at last month's AGI (Association for Geographic Information) conference had the chance to get hands-on experience of Ordnance Survey's enhanced, free service OS OpenSpace. In a series of workshops run by OS, delegates could access the latest mapping application programme interface (API), which is freely available to developers for use online.
Over 2,400 developers have signed up use the OS OpenSpace API; the number has dramatically increased since May (when an improved version was released) and is expected to rise again with the launch of OS OpenSpace Pro - designed for use with high-volume and commercial websites.
Community initiatives can also make good use of the service, with the Assynt Angling Research website leading the way. The website is part of a larger research project, undertaken by Substance, called 'The Social and Community Benefits of Angling' and is supported by the Big Lottery Fund.
The research uses web-based tools to gather information on anglers visiting the Assynt area. It utilises OS OpenSpace to show the best locations for angling in the north-west of Scotland along with markers allowing users to post information about which lochs they used, what they caught and how good the location was, with comments regarding long walks, wildlife or good views.
LD: Land Data, the NLIS regulator, has announced that Thames Water, the UK’s largest water & sewerage company, has been awarded a National Land Information Service channel license enabling the company to provide authoritative electronic land and property searches through NLIS.
Thames Water, which covers London & the Thames Valley, is already active in the conveyancing market. Through its property searches business, Property Insight, the company is the official provider of the CON29DW drainage & water search data across the region. Property Insight, which has been compiling property search data since 2002, now provides more than 300,000 searches per year. Its customers will soon be able to access data from the Hub via its website.
STFC: Immediate & accurate breath tests that diagnose medical conditions such as stomach ulcers are being developed by North-west company - Tip Chip - using a technology originally developed for space by the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
Tip Chip is a new & innovative technology that it is hoped will enable patients suffering from suspected stomach ulcers to be tested for a bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori) at their doctor’s surgery in minutes and with laboratory-standard accuracy.
Tip Chip is the result of an innovative collaboration between the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus based businessand STFC Innovations Ltd, the wholly owned technology exploitation company of STFC.
Scientists from STFC involved in developing Tip Chip were formerly engaged in producing the Ptolemy instrument for the Rosetta mission.
Ptolemy required scientists & engineers to reduce a laboratory full of chemistry equipment into a space the size of a shoebox - and yet make it durable enough to survive the rigours of launch and a 10 years in deep space.
Socitm: Socitm, the organisation for ICT & associated professionals in the public sector, has appointed a Head of Membership to develop member services and build the depth & breadth of its membership. The appointment signals a commitment by Socitm to follow through on last year’s decision to open up membership to ICT & related professionals at all career stages, working in or for all parts of the public and third sectors.
MLA: The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and Culture24 have announced that Museums at Night 2010 will run over the weekend from Friday 14 May to Sunday 16 May 2010. In 2009, over 150 events took place across the UK attracting an audience of over 34,000.
Events ranged from torchlit tours, period dances & sleepovers to speed dating & sound installations. The weekend received overwhelmingly positive visitor feedback with over 80% rating their experience as 8, or above, out of 10. It also attracted a large number of visitors who wouldn’t normally visit.
STFC: Some of the UK’s finest astronomers have taken a break from their star gazing to become stars themselves of a new photography exhibition - Explorers of the Universe (Royal Albert Hall - Thursday 24 September - Monday 2 November 2009) by acclaimed photographer Max Alexander.
The new exhibition, funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) celebrates the careers of the talented UK scientists at the forefront of our understanding of the cosmos and the UK’s proud heritage in astronomy & space science.
Funded as part of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009), the exhibition consists of both interpretive portraits and documentary photography of professional & amateur astronomy, ranging from academic research & observation through to the stargazing public.
The reportage section of the exhibition includes some of the UK’s most iconic images in the field; from the sunrise at Stonehenge during the Summer Solstice, to the laser line at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, to the birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton.
FSA: FSA Wales and the Physical Activity and Nutrition Network Wales are proposing to co-host a 2-part workshop to disseminate & discuss the outcomes of a review of dietary interventions in BME groups that was published by FSA Wales earlier this year.
The review makes six recommendations for future dietary interventions in BME groups. These focus on the importance of using appropriate evaluation methods, tools &behavioural change models, to ensure interventions are effective.
The workshops will be essential to practitioners who work with BME communities, but also of interest to those who work with hard-to-reach groups generally. The workshops will be held in Cardiff: Part 1 (provisionally December 2009) and Part 2 (provisionally February 2010). There will be no charge for this event, however, spaces are limited. Please register your interest by 16 October 2009, by tel: 02920 678950 or email: email@example.com.
Socitm: Socitm Learning, the training arm of Socitm Consulting, has been commissioned by Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to deliver a series of subsidised training courses in October & November 2009 on implementing the EU Services Directive in a local authority. The intensive half-day courses are being run at locations across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and are priced at just £75 per delegate.
The EU Services Directive has to be implemented in local authorities by December 2009. Successful implementation will provide an electronic channel for authorities to receive & respond to applications in the scope of the Directive, provide access to more competitive suppliers, and create broader market openings for local businesses. Failure to comply could open local authorities to legal action, judicial reviews or infraction under EU law.
Other linked initiatives include the provision of an ELMS (Electronic Licence Management System), an online Community of Practice with more than 400 members, newsletters, technical notes, flowcharts and a pilot scheme to introduce local authorities to the Internal Market Information (IMI) System, an internet-based, secure messaging system developed by the European Commission to enable more effective day-to-day cooperation between Member States on the Services Directive.
PLEASE NOTE - this is NOT an IT related course. The course is designed specifically for Managers & Supervisors responsible for the day-to-day running of business regulatory and licensing activities within the scope of the Services Directive.
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