In the News
DCSF: But where will the funding come from to implement them? - Parents & pupils were given details of the currently existing & new guarantees they can expect from schools, when Ed Balls launched a consultation (closes on 5 April 2010) alongside the second reading of the Children, Schools and Families Bill.
Details of the guarantees were published in the Pupil & Parent Guarantee Document, which will have similar legal standing as the admissions code, setting out what pupils & parents should expect from schools and how they can ensure that they receive the best education possible.
In addition, the Government also launched a new consultation (closes on 5 April 2010) on changes to the role of School Improvement Partners and responded to the consultation on Home Education.
NAO: Symptomatic of the general level of efficiency in the NHS? - While the Department of Health has developed an ambitious & comprehensive strategy for dementia, there has not yet been a robust approach to implementation, according to a National Audit Office report.
Despite the Department stating, since 2007, that dementia is now a national priority, it has not been given the levers or urgency normally expected for such a priority and there is a risk that value for money will remain poor unless these weaknesses are addressed urgently.
The Department does not have evidence on current & future costs and benefits; the strategy is likely to cost much more than the estimated £1.9bn over 10 years. The Department also expects implementation of the strategy to be mostly funded through efficiency savings arising from the acute hospital and long-term care sectors.
However, this will be difficult to achieve without joined-up, well-informed commissioning and the actual releasing or re-directing of resources from secondary to primary care, or from NHS to social care is likely to be difficult to achieve in the short to medium term, particularly in a time of financial constraint.
There is as yet no basic training for healthcare professionals on how to understand & work with people with dementia. Strong leadership is also key to improving services, but this is not yet in place in local NHS and social care delivery organisations.
There is not yet enough joined-up working between health & social care services for people with dementia: for example, demand for care homes is going to rise, but the independent care home sector feels excluded from the strategy.
MoJ: But how does it personally penalise those at fault rather than just cut the resources of a service? - The government has published its response to the public consultation 'Civil Monetary Penalties - Setting the maximum penalty' and has laid new regulations before Parliament to bring these penalties into force.
'Civil Monetary Penalties - Setting the maximum penalty' asked for views on whether new fines of up to £500,000 would provide the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) with a proportionate sanction to impose on those who either deliberately or knowingly seriously contravene the data protection principles.
The government's response to the consultation, also published last week, indicates that a majority of respondents supported the government's proposal to set a maximum penalty of £500,000. The civil monetary framework regulations, laid last week, provides the legislative structure to bring the Information Commissioner's power to serve these penalty notices into force.
NAO: Will there be anyone left to answer the phones with post-election staff cuts? - HM Revenue and Customs' performance in answering telephone calls in 2008-09 was well below its own targets & industry standards, the National Audit Office has reported.
In its Customer Contact Directorate, which answers 95% of calls to the Department's contact centres, only 57% of 103m call attempts were answered, compared with 71% in the year before and an industry benchmark of over 90%.
Recognising that this level of performance was unacceptable, the Department launched initiatives to improve its management of caller demand. There have been signs of significant improvement in 2009-2010, with the percentage of calls answered rising to 73% in the first half of the year. The Directorate has introduced a change programme with the aim of answering 90% of calls at around 30% less cost by March 2012.
NE: For our Children’s, Children’s sake - Lundy Island, one of England’s most spectacular marine habitats, has become England’s first Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). Its new status establishes it as the first example of the new approach to marine protection being taken under the Marine and Coastal Access Act, which will contribute towards the creation of the network of ecologically coherent and well-managed marine protected areas by 2012.
The new Zone will cover the same area as the former Marine Nature Reserve (and is being created by the automatic legal transition from MNR to MCZ). A timetable for developing conservation objectives, and for carrying out public consultation on them, is currently under consideration by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The existing management of the island’s waters, including the No Take Zone, will remain in place unchanged.
WAG: Help for that oldest of New Year resolutions - The Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones and Wales’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Jewell have set out plans to get the nation more physically active. Creating an Active Wales sets out the steps the Welsh Assembly Government will take, with partners, to achieve an active, healthy and inclusive Wales.
The action plan focuses on 4 strategic aims, to;
* develop a physical environment that makes it easier for people to choose to be more physically active
* support children & young people to live active lives & become active adults
* encourage more adults to be more active, more often throughout life
* increase participation in sport, by all sectors of the population
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For information on other forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
HO: The National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) linked more than 350 guns with crimes in its first year of operation. The service helps police forces to solve crimes in which guns have been used, identify the minority of individuals who import & supply guns illegally and track down people who are illegally converting or adapting them.
Police forces and other law enforcement agencies can submit ballistic material to one of the NABIS regional centres. NABIS is then able link ballistic items to previous crimes 7 incidents within 48 hours, enabling police to establish crucial links within the initial hours of an investigation.
Newswire – HMPS: A film created by De Montfort University (DMU) students to help new prisoners settle in when they arrive at HMP Leicester has been recognised as a pioneering project. Volunteers on HMP Leicester's Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) commissioned the video to try to raise prisoners' awareness of the IMB and explain how they can help them during their sentence.
The video is used as part of the prisoners' induction when they first arrive. It shows talking heads including prisoners, staff and IMB volunteers explaining how the IMB can help them to raise concerns about their experiences in prison and to ensure that prisoners & staff are cared for with decency & respect.
ScotGov: A team of volunteers' efforts to keep services moving through the difficult weather conditions has been praised. The Community Off-Road Transport Action Group (COTAG) in Moray has been providing logistical support to Meals on Wheels deliveries, NHS Grampian nurses and Moray Council gritters during the recent severe weather.
The COTAG provides 4x4 vehicle response support in times of need to the emergency services, local authorities and charitable groups in the North-East Scotland area.
MoD: A bullet riddled mosque in Sangin has been repaired & kitted out with brand new washing facilities and a school building by British troops working with the Afghan National Army. The restoration of the Mosque shows local people that the Afghan National Security Force and ISAF are there to help and demonstrates that the government can improve their lives, something that the insurgents cannot of offer.
PCS: Confirmation, by her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that it was pressing ahead with plans to axe 130 offices earmarked for closure, drew an angry response from the PCS union last week, who warned that services to the public & businesses would suffer and that jobs would be lost.
The confirmation of the closures across the UK could see up to 1,700 experienced & skilled staff forced out of a job and are part of HMRC’s plans to cut 25,000 jobs and close over 200 offices by 2011. Over 20,000 jobs have already gone since 2006. Over the same time the percentage of uncollected tax written off as ‘doubtful to be collected’ has risen from 23% in 2006 to 40% in 2009, meaning that HMRC have effectively written off £11 billion of tax for 2008/09. See also NAO item in ‘In the News’ section.
FDA: Individuals & businesses in the South East of England would be grossly disadvantaged by proposals to close the 5 HM Land Registry offices in South-East England, the FDA has claimed (the FDA is the union representing senior managers and professionals in the civil service).
The Land Registry's 'accelerated transformation programme' which is currently out for consultation, would see offices in Croydon, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Stevenage & Tunbridge Wells close, leaving a huge swathe of the country without any coverage. The FDA is urging members of the public to respond to the public consultation on the closures before the 29 January 2010 deadline.
PCS: Over a 100 MPs from across the main parties have signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) expressing deep concern about unilateral changes to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme the PCS union said recently. The EDM (251), supported by 105 MPs including former ministers, urges the government to re-examine the ‘disappointing and unfair proposals’ which will see staff robbed of their entitlements if they are forced out of their jobs and could lead to the government cutting jobs on the cheap.
ScotGov: Stockbridge couple Andrew and Allyson Naperotic, parents of Caelan Ross, were last week handed one of the Scotland's first 'Red Books' - the new Personal Child Health Record introduced for babies born throughout Scotland from 1 January 2010. The book is used by parents to keep a handy record of their child's health, with details such as immunisations, growth patterns and details of routine reviews.
The book replaces a series of different local versions with a single national edition and includes another first for Scotland - World Health Organisation growth charts developed for use in the UK by a Scottish academic, which use breastfed and not bottle-fed babies' growth as the norm.
DSTL: The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the Ministry of Defence civilian scientists, which has an estimated 20% of the UK’s juniper bushes at its Porton Down site near Salisbury, has started a project to grow thousands of new juniper bushes to preserve this native plant.
Juniper is one of only three native British conifers and was one of the first plant species to re-colonise Britain after the last ice age. Its aromatic berries are often used in cooking and for making gin. The project includes collecting berries, checking seed fertility, processing seeds and storing for planting later in the year. Some of the seeds will then be sown on the Porton Down range and protected during germination using cages to keep rabbits and voles away.
NA: South America may not be instantly associated with Wales, however documents at The National Archives in Kew reveal an unusual story of the Welsh in Patagonia. To tie in with the Archive Awareness Campaign theme, Take Flight, The NA is hosting a special talk using material from the archives to highlight migration of the Welsh to Patagonia over a century ago.
In 1865 a group of Welsh emigrants left Liverpool on the tea clipper Mimosa bound for the New World to establish a Welsh speaking colony in the valley of the Chubut River in Patagonia, Argentina. After initial hardships, including lack of vegetation & food, they successfully established their colony literally called, Y Wladfa or ‘The Colony’ which is still a thriving community today.
DWP: Free phone calls for most people using their mobiles to claim benefits & pensions have been announced by the Department of Work and Pensions. Currently 12% of UK households use only mobile phones and do not have a land line. Currently people calling 0800 numbers from mobile phone providers are charged for these calls.
The Department has now reached agreement with O2, Orange, Tesco Mobile, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone to end charges to their customers for mobile calls to around 70 of its 0800 numbers. These numbers are used by people making initial claims for benefit & pensions and to request emergency payments, such as crisis loans.
DfT: Chiltern Railways are to be granted an extension to their rail franchise in return for making £250m of improvements, which could see a new main line from London Marylebone to Oxford established. The scheme will cut rail journey times along the busy M40 corridor, making rail more competitive with road travel.
Average journey times from Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone will be cut more than 20%, from 2h 08m to 1h 40m. Commuting times from Banbury & Bicester will reduce to less than an hour and there will be faster trains from the M40 park & ride hubs at Warwick Parkway (J15) and Haddenham & Thame Parkway (J7).
FSA: Food safety authorities in Australia & New Zealand informed the Food Standards Agency last year about high levels of iodine in a soya drink called 'Bonsoy', which some people use as an alternative to milk. The FSA has now issued an update on what is happening.
Following the notification, the FSA investigated the distribution of Bonsoy Soya drink in the UK and notified the main importer (as well as the retail distributors) of this product and have advised them to withdraw the product from sale.
The distributors have confirmed that all existing stocks of the drink have been quarantined & recalled from customers. Tests carried out on various batches of the product have shown high levels of iodine and therefore it is assumed that all batches of Bonsoy have high levels of iodine.
MLA: The new 2010 Kids in Museums Manifesto is compiled entirely from visitors’ comments. This year families have made it clear – they don’t want interactive to mean passively pushing buttons. They want to finger real fossils, dress up, and get messy.
Families can sit in front of a computer screen or play on a Wii at home. Museums should be different. They have the thrill of the real. The demand for better hands-on, interactive exhibits is just one point in the 2010 Kids in Museums Manifesto - 20 ways to make a museum family friendly.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
DH: Health Minister, Mike O'Brien and Veterans Minister, Kevan Jones have claimed that armed forces personnel with the most serious injuries will have a customised health care plan before they leave the Services, that will continue to be tailored to meet their individual needs for the rest of their life.
In addition, it is expected that the 6 ongoing mental health pilots within the NHS will continue, with the evaluation & learning from these pilots used to help other Trusts gear their services to better meet the needs of veterans.
DCSF: The Government has announced the £300m national roll out ofthe Home Access programme to give 270,000 low income families a free computer & free broadband access, under a drive to close the digital & educational divide between rich & poor and help keep parents in touch with their child's progress.
A recent study from the Institute of Fiscal studies also showed that having a computer at home could lead to a 2 grade improvement in one subject at GCSE. The Government is currently legislating to make reporting to parents online by 2012 a legal guarantee in the Children, Schools and Families Bill. Home Access computers are also loaded with a suite of software to support literacy & numeracy for all the family.
BIS: New IT courses to give thousands of adults the skills & confidence they need to go online will be piloted as from last week, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson claimed at the recent Learning and Technology World Forum.
The development of Online basics by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, UK online centres and Becta forms part of the Government’s response to Baroness Estelle Morris’s Review of ICT User Skills, published in June 2009.
Online basics include 5 key modules covering the basics – using a mouse & keyboard, looking at the internet and keeping safe online. There is also guidance for people supporting those using the course: from tutors in learning centres to family members helping someone at home. Over the next 3 months, Online basics will be piloted in UK online centres in Barnsley, Oldham, Gloucester, Devon and London. Becta will evaluate the courses, expected to be rolled out across England in September 2010.
WAG: The Minister for the Economy & Transport, Ieuan Wyn Jones, has published a plan to improve the blue badge scheme for disabled parking. The action plan also details how the Assembly Government will work with local authorities to streamline the application & administration process and improve systems to tackle abuse of the scheme.
Mr Jones said the whole programme would take up to 5 years to deliver although there are opportunities to prioritise some areas for early implementation. For example, priority will be given to extending the scheme to children under the age of 3 with specific medical conditions, as well as to people with severe congenital disabilities in both arms and who find it difficult to use parking equipment.
OGC: The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has announced the publication of an action plan setting out how the Government will harness the £220bn spent by the public on third party goods & services to support growth & economic recovery. The plan, published by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), reveals how procurement will be used to pursue economic growth through 3 specific agendas:
* supporting SMEs
* encouraging apprenticeships, training & youth employment
* reducing carbon emissions
Progress will be supported & monitored by the OGC through the introduction of performance metrics, against which all departments will be expected to report regularly, starting in spring 2010.
DCSF: Vernon Coaker, Schools Minister, has launched a new web-based science resourcefor children starting secondary school. ‘Scimorph’, a 3D animated computer character who responds to interaction from users, will be available to every child at home and in the classroom.
Developed in consultation with the Science Learning Centres, Scimorph reflects core components of the Key Stage 2 science curriculum. It also contains supporting materials for parents & teachers to help them guide children around the site and support their learning.
WAG: Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, has announced that a limited badger cull, alongside stricter cattle measures, will take place in a pilot area of West Wales as part of the Welsh Assembly Government’s TB Eradication Programme.
The approach is based on evidence from a number of studies showing that culling badgers can reduce TB in cattle. The pilot will take place in a bovine TB endemic area where 42% of cattle owners have had at least one case of TB in their herd since 2003. It will be located mainly in north Pembrokeshire, but will also include small areas of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.
ScotGov: 10,000 more families are to get help to save around £900 a year on fuel bills through the Scottish Government's Energy Assistance Package. Central heating systems, home insulation, thermostats and green energy devices will be on offer to low-income families with children under 16. Families who receive a wide range of benefits including child tax credit, income support and housing benefit will be eligible.
The Fuel Poverty Forum - set up by ScotGov to look at ways to tackle fuel poverty - has also been asked by Ministers to investigate extending eligibility to chronically ill & cancer patients in Scotland.
ScotGov: Voluntary care organisations across Scotland are to receive funding to help meet the cost of staff training & development. A total of 67 organisations will receive a share of approximately £900,000 being distributed by the Voluntary Sector Development Fund. Those benefiting include housing associations & care groups, as well as charities helping armed forces veterans.
The fund enables a range of staff to undergo training in order to meet the registration standards set by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC). An evaluation of this year's applications, carried out by the Voluntary Sector Social Services Workforce Unit, shows encouraging progress is being made with more than 40% of the voluntary sector workforce now qualified.
CLG: Nearly 20,000 people living in sheltered housing will be switched on to the internet under £2.9m plans being developed by the Government to boost the number of silver surfers. With two thirds of those over the age of 65 in sheltered housing without online access, the new 'Get Digital' programme will help them become internet savvy and enjoy the wider social & economic benefits of the digital world.
'Get Digital' – to be delivered on the Government's behalf by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) and Digital Unite - will (by the end of March 2011) provide residents with access to computers and the training they need to make the most of the new technology on offer. Local schools will also link up with sheltered housing schemes so that young & old can learn together.
Digital Unite's experience on previous programmes suggests that learning digital skills can transform the lives of older people in sheltered housing, bringing residents together, as they discover new shared interests & passions.
BIS: Consumer minister, Kevin Brennan has announced that he has accepted the Competition Commission’s recommendation for a body to enforce the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP). The Code comes into force on 4 February 2010 and this will be followed by a consultation, beginning in February 2010, on how best to enforce the GSCOP, including who that body might be and the powers it could have.
HO: The Government has called on communities to step forward to ‘lead the fight against crime and anti-social behaviour’. Ministers are looking for ‘10 trailblazing areas’ to pioneer Neighbourhood Agreements on community safety & justice between police, councils and residents. The agreements will allow residents to have a say in how those issues are tackled, build better relationships with local service providers, understand better what services they are entitled to and how they can be improved.
Joint applications from local councils & police forces will be considered by a cross-departmental selection panel, which will pick the 10 pathfinder areas. Applications close on 29 January 2010 and the 10 pathfinder areas will be confirmed in February 2010.
ScotGov: New funding of £800,000 is to be provided to strengthen efforts to prevent women re-offending in Scotland. The additional funding - £100,000 for each of Scotland's 8 Criminal Justice Authorities (CJAs) - was announced by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, when he responded to the report by the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee on Female Offenders in the Criminal Justice System.
Individual CJAs will decide how best to use the extra funding provided for this year - but it could be used to introduce projects similar to the pilot support service with Barnardos for women from the South West of Scotland released from prison and the Think Again project aimed at developing skills & confidence for women offenders in the Lothian & Borders.
FSA: A US company has applied to the Food Standards Agency for approval to market magnolia bark extract as a novel food ingredient. The magnolia bark extract is obtained from the bark of the plant Magnoliae officinalis, a type of magnolia tree, which is native to the mountains of China and has been used for centuries as part of traditional Asian remedies.
The company, William Wrigley Jr. Company, wants to use the magnolia bark extract in 2 confectionary products – chewing gum and a limited number of mint confectionery products – for its perceived breath freshening properties. Any comments on this application should be emailed to the ACNFP secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday 1 February 2010.
MCA: The Maritime & Coastguard Agency has started a consultation on Search & Rescue provision in the southern part of the South West peninsula. The consultation (closes on 6 April 2010) considers the nature of the maritime-related public safety risks around the Southern part of the South West and the adequacy of the range of rescue services available to deal with them if the additional MCA boats at Hope Cove & Tamar are no longer available, and, if a risk remains, how best that risk can be managed.
The Agency is arranging 2 local public meetings hosted by officials to allow local people with concerns to make representations.
WAG: Draft regulations have been published which will hopefully make it easier for patients to raise concernsif they are dissatisfied or if things go wrong with their NHS care. The Welsh Assembly Government wants to introduce a simpler process which will improve the way health organisations deal with concerns. Views on these proposals will now be gathered during a public consultation, which ends on 2 April 2010.
Under the proposed new system there would be more support & advice for patients & staff, as well as better training for those who investigate incidents. There would also be a named individual who would be a patient’s point of contact throughout an investigation. The regulations draw on a range of powers available to Welsh Ministers, including those set out in the NHS Redress (Wales) Measure 2008.
HMT: Work to increase options for UK businesses in need of non-bank finance is the subject of a discussion document recently released by HM Treasury. The document seeks views on the barriers to more diverse financing for firms with the intention to introduce proposals for reform later in the year. Comments are invited by 14 February 2010..
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is in the process of updating its clinical guideline on the management of chronic heart failure in adults and has published its draft recommendations for public consultation (closes on 10 March 2010).
Since the original guideline was published in 2003, new high-quality evidence from randomised controlled trials in diagnosis, treatment & monitoring have been published. This partial update will ensure that the recommendations take into account the new evidence available.
ScotGov: With up to 200 farm buildings collapsing or suffering other major damage due to the weight of snow, a new short-life working group is to consider how those affected can be helped. The group will first meet when data has been gathered from questionnaires submitted by those affected, not later than 25 January 2010.
ScotGov: A consultation (closes on 9 April 2010) seeks to find responsible solutions to managing Scotland's legacy of radioactive waste. Scotland's Higher Activity Radioactive Waste Policy aims to ensure that the treatment, storage & disposal of such waste is done in a way that offers maximum protection to people and the environment.
The term ‘higher activity radioactive waste’ is used collectively to describe different materials which are radioactively contaminated and in some cases will be for many thousands of years. It typically comes from nuclear power research and electricity generation. The intention is to publish the Policy by the end of June 2010.
DCSF: Parents & pupils were given details of the currently existing & new guarantees they can expect from schools, when Ed Balls launched a consultation (closes on 5 April 2010) alongside the second reading of the Children, Schools and Families Bill. In addition, the Government also launched a new consultation (closes on 5 April 2010) on changes to the role of School Improvement Partners and responded to the consultation on Home Education – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
Newswire – CMOS: In a poll of over 900 separated parents with children aged 18 or below, 93% believe mothers & fathers still have a financial responsibility to their kids even if they don’t live with them. But 36% say they didn’t know where to go to get impartial information about child maintenance.
None of the parents polled were compelled to use the Child Support Agency, yet over a quarter (27%) were unaware they could make maintenance arrangements privately, without involving third parties. Since October 2008 all parents, including those in receipt of benefits, are free to make their own maintenance arrangements as an alternative to using the statutory service (currently administered by the CSA) or the courts.
The YouGov survey coincides with the launch of a national campaign to promote Child Maintenance Options, the free public information & support service which helps separated parents decide which child maintenance arrangement best suits their circumstances.
WiredGov – EA: Some of the regulations on spreading milk & slurry will be relaxed temporarily to help farmers during the big freeze, the Environment Agency has announced. Milk & slurry are not normally allowed to be spread on frozen ground due to the high risk of water pollution, but the Environment Agency will be taking a more flexible approach to help farmers who have run out of storage options. Milk can cause more harm than sewage, if it flows into rivers and kills fish & other aquatic wildlife.
Snow & icy conditions have prevented tankers in some parts of the country completing their usual milk collections, causing some farmers to have to stockpile milk on farms. Slurry storage is also under pressure in some places. The guidance also provides advice to reduce the amount of slurry produced daily, such as keeping animals on straw and washing down dairy parlours with low volume hoses.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has welcomed the publication of voluntary salt targets by the New York City Health Department, which are part of the National Salt Reduction Initiative in the US. NYC is co-ordinating the initiative, which includes 17 national health organisations and 26 cities, states & related bodies.
The Agency first published voluntary salt targets in 2006 and, as a result of the salt reduction work over the past few years, we’ve seen a drop in the average daily intake of salt from 9.5g to 8.6g per person. This reduction saves more than 6,000 lives each year and £1.5bn to the economy.
BIS: Guidance has been published to inform employers about the new right for employees to request time for training. The guidance for employers is being made available through Business Link and is being published before the right comes in on 6 April 2010.
The right to request time to train was included in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. The introduction of the right will be phased and will be made available to employees in organisations with 250 or more employees from April 2010, before being extended to all employees from April 2011. This will give smaller organisations & businesses more time to prepare for the introduction of the new right.
FSA: Celebrity chef James Martin has launched a 'Sixth Form Survivor Competition', which is a Northern Ireland-wide recipe challenge to find the 'Ultimate Sixth Form Survivor'. The competition, organised by the Food Standards Agency, targets sixth formers before they leave school to encourage them not only to eat healthily, but also to think of new & fun ways to cook.
To enter, students simply log on to Survivor Form and upload their recipes for a chance to win a place in the grand final hosted by James Martin at the Ulster Museum, Belfast on Tuesday 23 March 2010. The competition is part of a campaign to promote the 'Survival Guide to Food', a handy guide for sixth form students in Northern Ireland that communicates the skills needed to eat well & stay healthy when preparing to leave home for the first time.
ScotGov: Environment Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, has outlined action to deal with the latest weather situation and urged Scots to play their part in preparing for the thaw. As temperatures are currently forecast to rise gradually, the risk of widespread flooding from the thaw remains low.
There are several things people themselves can do to cope with the thaw and prevent flooding, including:
* When moving snow & ice from pavements & paths, be careful to ensure it is not blocking drains.
* If alternatives to grit, such as salt, cat litter and sand, have been used then clear up any residues left behind after the thaw, as this could lead to drain blockages.
* Burst pipes are a potential problem. If people experience a burst pipe in the home, turn off the stop valve immediately and open all cold taps to drain the system. Do not turn on the hot taps as the hot water cylinder may collapse if the pipes leading to it are frozen. If in any doubt call a licensed plumber.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published guidance on internal monitoring for local authority food services. ‘Making every inspection count’ draws on experience gained from the Agency's programme of auditing local authority food services.
The Agency has identified core service areas critical to maintaining effective service provision and improving food business compliance. This guidance highlights some simple & practical issues that have featured most frequently in published audit reports as critical areas of strength or areas for improvement.
DH: Sir Michael Parkinson has called for out of date stereotypes of older people to be banished and for dignity to be at the heart of care, in a personal account of his year as the nation’s Dignity Ambassador. In his report, Sir Michael praises the people who inspired him; highlights small steps that cost nothing but make a real difference to people’s lives; and opens up about his own experience of the care of his mother, who had dementia.
A new Dignity Action Day (25 February 2010) and a £50,000 Bright Ideas Grant (BIG) for innovative projects that encourage dignity in care, were announced alongside the report by Health Secretary Andy Burnham. BIG is about finding bright ideas about care and helping people put their ideas into practice to prove they work. Public & frontline staff can apply for the funding or ask for a helping hand to make their dignity projects a reality on the new BIG website.
ScotGov: Alcohol misuse could be costing Scottish taxpayers around £3.56bn per year, according to an independent study. The research, which looked at the impact across the NHS, police, social services, the economy and on families, estimated the total annual cost at between £2.48bn and £4.64bn - with a mid-point estimate of £3.56bn.
Averaged across the population, the £3.56bn figure means alcohol misuse could be costing every Scottish adult about £900 per year. Even the lowest figure is substantially higher than the previous estimate of £2.25bn per year.
MCA: The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) helicopter search & rescue bases at Stornoway, Sumburgh, Lee On Solent and Portland completed 747 missions throughout 2009, according to figures released last week.
Included in the operations figures for all 4 bases were 52 cliff rescues, 87 medical evacuations from vessels, 43 mountain rescues, 86 missing person searches and 68 missions involving persons in the water.
ScotGov: The results of Scotland's Global Connections Survey 2008 have been released by Scotland's Chief Statistician. The figures provide an estimate of the cash value of Scotland's exports of goods & services, by industry & destination. This is the only export survey covering all sectors of the Scottish economy.
General Reports and Other Publications
BIS: Responding to the Science and the Media Expert Group report, Lord Drayson, Science and Innovation Minister, said: “I'm very grateful to Fiona and her group for producing this Action Plan…….. The plan contains a number of initiatives to raise the profile of science journalism and programming and improve their operating environment”.
ESRC: Following recent media reports of racial strife and gangs in high security prisons in the UK, a new study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) paints a more encouraging – if sometimes contradictory - picture of multicultural prison life. Although tensions between ethnic groups and resentment of institutional race equality approaches are common, most prisoners appear to be comfortable with diversity.
‘Ethnicity, Identity and Social Relations in Prison’ explores how prisoners’ ethnic identities helped them cope with prison life, and whether such identities informed a social pecking order and the formation of gangs. More specifically, it exploresthe influence of prison practices on prisoner and group identities.
CLG: Communities Secretary John Denham re-affirmed the Governments ‘commitment to tackling race inequality and pledged to tackle inequality wherever it exists’,when he published Tackling Race Inequality: A Statement on Race.
In addition, the Government Equalities Office has launched a new ambassadors network -180 individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds who currently hold a range of public appointments, such as membership of NHS trusts and boards of public bodies - who will be encouraging people from under-represented groups to consider applying for public appointments.
Ofsted: Creative approaches to learning can help raise school standards but secure subject knowledge and careful planning are vital, according to a report published by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.
The report, Learning: creative approaches that raise standards, confirms that pupils’ motivation, progress & attainment in primary & secondary schools were improved by creative approaches to learning. Inspectors found that in schools with good teaching, there was no conflict between the National Curriculum and creative approaches to learning. Many disaffected or low attaining secondary school pupils in the schools visited gained confidence and then competence in their learning work.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published new research about country of origin labelling. The study consisted of 5 separate pieces of research that have been pulled together into one report. A new European Food Information Regulation is being developed to promote clear & consistent food labels to help consumers make appropriate & informed choices
Tim Smith, Chief Executive of the FSA, said: “This research shows that even though ‘country of origin’ isn’t a top priority for consumers, confusion remains over what ‘Produced in the UK’ actually means…….. 'European labelling rules being proposed will require businesses that make origin claims to provide further information, so that people will know where their food actually comes from, not just where it was processed”.
WO: Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Hain, has welcomed a report by Welsh MPs that concludes that the process for new powers to be passed from Westminster to the National Assembly for Wales is working well.
Legislation / Legal
Newswire – LSC: Five Crown Courts were last week the first in England & Wales to introduce a new scheme that will hopefully ensure people convicted of a crime contribute to their defence costs, where they have the means to do so.
The Crown Courts in Blackfriars, Bradford, Norwich, Preston and Swansea will introduce Crown Court Means Testing. It is estimated that the scheme will deliver savings of £50m in legal aid every year, which will enable the limited resources available to be targeted at those who need them most. Other courts will continue with existing arrangements until the national roll-out of the scheme, scheduled to start in April 2010.
NE: Natural England recognises the severe problems faced by livestock farmers as a result of freezing weather conditions and has announced steps to make it easier for them to feed their animals. Farmers in agri-environment schemes which normally impose restrictions on supplementary feeding will now be able to give their livestock additional feed to help maintain animal welfare during the cold period. This is a temporary relaxation and takes immediate effect for the duration of the severe cold weather.
The derogation relates only to agri-environment schemes operated by Natural England: Countryside Stewardship, Environmentally Sensitive Areas and the newer Environmental Stewardship, which encompasses ELS, HLS and OELS. Supplementary feeding may continue for 4 days after the snow has cleared if the ground remains frozen. It should cease once the ground thaws.
BIS: 38 agencies in the teaching & childcare sectors have been issued with warnings by the Employment Agency Standards inspectorate (EAS) for failing to comply with the law. 11 agencies were not following the correct processes when carrying out identity & qualification checks on people they planned to supply for work.
Inspectors visited 50 agencies in total as part of a targeted national exercise called Operation Hazard. Towns & cities visited include London, Birmingham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Between these 50 agencies, inspectors found 140 breaches.
ScotGov: New council house & housing association tenants will no longer have the Right to Buy (RTB) their homes it was confirmed in proposals unveiled to MSPs last week. RTB for new-build social housing in Scotland will also be scrapped. The reforms are part of the Housing Bill, a legislative package of measures to improve the supply and quality of housing in Scotland.
An amendment to the Bill will allow ex-forces veterans to establish 'local connections' that improve their chances of accessing social housing in their area. In addition, the creation of a new Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR), and the introduction of a charter for social housing, aims to improve value for tenants & taxpayers by assessing landlords' performance.
MoJ: Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, has thanked Sir Rupert Jackson for his comprehensive report on costs in civil litigation. He will ‘look at Sir Rupert’s package of recommendations in depth and will set out the way forward in due course’.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
CO: The second Access to Volunteering fund grant round closes on 8 February 2010. The £2m fund aims to increase the number of disabled people volunteering through giving grant funding to volunteer-involving organisations. It is currently piloting in three areas: London, the West Midlands and the North West. The fund operates between Autumn 2009 & Spring 2011 over five grant rounds.
MLA: A host of prominent public figures are supporting the campaign, launched by The Art Fund charity, to raise the £3.3m needed by 17 April 2010 to save the Anglo-Saxon treasure for Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent.
Historian Dr David Starkey has made a public plea for funds to ‘save the Staffordshire Hoard for the West Midlands’. The Art Fund’s new Director, Dr Stephen Deuchar, kick-started the public appeal by announcing an Art Fund grant of £300,000 and by unveiling the official donation website.
Over the next 13 weeks events & activities will be taking place throughout the West Midlands to raise funds to keep the Staffordshire Hoard in the region. More than 80 of the most significant artefacts from the Hoard, including items never seen before, will be on display at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent between 13 February & 7 March 2010.
VSO: Teacher’s Got Talent is a new fundraising challenge from international development charity, VSO, working in partnership with education recruitment specialist, Randstad Education (the new name for Select Education). The challenge will raise vital funds for developing countries and provide schools with an exciting new way to teach the Global Citizenship curriculum and the chance to win resources & support.
Teachers will nominate themselves to learn a skill, whilst students put themselves forward to share one of their skills. The skill could be anything from keepie-ups, playing an instrument or speaking a foreign language to rapping or a cultural dance.
Everyone pays £1 to vote for which teacher they would like to learn which skill. Schools that get their donations in by 19 March 2010 will be eligible for 2 prizes provided by publisher HarperCollins and education recruitment specialist Randstad Education.
VSO: International development charity VSO has launched an ambitious campaign to recruit 500 exceptional individuals to take up the VSO challenge in 2010. VSO placements usually last between one to 2 years and focus on achieving long-term change for poor communities.
Volunteers are involved in a range of different activities from improving education systems so that generations of children will get a better start in life, to training local midwives, doctors & nurses in new & life-saving skills and helping women & those who are most disadvantaged to set up businesses so they can earn an independent living.
Business and Other Briefings
The purpose of this note is to discuss the tax treatment that will be available to the members of Dairy Farmers of Britain (DFB) in respect of their shares & debt in the company.
This Brief announces that the rules in tonnage tax on where ships are registered ("flagging rules") will be applied at a company or group level in fiscal year 2010.
ScotGov: Scottish businesses of all sizes and in all sectors are to be given the opportunity to receive £1,000 to take on a new Apprentice. The latest strand of the 'Invest in an Apprentice' scheme and a national marketing campaign was announced ahead of the recent Jobs Summit - Keep Scotland Working in Glasgow.
The £4m scheme is time limited and will run from 11 January – 26 March 2010, reflecting views from employers & companies who say they need help now. The incentive is available for up to 4,000 employers.
Socitm: Underperforming websites could be costing UK councils collectively up to £11m a month as people unsuccessful in accessing online information & services turn instead to other, more expensive-to-service channels like the phone or walk-in contact centres. This finding comes from data collected in September 2009 by Socitm Insight’s Website Takeup service, and is published in its latest Customer Access Improvement Service briefing.
Socitm: Socitm Consulting has announced that the Welsh Assembly Government (acting on behalf of the Public Sector Directors of Finance Network) has commissioned it to deliver extended benchmarking services to up to 140 public sector bodies in Wales, including local authorities, emergency services, education services, NHS services and central government agencies based in Wales.
Socitm Consulting will be organising the benchmarking of participating organisations’ HR, Finance, ICT, Estates and Procurement functions against the Welsh Audit Agencies’ Value for Money indicators. Socitm Consulting experts will consolidate & analyse the raw data collected, publish a series of reports on the various functions, and then work with participants to identify best practice and help identify areas for improvement.
Ofgem: Almost 20,000 households could be connected to the mains gas networkdue to new partnerships between gas distribution networks (GDNs) and agencies that provide grants for central heating systems or help to make homes more energy efficient.
All 4 of Britain’s gas distribution networks have set up partnership agreements, approved by energy regulator Ofgem, allowing them to extend the network to fuel poor customers that currently rely on electricity, coal or fuel oil to heat their homes.
LDA: CompeteFor, the online 'business dating' website, is celebrating its second birthday with the 5,000th business opportunity advertised on the service since its launch in January 2008. It was designed by the London Development Agency (with the London Business Network and London 2012) to give SMEs the chance to go for contract opportunities arising from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Together with the Olympic authorities and their main contractors, more than 600 'buying organisations' are now placing opportunities on CompeteFor.
Over 100,000 businesses across the UK have registered on CompeteFor to take advantage of the 5,000 opportunities ranging from printing to event management contracts and from training to abseiling services. Around 74% of contracts awarded have been placed with SME businesses and 18% of them have gone to businesses with 10 or less staff.
DCMS: In a press release issued on behalf of the Independently Funded News Consortia pilot Selection Panel, it has been announced that 8 consortia have been successful in the first phase of the selection process for IFNC pilots. 3 bids in Wales, 2 bids in Scotland and 3 bids in the Tyne Tees/Borders region met the published evaluation criteria and will now go through to the next stage of the procurement process.
MoD: Contracts worth £333M have been awarded by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) to companies across the country to help to build the Royal Navy's new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. 5 sub-contracts have been awarded to suppliers from Glasgow to Portsmouth for equipment to be installed on the ships and services for their assembly, bringing the total value of sub-contracts awarded so far on the programme to almost £1.1bn.
The 2 future aircraft carriers will form the cornerstone of the UK's Naval capability and will be the largest, most capable & powerful warships ever constructed in the UK. They will be a highly versatile and potent joint defence asset, able to meet the widest range of tasks around the world throughout their expected service life of around 50 years.
OS: The Welsh Assembly Government is one of the first organisations to sign up for Ordnance Survey’s new digital mapping product, OS VectorMap Local. The data will be used by the WAG to create geographic ‘mash-ups’ to support a range of activities; from new planning guidance for mineral resources & aggregates to safeguarding to rural payments and flood & river modelling. The agreement covers mapping data for the whole of Wales, as well as a buffer into England.
OS: A giant floor map the size of two badminton courts; a phone application that pinpoints locally produced, seasonal food; and a public climate change web portal are among the ideas shortlisted in the GeoVation Awards Programme.
GeoVation – an online initiative supported by mapping agency Ordnance Survey – aims to help individuals, businesses & communities bring their map‑based ideas to life. The Awards Programme, launched in October 2009, has attracted over 300 members and generated more than 220 ideas or ventures.
8 of those ideas have now been shortlisted by the judging panel, which includes Yahoo’s Gary Gale and Steve Coast of OpenStreetMap, and they will have the chance to win part of a £21,000 development fund at a ‘Dragons’ Den’ style event on 26 January 2010 at the Royal Geographical Society, London.
Newswire – IDeA: Local authority planning officers can help to kick-start local regeneration programmes by using their powers to allow developments to go ahead without the need for a planning application, if they can see that proposals meet previously agreed criteria. The process is called 'Local Development Orders'.
5 pilot programmes are already underway, and now the government wants up to another 7 local authorities to come forward to be the next phase of pilots. The deadline for initial expressions of interest is 8 February 2010 and funds will be available from April 2010 to help them.
The initiative is being managed by the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) - part of the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) - and the work is funded by Communities and Local Government (CLG).
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