In the News
Newswire – MHF: We all need friends & family - According to a new report released last week by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), relationships that are vital to health & well-being are under threat by modern life, which can isolate people from one another and lead to loneliness.
UK-wide research carried out for The Lonely Society? shows that 11% of people often feel lonely and 48% think that people are getting lonelier in general (48%).
The report says the way in which people now live is impacting on their ability to connect with others. More people live alone: the percentage of households occupied by one person doubled from 6% in 1972 to 12% in 2008. The divorce rate has almost doubled in the past 50 years and the number of lone parent households is rising. People are living longer, but many older people are doing so alone. Because of people pursuing careers & education opportunities, many now live further away from their families and the communities they grew up in.
Old-style communities are in decline and the closure of local amenities such as post offices and working men's clubs have had an impact on people for whom they were a focal point, particularly those living on the margins of society and vulnerable to loneliness, such as the elderly, people out of work or those living with a disability.
In addition, a recent report from the NSPCC found that children are reporting more experiences of loneliness than in previous years, and middle age is a time when people can find themselves isolated as a result of retirement, children leaving the family home, divorce & bereavement, according to the MHF.
Newswire – EC: One news item that was missing from the headlines - Last week, on the occasion of International Missing Children's Day, European Commission Vice-Presidents Viviane Reding, responsible for EU Justice, Fundamental Rights & Citizenship, and Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda, urged EU Member States to step up their efforts to introduce child alert systems and to make the missing children's hotline 116 000 operational as soon as possible.
With the adoption of new EU telecoms rules in November 2009, EU Member States are obliged to make every effort to ensure that the 116 000 hotline is activated by 25 May 2011. The Commission also supports the creation of cross-border child alert systems that help in the search of abducted children by enabling the public to provide the relevant authorities with real-time information.
OFT: Government goes ‘shark fishing’ - As part of the 'Stop Loan Sharks' campaign, the Office of Fair Trading and the Trading Standards Illegal Money Lending Teams have released a new video urging people to report loan sharks and will be distributing around 200,000 leaflets & posters throughout England, Scotland and Wales.
There are an estimated 165,000 households in the UK using illegal money lenders, with half of these in the most deprived areas of the country. Particular loan shark hotspots include Scotland, the North of England and the West Midlands.
Anyone lending money should have a consumer credit licence from the OFT. Licensed lenders have to comply with legal obligations in dealing with customers, including the use of proper paperwork and fair collection methods. Unlicensed loan sharks will often offer cash loans without paperwork, they may take benefit or bank cards as security and threaten, or use, violence to get money.
Nationally, the Stop Loan Sharks project has so far helped more than 11,500 people, written off more than £31m of illegal debt, secured more than 60 years in prison sentences (including an indefinite sentence for public protection) and seized £1m. Loan sharks can be reported to the Trading Standards Illegal Money Lending Team by calling 0300 555 2222, or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newswire - UKSA: Lies, Dammed Lies, Statistics and Crime Statistics - The UK Statistics Authority last week published its review about overcoming barriers to trust in crime statistics for England & Wales. Most commentators would agree that measuring crime is inherently difficult.
There continues to be public criticism of the statistics and mistrust of the way they are used & quoted. As far as the Statistics Authority can tell, this exceeds the level of criticism & mistrust in most other countries. Research and previous reviews have suggested that this mistrust is exacerbated by the nature of the ways in which the statistics are reported.
ScotGov: Loss Leader leading to Growing Loss of Health - International health experts at the World Health Organization have called on countries to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol, as part of their global strategy to reduce alcohol related harm.
The strategy, which was formally adopted at the World Health Assembly in Geneva last week, concludes that 'increasing the price of alcoholic beverages is one of the most effective interventions to reduce harmful use of alcohol'.
The total cost of alcohol misuse to Scotland is estimated to be £3.56bn per year. This equates to £900 per year for every adult living in Scotland. Alcohol is now around 70% more affordable than it was in 1980 and consumption has increased by around 20% over the same period.
BIS: Less Testosterone in the Boardroom please - The Government has welcomed new measures to encourage accountability, diversity & improved performance in Britain’s boardrooms, as the Financial Reporting Council launched a revised Corporate Governance Code.
The new measures include a recommendation that all directors of FTSE 350 companies be put up for re-election every year and promote the benefits of diversity in new appointments to the board.
The UK Corporate Governance Code sets out standards of governance for listed companies. Companies are required either to follow the Code or explain how else they are acting to promote good governance. The new edition of the Code will apply to financial years beginning on or after 29 June 2010.
Forthcoming event invitation: NHS Infrastructure Maturity Model - is your IT environment as healthy as it can be? - The NHS Technology Office and Kaseya invite all NHS IM&T Managers, Directors and other stakeholders to attend this free event in
London on Wednesday 23 June 2010. You will learn more about the NHS Infrastructure Maturity Model (NIMM) and how you will be able to diagnose the causes of inefficient systems management and apply an effective cure with Kaseya IT Automation.
Benefits of NIMM:
- Intuitive and easy to use IT management tool, developed in “plain English” by the NHS for the NHS
- Calibrated to be realistic given NHS challenges and goals
- Technology & vendor independent, focus is on capabilities, standards and NHS IT Infrastructure needs
- Knowledge driven self assessment approach to capability benchmarking & planning
- Introduces terminology & KPIs to improve clarity and consistency in describing maturity
- Designed to help NHS Trusts become smart(er) buyers of Infrastructure solutions
- Comprehensive - considers both the technology and management aspects of IT Infrastructure
- NHS “owns” the model and will evolve it to reflect needs and changes in policy
Click Here for further information about the above free event and to register to receive your free invitation.
For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
HL: Homelessness agencies, their service users & prisoners around the country had cause to celebrate last week when the Places of ChangeShow Garden won a silver medal at the Chelsea Flower Show. The Garden is the largest ever in the history of the event.
The Garden has been created by around 500 volunteers from over 40 homeless agencies from all corners of the country, including Deptford Reach in London, the Salvation Army in Plymouth, St George’s Crypt in Leeds and Stonham Women’s Services in Hull. People from 8 prisons also joined in with the growing & planting.
EH: For the first time the public will be able to search online a catalogue describing more than a million historical photographs & documents relating to England's historic buildings & archaeological sites held by the National Monuments Record (NMR), English Heritage's public archive.
The details of the wealth of historical material the archive holds – images, plans, drawings, reports & publications covering England's archaeology, architecture, social & local history – is held on a database which can now be accessed & searched online at www.englishheritagearchives.org.uk. Until now, these searches had to be done in person at the NMR's public search rooms in Swindon.
FSA: The Co-operative is recalling 4 types of its Truly Irresistible pasta sauces, because the products might contain small pieces of glass. All jars of the 4 sauces are being recalled from customers.
The Food Standards Agency has issued a Food Alert for Information. Point-of-sale notices will be displayed in The Co-operative's stores, explaining to customers why the sauces have been recalled.
ScotGov: The Public Health Minister and Brigadier David Allfrey joined nurses recently back from Afghanistan to launch awards for Scotland's military health heroes. Shona Robison met the nurses from the 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital (Volunteers) at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh as nominations open (closes on 9 July 2010) for the third annual Military and Civilian Health Partnership Awards - celebrating the care given to & by the UK's service personnel, veterans and military families.
The Awards are open to military or civilian members of the Defence Medical Services, NHS or independent sector healthcare professionals who, either on an individual or team basis, have benefited the care of a member(s) of the Armed Forces. This includes veterans or their families. 9 winners will be honoured in a range of categories at the awards ceremony in Belfast later this year.
TS - CAB: Citizens Advice has welcomed the fact that the Department of Health has published the Gilmore review on the reform of prescription charges for people with long term conditions. CAB evidence shows that these groups are particularly likely to face difficulties in affording their charges and in some cases go without the medication they need.
They are delighted that Professor Gilmore has endorsed their proposals that first steps in reform should include a phased reduction in the cost of the prescription prepayment certificate (currently £104p.a.) and exemption from charges for people in receipt of incapacity benefit, contribution based ESA & disability living allowance.
NIA: Making maths fun & interesting to children was the theme of an event hosted last week by the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Culture, Arts & Leisure. Children’s theatre company, Cahoots, performed a 20 minute extract from their show entitled ‘Math-a-Magic’ at Parliament Buildings.
OFT: More than 5,000 fans were scammed when trying to buy tickets for the UK's top music festivals last summer, figures released for the OFT's Just Tick It campaign reveal. Despite many summer festival events having sold out, those desperate to see their favourite bands play live often turn to the internet in the hunt for a ticket.
OFT research last year found that 1 in 12 ticket buyers had admitted to having been caught out by a scam ticket website, with victims losing an average of £80. The campaign urges everyone to tick off the JTI checklist before buying tickets online from a website.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
ScotGov: Scotland's housing system must adapt with 'radical thinking and bold new ideas' to the financial realities presented by reductions in public spending, according to a discussion document published by Scottish Ministers last week.
Housing: Fresh Thinking, New Ideas poses fundamental questions about the way homes can be built, allocated, funded & managed in the future and is linked to a new website where members of the public can contribute to the debate.
An examination of where the Scottish Government's housing priorities should lie is also proposed: increasing social housing, supporting aspiring homeowners and reducing carbon emissions. Ministers also unveiled a Scottish Government-funded pilot project, the first of its kind in the UK, which will analyse thermal imaging scans of 10,000 homes across Scotland. The results will help the drive to tackle fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions.
CLG: Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, Eric Pickles, has announced that; ‘Wasteful & unnecessary restructuring plans for Exeter, Norwich & Suffolk Councils are to be stopped immediately’. This will ‘save the taxpayer £40m in restructuring costs, remove the risk of further pressure on local council tax bills, and avoid a costly distraction from the priority of delivering local services and genuine efficiency gains’.
The independent Boundary Committee recommended in December 2009 that the unitary plans for Exeter & Norwich should not be implemented. There were concerns about affordability, the risk of fragmenting local services, and the lack of widespread local support.
He has also called a halt to the consultation on proposed changes to Suffolk. Councils in Suffolk had been asked to establish a county constitutional convention to reach a consensus on a unitary structure for Suffolk. This will now be cancelled and all restructuring plans for Suffolk will be stopped.
DWP: A ‘radical’ welfare reform programme designed to tackle entrenched poverty and end the curse of intergenerational worklessness was set out last week by new Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith.
Calling for an end to a culture of welfare dependency by bringing the welfare system into the 21st century, Iain Duncan Smith set out the critical need to make work pay and end the absurd situation where some of the poorest face huge penalties for trying to get off benefits and into work.
Evidence of the scale of the challenge is set out in a report published last week by the Government - State of the Nation: Poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency in the UK – which highlights some of the key problems facing the country including:
* 1.4m people in the UK have been on an out-of-work benefit for 9 or more of the last 10 years
* Income inequality in the UK is now at its highest level since comparable statistics began in 1961
* A higher proportion of children grow up in workless households in the UK than in any other EU country
* Social mobility in Britain is worse than in the USA, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Canada & Denmark
LLUK: Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) will consult on Scottish qualifications for trainers, assessors and quality assurance of assessment roles. LLUK has recently completed a review of the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for learning and development. The revised standards are available on the national occupational standards directory.
Comments on the specific draft qualifications will be invited through an online consultation and by attendance at one of three events. The online consultation will open at noon on Friday 18 June 2010 and closes at noon on Friday 9 July. Registration for the events opens on Tuesday 1 June 2010. Further information about registration will be available from LLUK's website shortly.
ScotGov: Everyone with an interest in Scottish education will have the opportunity to engage directly with Government and share their views on what is going well and what needs to change. Engage for Education is a new website for teachers, young people, parents, school staff & others across the wider education community. Participants will have the opportunity to influence government policy by providing feedback on the key issues facing Scottish education.
A series of workshop sessions will be held on the website, which will refresh with new subjects regularly, focusing on topical issues to gather views. The initial workshops will focus on:
*Curriculum for Excellence and the support teachers need
* attitudes towards Modern Languages
* the Continuing Professional Development needs of teachers
* how homework can be both effective & enjoyable - from the perspective of young people, teachers & parents
CC: The Competition Commission (CC) and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) have launched a joint consultation (deadline for submissions is 3 September 2010) on a good practice guide for parties presenting evidence in merger inquiries.
The draft guide provides advice on how to design & present consumer survey evidence. It sets out several principles of good survey design and details a range of practices that will tend to increase the evidential weight that can be given to survey results.
The consultation is particularly seeking responses from parties that are likely to advise those involved in merger inquiries (e.g. legal firms, management consultancies, economic consultancies & market research agencies).
TfL: Transport for London (TfL) has begun a statutory public consultation (closes on Monday 2 August 2010) on a number of proposed changes to London's Congestion Charge.
If approved the last charging day for the Western Extension could be Christmas Eve, with other changes coming into effect on 4 January 2011.
It is also proposed that a Congestion Charging Auto Pay scheme is set up to make paying the Congestion Charge easier & more convenient. Auto Pay would ensure that no Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) would be issued to any registered vehicles, meaning drivers would no longer be penalized for forgetting to pay the charge. Auto Pay customers would also be eligible for a daily charge of £9.
The Mayor also proposes to remove the Alternative Fuel Discount and introduce a Greener Vehicle Discount (GVD) that would encourage a switch to much cleaner & more CO2 efficient cars. The GVD would provide a 100% discount to cars that emit 100g/km of CO2 or less and meet the Euro V standard for air quality.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellencehas launched the first ever national guidelines on childhood constipation. Whilst not life threatening, the condition is very common, affecting up to 30% of the child population in England. Those affected by constipation can experience real problems, socially & psychologically, often requiring long-term support. Their families can be affected too, some experiencing years of misery.
The signs & symptoms of constipation are rarely recognised. They include loss of appetite, stomach ache, & pain when going to the loo but, if identified early (and with the right treatment), problems can be resolved quickly & simply.
NICE: Final guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends somatropin (a synthetic form of the human growth hormone) as a treatment option for 2 growth disorders in children: short stature homeobox-containing gene (SHOX) deficiency, and for those who were smaller than expected at birth and whose growth has not become normal by the age of four or later.
NICE: Around 1 in 4 men aged 40 & above have lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), such as needing to urinate urgently or frequently, retention of urine, hesitancy & incontinence. The symptoms can have a considerable impact on a man’s physical, mental and social wellbeing. They can also be caused by an underlying health concern, such as a urinary tract infection or prostate cancer.
There was previously no national guidance for diagnosing & treating these symptoms in adult men, which meant that healthcare professionals were not always using the most effective treatments. The new guideline from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) aims to set a national standard so that all patients receive the same high quality treatments wherever they go.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has published updated recommendations on the diagnosis & removal of ‘low risk’ basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) in primary care in its guidance ‘Improving outcomes in cancer for people with skin tumours including melanoma’.
The updated recommendation makes clear that Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) or Local Health Boards (LHBs) should ensure that all GPs and GPwSIs (GPs with a Special Interest) who diagnose, manage & excise low-risk BCCs in the community are fully accredited to do so, and undergo continuous professional development in the diagnosis and management of skin lesions to maintain their accreditation. For both groups (GPs and GPwSIs) this accreditation should be performed locally by PCTs or LHBs.
NICE: A procedure which involves ‘cooling’ newborn babies who are at risk of severe disability or death due to oxygen deprivation, has been deemed ‘safe & effective’ enough for NHS use, according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which has produced guidance for the NHS outlining the circumstances in which it can be offered for these vulnerable babies.
Every year in the UK more than 1,000 otherwise healthy babies born at full term die or suffer brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen at birth or during labour. Babies who do survive can be left with lifelong disability such as cerebral palsy.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has been unable to recommend sorafenib (Nexavar, Bayer) for treating advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) because its high cost could not be justified by its marginal benefit.
LEASE: Setting up a recognised tenants’ association (RTA) is often the first step residential leaseholders should take when there are issues with management & service charges, as the RTA enables the block to ‘speak with one voice’. So says The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE), the government-funded free legal advice service.
If leaseholders also want to embark on major collective projects like changing management, challenging service charges outright or even buying the freehold, then forming a RTA is the easiest way of ensuring that everyone is involved & committed before the whole process is begun
It is important to seek formal recognition as an RTA, because the law then gives the association the powers & rights under leasehold law that it needs to be really effective. The most detailed handbook for setting up a residents’ association is available for sale from the Federation of Private Residents’ Associations, a non-profit association of associations for private sector blocks of flats.
MCA: Coastguards are encouraging families to stay safe at the seaside this summer and, to make sure that children, parents, grandparents & teachers feel well prepared for their day out on the coast, the coastguard has just launched a new set of games & activities at http://kids.direct.gov.uk/. Click on the world, click on the watch station in the ‘places icon’.
DfT: New safety ratings for motorcycle helmets were announced last week by Road Safety Minister Mike Penning as he unveiled a new website to give motorcyclists the best advice & information on choosing a helmet. The site also includes demonstrations of how the SHARP tests are carried out and how to make sure a helmet fits properly.
An extra 27 motorcycle helmets have been rated by SHARP - the Department for Transport’s Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme – taking the total number of ratings published past the 200 mark.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has produced 2 new pieces of guidance that will reduce the administrative burdens of the meat industry & farmers, helping them to comply with the law, while maintaining consumer protection:
* One for the meat products industry will make the process of correctly labelling any added ingredients easier
* The second is a one-page document that will help farmers to keep only the necessary records on animal feed
RITN - MCS: The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says more beaches have excellent water quality this year than in 2009, but the increase still doesn’t match the number in 2006 when almost two thirds of British beaches were recommended in its Good Beach Guide.
MCS is concerned that the current situation may further deteriorate when new stricter bathing water standards are introduced in 2015. Under this new regime, 83 (14%) of Britain’s beaches will fail the new minimum water quality standard if nothing’s done to improve them. The list includes notables like Rock in Cornwall, Paignton Sands, Robin Hoods Bay, Bridlington South, Chalkwell bay at Southend, Plymouth Hoe and the main beach at Weston Super Mare.
General Reports and Other Publications
Newswire – WWF: WWF has issued a ‘Detailed Response’ to Shell’s Proposed Safety Procedures for Offshore Arctic Drilling, set to begin as soon as 1 July 2010. Two engineers with extensive experience in the oil industry have stated that Shell Oil’s plans to begin drilling off the coast of Alaska in less than 6 weeks are fraught with risks that have not been adequately addressed by the company.
WWF’s analysis noted that drilling in the harsh, remote environment of the Arctic is far more perilous than in the Gulf of Mexico and that the technology & logistical infrastructure does not exist to contain & clean up a spill in the Arctic waters of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
Ofsted: Children & young people are suffering as a result of variable standards of support when moving into & out of custody, according to a report published last week by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.
The report - Transition through detention and custody - highlights how poor initial assessment of learning needs and insufficient preparation for independent living leaves children & young people ill-equipped for outside life.
Legislation / Legal
Newswire – LC: In its report, Administrative Redress: Public Bodies and the Citizen, published last week, the Law Commission sets out conclusions from its review of administrative redress in public & private law. The aim of the Commission’s review was to consider when and how individuals should be able to obtain redress against public bodies that have acted in a substandard way.
The report discusses individuals’ access to remedies through the courts, as well as through avenues outside the court system, such as the public sector ombudsmen. In examining court-based remedies, the Commission concludes that there are good arguments for reform but, given the level of opposition to its earlier proposals and the absence of available data on the costs of compensation paid by public bodies, work will not be taken forward on reviewing this area of the law.
The report does, however, recommend that government should establish a process for collecting & publishing information on the cost of public compensation. In addition, the Commission is taking forward its review of the public sector ombudsmen, following a favourable response to its proposals.
Press release ~ Administrative Redress: Public Bodies and the Citizen
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
FCO: The European Union Bill will 'improve democratic control, scrutiny and accountability over EU decision making' says Foreign Secretary William Hague. Amongst other elements, the legislation will mean that any proposed future EU Treaty that transfers competences or areas of power from the UK to the EU will be subject to a referendum.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: Early evaluation findings suggest that projects funded through the Big Lottery Fund’s £160m Well-being programme are successfully reaching people across the country in need of support. The evaluation involves a sample of 60 health projects funded by the Well-being programme in England, from fitness activities to healthy eating schemes.
It reveals that people with poor health & well-being, particularly in terms of healthy eating, ‘life satisfaction’ and mental health, are being successfully targeted and gives a firm indication that the programme is starting to make great strides in these areas.
Business and Other Briefings
CLG: Communities & Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, announced last week that emergency regulations have been introduced to ‘put a halt on demands for unfair, retrospective business rate payments affecting ports’.
Many ports companies have been facing huge backdated business rates bills reaching into the £ms after changes to the way rates were calculated in 2008 by the Valuation Office Agency. As an urgent first step, the new regulations will suspend unexpected backdated business rate payments, including for port companies, giving a lifeline to struggling firms and supporting a vital part of Britain's manufacturing industry.
The freeze applies to businesses liable for backdated business rates where bills are subject to the 8-year schedule of payments. Businesses can contact their local billing authority to check eligibility.
WAG: The Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, last week visited the site where a Welsh Assembly Government backed recycling plant in North Wales could create up to 160 new jobs. The materials recovery facility at UPM’s paper mill in Shotton will process materials such as plastic bottles, cardboard, newspapers & metals for recycling.
The facility sorts up to 200,000 tonnes of recyclable material, providing 20% of the recovered paper used as raw material in the mill's paper production. It will create up to 160 jobs when operating at full capacity. Construction is due to be completed by January 2011.
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