In the News
HSO: A sacred cow which is in danger of losing its sanctity? - In a new report, Health Service Ombudsman, Ann Abraham says the NHS is failing to treat older people with care, compassion, dignity & respect. The report - Care and compassion? - is based on the findings of 10 independent investigations into complaints about NHS care for people over the age of 65 across England.
It serves to illuminate the gulf between the principles & values of the NHS Constitution and the felt reality of being an older person in the care of the NHS in England. Her investigations highlight common failures in pain control, discharge arrangements, communication with patients & their relatives and ensuring adequate nutrition.
The Ombudsman concludes: ‘These often harrowing accounts should cause every member of NHS staff who reads this report to pause and ask themselves if any of their patients could suffer in the same way. I know from my caseload that in many cases, the answer must be “yes”. The NHS must close the gap between the promise of care and compassion outlined in its Constitution and the injustice that many older people experience.'
Newswire – CBI: Waste not, want not in a world of increasingly scarce (& more expensive) resources - The CBI is urging the Government to be bold in its approach to waste policy and recognise its potential to deliver easy wins on a number of big policy areas from meeting climate change targets and bolstering energy security, to helping unlock infrastructure investment.
Launching a new report (Making Ends Meet: Maximising the value of waste), the CBI highlights the benefits of moving to a zero-waste economy.
DfT: Councils get new powers to give fraudulent disabled parking abusers the ‘Blues’ - The Government is implementing major reforms to crack down on drivers who abuse the disabled parking system as part of the a comprehensive changes to the Blue Badge scheme. The Government estimates that badge fraud is now costing the UK an estimated £46m a year and is giving Councils new powers to tackle this growing issue.
DWP: Applying the ‘KISS principle’ to welfare payments - The Welfare Reform Bill has been launched. Central to the Bill will be the introduction of Universal Credit, which is intended to ‘simplify a benefits system that has become unmanageable, make work pay and help release millions of people from the misery of welfare dependency and break intergenerational cycles of worklessness’.
Alongside the publication of the Bill, the Prime Minister and Secretary of State announced a review into the sickness absence system. With 300,000 people off work every year claiming sickness-related benefits, the Government has asked David Frost and Dame Carol Black to consider whether with the right & and support more people could stay in work in some form.
DUK: With growing obesity rates the need for this service can only get bigger - Diabetes Week takes place from 12–18 June 2011, and this year Diabetes UK is asking its supporters to hold a Big Diabetes Week Quiz to raise money for their Careline service. The Diabetes UK Careline is one of the ways the charity talks with people about diabetes. The service currently receives over 30,000 calls, letters and emails each year.
You can help us to reach this target by holding your own Big Diabetes Week Quiz, either in your workplace, local school, pub, or community centre. We have all the materials you need available on our website, including promotional posters, quiz sheets, quiz questions and template press releases to send to your local media.
HO: This year has already shown what ‘people power’ can do - The coalition government has launched the first stage of plans to give members of the public the right to comment on every aspect of new legislation. People can now comment on the government's Protection of Freedoms Bill by visiting a new website. This new pilot public reading stage means your comments will be factored into MP's considerations of the legislation as part of its parliamentary passage.
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MO: From spring 2011, the Met Office in partnership with the Royal Meteorological Society and supported by the Department of Education will launch – WOW- the Weather Observations Website for weather observers across the UK. It is hoped that the website will encourage further growth in the UK's amateur weather observing community, and help educate children about the weather. It is also hoped that this will become the UK's largest source of weather observations.
IPCC: The Independent Police Complaints Commission has identified serious inconsistencies, which are significantly impacting on the effectiveness of the Automatic Number Plate recognition systems nationally. The finding comes following an investigation into how Cleveland Police, Durham Constabulary and North Yorkshire Police responded to intelligence from the ANPR system about the movements of Peter Chapman (33) who murdered 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall on 25 October 2009.
Newswire – RoSPA: A mother whose child died after becoming tangled in a blind cord is urging community groups to help distribute thousands of safety kits to young families across England. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is inviting all organisations that have an interest in the welfare of young children to apply for a FREE share of more than 50,000Make It Safe bundles.
In return for free materials, RoSPA asks that each participating group fills in a simple evaluation form.
MoD: The Army has started building work on a new residential recovery centre to help injured soldiers. Construction of the new Personnel Recovery Centre in Colchester marks a significant milestone in a programme launched exactly a year ago to give wounded, injured & sick soldiers additional care & support to help them successfully return to duties or transition into civilian life.
The Army Recovery Capability (ARC) takes soldiers and other members of the Armed Forces from the point of injury or illness, through to their return to duty or into a supported civilian life, in partnership with Help for Heroes & the Royal British Legion, as well as other Service charities & Government Departments.
CLG: With little over a month to put yourself forward as a councillor in this year's local elections, Local Government Minister Grant Shapps has been joined by councillors past & present to urge more people to consider standing. Councils have varying dates from which people can apply to be a councillor but all applications must be received by 4 April 2011.
People interested in putting themselves forward should consider whether a local political party best represents their views and speak to them about how to stand. Councils will also provide advice and further details & contacts can be found at the Government supported website www.beacouncillor.org.uk.
HO: A women's website last week revealed that more than half of people polled know a female friend that has experienced domestic abuse. The poll by www.ivillage.co.uk has revealed that 53% of people surveyed know a victim of domestic violence and 54% said they would be very likely to intervene to help the victim.
Overall in the UK, more than one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Victims of domestic violence or those who know someone at risk should contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. Call 999 if in immediate danger.
NA: The Archive Awareness Campaign has uncovered some Valentine's treasures.
Directgov: Product placement will be allowed in UK TV programmes for the first time from 28 February 2011. To let viewers know if a TV programme contains product placement, a special logo has been designed and all UK TV programmes that contain product placement will have to show this logo. However, product placement will be banned in all children’s & news programmes and in UK-produced current affairs, consumer affairs and religious programmes.
DCMS: The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) have announced the complete sports competition schedule (including the times & venues for over 640 sessions, across more than 300 events, 39 disciplines & 26 sports), and ticket prices, for the London 2012 Olympic Games. It will help you plan your Games experience and ensure you're prepared when Olympic Games tickets go on sale on 15 March 2011. The 6-week application window closes at 11.59pm on 26 April.
ScotGov: Around 2,000 primary school pupils across Scotland will take part in specially created 'food & farming' education days this year thanks to an expanded grant scheme announced yesterday by Richard Lochhead. The Rural Affairs Secretary also revealed that 12 schools will receive funding to help them host special Farmers' Market events, building on the success of a scheme launched last year.
Educating children about the importance of our food chain is one of the key areas highlighted in the Scottish Government's national food and drink policy Recipe for Success which recognises that some young people do not understand how their food is produced, how it is cooked and how the choices they make about food affect their health & impact on the environment.
Wired – CAB: Legal aid cuts will ‘lead to a catastrophic reduction in the amount of help available to vulnerable people with complex legal problems and will impact on the capacity of the Citizens Advice Bureau network to maintain services at a time of growing need’ Citizens Advice warned recently. As part of a package to reduce the legal aid budget by £350m, legal aid will no longer be available for most social welfare law advice, and already stringent eligibility criteria will be tightened further.
Citizens Advice is supporting the Justice for All Campaign which calls for adequate funding for Legal Aid to be maintained to ensure that people are treated fairly under the law no matter who they are, how much money they have or where they live.
PCS: The PCS union reports that PM David Cameron has heaped praise on a government agency facing abolition for its role in getting our economy ‘back on its feet’. He was speaking to a prestigious midlands business awards ceremony where Advantage West Midlands, the Regional Development Agency, had just picked up the top prize.
Last summer Cameron’s government announced the abolition of England’s 9 RDAs, saying they would be replaced with ‘local enterprise partnerships’ by 2012. An article on the Advantage WM website, reporting news of the award, quotes the agency’s chief executive Mick Laverty as saying that ‘independent evaluation has shown that for every £1 invested by Advantage, £8.14 is generated for the region’s economy’.
MoD: The creation of a new organisation to manage Defence property has been announced by Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox. The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), (subject to Trade Union consultation), will bring together all those working on estate & infrastructure activity across the Ministry of Defence. It will deliver better strategic management of the military estate as well as savings of £1.2bn over the first 4 yearsalone.
This is the first such change delivered by the Defence Reform Unit under Lord Levene, designed to radically overhaul the structure of the MoD without reducing the effectiveness or reliability of the services delivered.
FSA: Aconbury Sprouts has recalled its Organic Mixed Sprouts and Organic Rainbow Salad with a ‘use by’ date of 19 February 2011, because the products are contaminated with salmonella. Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause food poisoning. The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Recall Information Notice.
PCS: The government should call an immediate halt to plans to close 10 of the UK's 19 coastguard stations and cut almost half their staff, the PCS union says after a committee of MPs announced it wants to look into the issue in detail.
The Commons Transport Select Committee, which has already questioned the Maritime and Coastguard Agency over its plans, yesterday announced a full inquiry into the government’s proposals for ‘modernising the coastguard’.
Earlier this month, PCS called on the MCA to run a live test of its planned new centralised control system to prove the cuts will not cost lives. This simulation could be carried out using data for any time of year.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
DfE: The Government has recently published the findings from the review of the Vetting & Barring Scheme. A parallel review of the criminal records regime led by Mrs Sunita Mason, the Government’s independent advisor on criminality information management, has also completed its first phase and the findings of that review are available from the Home Office website.
DH: Teams of clinicians in the South East Coast region went head to head last week in pitching their innovative ideas to a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style panel, as part of the Transforming Community Services Multi Professional Leadership Challenge. Up to 13 different teams from each Strategic Health Authority, made up of GPs, allied health professionals & nurses, will compete for a regional prize of £50,000 to implement their idea.
The challenges are open to all clinicians within the NHS who have a local idea which could improve primary or community care services within their area. Each event brings together the skills of clinicians in how best to design & deliver high quality, seamless care, including child & family centred public health from the beginning of life to end of life care.
CLG: Housing Minister Grant Shapps has launched a new scheme to deliver affordable homes for those in need, providing a potential lifeline to some 4.5m people on social housing waiting lists. A new Affordable Rent programme will ‘give landlords greater flexibility to meet the individual needs of tenants in their area’.
Under the new scheme landlords will be able to offer homes to tenants on fixed tenancies charging a rent of up to 80% of local market rate - one of a number of efforts being made to move away from the 'one size fits all' system of social housing to one where a range of options are available to meet local housing needs. The extra revenue raised from rents would then be invested in building new homes.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps has also published a consultation (closes on 11 April 2011) to include the definition of Affordable Rent as part of Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 3 - Affordable housing.
ScotGov: More than £300m will be ploughed back into frontline services through efficiency savings over the next year, Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon has announced. The revised NHS Efficiency & Productivity Framework sets out how NHS boards will make savings. A target of 3% has been set for this financial year.
It identifies priority areas to improve quality & efficiency by reducing unwarranted variation, waste & harm, with 7 cost reduction workstreams being set up to identify where further cost savings & quality improvements can be made.
CO: Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude and Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd have unveiled a new strategy to grow the social investment market giving charities & social enterprises access to new, potentially £ms in capital.
The strategy explains the role of the Big Society Bank as a cornerstone of the social investment market attracting more investment from wealthy individuals, charitable foundations and ultimately socially responsible everyday savers in social ISAs & pension funds.
It will ultimately be financed by an estimated £400m from dormant bank accounts, accessing up to £100m in its first year, as well as an additional £200m given by the UK’s largest banks. It will act as a wholesaler and use its balance sheet to co-invest, underwrite or guarantee investments along with private sources of capital.
HMT: Lord Sassoon, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, has launched a pilot project to identify the scope for achieving savings in operational Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts. The public sector will spend over £8bn on PFI contracts in 2011-12, so PFI must be examined for savings.
The contract for the Queen's Hospital in Romford will be examined by an experienced team of commercial, legal & technical advisors to identify ways of reducing ongoing costs in this contract on behalf of the local NHS Trust. The lessons will then be used to drive savings across the full portfolio of PFI contracts.
WAG: 80% of households in Wales can now see how much food they throw away thanks to separate collections of food or food & green waste. All 22 Welsh councils provide the service to at least some of their residents and the number of households covered continues to grow.
Food waste is a priority in Wales’ waste strategy Towards Zero Waste. Throwing it away in the general rubbish means sending it to landfill where it produces methane, which is 23 times more dangerous as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. By collecting food waste separately, local authorities can the send it to processing plants that turn it into valuable compost, that then can be used to grow more food.
WAG: New plans to put social services on a sustainable footing have been announced by the Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas. Sustainable Social Services for Wales – A Framework for Action sets out the Assembly Government’s plans to ‘renew social services & social care for the next decade’.
Defra: The consultation on the future management of the PublicForest Estate has been halted and all forestry clauses in the Public Bodies Bill will be removed, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman confirmed last Thursday. Mrs Spelman also announced that an independent panel of experts will examine forestry policy in England and report back to her in the autumn.
CLG: Housing Minister, Grant Shapps has ‘kicked off a local house-building revolution where communities who go for growth by building new homes reap the benefits and at the same time deliver a much needed economic boost to their local area’.
Through the New Homes Bonus the Government will match the council tax raised from new homes for the first 6 years. The bonus available for an affordable home will be up to 36% more than for a similar market home, equivalent to an extra £350 per house premium every year. Empty properties brought back into use will also receive the cash bonus for 6 years.
WAG: A new strategy for managing the growing number of deer in the woodlands of Wales has been launched. As numbers of wild deer increase, their impacts on agriculture, forestry & vulnerable habitats can become problematic and the Welsh Assembly Government has published its approach to keeping deer numbers in check. An action plan is being developed in order to deliver the strategy.
GEO: Disabled people who want to become councillors or MPs will have access to a fund to help them overcome the barriers they face, under proposals published by the Government. Proposals also include the creation of new training & development opportunities and the introduction of a mentoring programme that will allow aspiring disabled politicians to learn from people who have already made it to the top.
Full details of the plans are contained in a consultation, which follows a coalition agreement commitment to introduce extra support for disabled people who want to become MPs, councillors or other types of elected position. The closing date for comments is 11 May 2011.
WAG: Environment & Sustainability, Minister Jane Davidson, has launched the consultation (closes on 11 May 2011) Sustainable Development for ‘WelshSeas: Our approach to marine planning in Wales’ to seek views on national plans for the inshore & offshore marine areas of Wales.
The Marine and Coastal Access Act requires the Assembly Government to plan & issue the required licences, for activities along Wales’ coastline and offshore waters. Marine planning can cover a number of activities, including marine conservation, off-shore wind farms, dredging and marine-based tourism.
CLG: Housing Minister Grant Shapps has launched a new scheme to deliver affordable homes for those in need. He has also published a consultation (closes on 11 April 2011) to include the definition of Affordable Rent as part of Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 3 - Affordable housing – See ‘Policy Statements & Initiatives’ section for more information.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
LLUK: Lifelong Learning UK highlights that the Equality Act 2010 has replaced all previous anti-discrimination legislation and consolidated it into a single act, making it unlawful to discriminate against an individual because of their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.
Newswire – CWDC: Childminders looking to increase their skills and take part in early years workforce development training can now benefit from improvements made to the online Early Years Workforce Qualifications Audit Tool.
LLUK: Lifelong Learning UK has produced adocument which supports the Workforce Strategy for the Further Education Sector in England 2011.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has issued guidance to clarify the steps that food businesses need to take to control the risk of contamination from the food bug E.coli O157. Serious outbreaks of E.coli in Scotland in 1996 and Wales in 2005, resulted in serious illness in some individuals and, in a few cases, death.
These outbreaks were attributed to cross-contamination arising from the poor handling of food. This guidance has been developed to remind food businesses what they should be doing to protect their customers from the serious consequences of E.coli food poisoning. It is also expected that the guidance will be used by local authority food safety officers when inspecting businesses in their area.
LGG: The Local Government Group (LG Group) last week launched an approach to self regulation for the local government sector, which will help local authorities strengthen their accountability & revolutionise the way they evaluate & improve services.
The 7 point offer is designed to help local authorities capitalise on the LG Group’s successful campaign for the £2bn burden of central government inspections to be drastically reduced. “Taking the Lead” will offer a range of local accountability tools to help councils and other local authorities further improve the way they gather & respond to feedback from residents, partners and community groups.
WAG: New advice for people diagnosed with dementia and their carers, developed by the Welsh Assembly Government and the Alzheimer’s Society in Wales, has been launched. The National Dementia Vision for Wales highlights the support that is available in Wales. This will ensure advice will be available to anyone diagnosed with dementia to help them find the services they need.
In addition, a dedicated helpline & website has been launched to offer emotional support & advice to anyone who has been diagnosed with dementia or for relatives and carers of people with dementia.
HL: Homeless Link has launched a 4-page joint briefing for local authorities ‘4 facts, 4 questions about the future of Supporting People’. Written jointly with 13 other charities, including Crisis, National Housing Federation, Mind, Salvation Army and St Mungo's, it represents views from across health, social care, housing, homelessness, substance misuse and criminal justice.
The briefing aims to highlight the clear benefits of Supporting People services, and the questions that local authorities should consider when making decisions about them.
Ofsted: Last week Ofsted launched the Inspection of children’s homes, a new inspection framework for all children’s homes in England. The framework will focus inspection on the quality & impact of services and the outcomes achieved for children & young people.
The Department for Education will shortly publish new Children’s Homes Regulations and new National Minimum Standards for Children’s Homes for implementation from 1 April 2011. All inspections of children’s homes will be carried out under the new framework, taking into account with the new regulations & standards, from that date. To strengthen the approach to inspections, all the inspections will be unannounced.
DfE: The Government wants the network of Sure Start Children’s centres children’s centres to be retained, but focused much more effectively on those families who need them the most. LAs continue to have duties under the Childcare Act 2006 to consult before opening, closing or significantly changing children’s centres, and to secure sufficient provision to meet local need so far as is reasonably practicable.
Statutory guidance accompanies these duties, which outlines how the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 provisions relate to children’s centres. It also advises local authorities, primary care trusts and Jobcentre Plus on the action they should take to comply with their duties as they work with their local communities to plan future children's centre provision.
DCMS: The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games remain on time and within budget, data published yesterday by the Government and Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) confirms. Figures from the Government’s Annual Report on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games show that the overall funding package for the Games remains at £9.298bn.
NAO: The preparations for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are going well overall and, despite time pressures, the Olympic Delivery Authority remains on course to deliver its construction programme. According to this 5th report, 5 of the 24 main projects being undertaken by the ODA have now been completed ready for handover and (on current projections) the remaining projects will be delivered on time.
However, the timings on the Aquatics Centre and 2 elements of the Athletes’ Village are becoming tight for handover to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) in July 2011 and January 2012.
ICI UKBA: The UK Border Agency needs to implement & maintain a consistent approach to decision making and also increase its focus on compliance of the skilled migrant tier (Tier 2) of the points-based system, said John Vine CBE QPM, the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, publishing his thematic report on Tier 2 of the points-based system (PBS).
CLG: Housing Minister, Grant Shapps has welcomed publication of the first set of rough sleeping figures since he overhauled the way counts are conducted. The new figures bring the national total of rough sleepers to 1,768 on any given night - considerably higher than the 440 counted under the previous system.
To support the work of the voluntary sector in tackling rough sleeping, the Government has announced an £18.5m package of funding for the main national homelessness charities and extra powers for the Mayor of London to run pan-London rough sleeping services.
General Reports and Other Publications
nef|: A new briefing - Feather-bedding financial services - from think-tank nef (the new economics foundation), asks whether banks would be making any profit at all without billions in hidden subsidies from the British taxpayer and bank customers.
Newswire – FAC: Cuts to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s budget are likely to pose a severe challenge to the British Council and the BBC World Servicesays a report by the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, entitled: FCO Performance and Finances. The report focuses on the FCO’s financial situation and the implications of the Spending Review 2010 on its work & performance.
MLA: As the redevelopment to streamline, update & refocus the Accreditation scheme nears completion, a report outlining the museum sector's reaction to the developed requirements and their support needs has been published along with a Curatorial Adviser review. The MLA's response: Accreditation: What next? is a manifesto for the future of the UK standard for museums.
The new standard is currently being tested in a pilot phase in ten museums & services across the UK. Feedback from the pilots is being used to refine the standard and to develop associated guidance. Arts Council England will become the new administering organisation of the Accreditation scheme later in 2011.
NLGN: Localism think tank, New Local Government Network have called on councils to try and cushion some of the current financial pressures they face by making greater use of green energy subsidies – with an estimated pot available of up to £12bn over the next two decades.
With some council budgets being cut by nearly 9% next year, a new report (Power and Money) highlights how some authorities are already starting to install solar panels on social housing and other council properties, thereby accessing new sources of funding through the ‘Feed-in Tariff’ and the ‘Renewable Heat Incentive’.
However, NLGN has also warned how a lack of clarity from the government on its support for schemes is hindering such development.
Newswire – CBI: The Government’s Green Deal risks failing to attract the businesses it needs to deliver its flagship energy efficiency scheme unless it provides greater clarity on how it will be financed & promoted, the CBI said last week. The Green Deal will allow people to take out loans to improve the energy efficiency of their properties, including for insulation, heating & lighting. The loans are to be attached to the property and will be paid back over a fixed period through the savings made on energy bills.
However, with a new CBI survey showing that three-quarters of the public do not even consider the energy efficiency of a property when buying or renting a home, the Government clearly needs to do more to get consumers to buy into the concept.
DfE: Schools Minister Nick Gibb has responded to the Royal Society's report on science & maths education.
NIA: The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment has presented its report into barriers to the development of renewable energy to the Assembly. The report urges Government to focus on local development of renewable energies, or risk not being able to generate our own light or heat.
Socitm: Councils should be seizing the opportunity for significant & permanent future savings by reorganising the way they manage customer contact, says a new report - Better served: customer access, efficiency and channel shift - from Socitm Insight.
All front office customer contact, whether face to face, by phone, through the website or other means, should be brought under central management, to enable customer contact to be run to common standards, with customer contact analysis leading to improvement and savings in the cost of delivery.
Newswire – EUSFADD: The EU’s Police Mission in Afghanistan risks failing in an area where the EU should be showing leadership, the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence & Development says in a report.
The Committee found that the Afghan National Police force is in a dire state due to high attrition & illiteracy rates and corruption. The mission must pay greater attention to the most basic of policing skills, not least reading & writing, if it is to succeed.
TWF: Public sector cuts could reverse patterns of improved graduate retention in cities & regions outside of the South East, resulting in a ‘brain drain’ likely to impede economic recovery, according to a new report published by The Work Foundation.
Cutting the Apron Strings? The Clustering of Young Graduates and the Role of the Public Sector shows a ‘spreading out’ of young graduates (those aged between 20 & 29) over the past decade. Young graduates in the North & the Midlands are now disproportionately employed in the public sector. The evidence suggests this trend has been driven by increased public sector demand in the regions during the decade of public sector expansion from 1997.
Newswire – EFRA: Ministers should consider reintroducing direct payments coupled to numbers of livestock - known as headage payments - for hard-pressed hill farmers in the uplands says the cross-party Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee in the report of its inquiry into Farming in the Uplands.
IISS: The International Institute for Strategic Studies looks at how malfunctions at Iran's Natanz uranium-enrichment plant attributed to the Stuxnet worm have encouraged speculation as to the potential for cyber sabotage to be used in derailing nuclear programmes.
nef: For nearly a decade, the Centre for Well-being at the New Economics Foundation (nef) has been calling for governments to measure people's well-being and to recognise that the economy - and economic growth in particular - is only ever a means to an end. A new report presents nef's contribution to the current debate about how well-being can be measured and how the data can be used to bring about more effective policy-making.
Ofsted: The Children on Family Justice report, published last week by the Children’s Rights Director, Dr Roger Morgan, reveals concerns children in care have about the court system. Only half of the children surveyed trust the courts to make the right decisions about their lives. The findings were similar when children took part in discussion groups.
The 3 main worries for children going to court included:
* whether the court’s decisions about their future was right for them
* people & strangers hearing about their private lives & problems
* not being able to give the right answers to important questions in front of a court
NAO: The Better Regulation Executive & government departments are not yet in a position to achieve value for money in their management of regulation, according to a report published by the National Audit Office. However, the BRE & departments have developed important elements of a structured approach to achieving sustainable reductions in regulatory costs and have delivered significant benefits.
NAO: The National Audit Office has published a review of how government uses Information & Communications Technology (ICT) to deliver public services. The review gives an overview of existing uses, as well as initiatives & changes underway. It details a number of big challenges the government faces in protecting & improving the value for money of ICT and in ensuring that ICT is deployed fully in the drive to secure sustainable cost reduction.
WAG: Making high quality childcare accessible & affordable has a key role to play in reducing child poverty, Deputy Minister Huw Lewis said last week as he launched the Welsh Assembly Government’s Childcare Policy Statement ‘Nurturing Children – Supporting Families’ which outlines the WAG’s priorities & ambitions for improving childcare across Wales.
Newswire – AS: An Audit Scotland report published last week calls on the Scottish Government to consider a national review of how Scotland’s road network is managed & maintained. The report also says key routes should be prioritised and services may need to be redesigned. It suggests that there may be room for more flexibility in how staff & machinery are deployed.
Newswire – NHSC: A new NHS Confederation briefing has warned that ‘government plans to cut the numbers of readmissions need to be introduced with sensitivity if they are not to prove expensive and damaging to patient care’. The briefing sets out the findings from research which found that recently announced system to impose financial penalties on acute trusts that readmit patients within 30 days could cost hospitals £ms and have serious unintended consequences for patients.
Legislation / Legal
DfE: The Government has recently responded to the judgment following judicial reviews from 6 local authorities on the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.
WAG: The Minister for Heritage, Alun Ffred Jones, has welcomed the news that the Welsh Language Measure has received Royal Assent. The Measure meets the 3 One Wales commitments by confirming the official status of Welsh, providing the means for establishing linguistic rights in the provision of services and creating the post of Language Commissioner.
Newswire – RoSPA: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents says the first conviction under the new corporate manslaughter law should make firms with a lax approach to safety take action to put their own houses in order.
Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings has been convicted of the new offence of corporate manslaughter in relation to the death of a 27-year-old geologist. The firm was sentenced at Winchester Crown Court last week and it has been fined £385,000, payable over 10 years.
Newswire – EC: The Electoral Commission has said it will now start to deliver the first UK-wide referendum since 1975, following Royal Assent to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act. On Thursday 5 May 2011, voters across the UK will decide whether we use ‘first past the post’ or ‘alternative vote’ to elect MPs to the UK Parliament in future.
The EC will send an information booklet to all 27.8mn households in the UK. The booklet explains what elections are taking place, the referendum question, how to take part in the referendum and elections on 5 May and gives an independent explanation of the ‘first past the post’ and ‘alternative vote’ systems. The booklet will be supported by a multi-media advertising campaign.
The Commission will also now start to register campaigners for the referendum and to receive applications to become the official lead campaigners for a ‘yes’ & ‘no’ vote.
HO: As part of its commitment to advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender (LGB & T) people, the government last week announced that religious buildings will be allowed to host civil partnership registrations. The change, which is entirely voluntary and will not force any religious group to host civil partnership registrations if they do not want to, is being introduced as part of the Equality Act.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: To mark ‘European 112 Day’ (11 February), the European Commission urged Member States to step up their efforts to increase public awareness of the existence of ‘112’, which can be used in all EU Member States toreach emergency services. A 75% of EU citizens still do not know this life-saving number.
Member States are further required to improve the accuracy & reliability of caller location information under the new EU telecoms rules, which must be implemented into national law by 25 May 2011 (see MEMO/09/568).
EU News: Access to credit is a major concern for many EU companies, in particular for SMEs and for entrepreneurs who want to start their own business or get new projects off the ground. Without financing, companies & entrepreneurs can lose out on important employment opportunities. This has become even more worrying in the current economic context.
That is why the European Commission has, jointly with the European Investment Fund (EIF), launched the first EU microfinance project in the Netherlands. As part of the EU's Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable & inclusive growth, the EU Microfinance Facility is one of the concrete actions taken at European level to address the consequences of the crisis (IP/09/1070)
EU News: The European Commission has requested Spain to amend its tax provisions on inheritance & gift tax that impose a higher tax burden on non-residents and on assets held abroad. The provisions are incompatible with the free movement of workers and capital as provided for by the Treaty. The request takes the form of a complementary ‘reasoned opinion’. If there is no satisfactory response within 2 months, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the EU's Court of Justice.
EU News: The European Commission has asked the UK to change provisions in its legislation that exempt some maintenance & repair activities from the application of the EU directive on protection of workers from asbestos.
UK authorities do not comply with 3 clear obligations, undermining the protection foreseen by EU law for workers exposed to asbestos. The request takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures. The UK now has 2 months to bring its legislation into line with EU law. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the UK to the EU's Court of Justice.
EU News: A scientist supported by the European Union's Marie Curie research fund has found new evidence that a specific 'asthma gene' is a cause of the respiratory condition in children. The young German scientist, Michaela Schedel, believes that her findings could change our understanding of childhood asthma and lead to new treatments for the potentially fatal condition, which affects 100m people in Europe and three times as many worldwide.
EU News: The European Commission has formally requested the UK to amend two discriminatory anti-abuse tax regimes which concern the ‘transfer of assets abroad and attribution of gains to members of non-UK resident companies’. The requests take the form of Reasoned Opinions. In the absence of a satisfactory response within 2 months, the Commission may refer the UK to the European Court of Justice.
EU News: Six substances of very high concern will be banned within the next 3 to 5 years unless an authorisation has been granted to individual companies for their use. These substances are carcinogenic, toxic for reproduction or persist in the environment and accumulate in living organisms.
Operators wishing to sell or use these substances will need to demonstrate that the required safety measures have been taken to adequately control the risks, or that the benefits for the economy & society outweigh the risks. Where feasible alternative substances or techniques exist, a timetable for substitution will also have to be submitted.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: Statistics across the UK reveal that at any one time around 1 adult in 6 is experiencing symptoms of mental illness and 1 in 4 will experience mental illness during their lifetime. Working to provide crucial support for those with mental health issues, 4 innovative projects are sharing over £1,531,000 in funding under the Big Lottery Fund’s (BIG) Reaching Communities programme which aims to help those most in need and build stronger communities.
TPT: Today’s Young People; Tomorrow’s Economy is a report from The Princes Trust and Citi Foundation. It highlights the potential financial benefits of helping young people into self-employment or other work through the Enterprise Programme. Since April 2009, more than 5,000 young people have been supported through the new Enterprise Programme – a development of The Prince’s Trust Business Programme.
The report calculates that these young people could bring up to £26.8m to the economy over a 3-year period. With The Prince’s Trust aiming to help a further 6,000 young people through this programme in the coming year, the impact will be even greater.
Business and Other Briefings
ECGD: The Trade and Investment White Paper announced 4 new Export Credits Guarantee Department initiatives to support exporters, particularly smaller companies.
HO: New details of the Government's changes to the work visa route were unveiled by the Home Office last week, as it laid out the criteria for its annual limit. Under the new system, employers will have to apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) from the UK Border Agency for a specific post if they wish to bring someone to the UK - this is a change from the current system which gives businesses an annual allocation.
The Government has also announced that employers filling a vacancy that attracts a salary of £150,000 or more will not be subject to the limit on the number of COS that may be allocated. These changes will be made by way of amending the 'Immigration Rules' before 6 April 2011.
BIS: Time to Train regulations will NOT be extended this April to employees of SMEs. The right for employees to request time for training to improve their skills has been available to employees of large organisations with 250 or more employees since April 2010. Following a recent consultation covering a wide range of businesses and employee groups, Ministers are taking further time to examine the potential impact of the regulation on smaller firms.
Newswire – BISC: The report from the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee concludes that while the Government has proposed a number of interventions which have the potential to help promote economic growth, it does not add up to a comprehensive growth strategy.
The report highlights the fact that in the absence of clear performance measurements the Department's strategy runs the risk that economic success could mask failures in policy, while economic hardship could overshadow excellent strategies or interventions.
EU News: Access to credit is a major concern for many EU companies, in particular for SMEs and for entrepreneurs who want to start their own business or get new projects off the ground. That is why the EC has, jointly with the European Investment Fund (EIF), launched the first EU microfinance project in the Netherlands – See ‘EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc’ section for more information.
This brief confirms HMRC's view of the VAT treatment of commercially operated sports leagues.
LDA: The LDA’s Better Buildings Partnership has scooped the ‘Client of the Year (large)’ prize at the CIBSEBuilding Performance Awards 2011 for work in cutting carbon emissions from London’s commercial buildings.
WAG: A £20m programme to boost the green economy by helping business in West Wales & the Valleys develop new technologies to turn locally grown plant crops into commercial products, has been announced by Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones AM.
Led by Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Science (IBERS), in collaboration with its partners at Bangor and Swansea Universities, the BEACON initiative will use pioneering techniques, known as bio-refining, to assist Welsh companies in developing new low carbon technologies and new ways of making products that are traditionally made from oil.
STFC: Scientists looking at volcanoes in the outer solar system have discovered mysterious expanding ice crystals. The methanol crystals which have unusual expansion properties will be of interest to developers of 'nano-switches' (valves used in 'micro-electronics' at the nano scale) which it is thought could be used in future information systems. The unexpected discovery was made by scientists using neutron scattering at STFC's ISIS facility and Institut Laue Langevin (ILL).
ScotGov: Scottish designed blueprint to help governments implement carbon capture & storage (CCS)project applications smoothly is now live. A new 'Are You Ready' toolkit has been designed to make it easy for nations & regions to test their legislation, regulatory and public engagement systems in advance of receiving applications for CCS projects.
The test toolkit, produced by the Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage Centre on behalf of the Scottish Government, provides a low-cost, low-risk approach to a regulatory test exercise.
DECC: A total of 14 UK projects have applied for funding from the EU’s New Entrant Reserve (NER) scheme – a fund worth between €4.5bn and €R9bn to support carbon capture & storage (CCS) and innovative renewable projects across the European Union. Of the 14 applications received, 9 were for CCS projects and 5 for innovative renewables.
The Government has until 9 May 2011 to assess the applications against the NER & UK criteria and decide which to put forward to the European Investment Bank for further consideration. Given the significant progress expected on CCS in 2011 the Government has decided to publish the CCS Roadmap in Autumn 2011 rather than the Spring as originally planned.
This is to ensure that they capture all the lessons learnt from: the Electricity Market Reform consultation, completing the Front End Engineering Design studies for the first demonstration project, finalising their approach to 3 further demonstrations, as well as assessing the 9 projects applying for NER funding.
OS: The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has given the green light to plans unveiled by Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, in December 2010. The OFT approval will result in addressing information from local government and Ordnance Survey being brought together to create one definitive source of accurate spatial address data for England & Wales.
To enable the delivery & management, of the address database, OS and the Local Government Group have created a joint venture called GeoPlace LLP. Over the next few weeks GeoPlace will continue to work on its plans with an aim of being fully operational in April 2011. It is anticipated that data resulting from the partnership will be made available in the summer/early autumn of 2011.
ScotGov: A new fund to help the development of renewable energy schemes in rural Scotland was unveiled last week by Richard Lochhead. The Rural Affairs Secretary announced that £2.4m is being made available in 2011-12 to farmers & other land managers to help them harness Scotland's renewable energy potential.
The funds are being ploughed into the Scottish Government's existing Communities and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) Loan Fund, which from April 2011 will be opened up to farmers and other land managers for the first time. To access the fund, land managers should form partnerships with local communities to share revenue.
STC: The Science and Technology Committee has published its report on Technology & Innovation Centres (TICs) in which it welcomes the Government’s £200m commitment for an elite network of centres but warns that the money should not be spread too thinly.
CO: A package of measures (including the launch of a Contracts Finder website) to open up the way that Government does business and to make sure that small companies, charities & voluntary organisations are in the best possible position to compete for £bns worth of contracts has been outlined by the PM.
After listening to the views of small business owners, the Government has take action to ensure that small firms & organisations, which it considers to be vital to the economy and promoting growth, are no longer shut out of procurement processesbecause of excessive bureaucracy & petty regulation.
WAG: A pioneering scheme run by the Welsh Assembly Government that aims to create job & training opportunities is a big success according to an independent report. The i2i Can-do Toolkit provides guidance to registered social landlords building new affordable homes and working towards the Welsh Housing Quality Standards (WHQS) on making targeted recruitment & training a condition of contract when they appoint companies to carry out work on their behalf.
The report was launched yesterday by the Deputy Minister for Housing & Regeneration, Jocelyn Davies AM ahead of a debate in the Assembly about the merits of using the approach across the whole of the Assembly Government’s procurement programmes.
LSIS: Learning and Skills Improvement Services, in partnership with the Young People’s learning Agency, and with support from the Skills Funding Agency, is running a series of events on the Equality Act. Speakers from across the sector will share their expertise about the implications of the new Act & Duties.
Newswire – NNFCC: Measuring the amount of renewable material in a given product is a contentious issue. Many bio-based materials contain combinations of both plant & fossil ingredients, but how we measure this can have serious economic & political implications.
This one day conference (1 March 2011) brings together experts in the field of measuring bio-based content to untangle this complex subject. Attendees will include regulators and those working in the areas of waste, plastics, composites, fuel and energy.
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