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In the News

LSNIt is not only in Arab countries that democracy needs to be nurtured among young citizens for it to flourish - The Learning and Skills Network is one of the founding members of Democratic Life (DL), a coalition of organisations & individuals seeking to strengthen & extend young people’s entitlement to high-quality citizenship learning in England.

Democratic Life aims to highlight citizenship’s unique position in England’s National Curriculum and (of course) beyond into post-16 education & training.  It is the only subject that teaches learners about their rights & responsibilities as citizens – and how they can participate effectively in society – by developing their understanding of politics, democracy, the law and the economy.

The coalition government is currently reviewing the National Curriculum (ends mid April 2011), and DL is urging the government and all parties to support citizenship education so that it remains in the national curriculum and schools continue to improve the teaching of the subject.  With political society & political structures being challenged in the UK and across the world, citizenship education is as important as ever.  

Would you like to join the campaign for DL and make your voice heard? LSN offers a suite of products & services for staff & learners to support citizenship education & skills for democratic participation.
Press release ~ Democratic Life ~ LSN: Post-16 Citizenship Support Programme ~ HoC Education & Skills Committee: Citizenship Education (2007) ~ Citizenship Foundation ~ Teachernet: Citizenship ~ Association of Citizenship teaching ~ Hansard society ~ Islam & Citizenship Education Project ~ CELS ~ Citizenship education in England 2001-2010: young people’s practices and prospects for the future: the eighth and final report from the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study (CELS) ~ Learning & Teaching Scotland: Global Citizenship ~ Ofsted: Steady progress for citizenship education ~ Professional development for citizenship teachers and leaders ~ Teaching Citizenship in Higher Education ~ National Centre for Citizenship and the Law ~ Citizenship - The National Curriculum for England ~ Diversity and Citizenship Curriculum report ~ Education for Democratic Citizenship website ~ Play your part Post-16 citizenship ~ Institute of Citizenship

NE:  If only Natural England could defeat alien invaders as quickly & effectively as Dr Who - The risks of nearly 600 alien plants threatening to enter England’s fragile ecosystems have been assessed as part of new research, undertaken by Plantlife on behalf of Natural England.  Quick to spread and hard to contain, invasive non-native plants can have a suffocating effect on our native wildlife & countryside and pose a significant threat to biodiversity in Britain.

Often, the environmental damage is irreversible and dealing with problems associated with non-native invasive plants & animals costs the British economy in excess of £1.7bn annually.  By far the best way of tackling the problem is to prevent invasive plants becoming established in the first place.

To help predict which species may pose the greatest threat, NE has supported Plantlife to devise & trial a ‘rapid screening process’ for quickly assigning a broad level of invasive threat to a non-native plant.
Press release ~ Horizon-scanning for invasive non-native plants in Great Britain ~ Plantlife ~ Freshwater Biological Association ~ Planta Europa:  Rapid Risk Assessment ~ CABI - Japanese Knotweed Alliance ~ Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment ~ Cornwall Knotweed Forum ~ GN Non-native Species Secretariat ~ Defra - Non-native species ~ Forest Research - Protecting trees ~ WAG – Biodiversity Partnership ~ UK Biodiversity Action Plan Website ~ A Cost-Benefit analysis of introducing the non-native species signal crayfish ~ European Platform for Biodiversity Research Strategy (EPBRS) ~ Forestry Commission Grey Squirrel website ~ Audit of non-native species in England (2005) ~ Biodiversity Scotland website ~ Working with the grain of nature: a biodiversity strategy for England ~ Invasive Non-native Species – Scottish Executive ~ Horticultural Code of Practice ~ JNCC ~ ScotGov: Cost of invasive non-native species ~ EA: Invasive Species ~ Preventing the introduction of non-native species to Antarctica ~ Audit of non-native species in England ~ Business Link: Conservation and biodiversity - an overview ~ Broads Authority Survey ~ Marine Climate Change Impacts partnership

Newswire – WWFTechnology helped cause over-fishing, can it now offer some solutions to the problem? - The UK’s fishermen, backyard inventors, net makers, students & others have been invited to submit entries for the best new fishing gear to reduce bycatch & discards.  WWF’s biennial Smart Gear Competition is offering a grand prize of £18,500 and two £6,000 runner-up prizes

 “The Eliminator” trawl - a winning idea from 2007 designed to reduce the bycatch of cod - is being adopted by the EU as a measure in cod bycatch reduction under certain conditions.  Vessels throughout the U.K. are also using a modified version of the net called the Orkney Trawl with good results.  For more information & instructions on how to enter, visit (closes on 31 August 2011).
IfGEveryone has known about the problem for many years, so isn’t it about time they changed the way they procure IT systems? - The Treasury estimates that Government IT costs approximately £16bn per year.  Despite these vast sums of money, government IT seems locked in a vicious circle of failure

A new report from the Institute for Government's finds that government is struggling to get the basics of IT right and is falling further & further behind the fast-paced & exciting technological environment that citizens interact with daily.  The result of this is £bns in wasted money & time.

System Error: fixing the flaws in government IT argues that government’s approach to IT is fundamentally flawed.  Without a radical re-think in this important and often controversial area of government, £ms of pounds of taxpayers' money and government time is at risk. 

To date the government has adopted an approach to IT that assumes that the world works in a rational & predictable fashion.  Specifications are drawn up in advance, 'solutions' are procured, and then delivery is managed against a pre-determined timetable. The average procurement process alone takes 77 weeks due to the excessively detailed commissioning processes in the UK.

In reality, as was seen in £5bn National Identity Scheme and the £12.7bn NHS National Programme for IT, political priorities change rapidly and technological development is increasingly unpredictable.  The result is repeated system-wide failure

A new dual approach will end long term big business IT contracts that lock government in.  A totally new approach is needed that emphasises adaptability & flexibility, while retaining the benefits of scale & collaboration across government.
Press release ~ System Error: fixing the flaws in government IT ~ What government IT can learn from cycling in London ~ Fixing the Flaws in Government IT (includes links to 3 videos) ~ BCS: The Challenges of Complex IT Projects ~ The Official PRINCE2® website ~ Best Management Practice website ~ Official ITIL® Website ~ OGC Best Practice Tools ~ NAO: Delivering successful IT-enabled business change ~ Chief Information Officer Council ~ OGC Gateway Review process ~ NAO: Improving IT procurement: The impact of the Office of Government Commerce's initiatives on departments and suppliers in the delivery of major IT-enabled projects ~ NSG – Project Management ~ IDEA - Project, programme and change management toolkit ~ Public Accounts Committee: Defence Information Infrastructure ~ PCS press release ~ Full report - Assurance for high risk projects ~ Major Project Review Group ~ NAO: Commercial skills for complex government projects ~ OGC’s skills strategy ‘Building the procurement profession in government’ ~ Senior Responsible Owners ~ Value For Money in public sector corporate services - A joint project by the UK Public Sector Audit Agencies ~ NAO: The National Offender Management Information System

OfstedYet again ‘Leadership’ and ‘Communication’ are key factors in success - Ofsted has published Outstanding children’s homes - a report highlighting 12 homes that have excelled in helping improve the lives of children & young people in their care.  The children’s homes selected represent the broad & diverse types of provision across the country.  

What makes them exceptional is their consistently outstanding performance.  Of the 1,439 homes inspected, only 35 succeeded in being judged outstanding at each inspection for 3 consecutive years.

A characteristic that unites these homes is their highly effective leadership.  Managers are visible, inclusive and interact frequently with staff & young people alike.  Leaders of these homes have a vision & purpose which is shared & supported by staff.

The defining hallmark of quality was the importance placed on the experience and feedback of children & young people who live in the homes.  One manager said: ‘Young people are our most important inspectors’.  As a young person put it: ‘Staff always ask young people about their views on life in the home.  We are always being consulted about all sorts of things - trips, visits, holidays’.
Press release ~ Ofsted: Outstanding children’s homes ~ Developing leadership: National Support Schools ~ Twelve outstanding special schools - Excelling through inclusion ~ Twelve outstanding secondary schools - Excelling against the odds ~ Twenty outstanding primary schools - Excelling against the odds ~ NSG: Whole Systems Go!: Improving leadership across the whole public service system ~ Change You Can Believe In: The Leadership of Innovation ~  Ofsted: Children’s messages to the Minister report ~ Office of the Children’s Rights Director ~ Support for care leavers ~ DfE related reports ~ Frank Buttle Trust Quality Mark ~ Carelaw : A guide for young people in care ~ ScotGov: Looked After Children and Young People: We Can and Must Do Better ~ Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) reports ~  Childline information sheet  ~ Ofsted: Care and prejudice ~ Future rules ~ Parents on Council Care ~  Ofsted – Children’s Rights (and others - scroll down) ~ Ofsted: Looked after children: good practice in schools ~  Care Matters - Transforming the Lives of Children and Young People in Care ~ JRF: Barriers to change in the social care of children ~ Children on the edge of care: Human rights and the Children Act ~  Reuniting looked after children with their families ~ Resilience and young people leaving care ~ Mentoring for young people leaving care  ~ ~ NCAS Briefing paper ~ These Are Our Bairns ~ Report analysing responses to the first consultation on Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2008 ~ Keeping in touch ~ Children on Family Justice Report

EU News:  If the ruling extended to Holiday insurance it could make the EU popular with an ever increasing pool of ‘Grey Voters’ - The Court of Justice of the European Union last week delivered its ruling in the Test-Achats case (C-236/09) concerning sex discrimination in insurance premiums.  

This means that the EU’s Court of Justice has ruled that different insurance premiums for women & men constitute sex discrimination and are not compatible with the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights.  Member States are not allowed to derogate from this important principle in their national legislation.  The relevant ‘opt out’ clause in the
Council's 2004 Directive on gender equality is thus illegal.

The European Commission issued a 'fundamental rights checklist' in October 2010 to make sure that all laws proposed comply with the EU Charter (see IP/10/1348), thus ensuring that ‘EU rules are beyond any reproach’.

So what happens next?  The EC will now carefully examine the implications of the Court's decision for the EU's law on equal access to goods & services for women & men, as well as for the insurance sector & consumers. A meeting will be convened with business leaders from the insurance industry in the coming months to discuss the judgement’s implications.
Press release ~ Commissioner Reding's video message on the outcome of the ruling ~ Excerpts from the ”Study on the use of age, disability, sex, religion or belief, racial or ethnic origin and sexual orientation in financial services, in particular in the insurance and banking sectors" ~ TUC comment ~ PwC comment ~ Additional PwC comment - pensions

Forthcoming White Paper: Cyber Space Security – Free Public Sector Guide to Advanced Persistent Threats (APT’s) - The security of cyberspace becomes ever more critical to the health of the nation. Government and military networks have been at risk from targeted attacks for years, but these attacks now also threaten less well‐secured public sector entities.

The internet provides enormous benefits and opportunities for the UK’s government and public sector but as our reliance on it grows, so do the risks and threats we face online. These threats and opportunities are likely to increase significantly over the next five to ten years, as our dependency on cyber space deepens.

Imperva, leading data security solutions providers to government and the public sector, will be presenting their ‘CISO’s Guide to Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) and Industrialisation of Hacking’ at the forthcoming ‘Working Together to Improve UK Cyber Security’ event in London on Wednesday 23rd March 2011.
If you can’t attend, simply click here to reserve your free copy of the guide and receive further white papers from Imperva.

General News

ScotGov: A website has been launched to help people in Scotland answer a question in the 2011 Census about language ability. This year, for the first time, people in Scotland will be asked in the population survey if they can understand, speak, read and/or write Scots.
The Aye Can website contains information to help people decide if they use the language, including examples of written & spoken Scots. Visitors to the site, which was developed by the Scots Language Centre, can listen to recordings of the ‘mither tongue’ from different parts of the country.
Newswire – TUC: The TUC has launched a UK online network for green union reps. The website allows environmental reps in workplaces across the UK to keep up to date with union and community-based events & training courses, share ideas & best practice, and find out the latest developments on green issues at work.
Press release and related links
MonitorMonitor’s board has confirmed that 2 ambulance trusts have been authorised as foundation trusts as from 1 March 2011. Under proposals in the Health & Social Care Bill currently passing through parliament, every ambulance service in England will become a foundation trust, or form part of one, by April 2014.
DCMS: The DCMS look back on a successful awards season for British film & actors and look at what the Government is doing to ensure a sustainable future for the industry. As the UK Film Council is wound up, the BFI will become the lead strategic film body and will carry out a review with DCMS looking at how to build a more sustainable industry.
Press release and related links
BIS: A new £33.5m project will follow 90,000 British children from birth to tell us more about the factors affecting the health & happiness of society.  The Birth Cohort Facility Project will bring together the UK’s leading portfolio of cohort studies starting in 1946 and includes a new birth cohort study starting in 2012.  This will involve children & families from all backgrounds across the UK, and is nearly 5 times bigger than the previous study conducted in 2000.
For the first time in a study of this kind, a series of samples will be collected from parents and the child.  This will reveal more than ever before about the complex interplay between social, economic, biological, environmental & health related experiences and conditions, and how they relate to problems later in life.
CWDC: Last week the Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) launched a ‘new framework to improve the way foundation degrees are developed for practitioners working with young people’. The new foundation degree framework illustrates good practice relevant to the 6m practitioners working with young people in England.  Their work is often complex & demanding and spans a range of sectors & settings.
Press release and related links
The marriage of Prince William & Miss Catherine Middleton will take place at Westminster Abbey on Friday 29 April 2011.  The wedding service will begin at 11am. The government has produced guidance to help communities organise a street party.  Your local authority may also be able to provide details of any planned activities in your area.
Press release and related links
DfE: The Department for Education has released the software behind the Family Information Directory.  This will allow any organisation to develop its own version of the Directory.  There are currently over 192,000 records in the Directory and it receives around 40,000 searches a day.
Press release and related links
FSA: Do you have some experience of working in animal nutrition, toxicology or the animal feed industry?  Interested in being a member of a committee that advises the FSA on the safety and use of animal feeds?  
The independent Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs (ACAF) is looking to recruit 3 new members.  ACAF advises the FSA & Ministers on the safety and use of animal feeds & feeding practices, with particular emphasis on protecting human health and with reference to new technical developments.
Press release and related links
Newswire – NHSConfed: Most doctors think the NHS reforms bring more risks than benefits and are concerned about plans to increase competition, according to a new BMA poll.  The NHS Confederation says a blanket rejection of competition in healthcare is not supported by evidence.
Press release and related links
DirectGov: How would you reduce carbon emissions by 80% while still meeting the UK's energy needs? Thanks to a new My2050 online simulation, you can now make those decisions. Build more power stations, convert all cars to electric or hydrogen power – it's up to you, so why not put your ideas to the test.
Press release and related links
MoD: An Armed Forces Redundancy Calculator is now available on the MOD website which gives a forecast of benefits for prospective ‘redundees’ under the Armed Forces Redundancy Programme announced this week. It allows Service personnel to input their details to provide a forecast of their redundancy & pension benefits based on the redundancy exit date and the promulgated redundancy rules.
Press release and related links
Newswire – Unicef: UNICEF has assembled teams of experts to fly into Tunisia & Egypt and another on standby for Libya as the agency launches the Libya Crisis Children's Appeal for £4.5m to meet humanitarian needs of women & children in all 3 countries over the coming months.
Press release and related links
DirectgovDirectgov is now on Facebook, so you can share, recommend & comment on the latest news, video, information and advice from across government. Simply go to and click the ‘like’ button at the top of the page. You will then get all the latest government information and advice straight to your Facebook page or profile.
Press release and related links
QCDA: The Qualifications & Curriculum Development Agency is closing as part of the Government's education reforms.  During March 2011 we're updating our website so it reflects our reduced remit until the site closes on 1 October 2011.  All material held on, both statutory & non-statutory, has been transferred to the National Archives web archive
Press release and related links
FSAGlaxoSmithKline has withdrawn all bottles of Lucozade Sport Lite Summer Berries, because the drinks have an unpleasant smell and there is a risk of mould growth.  The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Withdrawal Information Notice.
Press release and related links
NHSBT: Figures from NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) show that 1 in 4 Black & Asian families refuse consent to organ donation at the point of death, despite their loved one being on the NHS Organ Donor Register (ODR).  This is in contrast to 1 in 10 for the rest of the population.
However, these groups are 3 times more likely to need an organ transplant than the rest of the population.  This is because they are more susceptible to developing diabetes and high blood pressure which can lead to kidney & heart failure.  As a result of higher demand and a shortage of organ donors - on average Black & Asian people have to wait 3 times longer than others for a transplant.
Press release and related links
IBCfE: The independent Boundary Commission for England has begun work on redrawing the map of parliamentary constituencies.  The new rules mean that there will be fewer MPs and that their constituencies must be of more equal size.  England will have 502 MPs rather than the current 533 and the number of electors in each constituency must be no smaller than 72,810 and no larger than 80,473. The review must be completed by autumn 2013 and changes will come into effect at the next General Election.
Press release and related links

Policy Statements and Initiatives

WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government, in conjunction with NHS Wales is launching the Choose Well campaign to boost public awareness about the NHS services available to them. Evidence shows that a significant number of people still go to Hospital A&E Departments or dial 999, when there are other services more convenient & suitable for their needs.
The campaign uses a colour coded thermometer to highlight 6 areas of healthcare to help people to link their symptoms with a particular NHS service which is right for their need. 
ScotGov: The Scottish Government is to spend an additional £2m on providing short breaks for families who have severely disabled children. The money is on top of the £1m for short breaks this year and £1m in each of the next 4 years (making £5m in total) already announced in July 2010 when the government's Carers Strategy was launched. The cash is expected to prioritise children with complex & exceptional needs and their families.
The funding of short breaks is one of the key recommendations of the National Review of Services for Disabled Children - developed jointly by ScotGov, COSLA and the For Scotland's Disabled Children (FSDC) Liaison Project - published last week.
QCDA: The Qualifications & Curriculum Development Agency has reminded all schools that they must check, confirm & submit their pupil information by Friday 25 March 2011.  School census data has been uploaded for maintained schools and academies.  Independent schools will need to upload their pupil data. The Pupil registration factsheet is available to assist you in the pupil registration process.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has guaranteed the Scottish Higher Education sector will receive a new funding settlement as it published the report of the joint working group on funding. The report, prepared in partnership with Universities Scotland, presents a range of options for increasing income for universities as well as setting out various scenarios on the possible future funding gap between Scotland & England based on increased tuition fees south of the Border.
HO: A new process for managing the return of families found to have no right to be in the UK started last week. A new Independent Family Returns Panel is one part of a wider, updated approach to managing family returns.  The new 4-stage process aims to return those with no right to remain in the UK with dignity, ensuring the welfare of children at all times.
DfEFormer members of the armed forces will become mentors to young people in schools across England following a £1.5m grant to the charity SkillForce. Through 3 pilot programmes, ex-service personnel will be fast-tracked into schools, using the skills & experience gained on the frontline to help young people achieve.  SkillForce will be funded to set up the 3 programmes from September 2011:
Defra: New plans to help build a ‘stronger green government’ were announced last week.  The Mainstreaming Sustainable Development package will guarantee that Government policies have been ‘sustainability-proofed’ – by making sure they help to deliver sustainable economic growth, improve our quality of life and protect our natural environment now and for future generations.
CLG: Ministers last week set out proposals for how all social landlords will be required to show how their tenancy plans will provide for & protect the most vulnerable, including families with children.  In these further details of reforms published last week, Ministers also outlined the extra freedom from central control that councils will be given, so they can target help on the people in their communities who need it most.
Ministers also confirmed that all tenants will have access to a National Home Swap Scheme, making it easier for them to move should their situation change.
DfTScotland, Wales, northern & south west England are to get a fleet of new trains and more reliable rail links to London, ‘creating thousands of jobs, boosting the economy and improving services for passengers’, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced last week.  
Press release and related links
DfE: Written Ministerial Statement on Building Schools for the Future.
Press release (includes statement)
DH: The NHS must never discriminate based on age – that was the message given by Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow, as he announced that the Department of Health will not be seeking any exceptions to the planned implementation of the Equality Act 2010, as ‘part of its commitment to a personal, fair & diverse service that protects patients’ dignity and ensures that all patients receive the best possible treatment regardless of their age’.
The Government is committed to tackling age discrimination and the Government Equalities Office have launched a consultation (closes on 25 May 2011) on the Equality Act through which Departments are able to seek specific exceptions before it comes into force in April 2012.
To help the NHS & social care prepare for the ban, a resource pack has been produced by NHS South West. This includes a self assessment toolkit that health & social care organisations can use to work with their local stakeholders to identify what actions they need to take to end age discrimination and promote age equality, a guide for NHS commissioners and providers and a guide for social care.
HO: The Home Secretary last week set out the tough decisions that need to be taken to reform the police service, save police jobs and cut crime’, in a speech at Central Hall in London.
Press release and link to a copy of her speech
ScotGov: Action to put Scotland at the forefront of the digital economy has been announced in the Scottish Government's Digital Strategy, which was launched last week. Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop set out how Ministers aim to achieve their ambitions for Scotland's digital future, including a widespread rollout of next generation broadband and increased digital participation.
DIFD: A shake up of Britain’s aid programme which will provide 50m people with the means to help work their way out of poverty was announced last week by International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell. 
DH: A campaign to raise awareness of the early signs & symptoms of dementia was launched last week by Care Services Minister Paul Burstow. Aimed at challenging misconceptions about the disease, the campaign targets the family & friends of people at risk of dementia who are likely to be the first to see the signs and can encourage their loved one to see their GP. While there is no cure, the right treatment & support can help slow the progression of the condition – meaning people are able to keep the person they love for longer.
ScotGovMore people who have been infected with hepatitis C through treatment with NHS blood or blood products will now be eligible for additional support. Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has announced that she had accepted the recommendations of the Department of Health-led Contaminated Blood Review which will extend the scope of the existing support provisions.
In Scotland, relevant voluntary organisations will be able to apply to establish/offer suitable counselling services through the Section 16b grant scheme, the usual way of funding Scottish third sector health-related work.
Press release and related links
DWP: Urgent restrictions on Crisis Loans have been announced in order to protect the discretionary Social Fund budget, which could run out before Christmas if current spending levels continue. 


EU News: The European Commission has launched 2 online consultations in the field of environment:
* The first consultation is on policy options that might encourage a switch to a more efficient use of natural resources in the European economy
* A second consultation is on the position to be taken by the EU at the United Nations conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.
A related consultation has also been launched to gather opinions on the European bio-based economy, which also includes aspects of resource efficiency.  The consultations run until mid-April 2011.
DfT: The Government is proposing a 'Y' shaped rail network linking London, the West Midlands, Manchester & Leeds, with stations in South Yorkshire & the East Midlands, and links to existing lines to enable through-running services to other cities including Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.  The scheme would ‘deliver around £44bn of benefits and would cut journey times between London and other major cities by as much as an hour’. The consultation closes on 29 July 2011.
HO: A consultation (closes on 25 May 2011) on a new code of practice governing the use of CCTV & Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems has been launched. The consultation is the first step towards establishing a formal Code of Practice as promised in the Government's Protection of Freedoms Bill.
HMT: The Government has launched a public consultation (closes on 15 June 2011) on the Fair Deal policy. Fair Deal is a non-statutory policy applying to ‘pension provision for public sector staff when they are compulsorily transferred to a non-public sector employer’.  It requires that the new employer provides a broadly comparable pension scheme for the transferred staff and bulk transfer arrangements for those staff who wish to transfer their public service pension benefits.

The IPSPC interim report set out their findings on the Fair Deal policy and concluded “that current pension structures, combined with the requirement to provide comparable pensions (Fair Deal), are a barrier to non-public service providers, potentially making it more difficult to achieve efficiencies and innovation in public service delivery”.
EU News: Have you ever tried to register your car in another Member State?  Or to register in your country a car you bought abroad?  What should be a simple procedure often turns into a bureaucratic nightmare, with cumbersome re-registration formalities & paperwork.  Member States require that cars that are permanently on their territory to be registered via local authorities & according to national rules (that are applied in an uncoordinated manner across the EU).

With the aim of simplifying this, the European Commission has launched a consultation to identify the main difficulties encountered by EU citizens & companies when moving a car bought & registered in one Member State to another.
Press release and related links
Newswire – CEC: The Commons Education Committee has launched an online discussion with young people as part of its inquiry into Services for Young People. The Committee has teamed up with leading online student community The Student Room to consult its 500,000 young members about which services they use.
It wants to hear from young people aged 13 to 25 on subjects including what out-of-school activities they do, whether they volunteer, their views on a summer programme for 16-year olds and how they would spend the budget for young people in their area.
Press release and related links
DH: The Government is committed to tackling age discrimination and the Government Equalities Office have launched a consultation (closes on 25 May 2011) on the Equality Act through which Departments are able to seek specific exceptions before it comes into force in April 2012 – See ‘Policy Statements & Initiatives’ section for more information.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

HEFCE: The 4 higher education funding bodies have announced how they will recognise & reward excellent research that has led to wider social & economic benefits. The publication (‘Decisions on assessing research impact’) confirms how much weighting the assessment of research impacts will have in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).
CQCThe Care Quality Commission has published 2 important guides for people who receive care in a care home or in their own home.  Both booklets provide information on important changes to the way care is regulated in England and contain helpful information on what you can expect from your care service and what to do if you need to make a complaint.
NICE: Children are being placed on restrictive & potentially dangerous diets as parents look to the internet & the high street for alternative tests to diagnose food allergy, NICE warns. NICE has issued a national guideline on food allergy in children which advises against the use of alternative tests, such as Vega testing, hair analysis and kinesiology.
The use of these alternative tests is on the increase because of a lack of allergy services on the NHS and difficulties with diagnosing the condition in primary care. But there is very little evidence to support the use of these tests, some of which can retail for £60 or more. It is estimated that of those children who report an allergy, 20% wrongly self-report diagnoses of various food allergies and do not eat certain foods because they think they are allergic to them.
Press release and related links
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has updated its list of product ranges that do not contain the 6 food colours associated with possible hyperactivity in young children. Another 4 companies have been added to the list: Higher Nature Ltd, Lower Hurst Organic, Sasco Sauces Ltd and Wholebake.
ScotGov: Examples of how schools are planning for the changes Curriculum for Excellence will make to how & what pupils learn in S4 - S6 have been published. Education Secretary Michael Russell said the case studies could help schools learn from each other and help parents understand the range of options & opportunities that their children will benefit from.
Press release and related links
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published an updated guide on charges for meat hygiene controls.  The guide is for food business operators of approved meat premises in Britain and came into effect from 28 March 2011.
QCDA: The 2011 key stage 2 science sampling Test administrators' guide is now available online.  The booklet provides guidance on the administration of the key stage 2 science sampling tests.
Press release and related links
CLG: To help councils deliver efficiency savings early through organisational restructuring, the Government is providing £300m of flexibility - through capitalisation - in the next financial year

In order to provide authorities with clarity early in the financial year, the timetable for capitalisation is being brought forwardDecisions can be expected in July, nearly 6 months earlier than in previous years. Guidance for how councils should apply has now been issued.  The deadline for applications is 12 May 2011.
Press release and related links
Newswire - CWDC: Fostering service providers can now access clearer guidance and new training resources to enhance the support they provide foster carers and improve standards of care for vulnerable children & young people.  The improved guidance has been developed by the Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) and the Fostering Network.
Press release and related links

Annual Reports

Socitm: Results from Better connected 2011 suggest that ‘most councils still do not recognise digital delivery as faster & more convenient for the public as well cheaper for the taxpayer’. This conclusion is based on the fact that 68% of councils fail to achieve more than 2 stars out of a possible 2 in this year’s version of the annual survey by the public services IT and digital professionals’ body, Socitm.
In order to reduce their dependence on the traditional, more costly-to-serve, channels of phone and face-to-face, Better Connected 2011 suggests that councils evaluate their website performance and focus on 3 interconnected themes - think customer, focus on ‘top tasks’, and go mobile.
Newswire – PAC: The Public Accounts Committee has published a report on cancer reform strategy. Mortality rates have been falling and cancer waiting times targets consistently achieved, but the one year survival rates in England are still poor compared with the best performing European countries and that is generally a sign of low awareness of symptoms, among the public & GPs, and late diagnosis.  

There also remain unexplained wide variations across the country in how cancer services perform and in types of treatment available.
Press release and related links
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published the first wave of an extensive new survey called Food and You, which reveals information about people’s behaviour & attitudes towards food issues, such as food safety & healthy eating and their knowledge of these issues.

General Reports and Other Publications

DfE: The independent Wolf Review into vocational education, commissioned by Education Secretary Michael Gove, was published last week. Professor Alison Wolf analyses how millions of children have been failed over the past 20 years and ‘sets out a blueprint for a very different system in which almost all young people have the chance of further education or a good job’.
Many 14 to 16 year olds are on courses which the league table systems encourage but which lead children into dead-ends.  They have not been told the truth about the consequences of their choice of qualification.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published its first Retail Conduct Risk Outlook (RCRO), which examines how a range of current, emerging & potential risks could impact customers. The RCRO is a key component in the FSA’s consumer protection strategy to identify risks earlier, proactively intervene earlier in the product chain and prevent consumer detriment.
The report’s analysis of current & upcoming risks informs how the FSA will set its priorities & deploy its resources.  These will be outlined in the FSA’s Business Plan, next month.
ESRCUnderstanding Society, the largest household panel study in the world, has published its 1st book of findings drawn from Wave 1 data collected in 2009.  This UK wide household panel study will follow 40,000 households and is run by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex.
This first volume is an initial analysis of the data by researchers from ISER and the universities of Oxford, Surrey and Warwick.  It gives a glimpse of the breadth of the methodological & design innovations that are an essential part of Understanding Society as well as a taste of the research opportunities available.
TWF: With the announcement of a new generation of Enterprise Zones widely expected in the Budget, a report published this week by The Work Foundation warns that such schemes are likely to be ineffective at stimulating sustained growth in depressed areas.

 Do Enterprise Zones work? warns that while Enterprise Zones, tax breaks and other localised incentives may stimulate rapid investment in the short-term, this typically lasts no more than 3 years before the area begins a long-term reversal back into depression.  Prior schemes also indicate that up to 80% of jobs created are displaced from other areas.
NIA: The Assembly Committee for the Environment has released its report on the Planning Bill.  One of the main changes the new Bill will introduce is that local councils will again be responsible for deciding whether to grant planning permission.  Currently it is Planning Service - an agency of the Department of the Environment - which makes the decision.
NAO: The Typhoon fighter aircraft is already fulfilling some key defence tasks, but it is unlikely to reach its full potential as a multi-role aircraft (including in a ground attack role) until 2018, according to a National Audit Office report to Parliament.  Getting full value for money from the significant investment in the project will depend on the MOD’s successfully progressing the delivery of multi-role capability so that the aircraft can be deployed when required & affordably.
Despite the MOD’s now buying 72 fewer aircraft (down from 232 to 160, a reduction of 30%), the forecast development & production cost has risen by 20% to £20.2bn.  This is a 75% increase in the unit cost of each aircraft.  The cost of supporting each aircraft has also risen by a third above that originally expected.  The MOD now estimates that, by the time the aircraft leaves service, some £37bn will have been spent.
DWP: The Department for Work and Pensions has published the findings of research exploring the use of vesting rules and default options in occupational pension schemes. The research was undertaken to understand how vesting rules are currently used and how this may change after the implementation of the workplace pension reforms.
ScotGov: Children's Minister, Adam Ingram has welcomed new ideas & proposals from Professor Susan Deacon on how to improve children's early years. A report was commissioned by ScotGov last year because Ministers felt that while successive Governments (local & national) had recognised the importance of the early years, progress in this area had not been made quickly enough & needed to be stepped up.
TKF: The King’s Fund has questioned whether the government’s health reforms will deliver much-needed changes to the provision of hospital services, in a new report. The report, Reconfiguring hospital services: lessons from South East London, outlines recommendations for policy-makers to ensure that so-called 'reconfigurations' of hospital services improve the quality of care for patients.

It is based on a detailed analysis of protracted efforts to reorganise services in South East London, where financial problems & concerns about patient care have plagued 4 of its 6 local hospitals. With the NHS needing to find up to £20bn in productivity improvements over the next few years, the report warns that major changes to the provision of hospital services are urgent & essential.  

It shows that relying on market forces alone will not deliver the changes needed, with the risk that the quality of patient care will deteriorate in hospitals faced with large financial deficits.
Press release and related links
IISS: The International Institute for Strategic Studies has published its latest Strategic Comment on the impact of record food prices in creating unrest in the Arab world and the structural shifts that have led to a tightening of the international food-supply system, magnifying the effect of disruptive events such as weather-related crop failures in 2010.
Press release and related links
Newswire – FAC: The British Government must use its influence to persuade the US to engage more fully, & swiftly, with the process of political reconciliation in Afghanistan if the US wishes to disengage its forces there, says the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in a new report – ‘The UK's foreign policy approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan’.
The report states that although the current international emphasis favours intense military pressure, aimed at defeating the insurgency, it is clear that military pressure alone is not enough to bring security and stability to Afghanistan.
Press release and related links
EHRC: New research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has found that bullying based on students' identities remains a widespread problem and is limiting the achievements of those who are bullied.  Efforts to tackle the problem vary between local authorities and for different types of prejudice related bullying. 
The failure of local authorities to address the problem has a negative impact on the achievements of young people who are being bullied.  They do worse in their GCSE exams and are twice as likely as others not to be in education, employment or training at the age of 16. 
Press release and related links
NAO: Despite good progress in improving the professional capability & capacity of government finance departments since the National Audit Office last reported in 2008, good financial management is still not embedded in the civil service culture, and financial matters do not have sufficient influence over departments’ strategic decision making, according to the spending watchdog.
Newswire – IDC: The Government development fund – CDC – is not doing enough to alleviate poverty, does not focus on the sectors most in need and is paying its bosses too much, according to a new report by MPs on the International Development Committee.
Press release and related links
ScotGov: Considerable improvements have been made in prisoner progression & risk assessment processes but it is impossible to eradicate risk completely when reintegrating prisoners back into communities from open prisons and National Top End facilities, according to a report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons.
Press release and related links
NAO: The Higher Education Funding Council for England, the funder & regulator of the higher education sector, has overseen the financial sustainability of the sector through a period of growth in income and student numbers, according to a report published by the National Audit Office.  The HEFC has taken a cost-efficient approach and has delivered value for money in the context in which it has operated to date.  However, the sector is facing a period of transition to a very different financial environment.
Press release and related links
Newswire – STC: In a report published recently on the use of scientific advice & evidence in emergencies, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee is critical of the Government’s preparedness for dealing with emergencies, saying it is simply not good enough that scientific advice is often only sought after events have struck.
Press release and related links

Legislation / Legal

OFT: The OFT recently sent a clear warning to businesses that consumer contracts must be clear & have no unwelcome surprises buried in the small print.  In publishing its market study into consumer contracts, which found that 1 in 5 people had experienced a problem with such contracts in the last year, the OFT has set out its framework for prioritising future enforcement in this area. 
Press release and links
ScotGov: The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) is to be allowed to directly recruit police officers into its ranks, under new regulations being considered by the Scottish Parliament. The new arrangements are intended to provide a more flexible & sustainable workforce for the agency which currently uses seconded officers from Scottish forces.  
IfG: The government has announced it is backing down on legislation in the Public Bodies Bill that would have given ministers wide-ranging powers to merge or abolish quangos. The Institute for Government's briefing note about the Public Bodies Bill expressed serious concerns about Schedule 7 of the Bill, which gave ministers the power to merge or abolish or modify 150 quangos that operated at arm's length from government.
The recommendations in the IfG's report Read Before Burning set out the why the whole landscape of  quangos was muddled and needed to be more logically classified so that  for example public bodies that were set up to be independent of government were clearly identified.
ScotGov: The Scottish Parliament's Health Committee has passed the legislation that will result in prescriptions for all patients in Scotland being free from 1 April 2011
FSCS: Customers of Welcome Financial Services Limited (WFSL) may be entitled to receive compensation from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in relation to advice on or the  arranging of payment protection insurance (PPI) by the firm on or after 14 January 2005.  The FSCS does not cover claims for compensation in relation to PPI business conducted prior to that date.
Press release and related links
OFT: The OFT has received a super-complaint from Citizens Advice relating to marketing & charging practices which CAB suggests may be used by businesses offering credit brokerage & debt services
ScotGov: The Scottish Parliament has given its backing to the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill which modernises laws, some of which are almost 200 years old, and improves protection for wildlife.
Press release and related press release
ScotGov: While identifying several necessary changes, the Scottish Parliament committee examining the Scotland Bill has fallen far short of shaping a Bill that will benefit the people of Scotland, External Affairs Minister Fiona Hyslop said in response to the committee's report published last week. However, the Minister noted that the committee has recognised that the incoming Scottish Parliament will need to examine the Bill again before giving its final consent.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU NewsRare diseases cause great suffering to many EU citizens.  Up to 36m Europeans are affected, and need proper diagnosis & treatment.  A ‘Eurobarometer survey’ published last week, on the 4th World Rare Diseases Day, and on the day of the formal adoption of the Cross Border Healthcare Directive, reveals widespread support for action on rare diseases at EU level.
Press release and related links
EU News: The European Commission is seeking to redefine the EU - Overseas Countries & Territories (OCTs) relationship in view of the revision of the Overseas Association Decision.  The Commission intends to move this relationship beyond the fight against poverty towards the sustainable development of the OCTs based on a partnership that brings mutual benefits & obligations.
Press release and related links
EU News: Pacific islands are an alarming case of the adverse effects of climate change where rising sea levels have an impact upon every aspect of citizens' lives and hamper the economic development.  European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs and Pacific Islands partners have welcomed a joint Action Plan on Climate Change during a High-Level Regional Conference on Climate Change in the Pacific.
Press release and related links
EU News: European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes visited the CeBIT2011 information technology (IT) exhibition in Hanover, Germany last week, where the main theme was cloud computing.  A major potential advantage of cloud computing for companies & public administrations is that they no longer need to install & maintain software and computing equipment of their own, nor manage data storage facilities in-house.

It is one of the key enabling information technologies that can help European businesses – especially SMEs – to drastically reduce IT costs, help governments supply services at a lower cost to citizens and make computing much more energy efficient.  The promotion of cloud computing in Europe is therefore an important objective of the Digital Agenda for Europe.
Press release and related links
EU News: The European Parliament should vote to restrict its own budget in 2012, reflecting austerity in EU Member States, said the Budgets Committee last Thursday, as it voted guidelines for the 2012 budget.  
The EP budget should now enter a post Lisbon Treaty ‘consolidation phase’, with no increase in 2012 beyond inflation, it added.
Press release and related links
EU News: Dialogue between workers' & employers' representatives and between governments has been crucial in helping to shape Europe's response to the financial crisis. The involvement of workers & employers (the social partners) in negotiation & consultation has helped companies & workers adapt to change and their contribution has, in particular, helped to minimise job losses in Europe according to a new report published by the European Commission.
Press release and related links
EU News: The European Commission has launched 2 online consultations in the field of environmentA related consultation has also been launched to gather opinions on the European bio-based economy, which also includes aspects of resource efficiency – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
EU News: The Court of Justice of the European Union last week delivered its ruling in the Test-Achats case (C-236/09) concerning sex discrimination in insurance premiums.  This means that the EU’s Court of Justice has ruled that different insurance premiums for women & men constitute sex discrimination and are not compatible with the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.

EU News: The European Commission has launched a public consultation to identify the main difficulties encountered by EU citizens & companies when moving a car bought and registered in one Member State to another – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

KF: Ten UK charities have each won £25,000 in recognition of their outstanding contribution to improving health care.  The charities beat more than 400 entrants to become winners of this year's GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) IMPACT Awards, run in partnership with The King’s Fund.
The awards – GSK’s flagship UK corporate social responsibility programme – highlight the crucial role played by the voluntary sector in meeting health needs among deprived & vulnerable communities, often bridging gaps other services are unable to fill.  With NHS & local authority budgets under pressure, the awards provide a vital source of funding for the winners and play a key role in promoting innovation and good practice across the sector.
Press release and links
DUKDiabetes UK has released a FREE interactive CD-ROM about Type 2 diabetes tailored towards the South Asian community, to help people better manage their diabetes and ultimately improve their quality of life. South Asian people who live in the UK are up to 6 times more likely to have diabetes than the White population.
Press release and links
CRUK: People with an active lifestyle are up to 3 times less likely to develop large or advanced polyps in the bowel – which can develop into bowel cancer – according to a new analysis published in the British Journal of Cancer last week. Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK after breast and lung cancer.  In the UK more than 38,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year.
BIG: An anti-bullying arts scheme, a community choir and an outdoor sensory classroom are among the projects making a difference to communities in the East Midlands - with a little help from the Big Lottery Fund (BIG).  Across the region 78 groups are sharing a total of £550,904 from the BIG’s Awards for All programme.
BHF: End of life care for heart failure patients in Glasgow & Clyde will be improved thanks to the launch of a new initiative. British Heart Foundation ScotlandMarie Curie Cancer Care and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are developing an innovative approach to palliative care for heart failure patients in hospital, hospices, care homes and at home.
‘Caring Together’ is a 5-year programme which aims to improve quality & access to care for local heart failure patients with palliative care needs, as well as giving patients choice in their place of care by improving co-ordination of care among healthcare providers.
Press release and related links

Business and Other Briefings

HMRC: Plumbers, gas fitters & heating engineers are being targeted by the tax authorities in a clampdown on tradesmen failing to declare their earnings & pay tax. Under the tax plan, they and members of associated trades who have tax to pay which they have not yet told HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) about can come forward by 31 May 2011 to tell the department of their intention to disclose what they owe.
If they make a full disclosure, most face a low penalty rate of 10%, with a maximum of 20%.  They have until 31 August 2011 to make their disclosure & arrange for payment to be made.
HMT: Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mark Hoban, announced last week how the facility for meeting high annual allowance (AA) charges from pension benefits will work in practice, including that the tax should be paid at the point the charge arises.
Press release and related links
HO: The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended that 8 job titles be removed from the UK shortage occupation list (on top of 71 last month). This is to meet the government's objective of raising the skill level of Tier 2 to National Qualifications Framework level 4 and above (NQF4+).
EU News: Cloud Computing is one of the key enabling information technologies that can help European businesses – especially SMEs – to drastically reduce IT costs, help governments supply services at a lower cost to citizens and make computing much more energy efficient – See ‘EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc’ section for more information.
The purpose of this is Brief is to explain some changes that are being made to the legislation relating to the lower rate of landfill tax.
This Brief announces that the rules on where ships are registered ('flagged') will apply at a company or group level in financial year 2011.
This Brief outlines the National Insurance implications for the entertainment industry following The First Tier Tribunal decision in the case of ITV Services Ltd (TC/2009/10166)

Industry News

LSISLearning and Skills Improvement Services provides news from the Excellence Gateway with 2 case studies highlighting good e-practice:
BIS: A new report sets out details of the manufacturing parts & products that car makers want to source from the UK, but are not currently buying here.  The report identifies some of the reasons for this, where purchasing decisions are made and where the UK has the potential capability to meet this currently untapped demand.
Companies in the UK are already winning more than £7bn of work annually from vehicle makers, but there are clear opportunities to grow this business.  Using data collected from vehicle manufacturers & supply chain companies, the report identifies the opportunities with a new purchasing wish list of interior & exterior vehicle parts from manufacturers.
Vince Cable also welcomed the news that JLR’s Evoque (which starts production in July 2011 backed by a government offer of support of up to £26m) has resulted in supply chain contracts worth £2bn being awarded to 40 manufacturers across the UK.
ScotGov: A 3-year contract for water & waste water services has been awarded to Business Stream after the Scottish Government tendered the first national water contract to maximise value for money in the public sector. It is estimated that between £18.6m and £24.5m of savings will be delivered throughout the contract, which begins on 1 April 2011.  It represents around 20% of the Scottish market. The £220m contract also provides a range of additional services to support the reduction in water usage across the public sector.
Since 2008, ScotGov has developed & implemented procurement strategies for national commodities on behalf of all Scottish public sector organisations.  It has already, for example, delivered national procurement contracts for the bulk-buying of gas & electricity that meets over 98% of public sector demand in Scotland, while providing annual savings of around £10m for electricity and £5m for gas.
WAG: Wales is establishing itself as a world leader in the use of digital technologies to improve patient safety and the quality of health & social care, the Health Minister, Edwina Hart claimed last week. Significant investment has been made in delivering an integrated digital healthcare service, which puts the needs of patients at the centre of service delivery.
£4.7m has been invested in creating the Individual Health Record (IHR) system – which will allow healthcare professionals working in local Out of Hours Services to see a summary of a patients GP record. 

Mrs Hart said the development of the IHR has been commended by international experts from as far afield as Canada, the USA, continental Europe and New Zealand, who have described the achievements in Wales as ‘a model for how to run a successful national ICT Programme’.
MoD: The ParachuteTraining School at RAF Brize Norton recently opened a new virtual reality parachute trainer which uses the latest digital imagery to create a realistic virtual world in which to train Service personnel. The new trainer allows parachute students to be suspended by harnesses and wear virtual reality goggles to practise jumps in a range of realistic environments.

They can also simulate emergency situations so that the parachutist can practise drills realistically in the safety of the simulation.  The performance can be recorded on video so instructors can provide feedback to improve skills.
EU News: Last week the European Commission launched the EGNOS “Safety-of-Life” service for aviation. The EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) system enables precision approaches and renders air navigation safer as well as helps reducing delays, diversions and cancellations of flights.
In addition the free-to-use technology allows airports to increase their overall capacity and cut operating costs. EGNOS also enables the planning of shorter, more fuel efficient routes which will reduce the CO2 emissions of the industry.
EGNOS is a satellite-based augmentation system which improves the accuracy of GPS signals across Europe and is the precursor of Galileo, the global satellite navigation system being developed by the European Union.
Press release and related links
OS: Last week, Ordnance Survey held an event at its new head office to reveal the second phase of its new pricing & licensing model to current Licensed Partners, which aims to enable greater access to its products and geographic datasets under a simplified structure.
The second phase saw the launch of two new contracts, available for use from 1 April 2011, to build upon the practice of making fewer, broader licences covering commercial activities.  The new contracts are the Printed Products contract and the View, Tracking and Scheduling contract.
Press release and related links

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