In the News
CO: It has always been a question of ‘who you know’, not ‘what you know’, even for some manual jobs - A new strategy to ensure everyone has a fair opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, was published last week by the Deputy PM. The strategy, Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers, focuses on inter-generational social mobility: ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to do better than their parents.
It aims to tackle unfairness at every stage of life with specific measures to improve social mobility from the Foundation Years to school & adulthood. The Government has also published its child poverty strategy; Tackling the causes of disadvantage and transforming families’ lives. A year after the Child Poverty Act it, sets out how the Government will transform people’s lives by breaking the entrenched cycle of deprivation.
As part of this agenda, a new Social Mobility & Child Poverty Commission will be established, strengthening the role of the Child Poverty Commission in holding the Government to account. The Commission will report to Parliament and ‘monitor & drive progress towards ending child poverty, improving life chances and increasing social mobility’.
To set up the new Commission the government will amend legislation and (in the interim period) will broaden the remit of the current Independent Reviewer on Social Mobility, Alan Milburn, to include child poverty.
DH: Protectionism or justified caution regarding speed of changes? - PM David Cameron, DPM Nick Clegg and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley have launched the Government’s listening exercise on NHS modernisation. Setting out the Government’s desire to modernise the NHS with the support of patients, the public & health professionals, Andrew Lansley announced that engagement over the coming weeks will focus on:
* The role of choice & competition for improving quality
* How to ensure public accountability & patient involvement in the new system
* How new arrangements for education & training can support the modernisation process
* How advice from across a range of healthcare professions can improve patient care
Andrew Lansley also announced that a ‘new group of patient representatives, doctors & nurses will be brought together to listen and report back to Government’. Chaired by Birmingham GP & former Royal College of General Practitioners Chairman, Steve Field, the new 'NHS Future Forum’ will provide a valuable channel for the thoughts & opinions of patients and staff on the ground.
CQC: Small groups but often with bigger problems - The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published the results of the final Count me in census about the ethnicity of mental health inpatients and calls for organisations beyond the healthcare sector to help improve mental health & well-being among black & minority ethnic (BME) groups.
Greater understanding is needed about the factors that lead to the variations that exist between the proportions of some ethnic groups on mental health wards, says CQC. Early intervention is vital to reduce the need for admitting people to hospital.
CQC also says the proposed NHS Commissioning Board and general practitioner (GP) consortia, under the Government’s health reforms, will have a crucial part to play. They will have a statutory obligation to promote equality & reduce inequalities in healthcare, something that is also enshrined in the Equality Act 2010.
Ofgem: Citizens Advice and energy regulator Ofgem have launched their Energy Best Deal campaign on-line. Consumers are now just clicks away from getting impartial advice on how to keep the cost of energy as low as possible through energy efficiency and getting a better deal in the energy market. Videos cover dealing with doorstep sales people, debt & disconnection, and getting help for consumers struggling to pay their energy bills.
Directgov: Census collectors have started their house-to-house work, contacting householders in England & Wales who have so far not returned their 2011 census forms. The 29,000 collectors will target the 7m households who have still not completed & returned their census questionnaires. All 2011 Census field staff wear photo identification badges and carry other visibly branded items. Collectors will never ask anyone for bank account details.
FCO: Even in the current economic climate, young people still have a strong desire to see the world with almost half of 11-18 year olds considering taking a gap year abroad after leaving school or college.
To help teachers explain to students the importance of preparation before travel the Foreign Office has re-launched its 'Know Before You Go' resource, aiming to teach young adults how to travel safely.
FSA: Everest Dairies is recalling some packs of certain brands of paneer cheese because the milk used to make the paneer might contain residues of veterinary medicines. The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Recall Information Notice.
FSA: Following reports that radiation from Fukushima has been detected in the UK, the Food Standards Agency can confirm that ‘levels are far too low to cause any concerns over the safety of any food in the UK’.
ACE: Wood left over from the recently completed Velodrome in the Olympic Park is being donated to The Boat Project, an innovative London 2012 Cultural Olympiad project funded by Arts Council England, which is creating a 30-foot sea-faring boat from donated wooden objects of personal significance.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
DH: Low-income families now have the choice to buy frozen fruit & vegetables as part of the Healthy Start scheme. The scheme supports over half a million pregnant women & low-income families by giving them vouchers that, until now, could only be spent on fresh fruit, vegetables and milk.
Now they will be able to use their vouchers on products such as frozen peas, spinach, carrots or frozen berries. Frozen products with added fat oil, salt, sugar or other ingredients such as oven chips or ready meals are excluded.
Parents can confidently cook with frozen fruit & vegetables because the nutritional value can be at least as good as fresh. Top celebrity chef Aldo Zilli fronts the ’New Ice Age campaign’ that encourages people to use frozen foods more in cooking and highlights their nutritional benefits.
DfT: Government funding of over £46m will see 542 new low carbon buses on roads across England by March 2012. The money is part of the Government’s drive to target investment in new projects that promote green growth and encourage use of sustainable local transport. All English regions will benefit with funds which have been paid to 20 bus operators and 6 local authorities.
HO: The first major change to reduce immigration into the UK has been delivered as the government's new annual limit comes into force. This along with changes recently introduced to the student route and plans to tackle permanent settlement will (hopefully) see net migration fall back down to the tens of thousands.
Under the annual limit, employers will only be able to bring 20,700 people from outside the EU to work in skilled professions under Tier Two of the system. A further 1,000 visas will also be made available to people of 'exceptional talent' to ensure that Britain remains open to the brightest and the best.
DfT: The terms of reference for an ‘independent review of the Strategic Road Network (SRN)’ have been published and they will see the review team consider whether England's network of motorways & major A roads could be more effectively operated, maintained & enhanced. The review will formally get underway after Easter and its findings will be reported to the Transport Secretary in October 2011.
DfE: Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, has announced a matched funding scheme to help primary schools teach systematic synthetic phonics and drive up reading standards. Primary schools will be able to claim up to £3,000, if they match that funding, to spend on materials which meet the Department for Education’s criteria for an effective phonics programme.
A list of approved resources – including phonics products for teachers & pupils and training for teachers – will be published by the Department by September 2011 although some products & training will be available by the end of June. Schools will decide which of the resources will help them to deliver high-quality phonics teaching for their pupils and will be able to buy products & training with the match-funding any time up to March 2013.
The Government is introducing a new phonics-based screening check for six-year-olds so teachers can identify children not at the expected reading level and in need of extra support. England has slipped down the international table for reading in primary schools. The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) of 10-year-olds saw England fall from 3rd out of 35 countries in 2001 to 15th out of 40 countriesin 2006.
DH: 8 areas in England will test innovative new ways to help drug addicts recover & achieve a sustained recovery, Public Health Minister Anne Milton has announced. The areas have been selected following a competition to pilot a Payment by Results (PbR) scheme set out in the new Drugs Strategy 2010.
This will mean that providers will no longer be paid simply on process activity, but on the outcomes they achieve - such as being free of dependence or back in work. This will mean a renewed focus on giving clients the support they need to tackle the very individual problems they face in integrating more fully in society.
EU News: One of the lessons of the financial crisis is that corporate governance, until now usually based on self-regulation, was not as effective as it could have been. The European Commission has launched recently a public consultation (closes on 22 July 2011) that addresses the ways in which corporate governance of European companies can be improved.
Corporate governance is traditionally defined as the system by which companies are managed & controlled. The consultation covers a number of issues such as how to improve the diversity & functioning of the boards of directors and the monitoring & enforcement of existing national corporate governance codes, and how to enhance the engagement of shareholders.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) and HM Treasury (HMT) have published a joint review of the UK’s covered bond regulation. The review proposes a number of measures to build on the UK’s existing strong covered bond regime.
These will make sure UK covered bonds are readily comparable to those from other countries and can compete on level playing field. The review highlights the quality of the UK regime and will increase the appeal of UK covered bonds to investors. Review closes1 July 2011.
STFC: The Science and Technology Facilities Council’swebsite is changing later this year and they want you to share your views with them in their annual website survey.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
Newswire – HPA: The Health Protection Agency (HPA) welcomes actions to raise the profile of emerging drug resistance and fully supports the focus of World Health Day this year, which looks at the increasing need for the development of new antibiotics to combat this ever-growing trend in drug resistance.
The HPA, alongside scientists at CardiffUniversity, recently co-authored a paper published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases looking specifically at the emergence of NDM-1 and its import to the UK. This is an enzyme that destroys carbapenems; an important group of antibiotics used for difficult infections in hospitals.
The HPA has so far recorded 88 cases of bacteria with NDM-1 in the UK, most of them from patients linked to the Indian subcontinent (as well as 283 isolates with 'KPC' (Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase) another type of carbapenem resistance). NDM-1 is widespread outside the hospital environment in Delhi, circulating in bacteria than inhabit drains and tap water.
The HPA recently developed new guidance in association with the Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infections (ARHAI), to help microbiologists & infection control specialists to recognise, treat & prevent infections caused by bacteria with resistance to carbapenem antibiotics.
General Reports and Other Publications
NAO: Sound financial management will be essential at the Department for International Development as its spending increases by a third over the next 4 years, according to the National Audit Office. However, the Department ‘cannot yet assess important aspects of the value for money of the aid it has delivered, at an aggregated level’.
With greater spending in higher risk locations and more fragile states, DFID must do more to assure itself that it minimises fraud & corruption risks. Although the level of reported fraud is low, it is likely to be under-reported. The NAO has found that the investigation of fraud is reactive and the Department does not attempt to quantify its estimated likely fraud losses.
PC&PE: The Commons Public Accounts Committee has published a report which, on the basis of evidence from the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, addresses an issue at the core of the relationship between Parliament and government - accountability for public spending.
NO: ManchesterCity Council has refused to pay compensation for injustice caused by its approach to recovering council tax debt through bankruptcy proceedings. The original critical report was issued by the previous Local Government Ombudsman (LGO). In her report, the successor LGO, Dr Jane Martin, calls on the Council to reconsider its position and pay the £1,000 compensation recommended.
In September 2009 the Ombudsman’s predecessor issued a report criticising the Council for its deficient warning procedures in notifying bankruptcy for non-payment of council tax. He also criticised the Council for not properly considering other options for recovering the debt and argued that the Council did not need to resort to bankruptcy proceedings.
Defra: 70% of people say that buying sustainable fish is important, but only 30% say that they buy sustainable fish, because a ‘third of people aren’t sure how to choose sustainable fish products and are confused by labelling’, according to research published by Defra.
The figures show the need for retailers & producers to make sure labels are clear & effective, and to understand the difference between what consumers care about and what they actually feel able to buy in their weekly shop.
Newswire – WWF: According to a new study by WWF and German development bank DEG, the shortage of freshwater is not only becoming more & more of an ecological risk, but it also is rapidly becoming a major business growth risk – one that investors need to take into account.
Assessing Water Risk: A Practical Approach for Financial Institutions, states that climate change, population growth and increasing living standards are contributing to the rising pressure on existing and already scarce water resources, particularly in developing countries. In Southeast Asia & Africa, for example, water shortages constitute a threat to entire ecosystems and to the living standards of the population.
Access to a sufficient quantity of water of adequate quality is therefore of considerable economic significance. The newly developed water risk filter system in the report is intended to identify water-related risks at an early point in time so they can be considered in investment decisions.
DWP: New research published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) explores the ‘relationship between work & parenthood, as well as the role of the support available to parents in helping them overcome any constraints to working’.
PC&PE: The House of Lords Procedure Committee has published a report covering procedures for the forthcoming election of the Lord Speaker, tabling of oral questions and individuals criticised in Lords select committee reports. The report needs to be debated & agreed to by the House of Lords. A debate is expected to take place after the Easter recess.
CH: The way that nations design their economic policies is woefully inadequate to prevent financial & economic crises, says a report jointly published by Chatham House and The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). Preventing Crises and Promoting Economic Growth: A Framework for International Policy Cooperation, calls on governments to grasp the international implications of their domestic policies.
National policy makers should publish 'international impact assessments' about the international effects of their domestic policies, recognising that their decisions can cause ripples across the global economy which - in turn - can have a domestic impact. In a connected global economy, this type of public & international accountability could provide a step-change in the way nations decide which policies are in their national interest.
PC&PE: The Commons Committee of Public Accounts has published a report which, on the basis of evidence from the BBC Trust & the BBC, examined the management of the contract with Siemens and the BBC's in-house development of the Digital Media Initiative Programme.
The Programme is, however, no longer expected to deliver the overall net financial benefit of £17.9m originally anticipated. The BBC approved the Programme on the basis that it would cost £81.7m and deliver benefits of £99.6m, but now forecasts costs of £133.6m and benefits of £95.4m – a net cost of £38.2m.
Ofsted: Effective numeracy teaching that is built into practical training makes a real difference to young people & adults in their work & personal lives, according to an Ofsted report. However, weak numeracy provision focused on worksheets & repetitive exercises can leave them both failing to understand mathematical concepts and incapable of applying their learning in their everyday lives.
Numeracy is central to success at work and educational progress. The report, Tackling the challenge of low numeracy skills in young people and adults, highlights the key features of good practice and identifies the most common weaknesses of poor numeracy provision seen by inspectors during visits to colleges and to sessions held in the workplace, community settings and prisons.
Legislation / Legal
DH: Businesses will face fines of up to £20,000 if they allow under-18s to use sunbeds from Friday 8 April 2011, Public Health Minister Anne Milton has announced. The Sunbeds (Regulation) Act 2010 aims to protect under-18s in search of a year-round tan from putting their health at risk.
The change in the law comes as Cancer Research UK launches the 2011 SunSmart campaign, which shows around 2 people under 35 are diagnosed with melanoma – the more serious form of skin cancer – each day. On average, 6% of 11-17 year olds in England use sunbeds with 50% of 15-17 year-old girls in Liverpool and Sunderland using them.
OFT: The OFT has announced the closure of 19 unlicensed lead generation websites. Lead generation businesses source information from people looking for credit and sell this data on to other businesses. The websites targeted people with disabilities, those connected to the military and people with generally limited access to credit.
Separately, the OFT received a super-compliant from Citizens Advice on the 3 March 2011 relating to marketing & charging practices which Citizens Advice suggests may be used by businesses offering credit brokerage & debt services.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: Rape and other forms of sexual violence against women should be classified as crimes in all EU countries, leading to automatic prosecution, says a European Parliament resolution adopted last Tuesday that calls for an EU directive to combat gender-based violence.
The EU and its Member States should also establish laws guaranteeing immigrant women the right to hold their own passports and residence permits, says the resolution, adding that it should be made possible to hold a person criminally responsible for taking these documents away.
PC&PE: Another crisis of workload within the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) can be expected soon unless more Judges & Advocates General are appointed, according to a report published by the House of Lords.
The House of Lords European Union Committee found that the increasing size of the EU’s membership, coupled with the expansion of the CJEU’s jurisdiction since the Lisbon Treaty, mean that the institution will struggle to manage its existing workload, let alone an expanding one.
Newswire – NHSConfed: The NHS Confederation’s European Office has called for changes to the rules applying to migrant professionals, including healthcare workers, moving from one EU country to another.
It supports the Commission’s suggestion that regulatory bodies, such as the General Medical Council, could be obliged to alert their counterparts across Europe if fraudulent or incompetent doctors or other healthcare practitioners come to their attention.
On the issue of language tests, it recognises that lack of language skills can lead to serious errors. It is calling on the Commission to explain more clearly the circumstances in which an incoming practitioner’s competence in English could be tested when they seek admission to a professional register.
EU News: Commission staff working document on ‘Scaling up international climate finance after 2012’ confirms that raising $100bn per year by 2020 will be challenging but it can be done, if the right balance is struck between public funding, funding raised from international carbon markets, as well as private funds, partly leveraged by development banks. Climate funding & development aid need to go hand-in-hand and it requires strong international coordination to ensure an efficient spending.
EU News: The European Commission is launching a drawing competition aimed at raising the interest of children for space. The child with the best drawing in each Member State will have his or her name given to a satellite of the Galileo programme. The first two satellites will be launched in September 2011 will bear the names of the winning children from Belgium & Bulgaria where the competition opens on 10 April 2011.
The same competition will get under way in the other 25 Member States in September for giving names to the following satellites which will be launched on a gradual basis as of 2012. The competition is for children aged 9 - 11 and the order is determined by the alphabetical order of the member states.
PC&PE: The House of Lords EU Committee has reported its findings on the future of the EU Single Market, which allows for the free movement of goods, workers & capital between EU Member States. The Committee agrees that steps are being taken to increase interest in the value of the Single Market and urges the Government to return to their role as its ‘champion’, in order to promote its benefits to UK businesses & citizens.
PC&PE: The House of Lords EU Committee has launched its report on the EU Financial Framework from 2014l. This will shape what the EU achieves in the second half of this decade. The report includes 3 principal recommendations:
* Common Agricultural Policy must be reformed
* EU's budget must not grow in real terms
* EU must spend its money more carefully - EU mismanagement of large scale projects is as unacceptable as it has become renowned
EU News: The European Commission has launched recently a public consultation (closes on 22 July 2011) that addresses the ways in which corporate governance of European companies can be improved – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: The Big Lottery Fund (BIG) has appointed LGID to help deliver its £20m Improving Futures funding programme by providing advice & support to potential applicants. BIG’s IF programme will give vulnerable young children across the UK a better future by supporting their families, by offering families ‘a tailored individual support from local voluntary sector organisations working in partnerships with public services’.
LGID (Local Government Improvement and Development) will use its extensive expertise to help these organisations get involved in the programme and support them to develop their partnerships & projects. LGID will run a series of briefing events across the UK and offer a free support service to partnerships as they put together their expressions of interest. Advice will be offered between April 5 & May 12 in a number of ways, including a dedicated Community of Practice – an online resource.
BHF: A global alliance between leading scientists & health charities is proposing a 5-point plan that could save the lives of 36m people from non-infectious diseases such as heart disease. The alliance says that reducing tobacco & salt usage, improving diet & physical activity, reducing hazardous alcohol intake and ensuring universal access to essential drugs & treatments could drastically reduce the number of people dying prematurely across the globe.
Business and Other Briefings
HMT: David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, has announced a change in legislation to prevent tax avoidance. The measure will close an unintended tax loophole for UK residents transferring pension savings overseas. Legislation, which will have effect from 6 April 2011, will be introduced in Finance (No.3) Bill.
BIS: The Government has accepted the independent Low Pay Commission’s (LPC) recommendations for this year’s National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates, which will come into effect on 1 October 2011.
HMRC: HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has issued an alert to employers about key PAYE changes coming in this spring. The changes affect Employer Annual Returns and starter & leaver PAYE forms.
Directgov: HMRC is changing the way it deals with people who don't send their tax returns on time or who pay their tax late. The new rules mean that the more you delay the more you will pay.
BIS: Skills Minister, John Hayes has called on senior leaders in SMEs to take advantage of funding that will support leadership & management training to help them grow their businesses. Around 13,000 SMEs & social enterprises that demonstrate a potential for growth will benefit from the Leadership & Management development grant.
A match funded grant of up to £1,000 can be spent on leadership training & coaching that helps grow the business, improving productivity and competitiveness. The programme also includes a free consultation with an expert adviser before the training commences, as well as a free follow-up to discuss the impact of the training and any further skills needs.
This brief confirms a change to the way HM Revenue & Customs views delayed tax for inaccuracy penalties.
This brief explains how legislation in Schedule 10 to 2010 Finance Act allows for a higher penalty rate where income or gains that arise outside the UK are under-declared.
EU News: The European Commission has launched recently a public consultation (closes on 22 July 2011) that addresses the ways in which corporate governance of European companies can be improved – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
SLC: The Space Leadership Council has set out actions to boost the UK space industry and achieve outcomes of the Government’s Plan for Growth. The ‘National Space Technology Strategy for the UK’ details priority research & technology areas to help the UK space sector grow including telecommunications & access to space.
The Strategy follows a £10m Government investment announced in the Budget to start a national space technology programme, which will be matched by industry and channelled through the UK Space Agency.
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