In the News
HO: Unfortunately all too often the perpetrator(s) of murder & violence are ‘family’ members - Approximately 2 people are killed by their current or former partner each week in England & Wales. From last week, local areas should undertake new action to tackle domestic homicide following any case where someone has been killed by their current or former partner.
Domestic homicide reviews, which came into effect last week include local partners such as the police, local authority, probation service, health service & voluntary partners and have been established under Section 9 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004).
Where a local area doesn't undertake a review, the Secretary of State now has the power to direct a specific person or body to establish or participate in a review. This will 'ensure that lessons are learnt from each case and, most importantly, prevent future violence and deaths. It will also help improve local & national approaches to tackling domestic violence'.
DH: Reform of the NHS is only part of the problem facing the government, they also have to combine it with cost effective social care - Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow, has sent out a strong message to councils ‘aimed at encouraging joint working across health and social care and making personalised care a reality’.
Ahead of his speech at the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services’ (ADASS) Spring Seminar in Newcastle, Mr Burstow revealed the 6 sites which have been selected to pilot Social Work Practices for adult social care. The SWP pilots will see groups of frontline social care workers given more flexibility to work with the people they support & their carers, to improve their outcomes.
In addition to this, the Minister has announced plans to strengthen the legislation on direct payments to ensure councils make clear to every person entitled to care & support how they can make use of a direct payment. New Directions to councils (to be consulted on shortly), will mean all councils must ensure there is a full & open discussion about direct payments.
Press release ~ Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE): Social Work Practice Pilot Sites ~ Direct payments - arranging your own care and services ~ ScotGov: Self-directed Support Strategy ~ The Individual Budgets Pilot Projects: Impacts and Outcomes for Carers ~ Related recent previous item (Then scroll down to item: Newswire – CSJ: Often ‘out of site & rarely protesting’ and therefore ‘out of the political mind’) ~ DH: Personal Health Budgets ~ Personal health budgets Learning Network
PC&PE: The elephant in the room; How do we finance the services we want? - On 1 December 2010 the Commission on Funding of Care & Support launched a ‘Call for Evidence’ (now closed) to ‘hear your ideas on what a future funding system for care & support should look like’.
The Commission has analysed all the responses that were received and published a summary document of these responses.
Press release & links ~ Commission website (See also - Newswire – CSJ: Often ‘out of site & rarely protesting’ and therefore ‘out of the political mind’- in links of previous item above for related links)
CLG: The same law for all - Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, has announced ‘proposals for a more localist and fairer way of providing sites for travellers, building on earlier commitments to strengthen measures to tackle the abuse of the planning system’.
The consultation will consider the details of a proposed new, single Planning Policy Statement that will replace Circular 01/2006: Planning Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites and Circular 04/2007: Planning for Travelling Showpeople (consultation closes on 6 July 2011).
Ofcom: Operators told to ‘pac in’ the excuses for delays - To change their mobile phone provider, customers require a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) from the operator they are leaving. Ofcom’s new rules require that operators issue PACs immediately over the phone or within a maximum of 2 hours by text message. Previously some operators issued PACs via post, which could take several days to arrive.
Press release & links
STFC: And finally - Find out about the 'cool tools' UK scientists use - Be inspired; follow a scientist; take a look into the heart of Science and Technology Facilities Council. Have you ever wanted to look inside a particle accelerator? Meet a plasma scientist? Here is your opportunity to take a peak inside STFC.
Backstage science is a small selection of videos about STFC. The footage includes interviews with some their scientists and a fantastic unparalleled opportunity to see behind the scenes at many of their facilities, most of which can't easily be accessed.
Press release & links
Forthcoming Event: Retrofit – European solutions to a global problem | Guildhall | Winchester | 20th May - This year’s Radian Retrofit Conference, ‘Retrofit – European solutions to a global problem’, takes place at the Guildhall, Winchester on 20th May.
With more than 250 delegates booked, it promises to provide powerful networking opportunities and the chance to join the debate on how we can make the best use of available funding and encourage additional resources to accelerate the collective contribution to reduce carbon emissions. As the first housing association in the UK to receive funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for retrofit of social housing, we are well placed to stimulate the debate.
This event follows our successful conference in 2009 which was based on the Radian led 'Retrofit South East' project, supported by funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), when delegates gathered together to learn from Radian’s experience and expertise as a leading advocate and pioneer of advanced whole house retrofit solutions.
Click here for more detailed information on speakers and the programme, and to book your free place please follow the link below.
Defra: The Big Tree Plant campaign reached the landmark of 100,000 planted trees last week and to mark the occasion Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman has planted a tree in Solihull, Birmingham.
The Big Tree Plant was launched in December 2010 and brings together a number of organisations with the aim of planting one million trees in urban & residential areas over the next 4 years.
MoD: HMS Iron Duke is nearing the end of her patrols of Iraq's oil terminals, heralding the end of the Royal Navy's 8-year involvement in their protection. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, Britain's frigate fleet has been committed to almost round-the-clock patrols of the waters around the Khawr Al Amaya and Al Basrah Oil Terminals - known throughout the fleet as KAAOT and ABOT.
Although the platform mission is soon to be over, Iron Duke's Gulf role will continue. The frigate will spend the rest of the spring supporting Combined Task Force 152, providing reassurance & security in the shipping lanes of the central Gulf.
No.10 DS: Street League Academy students headed for Number 10 yesterday to face a ‘grilling’ from the PM & Downing Street staff. The students, all part of Street League’s Academy programme which uses the power of football to support disadvantaged young people into jobs or training, headed through the famous front door to take on some of the country’s top officials and the PM himself, in mock interviews that will help them on the road to a better future.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
BIS: David Willetts, the Universities & Science Minister, has announced the student support package for 2012/13 for new & continuing students, including those at alternative providers. Maintenance grants will be increased for existing undergraduates at the start of the 2012/13 academic year – this is the first increase in maintenance in 3 years.
Maintenance grant loan levels for particular groups of undergraduates starting in 2012/13 – such as those living away from home & studying in London and those living at home while studying – and distance learning students will be entitled to tuition loans on the same basis as full-time students for the first time.
CO: Plans to transform My Civil Service Pension (MyCSP), which administers the delivery of Civil Service Pension schemes, into mutual joint venture, have been announced by Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office. This will be the first major ‘spin out’ of a central government service ‘giving employees the opportunity to take a stake in their business’.
Plans for MyCSP envisage that the Government, MyCSP employees, and a private sector partner would all have a strong material interest in the service. The potential for offering a stake to pension scheme members is also being considered. Work is now underway to develop this approach with the final structure of the partnership being shaped to provide further value for money to the taxpayer.
CLG: The Coalition Government recently reminded local councils ‘not to exceed their legal powers by imposing 'backdoor' bin taxes’. In a joint letter to all councils, Environment Minister, Lord Henley and Local Government Minister, Bob Neill raise serious concerns that, through the Waste Review being carried out it has become clear that a small minority of councils are seeking to charge for bin bags or for the collection of normal household rubbish.
Councils were accordingly reminded of the law and instructed to stop the spread of such practice.
The Localism Bill is ending the legislation which allowed for the introduction & roll-out of new taxes for the collection of household bins. The Coalition has also cancelled the pilot schemes for these new bin taxes.
DCMS: The Art Fund has announced plans to increase its funding for museums & galleries all over the UK to buy & show art by over 50% by 2014 – rising by 10% each year until then.
The Art fund have also launched their National Art Pass, which gives free entry to over 200 charging museums and galleries and 50% off entry to major exhibitions. The National Art Pass replaces the Art Fund’s previous membership card and proceeds from the Pass will feed directly into their funding programme, supporting museums & galleries across the country.
CLG: New powers being introduced in the Localism Bill will give local people a ‘real voice to shape development in their area through a neighbourhood plan, from determining the locations of shops, offices and schools to setting the standards of design for new housing’.
To ensure communities have the right support & advice to meet their own aspirations, Planning Minister, Mr Clark, has announced the 4 organisations with renowned expertise in planning, who will share a £3.2m fund to provide assistance to local groups developing neighbourhood plans.
EU News: The European Commission is seeking citizens' & other interested parties' views on ‘how the EU can help to deliver widespread benefits to the quality & efficiency of healthcare by applying information & communication technologies (ICT) (so-called 'eHealth')’.
The questionnaire will also help the Commission assess whether its proposed policy objectives are technically viable, workable in practice and in line with the expectations of stakeholders. The answers must be submitted by 25 May 2011and they will feed into the eHealth Action Plan for 2012-2020.
DfE: Headteachers ‘have welcomed a Government consultation on how school funding can be made fairer’. It seeks the views of parents, teachers, schools, unions and local authorities about the current system, and asks whether a new system would result in a fairer outcome for schools.
The consultation launched is the first part of a 2-stage process. Taking into account these views, further proposals will be published for consultation later this year. As it stands, the school funding system creates large variations in how much money similar schools in different parts of the country receive. Funding is based on historic calculations - some dating back to at least 2005 - that bear little resemblance to the needs of schools and their pupils today.
The Government is also consulting on potential options for funding Academies next year, as an immediate step towards making the funding system simpler. Both consultations close on Wednesday 25 May 2011.
CLG: Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, has announced ‘proposals for a more localist and fairer way of providing sites for travellers, building on earlier commitments to strengthen measures to tackle the abuse of the planning system’ (consultation closes on 6 July 2011) – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
NE: Following last year’s consultation on proposals to extend the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, Natural England recently released revised boundary details for further public consideration (closes on 1 July 2011).
Anyone wishing to respond can do so via the project website, by email or by post. NE will then consider all responses and draw up recommendations. NE’s Board expects to consider the final proposals in September 2011 and the decision about any extension to either National Park will then be submitted to Defra for confirmation.
EU News: The European Commission has launched a public consultation (closes on 30 June 2011) on the future strategy of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). The consultation will feed into a 'strategic innovation agenda' for the EIT which the Commission is due to propose by the end of 2011.
The agenda will outline the Institute's main priorities until 2020, focusing on the Institute's mission & objectives, funding and future themes.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
HO: Guidance out recently advises clergy ‘not to offer to publish banns for any marriage which involves someone from outside Europe’. Instead, the couple will be asked to apply for a licence, which involves making a sworn declaration that is recognised in law.
It also says that, if a member of the clergy is not satisfied that a marriage is genuine, they must make that clear to the person responsible for granting the licence.
If the couple insist on having banns read rather than applying for a common licence, clergy are advised to report it immediately to a legal officer. Clergy should also ask for evidence of the couple's right to marriage by banns, such as a driving licence & official correspondence. The couple should also be visited at their named address.
Newswire – HPA: The Health Protection Agency is advising people to take care when visiting areas where ticks are present, to prevent tick bites & reduce the risk of catching Lyme disease. Latest provisional figures from the HPA show there were 953 laboratory-confirmed cases of Lyme disease reported in England & Wales in 2010. The majority of these cases were acquired in the UK rather than overseas, with two-thirds of cases identified among residents in the South of England.
Cases of Lyme disease are often acquired through recreational activities including walking, hiking & mountain-biking. Areas where the infection has been acquired in the UK include popular holiday destinations such as Exmoor, the New Forest, the South Downs, parts of Wiltshire & Berkshire, Thetford Forest, the Lake District, the Yorkshire moors and the Scottish Highlands.
SFA: According to the Skills Funding Agency, getting your CV right can mean the difference between securing an interview for your ideal job and having your application quickly consigned to the bin. Understanding that first impressions really do count, Next Step has identified the 10 most common mistakes they see committed on CVs to help people avoid these pitfalls.
General Reports and Other Publications
NO: A Bailiffs’ practice of threatening to take low value items and charging fees for doing so is criticised in a report issued last week by Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin.
A bailiff’s threat to remove a door mat and charge £230 fees was described as unreasonable. The report concerns a complaint against Slough Borough Council's bailiffs and the Ombudsman has issued it as a matter of public interest, to send a clear message to other councils, which may need to review their practices.
Deloitte: Private sector investment in infrastructure has grown substantially in 2011, with infrastructure funds playing a pivotal role. However challenges from direct investors may lead to consolidation in the sector, according to a survey by Deloitte, the business advisory firm, into the investment plans of infrastructure fund managers.
Newswire – NHSConfed: David Stout, director of the PCT Network, has commented on a report by the National Bariatric Surgery Registry which recommends that obese patients have greater access to surgery to help aid weight loss.
Ofsted: Ofsted has published; ’The voice of the child: learning lessons from serious case reviews’. This is Ofsted’s fifth report evaluating serious case reviews (SCRs) and considers 67 carried out between 1 April & 30 September 2010. The cases involved 93 children, 39 of whom died.
The report has a single theme: the importance of hearing the voice of the child. It provides an in-depth exploration of this key issue. It draws out practical implications & lessons for practitioners and Local Safeguarding Children Boards.
PC&PE: The Commons Committee of Public Accounts has published a report which (on the basis of evidence from the Ministry of Defence) examines the past decisions taken on Typhoon and looks at improvements that the Department can make to its delivery model.
Speaking about the release of the report, the Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: "The history of the Typhoon fighter aircraft represents yet another example of over-optimism, bad planning and an unacceptably high bill for the taxpayer. The MOD is now buying 30% fewer Typhoon fighter aircraft than originally planned, the cost of the project is now expected to be £3.5bn more than was originally approved and if we take all expenditure into account, the cost of each aircraft has increased by 75%.
The Department was unable to give us a coherent explanation of its 2004 decision to equip the early Typhoons with ground-attack capability, or of its subsequent decision not to use it. The Department could also not adequately explain why it cancelled the third phase of the contract in 2004 on the grounds it did not need the capability, simply to reinstate the third phase in 2009 at a cost of £2.7bn”.
The Department has appointed a Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) to be the person accountable for delivering each major procurement project. However the SRO on Typhoon ‘has limited decision making powers and merely co-ordinates activity’. That is not good enough.
Newswire – WWF: A YouGov poll, commissioned by WWF, has found that 79% of people in the UK want the fish that is on sale come from sustainable, not overfished, sources, but that 21% think there is adequate information on whether fish products come from well managed sustainable stocks.
Importantly, the poll also found support from 66% of people, for reform of the controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in order to ensure the recovery of fish stocks and also allow future generations to make a living from the sea.
Newswire – AC: The NHS could save up to £500m a year by carrying out fewer ineffective or inefficient treatments. In its briefing, 'Reducing expenditure on low clinical value treatments', the Commission looked at some PCTs' efforts to decommission treatments of low clinical value.
The potential for reducing spending varies from PCT to PCT, but, based on one of the more widely-used lists, some could save more than £12m each year by reducing their use of these, or other, treatments.
NIESR: Last week the NIESR published research, supported by the Low Pay Commission and the ESRC, that sheds new (& surprising) light on the impact of the minimum wage on youth employment. As low-skilled young people become entitled to the higher adult rate of the minimum wage, their employment rate actually goes up.
TKF: A new report from The King’s Fund has found ‘persistent & widespread variations across England in patients’ chances of undergoing surgery for common medical conditions’. This suggests that many patients are not being given surgery they need and that some may be undergoing operations they do not benefit from.
The researchers suggest that local providers of care & commissioners should be required to publicly justify key indicators of variation in care – both between individual practitioners in their area and as compared to their neighbouring PCTs.
Newswire – CBI: The employment tribunal system is failing businesses & individuals, the CBI has claimed. It is meant to offer claimants & companies informal, quick & cost-effective judgements, but instead the system is slow, legalistic and antagonistic.
In its submission to the Government’s Resolving Workplace Disputes consultation, the CBI called for a package of measures (based on 3 key steps) to speed up the tribunal system, reduce costs for both sides and make the system fairer.
Newswire – WWF: WWF recently reiterated a call for a moratorium on any shale gas activity in the UK following the publication of a report on methane & the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations by academics at CornellUniversity.
There are already widespread concerns about the local environmental impact of shale gas and now there is evidence suggesting that not only does shale gas pose a contamination risk, it also has a carbon footprint which is significantly worse than conventional gas and which is as bad or worse than coal.
NICE: Just 15% of NHS trusts have a policy or plan to help tackle staff obesity, a report by the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine has revealed.
The audit was recommended by the 2009 Boorman Review, which called for staff health & wellbeing to be embedded in the core business of NHS organisations. The Department of Health estimated in 2009 that of the 1.2 million staff in the NHS, approximately 300,000 would be classified as obese and a further 400,000 as overweight.
Legislation / Legal
Newswire – ICO: Several public authorities, including the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence, have ‘failed to meet the requirement to reduce the time they take to respond to FOI requests’, the Information Commissioner’s Office has announced.
The ICO monitored the performance of 33 public authorities for a period of 3 months, following concerns about delays in their responses to FOI requests. Of the 33 authorities, the ICO is in discussions with several organisations about the improvements they still need to put in place. The Commissioner has particular concerns about delays at the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Defence and Birmingham City Council. Discussions on appropriate regulatory action are now taking place.
Four other authorities - the LB of Hammersmith and Fulham, the LB of Islington, WolverhamptonCity Council and Westminster City Council - have been asked to sign undertakings to improve their performance in this area.
Newswire – ICO: The Information Commissioner’s Office is reminding organisations of the importance of keeping paper records secure after it found 2 healthcare organisations (NHS Liverpool Community Health and the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence) in breach of the Data Protection Act for losing files. Both organisations have now signed formal undertakings.
Acting Head of Enforcement, Sally Anne Poole, said: “These incidents highlight significant weaknesses in both organisations’ data handling procedures. ….. these incidents should act as a warning to other organisations who handle sensitive papers of the need to make sure their paper records management processes are as robust as their electronic data systems. The protection of data in all formats must be taken seriously.”
OFT: The OFT has issued a decision that Reckitt Benckiser abused its dominant position by withdrawing NHS packs of its Gaviscon Original Liquid medicine, and has imposed a fine of £10.2m. The fine was the subject of an earlier agreement under which the company admitted its conduct infringed UK & European competition law and agreed to co-operate with the OFT. This brings the OFT's investigation to a conclusion.
OFT: The OFT has launched a short market study into extended warranties for domestic electrical goods such as televisions, washing machines and computers. The study will focus on whether competition for warranties is sufficiently effective to ensure consumers get value for money in a market worth well over £750m.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: A team of astronomers led by Johan Richard, a 31-year-old French researcher supported by the EU Marie Curie fund, has discovered a galaxy 13 billion light years away from Earth.
The discovery of the star formation, which was created 200m years after the 'Big Bang', will help astronomers better understand the evolution of galaxies closer to the earth, which may have affected the planet's climate. It could also help solve the scientific mystery of how the hydrogen fog that filled the early Universe was cleared.
EU News: The Commission has adopted a report on the functioning of 'Asset Recovery Offices' set up by Member States to fight organised crime. By identifying illegally acquired assets on their national territory and by facilitating the exchange of relevant information at European level, these Offices help depriving criminals from their criminal profits.
This year the Commission will propose further measures to enable even faster tracing of assets derived from crime across the EU.
EU News: One year after the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in April 2010, a wide range of follow up measures have been taken – as agreed by ministers at the Transport Council of 4 May 2010 on the basis of proposals by the Commission – at international, EU & national level to improve crisis preparedness in aviation, particularly in relation to volcanic ash (for results so far see press release).
EU News: Plans to draw up EU model contracts for cross-border trade, which firms could use to make deals with firms & consumers in other EU Member States, were approved by the Legal Affairs Committee last week.
The models would be backed by an EU contract law system, offered as an alternative to coping with disparate national laws. MEPs say that this system could boost single market trade by improving consumer protection & certainty as to the law. Its use would be entirely voluntary.
FSA: The European Union has decided to review the maximum levels of certain radioactive elements permitted in food & feed being exported into the UK from certain areas of Japan. The revised levels, which will be reviewed regularly, are now consistent with the pre-export controls that have been applied by the Japanese authorities in the aftermath of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan.
Food imported to the European Union from Japan is undergoing extra checks in addition to the routine monitoring of food that takes place, and the change in maximum levels will not affect this. The Food Standards Agency will continue to closely monitor the situation.
EU News: Getting away with fishing illegally will become much more difficult for fishermen, as the EU's new system for fisheries control is now fully operational. With the adoption of detailed rules on how to carry out controls throughout the market chain "from net to plate", the EU now has the means to break with the past & establish a real culture of compliance to stop overfishing and help make EU fisheries truly sustainable.
The new system ensures traceability throughout the whole chain from the time when the fish is caught until it reaches the consumer. If someone breaks the law, they will face equally severe sanctions wherever they are and whatever their nationality. And, if they are repeatedly caught fishing illegally, thanks to a new point system they will end up losing their licence.
EU News: Helping Arab citizens in their fight for democracy, pressing for the release of political prisoners in Belarus and investigating organ trafficking allegations in Kosovo were among the key priorities chosen by MEPs to drive EU's foreign, security & defence policy in the coming months.
This policy should be reshuffled to improve EU institutions' co-ordination and create synergies between civilian & military operations in third-country crises, said the Foreign Affairs Committee recently.
EU News: The European Commission has fined Procter & Gamble and Unilever a total of €315.2m for operating a cartel together with Henkel in the market for household laundry powder detergents in 8 European Union countries. The fine on the two companies includes a 10% reduction for acknowledging the facts and enabling a swift conclusion of the investigation. Henkel got immunity for revealing the cartel to the Commission.
EU News: The European Commission has presented its proposal to overhaul the outdated rules on the taxation of energy products in the EU. The new rules aim to restructure the way energy products are taxed to ‘remove current imbalances & take into account both their CO2 emissions & energy content’.
PC&PE: In its latest report on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2013 the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee slams the European Commission's proposed reforms of the CAP that would ‘see the current complex & bureaucratic system of direct payments replaced by one that could be even worse’.
The EU wants to ‘slap farmers with more regulation rather than provide the incentives to secure a sustainable & profitable EU agricultural sector’, say MPs. These changes include a new tier of environmental conditions, with penalties for farm businesses that do not comply or fail to meet new criteria for 'active' farmers, farm size & number of employees.
The MPs urge the Government to clarify its food security strategy, taking into account the recommendations of the Foresight Food & Farming Futures report and its position on CAP reform.
EU News: The European Commission has launched a public consultation (closes on 30 June 2011) on the future strategy of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) following the success of its initial phase – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
EU News: The European Commission is seeking citizens' & other interested parties' views on ‘how the EU can help to deliver widespread benefits to the quality & efficiency of healthcare by applying information & communication technologies (ICT) (so-called 'eHealth')’. The answers must be submitted by 25 May 2011and they will feed into the eHealth Action Plan for 2012-2020 – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
DCMS: Sainsbury's last week launched their 1 Million Kids Challenge, aimed at getting 1m children from around the UK involved in the Paralympics, by giving them the opportunity to try out a paralympic sport. As part of their commitment to promote a healthy, fitter lifestyle across all ages & abilities, Sainsbury's will also be supplying free sports equipment to schools.
Sainsbury's also announced its Paralympic Legacy Fund, a joint initiative with the British Paralympic Association (BPA) which will support Paralympic athletes at the 2012 Games & beyond and will be partly funded through profits from a specially designed Paralympic Games shopping bag.
CLG: Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, has ‘announced a new fair deal for voluntary and community groups, wrapped up with cutting reams of red tape on local councils’. Mr Pickles is proposing a 'social responsibility' deal which will ask that councils give greater support for local community groups, including:
* seeking to avoid disproportionate reductions in funding
* giving at least 3 months' notice if they plan to reduce or end funding or other support
In order to reduce bureaucracy for councils Mr Pickles is ‘scrapping 56 pages of statutory guidance on local priorities issued under the previous Government’. The guidance spells out how councils should engage with the people in their area, how they should feed back information, and even a definition of what a 'local person' is.
The new 'Fair Deal for the Voluntary and Community Sector' will help ensure that all councils will give voluntary and community groups the opportunity to work together to provide services in new ways (consultation closes on 14 June 2011.
PC&PE: The Commons Treasury Select Committee is to reopen its inquiry on the future of cheques given continuing public concern about possible moves to phase out this method of payment by 2018. Treasury Committee Chairman, Andrew Tyrie MP, said:
"…… Since our last inquiry we have been inundated by letters from the public telling us that they rely on cheques. Many charities, small business and vulnerable people - including pensioners - depend on cheques. Their needs must be considered. ……. I was shocked, when the Payments Council last gave evidence, that they had not conducted a rigorous cost benefit analysis. We asked them to go away and do some number crunching. In this new inquiry we can now examine their latest conclusions and work."
HL: Charities including Citizens Advice, Community Links, CPAG, Crisis, Family Action, Gingerbread, Homeless Link, RNIB, Shelter and Toynbee Hall have written a joint letter to the Minister of State for Pensions, Steve Webb MP, expressing deep concern about DWP proposals to abolish parts of the Social Fund.
The letter to the Minister highlights the huge scale of need for these payments. While there were 640,000 applications for a Community Care Grant, and 3.65m applications for a Crisis Loan in 2009/10, evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee last year showed that on average, only 32% of ‘legitimate demand’ for Community Care Grants was met.
DUK: Research funded by Diabetes UK has for the first time successfully demonstrated the potential of an ‘artificial pancreas’ in preventing night-time hypoglycaemia in adults with Type 1 diabetes. The ‘artificial pancreas’ or closed-loop insulin delivery system automatically manages a person’s diabetes. The device regulates blood glucose levels by releasing insulin when alerted to high levels of glucose, and withholding it when levels are low.
Press release & links
AUK: Rising costs are leaving half of older people living on the breadline as Age UK launches a new campaign to encourage older people to claim their benefits.
Pensioners are hit particularly hard by climbing inflation rates because they spend a larger percentage of their budget on food & fuel, as shown in Age UK Enterprise's Silver RPI; over the last year the cost of food has shot up by 6.2% & energy has increased by 4.2%.
Despite this, as much as £5.4bn in pensioner benefits goes unclaimed each year:
* Just under half of all pensioners are entitled to pension credit, but a third of people don’t claim it.
* Up to 1.97m pensioners are still missing out on council tax benefit which (if claimed) could boost their income by an average of £728 a year
Business and Other Briefings
HMRC: The tax deadline calendar for 2011/12 is now available. It will help agents establish when their clients’ key tax deadlines are, including the variable deadlines that agents need to consider.
TfL: A new Gold membership for exceptional freight operators across London will be available from April 2011. The membership will be awarded to freight operators who demonstrate self-improvement & deliver environmental savings. This scheme is a win-win as it can deliver savings for the companies taking part and provides a greener & safer operation of freight for the public.
More than 620 operators, representing nearly 25% of vans & lorries (75,000+) freight vehicles regularly operating in London, are already registered to the Freight Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) and it is estimated that members managed to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by a total of 70,000kg last year.
PwC: Financial crime is on the rise in the public sector according to a new report as increased scrutiny in some areas and cuts (as a consequence of the Spending Review) in others boost detection rates & opportunities for fraud.
Some 60% 0f public sector organisations experienced fraud in the last 12 months, up from 52% in 2009, says a new report from PwC.
New techniques such as Continuous Transaction Monitoring can help local authorities and other public bodies identify areas of fraud risk by 'identifying anomalies in existing management data thus uncovering duplicate invoice payments, false suppliers and unauthorised transactions'.
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