In the News
JRF: Rough Sleepers need help with multiple problems - Nearly half of rough sleepers have a history of substance misuse, institutional care and street activities like sex work, new research has found.
The findings, which come from a 2-year study published, are the first to systematically reveal the extent to which homelessness amongst single adults is linked with other problems such as mental illness, alcohol dependency and experience of institutions such as prison. It also makes clear the challenges facing services if they are to do more to help people with multiple problems.
According to the Tackling homelessness and exclusion: Understanding complex lives report, a survey of 1,286 adults using homelessness, drug and other services, found that:
* 98% had experience of being homeless
* 70% had experienced of drug and alcohol problems
* 67% had a history of activities, such as begging, prostitution and shop lifting
* 62% had spent time in prison, child care or other institutions
* 47% had a history of all four
Mental health problems were also widely reported, with 4 in 5 reporting a history of anxiety or depression and over a third saying they had attempted suicide. The report, which draws together the findings of 4 separate studies, also examined what had happened to the people before they became homeless.
ICB: Reducing the risk, but not just yet - The Independent Commission on Banking has published its Final Report. In June 2010, the Commission was asked to consider structural and related non-structural reforms to the UK banking sector to promote financial stability & competition, and to make recommendations to the Government by September 2011. The Final Report sets out the Commission’s final analysis & recommendations.
DH: Only those who have had similar experiences actually ‘understand’ - UK servicemen & women, veterans and their families will, from now, have access to specialised help from the award-winning online support network - Big White Wall. This is a further commitment from the Department of Health and the Ministry of Defence – in a partnership with Help for Heroes - to support the mental health needs of the Armed Forces community.
The website is a pioneering online wellbeing service, staffed by professional counsellors, that has already helped many other people. Serving personnel, veterans & their families can access the 24/7 service for FREE. Amongst other services, Big White Wall users can chat anonymously to others who may have gone through similar experiences, with a team of specially trained counsellors always online to offer support.
The DH has also launched an e-learning package it has funded for GPs so they can better identify & support veterans and their families. It will raise awareness with GPs of the need to ensure that those seriously injured when discharged from the Armed Forces continue to receive the best possible care.
It will also ensure that GPs are able to offer the right support to families of those currently serving or who are veterans. The package will form part of the suite of online training products accessible to all GPs who are members of the RCGP.
CH: GI Joe & Action Man have been joined by Hacker Nerd - The potential for cyber attacks to cause damage to vital infrastructure is a real & credible threat which requires a coherent & effective strategy, says a new Chatham House report, Cyber Security and the UK’s Critical National Infrastructure. However, the cyber security threat cannot be met by government alone.
There appears to be no coherent picture of what constitutes a cyber vulnerability and little consensus on the nature & gravity of the problem. A more coherent picture of what the consequences or severity of that vulnerability might be is required in order to mitigate & manage the threat and capitalise on the opportunities cyberspace presents.
This report examines the extent of national dependencies on information & communication technology (ICT) and what can be done to manage vulnerabilities within the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). The provision of essential services such as water, gas, electricity, communications, transport & banking are all ICT dependent. With this dependency can come vulnerability to aggressors & criminals and even the merely ‘mischievous’.
BCE: MP’s prepare for a mass game of ‘musical chairs’ - The independent Boundary Commission for England (BCE) has launched a consultation (closes on 5 December 2011) on its initial proposals for new Parliamentary constituency boundaries in England. The review of constituency boundaries follows Parliament’s decision to reduce the number of constituencies across the UK, and ensure there are similar numbers of electors in each constituency.
In England the total number of constituencies will fall from 533 to 502. The BCE has published details & maps of its initial proposals for each constituency. Most constituencies will have boundary changes; in the initial proposals just 77 of the existing constituencies are unchanged. Proposals for Northern Ireland, Scotland & Wales will be published shortly.
HMRC: It’s bad enough paying all that tax, let alone losing the rest to fraud - Reports of fraudulent “phishing” emails have risen by 300% over the past year, HM Revenue & Customs has confirmed. It is essential that anyone receiving an email claiming to be from HMRC telling the taxpayer that they are due a tax repayment does NOT follow the email’s instructions.
The emails provide a ‘click-through link’ to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is then asked to provide their credit or debit card details. Providing the information asked for enables criminals to steal the account. Almost 24,000 such emails were reported to HMRC in August alone and HMRC is currently helping to shut down around 100 scam websites a month.
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Latest whitepaper: The Rise of Employee Engagement, the Fall of Command and Control - The definitions of employee engagement from the likes of National School of Government, The CIPD and the Institute of Employment Studies describe desirable outcomes such productivity and better relationships. They all miss the point.
None explain what causes people to engage.
People engage themselves when they feel safe and rewarded for challenging and contributing to every day operational decisions and big ticket strategy and change that effects them and which they can affect.
Engagement is an outcome of distributed leadership which means well governed power sharing. It is a way of leading requiring the suspension of command and control and elaborate hierarchies.
Public sector institutions that exercise the two levers of engagement:
- Strategy and change interventions that turn the hierarchy upside down
- Grafting the values, mind set and behaviours into the day to day experience of work will create compelling and efficient work places.
Click here to receive the latest ideas to help you build and improve leader and employee engagement to drive performance, along with a free copy of our thought leadership piece 'Effective Employee Engagement - Data and Insights':
Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the Newsletter Archive
PCS: More than 200 UK jobs have been saved after a campaign by PCS union members forced government contractor Hewlett Packard to abandon plans to offshore work to India. The company wanted to ‘offshore’ the work, which involves the maintenance of the records of millions of people for the Department for Work and Pensions, and had started a process called the 'knowledge transfer'.
It was the first time a government contractor had proposed sending the live records of so many people overseas. Because of the data security issues, the plans were subject to approval by the DWP & the Cabinet Office.
IfL: The Institute for Learning has endorsed the recommendations outlined in the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education’s report of its inquiry into adult literacy in England, Work, Society and Lifelong Literacy.
ACE: Artsmark, the national award scheme to evaluate, celebrate & strengthen the arts offer for children & young people, has re-launched with a new online application system & broader remit to include further education colleges and youth justice settings.
All schools in England (including special schools & Pupil Referral Units) can apply and, for the first time, further education colleges & youth justice settings are now eligible to apply. The deadline for applications is 12 January 2012.
ACE: Arts Council England has opened applications for the revised Renaissance in the Regions major grants programme for regional museums. They have also published Culture, knowledge and understanding: great museums and libraries for everyone - the document which sets out how they will place museums & libraries at the heart of the organisation. Both moves come as part of the preparation for ACE assuming key responsibilities formerly held by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) from 1 October 2011.
CWDC: The Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) is pleased to announce the launch of its second national survey of practitioners who have attained Early Years Professionals Status (EYPS) - the 'gold standard' for the early years sector. All EYPs are encouraged to go on line & complete the Survey. The Survey will be live until Friday 28 October 2011.
DCMS: Plans for the Paralympic Torch Relay to lead the UK into the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games on 29 August 2012 have been announced. The relay will involve separate flames being lit in 4 cities and will begin on 25 August 2012 in London, followed by flame lighting moments in the greater Belfast area, Edinburgh and Cardiff.
The flames will then be brought together at a special ceremony held at Stoke Mandeville, home of the Paralympic Movement, before being taken on a 24 hour relay to Stratford for the Opening Ceremony.
TfL: More than 150,000 drivers are now reaping the rewards of signing up to automatically pay the Congestion Charge. CC Auto Pay was introduced in January 2011 and provides a simple, easy way for drivers to automatically pay the Congestion Charge with customers getting a £1 discount from the £10 daily charge at the same time.
TfL: The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has confirmed that from January 2012 fares on London's Tubes, Buses, London Overground, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and Trams will rise by an average of RPI + 2%, the assumption outlined in TfL's Business Plan in October 2009. Based on July's RPI figure of 5%, this represents an average 7% fare increase across TfL services & Oyster pay as you go.
FSA: Booths has withdrawn all date codes of its Caesar Salad due to incorrect allergen information on the packaging. The dressing contains fish from anchovy essence, which has not been mentioned on the label. This is a potential health risk for anyone who is allergic or sensitive to fish. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert. If you are allergic or sensitive to fish you are advised not to eat this product.
FSA: Tower Bakery is recalling 9 varieties of savoury product from Scotmid & Co-operative Stores because the products have been labelled with incorrect date codes. The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Recall Information Notice.
EH: A detailed survey of every stone that makes up Stonehenge using the latest technology, including a new scanner on loan from Z+F UK that has never before been used on a heritage project in this country, has resulted in the most accurate digital model ever produced of the world famous monument.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
DWP: The Department for Work and Pensions has announced that, from 1 October 2011, the day-to-day operations of Jobcentre Plus and the Pension, Disability & Carers Service will be brought under the leadership of a single Chief Operating Officer, as part of the restructuring of DWP to make it more efficient and streamline its management. At that point Jobcentre Plus and the Pension, Disability & Carers Service will cease to have formal executive agency status.
ScotGov: Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney, has launched the Government Economic Strategy, which sets the direction for the public sector - Scottish Government, enterprise bodies, VisitScotland and other key agencies - to work collaboratively with the private, academic and third sectors to accelerate growth & create jobs.
The Strategy focuses our actions on 6 Strategic Priorities which will strengthen the recovery, drive sustainable growth and develop a more resilient & adaptable economy. Recognising the value of continuity, five of these Priorities are in keeping with those set out in the 2007 Strategy: Supportive Business Environment; Learning, Skills and Well-being; Infrastructure Development and Place; Effective Government; and Equity.
DfE: All schools are now able to vary their school day to benefit their pupils. Up until September 2011, if a local authority maintained school wanted to change its lunchtime (for example) by 5 minutes or extend its school hours, it had to go through a bureaucratic process which in some cases took up to 3 months.
Schools will still be expected to consult and to take account of the views of all interested parties before they implement any changes to the school day. They will be advised to consult & serve reasonable notice on their local authority, parents, pupils & staff, but free from national regulation being imposed on them.
ScotGov: Patients will become more directly involved in their own healthcare & services thanks to new eHealth plans, published last week.
FCO: Foreign Office Minister, Jeremy Browne, recently declared the UK’s intention to join the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). The Programme, originally formed in the 1980s, exists to promote cooperation across all Pacific islands, in order to protect the natural environment and ensure sustainable development.
ScotGov: The group tasked with reviewing the Teachers' Agreement, reached in 2001 following the McCrone Inquiry, has published its 34 recommendations.
HO: Tesco, BT and law firm Eversheds are among the leading UK companies to sign up to the government’s new framework for voluntary equality reporting, the Home Secretary announced last week. The 'Think, Act, Report' initiative is aimed at improving transparency on gender equality issues in the private & voluntary sector.
The reporting framework has been developed by the Government Equalities Office and the guidance for employers by ACAS. It gives a step-by-step approach for employers to identify the barriers facing their female employees, take action to address the issues identified and report publicly on their progress; in short: think, act and report.
The government has also published new research conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies, on gender equality reporting in organisations with 150 to 249 employees.
DH: £10m is being made available to kick start a transformation in the way people with dementia are treated by the NHS, Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow has announced. The extra funding for memory services will help to identify people with dementia earlier and treat them more effectively.
The investment aims to boost provision of advice and support on memory services including information about local care and support services. It is expected to fund follow up and review services including peer support, assessment of carers’ needs as well as advice & support on planning for the future.
DWP: 6 Demonstration Projects are being set up to trial direct payments to Housing Benefit claimants living in social sector housing Lord Freud, the Minister for Welfare Reform announced last week. The change will come into force under Universal Credit from 2013 and is designed to help claimants make the transition to work and take responsibility for their own finances.
HO: New psychoactive substances found in so-called 'legal high' brand 'Ivory Wave' are to become controlled Class B drugs, the government signalled last week. The psychoactive substance Desoxypipradrol (2-DPMP) is to be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as a Class B substance, along with structurally related compounds to ensure that alternatives cannot be developed to avoid the ban.
DH: Experts have been enlisted to help the Government’s discussions on how to improve the care system in England, Care Services Minister Paul Burstow announced last week. The Caring for Our Future engagement exercise aims to pinpoint the priorities that this Government needs to focus on to inform its formal plans to improve the care system.
This follows on from the report on Commission on Funding of Care and Support. It aims to use the report as the basis for engagement as a key part of a wider care and support reform agenda. To assist with this, the DH has asked key leaders from the care & support community to help it to lead discussions on 6 broad themes. This engagement will help decide next steps and inform the Government’s White Paper & progress report on funding reform, planned for spring 2012.
NIA: Reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must recognise regional interests, the Northern Ireland Assembly Agriculture and Rural Development Committee said last week. The Committee’s position paper will published, in full, on the Assembly website.
DfE: Thousands of children will receive the extra support they need to become confident, fluent readers thanks to the Department for Education's new phonics check, an independent study reveals. In a pilot, 43% of teachers said they had been able to pinpoint six-year-old pupils with reading problems of which they were not previously aware. Those children will now be given additional support to improve.
OFT: The OFT recently issued a call for evidence to establish the background to recent reports of rising UK private motor insurance premiums, and consider whether further work may be necessary to improve the way the market works. UK annual comprehensive car insurance premiums are reported to have risen by as much as 40% in the year ending 31 March 2011.
CLG: A statutory consultation on proposed changes to contribution rates made by firefighters towards their pensions was published last week by the Department for Communities and Local Government. The consultation document sets out proposals for increased employee contributions to the 2 firefighter pension schemes for the financial year 2012-13.
The consultation proposes that the lowest earning firefighters will see the lowest increases while higher earners, such as chief fire officers, would pay a higher contribution. Members of the New Firefighters Pension Scheme, which has more balanced contributions, will see lower contribution increases.
Directgov: The government has announced plans for a wholesale deregulation of entertainment licensing in the UK. The proposals are part of a consultation paper (closes on 3 December 2011) which asks what would happen if currently licensable activities no longer required a licence.
The consultation paper ‘Regulated Entertainment’ proposes scrapping much of the Licensing Act 2003. This requires people to apply & sometimes pay for licences for many events where there is little or no risk of trouble.
EU News: The scientific community and other interested groups & individuals have been asked to help redefine the research landscape in Europe. The European Commission has launched a public consultation (closes on 30 November 2011) to find out how the European research environment can be radically improved.
The goal is to achieve the European Research Area (ERA) by 2014, creating a genuine single market for knowledge, research & innovation. This will enable researchers, research institutions & businesses to circulate, compete, and co-operate across borders, increasing growth potential.
BIS: Professor John Kay has launched a consultation exercise to inform his examination of UK equity markets and long-term decision making, publishing a call for evidence paper that identifies the key questions the review will explore.
The call for evidence (closes on 18 November 2011) sets out to examine the mechanisms of corporate control & accountability provided by UK equity markets, and their impact on the long-term competitive performance of UK businesses.
BCE: The independent Boundary Commission for England (BCE) has launched a consultation (closes on 5 December 2011) on its initial proposals for new Parliamentary constituency boundaries in England – See ‘In the News’ section for more information
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
TfL: New online postcode data released by Transport for London (TfL) at the inaugural 2012 Freight Forum meeting will help firms plan & manage deliveries during Games-time. Companies can use the data to check whether individual postcodes in the Capital will be affected by the Olympic Route Network (ORN), Central London Zone (CLZ) or road events.
WAO: The Wales Audit Office has released guidance to help patients know what they should expect from catering & nutrition services in Welsh hospitals. Launched at the Wales Audit Offices ‘Food for Thought’ seminar, the guidance draws on knowledge from the report Hospital Catering and Patient Nutrition which was published by the Auditor General in March 2011.
That report showed that whilst there was evidence that hospitals were continuing to improve their catering & patient nutrition services, more needed to be done to ensure that patients’ dietary needs were being met during their hospital stay.
It offers advice on what to do if these needs are not met and stresses the importance of talking to hospital staff to resolve these issues quickly. The outputs of the seminar are to be published on the Good Practice Exchange section of the Wales Audit Office website.
WAG: Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Children & Social Services, has welcomed the publication of the All Wales Protocol on Child Trafficking, which forms part of the effective action which the Welsh Government is taking with a wide range of agencies to ensure that Wales will not tolerate human trafficking in any form.
The protocol provides practice guidance to professionals & volunteers from all agencies to help enable them to effectively safeguard children who are abused & neglected by adults who traffic them into and within the UK for purposes of exploitation. This protocol will form part of the national child protection procedures which will ensure that all Local Safeguarding Children Boards are signed up to its principles & practices.
CAB: National charity Citizens Advice launched a campaign at its AGM to encourage people who rely on heating oil to heat their homes, to get the best deal possible. The campaign is in partnership with Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
Citizens Advice is urging households who rely on heating oil – usually in rural areas – to join an oil club, and to stock up in late summer or early autumn when prices tend to be lower, and when suppliers are better able to deliver more quickly. A dedicated web portal will be unveiled on CAB’s website where top tips for consumers, top tips for oil club coordinators and the Best Practice Guide, can be found.
BIS: Guidance providing greater clarity for businesses who offer work experience, placements & internships has been published, as announced in the Social Mobility Strategy in April 2011. The updated guidance from Business Link and Directgov includes advice on the payment of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for work experience staff & interns, and clarifies when someone is entitled to this payment.
The guidance also includes a new worker checklist for employers and examples of case studies, which aims to make sure that those who are entitled to the NMW receive it.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published guidance to help food businesses remove from their products certain food colours associated with possible hyperactivity in young children. Research commissioned by the Agency has shown that combinations of certain permitted food colours, and the preservative sodium benzoate, could be linked to increased hyperactivity in some children. The guidance includes technical details to provide businesses with more information about alternative colours that may be appropriate for their products.
CWDC: Training to support 1,200 front line social work supervisors & managers todevelop their skills & confidence has been made available by the Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC). Employers are being encouraged to register for the places designed for aspiring, new in post & experienced front-line managers of social workers, as well as supervisors on the CWDC Newly Qualified Social Worker and Early Professional Development programmes.
Registration for the training closes on 31 October 2011. It is a development of the highly-successful supervision training previously offered to NQSW and EPD supervisors.
FSA/Defra: The Food Standards Agency and Defra have published new guidance to help the food industry decide whether their products require a 'use by' or 'best before' date. Under the new voluntary guidelines, food packaging should only use either ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date labels to make it easier for shoppers to know when food is at its best and how long it is safe to eat.
Ofsted: A report providing practical examples & detailed case studies of how Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) have helped to improve child protection has been published by Ofsted. The Good practice by Local Safeguarding Children Boards report builds on previous research into the operation of LSCBs by analysing examples of how some boards are helping to improve child protection services and keep children in their area safe.
NICE: Early diagnosis is necessary to improve the treatment, information & care given to people with dementia, according to a new report. The World Alzheimer Report 2011 from Alzheimer's Disease International warns that in higher income countries, such as England, between 50 - 80% of dementia cases are not being recognised in primary care.
One reason identified for the missed diagnoses is the false belief that memory problems are a normal part of ageing. The report calls for earlier identification & diagnosis, in line with NICE's guidelines on dementia. NICE recommends that staff in primary care should consider referring people who show signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) for assessment by memory assessment services.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published a review of its science & research during the past year. The Annual Report of the Chief Scientist focuses on the following areas of work, which aim to reduce levels of foodborne disease in the UK.
EU News: The European Commission has presented its yearly report on Alternative Methods to Animal Tests in the Field of Cosmetics to the European Parliament and Council. The Cosmetics Directive prohibits animal testing in the EU of finished cosmetic products since 2004, animal testing of ingredients of cosmetic products is prohibited since 2009.
PC&PE: The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) recently published its second Report on the Terrorism Act 2000 (Remedial) Order 2011: stop and search without reasonable suspicion. The committee again calls upon the Government to amend the Order and makes several other recommendations.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published its third annual report to Parliament on the state of health & adult social care in England.
PC&PE: Following its annual review of the work of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the Commons Health Committee has reported that the bias of the work in the CQC away from its core function of inspection & towards the essentially administrative task of registration, represents a significant distortion of priorities.
General Reports and Other Publications
EHRC: Evidence from an inquiry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows that hundreds of thousands of disabled people regularly experience harassment or abuse but a culture of disbelief is preventing public authorities from tackling it effectively. The report, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, says that many disabled people have come to accept harassment – including verbal and physical abuse, theft and fraud, sexual harassment and bullying – as inevitable.
The inquiry sets out the serious and systemic failings in the way that public authorities have dealt with disability harassment, including a detailed examination of 10 cases of severe abuse, 9 of which resulted in the death of the victim. Further evidence indicates that perpetrators rarely face any consequences for their actions, while their victims continue to live in fear of harassment.
NLGN: Local Government Minister, Bob Neill MP, writing in a new essay collection from the New Local Government Network, states that government will be looking to local leaders to help deliver its decentralisation agenda. The publication, entitled The Next Question: The future of local leadership, includes a cross party collection of local government leaders who each contribute their thoughts on what the key challenges for council leaders will be in the future.
Civitas: Millions of pensioners will have their retirement incomes stripped of between 20% & 75% of their value, reveals a new Civitas report. You're on Your Own: How Policy Produced Britain's Pensions Crisis outlines how the collapse of defined benefit pension schemes, which guarantee savers a fixed annual retirement income, has resulted in less saving.
But it permitted new anti-consumer practices to emerge amongst pension providers. The authors give the example of a typical 1.5% management charge that costs just £15 in the year a pension scheme is opened, but £3,000 in its 40th year. Through compound charges, a typical pension can lose a third of its value as a result of what looks like a small charge at first. (p. 35)
CQC: A review of maternity services at University of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has found that the trust is not meeting 6 essential standards.
CQC conducted the unannounced inspections jointly with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). The NMC have completed a separate investigation into the provision of supervision arrangements for midwives at the trust. Their report will be available in early October 2011.
HL: Around 60,000 adults facing multiple needs & exclusions are being let down by services, living chaotic lives and facing premature death because, as a society, we fail to understand & coordinate the support they need, say leading charities.
Revolving Doors Agency and the Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) coalition - formed of Clinks, DrugScope, Homeless Link and Mind – have launched a vision paper setting out how the situation and its huge social & financial costs can be addressed and urging political leaders from all parties to take action. The paper sets out five building blocks on which the government can base this new approach.
UNICEF: New research by Ipsos MORI for UNICEF UK has shown that children in the UK feel trapped in a materialistic culture and don’t have enough time with their families. Following on from UNICEF’s pioneering report in 2007 that ranked the UK bottom in child well-being compared to other industrialised nations, the research released last week gives an in-depth comparison of over 250 children’s experiences of materialism and inequality across three developed countries, the UK, Sweden and Spain.
The research shows that parents in the UK are committed to their children but they lose out on time together as a family due in part to long working hours. They often try to make up for this by buying their children gadgets & branded clothes. Consumer culture in the UK contrasts starkly with Sweden & Spain, where family time is prioritised, children & families are under less pressure to own material goods and children have greater access to activities out of the home.
TWF: A new report published last week by the Big Innovation Centre calls on the government to focus on 5 areas with the greatest potential to generate new jobs in the UK economy. The next wave of innovation: Five areas that could pull Britain clear of recession argues that the government must deal with the fundamental issues that are holding back growth in these areas and outlines some of the specific policies that each of these areas of the economy needs.
PC&PE: The Commons Transport Committee has published its sixth special report of session 2010–12, Keeping the UK moving: The impact on transport of the winter weather in December 2010: Government Response
NAO: It will be difficult for government departments to achieve value for money from means-tested benefits unless government understands the impacts of means testing, learns from past experience & improves coordination between different benefits, the National Audit Office has reported.
In light of proposed & ongoing reforms to benefits and related programmes, the NAO notes the importance of departments sharing good practice and learning from past experiences in the design of means tests. There is a lack of coordination of, and overall accountability for, means testing across government. Departments are responsible for their own means-tested benefits and their impacts, but because means-tested benefits interact with each other it is important that there is coordination.
CII: A recent report by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), entitled ‘Who cares?’, highlights that despite the recent Dilnot Commission, the public remains unaware of the real cost of long-term care and the necessity to make personal provision to meet this cost.
The current average long-term care bill is £26,000p.a. and the average length of stay in a care home is 2 years creating an average care bill of £52,000. The current average pension provides an income of only £10,000p.a., leaving a huge annual deficit.
NO: ‘The worst example I have seen, in nearly nine years as Parliamentary Ombudsman, of a government department getting things wrong and then repeatedly failing to put things right or learn from its mistakes.’ This is how Ann Abraham has described the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency’s treatment of a family who were interned by the Japanese during the Second World War.
In her report, Defending the Indefensible, the Ombudsman condemns the scheme devised by the MoD & the Agency to put right errors in an earlier compensation scheme for British groups interned by the Japanese. She describes the family’s treatment by the MoD and the Agency as ‘disgraceful’, ‘unfair’ & ‘extraordinarily insensitive’. The MoD has accepted all the recommendations and will launch its own review of what went wrong.
PC&PE: The Commons Science and Technology Select Committee has published its report on practical experiments in school science lessons and science field trips. It concludes that many students are receiving poor practical science experiences during their secondary school education.
The report says H&S concerns may be used as a convenient excuse for avoiding practicals and work outside the classroom, but the MPs found no credible evidence to support this frequently cited explanation for a decline in practicals & trips.
RIBA: New research (Case for Space) reveals how thousands of brand new houses are failing to provide the space families need. The average new 3-bedroom home currently being built by the UK’s top house builders is around 8% smaller than the basic recommended minimum size, leaving thousands of people across the country short-changed (the benchmark for comparison is the London Plan space standards for a 2 storey, 3 bedroom home big enough for 5 people).
This squeeze on size is depriving thousands of families the space needed for children to do homework, adults to work from home, guests to stay and for members of the household to relax together. The most common new 3-bedroom home is smaller still at 74m². At only 77% of the recommended size it is missing 22m² and therefore the space equivalent to two double bedrooms and all their contents.
NAO: Shortcomings must be addressed if value for money is to be secured in the future for users of social care ;personal budgets; once they are extended to all eligible users by April 2013, according to a report published by the National Audit Office.
Most people who use personal budgets to pay for their social care report improved wellbeing. But more needs to be done to ensure that care markets deliver a genuine choice of services to all users, that support is available to help them exercise choice, and that essential services relied on by vulnerable people continue to be provided in the event of the failure of a major provider.
DWP: The Department for Work and Pensions has published research which explores the recruitment practices of employers in SMEs, in particular how these relate to disabled people. The main uncertainties employers had around employing disabled people concerned their perception of the (un)suitability of the built environment, risks to productivity, negative impact on staff from any loss to productivity and the risk of harm to the disabled person, staff and/or customers.
IISS: According to the latest Strategic Comment from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the financial & economic crisis afflicting the West for 3 years has entered a dangerous phase. Latest indicators on both sides of the Atlantic suggest economies are sliding back into recession.
Legislation / Legal
OFT: The OFT has taken action to prevent consumers being misled when searching online for heating oil supplies. The OFT found that some websites offering to find consumers the best price for heating oil were not clear about whether they were price comparison sites or sites for ordering heating oil directly from a single supplier.
ICO: Custodial sentences need to be available to the courts to stop the unlawful use of personal information, Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said in an appearance before the Justice Select Committee. The call for action comes as a bank cashier last week pleaded guilty to using her position to access illegally the personal details of a sex attack victim.
Section 55 of the Data Protection Act makes it an offence to ‘knowingly or recklessly, without the consent of the data controller, obtain or disclose personal data.’ The current penalty for committing the offence is a maximum £5,000 fine if the case is heard in a Magistrates Court and an unlimited fine in a Crown Court.
ScotGov: Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, has welcomed the publication of the final report of the Review Group examining the relationship between the High Court of Justiciary and theUK Supreme Court in criminal cases. The group - chaired by Lord McCluskey - has focused on the role of the UK Supreme Court under existing constitutional arrangements.
OFT: The OFT has launched a market study which will examine whether the private and NHS dentistry markets are working well for patients. While the OFT recognises that the UK has some of the highest standards of oral care in the world, it wants to examine concerns raised by consumer bodies such as Which? that many patients are confused over dental treatments and prices.
HMT: The Government has announced that it is introducing new legislation, effective from last week, to block a tax avoidance scheme involving Manufactured Overseas Dividends (MODs). The scheme could have resulted in companies, particularly in the financial sector, offsetting or claiming repayment of UK income tax that had in fact never been paid.
CO: Prime Ministers will no longer have the right to call a General Election at a time of their own choosing after Parliament passed the historic Fixed-term Parliaments Bill. The Bill, passed by Parliament last night, provides for General Elections to take place every 5 years in May, bringing to an end speculation about when an election might be called. The next General Election is scheduled to take place on 7 May, 2015.
HO: The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill has received Royal Assent. The Act moves the decision-making on policing away from government to communities giving them the power to elect Police & Crime Commissioners.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: The 2011 Report on the Public Finances in EMU takes a look at the recent developments in public finances, analyses new ways of assessing debt sustainability and describes the changes to budgetary surveillance in the EU. These reforms put prevention & debt reduction at the centre of EU budgetary surveillance, reflecting on the lessons of the crisis.
EU News: The EU have published some FAQs on the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2006/116/EC on the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights.
EU News: Last week the European Parliament approved the Commission's proposal on the Public Regulated Service (PRS) access rules for Galileo, Europe's global navigation satellite system. Galileo will set up an enhanced global satellite navigation system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service. It will offer five services, the Public Regulated Service (PRS), the Open Service, the Search-and-Rescue Service, the Safety-of-Life Service and the Commercial Service.
These enhanced signals protect the services against threats, such as ‘spoofing’ that can distort signals guiding a car or a ship, and provide inaccurate positioning to e.g. a police car or an ambulance. The PRS could be made available after Galileo becomes operational in 2014, together with two other initial Galileo services, the Open Service and the Search-And-Rescue Service.
EU News: The European Parliament has adopted the European Commission's proposal to strengthen the European Union's border management agency (Frontex). Frontex will have more equipment & personnel from Member States at its disposal, thus enabling it to better coordinate the border patrol operations of EU Member States.
EU News: How Member States are implementing EU Recommendations ensuring children can enjoy the digital world confidently and safely are reviewed by the European Commission in a recent report. In concrete terms, the report shows that EU countries are not responding adequately, or have varying approaches to tackling & reporting illegal or harmful content, ensuring children access age-appropriate content, making social networks safer for children and protecting children from harmful video games.
EU News: The SME Envoys met in Brussels last week to shape a strategy aimed at freeing the growth potential & competitiveness of SMEs. Key elements agreed are: making it possible to start a company in 3 days for less than €100, increasing access to finance & public procurement and reducing bureaucracy, including by introducing an SME-friendly test for all new legislation at EU and Member State level.
The test should ensure that no new obstacles arise that could hamper the smooth running of Europe’s 25m small businesses. 12 countries have already made the SME test a reality, and several more are in the process of introducing it.
EU News: The European Commission has set a clear target for increasing the numbers of judges, prosecutors, lawyers and other legal practitioners trained in European law. In a policy paper agreed recently, the EC aims to ensure that half of all legal practitioners in the European Union – around 700,000 – participate in some form of European judicial training by 2020. The EC will support training through the European e-Justice Portal.
EU News: The European Commission recently welcomed the launch of 'Education at a Glance 2011', a new report which gathers statistical data on investment in education, student-teacher ratios, teaching hours, graduate numbers and results.
EU News: From 16 to 22 September 2011, hundreds of European towns & cities will participate in the tenth edition of European Mobility Week, inviting citizens to a wide range of activities around sustainable mobility. This year's theme – Alternative Mobility – aims to promote resource-efficient alternatives to the private cars that still dominate urban transport. The week encourages local authorities & citizens to highlight the many positive impacts of other means of transport.
EU News: The European Commission has launched a public consultation to find out how the European research environment can be radically improved. The goal is to achieve the European Research Area (ERA) by 2014, creating a genuine single market for knowledge, research & innovation. The consultation runs until 30 November 2011 – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
CRUK: Cancer Research UK has launched a report urging the Government to set out a clear vision for research & innovation (in its forthcoming strategy), demonstrating how the UK will provide a stable environment for medical research to enable life sciences to be a key driver of economic growth.
The report, Building the Ideal Environment for Medical Research, outlines the vital elements that should form the core of a strategy to deliver on the Government commitments to support medical research in the 2010 Spending Review, and the 2011 Plan for Growth.
Business and Other Briefings
HO: The Migration Advisory Committee has advised that the Shortage Occupation List be revised to restrict migrants from outside the European Economic Area to a smaller proportion of occupations within the UK labour market. It recommends the list be reduced to cover 190,000 employees (not migrants) or well under 1% of the UK workforce. In 2008, before the MAC recommended changes to it, that list covered over 1m employees.
HSE: Businesses are being reminded about new incident reporting arrangements which were introduced on Monday 12 September. Only fatal & major injuries and incidents will be able to be reported by phone to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), with all other work-related injuries and incidents reportable under RIDDOR to be reported via one of a suite of 7 online forms available on HSE's website.
Amendments to VAT legislation consequential to the implementation of the Postal Services Act 2011.
ScotGov: The latest development in Scottish voice technology 'Stuart' has been unveiled to help young males with communication difficulties express themselves. Stuart joins 'Heather', the current Scottish synthetic voice available to pupils, so that boys (with additional support needs) can, for the first time, have a male synthetic voice to use in their school studies.
This innovative voice technology can link in to a package of support which will also allow children & young people with a print disability to access written curricular materials at the same time as their peers in a familiar Scottish accent.
'Stuart' is now available as a free download to the Scottish public sector. The Scottish Government's innovative Engage for Education site allows users to read blogs from Ministers, post comments and get involved in workshops on issues relating to education.
MoD: A new high-performance armour steel that will be used to protect vehicles on the front line was showcased at the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) event last week. Known as Super Bainite, the new armour steel has been developed to have outstanding ballistics properties and, in tests, it has performed better than 'normal' steel armour. The Ministry of Defence has signed a licensing agreement with Tata Steel to manufacture the steel in the UK.
RoSPA: With the health & safety leadership responsibilities of those at the top of organisations now widely recognised, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is now helping firms understand the part that can be played by team leaders and supervisors.
Part of RoSPA’s ‘Meet the Experts’ series, a half-day seminar on the practicalities & strategic importance of leading teams safely takes place on 11 October 2011 at the National Metalforming Centre, West Bromwich.
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