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WIREDGOV NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE
Defra:Just when you thought you couldn’t be asked to do any more! - From 1 October 2006, all public sector bodies have to consider biodiversity in the work they do, under Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act.Over 900 public bodies will be affected, ranging from local authorities, fire, police & health bodies, to museums, the BBC and transport authorities.
Section 40 of the Act replaces & extends a duty, from Section 74 of the Countryside and Rights Of Way Act 2000, on Ministers and Government which already requires them to have regard to the purpose of conserving biodiversity.S40 states that:‘Every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity.’
The aim is to raise the profile of biodiversity in England and Wales eventually to a point where biodiversity issues become second nature to everyone making decisions in the public sector.
Defra, with various partners, is working on developing guidance (to be published in early 2007) to assist those affected in fulfilling their responsibilities and, in recognition of the key role local authorities play with regard to conserving & enhancing biodiversity, there will be two sets of guidance:
·specific guidance aimed at the needs and requirements of Local Authorities, and
·a more generic guidance aimed at all public bodies affected
The NERC Act was granted Royal Assent on 30th March 2006 and it is also intended to deliver key elements of the Rural Strategy and is an essential part of Defra's Modernising Rural Delivery Programme. It establishes Natural England and the Commission for Rural Communities as well as implementing a number of improvements to wildlife, habitat, national parks and ‘rights of way’ legislation.
HC: NHS Conundrum; How does one increase MH services while budgets are being cut? - The Healthcare Commission has urged specialist community mental health services to improve access to talking therapies, out-of-hours crisis care and information for people who use services,in its first national review of adult community mental health services
The Commission praises services for generally performing well, but adds that long-standing problems still remain.At any one time in the UK, one in six adults is affected by mental distress and more people are currently not working because of mental health problems than any other issue.
Community mental health services are planned by Local Implementation Teams (LITs), which are responsible for ensuring services are delivered to a high standard. LITs bring together local NHS organisations, local authorities, voluntary and independent sector organisations, community groups, people who use services and carers.They provide care & treatment for a range of conditions, including depression.
Overall, 9% of LITs were rated as “excellent”, 45% as “good”, 43% as “fair” and only 3% as “weak”.LITs which scored excellent consistently performed well on all components of the review.
The report highlights several areas of concern:
·The availability of crisis services out of hours is variable.
·People need greater access to talking therapies.
·The management of medicines for patients with schizophrenia needs to improve.
·Monitoring of physical health checks of people within mental health services needs to improve.
·Access to information presents a mixed picture.
·Not enough people are getting help with employment.
·Provision of services for black and minority ethnic groups
A national report on the findings is due out later in the year.
Also published is a national survey of people who use community mental health services, which found that respondents say that NHS staff are treating them with dignity & respect, but that improvements are needed in out-of-hours crisis care, talking therapies and the amount of information given to people who use services.
ESRC:Smiley faces win out over scowls - New research published by the Economic and Social Research Council shows that positive, informative strategies which help people set specific health and environmental goals are far more effective when it comes to encouraging behaviour change than negatives strategies which employ messages of fear, guilt or regret.
Theories have long suggested that by changing attitude, social rules and people’s own ability to reach their goals, people’s intentions or decisions to act in a particular fashion will be changed, which in turn determines the extent of change in behaviour.
The research project, ‘Does changing attitudes, norms or self-efficacy change intentions and behaviour?’ provides the crucial missing evidence about the role of these three factors in behaviour change by reviewing all the successful experiments in the past 25 years and quantifying their effects on decisions and actions.
The team identified 33 distinct strategies for changing intentions and behaviour across the 129 different studies:
·The most effective strategies were to prompt practice, set specific goals, generate self-talk, agree a behavioural contract and prompt review of behavioural goals
·The two least effective strategies involved arousing fear and causing people to regret if they acted in a particular fashion
ESRC:Should government policy-makers be given ASBOs for vicious behaviour? - Two social researchers had a strong message for policymakers last week, when they presented the findings of their research at a conference in Westminster.Professor Iain McLean and Dr Dirk Haubrich said that local public services in England are being affected by a ‘vicious triangle’ present in the way that central government assesses performance & need.
McLean, who is Professor of Politics at OxfordUniversity, says that there are contradictory elements within the systems that measure performance and need within the regimes governing local authorities:
McLean illustrates the problem by explaining how school exam results influence performance measures (the CPA score) and need assessments:
“If you improve your school results, your CPA score goes up, but your funding from central government goes down. Conversely, if school results worsen, funding from central government goes up, but your CPA score goes down”.
DfES:Coursework will no longer be Homework - Education Secretary Alan Johnson has announced new measures to improve support for children in care, encourage teenagers to achieve more and clamp down on the minority who cheat on their coursework.The new measures will mean:
·An extra £100 annually into Child Trust Funds for every child spending the full year in care;
·A new £2,000 bursary to help children in care go to university
·An extra £40 million to support the introduction of the new Diplomas in 2008 by providing a fund for diploma related equipment such as engineering tools & new purpose built facilities.
In addition, the Secretary of State announced an end to all coursework for GCSE maths and stipulated that coursework for other subjects must be supervised in classroom conditions to ensure the benefits of coursework were not undermined by questions of validity.
Mr Johnson added that he also was determined to tighten use of coursework in examinations in line with recommendations from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority which are due to be published shortly.
The extra money for Child Trust Funds and the bursary for Children in Care are part of a package of measures due to be announced shortly to improve the life chances of children brought up by the state.Only 6% of care leavers went to university in 2004/05.
Parole Board:Taking everything into account - The Parole Board has published its response to the review of the criminal justice system announced by the Home Secretary in July 2006. The review entitled ‘Rebalancing the criminal justice system’ is part of the ‘Transforming the Home Office’ initiative announced by the Home Secretary in July.
The Parole Board response covers several proposals, including the:
·intention that members of parole panels should have a strong victim perspective
Scottish Executive:Consistent standards to tackle Substance Misuse in Scotland- The first set of national quality standards for substance misuse services in Scotland have been be launched with the aim of:
·improving consistency in the quality of services and giving a basis for sharing information on best practice
·providing information on what services users can expect & what will be expected of them
·supporting all those involved in tackling substance misuse in further developing policy
Child protection and information sharing are central to the standards although it will be made clear when this may be done without the permission of service users.
Successful implementation depends on the key actions identified in 'Hidden Harm - Next Steps' and in 'Getting it Right for Every Child' so that agencies quickly identify the needs of vulnerable children for whom they have responsibility, and provide appropriate, integrated and timely support.
The next stage in the process, building on the pilot projects conducted during the consultation on the draft standards, is to develop an evaluation tool which allows services to monitor improvements in their delivery of support and provide evidence of good practice.
Monitor:Monitor, the regulator for Foundation Trusts, has announced the authorisation of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which takes the total number of NHS foundation trusts to 49.
MCA:The MCA has just launched their latest human element tool, "HEAT-S" for industry to use in self assessment of their safety cultures at the second meeting of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency's Human Element Advisory Group, held on 25th September 2006 hosted by the Chamber of Shipping in London.
HEAT-S was well received by industry organisations who were positive about what it is trying to achieve in the continuous improvement of safety culture.A pdf copy of the tool can be obtained free of charge by emailing email@example.com and quoting HEAT-S.
OFT:The OFT is inviting nominations of suitable candidates for appointment as trustees of an educational charitable trust to be established as a result of its investigation into information sharing between independent schools relating to their intended fee increases for the acedemic years 2001-2004. Responses must be received by the OFT by 20 October 2006
As part of the agreed resolution of the OFT's investigation earlier this year, the schools involved agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling £3m into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the relevant period.
The OFT is continuing to proceed to a final, formal decision for issue later this year which will record the competition law infringement admitted by each school as part of the agreed resolution.
Defra:Pharmaceutical company Intervet will supply the UK with 10m doses of avian influenza vaccine, which can be used against both H5 and H7 strains of the virus and could be used in poultry & other captive birds if a risk assessment and scientific evidence indicates it would help prevent disease spread.
5m doses of the vaccine have already been manufactured at Intervet's production facility in Spain and are expected to arrive in the UK within the next 3 weeks following labelling & shipping.
The remaining 5m doses will take a further 13 weeks to manufacture due to the need to first grow and purify the virus and carry out quality checks.This step comes after 2.3m doses of vaccine were bought earlier this year for a possible risk based preventive vaccination of zoo birds.
DH:The government has announced that, from August 2007, specialist medical training is being reformed in the next stage of the Modernising Medical Careers initiative, to provide junior doctors with more job opportunities to further their training.
The Senior House Officer grade (SHO) and the Specialist Registrar grade (SpR) are being reformed into a single new training grade.Doctors in this new grade will be called Specialty Registrars (StR).
A clearer picture of the number of specialist training posts available across the UK, including breakdown by specialty, will be available in December 2006.Doctors will be able to apply for posts from 22 January 2007.
Scottish Executive:The first conference of Globalscot - a worldwide network of business people with Scottish connections - took place in Edinburgh last week.
First Minister Jack McConnell told the gathering:
"Over the last two years the network has had 1,500 transactions with Scottish businesses.For an investment of only £300,000, Globalscot has generated - probably - millions of pounds worth of business for Scottish companies.
Beyond this, the network has also worked with children and young people in some of our schools - helping raise the aspirations of the next generation of Scottish business people”.
DCLG:The benefits of the fire and rescue services' new regional control centres (RCCs) and a more diverse workforce have been set out by the Government in its response to the House of Commons Select Committee report on the fire and rescue service.
The Government said that it would do more to listen to local concerns and to communicate the contribution of the RCCs to a resilient fire service. However, the Government also said; ‘that do nothing is not an option in today's world’.
The Government also announced further work to increase the representation of women and black & ethnic minorities within the fire and rescue services in England.
HM Treasury:The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Timms, has announced that the UK Government is committed to supporting Bangladesh, over a 10-year planning horizon, in its plans to achieve the Education Millennium Development Goals.
Stephen Timms also highlighted the importance of school link up programmes. The UK government's Global Gateway programme was launched in Bangladesh in January and already 28 schools are participating - 18 of these with links to UK schools.
There are still 2.8m children out of school in Bangladesh and even when children enrol in school they do not always complete a full course of primary schooling (primary drop out rates are as high as 35%).
Defra:Environment Secretary David Miliband has announced that the new venture, Partnership for Renewables (PfR), which partners with private sector organisations to develop onsite renewable energy projects with local authorities, hospitals and other public sector bodies will receive a £10 million investment from the Government.
The programme, which is run by the Carbon Trust, plans to have 500MW of renewable energy projects, primarily 3-5MW wind turbine projects, constructed or under development within the next five years by leveraging private sector investment of up to half a billion pounds.
The funding should also help the public sector take advantage of the additional £50m capital grant funding for DTI's Low Carbon Buildings Programme by helping the public sector organisations assess how their needs can be met from renewable energy sources and making applications for funding accordingly.
The Carbon Trust's plans are intended to increase existing wind generation capacity by 25% and act as a catalyst for the private sector to invest in their own on-site renewable projects.
Patent Office:The Patent Office is consulting (closes 18 December 2006) the business community and other interests to establish whether representative actions for intellectual property rights will provide real benefits, particularly for SME’s, in terms of litigation costs whilst not encouraging inappropriate litigation.
Feedback received during the recent implementation of the IP Enforcement Directive highlighted the need for the Patent Office to consult further with interests on this complex issue. An example of a representative action would be an action undertaken by a trade association on behalf of some or all of its members to defend their intellectual property rights.
The Patent Office is running a series of workshops for anyone who is interested in finding out more before they make a formal response to the consultation.
DfT:The Department for Transport has launched a consultation (closes on 22 December 2006) on how best to put into practice the principles laid out in the Brighton Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy, published earlier this year.
The Strategy aims to improve journeys for the majority of users on the line and address crowding issues. At the same time, it seeks to retain a high quality service between GatwickAirport and Victoria to meet the needs of airline passengers.
HM Treasury:The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Ed Balls, has launched a public consultation (closes on 6th December 2006) on proposals to tackle money laundering and terrorist finance controls in the money services business sector.The consultation invites feedback on proposals to:
·keep criminals out of the money services business sector by replacing the current registration system with a licensing system
·strengthen HM Revenue and Customs' enforcement activity on the highest risk operators with tougher action against, including prosecution for persistent non-compliance
·require financial records to be maintained in a consistent form, and in English, to establish stronger audit trails for investigators
·build a more effective compliance culture in the money services business sector through enhanced guidance for, and engagement with, the money services business sector, and
·robustly tackle serious or persistent non-compliance among money services businesses, including through prosecution
DTI:The government estimates that around 400,000 working mothers are set to receive an increase in their paid maternity leave, as the first changes under the Government's Work and Families Act have been introduced.
From 1 October 2006, statutory maternity pay, maternity allowance and statutory adoption pay will increase from six months to nine months for babies due on or after1st April 2007, or adoption placements from that date.In addition, the new regulations:
·double the amount of notice required from to 2 months for women wanting to change their return to work dates from maternity leave
·introduce up to 10 'Keeping in Touch' days to allow mothers to go into work and stay in touch
·simplify the administration of maternity payments and allow employers to adjust them in line with their normal payroll procedures
·extend the eligibility for additional maternity leave to all pregnant employees where births are due on or after 1 April 2007
HSE:The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has welcomed the launch of an initiative by the Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA) and the Heating and Ventilating Contractors' Association (HVCA), which helps member contractors meet health and safety competences.
Many contractors undergo 'pre-qualification' assessments from clients and major contractors when tendering for work; these assessments look for evidence of contractors' basic health and safety credentials and to address this issue HSE commissioned a study by J Z Carpenter Ltd; ‘Developing guidelines for the selection of designers and contractors under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994, Research Report 422’.
Based on the report's recommendations, HSE initiated a consultation exercise with industry bodies, including the Major Contractors' Group and the Specialist Engineering Contractors' Group, to develop a set of core criteria that should be used to assess contractors.
Defra:The Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC) has published their annual report and the results of the 2005 monitoring programme show that in 68.1% of the food sampled no pesticide residues were found, but 1.7% of samples contained residues above the permitted maximum levels. These were mostly in imported exotic fruit and vegetables.
DfT:The Department for Transport has published its National Statistics on road casualties in Great Britain in 2005, based on information about accidents reported to the police.Key points include 3,201 people were killed (including 141 children) on Britain's roads in 2005 (down 1%), while the number of people seriously injured fell to 28,954 (7% lower) including 3,472 children.
The report provides more detailed information about accident circumstances, vehicle involvement and the consequent casualties in 2005, along with some of the key trends in accidents and casualties.
Also published is an accompanying article on contributory factors to road accidents, which describes the scope & limitations of the information on contributory factors recently added to the national road accident reporting system and presents results from the first year of collection.Failed to look properly (32%) and Exceeding the speed limit or going too fast for conditions (15%) were the most frequently reported contributory factors.
Research conducted in the 1990s has shown that not all accidents are reported and a note on this research has been included in the bulletin.In addition the DfT has published two papers on the level of under-reporting on 23 June, which can be found at the addresses below:
HA:Roadworks on English motorways are safer, better designed and more clearly signposted than the rest of Europe, an independent survey by the AA Motoring Trust and its European partners has shown.
The EuroTest survey used sophisticated vehicle-mounted technology to inspect roadworks in 10 European countries. Of the 53 European sites surveyed, daytime roadworks on the M42 near Birmingham were ranked highest of all, receiving a grading of almost 100 per cent.
Scottish Executive:‘Slopping out’ in Peterhead prison is now the worst single feature of prisons in Scotland, according to the latest report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.Issues at the prison include slopping out continues, pre-release arrangements for prisoners are poor, links between prison and community social work resources are inadequate and there is a long waiting list for rehabilitation programmes, especially the STOP programme for sex offenders
However, the report also notes that prisoners feel safe and relationships between staff & prisoners are good, induction arrangements for prisoners are excellent and the provision of learning, skills & employability is good.
Ofsted:A report from the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) claims that schools involved in Creative Partnerships have stimulated pupils’ creativity and established the conditions in which pupils can further develop their creative skills.
Creative partnerships: initiative and impact, found that most Creative Partnerships programmes in the areas surveyed were effective in developing in pupils some attributes of creative people, including an ability to improvise, take risks, show resilience, and collaborate with others
However, pupils were often unclear about how they could apply these skills independently to develop original ideas & outcomes, but good personal & social skills were developed by most pupils involved in the programmes, including effective collaboration with other pupils and a maturity in their relationships with others.
However, programmes were less effective than they might have been because of uncertainty about pupils’ starting points and because activity that was insufficiently demanding of pupils’ creativity went unchallenged.
Ofsted:The Office for Standards in Education’s (Ofsted) new report on the teaching of citizenship - ‘Towards consensus? Citizenship in secondary schools’ - found that it is improving and there are now better opportunities for training, but there is a stark divide in standards& achievement in citizenship education and, in around 25% of schools inspected in 2005/06, the provision was found to be inadequate.
Although good practice was also found in schools that chose to include citizenship in other subjects, usually personal social and health education (PSHE), the best practice was found in schools where citizenship is taught as a subject in its own right.
Inspectors state that most citizenship teachers are non-specialists, working far from their normal comfort zone in terms of subject knowledge. Teachers are unclear about the standards they should expect from pupils, although this is slowly changing.
Defra:From Sunday 1 October 2006 a new law came into force requiring all gangmaster businesses in agriculture and food processing to be licensed and those who continue to trade without a licence will be acting illegally and face potential penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) who started accepting licence applications in April, have welcomed the applications from businesses who were eager to distance themselves from the rogues and demonstrate that they were operating legitimate businesses.
The new powers will be used to investigate, gather information, interview, arrest and prosecute those operating in the sector without a licence.
Gangmasters who applied for a licence before the GLA cut off date of 1 September will be allowed to trade without a licence until a decision has been made to grant a licence.The GLA will be contacting anybody who has applied for a licence and are still awaiting a decision to let them know what action they should take after 1 October.
It will be an offence for gangmasters to operate without a licence from October 1st and that it will be an offence to use an unlicensed gangmaster from December 1st. The definition of a gangmaster includes traditional gangmasters and recruitment & employment agencies.
DCLG:Greater protection for at least 200,000 residents of park homes came into force in England on 1 October 2006, including a right for qualifying residents' associations to be consulted by the site owner about the operation & management of their park.
The changes will automatically apply to all existing agreements and to new agreements. Other key measures include:
·a right to the quiet enjoyment of the park home & pitch and restrictions on a site owner entering the pitch
·a pitch fee review mechanism, including a presumption that the pitch fee will track the RPI
·removal of the 5 year rule used in determining whether a home is detrimental to the park
·a requirement that, except in emergencies, a home may only be moved with the agreement of the court
DCLG:Anyone responsible for a business premises in England & Wales must take action from1 October 2006 to comply with new, simpler and safer fire laws.From that date, fire safety law are covered by one piece of legislation in most premises and fire certificates will be abolished.
Instead, the emphasis will be on preventing fires and reducing risk with a 'responsible person' tasked to ensure the safety of everyone who uses the premises including carrying out checks on fire protection equipment and facilities.
To help business, the Government has reinforced the suite of guidance already published with a new, interactive feature on the Fire Gateway website, which allows users to self-assess the risk to their premises.There are a series of guides to assist those preparing fire risk assessments including the basic 'A short guide to making your premises safe from fire'.
DCA:From 2 October 2006 anybody charged with a criminal offence and applying for legal aid in magistrates courts will only qualify if they cannot afford to pay for a lawyer.However, solicitors will be paid for any extra work involved in helping clients fill out an application form to determine whether they are eligible for legal aid under the new Criminal Defence Service Act 2006.
The new regulations will see the existing 'interests of justice' test supplemented by a ‘financial eligibility’ test which will largely be carried out by court staff using an on-line application system:
·Those who are under 16 years-old (or under 18 and in FTE) will automatically pass the financial eligibility test, as will those on unemployment benefits.
·Remaining applications will be assessed using a formula which weighs total gross income against affordability based on family commitments and size of household.
Defendants whose income makes them ineligible for legal aid but who, for exceptional reasons, cannot afford to pay for their representation will be able to apply for funding from the Legal Services Commission's Hardship Unit.
The new scheme is set to be extended into Crown Courts by the end of 2007 where defendants will be asked to make a contribution towards defence costs that will vary in size depending on their financial means.
OFT:The OFT has welcomed the approval, by the heads of the competition authorities of the 25 EU Member States and the European Commission, of the European Competition Network (ECN)model leniency programme in Brussels, which was introduced to further enhance the detection & punishment of cross-border cartels.
These authorities have given a commitment to align their respective leniency policies to minimum standards set out in the Model Leniency Programme, which should make it easier for companies to report cross-border cartel conduct by bringing about a greater harmonisation of leniency policies across the EU. There are currently 20 different leniency programmes in operation across the EU.
The ECN Model Leniency Programme is not legally binding on Member States and does not itself give rise to any legitimate expectations for companies.The Programme contains a commitment to review the state of convergence of EU leniency policies in 2008.
FSA:Consumers are actively shopping around for their mortgages and consumers who receive Key Facts documents from mortgage firms can understand the risks & features of the mortgages they take out.
These are among the findings from the first stage of a review by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) into the effectiveness of its mortgage regime which was introduced nearly two years ago.The main focus of the review was on pre-sale disclosures and firms’ advice & selling standards to establish whether the FSA’s new conduct of business rules were delivering the intended benefits for consumers.
FSA:Providers and distributors of financial products have differing but interlocking responsibilities for treating customers fairly (TCF) and need to work together to help avoid potential future detriment for consumers, according to a discussion paper issued by the Financial Services Authority.
In the paper, the FSA encourages providers to design their products with greater care, to provide higher quality information, to monitor distribution channels more effectively at a high level, and to undertake better post-sale analysis of the performance of products.
The paper is designed to help providers and distributors understand their respective responsibilities to consumers and help improve cohesion, confidence & efficiency in the combined distribution effort.It provides the FSA view of what the existing Principles for Business mean in a practical sense and does not include new rules.The deadline for feedback from industry is 29 December 2006.
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