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BSA:Army works on both physical and educational fitness of trainees - The Army’s basic skills initiative – developed in partnership with the Basic Skills Agency – has been endorsed by the Skills for Life Strategy Unit and the National Skills Envoy, as a model of good practice for other major employers in raising skills standards.
The Army’s achievements in raising literacy, numeracy & language skills, and the ‘lessons learnt’ from its 5-year initiative are detailed in a report – Army basic skills provision: whole organisation approach, lessons learnt – and a survey published by the Basic Skills Agency.
Up to 50% of the 12,000 recruits entering the Army each year have literacy or numeracy skills at levelsat or below those expected of a primary school leaver – of these about 8-9% have Entry Level 2 skills (the standard expected of 7-8 year olds).
A recent survey revealed that 62% of Army line managers ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ encountered incidents where poor literacy hindered or stopped soldiers from carrying out the day-to-day tasks expected of them and 59% had had the same experience with poor numeracy skills.
The Army’s current target is for all personnel to reach at least Level 1 literacy & numeracy standards (equivalent to GCSE grades D to G) within three years of joining.
Across the Army’s e-learning Centre network alone, almost 12,000 soldiers have taken over 24,000 ICT-based learndirect basic skills programmes from 2003 to 2006. Achievement rates (87-97%) in literacy & numeracy over the same three year period have been impressive and well above the norms for Further Education - with almost 12,300 Level 1 and Level 2 awards being achieved.
ALI:Some progress but spectre of Deepcut still hangs over armed forces training - The Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) has published its follow-up report to Safer Training, the independent assessment of the armed services’ training establishments. Two years on, the MoD and the armed services have ‘made extraordinary strides forward’, but there are still ‘areas of concern’.
Safer Training was commissioned in response to the Surrey Police Inquiry into the deaths of four young soldiers at Deepcut barracks. It reported widespread failings in the armed forces’ management of training & duty of care and concluded that the risks to recruits & trainees were too high.
Better Training highlights progress made against those recommendations and its main findings are:
·Very substantial improvements have been made in all aspects of initial training & welfare as a result of focused effort & investment by the MoD and the armed services
·Management of the risks associated with bullying & harassment, self-harm & suicide and access to firearms & ammunition have been amongst the greatest achievements
·BUT there are still some areas where too little progress has been made and which remain of concern
Defra:Government achieving only slow delivery on sustainability - Responding to the Sustainable Development Commission's annual report on how the Government was meeting its sustainable operations objectives, Mr Miliband has acknowledged progress was slower than he would like and is not adequate to meet the increasing pace of change that was needed.
Defra:And promises to try harder - The Government has announced a package of actions it claims will deliver the step change needed to ensure that supply chains and public services will be increasingly low carbon, low waste & water efficient, respect biodiversity and deliver wider sustainable development goals.
The UK Government Sustainable Procurement Action Plan, allied to the Treasury's recent ‘Transforming Government Procurement’ report, forms the key response to the business-led Task Force report.
In June, the Government also set a series of sustainable operations targets for the Government office estate, including: a pledge to go carbon neutral by 2012 and to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2020
The Action Plan is intended to put in place clear lines of accountabilities & reporting and to develop plans to raise the standards & status of procurement practice in Government.
Alongside the Action Plan, Government is also publishing an updated set of mandatory environmental product standards that will hopefully ensure Departments procure the most sustainable commodities.
DH:It is not only Global Warming that impacts on the whole world - The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, has made the case for concerted action on global health and for developing a strategy that will benefit the health of the UK population as well as that of the rest of world.
Health Is Global: Proposals for a UK government-wide strategy sets out the argument that in today's global environment, we need to engage in the health of other countries in order to protect the wellbeing of the UK.The report provides a framework for developing a global health strategy - it outlines the basis for debate on what current global health priorities are, what the UK should focus on, and what the strategy should look like.
The Chief Medical Officer is inviting key stakeholders and interested parties across government to discuss (between now and 25th May) what the strategy should focus on.
DCLG:Forced to leave home at 16 - Housing Minister Yvette Cooper has voiced concerns at the persistent problem of young people who are forced to leave the family home and end up staying with a succession of friends or relatives.She has announced a new package of measures to help reduce & prevent youth homelessness, including a new target to end the use of bed & breakfast accommodation for 16 and 17 year oldsby 2010.
More than a third of new cases of homelessness last year were young people aged under 25.Just under a quarter of people who became homeless over that period were forced to leave their last home because parents were no longer willing to accommodate them.
The package of announcements include:
·A new partnership with YMCA England and Centrepoint to deliver a National Youth Homelessness scheme
·Setting up a committee of formerly homeless young people, who will advise Ministers
·Establishing a new Centre of Excellence in every region
·A new National Homelessness Advice Service in partnership with Shelter and the Citizens Advice Bureau
The minister also launched 'Foundations for Life', a new project between Centrepoint and LandAid that will see the transformation of hostels into learning centres, which will provide young homeless people with opportunities for work & training.
Scottish Executive:Encouraging victims to report racist crime - A new 15-minute DVD has been launched to increase the confidence of ethnic minority communities in the Scottish criminal justice system and to encourage victims of racist crime to report incidents to the police. It also provides details of the services available to victims & witnesses, including support services to help reduce the trauma of attending court.
There is footage from a real case, which graphically illustrates the negative impact that racist crime can have on victims (the footage shows a shocking verbal racist attack by two teenage girls on the staff in a takeaway restaurant involving acts of vandalism on the premises).
Forthcoming Event:Next month sees Midlands-based charity Aquarius marking its 30th year as a provider of innovative alcohol services, with a conference – Making a DifferenceonTuesday 3rd April 2007, at the TIC Centre, Birmingham.
Featuring speakers of national repute (Pip Mason, Prof Jim Orford and Prof Richard Velleman), the conference will be of benefit to Service Managers, Commissioners and to anyone involved in the planning and provision of alcohol services through DAATs, PCTs and Community Safety Partnerships.
Aquarius has a long-standing reputation for taking its specialist knowledge and services into non-specialist settings, including:
·Structured programmes for offenders in partnership with the Probation Service
·Provider of drink-driver rehabilitation courses on behalf of the Dept for Transport
·Delivering brief interventions to adult offenders whose offence is alcohol-related
·Researching into delivering alcohol interventions in primary care settings
·Surveying the knowledge and attitudes of professionals in contact with older people and subsequently piloting and producing training materials for social care workers
DH:The Department of Health has launched a campaign to boost the number of people taking up a career in social care, as the sector needs to attract thousands of new recruits each year.
The adverts on TV, radio & press show real-life relationships between social carers and the people they are caring for, with a campaign theme of '1+1=3' to highlight how the sum of the carer/client relationship is greater than the individual parts.
Real-life carers and people who use social care services have been used to create the scenarios which show a wheelchair user using a skate park, an elderly lady whose care worker is supporting her in her home and a young man with autism whose carer is teaching him the route he will be using when he starts his new job.
DH:Following ‘discussions’ with the medical Royal Colleges and the BMA, the Department of Health has announced a review into Round One of Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) recruitment and selection into specialist training, made through the Medical Training and Application Service (MTAS).
It is clear that there have been a number of ‘problems’ with MTAS and that the process as a whole has created a high degree of insecurity amongst applicants and, indeed, more widely in the profession.
The review will be led by Professor Neil Douglas, Vice President of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and will be completed by the end of March (see ‘latest press release’ for findings), so that any changes can be made in time for Round Two, which begins on 28 April 2007.
LPC:The Low Pay Commission has welcomed the Government's confirmation that (from October 2007) the:
·adult minimum wage rate will rise to £5.52
·Youth Development Rate will rise to £4.60, and
·minimum wage for 16-17 year olds will be increased to £3.40
The Chairman of the Low Pay Commission, Paul Myners said:”
"The bite of the minimum wage has clearly increased and this year the economic indicators and labour market data presented a rather more mixed picture than in previous years. There has been a small fall in the number of jobs in the low-paying sectors, for the first time since the introduction of the minimum wage. Given these and other factors, we concluded that a cautious approach to our recommended minimum wage upratings was advisable”.
Defra:As of on Monday (12 March 2007) the Surveillance Zone (SZ) and Restricted Zone (RZ) restrictions (put in place to tackle the H5N1 outbreak in turkeys in Suffolk) will be lifted. Specific restrictions previously in place within the zones, including movement restrictions and the ban on bird gatherings, have now been lifted.
Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds said:"Although this marks the end of our active disease control measures in the affected area, there is still much work to be done.We will continue to investigate the source of the virus introduction and endeavour to learn from this outbreak to help us prevent and manage similar situations in the future.Bird keepers should continue to practice good biosecurity and remain vigilant for signs of disease."
Statutory obligations under The Avian Influenza and Influenza of Avian Origin in Mammals (England) (No. 2) Order 2006 (such as the requirement to notify suspect disease etc) still apply.
DWP:A review of the welfare system has been welcomed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown & the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions John Hutton.The recommendations in David Freud's report, Reducing Dependency, Increasing Opportunity: options for the future of welfare to work include:
·Greater use of private and voluntary sector resources & expertise
·A new focus on long term mentoring to tackle the problem of repeat benefit claimants
·Greater rewards for organisations that are successful in helping claimants find & stay in work
·Greater personalisation of employment support
·Retaining Jobcentre Plus's role in helping customers during the early stages of their period on benefit and creating a new role for the organisation to assess how much support individual claimants are likely to need before they are ready to return to work
·Rebalancing rights & responsibilities in the welfare system including placing greater responsibilities on lone parents with older children to look for work once their youngest child reaches 12, rather than 16
Home Office:‘Blocking the benefits of Britain’ to those in the UK illegally is the government’s latest enforcement strategy for dealing with illegal immigrants.
The strategy is claimed to be ‘focused on fairness & enforcing the rules’, as it will allow the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) to progressively deny work, benefits & services to those here illegally by working in partnership with tax authorities, benefits agencies, Government Departments, local authorities, police and the private sector.
·the creation of immigration crime partnerships to detect those here illegally & block their access to benefits
·regional partnerships with workplace enforcement teams to track down & punish unscrupulous bosses
·joint work with LAs to use fines of up to £20,000 against private sector landlords to tackle overcrowding
·the creation of a ‘watch list of illegal migrants’
·pilots in 3 NHS trusts to help ensure overseas visitors not entitled to free access, pay for health care
·reviewing how the driver licensing system can be used to identify & combat illegal immigration
·piloting how IND data can be used to prevent fraud against the financial services
·ensuring individuals do not overstay their visas by texting reminders to their mobile phones
DCMS:A vision of a unified & simpler heritage protection system, with ‘more opportunities for public involvement, and set firmly within the wider planning system’, has been unveiled for consultation (closes 1 June 2007) by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell.
The white paper - Heritage Protection for the 21st Century - includes proposals to:
·create a single system for designating historic places and devolving responsibility for the designation system in England from the DCMS to English Heritage
·open up the system to greater public consultation and create a single new Register of Historic Buildings
·introduce 'interim protection' for historic assets while they are being considered for designation and create new appeals procedures against designation
·streamline regulation by merging listed building consent & scheduled monument consent and conservation area consent with planning permission
·clarify & strengthen protections for World Heritage Sites and enhance protection for archaeological remains in the marine environment and on cultivated land
Defra:The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) pledged to review, revoke & re-make the Veterinary Medicines Regulations annually following their introduction in 2005.
This year's review has identified the need for amendments to provide increased clarity and to ensure that the regulations remain fit for purpose.The consultation on these proposed changes will close on 24 May 2007.
Home Office:The sale, import & hire of samurai swords could be banned by the end of the year.Banning Offensive Weapons - A Consultation (closes 28 May 2007) recommends that replica samurai swords should be added to the offensive weapons order.
Those who breach the prohibition would face up to 6 months in prison & a maximum fine of £5,000.Carrying a samurai sword in a public place already carries a maximum jail sentence of 4 years.There have been approximately 80 serious crimes involving imitation samurai swords in England & Wales over the last 4 years.
The consultation proposes exemptions for groups such as the To-ken Society of Great Britain and the British Kendo Association.In addition these exemptions would cover genuine collectors' swords made in Japan before the existing licensing regime came into force in 1953 or those made by licensed Japanese swordsmiths since that time.
CC:The Competition Commission (CC) has published (for consultation – closes 20 March 2007) its proposed final remedies package designed to increase competition in the market for personal current account (PCA) banking services in Northern Ireland.
In its provisional findings report published in October last year, the CC concluded that lack of clarity on charges and unduly complex charging structures & their application, combined with a reluctance among customers to switch providers, were restricting competition in this market.
Along with the report, the CC also set out for consultation a number of possible remedies to increase competition in the market. Since then the CC has been discussing these remedies with the banks, consumer groups, the Banking Code Standards Board, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and other interested parties. The Group expects to publish its final report, including its final decisions on remedies, in May 2007.
DH:Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt invited views (to be submitted via the Forum link below) on working arrangements in the Commissioning Framework of Health and Wellbeing that the government hopes will ‘bring local councils and the NHS closer together to deliver better care for their local communities’.The proposals could see services delivered in new ways, such as:
·the NHS paying for air conditioning facilities in the homes of people with chronic lung disease that may be worsened by hot weather and
·GPs prescribing anger management classes for children with behavioural problems
Key issues in the consultation include:
·Increasing choice for patients to all services (not just elective care) and giving patients a louder voice in determining the type of care available
·The new duty for NHS & local government to provide a strategic needs assessment
·Wider use of flexibilities of Practice Based Commissioning
·Redesigning local health services based on people's needs, and convenience
DfES:Proposals for continued stability for schools to plan their long-term finances & plans to shape early years' provision to fit parental demand have been published for consultation (closes 1 June 2007) by Schools Minister Jim Knight and Children's Minister Beverley Hughes.
The consultation sets out proposals to refine the current school funding architecture and establish clear funding arrangements for early years and 14-16 education for 2008-11.The overall level of funding available will be announced later this year in the Comprehensive Spending Review Settlement 2007.
TPO:The Patent Office has launched a consultation (closes Tuesday 5th June 2007) on proposed new rules, setting out flexible & user-friendly procedures, which reflect the realities of litigation procedure and which are combined with clearer case-management powers for the hearing officers who resolve disputes.
The new litigation procedures are just one area of proposed change. Others include new provisions to reflect modern working practices such as the electronic filing of patent applications, digital libraries of patent documents available over the internet and the Office’s recent move to electronic case-files for patent applications.It is hoped that the new Rules will take effect on 1 October 2007.
CC:Every charity must show it is for the public benefit, the Charity Commission has announced, as it publishes a consultation (closes on6 June 2007) on the principles of public benefit.See ‘Charity and Voluntary Sector’ below for more details.
DCMS:A vision of a unified & simpler heritage protection system, with ‘more opportunities for public involvement, and set firmly within the wider planning system’, has been unveiled for consultation (closes 1 June 2007) by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell – see ‘Policy Statements and Initiatives’ section above.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
DH:Improving Access to Audiology Services in England was developed in close consultation with a range of organisations, including the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID).
The document aims to help audiology services deliver the following:
·By December 2008 all patients with hearing or balance problems that require care from a hospital consultant will be treated within 18 weeks
·All other patients with routine hearing loss should be assessed within 6 weeks by March 2008 and it is also good practice for the subsequent hearing aid fitting to be carried out soon after or at the same time as assessment
DfES:Draft guidance on planning & developing provision for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) has been sent to local authorities and SEN groups for further comment (closes 6 April 2007).It sets out a new improvement test for local authorities who might be considering reorganising their SEN provision in future, including changing special school provision.
The draft guidance, which is also being sent to the Schools Adjudicator, the Special Educational Consortium and the National Parent Partnership Network and other organisations, also sets out a number of key factors that local authorities must consider in order to improve special educational provision.
The draft is not available on the DfES website as the guidance is aimed at parenting organisations and local government associations rather than individuals.Individual views should be expressed through these groups.
DH:A new Safer Practice in Renal Medicine toolkit, presented by the new Renal Tsar on World Kidney Day, advises staff on the steps they can take to minimise the risk of MRSA bloodstream infections in renal dialysis.Renal dialysis patients are one of the groups at high risk - currently, approximately 8% get an MRSA bloodstream infection.
Endorsed by the British Renal Society, it will help guide NHS staff working hard to improve quality & safety for renal dialysis patients and contribute to halving MRSA bloodstream infections by 2008.
DCMS:Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, claims that a new report shows how the UK has become the world's creative hub, with the arts in all their forms enjoying a renaissance, record numbers of the public attending and British artists & performers winning awards & acclaim all over the world.
Scottish Executive:The first annual report on Scotland's Climate Change Programme has been published yesterday and Environment Minister Ross Finnie said: “Through Changing Our Ways: Scotland's Climate Change Programme, the Scottish Executive is committed to taking action and to reporting progress annually.
In the first year we have increased investment in renewable technology, met our renewable energy target for 2010 ahead of schedule, set out the contribution we expect forestry to make and delivered a sustainable National Transport Strategy. We will shortly publish proposals to make Scotland more energy efficient.
Scotland is increasing its contribution on the international stage as a founding member of the States and Regions Climate Alliance and an early signatory to the Montreal Declaration”.
NAO:The NAO has concluded in a new report that the tendering process for PFI projects needs improvement as, during 2004-2006, PFI projects took an average of almost three years (34 months) to tender.The report focuses on the process for tendering & agreeing a deal and how this might be improved.
The report looks at all central government department PFI deals finalised between April 2004 and May 2006 and follows up a 2003 report by the Public Accounts Committee which found that PFI tendering did not, in all cases, follow good practice and was potentially risking value for money.
The report describes the measures taken by the Government to improve the PFI tendering process: including the development & enforcement of standardised contractual guidance and, in the schools sector, the creation of Building Schools for the Future, a programme which brings together all future PFI school projects.
Recommendations in the NAO report add to these, calling for the introduction of testing target times backed up by improvements in project management and better use of existing expertise across government.
CEL:The Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) funded 38 practitioner research projects on leadership-related themes in the two years to 2006 and has published an edited volume compiled from nine of the final reports, produced by those working in the learning and skills sector.
The volume is organised into three primary sub-themes: Leading quality improvement, Developing middle leadership and Leading diversity.
Selected from the first two phases of CEL research, the nine papers highlight a number of key messages for policy & practice in the areas of communication, quality improvement and succession planning.They also clarify key challenges still facing the sector in terms of diversity & equality, developing middle managers and the need to create a research culture in further education.
Ofsted:Ofsted’s first major survey of the Foundation Stage since 2001, The Foundation Stage: A survey of 144 settings, found that most of the settings visited provided effective education and care.
Children are achieving well in most of the early learning goals, but in one third of settings, standards in communication, language & literacy are lower than expected and speaking & listening skills are weak.
·higher than expected in personal, social, emotional & physical development
·within expected levels for knowledge & understanding of the world, creative development, and mathematical development
ESRC:When searching for health advice online, consumers often reject websites with high quality medical information in favour of those with a human touch, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Faced with a minefield of information of variable quality, health consumers subject websites to an initial weeding-out process that will eliminate most NHS and drug company websites from the search within a matter of seconds.
People are looking for advice from like-minded people and are drawn to sites such as the charity based DIPEx and ProjectAWARE where they can read about the experiences of other people who have the same problems and concerns.
Home Office:The sale, import and hire of samurai swords could be banned by the end of the year.Banning Offensive Weapons - A Consultation (closes 28 May 2007) recommends that replica samurai swords should be added to the offensive weapons order, meaning the sale, hire & import would be prohibited.
Those who breach the prohibition would face up to six months in prison and a maximum fine of £5,000. Carrying a samurai sword in a public place already carries a maximum jail sentence of four years.There have been approximately 80 serious crimes involving imitation samurai swords in England and Wales over the last four years.
The consultation proposes exemptions for groups such as the To-ken Society of Great Britain and the British Kendo Association. In addition these exemptions would cover genuine collectors' swords made in Japan before the existing licensing regime came into force in 1953 or those made by licensed Japanese swordsmiths since that time.
DCLG:Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly has published new regulations bringing forward practical new protections from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.As with the regulations that came into force in Northern Ireland on 1 January, the GB regulations are intended to protect people from being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services.
These regulations come into force on the 30th April 2007.However,the regulations will provide for a transition period for faith based adoption and fostering agencies until the end of 2008.
Scottish Executive:Implementation of the Crofting Reform Act will be taken forward in two stages following Royal Assent, it was announced recently.Measures to allow for the creation of new crofts, address neglect or misuse of crofts and ensure that crofters are able to take full advantage of the economic benefits of securing croft land will commence in June this year.
Further measures covering the regulatory work of the Crofters Commission and information held on the register of crofts will commence in January 2008.
Defra:The UK Manifesto on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme has been signed by over 40 businesses & NGOs and it sets out how the UK wants to see the emissions trading scheme develop after 2012. The manifesto calls for:
·Long term clarity for business to enable it to judge the scale of investment required and to make the right, low carbon, investment decisions
·In the long run, for all business activities to be exposed to the full cost of carbon
·Governments to set out the path to this fully costed carbon economy
·Further harmonisation of rules throughout the EU - essential to create a fair & level playing field for industry
Cabinet Office:The European Council has agreed to follow the UK's lead and reduce red tape arising from EU law by 25%.It is estimated by the Commission that this initiative could benefit European businesses by E150 billion (£100bn).
At their meeting in Brussels, EU Heads of Government agreed a target to reduce administrative burdens by 25%by 2012, in 13 priority policy areas: Company Law; Pharmaceutical Legislation; Working Environment/Employment Relations; Tax Law (VAT); Statistics; Agriculture and Agricultural Subsidies; Food Safety; Transport; Fisheries; Financial Services; Environment; Cohesion Policy; and Public Procurement, which have been identified by the European Commission as imposing the largest administrative burdens on business.
CC:Every charity must show it is for the public benefit, the Charity Commission has announced, as it publishes a consultation (closes on6 June 2007) on the principles of public benefit.Under the 2006 Charities Act, for the first time all charities - including charities which advance education or religion, or relieve poverty - must show they are established for the public benefit.
The Act gives the Commission, as the independent regulator, responsibility for raising awareness about the public benefit requirement and carrying out public benefit checks on charities.
Consultation on Draft Public Benefit Guidance explains the Commission's approach to public benefit, and sets out the four key principles of public benefit it has identified:
·There must be an identifiable benefit
·Benefit must be to the public, or a justifiable section of the public
·People on low incomes must be able to benefit
·Any private benefit must be incidental
Alongside the consultation they have published some Citizens' Standards on Public Benefit.Although they are not a legal requirement for trustees, they help demonstrate the public's expectations of charities.
The Charity Commission has also issued a report, Public perceptions of public benefit.
FSA:The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has set up a reporting system designed to reduce the level of financial crime in the insurance industry.Under the new system insurance firms & intermediaries are being called on to inform the FSA when they suspect criminal behaviour, so that the FSA can decide whether to investigate further.
This may arise when an insurer terminates an agency agreement with an intermediary where they see doubtful practice or suspect misconduct. It may also arise where an insurance intermediary has concerns about another intermediary they do business with.
Examples of possible financial crime involving insurance fraud include:
·Misappropriation of client money or money held under risk transfer agreements
·Failure to pass on premiums, refunds or claims
·Falsifying customer details to obtain insurance business that would otherwise be turned down or be more expensive and
·Issuing false cover notes or false certificates of insurance.
This brief contains a technical note detailing proposed legislation to tackle avoidance based on abuse of sideways loss relief.
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