DWP: Looking after a child won’t be an acceptable reason not to work - A new "jobs pledge" aiming to find job opportunities for a quarter of million people currently on benefit is at the heart of a Green Paper published for consultation (closes on 31 October 2007).

Building on the Local Employment Partnerships announced in the Budget earlier this year, major employers in both the public & private sectors have given a commitment to offer guaranteed job interviews for people who have been on benefit and who are ready & prepared to work.

The Green Paper also sets out plans for a more personalised, flexible & responsive New Deal, matched by new responsibilities for jobseekers to do all they can to help themselves. There will be a new social contract for lone parents, which promotes the value of work as the best route to tackle child poverty. Under the government’s proposals, from October 2008 lone parents, whose youngest child has reached the age of 12, will no longer be entitled to Income Support simply because they are a lone parent.

In addition, building on the Freud Report earlier this year, the Green Paper sets out proposals to make much greater use of expertise across the private, public & voluntary sectors, at both national and local level.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) responded to the Green Paper, maintaining that there was insufficient evidence of the ability of the private & voluntary sectors to outperform public sector agencies, such as Jobcentre Plus, in getting the long term unemployed back to work.

The union also warned that there was a lack of capacity & expertise in the private & voluntary sectors to fulfil the role mapped out in the Green Paper and that the commercialisation of the process would inevitably lead to contractors concentrating on more job ready clients, whilst ignoring those with more intractable problems in order to hit their targets.

DWP press release ~ PCS press release ~ Green Paper: In Work, Better Off: next steps to full employment ~ David Freud's report: Reducing Dependency, Increasing Opportunity: options for the future of welfare to work ~ Peter Hain's Statement to Parliament ~ Local Employment Partnerships ~ New Deal ~ Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) ~ Working for children ~ DWP - Delivering on Child Poverty: what would it take? ~ JRF: What will it take to end child poverty? Firing on all cylinders

: Fire, wind, or water, some preparations are common to all - The Buncefield Major Incident Investigation Board has recently published its 6th report, covering emergency preparedness for, response to and recovery from a major industrial incident. The report's starting point is for operators to reassess the major hazard potential of their sites:

* Prior to Buncefield, violent explosions & fires engulfing many tanks were not judged as being credible events

* Subsequent recommendations call for adequate preparations to contain a developing incident on the site and prevent it becoming a major incident.

The greater part of the report deals with a major incident affecting the local area. It recommends a consistent approach in government for specified ministers to have responsibility for firstly the emergency phase and secondly, the recovery phase
It calls for special status (and central funding) for areas affected by a major incident and suggests this should begin without delay in the Buncefield area. The issue of managing the recovery of devastated communities back to social normality has become increasingly important over the lifetime of the Board.

Press release ~ Report on Emergency Preparedness and Response ~ Buncefield Investigation website ~ Interim Report ~ HSC ~ Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 ~ Environment Agency in England and Wales (EA) ~ Scottish Environment Protection Agency in Scotland ~ HSE – Chemical industries website ~ HSE – COMAH website ~ BBC NEWS - How Buncefield fire unfolded ~ HPA: The Public Health Impact of the Buncefield Oil Depot Fire ~ UK Resilience - Buncefield fuel depot fire

: Too many people able to say ‘In my day’ - The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) has published the 2007 State of the Countryside report giving the latest definitive picture of rural England, which shows there are now nearly 400,000 fewer young people aged 15-29 in rural areas than just twenty years ago. This trend is set against a rising rural population overall and has contributed significantly to a rural demographic, which is both older & ageing faster than urban areas.
The report also shows:

that rural areas experienced over 200% growth in the number of migrant workers in the last three years

that just 44% of households in sparse isolated rural areas are within easy reach of a GP

a near doubling of energy crops in the last year

that due to the changing climate there are now nearly 400 vineyards in England & Wales

The number of older people in rural areas is increasing markedly with the net result that the average age is nearly six years higher than in urban areas. This is pointing towards a demographic divide between rural & urban areas and is putting a severe strain on the viability of rural services, such as schools, the provision of youth services, healthcare and housing.

In terms of the wider picture the report continues to highlight critical challenges for Government - such as the provision of youth services, changing land use, climate change, affordable housing and the availability of services.

Press release ~ CRC: State of the Countryside report 2007 ~ CRC - State of the Countryside Updates ~ Affordable Rural Housing Commission: CRC taking forward the recommendations ~ Affordable Rural Housing Commission ~ Defra – Affordable Rural Housing ~ NERC Act 2006 ~ 'Strengthening the role of local councillors' ~ Cash purchases of housing stock ~ Defra – Rural Affairs ~ Affordable Rural Housing website~ Planning for Sustainable Communities in Rural Areas ~ Rural Strategy 2004 ~CRC research - Calculating housing needs in rural England

: Cost effective, but does it make it vulnerable to attack? - The changes to how the MoD maintains & repairs Harrier and Tornado aircraft have reduced costs by a total of £1.4bn over the last six years and availability targets for both the Harrier are now being met.

Whereas previously all repairs had been carried out across multiple sites, the MoD has rationalised how it repairs & maintains its jets and created a two pronged approach of 'forward repair' - operational maintenance & minor repairs to the jets; and 'depth repairs' - where more significant work is needed.

Forward repairs are now conducted at each operational squadron and depth repairs are conducted at a single location - RAF Marham for Tornado aircraft and RAF Cottesmore for Harrier aircraft. Upgrade work has been integrated within the depth repair process, in particular for the Harrier which is undergoing a major upgrade from the GR7 to GR9 standard:

* To do this the MoD has applied new techniques, including introducing pulse lines - similar to a production line used in the motor car industry

* These bring significant benefits, including greater productivity with fewer man-hours and less workspace & spares holdings

Press release ~ Transforming logistics support for fast jets ~ Executive Summary ~ MoD ~ Harrier ~ Tornado ~ MoD Maintenance Approved Organization Scheme (MAOS) ~ DARA

: Faith should be part of everyone’s education - An overwhelming number of students & staff think that colleges should provide for people’s faith and belief needs according to the findings of a national enquiry into opportunities for spiritual and moral development in further education, undertaken by the National Ecumenical Agency in Further Education (NEAFE) and the Faiths in Further Education Forum (FiFEF).

A full report on the enquiry, "Making space for faith: values, beliefs and faiths in the learning and skills sector", has been published by the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) and NEAFE and offers a number of recommendations for the government, agencies, colleges, learning providers, churches and faith communities.

The purpose of the enquiry was to build up a picture of the role of the sector in enabling all members of society, irrespective of age, gender, ethnic background, values, beliefs and faiths, to engage with one another in shaping a positive approach to 21st-century pluralism.

73% of the staffed surveyed thought that legal entitlement to spiritual, moral, social and cultural development provided for learners in school sixth forms through the 1944 Education Act should be extended to cover students and trainees over the age of 16 in the learning & skills sector.

NEAFE and FiFEF are in the process of forming a single new body, the National Councils of Faiths and Beliefs in FE (launching in 2008) to reflect the changing needs of the sector & society in relation to social integration & community cohesion and the critical role that colleges play in working with faith and belief groups.

Press release ~ Making space for faith: values, beliefs and faiths in the learning and skills sector ~ National Ecumenical Agency in Further Education (NEAFE) ~ Faiths in Further Education Forum (FiFEF) ~ NEAFE – Related documents ~ Centre for Excellence ~ Quality Improvement Agency (QIA) ~ Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances ~ Faith & Public Policy Forum - King's College London ~ ESRC – Faith-based voluntary action ~ VS Magazine article – Beyond Belief ~ Article: Soul Providers

Home Office
: Report a crime if you can find a police officer - A new era of simple, accessible local crime information for all is at the heart of the Government's new crime strategy. From July 2008, everyone will have access to a straightforward, street-by-street ‘story of crime’ in their area from local police crime data posted on the Internet.

The strategy, Cutting Crime: a new partnership 2008-11, also claims to signal a ‘renewed focus on tackling serious violence, whilst maintaining a tight grip on anti-social behaviour’.

Other key elements of the strategy include:

* Less top-down Government

* A new target based on public confidence to encourage Designing out crime

* A new Design & Technology Alliance to raise the profile of how good design can tackle crime

* A focus on young people

* A streamlined approach to policy delivery across Whitehall will be overseen by a newly created National Crime Reduction Board

Press release ~ 'Cutting Crime - a new partnership' ~ Design Council evidence booklet ~ Beatcrime ~ Youth Justice Board ~ Ten years of criminal justice under Labour: An independent audit(2.3Mb) ~ Centre for Crime and Justice Studies ~ Home Office Crime Statistics ~ Crime Reduction Website~ National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) ~ Home Office Counting Rules ~ Crime Statistics for England and Wales ~ British Crime Survey ~ Crime Reduction Initiatives

: You can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink! - The Government has unveiled new plans to help over 4m adults learn new skills & improve existing ones over the next three years in an attempt to make Britain's workforce one of the most skilled in the world by 2020.

World Class Skills, published in response to the Leitch review of skills, will introduce new legislation to strengthen the current funding entitlement for adults to training in basic literacy & numeracy, giving adults a legal right to free training.

It will also create Skills Accounts, giving people greater choice over their learning. The Accounts will be available to help eligible benefit claimants to access training that will support their return to work and a new adult careers service will offer tailored employment & skills advice that better meets the needs of low-skilled and unemployed adults.

For employers, benefits will include a new Commission for Employment and Skills and reformed Sector Skills Councils to give employers the opportunity to exert influence over both the content & delivery of skills and employment programmes.

DIUS press release ~ LLUK press release ~ World Class Skills: Implementing the Leitch Review of Skills in England ~ Leitch Review of Skills ~ Green Paper: In Work, Better Off: next steps to full employment ~ FE: Raising skills improving life chances ~ In Our Hands ~ Learning & Skills Council (LSC) ~ Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK)

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