DWP: EU helps fund UK skills development and removal of barriers to work - The European Commission has agreed to contribute £2bn to a proposed new £4bn European Social Fund programme for England for 2007 to 2013. All regions of England will benefit from the new programme, which will fund a range of activities such as job search advice & support, confidence building, basic skills and vocational qualifications.
Target groups for the new European Social Fund programme include unemployed people, disabled people, lone parents, older workers, ethnic minorities, low skilled people and young people not in education, employment or training.
The programme will invest the £4b over seven years in two key priorities:
* extending employment opportunities by tackling barriers to work faced by people who are unemployed or disadvantaged in the labour market
* developing a skilled & adaptable workforce by training people who lack basic skills and good qualifications
The new programme will be formally launched at an event at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London on 29 October 2007. The first application rounds will take place in the autumn and new projects will start in early 2008. In the meantime, the 2000-2006 ESF programme will continue to fund project activity until the middle of 2008.
Defra / HSE: Budget cuts put before adequate biosecurity? - Defra has published reports from the Health and Safety Executive and Professor Brian Spratt, of Imperial College London, into the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Surrey.
HSE Chief Executive Geoffrey Podger said:
"This conclusion is supported by evidence of long term damage and leakage, including cracked pipes, tree roots breaching pipework, and unsealed manholes. We also believe that excessive rainfall in July may have increased the potential for virus release from the drain.
Our report shows that during the period of our investigation both human and vehicle movements at Pirbright were not adequately controlled. We conclude that failure to keep complete records was not in line with accepted practice and represents a breach in biosecurity at the site. In particular, vehicles associated with ongoing construction work had relatively unrestricted access to the site.
In our opinion, these construction activities - very near to the effluent drainage system - are likely to have caused disturbance and movement of soil in a way that contaminated some of the vehicles with the live virus. We established that some of the vehicles, probably contaminated, drove from the site along a road that passes the first infected farm.
We conclude therefore that this combination of events is the likely link between the release of the live virus from Pirbright and the first outbreak of FMD".
HSE and Defra have issued a co-ordinated safety alert to employers conducting work on pathogens in hazard groups 3 and 4 as a reminder of the measures needed to ensure primary and secondary containment.
HC: Still some cause for concern with Community Mental Health Services - Community mental health services show improvements, but concerns remain over social inclusion and access to counselling. Users of community mental health services say there have been some improvements in their care, according to a Healthcare Commission survey just published.
The relationships between service users and their psychiatrists continue to improve year-on-year. Meanwhile, a greater proportion of those with more complex mental health needs know who their care co-ordinator is and are being offered copies of their care plan.
Access to out-of-hours crisis care via telephone has improved markedly in the past year, but this still leaves almost half of service users without access to out of hours crisis care. Meanwhile, more than one in three service users who wanted counselling say they did not get it.
Also worrying was the lack of progress in helping service users access benefits or find work. Almost a third of those who would have liked help with benefits did not receive it. Likewise, only 49% of those who wanted help finding work were offered it.
Only 20% of people using mental health services reported that they were in paid work. The national employment rate for all people of working age, according to the Office of National Statistics, stands at 74%.
Furthermore, only one in two service users who wanted information on local support groups got it. Community mental health services must also address the needs of carers and those who provide support for people with on-going mental health conditions. It is therefore a concern that 40% of respondents said their relatives or carer had not received enough support from health and social services.
Scottish Government (ScotGov): What’s in a Name – a pathway to more independence? - Scottish Ministers have formally adopted the title Scottish Government to replace the term Scottish Executive as an expression of corporate identity. Signs at the six main Government buildings in Edinburgh and Glasgow have already been changed but other material such as stationery will only be changed gradually to be as cost effective as possible in the transition.
The Scottish Social Attitudes survey and a Citizens' Jury examining Executive communications have both indicated limited understanding of what the Executive does and some confusion with other government bodies, notably the Scottish Parliament but also the UK Government.
BIG: Third Sector taking over from Public Sector - Community empowerment has risen up the agenda as a programme to transfer public buildings to local organisations opened for applications last week.
The £30m Community Assets programme, funded by the Office of the Third Sector and delivered by the Big Lottery Fund, is a programme to enable third sector organisations to have greater control over the assets they use, such as community buildings. It will facilitate the transfer of genuine assets from local authorities to third sector organisations for their use as community resources.
The programme will offer grants of between £150,000 and £1m for refurbishment of local authority buildings, including community centres and other multi-purpose facilities, so they can benefit both local communities and the third sector organisations that take them on.
There will be a single bidding round for all applications, which closes on 15 November 2007.
Cabinet Office: Did the government put into practice anything it learnt from the Carlisle floods? - Sir Michael Pitt, the independent chair overseeing the government's Lessons Learned review into this summer's floods, is calling on those affected to log on to the reviews website and share their experiences.
Specific objectives for the Review include:
* understanding why the flooding was so extensive
* learning lessons on how in future we can best predict, prevent or mitigate the scale & impact of flooding
* looking at how best to co-ordinate the response to flooding in future
* establishing how the transition from response to recovery is best managed
* identifying those aspects of the response that worked well and should be promoted and reinforced
* establishing what access to support, equipment, facilities and information is needed by those involved in the response at local, regional and national levels
BERR: Can we trust the consultation process? - Last Saturday, in a series of events, Ministers canvassed the views of a demographically representative sample of 1,100 citizens simultaneously across nine UK cities to inform the decision due to be made later this year on whether it is in the public interest to give energy companies the option of building new nuclear power stations.
The Government has reached the preliminary view that new nuclear would be in the public interest because it believes it has the potential to make an important contribution to the UK's energy security and to help to reduce the amount of carbon we emit.
During the events, participants were provided with information to help them understand further the issues involved and they spent the day debating amongst themselves issues such as safety, security, waste management and the energy mix.
Participants' views were captured by facilitators who sat with them during the discussions and they were also asked a number of polling questions relating to the material presented and asked to answer these using electronic handsets.
For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
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