ESRC: Talk about appropriate timing - With public concern over online fraud, new research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, has revealed that internet users will reveal more personal information online if they believe they can trust the organisation that requests the information. ‘Even people who have previously demonstrated a high level of caution regarding online privacy will accept losses to their privacy if they trust the recipient of their personal information’.
The project found that even those people who declared themselves unconcerned about privacy would soon become opposed to ID cards if the way that they were asked for information made them feel that their privacy was threatened.
The central issue of the project was whether websites were seen as particularly trustworthy – or untrustworthy – causing users to alter their behaviour. When a website is designed to look trustworthy, people are willing to accept privacy violations. But, the same actions by an untrustworthy site, leads to people behaving in a much more guarded manner.
Many services now require a level of online disclosure. According to this research, how a user assesses the trustworthiness of a website may have a real impact on the success of that service.
Ofsted: And the report was printed before the latest government security breach - Children and young people are worried that information on the new ContactPoint database (previously known by the working title of the 'information sharing index') that will list details about all children in England, including their age and where they live, could attract paedophiles & others that should not have access to their personal details.
They expressed concern over safety and thought that, eventually, ContactPoint would either break down or its security would be breached with serious consequences for the children listed as well as the government. The children felt that one of the big risks will be that, even with electronic security tags and passwords, some staff will pass data on to other people and that could give unauthorised outsiders access to their information.
They also felt that it might be hard to find an approved person quickly to look up information in an emergency, for example when a child might be brought into a hospital by ambulance after an accident.
Also published by the Children's Rights Director is the Children's Messages on Care report, which is a summary of key messages from children living away from home or receiving social care services.
DWP: How do they know half will fail? - A new medical test that will score a person's capability to work has been announced by Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain - as part of his drive to end sick-note Britain. The government claims that 50% of those who take the assessment will not pass it. There are currently 2.64m working age people claiming incapacity benefits, which cost the country nearly £12.5bn in 2006/7.
Called the Work Capability Assessment, the test will be introduced in October 2008 alongside the new Employment and Support Allowance and will be applicable for all those people claiming the new allowance. It will replace the current Personal Capability Assessment, which is weighted more towards a person's physical disability and bases itself around assessing people's incapability for work.
The Work Capability Assessment will look at people's physical & mental ability, such as learning disabilities and other similar conditions. It will assess what an individual can do - rather than can't do. For example you will no longer score points simply because you are unable to walk more than 400 metres.
DH: Is once a year sufficient? - Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced detailed regional funding for ‘deep cleaning’ and confirmed the date by which all NHS hospitals in England will have carried out a deep clean (by the end of March 2008). He told MPs that all Trusts will have to submit detailed deep clean plans, including costs, to their Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs).
Progress on the deep clean programme and new details on reporting were unveiled as the results of the latest Patient Environment and Action Team (PEAT) inspection were published by the National Patient Safety Agency.
DfT: And they haven’t even opened up Terminal 5 yet - Transport Secretary, Ruth Kelly, has published the consultation (closing date 27 February 2008) on increasing capacity at Heathrow Airport and urged local people & interested bodies to respond with their views. The Department for Transport is staging a series of public exhibitions in communities around Heathrow during the consultation period.
The consultation, Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport, considers whether a third runway could be built at the airport, served by a sixth terminal with access to the road and rail network, which would enable the airport to handle around 700,000 flights a year.
Also published is the report UK Air Passenger Demand and CO2 Forecasts, which explains the Department's passenger demand and CO2 forecasting methodologies and provides the latest CO2 forecasts.
MoJ: Democracy needs all the help it can get these days - A strong and effective Electoral Commission is vital to democracy, Ministers have said in response to the Committee on Standards in Public Life's eleventh report, Review of the Electoral Commission.
The Government says it will:
* Support the Commission's withdrawal from its statutory duty to encourage participation in the democratic process
* Limit the Commission's policy development role to the consideration of changes that would help it to perform its core regulatory duties
* Repeal the current provision in the Political Parties and Referendums Act (PPERA) 2000 which allows for the transfer of boundary setting to the Electoral Commission.
* Work with the Commission to determine whether it needs more powers and sanctions to become a more robust regulator
CLG: More power or just a way of shifting the blame if it goes wrong? - Local Government Minister John Healey has announced that councils and their partners are now ‘in the driving seat’ on new Local Area Agreements (LAAs) with a package of measures to give them the tools to make decisions and improve services & quality of life in their communities.
All Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) are supposed to be now agreeing which priorities they want to tackle by involving their local communities, before negotiating a maximum of 35 targets with Government (plus statutory education & childcare targets).
New guidance published this week is intended to provide the new framework for negotiating LAAs:
* An introduction to the new local performance framework: Delivering better outcomes for local people produced jointly with the LGA to provide a clear overview of purpose to all those working with LAAs and setting out their and relationship and timeline with the new national indicators and the Comprehensive Area Assessment
* Creating Strong, Safe and Prosperous Communities: draft statutory Guidance for consultation on the duties under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act - the consultation closes 12 February 2008.
* Development of the new LAA framework - The second phase of operational guidance to support the negotiation of LAAs by June 2008
CLG: But can we keep up with flow of immigrants? - Housing Minister Yvette Cooper has welcomed the publication of the Callcutt Review into delivering new housing and announced a major new drive to speed up the delivery of new greener, affordable homes for first time buyers and families, as an initial response.
Yvette Cooper gave the Government's initial response to five key areas highlighted in the Review, saying the Government would:
* Introduce a new legal definition on what constitutes a 'substantial start' by a developer to avoid major sites being held up by long delays
* Introduce new 'fast track contracts' to help speed up the development of new homes on public sector land
* Closely examine proposals for an annual independent customer satisfaction survey on new housing
* Agree a 'new industry standard' to increase transparency of developers' land holders held for future housing
* Give increased support to sustain the Government's drive to make all new homes zero carbon by 2016, through a new body to monitor and co-ordinate work on delivering the target
John Callcutt's report concludes that the housing building industry is in shape to deliver the additional 240,000 homes a year needed by 2016, and three million more homes by 2020. But the challenge will be to deliver homes where they are needed, at an affordable price and meet zero carbon targets.
NAO: Shrewd bargain or political expediency? - The NAO report to Parliament concludes that the Ministry of Defence’s privatisation of the defence technology business QinetiQ safeguarded the viability of a business of national strategic importance and generated significant proceeds for the taxpayer. However, the NAO believes the taxpayer could have received more money from the deal.
The top ten managers at QinetiQ received shares worth £107m at the time of flotation, from an investment of just over £500,000. The NAO think that the returns to management exceeded what was necessary to incentivise them. The MoD accepted the incentive scheme for this deal but was not involved in designing the scheme, nor did it seek specialist professional advice.
Minister for Defence Equipment and Support Baroness Taylor said: "We have consistently stated our view that the privatisation has been an overall success. It has delivered excellent value for money, generating more than £800 million for the taxpayer, while protecting UK defence and security interests….. As the largest shareholder it is the taxpayer who has gained the most from the increase in QinetiQ's value”.
The PCS union accused the government of selling off a valuable and strategically important public asset that had served to line the pockets of senior managers and private corporations. The union was further angered as it emerged that the senior managers who benefited from the astronomical returns through the privatisation were the people who allegedly sold the idea of privatisation to the department in the first place.
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