Given the current financial climate, we will forgo the usual (inappropriate for many) New Year greetings and just say welcome back to our readers with the first newsletter of 2009. In order to keep you informed, the newsletter covers a longer period than just the normal previous week.
Cabinet Office: Super hero wants others to attain their potential - PM has launched plans for ‘building fair chances for everyone to succeed in the new economy’. The New Opportunities White Paper sets out the Government's agenda for capturing the jobs of the future and investing in families, communities & citizens throughout their lives to help them get on & ahead.
The White Paper details plans that cover the full range of government departments and is intended to offer ‘focused support for people at key stages of their lives to make the most of their potential’. Key measures cover the following areas:
* Early Years – Supporting Child Development
* World Class Schools
* Transition to work
* Getting on in work
* Supporting Families
UKSA: Still a long way to go before we believe what politicians quote - The UK Statistics Authority has published the new Code of Practice for Official Statistics following a consultation in July and September 2008. Only those sets of statistics that the Authority judges to be produced in compliance with the Code will be allowed, in future, to carry the National Statistics designation.
Alongside the Code and the formal report on the consultation exercise, the Authority is publishing a further report which lists some 340 sets of official statistics not currently designated as National Statistics. The report identifies some of these statistics that the Authority believes should be brought within the scope of the Code and assessed against it with a view to designation as National Statistics.
The Authority made critical comment before Christmas on a Home Office statement (issued on 11 December 2008) on knife crime statistics. It has now published an analysis of this case which draws out the respects in which the statement was inconsistent with the Code of Practice.
BERR: Super hero's sidekick throws even more money at the problem - Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, has unveiled a package of measures ‘designed to address the cash flow, credit and investment needs of small and medium businesses’. The support package consists of loan guarantees and a new Enterprise Fund aimed at helping companies struggling to access finance for working capital and investment. The Government measures include:
* A £10bn Working Capital Scheme, securing up to £20bn of short term bank lending to companies with a turnover of up to £500m
* An Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme, securing up to £1.3bn of additional bank loans to small firms with a turnover of up to £25m
* A £75m Capital for Enterprise Fund (£50m from Government augmented by £25m from the banks) to invest in small businesses which need equity
Lord Mandelson also confirmed the Government is discussing with trade credit insurance providers a Government scheme to help companies affected by reductions in their credit insurance. In addition, in order to help businesses identify their financial needs, the Government has launched a new ‘one stop shop’ web portal on the businesslink.gov website, will direct companies to the most appropriate form of support and help them ascertain their eligibility for a range of government support.
ESRC: Natural is better for you - Cattle and sheep grazed on natural grasslands help maintain biodiversity and produce tastier, healthier meat, according to a study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The research, part of the Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme which draws together the social and natural science, concluded that pasture-based farming is good for the environment, the consumer & the producer, but needs stronger support from British policy makers if it is to realise its full potential.
Detailed analysis of the nutritional qualities of the plant species present on the natural grasslands showed that they provided grazing animals with a richer more diverse diet than the improved pastures used for more intensive farming - and this richer diet translated into tastier meat.
Chemical analysis showed that the meat from animals with a more biodiverse diet was healthier too. Meat from wild-grazed lambs, particularly those grazed on heather, had higher levels of the natural antioxidant, vitamin E, than meat from animals grazed on improved grass land.
It also had higher levels of healthy fatty acids including the long chain omega 3 fatty acid, DHA, thought to play a key role in brain development and to protect against heart disease. In addition higher levels of the anti-carcinogenic compound, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) were found in meat from lambs grazed on moorland and Longhorn cattle grazed on unimproved pastures, than in control meat.
MO: At last - a reason to be more cheerful (at least for some) - Help is at hand for those badly affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) caused by low levels of natural light. Developing technology from the Met Office means that accurate forecasts of light levels are being used in a trial to help people with this common mental health problem during the dark winter months.
Registered patients are being invited to sign up for a pilot scheme ('Brighter Outlook') in Cornwall that will test out the new health forecasting service. Initially, the scheme will seek to evaluate the effect for the 200 people who sign up for the programme and will run from 1 February 2009, for three months. If successful, the project will be extended to a larger number of people in autumn 2009.
Participants who sign up for the scheme receive an assessment from a psychological therapist, portable light box and cognitive behavioural therapy self-help information. An email, SMS text message or an automated phone message will alert members to periods of reduced light levels, advising them to begin or continue light treatment, while making use of the self-help material. Anyone wishing to participate in this pilot can call Pauline Russell on 01208 871414.
DWP/PCS: Timing is everything and this could be the wrong time - The Government's new Welfare Reform Bill has been introduced. It is intended to build on the White Paper published in December 2008 and contains a new ‘right to control’ for disabled people, which recognises that they are the experts in their own lives. It also includes changes to provide more ‘help’ for workless parents, drug users and the long term unemployed.
The first reading of the Welfare Reform Bill in Parliament follows the publication in December of the Welfare Reform White Paper - Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming for the future - and the Welfare Reform Green Paper; No-one written off: reforming welfare to reward responsibility in July 2008.
The PCS union expressed bitter disappointment over the publication of the government's Bill, warning that the bill is the wrong legislation at the wrong time. As the recession deepens the union argued that ‘jobs not punitive sanctions’ were needed, warning that the bill would drive people into poverty and stigmatise those who needed the most help.
PCS went on to warn that the private sector had neither the skills, nor the capacity to help people back to work, maintaining that through privatisation the emphasis of the welfare state would shift to put profits before people.
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