The Wired-Gov Team would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas Break and Best Wishes for the New Year.

News Alerts will continue to to be published during the Christmas Period and the next WGPlus Newsletter will be published on 11/12 January 2010.

Newswire – POIf ever there was a Department ‘Not fit for purpose’ - Parliamentary Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, has called on the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to apologise and pay compensation for the maladministration of the Single Payments Scheme (SPS) in a report laid before Parliament entitled: Cold Comfort: the Administration of the 2005 Single Payment Scheme by the Rural Payments AgencyDefra have not accepted the Ombudsman's recommendations in full.

Problems with the 2005 SPS have been in the public domain for some time.  What the Ombudsman's report adds now are her findings of what happened to individuals who sustained an injustice due to RPA's mistakes.  The report sets out the results of the Ombudsman's investigation of 2 representative complaints about the administration of the 2005 SPS by the RPA, part of Defra.
These 2 complaints are representative of 22 other complaints made about the 2005 Single Payment Scheme in England.  In the report Ms Abraham says: 'These failures of the 2005 Single Payment Scheme took a direct personal and financial toll on the two farmers whose complaints I have investigated’………… Important principles are at stake here.  My view is that an appropriate remedy should be forthcoming where injustice has been suffered as a consequence of maladministration by a public body’.

The National Audit Office has issued 3 reports on the SPS (10/06, 12/07 and 10/09).  The first report included research that revealed, among other things, that delayed payments had been a source of increased stress for 20% of the farmers surveyed.  The management of the SPS was also reviewed by the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts (12/09).

Quotes from the latest PAC press release, by Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, include:  "It (Defra) has consistently failed to spot continuing problems with this scheme for paying EU grants to farmers and to get to grips with issues previously raised by this Committee. But this lack of attention has been compounded by poor leadership and management information in the Rural Payments Agency……It is an extremely serious charge from this Committee that negligible attention has been paid to taxpayers' interests. …….

The Department is still unable to come to terms with its failure, first having confirmed the validity of the National Audit Office calculation of some £1,700 for the average cost of administering each claim and then offering an alternative cost of £700. …….The truth is that the Department has either not grasped the seriousness of what has been happening or been reluctant to face up to problems".
Press release ~ UK Parliamentary Ombudsman ~ Cold Comfort: the Administration of the 2005 Single Payment Scheme by the Rural Payments Agency ~ Summary version ~ A second progress update on the administration of the Single Payment Scheme by the Rural Payments Agency ~ Rural Payments Agency (RPA) ~ Farmers bank account details lost by Rural Payments Agency ~ Rural Payments Agency evidence session ~ PAC press release ~ PAC: A second progress update on the administration of the Single Payment Scheme by the Rural Payments Agency ~ Principles for Remedy ~ Principles of Good Complaint Handling

DCSFBut will they be able to fund the extra help? - Parents of special educational needs (SEN) pupils will get more help to get the right educational support for their children, Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools & Families, has announced.  Responding particularly to the recommendations on the SEN system in Brian Lamb’s final report on parental confidence, Ed Balls reasserted his commitment to listen to parents and provide them with the advice, information & support they need.

The Government agrees with Brian Lamb that more should be done to ensure all parents have access to services.  Ed Balls also agrees with Brian Lamb that the government needs to be more ambitious for children with SEN & disabilities.

He supports Brian Lamb’s call for a cultural shift in the way in which schools, local authorities and other professionals work with parents & children.  Brian Lamb said; ‘There needs to be a radical recasting of the relationship between parents, schools and local authorities to ensure a clearer focus on the outcomes and life chances for children with SEN and disability’.
Press release ~ Lamb Inquiry website ~ Support for special educational needs: parent partnership services and other organisations ~ Parent Partnership Network ~ Anti-Bullying Alliance

EHRCThe trouble is that the short-term will see major cuts - The Equality and Human Rights Commission with the charity Age Concern & Help the Aged have presented a report to Government & shadow ministers outlining recommendations for tackling disadvantage in later life.

New findings from the organisations’ 'Just Ageing?' research indicate that inequality in old age is the result of disadvantages that have accumulated during people’s lifetimes.  These inequalities have an impact on people’s health, income, social support & employment throughout their lives.  Inequalities add up to create huge gaps in ‘life outcomes’ in later life.

The report concludes with 8 key insights for tackling inequalities over people’s life-course, including: calling for policy makers to better consider the impact of increasing longevity on increasing inequality in society; moving away from policies that set different generations against each other; and long-term planning rather than playing to a short term agenda.
Press release ~ EHRC: Just Ageing? ~ Age Concern and Help the Aged (Age UK from Spring 2010) ~ Guidance for Occupational therapy and physical activity interventions to promote the mental wellbeing of older people in primary care and residential care ~ Inequalities in health in an ageing population, patterns, causes and consequences ~ Health, Work and Wellbeing website ~ Carol Black's review ~ Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing (July 2006 - October 2008) ~ Full of Life government campaign ~  National Evaluation of Partnerships for Older People Projects: Interim report of progress ~  Guide to making a strategic shift to prevention and early intervention ~  DH - Partnerships for Older People Projects (POPPs) ~ CSIP – POPPs

NAO:  Casting further doubt on the PBR projections - The National Audit Office has published independent reviews of value for money savings reported by the Department for Transport and the Home Office as part of their 2008-09 Annual Reports.  The DfT reported savings of £892m, of which the NAO found that (only) 43% fairly represent realised cash savings, 22% may represent realised cash savings, but with some uncertainty and (as much as) 35% may be overstated

At the Home Office, the NAO sampled £338m of £544m reported savings and found 59% of these fairly represent realised cash savings, 24% may represent realised cash savings but with some uncertainty, and the NAO has significant concerns over 17%.

These independent reviews are two of a series of reports the NAO will be producing into savings reported by departments as part of the targets set by the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.  Overall, the Government has set a target to generate annually cash-releasing savings of £35bn by 2010-11. 

The savings programme is based on the principle that the planned savings have already been removed from departments' budgets.  Departments therefore have to deliver savings to release enough cash to meet their spending plans, or reduce activity compared with the planned level. 
Press release ~ Independent Reviews of reported CSR07 Value for Money savings ~ Managing financial resources to deliver better public servicesMeasuring up: How good are the Government's data systems for monitoring performance against Public Service Agreements?

Industry News:   Effective integrated search strategies – The government claims that it is educating us so that we can ‘discover’ knowledge & information when and where we need it to live, work and function in the modern world.  However, the problem facing IT mangers is that they are being asked to maintain & provide access to an ever increasing number of databases, both within their organisation and those provided by third parties, so that their organisation can work & function effectively.
The big question is; ‘How long does it take users to find information when they don’t know where to start looking?’  The content they require may be in a Document Management System, a specific database, the library system, or within an online subscription, or a free resource. The information may even be available from multiple systems and be presented in multiple formats.
The ideal is to provide a ‘Google-like’ search facility for a one stop search solution configuring a range of connectors to the required content resources, including internal databases, intranets and online information services.
The bottom line for justifying the implementation of such a system is that; ‘Unless you can find the information you need quickly & easily, then you might as well not keep it’.  It is not just the amount of frustration that such a situation creates, but also the waste of time and the resources needed to train staff in how to search all the possible locations and even then one cannot be sure they have checked every related resource.


An example of one recent initiative is Wastenet, supported by DEFRA, a free online resource for the research community providing easy and centralised access to relevant and up-to-date information about waste and resources research.

Click here to find out more and receive your free white paper on Effective Integrated Search Strategies.


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Free White Paper - Effective Integrated Search Delivers Improved Public Services....Click for more image.
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