General Reports and Other Publications

CAB: Con merchants & rogue traders have never had it so good, according to a report out from Citizens Advice - Desperate times, desperate consumers. The national charity says current economic conditions have paved the way for an unprecedented boom in scams that exploit people's need to save money on bills, increase their income and find work and affordable housing.
 
More people out of work combined with changes to the benefits system mean that more people are vulnerable to scams that seem to offer work or jobs training.  CAB evidence suggests unscrupulous employers are taking advantage of people’s desperate search for work, often advertising fake ‘jobs’ in local Jobcentres or on the internet that require fees to be paid in advance but leave people without work.
Press release & links
 
NAO: The Comptroller & Auditor General has qualified his audit opinion on the 2009-10 accounts of the Equality and Human Rights Commission owing to irregular expenditure in a number of areas.
Press release & links
 
OfstedAlternative provision outside school, which is used to prevent exclusion and re-engage students in their education, should be better monitored by schools & pupil referral units so it can be used more effectively, according to an Ofsted report published last week.
 
The report, ‘Alternative provision’, finds that in many cases staff visit infrequently or sometimes not at all to check on children’s progress.  Often students spend much of their week away from school attending alternative, off-site provision.  But there are currently very limited safeguards to ensure such provision is of good quality.
Press release & links
 
EHRC: A review of research evidence commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission indicates there are different perceptions about the legal protections for religion or belief and about the level of discrimination towards different religions or beliefs.
 
Evidence in the report shows that people’s understanding of their rights around religion or belief is not always matched by recent changes to equality law.  The Commission is concerned that this could be preventing people from using their rights.
Press release & links
 
ScotGov: A review of Gaelic education by HMIE has found that ‘Scotland has the potential to be an international model of best practice in the promotion of a minority language education’

Gaelic Education: Building on the Successes, Addressing the Barriers also states that Curriculum for Excellence presents new & exciting opportunities for Gaelic education, as well as highlighting some areas for improvement.
Press release & links ~ Gaelic Education: Building on the successes, addressing the barriers
 
DECC: New figures released recently reveal that nearly half of Britain’s homes do not have adequate basic insulation and are throwing away at least £100 in wasted energy payments every year. The latest lagging statistics show that only 57% of Britain’s lofts have been properly insulated and only 58% of cavity walls have been filled.  Insulating lofts & cavity walls cuts down on energy leakage and therefore reduces energy bills.
Press release & links
 
EHRC: Older people’s basic human rights are being overlooked in the provision of care at home, according to emerging findings released recently by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Commission is conducting a major inquiry into home care, which is investigating how well the home based care & support system in England is protecting the rights of people over 65.  The full report will be published in November 2011.
Press release & links
 
ScotGov: Parents have offered Scotland's schools a number of suggestions on how handbooks could be improved as part of the first national consultation into such materials. Handbooks are still seen as a valuable & trusted source of information, and parents are largely happy with what's available.
Press release & links
 
NAO: The National Audit Office has highlighted risks to value for money associated with the Department of Health's programme aimed at enabling its staff to take the lead in leaving the NHS - or 'spinning out' - to set up health social enterprises.  These are independent bodies delivering services, previously provided in-house, under contract to Primary Care Trusts.
Press release & links
 
PC&PE: The Government should withdraw its controversial proposals to modernise the Coastguard Service, says the influential cross-party Transport Committee.  Serious concerns were raised that the safety of people at sea, on cliffs & beaches will be jeopardised if the proposals proceed in their current form.  Ministers must issue revised proposals for further consultation.
 
A drastic reduction in the number of rescue co-ordination centres will result in a loss of local knowledge amongst coastguard officers who are responsible for taking calls from people and vessels in distress.  The committee is not convinced by the Government's claim that technology can, at present, replace such local knowledge. 
 
The committee also strongly condemns the Government's cost-cutting decision to withdraw funding for the 4 Emergency Towing Vessels (ETVs) stationed around the UK coast - large tugs that intercept disabled ships to prevent environmental pollution disasters.
Press release & links ~ PCS union comment ~ ScotGov comment
 
Ofsted: An Ofsted report launched last week, picking out the lessons learned from School Sport Partnerships, says ‘schools should build strong partnerships with sports clubs, community groups and other local organisations to stimulate participation & competition in the variety of PE & sports on offer and engage children at risk of adopting unhealthy lifestyles’.
 
The report - School Sport Partnerships: A survey of good practice - shows that by offering a wide range of activities, from boxing to basketball, to fencing & dance, schools raise participation and competition in sport.  It shows that collaborative planning can increase the capacity of schools to improve PE & sport.  Inspectors also found effective use of the 2012 Olympics boosted pupils’ interest in learning and academic achievement.
Press release & links
 
FSA: New research, published by the Food Standards Agency, provides insights on how people with life-threatening nut allergies use food labels when choosing what food to buy & eat.  The research will be used to help produce clearer allergy information for consumers.
Press release & links
 
DfE: The panel reviewing the testing, assessment & accountability system at the end of primary school has published its final report. Education Secretary, Michael Gove, set up the review last year.  He said external accountability at Key Stage 2 was vital because it was shown to drive up standards, but agreed the current system was flawed and could be improved.
Press release & links
 
IFS: The Equalities Act 2010 places an obligation on the government to give 'due consideration' to the effects of its policies on gender inequalities.  The Institute for Fiscal Studies was asked by the Fawcett society to consider ways in which their tax & benefit microsimulation model, TAXBEN (which IFS use for their distributional analysis of tax & benefit changes after each Budget) could be used as part of an assessment of the separate impact of Budget measures on men & women.  IFS have now published some simple analysis that does this.
Press release & links
 
AUK: New research by Age UK shows that cheques are particularly important to older people with 73% of them using them as a means of payment, while 63% of cheque users of all ages agree that they would find it a problem if they were no longer available. The report concludes that payment is an essential service like the utilities such as energy or telecoms.
Press release & links
 
NAO: The Department for Work and Pensions will have to make rapid progress in reorganising the way it operates if it is to meet its target of achieving sustainable running cost reductions of £2.7bn, while implementing substantial welfare reforms and a £17bn reduction in benefits & pensions by 2014-15, according to the National Audit Office
 
The Department has the largest annual expenditure of any central government department and so its cost reductions will be central to the Government’s meeting its priority objective of reducing the budget deficit.
Press release & links ~ RCPAC report: Reducing the costs in the Benefits System ~ Uncorrected Oral Evidence: Reducing the costs in the Benefits System
 
PC&PE: The Education Select Committee says it ‘cannot support’ 6-week flagship programme in current form as costs may exceed entire public spending on youth services. Instead, the Committee calls for the NCS to be retained but become a form of accreditation for existing schemes which meet the Government’s objectives.
 
The hard hitting report criticises the Government’s ‘regrettable’ failure yet to outline a youth policy or strategic vision for the sector.  It says that youth services are suffering ‘disproportionate’ cuts and that the Government should be prepared to take action to ensure that local authorities meet their statutory obligations.
Press release & links
 
PC&PESouth Sudan needs the EU to invest time, finance & practical resources if it is to become a viable state following its declaration of independence on 9 July say the Lords EU Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee, following an inquiry into the EU’s role there.
 
The Committee concludes that there is a ‘high risk’ that South Sudan will fail as a state.  Its report calls on the EU to prioritise joining together with the United Nations, African Union and United States to resolve the most urgent issues threatening South Sudan’s stability in order to avoid this.  

South Sudan is a test case for the new European External Action Service and the EU needs to act faster if it is to be successful, starting by getting an effective Head of Delegation in place in Juba as soon as possible.
Press release & links
 
NOLocal Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, has issued a report criticising the way Peterborough City Council and Lincolnshire County Council dealt with allegations made by a foster child against her foster carer’s daughters.  The foster carer complained that the investigation was badly managed and unnecessarily protracted.
Press release & links
 
ESRC: The regulation of personal data varies hugely across countries & sectors, research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) reveals. The study examined privacy regulations in 4 countries (the UK, US, Germany & Sweden) across 3 different areas:
* the use of Closed Circuit TV cameras in public places
* RFI Technology chips in consumer goods, such as electronic toll collection tags
* the introduction of biometric features in passports and identity cards
Press release & links
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