General Reports and Other Publications

NAO: A report from the National Audit Office proposes improvements which build on changes already introduced by HM Revenue & Customs to make forms & guidance easier to obtain & understand, thus helping to reduce unintentional errors by taxpayers and resulting in more accurate tax assessments.

The report highlights that HMRC could make it easier for taxpayers to find the forms & information they need, including improving the specialist help available to people with disabilities or whose first language is not English.

HM Revenue &Customs has improved its forms & guidance by introducing shorter forms for people with simple tax affairs and simplifying tax statements & other information. However, the NAO found that some guidance requires a reading age of 16 to 17 years old to understand, whereas less than half the adult population reach this level.

The NAO has launched a web-based toolkit of good practice on communicating with the public for government organisations to use when assessing their work. The toolkit draws attention to other examples from past NAO reports.

Press release ~ HM Revenue & Customs: Helping individuals understand and complete their tax forms ~ Executive Summary ~ Service transformation: A better service for citizens and businesses, a better deal for the taxpayer ~ Effective Communication with the Public: A Toolkit ~DWP - Using leaflets to communicate with the public about services and entitlements ~ Improving service quality: Action in response to the Inherited SERPS problem ~ Previous ‘communication’ reports include: Delivering Efficiently: Strengthening the links in public service delivery chains ~ Better Public Services through e-government ~ Citizen Redress: What citizens can do if things go wrong with public service ~ Good Practice in Performance Reporting in Executive Agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies ~ Dealing with the complexity of the benefits system ~ Tackling pensioner poverty: Encouraging take-up of entitlements

PCS: The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has published a highly critical response to the Freud Report on welfare reform which proposed the privatisation of employment service for the long term unemployed. The publication came on the same day as a parliamentary seminar on the topic organised by the union.

Warning of a dogmatic hostility to publicly provided services, the union maintains that the Freud Report offers little evidence of the ability of the private & voluntary sectors to outperform public sector agencies such as Jobcentre Plus in getting the long term unemployed back to work.

The union also warned that proposals for contractors to be paid by results could act as an incentive for providers to concentrate on more job ready clients, whilst ignoring those with more intractable problems.

Press release ~ PCS response to report ( .uk/shared_asp_files/GFSR.asp?NodeID=910950) ~ Freud report

ESRC: In a survey of 200 patients and their representatives, clinicians and other healthcare professionals (librarians and IT staff), Professor Ann Blandford and Professor Peter Lunt have looked at the growing need to understand how digitisation of health information will impact upon patients, staff and managers across the health service.

Findings from the project, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s E-Society Programme, show how technologies can be integrated into practice in different ways to that expected by those implementing and monitoring their use. This indicates that attention is required on areas such as:

Press release ~ Co-evolvi ng roles and technologies in the NHS: Barriers and forces for change ~ ESRC’s E-Society Programme

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