Policy Statements and Initiatives

DH: Low-income families now have the choice to buy frozen fruit & vegetables as part of the Healthy Start scheme. The scheme supports over half a million pregnant women & low-income families by giving them vouchers that, until now, could only be spent on fresh fruit, vegetables and milk. 

Now they will be able to use their vouchers on products such as frozen peas, spinach, carrots or frozen berries.  Frozen products with added fat oil, salt, sugar or other ingredients such as oven chips or ready meals are excluded.
 
Parents can confidently cook with frozen fruit & vegetables because the nutritional value can be at least as good as fresh. Top celebrity chef Aldo Zilli fronts the ’New Ice Age campaign’ that encourages people to use frozen foods more in cooking and highlights their nutritional benefits.
Press release & links ~ Healthy Start ~ Results of the Healthy Start consultation ~ New Ice Age campaigns
 
DfT: Government funding of over £46m will see 542 new low carbon buses on roads across England by March 2012.  The money is part of the Government’s drive to target investment in new projects that promote green growth and encourage use of sustainable local transport. All English regions will benefit with funds which have been paid to 20 bus operators and 6 local authorities.
Press release ~ Government’s Green Bus Fund
 
HO: The first major change to reduce immigration into the UK has been delivered as the government's new annual limit comes into force. This along with changes recently introduced to the student route and plans to tackle permanent settlement will (hopefully) see net migration fall back down to the tens of thousands.
 
Under the annual limit, employers will only be able to bring 20,700 people from outside the EU to work in skilled professions under Tier Two of the system.  A further 1,000 visas will also be made available to people of 'exceptional talent' to ensure that Britain remains open to the brightest and the best.
Press release & links
 
DfT: The terms of reference for an ‘independent review of the Strategic Road Network (SRN)’ have been published and they will see the review team consider whether England's network of motorways & major A roads could be more effectively operated, maintained & enhanced.  The review will formally get underway after Easter and its findings will be reported to the Transport Secretary in October 2011.
Press release & links
 
DfE: Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, has announced a matched funding scheme to help primary schools teach systematic synthetic phonics and drive up reading standards. Primary schools will be able to claim up to £3,000, if they match that funding, to spend on materials which meet the Department for Education’s criteria for an effective phonics programme.
 
A list of approved resources – including phonics products for teachers & pupils and training for teachers – will be published by the Department by September 2011 although some products & training will be available by the end of June.  Schools will decide which of the resources will help them to deliver high-quality phonics teaching for their pupils and will be able to buy products & training with the match-funding any time up to March 2013.
 
The Government is introducing a new phonics-based screening check for six-year-olds so teachers can identify children not at the expected reading level and in need of extra support. England has slipped down the international table for reading in primary schools.  The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) of 10-year-olds saw England fall from 3rd out of 35 countries in 2001 to 15th out of 40 countriesin 2006.
Press release & links ~ Criteria for assuring high-quality phonic work
 
DH: 8 areas in England will test innovative new ways to help drug addicts recover & achieve a sustained recovery, Public Health Minister Anne Milton has announced. The areas have been selected following a competition to pilot a Payment by Results (PbR) scheme set out in the new Drugs Strategy 2010.  
 
This will mean that providers will no longer be paid simply on process activity, but on the outcomes they achieve - such as being free of dependence or back in work.  This will mean a renewed focus on giving clients the support they need to tackle the very individual problems they face in integrating more fully in society.
Press release & links
Energy Optimisation: Reducing Costs whilst Driving Sustainability