Policy briefing 11 April 2011
(29 March – 11 April 2011)
It has been an eventful couple of weeks in the policy world with health reforms, social mobility, and welfare-to-work all vying for attention. The Coalition Government’s ambitious plans for NHS reform contained in the Health and Social Care Bill have reached an impasse as ministers conduct a “listening exercise” with health professionals before the Bill continues its passage through Parliament.
Social mobility has also been the subject of great debate following the publication of Nick Clegg’s Social Mobility Strategy. This codifies the Government’s long-term attempt to ensure equality of opportunity for all. Somewhat inevitably, the topic of youth unemployment has dominated this debate as the strategy was released at the same time as diminishing EMA payments, continuing cuts to Connexions services, and news that college recruitment for 16- 19 year olds has fallen short of expectation.
Announcement of the successful Work Programme providers has also been a major point of debate as only two voluntary organisations were named as prime providers (CDG and Rehab Jobfit). Sir Stephen Bubb of ACEVO has penned a letter to the Government, urging the Department for Work and Pensions to release full details of the successful bids.
Skills & Workforce
A new National Minimum Wage (NMW) rate will be introduced from October 2011 following the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission. The adult rate will increase by 15p to £6.08 an hour; the rate for 18-20 year olds will increase by 6p to £4.98 an hour; the rate for 16-17 year olds will increase by 4p to £3.68 an hour; and the rate for apprentices will increase by 10p to £2.60 an hour.
The final arrangements for Minimum Contract Levels in FE have been declared by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA). A minimum contract value of £500,000 will include Adult Safeguarded Learning, European Social Fund provision, and 16-18 Apprenticeships. A briefing note is available on the SFA website which outlines the details of sub-contracting and consortia arrangements.
Match-funded grants of £1,000 are to be available for leadership and management training in SMEs with growth potential. The publicly-funded programme will include a free consultation with an expert adviser and a follow-up session to discuss the impact of the training and further skills needs. Details are available via the Business Link website.
A new £180m scheme for 16-19 year old learners will replace the £560m per year Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA). A total of £15m of this will consist of £1,200 annual bursaries for the most vulnerable, whilst the remaining £165m will be allocated on a discretionary basis by institutions to offer additional support for students struggling with the costs of participation. Transitional arrangements were also announced for students currently eligible for EMA. An eight-week consultation will run on these proposals.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has outlined the renewed remit of the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA). Following the Government’s review of arms-length bodies, the YPLA will be renamed the Education Funding Agency and will work within the Department for Education from 2012.
Lifelong Learning UK, the sector skills council for adult education has closed. UKCES is currently seeking new arrangements for work relating to careers guidance; community learning and development; and libraries, archives and information services. In the transitional period, the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) will pick up some of LLUK’s work and consult with key stakeholders.
The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) has been called upon by Government to assess the social and economic impact of informal adult and community learning. This will take place via an online survey due to run until 25 April 2011.
The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) have announced the measures that universities need to take should they choose to raise tuition fees above £6,000. This includes a more targeted approach in the distribution of bursaries and fee waivers plus the details of the new National Scholarship Programme for disadvantaged students.
A new network of partners for the Investors in People programme has been announced. Investors in People, which offers a framework for improving performance management, will be delivered by idg, EMB Excellence Ltd, Inspiring Business Performance, G4S Assessment Services, and LANTRA.
The Department of Health are currently undertaking a recruitment drive to increase the number of health visitors by 4,200. This will involve the support of education institutions, NHS Careers service, and Strategic Health Authorities in providing advice and local support.
A new strategy on social mobility has been launched by the Deputy PM, Nick Clegg. “Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers” compiles the Government’s efforts to address the unequal distribution of opportunities across the lifecycle, creating a series of indicators to be monitored by Government departments. The strategy heralds the creation of a statutory Social Mobility Commission in addition to a range of policy recommendations, several of which are aimed at improving the availability and regulation of unpaid internships.
Proposed reforms of the NHS will be held back for two months as the Government consults with key professionals and stakeholders. Following concerns among MPs and professional bodies, such as the British Medical Association, the Department of Health will launch a “listening exercise” with professions. This will cover the workings of GP commissioning, the role of Monitor in market regulation, and the closure of Primary Care Trusts. Steve Field, former chairman of the Royal College of GPs, will lead on this via the NHS Futures Forum.
It has been announced that only two voluntary organisations will be prime providers in the Government’s new welfare-to-work programme. The Careers Development Group and Rehab Job Fit (which bid in partnership with a private firm) will help deliver the programme alongside 16 private sector providers. The programme, which is worth somewhere between £3bn to £5bn, will involve a total of 289 voluntary organisations on a sub-contractual basis.
Benefit claimants will have their benefits withdrawn if they refuse or fail to complete training offered by Jobcentre Plus. The new rules will apply to people claiming Jobseekers Allowance and some claimants of Employment Support Allowance. Training offers will consist of basic skills or vocational learning where appropriate. This follows a recent DWP consultation, the findings of which may be seen here.
Public sector workers earning £21,000 or less will receive a pay increase of £250 for 2011- 12 whilst those earning over £21,000 will have their pay frozen for two years. This is expected to save £3.3 billion a year by 2014-15 and will cover teachers, prison officers, the armed forces and the NHS (excluding doctors and dentists).
Tax measures announced in this year’s budget are contained in the Finance (No.3) Bill currently going through Parliament. This includes proposals to raise the income tax personal allowance by £1,000, plans to cut corporation tax to 25% in 2012, and proposed changes to Gift Aid.
An additional £10m of funding will be allocated to social enterprises delivering healthcare services. This money will be distributed to the Social Enterprise Investment Fund which offers support for NHS staff looking to set up as independent organisations under the “Right to Provide” policy.
Serco will be responsible for managing a payment-by-results pilot based at Doncaster Prison. This will involve joint-work with Catch 22 and Turning Point to deliver significant annual savings through reduced re-offending. It will entail 10% of the contract price being withheld until the operator reduces one-year reconviction rates by 5%.
The Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will be replaced by a new system of Personal Independence Payments from 2013. Currently 3.2 million people claim DLA, 2m of which claim it indefinitely (i.e. without ongoing assessments). Whilst the benefit will remain non- means tested, the Government are seeking to reduce expenditure on it through regular reassessment. This follows extensive consultation, the findings of which can be read here.
The first 16 “pioneers” of Community Budgets have been announced by Secretary of State, Eric Pickles. Community Budgets will pool and align various national and local funding strands into a single local funding pot for tackling social problems around families with multiple needs. This will involve joint-working between council staff, local police, social services, Job centres, schools and housing groups.
Early Years is to be reformed following the recommendations of a review by Dame Clare Tickell, CEO of Action for Children. Recommendations of the review include - reducing the number of early learning goals children are assessed against; providing a summary for all parents of their child’s development; and a new expectation that early years’ professionals are educated to at least Level 3.
The Department for Education’s £125m Educational Endowment Fund for disadvantaged children will be run by a partnership of the Sutton Trust and Impetus Trust. The money will be distributed over ten years to fund projects which deliver innovative solutions to educational inequality.
A new online tool, the Innovation Launch Pad, has been launched by the Cabinet Office which will enable businesses to make recommendations on how they could deliver public services more efficiently. Businesses are being invited to submit their ideas by Friday 22nd April.
An Adult Social Care Framework has been published by the Department of Health, codifying a new approach based on quality and outcomes. This covers four separate areas - enhancing quality of life; delaying and reducing the need for care and support; ensuring that people have a positive experience of care; and safeguarding adults whose circumstances make them vulnerable. This will be followed by a Care and Support White Paper this year.
The Department for Culture, Media & Sport has released the findings of its “Taking Part” survey on public engagement with culture, leisure and sport. The report found that there was an increase in people volunteering in the arts; the proportion of people who had visited a gallery or museum increased to nearly half (47.2%); and over half (53.1%) of adults had participated in sporting activity in the previous four weeks.
The Voluntary Sector
The Arts Council has been forced to announce a 15% real-terms cut in its grants programme for frontline arts organisations. It currently funds over 800 organisations, 550 of which are charities. A detailed list of future grants may be viewed here.
“Locality”, the organisation formed from BASSAC and the Development Trusts Asssociation has been officially launched. CEO Steve Wyler announced five pledges for the organisation to follow – “to speak truth to power”; “to take on the blockers and the bureaucrats”; “to forge a big alliance”; “to build community capability”; and “to mobilise a million”.
The Communitybuilders social investment scheme will continue as a £27m endowment fund providing loans, grants and business support for community groups. The fund, previously owned by the Department for Communities and Local Government, will now be managed by the Adventure Capital Fund.
Subject to Parliamentary approval, Academies, Foundation and Voluntary schools, and Sixth Form Colleges will continue to be conferred with exempt charitable status. The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove will be responsible for their regulation, meaning that they will not be obliged to register with the Charities Commission.
The Charity Commission has published a compliance toolkit to help trustees manage risks and protect their organisation from fraud and financial crime. The guidance highlights warning signs of fraud, money laundering and other financial misconduct to which charities are vulnerable.
Three reports on social finance have just been published by NESTA. The reports all look at how financial markets can be better used to the benefit of social purposes. They cover the demand and supply of social finance; investing for the good of society; and growing the social investment market. The research was conducted with the help of New Philanthropy Capital and the Fairbanking Foundation.
Think Tanks & Research
Nearly all charity leaders (97%) expect economic conditions within the voluntary sector to worsen over the coming year according to the findings of NCVO’s Charity Forecast survey. Additionally, 66% of charities expect their expenditure to decline, 55% expect to make staff cuts, and 35% expect to decrease their service offer over the coming 12 months. These represent the most pessimistic figures since the survey began three years ago.
The Hansard Society’s annual Audit of Political Engagement has found that a rise in political interest among the public (now at a record 58%) has not been matched by a rise in voluntary activity. In the survey, only one in 10 people said they would ‘definitely’ spend time doing voluntary work in the next couple of years. Motivation to volunteer also tended to be rooted in personal self-interest, with people most likely to get involved in their local community ‘if I felt strongly about an issue’ (40%), ‘if it was relevant to me’ (33%), ‘if I had more time’ (28%), or ‘if it affected my street’ (25%).
Councils are cutting management costs whilst protecting frontline services according to a survey of finance directors by the Local Government Association. Findings of the survey included that more than half of councils are seeking to protect adult social care (57%) and children’s social care (63%) from cuts; only one in five said they were seeking to make the greatest savings from services for young people; and only 16% said they were targeting library and cultural services for the largest proportional cuts. Meanwhile, two thirds of councils (63%) said they were planning to make savings from Sure Start services.
The contribution of further education to the economy is substantial according to a recent study by BIS and Warwick Institute for Employment Research. Participants on publicly- funded post-19 qualifications (Apprenticeships, NVQs and Basic Skills) contribute an additional £75bn to the economy over their working lives. The research also found that Apprenticeships generate the most value to the economy, contributing up to £42 in value for each £1 of public investment.
BIS have published a research report exploring the impact of level 3 learning provision (A and AS levels, BTEC national diplomas and NVQs). The report found that Level 3 learning had higher value for those moving into further study than it did for those entering employment; it enabled around two-fifths of employees to achieve a promotion; and it had resulted in increased earnings for one-third of employees.