Policy Briefing 19th December 2011
(5 December – 19 December 2011)
There is little indication of the busy news cycle slowing down as the calendar year approaches its end. Over the past couple of weeks we have seen a further rise in unemployment, the publication of a Select Committee report on the political implementation of Big Society, and the release of several draft budgets for 2012/13 covering schools, local authorities, and PCTs.
The latest unemployment figures create a greater degree of urgency in terms of the successful implementation of the Work Programme. Not since 1994 has the number of unemployed people been so high, and the latest figures provide scant evidence of private sector employment picking up on losses experienced across the public sector. Further reading this month was also provided by the notoriously critical Public Administration Select Committee’s report on the Big Society. This report presents a firm challenge to the Government in terms of how they continue to implement the Big Society project, in particular calling for changes to the way the Civil Service and local authorities commission services from the voluntary sector.
Skills & Workforce
The latest labour market statistics have been released by the Office for National Statistics. These cover the three months to October 2011 and depict a 63,000 fall in employment on the previous quarter (currently 29.11 million or 75.2% of the population). In addition, the figures show that the number of people employed in the public sector fell by 67,000 whilst private sector employment increased by just 5,000. Over the period, unemployment also increased by 128,000 to reach a high of 2.64 million and the youth unemployment rate increased by a further 54,000 to reach 1.03 million (22% of all 16-24 year olds). Total pay also rose by 2.0% on the previous year (£464 per week) but fell by 0.3% over the past three months.
The Government has published a response to the recent independent review of the criminal records regime. Several of the review’s recommendations will be taken forward in the Protection of Freedoms Bill. This includes the opportunity for applicants to review and dispute any information held about them by the police prior to it being disclosed to an employer; online status checks, enabling certificates to be reused for different employers across the same sector; and substantially reducing the scope of ‘regulated activity’ from which people can be barred.
The Ministry of Justice has launched a new consultation on the future payment of fees in employment tribunals. The consultation intends to reduce the £84 million annual cost incurred by the present tribunal system and puts forward two options for consideration: (i) an initial small fee (between £150 and £250) for a claimant to begin a claim, with an additional fee if the claim goes to a hearing, with no limit to the maximum award; (ii) or a single larger initial fee with a £30,000 maximum award. The consultation will be open until 6 March 2012.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a new investigative report on the levels of bureaucracy within further education. The report estimates that FE providers spend between £250m to £300m of public funding per year on administering funding, qualification and assurance systems. It concludes that whilst changes being made by BIS and the Skills Funding Agency represent a good start they are “yet to develop a complete picture of their final operating model as a whole”. The Skills Funding Agency have responded to the report by claiming that the NAO’s estimates are “at best speculative” and “not grounded in sufficiently robust evidence to be reliable”.
A new report published by the UK Commission for Education & Skills recommends that employers should be funded directly for apprenticeships and incentivised to provide work experience placements. The report proposes a long-term shift away from qualification-based provider funding to employer-based investments and loans, creating a single market for skills development and solutions designed by employer-led partnerships which reach more people and businesses.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning has called for a Royal Society of Apprentices to be established to promote and enhance the esteem of apprenticeships. This follows the publication of the results from an inquiry into apprenticeships which found a lack of understanding and awareness of the benefits of apprenticeships among the general public and young people.
The Public Administration Select Committee has published a new report which critically evaluates implementation of the Big Society so far. This follows a series of evidence sessions held with MPs, civil servants, academics, and representatives from the voluntary sector. The report mainly explores the Government’s intention to commission a greater proportion of public services from charities and comes with two main recommendations: (i) the appointment of a single “Big Society Minister” with a cross-cutting brief for the Big Society agenda across Government; (ii) and an impact assessment, applied to every Government policy, statutory instrument, and new Bill, which asks the simple question: “what substantively will this do to build social capital, people power, and social entrepreneurs?”
The likely level of grant funding received by local authorities next year has been outlined via the publication of the draft Local Government Finance Settlement 2012-13. A total of £27.8 billion is set to be distributed in 2012/13 meaning that councils will have an average spending power of £2,186 per household. This implies an average spending cut of 3.3% per authority and follows last year’s 4.5% average reduction. Projected spending per local authority is available here and the finalised settlement will go before the House of Commons in February 2012.
The Department of Health has announced the funding allocations available for Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) over 2012-13. Total investment in local NHS services for 2012/13 will be £91.6 billion representing an increase of £2.5 billion on the previous year. Of this amount, PCTs will receive £87.5 billion and £4.1 billion will be shared between dental services, pharmaceutical services, general ophthalmic services, and to support joint working between health and social care. Allocations by individual PCT are available here.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced the levels of funding available for schools and 16-19 education provision next year. Schools budgets are due to remain unchanged but the Pupil Premium will be made available to a wider number of disadvantaged students and will double to £1.25 billion in 2012-13. The 16 – 19 education budget will also remain unchanged at £7.5 billion but will be boosted by the extra support available to tackle youth unemployment under the recently-announced Youth Contract.
A new cross-departmental strategy has been published on the participation of 16-24 year olds in education, training and work. ‘Building Engagement, Building Futures’ has been jointly published by BIS, DWP, and the Department for Education. It covers five strategic priorities - raising educational attainment in school and beyond; helping local partners provide effective and coordinated services; encouraging and incentivising employers to inspire and recruit young people; giving young people the personalised support they need to find work; and putting in place a new Youth Contract to help get young people learning or earning before long term damage is done.
Approximately £450 million of public funding has been made available for local authorities to address the range of issues relating to troubled families. A total of 12,000 such families are estimated to cost the taxpayer around £9 billion per year. The funding will support a national network of family caseworkers and will be based on results such as getting children back into school; reducing criminal and anti-social behaviour; getting parents back into work; and reducing taxpayer costs. The work will be directed by Louise Casey in the recently-created Troubled Families Team based in the Department for Communities & Local Government.
The latest figures on homelessness have been released by the Department for Communities & Local Government and Office for National Statistics. These show that 12,510 people were accepted as owed a main homelessness duty between July and September 2011 (a rise of 6% in the past year). In addition, 49,100 households were in temporary accommodation (a fall of 1 % over the past year). Greeting the news, Housing Minister Grant Shapps said: “Every council has a legal duty to ensure that eligible homeless households are not ‘roofless’, and can provide reams of free advice and information to prevent homelessness in the first place.”
Employment Minister Chris Grayling has welcomed the “robust” role being played by the voluntary sector in the Government’s flagship welfare-to-work programme. The latest projections show that over 650,000 people will be referred to the Work Programme in 2011/12 and 20% of those referred so far have received support from the voluntary sector. This follows recent concerns expressed within the sector around the involvement of voluntary organisations as sub-contractors in the Work Programme.
An independent review into the future of the British high street has been published. The review was commissioned in May and was authored by Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas. Among the review’s recommendations are discretionary business rate concessions for new local businesses (rather than charity shops); “Town Teams” to make high streets more accessible, attractive and safe; and greater support for the imaginative community use of empty properties through Community Right to Buy, Meanwhile Use and a new “Community Right to Try”. The Government will respond to the recommendations in spring 2012.
Westminster City Council has launched a consultation which seeks public views on a new model of service delivery underpinned by civic responsibility. This involves a stronger role for local residents and businesses in the management of the public realm, involving them in the delivery of services and creating a mutual sense of civic ownership. It also promises to talk to providers and community groups who are able to deliver ‘better and cheaper’ services. The consultation will run until 10th February 2012.
HM Treasury has launched a consultation on executive remuneration at major banks. The proposals would extend transparency arrangements at large banks by requiring the eight highest-paid non-board executives to disclose their remuneration arrangements. Although banks will not be expected to reveal the name or title of each executive, the proposals aim to ensure a better balance between shot-term reward and long-term risk, ensuring greater stakeholder accountability. The consultation will close on 14 February 2012.
BIS has published new guidance on community buying which intends to help groups of people to combine their buying power to purchase goods or services and get better deals from shops and other suppliers. The guidance covers the benefits of community buying; practical advice on how to get started; business planning; and marketing, legal and tax considerations. It is also accompanied by the £60,000 “Buy Better Together Challenge” fund launched in partnership with Co-ops UK for schemes that best demonstrate new and different models and which deliver real deals and social benefits for communities.
The Department for Energy & Climate Change has announced £30 million funding for community green schemes and public sector energy efficiency. This will involve £10 million to help local communities develop energy projects and £20million in loans for energy efficiency in schools, universities, hospitals, local authorities and other public sector buildings. The first part of the fund is open to applications from parish councils, voluntary associations, development trusts and faith groups.
The Voluntary Sector
The Charities Act 2011 has now received Royal Assent and will come into force in March 2012. The new Act repeals and replaces several pieces of legislation, including the Recreational Charities Act 1958, the Charities Act 1993 and many of the provisions of the Charities Act 2006. This simply consolidates existing legislation and does not affect the legal basis of existing Charity Commission guidance.
The Charity Commission has published a new three-year strategic plan covering the period up until 2015. This new plan sets out the regulator’s new vision (‘Charities you can support with confidence’) in addition to how it intends to meet its top two objectives: (i) Developing the compliance and accountability of the charity sector; (ii) Developing the self-reliance of the charity sector. This follows the Charity Commission’s extensive consultation with external stakeholders which began in October 2010.
Leadership 20:20, the network of emerging civil society leaders, have published their list of recommendations on how to support the future of leadership in the sector. The set of recommendations intend to address inequality in civil society leadership; strengthen strategic planning activities; create a sector wide professional development framework; integrate leadership and management into funding agreements; and encourage the mobility of leaders across different sectors.
Locality has announced 12 more organisations which will host Community Organisers. The hosts have been selected from a variety of locations across England and will have responsibility for recruiting, hosting and supporting the organisers while they are trained, as well as working to make the roles sustainable once they are qualified. A full list of the host organisations selected so far is available here.
The latest confidence survey of the voluntary indicates a significant degree of trepidation about possible finances in 2012. NCVO’s Charity Forecast for the final quarter of 2011 indicates that nearly two-thirds (65%) of charity leaders expect their financial situation to improve over the next twelve months, representing a rise on the previous year, and an overwhelming 94% of charity leaders expect economic conditions within the voluntary sector to be negative over the next 12 months.
Social Enterprise UK has formed a partnership with Deloitte to deliver a programme which will support up to 50 social businesses with the potential for future growth. Successful applications will receive a bespoke package of support in order to help them achieve scale and become investment ready. First-round applications are open until 28th January 2012 and finalists will be announced in March 2012.
Think Tanks & Research
The Third Sector Research Centre has published a new study which highlights the vast amount of local community activity not captured by traditional surveys of the voluntary sector. Researchers involved in the Little Big Societies study produced detailed maps of self-organised activity within two very small geographical areas of England. The purpose of the research was to ensure that those ‘below the radar’ organisations are made visible to policymakers and the public.
The Young Foundation has published the results of an action research project commissioned by the Department for Communities & Local Government. The Grown Your Own project explored how 10 local authorities could be supported to better understand and develop social enterprises in their locality. It makes several recommendations, including a range of developmental support for social enterprises as well as a more strategic leadership approach among elected members and senior managers.
The Coutts Million Pound Donors Report 2011 has recently been published. The report, produced in association with the University of Kent, records a total of £1.3 billion in philanthropic donations made in the UK over 2009/10. This represents a fall of £236 million on the previous year. Overall, around half the total value of million pound donations (48%) was ‘banked’ in foundations rather than ‘spent’ on charitable activity, meaning that more funds available for future distribution but less money been received by operational charities.
NESTA and the New Economics Foundation have published a new paper which explores different platforms for exchange and reciprocity in public services. ‘More than Money’ explores a range of instruments for civil exchange such as time banks and service credits, reward points, local currencies, and exchanges backed by local products. The report’s authors argue that such ideas have the potential to transform the way people relate to public services in the future.