Policy briefing 21 June 2010
(8 June – 21 June 2010)
The past two weeks have seen more detail released on the nature of the forthcoming public spending cuts.
The Spending Review Framework released by George Osborne has promised to initiate a broad process of public consultation over the cuts and to assess those areas of public service delivery which may be provided by non-state organisations.
Over at BIS, Vince Cable has declared his priorities for education and skills, including a commitment to roll out Lifelong Learning Accounts. Meanwhile, further detail on the future of the RDAs is still forthcoming. Many more gaps will be addressed by the release of the Budget this afternoon.
George Osborne has outlined the details of the forthcoming Spending Review in a speech made on 8 June. The bulk of the cuts are to come through reductions in Government spending, rather than tax increases. The Chancellor has also promised to consult widely on cuts in order to help create a stronger society. A period of external engagement has been promised over August between Government, the private sector, the general public, and the voluntary sector to discuss and debate various aspects of public spending.
The Spending Review has promised a greater range of organisations to become involved in public service delivery. It asks three key questions of all government activity - Can the activity be provided by a non-state provider or by citizens? Can non-state providers be paid to carry out the activity according to the results they achieve? Can local bodies as opposed to central government provide the activity?
The Spending Review also promises to “comprehensively examine” social security, tax credits and public service pensions. These areas of departmental spending constitute £280bn a year and are due for cuts of up to 20% following the recommendations of the Spending Review Framework. The chancellor, however, has promised that reduction plans “will protect as far as possible the impact of reductions in spending on the most vulnerable in society”.
The new Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has revised previous economic growth estimates for the coming year down from the 3.25% previously predicted. According to the revised figures, growth will probably be closer to around 2%.
The Chairs of the majority of Commons select committees were elected for the first time. The elected candidates include Adrian Bailey (Business, Innovation and Skills); Graham Stuart (Education); Clive Betts (Communities and Local Government); Tim Yeo (Energy and Climate Change); Stephen Dorrell (Health); and Anne Begg (Work and Pensions).
Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude further outlined the important role to be played by the voluntary sector in his first keynote speech. Maude said that developing more focused integrated local services could unlock the potential of communities and frontline workers to design and deliver a genuinely joined up approach to multiple challenges. Maude also reaffirmed his commitment to National Centres of Community Organising to train a new generation of community organisers.
A government fund to provide grants to community groups in deprived areas of England is set to launch in December according to a structural reform plan published by the Cabinet Office. The document also says that the first money from the Big Society Bank will be available in April 2011. The Cabinet Office has also set a deadline of January 2011 to set up a joint taskforce with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, to investigate how to reduce the bureaucratic burdens on third sector organisations.
Colleges are to receive funding to improve their learning and training facilities. Around 150 colleges yet to benefit from the Government’s capital building programme will be able to bid for £225,000 under the £30m Renewal Grant. An additional £20m will also be available under the Enhanced Renewal Grant. This £50m in funding has been redirected from savings made to the Train to Gain scheme. Colleges are to submit bids based on the condition of the college and its facilities; the benefits to learners; and what it contributes to community regeneration.
Further Education Minister John Hayes outlined plans to offer colleges greater freedoms in a speech made on 17 June. New measures include allowing colleges to move money between budgets; removing the requirement for Ofsted inspections of colleges rated as outstanding; and removing the requirement for college principals to undertake the Principals Qualifying Programme. Hayes has also promised to work with the Learning and Skills Improvement Service to ensure that there are high quality development opportunities available to prepare for and carry out leadership roles in the sector.
Business Secretary Vince Cable has written a letter to the Chief Executive of the Skills Funding Agency which sets out this year’s funding priorities for further education. The priorities include: an expansion in Apprenticeships; a reduction to the number of 18-24 year olds not in employment, education or training; independent careers guidance to enable people to make better choices; the development of Lifelong Learning Accounts for learners to seek out learning opportunities; and greater participation in adult and community learning. Despite earmarked funding for apprenticeships and college building projects, however, the SFA will still be expected to deliver 11% reductions in saving costs according to the letter.
Mark Prisk, the business minister, has confirmed that no decisions have been made yet as to where the £270million of cuts to Regional Development Agencies will fall. It is believed that the southern RDAs will face the largest cuts and BIS has promised to minimise the impact on priority spending.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, has laid out where the £1.2bn of cuts to local government will fall. Nearly £50m will come from the Working Neighbourhoods Fund and £15m from the Housing and Planning Delivery Grant, while £17.5m will be cut from Local enterprise Growth Initiative Funding and £50m from the Local Authority Business Growth Initiative and £19m from the Connecting Communities fund.
The funding and powers of regional local authority leaders’ boards are to be scrapped by the Coalition Government. The boards, which had an annual budget of £16m, are to be laid off alongside the regional spatial strategies that directed transport, housing and planning powers in local authorities. The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, also announced a temporary suspension of two Homes and Communities Agency projects in Sheffield and Kent.
Michael Gove has outlined the process for allowing teachers, charities and parents to set up new schools. The Education Secretary set out the process for how groups can start new schools and published a proposal form for groups to fill out; stated the Government’s commitment to make it easier to secure residential or commercial sites to be used as schools; and a reallocation of £50 million funding to create a Standards and Diversity Fund to provide capital funding for Free Schools. Funding for Free Schools is to be a top priority for the Department in the forthcoming Spending Review.
The coalition government has decided to shelve plans to extend free school dinners to primary school pupils from low-income families. Currently the scheme ends when a family moves off benefits into low-income employment. The decision was announced in an open letter from Michael Gove to the former education secretary, Ed Balls. Gove has also sent a letter to all Directors of Childrens’ Services in the country to defend the decision.
The NHS is to make efficiency savings by tackling management costs according to the revision of the 2010/11 NHS Operating Framework. Management costs in Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities have increased by over £1bn since 2002/03, with over £220m of the increase taking place during 2009/10.
Andrew Lansley, the new Health Secretary has declared his intention to refocus the culture of the NHS to reflect outcomes rather than targets. The NHS is set to devolve power through releasing more information to patients about standards; give patients the opportunity to provide feedback in real time; focus systems on the quality, innovation, productivity and safety required to improve patient outcomes; look at the entire patient pathway from preventative health and well-being measures, through to hospital and community care; align payments to drive up the quality of care, producing a more integrated care pathway which gives hospitals responsibility for a patient’s care for 30 days after they are discharged.
3SC, a consortium owned by a dozen charitable organisations, is bidding for contracts worth £100m from the National Offender Management Service. The intention behind the bid is to extend the group’s activities beyond welfare-to-work services.
The Department for Work and Pensions has published the findings from research exploring the experiences of problem drug users in relation to claiming benefit and looking for work. The report found that drug users often had multiple problems in addition to their drug use – most commonly in the areas of housing, mental and physical health, and skills and education. The professionals interviewed cited drug treatment, advocacy, access to training, voluntary work and supportive employers as key facilitators to employment.
The Skills Funding Agency has announced the appointment of 12 organisations to deliver Next Step, a free integrated adult careers service in England from August. Next Step will make information, advice and resources available online as well as through advisers on the telephone and face to face, helping adults of all ages and at any stage in their lives, make the right choices about skills, careers and qualifications.
The entire Vetting and Barring Scheme for people working with children and vulnerable adults is to be reviewed and voluntary registration has been halted completely. Following this decision, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) has published a guide, “Safer practice, safer learning”, which sets out the principles and practice surrounding a whole organisational approach to safeguarding.
NIACE has also just published guides on teaching disabled learners and learning support for disabled learners. The guides define the skills, knowledge and understanding that staff need in order to support the skills development of disabled learners. Staff may use the guidance to identify their continuing professional development needs; plan the acquisition of new knowledge and skills; and develop existing skills to meet the needs of learners.
The Improvement and Development Agency has been working with 18 local authorities to develop a set of resources to aid community engagement and empowerment work. The resources include tailored peer support, case studies and a community of practice.
Think Tank & Research Activities
The New Economics Foundation has published a paper scrutinising the government’s Big Society agenda. The paper argues that the concept pays no attention to the economic forces which create inequality or the current structure of the UK economy which restricts the ability of certain citizens to participate fully. The capacity to participate in “Big Society” depends upon education and income, family circumstances and environment, knowledge, confidence and access to the places where decisions are taken. It also argues that businesses and charities cannot simply replace the functions of the state as they cover sectoral or specialised interests.
The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development warns that cuts to public spending will lead to around 750,000 public sector workers being made unemployed. Research by CIPD predicts that unemployment will rise to nearly 3m by 2012 and will remain at a similar level until 2015. This could lead to a higher benefits bill.
The Voluntary Sector
The 2010 Queen’s Birthday Honours list has been published with some notable voluntary sector figures included. Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of NCVO has received a knighthood in recognition of his work on behalf of the voluntary and community sector. Other sector figures to be honoured include Sylvia Wear, chief executive of disability charity RCV; Bryn and Emma Parry, co-founders of Help for Heroes; Joe McVey, chairman of the Northern Ireland Volunteer Development Agency; Ken Olisa, chairman of homelessness charity Thames Reach; Jane Hanna, director of Epilepsy Bereaved; and Sharon Palmer, chief executive of voluntary sector support body Regional Action West Midlands .
The Government is exploring plans for “Big Society” Individual Savings Accounts as a means to finance new social projects according to Lord Nat Wei, the government adviser on civil society. Lord Wei claims that although such social financial products might produce a lower rate of return than a high street Isa, the returns might be more guaranteed given the state of the financial markets.
The Young Foundation is looking for local authorities to become partners in an action research project on how social enterprise can be supported by local government. The project, funded by CLG, will involve intensive work to help local authorities to develop specific policies, programmes and activities to enhance their support of social enterprises.
Volunteering England has launched two new volunteer management initiatives funded by the Office for Civil Society. The Volunteer Management Portal draws together resources for volunteer managers to use. The Value Volunteer Management Campaign aims to increase awareness of the value and importance of investing in volunteer management.
NCVO has published new research in collaboration with the Office for National Statistics on the need to rethink the commissioning process. The research recommends that commissioning services by outcomes gives voluntary and community organisations the opportunity to demonstrate the full value they give to individuals and communities. It also ensures that hard pressed public funding is used to best effect in the wider public interest.
ACEVO have released a comprehensive report on the regulation of charitires. The report argues that as the sector increases in size and complexity, more enabling regulation will be vital for charities to meet this growing role effectively. It challenges sector leaders, regulators and other stakeholders to drive forward a more transparent, professional and enterprising sector focussed on public impact. Key recommendations include a strategic use of information filing more suited for the internet age; greater use of professional co-regulation to increase the quality of regulatory in an age of austerity; a less rigid approach to governance; and a call for the Charity Commission to shift from a “risk averse” to a “risk management” culture.
The Chief Executives of ACEVO, NAVCA and NCVO met the Tourism and Heritage minister, John Penrose over the proposals to reduce the Big Lottery Fund and redirect current money towards arts, culture and sport. The minister assured them that this would not mean a reduction in the amount of money going into the voluntary sector and was urged to consider asking all lottery distributors to report on the proportion of their income that is given to voluntary and community organisations.