Policy briefing 25 April 2011
(11 April – 25 April 2011)
With just three days to go before the Royal Wedding and nine days before the Alternative Vote referendum, you could be forgiven for thinking that all other policy matters have been put on temporary hiatus. The past two weeks have witnessed significant development on several fronts, however, including the announcement of a new “social responsibility deal” for councils in dealing with the voluntary sector; ongoing debate over NHS reforms; a fall in inflation; an unexpected rise in employment; and the last results from the soon to be abolished Citizenship Survey.
In addition to the above, no less a figure than the Archbishop of Canterbury has recently contributed his thoughts on how to encourage greater levels of volunteering: “What about having a new law that made all cabinet members and leaders of political parties, editors of national papers and the hundred most successful financiers in the UK spend a couple of hours every year serving dinners in a primary school on a council estate?Or cleaning bathrooms in a residential home?” We shall have to wait and see whether this recommendation makes it into the White Paper on Giving due to be published next month.
Skills & Workforce
New figures released by the Office for National Statistics have revealed a fall in unemployment of 17,000 to 2.48 million since December 2010. Worryingly, however, female unemployment rose by 14,000 over this period and the number of people unemployed for over 12 months continues to rise. Unemployment among 16-24 year olds also increased during this period (excluding those enrolled in full-time education). Meanwhile, the number of people in public sector employment decreased by 45,000 to 6.2 million and the number of people in private sector employment increased by 77,000 to nearly 23 million.
The details of the new all-ages careers service have been outlined by Skills Minister John Hayes. The new service will be available from September 2011 and will be delivered through a network of public, private and voluntary sector organisations (who will have the ability to charge for certain additional services offered). According to BIS, the indicative budget for this service is over £80 million and a new quality standard for careers advice is under development.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) have released the latest edition of their annual survey on workforce development. The survey shows that 33% of non-profits expect the amount of funding available for staff development to decrease over the coming 12 months (compared with 27% for the private sector and 78% for the public sector). Further to this, only 35% of those surveyed said that they intend to recruit more apprentices over the coming year, holding implications for the Government’s ambitious plans for growth.
A review of joint-working between the employment and skills systems has recently been published by UKCES. The review suggests four areas that deserve particular focus – coherent information on individual/employer need; fair and inclusive partnership arrangements; clear customer focus; and progression routes for individuals in work. The review also seeks to realign UKCES’ focus to a more local level and away from nationally-defined measures.
The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education have highlighted the importance of English as a Second Language (ESOL) provision. Chris Taylor, NIACE programme manager for ESOL has said that up to half of the 183,000 adults learning English faced losing their places under current proposals, leading to a detrimental effect on cultural integration. This has particular significance in light of the PM’s recent speech on immigration.
It has been announced that the Council for Administration (CfA) will be the issuing authority for all cross-sector apprenticeships. This means they will be responsible for frameworks in Business & Administration; Customer Services; Enterprise & Business Support; Human Resources & Recruitment; Industrial Relations; Leadership & Management; and Marketing & Sales.
A consultation is currently taking place on the ‘best value’ duty that governs local authorities’ engagement with community groups and their local citizens. The statutory guidance (previously 56 pages in length) will be reduced to a single page that seeks to ensure that councils avoid disproportionate funding reductions to the local voluntary sector; provide a minimum of three months notice before any significant funding announcements; and involve voluntary organisations as key partners in shaping future service delivery. The new guidance also removes the obligation for authorities to implement a “Duty to Involve” and “Duty to Prepare a Community Strategy”. The consultation will run until 14 June 2011.
The Department for Communities & Local Government has made it a requirement for all local authorities to publish details of any spending over £500 online without the need for a Freedom of Information request. Under revised accounts and audits regulation, councils will be obliged to publicly declare when and where their accounts may be accessed.
Neighbourhood planning is set to be bolstered by a new £3.2m fund being launched as part of the Localism Bill. This funding will be used to assist local groups through free advice, guidance and workshops on how the planning process operates. It will be distributed through the Prince’s Foundation, Locality, The Royal Town Planning Institute, and the National Association of Local Councils in partnership with the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
The Royal College of Nurses recently delivered an overwhelming 99% vote of no confidence for the NHS reform plans at their 2011 conference. Responding to the vote, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “It’s not that the professions aren’t keen to do it. What they are all keen to do, and particularly their representative bodies, is to make sure we get this legislation right.” Labour have also recently compiled a critical dossier on the proposed reforms, detailing possible implications in terms of EU competition law.
The forum established to explore the implications of proposed NHS reforms contains several important figures from the voluntary sector. Membership of the forum includes Sir Stephen Bubb of ACEVO, Lord Victor Adebowale of Turning Point, Paul Farmer of Mind, Thomas Hughes-Hallett of Marie Curie and several other notable figures from the sector. In addition to this, Sir Stephen Bubb will also lead a review on choice and competition within the NHS, with a report due to be published by the end of May.
The first successful bids for the Regional Growth Fund have now been announced. A total of £450m will be awarded to 50 organisations that produced viable plans for regional job creation and private sector-led growth. This includes £30m (match-funded by banks) for the Community Development Finance Association. A second round of the fund is currently open and will seek to allocate the remaining £1bn of funding.
Two consultations have been launched on the distribution of school funding by the Department for Education. The first consultation will seek to produce greater equality in the amount received by state schools with similar demographic characteristics. The second consultation will look at how funding for Academies may be simplified. Both consultations will run until 25 May 2011.
Minister for Schools Nick Gibb recently delivered challenging speeches to two of the largest teacher’s union conferences - ALP and NASUWT. In the absence of Education Secretary Michael Gove, Gibb tackled several difficult subjects, in particular that of public sector pension reform. Announcement of a new Scholarship Fund for teachers’ continuing professional development is also expected shortly according to the department.
Ofsted should be split into two separate bodies, one for education and one for children’s care, according to a recently published report by the Education Select Committee. The report argues that Ofsted has become too big to discharge its functions efficiently and alsp highlights confusion between its roles as an inspector, a regulator, and an improvement body.
Compulsory unpaid work schemes for benefit claimants have come under criticism from a recent select committee report. The proposals for Mandatory Work Activity were found to have inconsistent objectives, veering between assisting claimants to find work or punitively changing claimant’s attitudes towards work. Proper impact measurement and selection criteria for the scheme were also found to be undeveloped.
Six pilot areas have been announced by the Department of Health to explore plans for personalised services in adult social care. The pilots will take place among organisations that are led by social workers but independent of local authorities. They will be supported by £1m in funding to create a more responsive service and take increased responsibility for day-to-day management.
The public service outsourcing consultancy Tribal will sell its social housing business to rival company Capita in a deal worth nearly £16m. This follows a change of strategy by Tribal to focus on education and training services.
The Department for Culture, Media & Sport has assigned strategic responsibility for historical archives to the National Archives following the closure of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. Over the coming year, work is expected to increasingly focus on opening up public access to archives and developing online content.
Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index, has fallen from 4.4% down to 4% according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics. This is the first decline in 9 months and was largely due to a sharp drop in the price of food and drink. Whilst this is still double the Government’s 2% target, it does ease fears that the Monetary Policy Committee will raise the interest rate above 0.5% in May.
The Voluntary Sector
The Office for Civil Society has announced the recipients of £580,000 in grant funding as part of the European Year of Volunteering. The successful recipients are - Volunteering England, V (jointly with Catch 22), Age UK, and Groundwork West Midlands. A range of projects will be supported by this funding covering employer-supported volunteering programmes, volunteer management schemes, and the encouragement of volunteering among under-represented groups.
The Charities Aid Foundation has launched a new website that allows greater public access to charity data. The “Charity Trends” website uses the data registered charities provide in their Annual Returns to the Charity Commission to allow users to search for charities through several different criteria (including income, expenditure, and number of staff/volunteers). This intends to be a useful resource for local authorities, potential donors, and charities themselves.
A critical evaluation of the Compact has been published by the recently-disbanded Commission for the Compact. The study reviews the origins and effectiveness of the Compact as a policy instrument; assesses the difference it has made to the quality of relationships between the state and the voluntary sector; and considers its future prospects. The report warns that the Compact is “currently at a low ebb and is in danger of being ignored to death” and raises serious concerns about the independence of Compact Voice.
A survey of finance professionals in the voluntary sector has been published by the Charity Finance Directors’ Group (CFDG). One of the survey’s findings is that although around half of organisations in the voluntary sector have taken steps to reduce labour costs, finance and accountancy teams are less likely to have been affected. Also, although reported job satisfaction levels are relatively high among charity finance professionals, the vast majority report working unpaid overtime on a regular basis.
Cuts to funding, job losses and individual employee stress are the main worries reported by voluntary sector workers according to the latest findings of a survey being conducted by Unite the union. The survey has so far received responses from over 2,000 workers and forms part of their “Unite For Our Society” campaign.
A survey of voluntary sector social service staff in Scotland has found that employment conditions in the sector have been declining due to public spending cuts. The survey, conducted by the University of Strathclyde, found that in addition to job losses and pay freezes, cuts have been occurring to terms and conditions across the sector, including pensions and sick leave entitlement.
An archive of documents on volunteering have been donated by Volunteering England to the library of the London Schools of Economics. The archive has been compiled from all of the organisational predecessors to Volunteering England - the Consortium on Opportunities for Volunteering, the National Centre for Volunteering, Volunteer Development England and Student Volunteering England.
The Social Enterprise Coalition has published a guide for social enterprises seeking to replicate their business model. The manual features a selection of successful case studies, a simple readiness tool, a template franchise agreement and advice on how to set franchise fees.
The local infrastructure umbrella body, NAVCA have launched an introductory guide to commissioning. The guide provides an outline of commissioning, its importance for development workers, ways of supporting organisations, and ideas for working with the public sector.
Think Tanks & Research
The latest statistics on volunteering and civic participation have been released as part of the final edition of the Government-commissioned Citizenship Survey. The survey, which covers April 2010 – December 2010, revealed that only 33% of the population had engaged in civic participation in the previous 12 months and that 25% of people had volunteered at least once a month (both figures remaining remain unchanged from the previous quarter). Meanwhile, the number of people volunteering once a year fell slightly from 40% to 38%.
Income inequality in the United Kingdom is the seventh highest among economically developed countries and has been increasing at a higher-than-average rate according to a recent report on international social trends published by the OECD. Whilst poverty rates are slightly above average (11.3% compared to an OECD average of 11.1%), the change in poverty rates in the last generation has been well above average. Pro-social behaviour in the UK was found high, however, being the fifth highest among economically developed countries, with 57% of people volunteering time, giving money, and helping a stranger in the previous month (compared to an OECD average of 39%).
Since 1981 the number of centenarians living in the UK has already more quadrupled according to the Office for National Statistics. The number of people in the population aged 100 or older has increased from 2,600 to 11,600 over the past twenty years and is forecasted to reach 87,900 by mid-2034 if current demographic trends continue.
The latest figures from the British Crime Survey have been released by the Home Office, detailing broad decreases in crime rates. Recorded crime fell by 6% over the past 12 months according to the latest figures, with the largest fall reported in criminal damage, which decreased by 17%. Interviews with respondents showed that the risk of being a victim of crime has remained stable, however.