Policy briefing 8 April 2010
(25th March – 8th April 2010)
- Opposition policies
- Think Tank/research activities
- Voluntary bodies
Any policy activity over the past two weeks has been somewhat overshadowed by the announcement that the General Election will be held on May 6th.
There have, however, been several important occurrences for both skills and the third sector such as the final dissolution of the Learning and Skills Council and the launch of the Conservatives’ “Big Society” paper which outlines the pivotal role of community groups under a prospective Conservative government.
The Government is currently attempting to pass several bills before parliament dissolves, including a heavily stripped-down education bill and the digital economy bill.
The Government, in partnership with Business in the Community, has published an employer information pack to help employers understand the benefits of volunteering for civic roles, what is involved if their staff volunteer and how it can help their businesses.
The Cabinet Office has published a report on mutualism in which it sets out how it will encourage the development of mutuals across public services. This includes a pilot to run children’s centres as local mutual federations; a fast-track route to establish Local Management Agreements or small scale management services to run housing services; and the development of detailed proposals on mandating community governance in the Right to Request framework for NHS staff to establish social enterprises.
The final report of the Futurebuilders’ programme has been published by Sheffield Hallam University. The report found that the programme’s investments had generated social and financial returns, and that it had generated public cost savings. However, the report uncovered a frequent time-lag between organisational development and the achievement of long-term social outcomes. Policy environments and procurement markets also presented a barrier to Futurebuilders’ investments.
This year’s budget featured several announcements of relevance to the third sector. These include support for Social Impact Bond Pilots to help investment in long-term projects; a Social Investment Wholesale Bank with £75 million funding; a consultation on options to make sure retail banks provide an appropriate contribution to community lenders through regulatory action or a new community levy; a Green Investment Bank to invest in the low-carbon sector; a promise to work with charities to consider options for implementing the EU VAT cost sharing exemption; and a number of changes to the law and HMRC processes with implications for charities.
Employees will be given permission to request time to study or train following the launch of “Time to Train”, which gives workers in businesses which employ over 250 staff the legal right to request time off to undertake relevant training. The right, part of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act, will be available to all employees by April 2011 but is being introduced in phases to give small businesses the time to prepare.
The Government has accepted the recommendations from the Low Pay Commission on new National Minimum Wage rates.From October 2010, there will be an apprentice minimum wage of £2.50 per hour for apprentices who are under 19 or those that are over 19 but in the first year of their apprenticeship. There will also be transitional arrangements to ensure that apprentices currently protected by the current £95 per week minimum do not receive a lower wage.
Almost 5 million people took part in an LSC-funded Further Education course according to statistics recently published about the year 2008/9. This includes a record 239,900 Apprenticeship starts, and 143,400 Apprenticeship completions, with over a million people achieving a qualification through Train to Gain.
GO Skills, which covers the passenger transport sector; the Financial Services Skills Council; and Skills for Care and Development have all been relicensed. Meanwhile it has been announced that Government Skills, the body representing central government, is not seeking to be re-licensed as a Sector Skills Council, looking to become an internal skills body within government instead.
Figures published today show a 2% increase in the participation rate for young people. The provisional Higher Education Initial Participation Rate (HEIPR) for 2008/09 was 45%, up from the 2007/08 final figure of 43%.
The Total Place report outlines the changes to be introduced following pilots in 13 areas. The report presents a series of pledges to give greater freedom to localities under a reconfigured relationship with government. Under Total Place, high performing local authorities will be encouraged to negotiate with central government for more freedoms under a “single offer”, including a reduction of ring-fences and targets, and an “innovative policy offer” will be given to those areas which perform strongly on particular social themes. The pilots have mapped over £82 billion of public spending in their areas and estimates that achieving 2% savings across locally-controlled public spending would release more than £1.2 billion in savings.
The Government has published a report that brings together key measures of civic health in order to offer a riposte to the Conservatives’ “Broken Britain” rhetoric. The report intends to help understand the relationship between individuals and community engagement, revealing key trends to issues - such as community spirit, perceptions of crime, the third sector, and relationship with the state - over time. The report argues that most people think community spirit in England is strong, people from different backgrounds get on well together and that people have a strong sense of belonging.
A £2m DCSF-funded “Green Talent” scheme is to offer 5000 green work placements for young people aged 14-19. The programme aims to introduce young people to new opportunities in the low carbon economy, inspire them to become engaged in creating environmental solutions, and act as a means for transforming more traditional work experience to better prepare young people for 21st century jobs. The scheme will involve a two-day placement at an environmental centre followed by three days of work experience with a business.
Increased allocations will fund 55,000 more 16-18 year olds in school sixth forms and colleges in 2010/11. The £6.48bn investment includes £4.03bn for Further Education providers and £2.2bn for school sixth forms. The final £37m for Academies is still to be allocated. DCSF is also investing £780m in apprenticeships; £267m for specialist provision for 16-25 year olds with learning difficulties or disabilities; and £677m for Education Maintenance Allowance.
A universal National Care Service in England is to be launched following the publication of the Government white paper, Building the National Care Service. The Service will be launched in three stages: firstly, through reforms in the Personal Care at Home Bill; secondly, through an extension of the coverage of free care for people requiring residential care for over two years, and nationally consistent eligibility criteria; and thirdly, through the introduction of a comprehensive care service that is free at the point of access. A National Care Service Commission will also be established to advise on the fairest way to fund the service.
The Centre for Workforce Intelligence has been set up to help the NHS and social care bodies organise their workforce to deliver more productive and person-centred care. The Centre will promote best practice in workforce planning; provide research and expert advice to NHS and social care planners, clinicians and commissioners; and ensure that everyone involved in workforce planning contributes to the collection of high quality data, analysis and modelling. This follows the publication of a new national framework - Planning and Developing the NHS Workforce.
The Department of Health has issued new guidance to commissioners saying they should not operate a “preferred provider” policy in public services. The guidance contrasts with health secretary Andy Burnham’s recent announcement that the NHS should be the “preferred provider” of health services. The department’s guidance comes in three documents: Principles and Rules of Cooperation and Competition, PCT Procurement Guide for Health Services and Commercial Skills for the NHS.
Every employer should champion flexible working according to the DWP’s response to the Family Friendly Taskforce report. New Cabinet Office guidance will mean that there will be a presumption that all public sector jobs should be advertised as available for flexible or part-time working unless there is a good business case against this. The Government will also appoint a taskforce of business leaders and business organisations to champion the case for flexible working in the private sector.
Plans have been published to set out how every major department will address the challenge of climate change. The Carbon Reduction Delivery and Adaptation Plans outline each department’s commitment to minimise the damage of climate change by reducing emissions and preparing for inevitable change in the UK climate. Carbon Delivery Reduction Plans set out for each department how the aims of the department relate to climate change, the measures they will be taking to ensure delivery of emissions reductions and the indicators and milestones being used to monitor progress.
The Conservatives have announced plans for a National Citizen Service to be launched for 16 year olds. The programme, as outlined in a policy paper, is to be a two-year service delivered by charities, social enterprises, and businesses. The Service aims to promote social mixing, help the transition to adulthood and promote community engagement. The party intends to run a series of pilots of the programme in 2011 if they win the forthcoming election.
The Conservatives will review third sector capacity-building if they win the General Election. It is understood the Conservatives believe that capacity-building is still needed for the sector but the party is concerned that current capacity-building efforts are uncoordinated and inefficient, and the review would examine how to better assist front-line organisations.
The Conservatives’ recent policy document, Big Society, Not Big Government, further outlines the party’s plans for “civil society”. The Conservatives propose to set-up a Big Society Bank funded from unclaimed assets to provide finance for social enterprise; to shut down the Futurebuilders programme, redirecting the income to fund the training of 5000 community organisers; to launch an annual “Big Society Day” to celebrate the work of voluntary groups; as well as further promises to enable charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to enter public service provision.
The biennial review of JACQA, the body established to simplify the 14–19 qualifications offer, has been published. The review confirmed that the 14–19 learning offer is broad and complex, populated by a vast range of learning provision and provided by a large number of awarding organisations. The review also confirmed the commonly held view that the qualifications available for young people are not easily understood by many employers, with some qualifications not leading to useful progression or containing the broad learning and employability skills needed to prepare young people for life and work.
The number of students studying on foundation degree programmes is on track to exceed the government target of 100,000 by 2010 according to a report published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. There are 99,475 students enrolled on foundation degree programmes in 2009-10. This includes 53,750 entrants to foundation degree programmes, an increase of around 5,000 since 2008-09.
Ofqual has confirmed that 20 Functional Skills qualifications have been accredited for teaching from September 2010. Functional Skills is a new qualification launching across England this year to replace key skills. They will be for learners over 14 to develop Level 1 and 2 skills in English, Maths and ICT in order to progress onto an Apprenticeship or a Diploma. More Functional Skills qualifications will be accredited as awarding organisations submit specifications over the coming months.
The Skills Funding Agency will fund and regulate adult further education and skills in England from 1st April 2010. There will be four direct routes into training for employers and learners – Train to Gain, the National Apprenticeship Service and the Adult Advancement and Careers Service, as well as further education colleges and training organisations. The Young People’s Learning Agency will also be taking up responsibility for 16 to 19-year-old provision, working with Government and local authorities to help develop and deliver their vision and plans for young people’s learning.
Think Tank/Research Activities
The Institute for Public Policy Research has published a qualitative study for the Low Pay Commission examining variations in apprentice pay across the UK and the role of apprentice pay in young people’s decisions to undertake an apprenticeship.The report found that there was a wide variety in pay but that young people felt that it was the presence of a wage rather than the level of pay that was most important. The introduction of a minimum wage for apprentices was seen to be an effective way of encouraging demand and apprenticeship completion but could potentially discourage employer-led apprenticeships in low-pay sectors.
The Charities Aid Foundation has commissioned a study on how technology can be used to make the gift aid process more manageable. The study, which will be released this summer, is to be carried out by public policy think-tank ResPublica, and will explore the opportunities to modernize tax-effective charitable giving.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has produced a report which analyses Conservative and Liberal Democrat plans to introduce a “pupil premium” to narrow the educational attainment gap between rich and poor pupils. In The pupil premium: assessing the options, IFS researchers argue that the pupil premium is likely to lead to a modest reduction in the attainment gap between rich and poor through the direct effect of extra resources but will not, on its own, abolish the attainment gap due to a range of factors outside of schools policy.
Volunteering England and Jobcentre Plus have signed an agreement to encourage volunteering among jobseekers in England and tackle any barriers they might face to volunteering. The agreement builds on the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Volunteering, which proposed that more be done to reduce the barriers which some unemployed people face when volunteering, including not receiving enough advice about receiving benefits while volunteering.
None of the infrastructure organisations included in a recent Capacitybuilders survey about sustainability said that their future was secure beyond three years. The report, Sustainable Models of Support Services, suggests that the organisations had made “significant progress” towards sustainability by initiating measures such as selling services and wider collaboration. However, shifts in public policy and economic uncertainty cause organisations to constantly reassess needs and opportunities in relation to their services.
The Charity Commission has published guidance on how it conducts investigations and how the trustees of charities under investigation should behave after recent concerns about a lack of cooperation from trustees. The guidance will be sent to all charities that are investigated in future in order to help them understand what the processes of statutory inquiries and regulatory compliance casework involve.
The Charity Commission has published its fourth Economic Survey of Charities which gives a new perspective on the extent to which cuts in public sector spending may affect larger charities when many public service delivery contracts between charities and public sector bodies end in March 2011. The research shows that almost a quarter (24%) of charities with an income of £100,000 or more consider public sector funding to be their most important source of income and that 62% of charities have experienced a drop in income.
ACEVO has published a free guide entitled Getting Round the Table to help third sector bodies to organise roundtable meetings with public sector commissioners. It has been produced as part of their work on Capacitybuilders’ National Support Service for Income Generation and is based on the experiences of organising a range of roundtable meetings with different commissioners.
BASSAC has published Social Justice for Communities, a document that outlines a set of key challenges for policymakers. Its recommendations involve using Public Service Agreement 21 “to build more cohesive, empowered and active communities” as a catalyst for a step change in the impact of community organisations on policy; a clear link between the work of community organisations and representation on LSP Boards and greater recognition of the contribution of the sector to the Total Place learning pilots; funding streams to be broadened in focus and better resourced so that community groups can more effectively comment on government policy and practice; and local authority business plans to set out explicit objectives to involve community organisations in delivering key policy strategies.