Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Costa Book Awards 2016 Shortlists Announced

The Costa Book Awards is the only major UK book prize that is open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland. There are five categories being judged – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children's Book - published in the last year.

This year's awards attracted 596 entries and judges on this year's panels (three per category) included writers Nicci Gerrard, Andrew O'Hagan, Mary Loudon, Matthew Dennison, poet, author and vlogger Jen Campbell and author-illustrator, Cressida Cowell.

Winners in the five categories, who each receive £5,000, will be announced on Tuesday 3rd January 2017. The overall winner of the 2016 Costa Book of the Year will receive £30,000 and will be selected and announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony in central London on Tuesday 31st January 2017.

The shortlist includes a total of 20 authors, 14 female and 6 male and the poetry shortlist is all female this year.

"I'm certain that readers of all tastes will find something to enjoy in this fantastic selection of books," commented Dominic Paul, Managing Director of Costa. "My thanks go to the category judges who read so extensively and chose so carefully, and many congratulations to the shortlisted authors. We're very proud of our heritage and connection with the Book Awards at Costa and we wish them all great success."


2016 Costa Novel Award shortlist

  • Days Without End - Sebastian Barry (Faber & Faber)
  • This Must be the Place - Maggie O'Farrell (Tinder Press)
  • The Essex Serpent - Serpent's Tail (Sarah Perry)
  • The Gustav Sonata - Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus)

2016 Costa First Novel Award shortlist

  • The Good Guy - Susan Beale (John Murray)
  • My Name is Leon - Kit de Waal (Viking)
  • The Words in My Hand - Guinevere Glasfurd (Two Roads)
  • Golden Hill - Francis Spufford (Faber & Faber)

2016 Costa Biography Award shortlist

  • Dadland: A Journey into Uncharted Territory - Keggie Carew (Chatto & Windus)
  • Elizabeth: The Forgotten - John Guy (Years Viking)
  • The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between - Hisham Matar (Viking)

2016 Costa Poetry Award shortlist

  • Sunshine - Melissa Lee-Houghton (Penned in the Margins)
  • Falling Awake - Alice Oswald (Jonathan Cape Poetry)
  • Say Something Back - Denise Riley (Picador)
  • Let Them Eat Chaos - Kate Tempest (Picador)

2016 Costa Children's Book Award shortlist

  • The Bombs That Brought Us Together - Brian Conaghan (Bloomsbury)
  • Orange Boy - Patrice Lawrence (Hodder Children's Books)
  • The Monstrous Child - Francesca Simon (Faber & Faber/Profile Books)
  • Time Travelling with a Hamster - Ross Welford (Harper Collins Children's Books)

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Free Digital Service to Help Businesses Expand into Global Markets Launched

Of the 2.5 million businesses registered in the UK, an estimated 360,000 who have an exportable product or service mistakenly believe there isn’t a global demand for it.

The government’s new digital trade hub is part of a push to help 100,000 UK businesses export by 2020, taking advantage of the global appetite for UK goods and services.

The new platform offers UK businesses secure preferential deals through the Department for International Trade to help them start exporting.  It also gives businesses access to a brand new searchable export directory to match businesses according to the worldwide demand for different UK goods and services.
The site is designed to act as a single digital destination for trade and investment, bringing together and connecting UK businesses, international buyers and international investors. Whether businesses are new, occasional or frequent exporters, they will be able to take advantage of the new suite of tools and exclusive deals on fees or commissions with some of world’s leading online marketplaces.
By registering, businesses can become part of a brand new searchable directory of UK exporters which the government will use to match their products and services with worldwide demand.
International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox said “We have always been at the forefront of the free trade-supporting countries in the EU, but despite this only around 11% of registered British businesses currently export beyond our borders. Some businesses have told us they don’t know where to start or how to make the next step onto the global marketplace. That’s why we want to support UK businesses large and small as they grow, and help them connect with global demand to fulfil our greatest economic ambitions.”
Through e-exporting alone government intends to deliver an additional 20,000 online exporters and £2 billion worth of value to the UK economy by 2020.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Kings Fund Conclude STPs Represent a Positive Step Forward for the NHS

The King’s Fund has been examining the usefulness of the government’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) for the NHS and has concluded that they offer the best hope for improving health and care services in the NHS, despite having been beset by problems so far.
STPs are currently in development in 44 areas of England but have not been fully embraced, meeting strong local criticism in the areas in which they are being developed.  Many of these criticisms are shared by the Kings Fund and have been highlighted in their report:
  • The regulatory environment, informed by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, in which collaborative working is made more difficult, due to the focus on competition, is severely hampering progress and innovative thinking.
  • Involvement of local government has been patchy.
  • There has not been enough time to adequately involve clinicians and frontline staff.
  • With huge pressure on NHS finances, some plans are being based on assumptions and projections that local leaders lack confidence in.
  • Patients and the public have been ‘largely absent’ from the process.
  • STP leads are struggling with a confused process, with unclear or changing deadlines and instructions from national NHS bodies.
  • There is a lack of governance structure or formal authority for STP leaders that has led one STP lead to describe their role as being like ‘operating in a sea of fog’.
Despite these problems, the King’s Fund urges the government and the NHS to continue to back STPs as they believe they offer the best hope for delivering long term improvement in health and social care.
The report made the following recommendations for making them work better.
  • all parts of the health and care system, as well as the public, should be involved in the plans;
  • improved governance is needed, with the role of STP leaders strengthened and clarified, and NHS regulation changed to make it easier for organisations to work collaboratively;
  • national bodies in the NHS need to ‘stress test’ STPs to ensure the assumptions behind them are credible and the proposed changes realistic.
Chris Ham, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said: ‘The introduction of STPs has been beset by problems and has been frustrating for many of those involved, but it is vital that we stick with them.  For all the difficulties over the last few months, their focus on organisations in each area working together is the right approach for improving care and meeting the needs of an ageing population. It is also clear that our health and care system is under unprecedented pressure, and if STPs do not work then there is no plan B.”

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Could You Write a Modern Version of Twas The Night Before Christmas?

Amazon has launched a competition with the aim of publishing a modern day version of Twas The Night Before Christmas for families to read this Christmas Eve. 

The winning author will win a prize package including professional illustrations of their story that could be read by millions on Christmas Eve, a £2,000 Amazon gift card and a top of the range Fire tablet.

Rules of entry are as follows:
  • All UK residents are eligible to apply
  • The story must be family-friendly and Christmas themed
  • The word limit is between 350-700 words
·         Competition closes on Sunday 27th November
Your submission will only be eligible for consideration if you include answers to the following:
  • Your full legal name
  • Age at the time of entry
  • Town of residence
  • Occupation
  •  Your inspiration to write the book
Aspiring authors can submit their stories by emailing their entries to
The winner will be announced at the beginning of December. Good luck!

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Applications Open for Chair of New Office for Students

Applications are open for the position of chair of the government’s Office for Students, a new body designed to increase competition and choice in higher education.

The Office for Students was set up in recognition of the need to reform higher education to ensure the sector fulfils its potential and maintains its global standing.

The office’s remit will combine the existing regulatory functions of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Office for Fair Access (OFFA). The Office for Students (OfS) will act as a single body to regulate the sector with a strong focus on choice and competition. This includes a renewed focus on widening participation and ensuring more students from disadvantaged backgrounds can benefit from studying at UK universities.

The OfS chair will be tasked with leading the creation of the OfS and setting out its direction in the coming years working with the executive team and the board. The chair will also take a leading role in the formation of the OfS including advising the Secretary of State on the recruitment and selection of the non-executive board and the key executive positions of chief executive and director for fair access and participation, ensuring they incorporate a range of experience noted in the bill and reflect the diversity of the sector.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said “By creating the Office for Students, we will put student choice, teaching quality and social mobility at the top of the agenda in higher education.

The role of the chair will be vital in delivering this aim and ensuring there is direct link with the sector. I look forward to working with the successful applicant on delivering these important reforms.”

The NUS has serious misgivings about the new Office for Students and has pointed out that despite the title of the department being the Office FOR Students, not one single student representative has been included on the board or the panel responsible for recruiting the chair. They are encouraging students to make their voices heard by applying for the post themselves!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Councils Planning to Use Reserves to Fund Adult Social Care Funding Gap

Research by ADASS shows that the crisis in adult social care is worsening.  Local government overspends are projected to reach almost £0.5 billion (£441million), and further residential home closures are forecast, whilst pressure continues to grow from the NHS.
The figures have been revealed in a snapshot survey of 129 of the 152 directors of adult social services in England.
The survey found that councils are considering using their reserves to plug funding gaps.  It also found that 62 per cent of councils have had residential and nursing home closures, and 57 per cent have had care providers hand back contracts in the last six months.
The closure of services and handing back of contracts has affected an estimated 10,820 people using council-funded care with some of them having to move to a new home.
Nearly four in five councils (79 per cent) have quality concerns with one or more home care and/or residential and nursing care providers (84 per cent).
The situation is made worse by pressures from the NHS. Some projected overspends, particularly the larger amounts, reflect a reduction in funding from the NHS to social care. Other results include:
  • 68 per cent of Directors having discussions about reductions to NHS-funded continuing healthcare;
  • 56 per cent reporting increased demand for healthcare activity to be undertaken by social care staff; and;
  • 51 per cent reporting increased demand from people with very high needs not being admitted to hospital.
ADASS Immediate Past President Ray James said “This survey paints a picture of adult social care verging ever nearer to a point of crisis. The funding gaps are a huge concern for the sector because the impact this is having on the lives of thousands of older and disabled people, their families and carers, is both significant and extremely worrying. 
Urgent and significant government investment is needed now to address funding for the sector, or thousands of people who rely, or hope to rely, on receiving care, will suffer as a result.”

Monday, 7 November 2016

Alternative Finance Platform Scheme to Support SMEs Launched

Research shows that 71% of businesses seeking finance only ask one lender and, if rejected for finance, many simply give up on investment rather than seek alternative options.

Last year 324,000 small and medium sized business sought a loan or overdraft, 26% of these were initially declined by their bank and only 3% of those declined were referred to other sources of help.

Under a new government scheme, the Alternative Finance Platform Scheme, small businesses struggling to access finance from big banks will be matched with alternative finance options.

9 of the UK’s biggest banks are taking part and will pass on the details of small businesses they have rejected for finance to three finance platforms - Funding Xchange, Business Finance Compared and Funding Options.
The platforms will then share these details with alternative finance providers and go on to facilitate a conversation between businesses and any provider who expresses an interest in supplying finance to them.
These new rules make it easier for businesses to access finance when they have been turned down by traditional lenders.
RBS, Lloyds, HSBC, Barclays, Santander, Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank, Bank of Ireland, Danske Bank and First Trust Bank, will all have to offer access to these finance platforms, with small business having to give their permission before their details are shared.
Speaking at the scheme’s launch Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond said “A refusal from a big bank should not be the end of the line for a small business and, thanks to the finance platforms being launched today, now it won’t be.”
Keith Morgan, CEO of the British Business Bank said “This new government initiative, supported by the British Business Bank, has the potential to make a real difference to smaller business finance markets in the UK. It gives businesses additional opportunities to secure funding, alternative providers access to a bigger market of potential clients, and major banks an extra service to offer their business clients when they cannot themselves provide finance”.

Friday, 4 November 2016

CQC Publishes Advice for Families with Relatives in Care Homes

The CQC has published information for people living in care homes, their family and friends clarifying their visiting rights and the CQC’s expectations of providers who are responsible for ensuring people are supported to maintain relationships that are important to them.

The publication of this advice follows a number of high profile cases in the media where relatives have experienced visiting restrictions, or their loved ones being forced to leave against their wishes, after raising concerns with those in charge of running care homes.

The guidance is designed to help people looking to understand their rights when a loved one moves into a care home, and to make sure providers are very clear about their obligations.

The CQC’s Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, Andrea Sutcliffe, said “Care homes are people’s homes. They, their family and friends should not live in fear of being penalised for raising concerns.
“Good providers know this and we see plenty of excellent practice where managers and staff respond to complaints positively and make sure it is as easy as possible for people to visit their loved ones in a welcoming, friendly environment.

“But we know this is not always everyone’s experience, with reports of visiting restrictions and people being forced to leave against their wishes. We also know that too many people are frightened to raise concerns because they think this is going to happen.

“We have published information to clarify people’s rights and our expectations of providers so that people living in care homes, their family and friends can be more confident that their concerns will be listened to and acted upon by providers responsible for delivering safe, compassionate and high quality care.”

To view the latest guidance click here.