Friday, 29 December 2017

Is Your Small Business Affected by the Staircase Tax?

The Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has today published draft legislation to reverse the impact of the ‘staircase tax’ which has unfairly affected many small businesses.

The publication of the new draft legislation follows a decision in the Supreme Court which has resulted in businesses who occupied more than one property in a shared building receiving a separate rates bill for each unit - dubbed the 'staircase tax'. 

The ruling overturned an established and widely understood practice where businesses occupying two adjoining floors or two rooms separated by a wall only received a single bill.

Some businesses are now paying more overall due to the loss of small business rate relief – a 
discount applied to the bills of certain businesses with a lower rateable value.

Subject to Parliamentary approval of the Bill, those businesses who have been directly impacted by the Supreme Court judgement can ask the VOA to recalculate valuations based on previous practice. 
If successful they can then have their bill recalculated and if they choose to stick with the old method of calculation, backdated. This includes those firms who lost small business rate relief.

The department will now consult with stakeholders and experts, with a view to introducing the Bill shortly. See the consultation document.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Visa Pilot Scheme for International Masters Students Extended

The Home Office has announced plans to extend the scheme which streamlines the visa application process for international Masters students wanting to study a course of 13 months or less in the UK.

The pilot scheme, previously restricted to students wanting to study at Oxford, Cambridge, Bath and Imperial College London, now includes an additional 23 universities:
  • Cardiff University
  • Goldsmiths University of London
  • Harper Adams University
  • Newcastle University
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
  • University of Bristol
  • Durham University
  • University of East Anglia
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Essex
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Glasgow
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Reading
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Wales Trinity St. David (Swansea Campus)
  • University of Warwick
  • University of York
The scheme also provides greater support for students who wish to switch to a work visa and take up a graduate role, by allowing them to remain in the UK for 6 months after they have finished their course.

The universities taking part are given responsibility for eligibility checks, meaning that students can submit fewer documents than required in the current process alongside their visa applications.

All students will continue to require Home Office security and identity checks and applicants that do not meet immigration rules will be refused.

The 23 additional universities will be able to apply the pilot to their 2018/19 intake. The universities were selected as their visa refusal rates are consistently the lowest in their area or region.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Care Homes Encouraged to Apply for Free Books as Part of World Book Night

Each year The Reading Agency host World Book Night, giving away 1000s of books to 'hard to reach/reluctant readers'.

2018's event is being held on 23 April 2018 and this year the organisers want care homes to get involved!

The varied titles, donated by publishers from Penguin Random House and Hachette to small presses Nine Arches and Cassava Republic, include a diverse selection of commercial and literary fiction, poetry, non-fiction and young adult, each selected to inspire people who don’t regularly read to pick up a book and get reading.

With 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year, The Reading Agency’s research shows that reading can increase empathy, improve relationships with others and reduce the symptoms of depression. The charity aims to harness this with several titles exploring mental health and wellbeing on the list, including:

  • Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, 
  • The Recovery Letters by Olivia Sagan & James Withey (eds.) and Open by Gemma Cairney. Other titles include British Book Awards Book of the Year 2016 
  • The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley, poetry collection 
  • Kith by Jo Bell and 
  • My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal.

The Reading Agency working with public libraries, prisons, colleges, care homes, youth centres, mental health groups and other charities to get books into the hands of new readers and organisations can apply to take part at

The books

The complete list of titles donated by publishers for World Book Night 2018:

  • Kith by Jo Bell (Nine Arches)
  • Our Summer Together by Fanny Blake (Orion)
  • Open by Gemma Cairney (Pan Macmillan)
  • Dangerous Lady by Martina Cole (Headline)
  • Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (Penguin)
  • After the Fire by Will Hill (Usborne)
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (Vintage)
  • The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley (John Murray)
  • Gilded Cage by Vic James (Pan Macmillan)
  • The Beach Wedding by Dorothy Koomson (Cornerstone)
  • Satellite by Nick Lake (Hachette Children’s)
  • Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart (Bonnier)
  • You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood (Michael Joseph)
  • Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika (Cassava Republic)
  • My Everything by Katie Marsh (Hodder)
  • One of us is Lying by Karen M McManus (Penguin Random House Children’s)
  • At My Mother’s Knee by Paul O’Grady (Transworld)
  • The Recovery Letters, Olivia Sagan & James Withey (Eds.) (Jessica Kingsley)
  • The Detective’s Daughter by Lesley Thomson (Head of Zeus)
  • My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal (Penguin)
  • What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren (Scribe)
  • Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman (Piatkus)
  • Carry on Jeeves by PG Wodehouse (Cornerstone)

Get involved

If you work for a library, prison, college, care home, youth centre or other organisation who can reach people who don’t regularly read, you can apply to receive books on behalf of your organisation to celebrate World Book Night 2018.
Apply online using the link at the bottom of this page and if successful, you will receive copies of one of the titles from the list (you can choose up to 5 when you apply). 

You should select either a small (80 copies) or large (160 copies) quantity of books.

Applications will remain open until 31 January, and successful organisations will be informed in February

Apply for your organisation to take part in World Book Night 2018

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Society of Authors Warns Against Using the Internet Archive and Open Library

The Internet Archive is a San Francisco–based nonprofit digital library filled with millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.  It seeks donations of hard-copy books from libraries and individuals and then scans, digitises, and offers them for lending and downloading without paying royalties or PLR.
The Authors Guild of America has long been complaining about their work and raised the issue once more after a large quantity of scanned books (including works still in copyright) were recently published on the Open Library website.

Owners of the website argue that the Internet Archive is simply an on-line library, individuals can download books for a period of two weeks, and when booked out, each title is no longer available to any other visitors.  However once downloaded there is nothing in the software to stop you copying the electronic document, either to keep for yourself or to share with others - the site even provides download buttons to make it easy.
The British Society of Authors is now urging writers to check whether their own books have been made available in this way, reporting breaches of copyright to the following organisations:
  • Email;
  • Notify the Authors’ Guild of America by filling out this form;
  • Their own publisher and agent, asking them to send a takedown notice (usually through the Publishers Association Portal). 
  • If you are an author and would prefer to send your own takedown notice, you can download a template for free at 

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Health Education England Launches Plan to 'Future-Proof' NHS & Care Workforce

Health Education England has published its findings after reviewing the health of recruitment in the NHS and wider care sector.

The report, produced inconjunction with NHS England, NHS Improvement, Public Health England, the Care Quality Commission, National Institute for Clinical Excellence and Department of Health, concludes that the NHS needs radical action to improve working conditions, boost training and retention and become a ‘model employer’ for staff.

The report Facing the Facts, Shaping the Future, A health and care workforce strategy for England to 2027 acts as a review, consutlation and strategy document.  It looks at the challenges faced by the health and care system, charting the growth in the NHS workforce over the last five years, considering the critical workforce challenges for the next decade, and possible solutions.

The strategy is a draft document with a number of areas now be consulted upon, the final report is due to be published next July to coincide with the NHS 70 anniversary, as the first comprehensive health and care workforce strategy in over 25 years.

If no further action is taken to reduce demand through prevention, productivity and service transformation, the NHS will need to grow by 190,000 posts by 2027 to meet demand.  Proposals for managing and meeting future demand within the strategy are built around six overarching principles:

  • securing the supply of staff to deliver high quality care;
  • training, educating and investing in the workforce to give new and current staff the professional flexibility and adaptability to meet the needs of patients;
  • providing career pathways for all staff rather than just ‘jobs’;
  • ensuring that people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to contribute to, and benefit from, healthcare;
  • ensuring that NHS in its entirety is a modern model employer with flexible working patterns, career structures, and reward mechanisms; 
  • ensuring that in the future service, financial and workforce planning are intertwined.
Professor Ian Cumming, Chief Executive, Health Education England said "Continuing with a business as usual approach to workforce planning is no longer sustainable. There needs to be a major shift in the ways we plan in order to make sure we can meet the health needs of the country’s diverse and growing population in the future.

The report tells us there are some areas of strength, 6,000 more staff working in primary care, the highest-ever number of people entering GP training in the history of the NHS. However, increasing the workforce alone is not the only answer, we need to look at ways to tackle the number of vacancies and staff leaving the profession.

This much anticipated report underlines just how big the workforce challenge is and will spark debate, rightly so. I would urge key stakeholders, including patients, service users, carers, to get involved in the consultation and let us know what you think works well or what can be done better to help inform the final workforce strategy for the NHS which will be published next summer."

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Increase in Flights to and From China Welcome Boost to Businesses Big and Small

Britain’s regions are set for an economic boost after a landmark agreement for a 50% boost in the number of flights allowed between the UK and China.

The deal allows for a huge expansion in routes from regional airports – potentially boosting local economies by hundreds of millions of pounds by opening up new business and tourism opportunities.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting the UK has rocketed during the first half of this year. Between January and June, 115,000 visits were made from China to the UK, a rise of 47% on the same period last year. Spending also increased to £231 million, up 54%.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:   "These agreements are an important part of preparing Britain for a post-Brexit world and making sure we have access to key markets in the Far East, and they come at a time when our exports are growing and we continue to attract international investment. It just underlines that Britain will do well regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

The whole government is working to secure the best possible future relationship with the EU, and great progress has been made this week, but no one should believe that Britain’s future success depends on decisions taken in Brussels."

Under the current arrangement, agreed in October 2016, a maximum of 100 passenger flights per week can operate between the UK and China.  This figure is set to increase to 150 under the terms of the new deal.

Chinese tourists are some of the UK’s highest spenders, staying longer and travelling more than visitors from other countries.

Last year, Manchester airport launched the first direct regional flight between the 2 countries, worth an estimated £250 million in economic benefits to the UK over the next decade.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

CQC Announces Eight New Local Health and Social Care System Reviews

The CQC has been asked to carry out eight new local health and social care system reviews.

These reviews, exercised under the Secretaries of State's Section 48 powers, will look specifically at how people move between health and social care, including delayed transfers of care, with a particular focus on people over 65 years old.

The areas to be reviewed are:
  • Bradford
  • Cumbria
  • Hampshire
  • Liverpool
  • Northamptonshire
  • Sheffield
  • Stockport
  • Wiltshire
David Behan, CQC Chief Executive, said: "We know there is wide variation in how health and social care systems work together, with some local systems working together effectively to ensure people get the right care, while others struggle to do so – these reviews will seek to examine why these levels of variation exist.

"Our intention is that the review findings will highlight what is working well and where there are opportunities for improving how the system works, enabling the sharing of good practice and identifying where additional support is needed to secure better outcomes for people using services."

These reviews will be carried out between February and April 2018. On completion, the findings will be reported to each local authority area’s Health and Wellbeing Board and published at

The Process

The CQC will look at how well people move through the health and social care system, and what improvements could be made. The services they will be focusing on include:
  • NHS hospitals
  • NHS community services
  • GP practices
  • Care homes
  • Residential care services
  • Ambulance services
They will be:
  • listening to older people who use services, their families, carers and communities.
  • listening to people who commission and provide health and social care for older people.
  • analysing data about the quality of care services and outcomes for people.

These reviews follow on from the previous twelve area reviews carried out by the CQC, click here to view these online.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

NUS Raises Concern Over Funding For New Career Hubs Designed to Improve Access to University

This week saw the launch of the governments new Careers Strategy, designed to make sure young people have the skills they need and employers want post-Brexit.

Every school and college in the country will aim to have a dedicated careers leader in place by the start of the new school year – backed by £4million of funding – who can give advice on the best training routes and up-to-date information on the jobs market, helping young people make decisions about their future.

The plan will also boost careers support in the areas of the country most in need, with £5million funding to create 20 careers hubs across the country that will link schools and colleges with local universities and employers to help broaden pupils’ horizons.

The Strategy – developed in partnership with the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and co-ordinated through an expanded role for the Careers and Enterprise Company – will help young people choose the career that is right for them, alongside the £500million investment in new T levels to deliver a world-class technical education system on par with the high-quality academic routes available.

Launching the strategy at the Careers Development Institute (CDI) annual conference in Birmingham, Skills Minister Anne Milton said "Without access to the best possible careers support, some people will miss out on the opportunities available.

They will continue to be held back if they don’t have the right advice, at the right time to make informed decisions about their future, or may not have access to the broader experiences and role models to help them develop as people."

Responding to this morning’s launch of the Careers Strategy NUS Vice President for Further Education, Emily Chapman, said "The Careers Strategy is welcome. For far too long, young people have been left to navigate the complicated careers landscape alone, or with minimal support. This support is often patchy across the country, with many having to rely on outdates websites and sometimes biased advice from parents and teachers. 

We are especially pleased to see that the four pillars of the strategy aim to ensure that young people have access to high quality, face-to-face, impartial CIAG. It is particularly promising to see that the strategy has been built in partnership with the Gatsby Foundation, and that it places the eight Gatsby benchmarks of Good Careers Guidance front and centre.

However, while the principles of the strategy are good, the minimal funding that has been allocated towards implementing it is deeply concerning. It is unclear how £4million will support over 500 schools to provide a dedicated careers leader, or how £5million will cover 20 new careers hubs across the country to support those most in need. Principles are a good place to start, but without proper investment and accountability, this strategy will flounder and fail.”

Thursday, 30 November 2017

CQC Raises Serious Concerns Over Care at Residential Detox Clinics

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published a briefing today (Thursday 30 November) based on inspections over the last two years of the 68 services in the independent sector that have been identified as providing residential detoxification. In it, the regulator has uncovered multiple concerns.

Many of the clinics were found to be not assessing the risks to the safety of the people within their care prior to their admission; were not following recognised national clinical guidance on how to treat people who are withdrawing from alcohol or drugs; were not storing, dispensing and handling medicines appropriately and were not carrying out full employment checks or sufficiently training their staff.

Nearly three in four (72%; 49) of the providers that CQC had inspected were found to have been failing in at least one of the fundamental standards of care that anyone should have a right receive.

The regulation on ‘safe care and treatment’ was where CQC found the most breaches: 43 providers (63%) were not meeting this particular standard at the time of their first inspection.

Examples of what CQC found on its inspections include:
  • Staff administering medication, including controlled drugs like methadone, without the appropriate training or being assessed as competent to do so.
  • Staff giving paracetamol to people within their care more frequently than every four hours despite them already having, or being at a greater risk of having, liver damage due to their heavy alcohol use.
  • Staff not having planned how they would manage a person’s epileptic fits during their withdrawal (e.g. by prescribing anti-seizure medication) despite knowing from their medical history that they were at risk of having seizures.
  • Staff lacking appropriate training in basic life support, consent and mental capacity and safeguarding.
  • Some units carrying out Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks for newly employed staff but not at routine intervals afterwards.
Four of the services are no longer operating following the concerns raised by CQC on its inspections.
Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco at Public Health England, said:  "Our evidence review of drug treatment services earlier this year found they were largely performing well. But we welcome the light this report shines on the clinical practice in some residential detox services, which were falling short of keeping those in their care safe and providing the best springboard for recovery.

"While residential detox makes up a small part of the overall treatment system, seeing about 1% of all in treatment, they do have a vital role. It’s crucial these services are in line with best practice, as the Clinical Guidelines on drug treatment clearly sets out. This helps ensure not only safety but gives some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people the best chance of getting their recovery on track.

"PHE has already been working with these services to help them improve and we will continue to provide this support."

Monday, 27 November 2017

CQC Leaves Out of Hours Service in Special Measures

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has told Nestor Primecare Services Ltd t/a Primecare – East Kent (Nestor) that it must make further improvements to its NHS 111 and GP Out of Hours services following a recent focused inspection of its services.

This inspection was to follow up progress against three Warning Notices which had been issued in May 2017, when the company was first placed into special measures. 

Nestor must make a number of improvements including:
  • ensuring care and treatment is provided in a safe way to patients.
  • introducing effective systems and processes are in place to help ensure good governance in accordance with the fundamental standards of care.
  • ensuring sufficient numbers of suitably qualified, competent, skilled and experienced persons are deployed to meet the fundamental standards of care and treatment.
Ruth Rankine, Deputy Chief Inspector of General Practice, said “I am disappointed to see that the organisation is still demonstrating that they cannot provide the service that patients need and we have issued a further two warning notices to ensure care and treatment is being provided in a safe way for service users and will continue to monitor this."

“Services need to demonstrate that they are ensuring people with the most urgent needs are prioritised at times of high demand, and to ensure that care and advice is delivered safely and effectively, and they are referred to the right service as quickly as possible when necessary."

“We will continue to work closely with our stakeholders to monitor and inspect the service to ensure that improvements are put in place."

Friday, 24 November 2017

Student Finance Reform Only Benefits the Highest Earning Graduates

In October, alongside a significant change to the threshold at which student loans are repaid, the Prime Minister Theresa May announced an inquiry into the student loan system.

The IFS was asked by Universities UK (representing Universities) to explore options for reforming the student loan system and they have now published their findings in a briefing note entitled “Options for reducing the interest rate and reintroducing maintenance grants”.

In the briefing note two options for reform to aspects of the student loan system that have been widely discussed are reviewed. The first is the high interest rates assigned to student debt - currently RPI + 3% while studying and RPI + 0-3%, depending on income, after leaving university. The second is the fact that - following the abolition of maintenance grants in 2016 - those from the poorest backgrounds currently graduate with the largest debts.

Key findings:
  • Reintroducing grants of £3,500 would increase deficit spending by around £1.7 billion, but the long-run cost is only around £350 million. This reform would reduce the debt on graduation of students from low-income backgrounds taking a three-year degree by around £11,000.
  • Reducing the interest rate doesn’t impact on up front government spending, but it does increase the long run cost of the system. 
  • Reducing interest rates only reduces the repayments of the highest earning graduates. This is because only high earning graduates end up repaying the interest on their loans. For most graduates this is written off at the end of the repayment period. The lowest earning 70% of graduates would be completely unaffected by changing the interest rate to RPI + 0% for all graduates. 
  • Despite having no impact on upfront spending, reintroducing maintenance grants would increase the deficit. Grants count towards the deficit and loans do not, even if they are not expected to be repaid. Bringing back grants similar to those in place before 2016 grants would add around £1.7 billion to the deficit per year. 
  • The long run cost of bringing back grants would be considerably lower, however. This is because a high proportion of the additional maintenance loans given to students from low-income backgrounds are not repaid anyway. The long-run cost of bringing back the pre-2016 style grants would be around £350 million a year. 
  • Reintroducing maintenance grants only reduces the repayments of graduates who grew up in low-income households who go on to have high earnings. Only the highest-earning graduates end up paying of the additional maintenance loans under the current system. The majority of those eligible for the full maintenance grant would see no change to their lifetime repayments, while those who go on to high earnings could save around £22,000 over their lifetimes. 
Chris Belfield, an author of the report, said “Some of the features of the current student loan system are clearly deeply unpopular. Bringing back maintenance grants or reducing the positive real interest rate might help to address these concerns. However, these policies would increase the long-run cost to government and predominantly benefit high-earning graduates”

Commenting on the analysis, Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "We agree with the IFS that there are ways the government could improve the current student funding system in England. While the current system has provided sustainable funding and promotes access, it needs to be better understood and needs to feel fairer to our students and their families. This analysis from the IFS provides a useful contribution to the ongoing debate.

"Students tell us that it is cash in their pockets while studying that matters most. We would like to see the government provide new investment to bring back maintenance grants aimed directly at those students who find it hardest to meet day-to-day living costs when they are studying. We also need to boost flexible learning through more government support for adults to retrain or improve their skills."

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Government Green Paper on Care for Older People Delayed Until Summer 2018

Ministers have been accused of "dragging their feet" on a promised shake-up of social care funding after First Secretary of State Damian Green quietly released a statement deferring the publication of the much anticipated green paper until summer 2018.

The paper was originally planned for the end of 2017 but the Government has stated that it needs more time to find a long-term solution, as an ageing population and increased demand heap pressure on the wider health service.

The paper will set out plans for how the government proposes to improve care and support for older people and tackle the challenge of an ageing population.

First Secretary of State and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Damian Green, said “An ageing population needs a long-term solution for care, but building a sustainable support system will require some big decisions. In developing the green paper, it is right that we take the time needed to debate the many complex issues and listen to the perspectives of experts and care users, to build consensus around reforms which can succeed.”

The government has begun a process of engagement in advance of the green paper to ensure it reflects a wide range of views and requirements, working with:
  • Caroline Abrahams – Charity Director of Age UK
  • Dame Kate Barker – former Chair of the King’s Fund Commission on the Future of Health and Social Care in England
  • Sir David Behan – Chief Executive of Care Quality Commission
  • Dr Eileen Burns – President of the British Geriatrics Society
  • Professor Paul Burstow – Chair of the Social Care Institute for Excellence
  • Jules Constantinou – President-elect of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries
  • Sir Andrew Dilnot – former Chair of the Commission on the Funding of Care and Support
  • Baroness Martha Lane Fox – Founder and Executive Chair of Doteveryone
  • Mike Parish – Chief Executive of Care UK
  • David Pearson – former President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and Corporate Director for Social Care, Health and Public Protection at Nottinghamshire County Council
  • Imelda Redmond – National Director of Healthwatch England
  • Nigel Wilson – Chief Executive of Legal and General
Once the green paper is published in summer 2018, it will be subject to a full public consultation.

In response to the announcement Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said "It is crucial that this consultation process finally results in the improved, fair and sustainable care system that is so desperately needed. In the meantime, however, it is important that action is urgently taken to ease the all too obvious funding pressures that are undermining the services on offer to older people."

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Educational Writers' Award Shortlist Announced!

The six books that have been shortlisted for the 2017 ALCS Educational Writers’ Award, this year focusing on the 5-11 age group have been announced!

Now in its tenth year, the Educational Writers’ Award was established in 2008 by the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS) and the Society of Authors (SoA) “to celebrate educational writing that inspires creativity and encourages students to read widely and build up their understanding of a subject beyond the requirements of exam specifications”. The 2016 winner was This is Not a Maths Book: A Smart Art Activity Book, written by Anna Weltman, and illustrated by Edward Cheverton and Ivan Hissey.

The winner will receive a cheque for £2,000 and will be presented with their award at the All Party Writers Group (APWG) Winter Reception at the House of Commons on Tuesday 5th December.

This year’s shortlist includes:

SECRETS OF THE SEA by Kate Baker, illustrated by Eleanor Taylor (Big Picture Press / Templar)

This lavishly illustrated, large format book takes young readers on a journey of discovery from rock pools along the shoreline, to the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean to uncover an incredible, and rarely seen world.

"Taking its readers on a diving experience to discover the wonders of the deep blue sea, this book has a well-written and accessible text which will appeal to a wide range of ages, and beautiful artwork which brings the marine world to life."

FLUTTERING MINIBEAST ADVENTURES by Jess French, illustrated by Jonathan Woodward and paper engineering by Keith Finch (Red Shed / Egmont)

Find out how caterpillars change into beautiful butterflies, pond dip for baby dragonflies, and then continue the journey with the pop and play minibeast model which awaits the reader at the end of this colourful book. Each adventure is full of facts and activities that encourage children to explore the world around them.

"A bright, inviting and informative book, clearly written without being patronising. Its magical ideas are superbly laid out, with accessible text that will appeal to younger and early readers."

GENIUS! THE MOST ASTONISHING INVENTIONS OF ALL TIME by Deborah Kespert, designed by Karen Wilks (Thames & Hudson)

From Archimedes’ machine for carrying water uphill, to Tim Berners-Lee’s creation of the World-Wide Web, here are gripping stories of brilliant brave inventors who dared think the unthinkable and do the impossible, and so helped create our 21st century world.

"Full of interesting information enlivened with beautiful photographs, drawings and paintings, this is a fascinating book which ranges across technologies and across time, with a varied approach which will appeal equally to early, and more advanced readers."

HOW TO CODE IN 10 EASY LESSONS by Sean McManus, illustrated by Venitia Dean (QED Publishing / Quarto)

Teaching young readers how to design and code their very own computer games, this book gives readers the ten essential skills to get started.

"Providing a lively way into an exciting new subject for all age groups, this book approaches complex ideas with both humour, and beautiful clarity. Full of handy tips and easy-to-understand instructions, it succeeds in making coding a fun activity for both boys and girls."

TREE OF WONDER: The Many Marvelous Lives of a Rainforest Tree by Kate Messner, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani (Chronicle Books)

Deep in the forest, in the warm-wet green, who makes their homes in the almendro tree? Count each and every creature as life multiplies again and again in this vibrant and lush book about the rainforest.

"Based on the wonderful idea that a single tree supports thousands of lives, this is an attractive and layered picture book with two kinds of text; a simple text about one kind of animal associated with the tree, with more detailed information about that animal alongside. Its brilliant use of numeracy activities, and its gorgeous illustrations will encourage lots of questions."

THE BOOK OF BEES by Wojciech Grajkowski, illustrated by Piotr Soscha and translated by Agnes Monod-Gayraud (Thames & Hudson)

Who survived being stung by 2443 bees? What does a beekeeper actually do? How do bees communicate? This epic encyclopaedic book illustrated by popular Polish cartoonist, Piotr Socha (and son of a beekeeper!) tracks bumble bees from the age of the dinosaurs to their current plight, examining the role bees have played throughout history and in the rest of the natural world.

"A beautifully and wittily illustrated compendium of information all about bees and their interconnectedness with the world. Broad in its themes and containing lots of humour, it takes in the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, entymology, botany, the Bible, design, technology and much more."

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Businesses Encouraged to Apply for Gigabit Broadband Grants

Businesses in four areas of the country are being encouraged by the government to apply for grants of up to £3000 to get gigabit broadband installed as part of a £2 million trial.

Suppliers will be offering vouchers worth between £500 and £3000 each to local businesses which can then be used to pay for the installation of gigabit speed connections. The aim of the pilots is to encourage the market to extend full fibre infrastructure in the UK by increasing demand and reducing the cost to customers.

Four areas of the UK have been selected to test the market conditions and infrastructure conditions. If successful the programme will be rolled out across the country.  The areas are:
  • Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire
  • Bristol, with Bath and North East Somerset
  • Coventry and Warwickshire
  • West Yorkshire Combined Authority (Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and York)
The many benefits of a full fibre gigabit connection include:
  • allowing businesses to upload and download massive files in a matter of seconds
  • enabling widespread use of video conferencing throughout an organisation
  • providing an unprecedented level of reliability whilst greatly enhancing resilience
  • future proofing - making sure that businesses have the technology in place to deal with the ever-increasing demands for internet speed and connectivity
  • allowing businesses in remote communities to compete on a technologically level playing field with those companies based in major cities who may already have full fibre connectivity
For more information on the scheme, visit

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Innovative Learning, Development and Communication Strategy Key to GP Practice Outstanding Rating from CQC

Following an inspection in August 2017 The Care Quality Commission has found the quality of care provided by Chorley Surgery to be Outstanding.

Inspectors rated the practice as Outstanding for effectiveness and well-led and Good for safety, caring and responsiveness.

The practice was commended on:
  • The surgery's bimonthly staff news bulletin, used as part of the practice’s learning, development and communication strategy. It provides comprehensive information for staff about the significant events, complaints and patients feedback received in the preceding two months and the changes implemented as a result of these.
  • The partnership and management team's structure.  With distinct roles and responsibilities, utilising the experience and skills of each member to the full. As a result of this structure, all business and clinical matters were delivered effectively at the practice.
  • Its clearly defined and embedded systems for the reporting and recording significant events. Significant events were investigated and learning outcomes are shared with the practice team to enhance the delivery of safe care to patients.
  • Mechanisums for gathering feedback from patients, with an active patient participation group, which influenced practice development. 
  • Its strong focus on continuous learning and improvement at all levels.
CQC’s Deputy Chief Inspector of General Practice in the North, Alison Holbourn, said "“This is an innovative and collaborative practice that has done some outstanding work in partnership with other GP practices. There is a strong commitment to patient centred care. The practice has initiated a range of quality improvement projects for both their own patient population and within a locality of 50000 patients. These included working with the local authority, paramedics, and the Lancashire Wellbeing Services to provide a Primary Care User Support team (PCUST) to identify patients who frequently need to use primary care services to provide them with a personalised care and support programme."

“Additionally, the practice provided clinical support and treatment to their own patients with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes (including complex cases) and the patients of the five GP practices they worked collaboratively with. The initial impact of the service enabled patients to be seen quickly within a three to four week wait at the diabetic hub as opposed to the secondary care waiting list of 20 weeks or more."

“Staff worked with other health care professionals to understand and meet the range and complexity of patients’ needs. For example following a request from the practice the palliative care team now held regularly palliative care clinics at the practice. The practice demonstrated a wider community focus and provided services on site that could be accessed by patients who were registered at one of the five other practices."

A full report of the inspection has been published on the CQC's website.

Friday, 3 November 2017

5 Very Different Writers Shortlisted for Young Writer of the Year 2017

The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award, in association with the University of Warwick, rewards the best work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by a British or Irish author aged between 18 and 35. 

This year five distinctive writers, instead of the usual four, have been shortlisted and the list includes three novels, a collection of short stories and a biography.

The Shortlisted Authors

  • Minoo Dinshaw - Outlandish Knight – The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman (Allen Lane).
    A biography of a great and strange British historian.
  • Claire North - The End of the Day (Orbit)
    A novel of life, death and everything in between.
  • Julianne Pachico - The Lucky Ones (Faber & Faber)
    A debut collection of stories, mostly set in Columbia, brings together the fate of guerrilla soldiers, rich kids rabbits and drug dealers.
  • Sally Rooney - Conversations with Friends (Faber & Faber)
    An intimate story of high-risk relationships, youth and love.
  • Sara Taylor - The Lauras (Windmill)
    The Lauras explores identity and relationships set against a rolling backdrop of the North American landscape.
This year the prize is being judged by the award-winning novelist and political commentator Elif Shafak and the acclaimed cultural historian and biographer Lucy Hughes-Hallett alongside The Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate. 

Commenting on the shortlist Elif Shafak said "Our wonderful shortlist celebrates the depth and breadth of literature today, reflecting a striking diversity of styles, interests, genres and backgrounds. True, only one of these authors will win the prize in the end, but each of the five shortlisted books has already won our hearts, and we are confident that they will similarly win the hearts of readers worldwide."

£5,000 is given to the overall winner together with a bespoke 10-week residency at the University of Warwick and £400 to each of the four runners-up together with a year-round programme of on-campus and digital support for award alumni on this year’s shortlist.

To celebrate the partnership, the University of Warwick is holding a free one-day festival of events and workshops, bringing together inspirational thinkers, authors, journalists and performers: freeflow will take place on Wednesday, 29 November. More information can be found at 

You can keep up to date with the award and join the conversation, via: |

Monday, 30 October 2017

SMEs Call on the Chancellor to Improve Digital and Road Connectivity in the Budget

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is urging the Chancellor to deliver promised improvements to digital and road connectivity while removing barriers for small housebuilders at his Autumn Budget.

House Building

As part of its Autumn Budget submission, the FSB has put forward a series of recommendations aimed at boosting output among smaller housebuilders in England. They include reforming the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), increasing public sector provision of small development sites and simplifying the planning system.

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said “Given we have a chronic housing shortage, it’s extremely disappointing to see small developers stifled by a complex planning regime, soaring business costs and restricted access to smaller sites. What’s more, small construction firms bear the brunt of our late payments crisis.

The Digital Economy

They have also pressed the government for details of plans to fulfil promises made to give access to broadband to all by 2020.

Commenting on the report Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “The UK has slower download speeds than Romania, Bulgaria and Thailand. We welcome the Government’s commitment to an ambitious industrial strategy. But clearly we’re not going to have an economy of highly-paid, highly-productive workers when a significant proportion of businesses can’t even access the internet.

“We need to see a plan setting out exactly how UK broadband will improve as soon as possible. Doing so will give some measure of confidence to businesses, especially those in rural areas where connectivity is typically poorest. Small firms and the self-employed in rural areas must not be left behind – or indeed face any hidden broadband fees."

The Road Network

In July, the Government put forward the Major Road Network (MRN) initiative, which would see substantially increased investment in routes under local authority control across England. The FSB is calling on the Chancellor to show support for delivery of the MRN at the Budget.

Mike Cherry added: “Achieving a game-changing productivity boost will only happen through incremental gains among the smaller firms that make up 99 per cent of our business community.

“What we hear from small firms is that roads, and local roads in particular, really matter when it comes to mobilising goods, services and staff. The Government has pledged significant investment in roads outside of motorways – it’s now time for them to deliver. The Transport Secretary’s £345 million commitment last week marks a welcome step forward, but there’s far more work to be done."

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Have Your Say on CQC Regulatory Fee Levels for 2018/19

The CQC is seeking views on new proposals for how its fees will be calculated for regulated providers of health and adult social care in 2018/19.

Over the last two years the CQC has been working towards ‘full chargeable cost recovery’ for most providers, including NHS trusts, care homes, general practices and dental services, fulfilling the government’s commitment to reduce grant-in-aid funding to public regulatory bodies.

The exception has been providers of community adult social care (which includes care in people’s own homes). The CQC's new consultation sets out the third year (of four) towards ‘full cost recovery’ for this sector.

In addition to considering the appropriate way to increase fees to providers of community adult social care, the CQC's proposals also look at the structure of the overall fee scheme, to ensure that fees are charged and distributed proportionately. The options being consulted on over the next three months could result in changes to what individual providers and services in three sectors are required to pay:

  • For NHS trusts, by moving away from the current fee bandings, the proposals could see 75% of individual trusts paying reduced fees and the largest 25% seeing an increase.
  • For NHS general practices, the proposals could see fees being calculated by registered patients (list sizes) rather than number of ‘registered locations’. Broadly, NHS general practice providers that have a below average list size could pay a lower fee, while those with a higher list size could pay a higher fee.
  • Community adult social care providers could see around 70% of (mainly smaller) providers paying lower fees and around 30% higher fees.

The consultation will run until midday on Thursday 18 January 2018.

Find out more and have your say by clicking here.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Unpaid internships are damaging to social mobility

New poll reveals that the majority of the UK public support a legal ban on unpaid internships and unpaid work experience lasting more than 4 weeks.

An overwhelming majority of the UK public support the introduction of a legal ban on unpaid internships lasting 4 weeks or more.

New polling data released by the Social Mobility Commission, found that 72% of the public back a change in the law - with 42% ‘strongly supporting’ a ban.

The survey also reveals that 80% of people want companies to be required to openly advertise internships and work experience opportunities, rather than organise them informally.

YouGov polling of nearly 5,000 people has been released ahead of the second reading of Lord Holmes of Richmond’s Private Members’ Bill in the House of Lords on Friday 27 October, which proposes a ban on unpaid work experience or internships lasting more 4 weeks.

The Social Mobility Commission, an independent public body which monitors progress towards improving social mobility, has repeatedly called for a ban in its successive State of the Nation reports to Parliament.

Many interns fall under the definition of ‘worker’ under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and are already legally entitled to be paid the national minimum/living wage. But the law, as it stands, is not being enforced effectively. A lack of clarity means many companies exploit the loophole or are unaware of the legal requirements to pay interns.

A broad consensus of support for a ban has emerged in recent years:
  • the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility called for a ban on unpaid internships over 4 weeks after hearing evidence on barriers to social mobility.
  • in April, the Institute for Public Policy Research published a report which provided new evidence that internships have increased to around 70,000 a year and also recommended a ban after 4 weeks. Many times this number - up to half - are locked out of these opportunities because they are unpaid and/or restricted to networks.
  • leading businesses and trade bodies support a 4-week limit. The Institute of Student Employers, Arts Council, UK Music, Creative Skillset, The Royal Institute of British Architects, Business in the Community, Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion and Trust for London all oppose long-term unpaid internships.
  • The Matthew Taylor review into employment practices recently concluded: “It is clear to us that unpaid internships are an abuse of power by employers and extremely damaging to social mobility.”
  • A 4-week limit is supported by two-thirds of businesses, with only 1-in-8 opposing the legislation (YouGov 2014).
The Rt Hon Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said "Unpaid internships are a modern scandal which must end. Internships are the new rung on the career ladder. They have become a route to a good professional job. But access to them tends to depend on who, not what you know and young people from low-income backgrounds are excluded because they are unpaid. They miss out on a great career opportunity and employers miss out from a wider pool of talent. Unpaid internships are damaging for social mobility. It is time to consign them to history."

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endownment Foundation, said "Unpaid internships are a major obstacle to social mobility. Our research has shown that it costs an intern with no roots in the capital approximately £1,000 a month to live there. Unpaid internships prevent young people from low- and moderate-income backgrounds from getting into some of the most competitive sectors like the media, city and the arts.

It is no surprise that a majority of the public want to see an end to them. We welcome the commission’s call to ban unpaid internships that last for more than 4 weeks. There also needs to be greater transparency in recruiting for these positions, so that young people without professional networks are not at a disadvantage."

Friday, 13 October 2017

CQC Reports That Hospices are Leading the Way in Providing Outstanding Care

Hospice care across England has the highest percentage of services rated ‘Outstanding’, according to a new report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The State of Hospice Services in England, 2014 to 2017 published during Hospice Care Week and ahead of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day tomorrow (Saturday 14 October) has found that 25% of hospices are rated as Outstanding (51 services), with a further 70% (142 services) being rated as Good. This is in comparison to around 6% of NHS acute hospitals, 4% of GP services and 2% of domiciliary care agencies, nursing homes and residential homes being rated Outstanding.

In particular, inspectors found that hospice leaders and frontline staff displayed a strong commitment to providing truly person-centred, compassionate care and support to people using their services, and their loved ones, as well as developing strong relationships with other services in the area.

Services rated as Outstanding were found to be striving to overcome inequalities and share their expertise to drive better care in other services.  For example, inspectors found that St Ann’s Hospice in Salford has engaged with its local transgender community to help understand their specific anxieties and concerns as well as operating an ‘Exchange Programme’ with its local NHS Foundation Trust so nurses from both can spend time in the other’s setting and expand their skills. Also, Dorothy House Hospice Care near Bath runs a dedicated partnership project to support homeless people at the end of life and worked with Royal United Hospital on projects to support people to leave hospital more quickly, if the hospice could offer them care away from the acute setting.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission, said: “People often access hospice care at a time when their complicated health and social care needs have to be met alongside compassionate emotional support. This is not a simple thing to do.

“It was clear from our inspections that the vast majority of hospices have the needs of people and their families at the centre of their work. It is particularly encouraging to see services committed to continuing improvement reach out to groups they had little contact with in the past to understand the obstacles they have faced and how they can support them better now and in the future.

“To see dedicated staff have such careful consideration of the whole person and their needs was a privilege for inspectors and something I would encourage other services to learn from.”

Thursday, 12 October 2017

London Urgent Care Centre Placed into Special Measures by the CQC

An urgent care centre at St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, north-west London, has been rated Inadequate overall and placed into Special Measures by the Care Quality Commission.

St Mary’s Urgent Care Centre, located within St Mary's Hospital, which is run by Vocare Limited, was rated Inadequate for being safe, effective and well-led. It was rated Requires Improvement for being caring and Good for being responsive to people’s needs, after the inspection in July 2017.
  • Opportunities to prevent or minimise harm were missed as there was insufficient oversight and monitoring of ongoing incidents and risks both at local and organisational level.
  • There was insufficient attention to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.
  • The provider had insufficient assurances in place to demonstrate that people received effective care.
Areas where inspectors found Vocare must make improvements include:
  • Ensuring care and treatment is provided in a safe way to patients.
  • Introducing effective methods to achieve good governance - in accordance with the requirements of the fundamental standards of care.
  • Ensuring sufficient numbers of suitably qualified, competent, skilled and experienced persons are deployed to meet the fundamental standards of care and treatment.
  • Ensuring staff receive the appropriate support, training, professional development, supervision and appraisal necessary to enable them to carry out the duties.
Areas where the provider should make improvements include:
  • Reviewing the fire evacuation procedure to ensure all staff understand what to do in the event of a fire.
  • Reviewing auditory privacy at all points of patient access to the service.
  • Reviewing how patients with a hearing impairment would access the service.
  • Considering providing patient literature in languages aligned to people using the service.
Michele Golden, Head of General Practice Inspection in London, said “We found there had been a lack of clear management and clinical leadership and staff had not felt supported in their day-to-day roles at Vocare Limited’s St Mary’s Urgent Care Centre."

“CQC is placing this service in special measures. Services placed in special measures will be inspected again within six months. If insufficient improvements have been made, we will take action in line with our enforcement procedures to begin the process of preventing the provider from operating the service."

“However, staff did say that communication and engagement had improved since an interim management team had been in place. On the day of the inspection we observed members of staff were courteous and helpful to patients and treated them with dignity and respect.”

Monday, 9 October 2017

QAA Takes Actions Against Essay Mills Helping Students Cheat

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), responsible for safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education, has turned its attention to Essay Mills and students caught cheating.

Following QAA's investigation into essay mills last year, universities minister Jo Johnson MP asked QAA to work on measures to combat so-called 'contract cheating', where students pay a company or individual to produce work they then pass off as their own.

The QAA has launched new guidance setting out best practice around promoting academic integrity in higher education, through tackling students' use of third parties' services in order to cheat. It covers the use of essay mills and other forms of contract cheating. The guidance outlines the issues and sets out the steps providers can take to deal with them.

The new guidance recommends:
  • clear information for students on the risks of cheating, including academic misconduct being reported to relevant professional bodies
  • support for students to develop independent study skills, including academic writing
  • using a range of assessment methods to limit opportunities for cheating
  • blocking essay mill sites and taking action against essay mill advertising on campus
  • smarter detection, including new software and greater familiarity with students' personal styles and capabilities
  • appropriate support for whistleblowing - to protect accuser as well as accused
  • student involvement on academic misconduct policies and panels.
QAA chief executive Douglas Blackstock commented "It is important that students are not duped by these unscrupulous essay companies."

"Paying someone else to write essays is wrong and could damage their career. Education providers should take appropriate action to tackle and prevent this kind of abuse."

"QAA supports a consistent approach among higher education providers in tackling the problem. We are also asking universities and colleges to record incidents of this and other kinds of cheating, to help build a clearer picture of the scale of the problem in UK higher education."

Friday, 6 October 2017

Health and Social Care Partnership Working Praised by CQC

The CQC's Chief Inspector of Primary Care Services has praised health and social care organisations in the London Borough of Sutton for their work in improving care for people as they move between hospitals and social care.  Concluding that a strong commitment to partnership working across most local organisations in Sutton is paying off.

In the past three years, they have seen a reduction in:
  • the number of older people needing to go to hospital in an emergency
  • avoidable healthcare conditions among people in care homes
  • overall medicines costs
  • the number of urinary tract infections, pressure ulcers and falls among residents of care homes.
The CQC report found that that staff in local hospitals and those working in the care sector feel a strong partnership and commitment in working together to provide the best care. Access to training and support has increased the confidence of many care workers.

Sutton CCG was clear about its role in supporting and driving change, providing a care home support team that includes link nurses to support care home staff and give training to ensure that they all have the same approach. Specialist end of life care nurses provide training, liaison, support and role modelling to care staff, and care home pharmacists provide medication reviews for residents as well as advice to care home staff.

Sutton Clinical Commissioning Group and its partners have won widespread recognition for introducing the Hospital Transfer Pathway initiative known as the Red Bag – which helps people living in care homes receive quick and effective treatment if they need to go into hospital in an emergency.

The Red Bag contains standardised information about a resident's general health and any existing medical conditions or medication, easily accessible to ambulance and hospital staff. It accompanies people as they go into hospital – and when they come out again.

Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of Primary Care Services, said “The London Borough of Sutton has shown just what can be achieved when everybody in the system works together to support joined up care."

“It is more important than ever that local authorities, social care providers and their NHS colleagues in acute, community and primary medical services work together in mature, purposeful and trusting relationships."

“If they can achieve that - as they have in Sutton - there is every chance that the communities those organisations serve will be provided with good quality care. And that's vital for all those people living with long term conditions who may need to move between health and care services as their needs change.”

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Welsh Writer Cynan Jones Wins BBC Short Story Award

Welsh writer Cynan Jones has won the coveted BBC National Short Story Award with BookTrust 2017 for his story "The Edge of the Shoal".

Described by writer and judge, Jon McGregor as a "genuinely thrilling" piece of writing with "a completeness of vision and execution that made it an inevitable winner", it was praised by fellow writer and judge Eimear McBride for its "tenderly devastating exploration of the body as it hangs outside time" and for being "as perfect a short story as I've ever read".

Cynan Jones was presented with the prize of £15,000 on Tuesday 3 October by the 2017 Chair of Judges, Joanna Trollope, at a ceremony held in the BBC’s Radio Theatre in London. The news was announced live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, during a special programme celebrating the short story.
Judges' comments

This year’s judging panel was chaired by bestselling author Joanna Trollope and included Baileys Prize winner Eimear McBride, Booker Prize longlisted writer Jon McGregor, Encore Award winner Sunjeev Sahota; and returning judge Di Speirs, Books Editor at BBC Radio 4.

Jon McGregor commented: “'The Edge of the Shoal' does something genuinely thrilling within the confines of the short story: for 6000 words the reader exists only in the lived present moment, in a mental space where life is stripped to its bare essentials. There is no space here for recollection or speculation, no rueful observation or commentary. There are simply the raw bleeding details of survival. It's an exhilarating, terrifying, and life-affirming read. A stunning achievement, and a deserved winner of the prize."

Eimear McBride added: "I've thought about ‘The Edge of the Shoal’ most days since first reading it, months ago. Not the immaculate construction, or modernising take on the 'man versus nature' tale, but its tenderly devastating exploration of the body as it hangs outside time. It is as perfect a short story as I've ever read and works on the reader like an invasion, as all the best literature should."

Di Speirs commented: "In a year which has seen such accomplished novelists shortlisted for their compelling and memorable stories, the searing immediacy of Cynan Jones’s story stands out. "The Edge of the Shoal" is a perfect illustration of the transporting, utterly absorbing power of a great short story."

The four remaining shortlisted writers, Will Eaves, Jenni Fagan, Benjamin Markovits and Helen Oyeyemi will each receive £600.

The five shortlisted stories are available to listen to via Radio 4’s new Short Story podcast

Friday, 29 September 2017

BBC's 4 Day Poetry Festival Kicks Off in Hull

The BBC has launched its 4 day festival of the spoken word - Contains Strong Language.  The festival is being hosted by Hull as part of its cultural celebrations as City of Culture and will be broadcast across the BBC. 

The event has been organised in partnership with Wrecking Ball Press, Humber Mouth, Hull UK City of Culture, The British Council, The Arts Council and a number of other poetry organisations.

Contains Strong Language will present leading local, national, international poets and world class spoken word artists alongside brand new voices. 17 poets will be resident in the city for four days.

The Hull ‘17 are an ensemble of exciting and innovative poets, commissioned to create new work which will be premiered in the city during the festival. 

Poetry is enjoying a renaissance. From moments of national significance to mainstream advertising, poetry is being chosen to persuade, charm or express outrage, defiance and solidarity.

In addition to performances from previously announced Kate Tempest, Dr John Cooper Clarke, The Unthanks, and the BBC Philharmonic, some of the UK’s most-renowned actors will perform some of Hull’s famous poems in a star-studded gala reading.

Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn return to their Hull roots for In Conversation with Simon Armitage, discussing their songs and books, and their years in the city where they formed best-selling band Everything But The Girl.

On the BBC you can watch fantastic new documentaries and live performances on BBC Two and BBC Four. The BBC's radio stations will take audiences to the heart of the festival in Hull with live broadcasts from Jo Whiley, Cerys Matthews, John Wilson, Ian McMillan, Mim Shaikh and more.

On the BBC's website you will also have access to exclusive features, previews, comprehensive schedules and catch-up for all programmes.

Tickets are available to book for many events in Hull, including performances by Kate Tempest, John Cooper Clarke and The Unthanks. Browse the full programme for over 50 events across the four days, most of which have free tickets available from

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Is Your University Fair Trade?

NUS and the Fairtrade Foundation have teamed up to pilot a new Fairtrade Award for Universities and Colleges across the UK.

The new award builds on existing offers, taking on board feedback from the sector in what institutions truly value, as well as what changes and innovations they would like to see.

It will is being piloted by 12 universities and colleges until May 2018, with a view to launching the new award in Jun 2018.

Fairtrade is a grassroots movement that holds a Fairtrade Award across the UK. This new award will celebrate how even more people, including students, are helping to support farmers and workers on Fairtrade farms across the world. Growing awareness of Fairtrade will help build the market for producers, ensuring they receive a fair wage and income in order to improve the futures of their families and communities.

Robbie Young, NUS Vice President (Society and Citizenship), said “We’re seeing an increasing concern from students about their impact to the planet and how the choices they make affect people down the supply chain. The values of Fairtrade are part of the core values of our student movement and we should be proud to celebrate the achievements of students’ unions. Thousands of students and unions have already shown the power and value of Fairtrade but initiatives like this one will provide a platform for further success."

Key differences in the proposed new award are:
  • The introduction of new themes and actions in the award criteria, offering opportunity for deeper engagement across a broader range of areas.  
  • The introduction of tiered award levels to enhance scope for continual improvement and long-term engagement.
  • Scope for recognition of wider ethical sourcing and trade justice efforts beyond Fairtrade certified products.
  • The introduction of an on-site audit, undertaken by trained student auditors through NUS’s highly successful existing student auditor programme.
  • Enhanced support from NUS and Fairtrade: New resources, tools and support to ensure universities and colleges can make the most of their participation and achieve their goals.
  • More scope for measuring impact: Through NUS’ programme of student surveys and database of over 700,000 students, improved monitoring will show the impact the award scheme is having on attitudes, understanding and ethical consumption and sourcing practice in the HE and FE sector.
  • The introduction of award scheme participation fees for universities, (low or no fee for colleges- TBC), to ensure that Fairtrade and NUS can sustainably offer an enhanced award scheme that meets the needs of the sector and provides good value for money.
Once the pilot is complete, an audit will take place in May-June 2018 and participants will receive their Fairtrade Awards. The awards will be launched nationwide from summer 2018. 

Friday, 22 September 2017

A Focus on Equality & Human Rights Essential to Get a Good CQC Rating

The CQC, alongside a number of partners, has published a new good practice resource, Equally Outstanding, exploring how a focus on equality and human rights can help to improve quality of care.

Using case studies from the NHS, adult social care and primary medical services, it looks at how services rated outstanding by the CQC have prioritised equality and human rights and the positive effects this has had on quality of care and staff engagement. This resource also helps set out the ‘business case’ for equality and human rights at a time when the whole health and care system faces significant financial challenges.

Paul Corrigan, CQC Non-Executive Director and Board Equality and Human Rights Champion, said "When finances are squeezed, it may seem tempting to view work on equality and human rights as an expendable extra – when in fact it makes both ethical and business sense for this work to be more central than ever.

"There’s a clear link between the quality of care a service provides and whether the people who use it and its staff feel that their human rights are respected and they are treated equally. And equality and human rights will only become more important over time because of demographic and system change; research shows that money spent on reducing health inequalities is the most efficient way of improving health outcomes for a local population.

"We have developed – and will continue to develop - this work both as a practical resource that people can use within their own organisation to make the case for an increased focus on equality and human rights and to learn from providers that have used these approaches. More broadly, we hope it encourages health and social care leaders to look beyond provider boundaries to ensure the community involvement of people from diverse communities and develop broader, more holistic services that meet their needs."

Human rights principles of fairness, respect, equality, dignity and autonomy should be at the heart of good care provision .  Evidence points to a clear link between quality of care and whether people who use services feel their human rights are respected and they are treated equally:
  • In the 2015 NHS Inpatient Survey, patients receiving care from Trusts rated outstanding were more likely to say that they were treated with dignity and respect in hospital and had the emotional support that they needed.  Their overall satisfaction with their hospital stay was also higher and patients at outstanding trusts who identify as lesbian or gay were more likely to give positive responses to all three questions than heterosexual patients - the reverse is true in Trusts not rated outstanding.
  • In the CQC’s acute NHS hospital inspection reports, the proportion of positive comments made about the quality of care for people with a learning disability increased in line with the Trust’s rating.
  • Seventy-five per cent of hospices rated as outstanding had carried out some work on equality for disabled people, but only 55% of other hospices had done so. Eighty-eight per cent of hospices rated as outstanding had carried out some work around equality for people of different religions and beliefs compared to 65% of lower-rated hospices.
  • Looking at 14,000 adult social care “provider information returns”, services rated good or outstanding were more likely have undertaken some specific work on equality in the past 12 months.
There is also a link between whether staff feel they are treated equally and with respect and the quality of patient care provided:
  • CQC analysis of NHS trusts' ratings shows that staff in acute or combined trust with higher ratings are less likely to say they have experienced discrimination, bullying or harassment.
  • Research looking at the NHS staff survey and inpatient survey found that where Black and Minority Ethnic staff experienced discrimination, there tended to be lower levels of patient satisfaction.
  • Though there has been less work on this topic in primary care and adult social care, the case studies in Equally Outstanding show that the basic principle holds true – where organisations value and support staff equally, this will help lead to better care.
  • Equally, a care setting where staff do not feel valued and respected is more likely to experience absenteeism, high staff turnover and recruitment problems – with implications for both care quality and finances.
The resource describes some common “success factors” in the case study organisations that have used equality and human rights to deliver outstanding care. These include:
  • a leadership committed to equality and human rights
  • applying “equality and human rights thinking” to quality improvement
  • developing a culture of staff equality where staff are improvement partners in this work
  • listening carefully to people using their service, including to their aspirations
  • being courageous in their approaches to tackling difficult issues
  • and making external links to help them progress their work.
Download a copy of Equally Outstanding by clicking here.