Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Government to Extend Public Lending Right Scheme to E-book Authors

A government fund that compensates authors for loaning their works for free from public libraries in Great Britain is be extended to include e-lending.
The change to the Public Lending Right scheme is being introduced in the Digital Economy Bill and will mean authors of e-books and e-audiobooks are eligible for payment in the same way as those whose physical books are borrowed from libraries.
The UK is one of the first countries to extend its library lending compensation scheme to remote e-lending.
E-book lending has jumped 38% in the last year alone, with more than four million e-book loans and almost one million e-audiobook loans in Great Britain in the twelve months to April 2016.
Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society and responsible for libraries, said “We want to help public libraries embrace the digital age by improving access to e-lending and wifi services.
This important change will put e-book authors on the same footing as those writers, illustrators and photographers whose physical books are borrowed for free.”
The Public Lending Right scheme is managed by the British Library on behalf of the government, with more than £6 million of payments made to 22,000 authors, illustrators, photographers, translators and rights holders each year.
Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said “With the rapid rise in popularity of ebooks and e-audiobooks in recent years, it’s fantastic news that authors’ PLR payments will now reflect remote ebook loans of their books from public libraries as well as the borrowing of hard copies.

Over 22,000 writers, illustrators, photographers, translators and editors who have contributed to books lent out by public libraries in the UK receive PLR payments each year, so we look forward to working with even more new authors who are now eligible.”

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Warwick University Doing More to Help Disadvantage People Access Higher Education

As a part of the HEFCE’s new National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) the University of Warwick is working with nine schools and colleges across seven wards in Warwickshire to increase participation in higher education.
The HEFCE’s new scheme, supported by £60 million per year of funding, aims to increase participation in higher education across England.  It is hoped that the programme will drive a step change in the progression into higher education of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
A large-scale evaluation programme will measure the impact of the programme from the start.  Building a powerful evidence base to ensure that investment is concentrated on the activities that are shown to be the most effective.
Launched last week, the nationwide scheme will see a total of 260 higher education providers in England, collaborating with schools, colleges and other organisations to help more disadvantaged young people into higher education.
The University of Warwick’s Think Higher project aims to develop close partnerships with local schools. Through these partnerships, the university aims to develop a better understanding of the barriers faced by young people in these particular areas, with local context being at the heart of the project. The Think Higher project will develop outreach activity that is responsive to the needs of the local area and can support schools with their work to ensure young people in Warwickshire have access to the higher education opportunities on offer.
Uly Lyons, Principal of King Edward VI College in Nuneaton said “King Edward VI College is very excited to be taking a leading role in the NCOP. We have a long and proud history of helping the young people of Nuneaton progress to university, raising their aspirations and life chances as a result.

I’m confident the project will have a significant impact on ensuring that more young people in the area do fulfil their potential and progress to university. In particular I’m excited about the joined up approach we are taking, ensuring that schools, colleges and universities are all working together in a collaborative way to help students reach their potential and improve the quality of life for themselves, their families and the local area in general.”

Age UK Fear Social Care System is on The Verge of Collapse

A new report from Age UK concludes that the social care system is living on borrowed time and is on the verge of collapse.

The report, ‘The Health and Care of Older People in England 2017’ draws on official statistics as well as new Age UK analysis.

The report suggests that however tough things are now, they threaten to get a lot worse over the next few years, and concludes that the government’s strategy for keeping the social care system from falling apart is failing, putting the whole system at risk of complete collapse.

The Charity is calling on government to recognise the imminent danger which social care is now in and commit to an urgent injection of funds in the Spring Budget. Their report also calls on the government to lead a process for developing a long term solution to the care crisis that incorporates the views of older and disabled people and all parts of the health and care sector, and that engages the public on the important question of how we pay for a decent care system we can all rely on when we need it.

Key findings in the report include:
  • There are now nearly 1.2 million people aged 65+ who don’t receive the care support they need with essential daily living activities (a 17.9% increase year on year).
  • There has been a £160 million cut in total public spending in real terms on older people’s social care in the five years to 2015/16, despite the rapidly rising demand due to our ageing population.
  • By 2020/21 public spending on social care would need to increase by a minimum of £1.65 billion to £9.99 billion in order to manage the impact of future demographic and unit cost pressures – not to improve services but to stay where we are now.
  • Funding promised to ease the crisis, through the Better Care Fund, is heavily ‘back loaded’, with the full £1.4 billion only becoming available in 2019/20.
  • People are caring for friends and relatives at greater levels of intensity than in the past and meeting increasingly complex needs.
  • There are over two million carers aged 65 and over, 417,000 of whom are aged 80 and over. 
  • In 2015/16 48 councils reported dealing with at least one home care provider who had ceased trading; 59 councils reported at least one provider ‘handing back’ a contract, and two of the largest national home care providers also left the council market.
  • 77 councils reported dealing with at least one care home which had ceased trading in their area in 2015/16, and 31 councils reported at least one provider ‘handing back’ a contract over the same period.
  • In 2015/16 the overall staff vacancy rate in the social care sector was 6.8 per cent, rising to 11.4 per cent for home care staff.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director said “Our new report makes for frightening reading because it shows just how fragile older people’s social care now is. Even worse, unless something changes the crisis will certainly deepen this year and next, and we think there is now a real risk of a complete collapse in social care in the worst affected areas. If this happened it would be a disaster that would threaten the health and even the lives of the older people affected. It would also greatly intensify pressures on our hospitals.”

“We urge the Government to make an emergency injection of funds into social care in the Spring Budget to stave off the risk of complete collapse. But even that’s not enough: the Government must also get on with developing a long term solution to the care crisis.”

Thursday, 16 February 2017

The Search is Underway for UK's First Small Business Commissioner

Applications are open to become the UK’s first Small Business Commissioner – a high profile role supporting small businesses in payment disputes with their larger customers, which will sit within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The successful candidate will provide general advice and information, handle complaints about payment issues and direct small businesses to existing dispute resolution services. Recent findings from the payment processor Bacs report that nearly half of the UK’s small-to-medium sized businesses experience late payment, with £26.3 billion owed to them in total.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is looking for candidates who have credibility with both small and large businesses; can advise parties in resolving disputes; and who have an appetite to become a national spokesperson for small businesses affected by payment issues.
The final appointment decision will be made by the Secretary of State, supported by a panel which will include Mike Cherry, the National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses.
Small Business Minister Margot James said “We all rely on the UK’s 5.5 million small and medium sized businesses for jobs, goods and services, and an unfair payment culture that hurts these firms has no place in an economy that works for all. This is why we are looking for an exceptional individual to help smaller firms resolve payment disputes and champion a culture change in how businesses work together.
Addressing the barriers businesses face when scaling up and growing is an important part of a modern Industrial Strategy, and this appointment will play an integral role in ensuring small businesses have the support they need to thrive and grow.”
Commenting on the move to recruit a Small Business Commissioner, Mike Cherry, National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, said “FSB research shows that poor payment practice is on the rise, causing 50,000 business deaths each year.
Small firms need a Commissioner who will make a meaningful difference to the £26bn currently stuck in bank accounts as payments outstanding to SMEs. He or she must be given the powers and resources to tackle this, to step in to save small firms whose livelihoods are under threat, and to promote a prompt payment culture right across the economy”.

The Small Business Commissioner, expected to be based in Birmingham, is just one part of a package of measures designed to tackle late payment and to drive change in the UK’s business payment culture. From April 2017 big businesses will be required to publically report on the time taken to pay their suppliers, a move that the government hopes will help businesses make informed decisions about who they do business with.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

University of East Anglia Improves its Approach to Dealing with Course Changes

Students will receive a fairer deal at the University of East Anglia (UEA) after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) secured changes to the university’s contract terms.

The CMA stepped in after the UEA made significant changes to the content of a course – by introducing compulsory modules thus limiting students’ choice of optional modules – and not adequately informing prospective students who had received course offers about the changes.

UEA regarded the changes as ‘minor’ – in line with its contract terms at the time – and therefore did not consult existing students or inform offer holders immediately, as they would have done if they had considered the changes to be ‘substantial’. The CMA welcomes UEA’s undertaking which ensures that, in future, it will treat the addition of a compulsory module to a course as a ‘substantial change’.

UEA has also confirmed that it will make timely updates to its website of any substantial changes. This will ensure that anyone thinking about applying has access to up-to-date and accurate information.

Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director, Consumer, said “For most students, going to university is an expensive, once-in-a-lifetime event and they should enjoy the best possible experience. So it’s important that prospective students have accurate and up-to-date information when choosing their course and existing students are given timely information about any substantial changes that are made to their course. And any contract terms which deal with variation, for example to course content, must be fair.”

The CMA published advice for higher education providers on how to comply with consumer protection law in March 2015, as well as guidance on consumer rights for students.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Hastings GP Surgery Remains in Special Measures

The CQC has again rated a Hastings GP surgery as Inadequate and recommended the surgery stay in special measures following its latest inspection.

The practice was inspected in July 2016 by a team which included a CQC lead inspector, a GP specialist adviser, a CQC pharmacy inspector and a practice manager specialist adviser.

While the Care Quality Commission found staff caring, treating patients with compassion and dignity, inspectors identified a number of areas for improvement, including:
  • Not all nursing staff were trained to the appropriate level of child safeguarding.
  • While improvements had been made in relation to appropriate recruitment checks on staff, there were still gaps apparent in relation to recruitment records. 
  • Improvements had been made in relation to medicines management however there continued to be some issues relating to this. For example, in relation to the adoption of patient group directions, the availability of emergency medicines, the management of medicine incidents and the use of patients own dressings within the practice.
  • There were ongoing maintenance issues identified at the branch surgery and these had not been adequately addressed.
  • Staff were clear about reporting incidents, near misses and concerns however there was little evidence of robust investigation processes, learning and communication with staff.
  • Complaints were not adequately addressed and associated records of investigations and actions were not kept.
Ruth Rankine, Deputy Chief Inspector of General Practice (South) said: "It is clear that Dr Ankur Chopra has not made enough improvements since our previous inspection, in March 2016, where we again identified serious concerns relating to the safe delivery of services and leadership of the practice.

“We are aware it takes hard work and commitment from all practice staff to deliver the improved services which will result in higher standards of care for patients. We rated caring in the service as being good because there are examples of staff interacting with patients and treating them with dignity and respect. But, there is still a tremendous amount work to do and this needs to move at a pace. If we still feel the service is inadequate at our next inspection, then we will not hesitate to use our enforcement powers to protect patients using the service even if this means removing the registration of the practice.”

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Employment Tribunals Hit a Record High

More than 92,000 people bought forward workplace disputes last year - the highest number since employment tribunal fees were introduced.

Since fees were introduced in 2013, a record number of people have sought to resolve disputes either through tribunals or conciliation, dramatically changed how workplace disputes are resolved.

Following publication of the latest figures ministers have published proposals to expand the ‘Help with Fees’ scheme which waives fees for the lowest paid. Proposals would see the monthly threshold for full fee remission increase from £1,085 to £1,250 - broadly the equivalent of someone earning the National Living Wage. There are additional allowances for people living as couples and those with children.

Justice Minister Sir Oliver Heald said: “It is right that those who can afford to should contribute to the cost of Employment Tribunals. Under our reforms, record numbers are bringing forward disputes in tribunals or through the ACAS conciliation service.

Costs should not prevent anyone bringing claims, so we are extending our Help with Fees Scheme and will introduce a Green Paper on further legal support measures.

The Prison and Courts Bill will also bring more people online, making it even simpler and easier to access justice.

Under the extended Help with Fees scheme, more people would not pay a fee and others would contribute less than under current arrangements. The extended scheme would benefit the disabled, women, BAME individuals, and the young, who all feature disproportionately among low income groups.

We have also decided to exempt from fees a small number of proceedings related to payments made from the National Insurance Fund, as in most cases the applicant is unable to conciliate or recover fees.”

Ministers will bring forward further plans to improve legal support in a Green Paper by early 2018, while the Prison and Courts Bill, due to be published shortly, will make it simpler to access justice and enable thousands more people to bring cases online.