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