Archives for October 1997

Housing Benefit fraud tops £900m

Headlines, PublicNet: 31 October, 1997

Reports by The National Audit Office and The Audit Commission estimate that of the £11.1 billion spent on Housing Benefit in 1996-97 some £905 million may have been claimed fraudulently.The study found that many of the measures taken by the Department of Social Security and local authorities to combat fraud had been successful. The amount of fraud detected had increased dramatically and the number of local authority staff employed in tackling fraud had risen significantly. The NAO reviewed Housing Benefit from the Department’s point of view and the Commission reviewed it from the local authority standpoint. They both spell out opportunities to build on the success achieved.

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Re-think Government services says Fabian Society

Headlines, PublicNet: 30 October, 1997

Without radical change to the way central and local government services are organised it will not be possible to deliver Labour’s plans to modernise Britain. This is the conclusion of a Fabian Society Report Information Age Government – Delivering The Blair Revolution. The Author, Liam Byrne, argues that the organisation of government is hopelessly out of date. Its structure is too complex. The different tiers and archaic procedures make it extremely cumbersome. The Report illustrates this by referring to the eleven different offices concerned with young people and the ten agencies with responsibilities for inspecting businesses.

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UK Shares local government ideas with Commonwealth

Headlines, PublicNet: 29 October, 1997

Commonwealth countries have many different models of local government, but the similarities between the models make it worthwhile to share ideas. It was a recognition of the similar features that resulted in the launch of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum in 1995. The UK has now joined the Forum and plans to play a full part in its activities by sharing the best practice of local authorities in local democracy and government.The Forum facilitates the exchange of experience among practitioners through sharing the practice of good governance with countries and institutions embarking on the path to democracy. It also seeks to strengthen the practice and institutions of local democracy.

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Complementary medicine could reduce NHS costs

Headlines, PublicNet: 24 October, 1997

The NHS could save money by embracing alternative and complementary medicine. This is the conclusion of a Kings Fund report. The Prince of Wales, a champion of alternative medicine, encouraged the setting up of the study, which describes the benefits of using these other forms of medicine in the NHS and of teaching them in medical schools.Prince Charles, speaking at the launch of the report Integrated Healthcare: A Way Forward for the Next Five Years? explained his initiative on integrated healthcare and outlined the contribution that complementary and alternative medicine could make to more patient-centred healthcare. He set this against a background where more and more people are turning to homeopathy, herbal medicine, acupuncture, osteopathy, and other therapies. He believed that this use of other forms of medicine in a reaction to an increasingly impersonal approach to healthcare and to the development of ever more powerful drugs.

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Transforming welfare – Field day for visionaries

Headlines, PublicNet: 22 October, 1997

The debate on changing the welfare system to overcome its defects and bring it into line with the 21st century has widened with the publication of Transforming Welfare. Frank Field, Minister for Welfare Reform, sets out his vision of the future in the book published by the Single Market Foundation.He highlights the defects of the current system, including means testing which deters honesty, impersonal administration of benefits which limits accountability and compassion measured by the size of the social security budget. He sees the welfare state of the future working with the grain of human nature and supporting people in their desire to improve themselves.

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Bed blocking logjam starts to move – health funding crosses social services frontier

Headlines, PublicNet: 21 October, 1997

Frank Dobson, Secretary of State for Health has announced a £300m increase in NHS funding. Some of the new money will go towards removing the bed blocking logjam which has built up because of a funding crisis in Social Service departments. Where the Social Service budget is inadequate to fund the care of a hospital patient who no longer needs medical attention there is no option but to rely on the NHS system, although the cost to the taxpayer is much higher.Following a fact finding tour by Alan Langlands, the Chief Executive of the NHS and Sir Herbert Laming, Chief Inspector of Social Services and their discussions with Health Authority, Trust and Social Services leaders, a plan for dealing with the situation emerged. Frank Dobson then wrote to NHS chairs, social services and housing chairs and leaders of councils emphasising the need to apply best practice. The additional funding is the Government’s part of the deal to resolve the problem.

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Early start on drugs strategy

Headlines, PublicNet: 17 October, 1997

The appointments of Keith Hellawell, as the UK Anti Drugs Co-ordinator and Michael Trace, as his deputy mark the first step towards a coherent anti drugs strategy.The need for a more coherent approach to the drugs problem has been recognised for a long time. Although there is collaboration at local level, the patchwork of departments, local authorities, police, NHS Executive and trusts, agencies and voluntary bodies is not effective in addressing one of the most complex issues confronting society. A particular weakness of the current arrangements is that funding is provided from a budget in one of the organisations and can only be used in a specified way. The greatest need at the sharp end may be somewhat different and the result is that best value for money is not achieved. This is one of the issues the strategy will need to address.

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Trust in public service at all time low

Headlines, PublicNet: 15 October, 1997

Trust in the public service in Britain has slumped to an all time low. This is the conclusion drawn from a report, “Planning for Social Change 1997”, published by the Henley Centre, the forecasting organisation. The annual survey of 2000 consumers in the UK shows that the percentage of people who have ‘ a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in the civil service, local councils and the police has gone down steeply. This contrasts sharply with the finding that four in five people trust food manufacturers such as Heinz and Kelloggs to be honest and fair. The findings are causing concern because the success of public organisations depends as much on public support as on being effective and efficient.The survey shows that trust and faith in the civil service is at 14%, down from 48%, in the police 58%, down from 83% and in local councils 24%. There is broad support for the figures from other sources. A Mori poll conducted in April found that only 25% of people expected civil servants to tell the truth, while the figure for the police was 62%. Figures published earlier this month by the Home Office show an 11% rise in the number of substantiated complaints compared to the previous year. A Mori poll for the Local Government Association in February found that only 53% of people were satisfied with the way councils are doing their job.

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Funds for housing and freedom to spend

Headlines, PublicNet: 13 October, 1997

Local authorities are being given the freedom to spend money accumulated from the sale of council houses over the past 7 years. Housing Minister Hilary Armstrong stressed that the Government intends the new money to be used to meet local needs and priorities.Currently local authorities must set aside 75% of receipts from council house sales and this has produced a cash mountain of £5b. Legislation is being introduced to allow these funds to be released progressively. £174m will be available in the current year and £610m in 1998/99.

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Better governance of health care – NHS executive an independent corporation?

Headlines, PublicNet: 9 October, 1997

Turning the NHS Executive into an independent corporation is an option considered by successive Secretaries of State. After a one year study into the developments of governance of the NHS and the structure of the Department of Health, Patricia Day and Richard Klein of the University of Bath have concluded that radical change would be needed first if such a goal were to be achieved. The study, which is part of the Economic and Social Research Council Whitehall Programme, found that two cultures are at the heart of the management of health care in the United Kingdom.The NHS Executive is made up mainly of former NHS managers. The culture is distinctly ‘managerial’ with the emphasis on risk taking, centred on the NHS and outcome oriented. The Department of Health civil servants belong to the mandarin culture where risks are avoided, it is centred on ‘the Minister’ and the emphasis is on the process, rather than the outcome. Civil servants prefer to manage by the written word and however results are achieved the paper work must be in order because the shadow of public accountability lies heavily on them.

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