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Bulletin No. 81, June 2010


In this month's bulletin we highlight the personnel and policies of the new coalition Government. Savings in 2010/11 will include the closure of the educational technology agency Becta. This news bulletin highlights innovation in AT service delivery and FAST welcomes contributions.


  1. Mobility and Transport
  2. Medical Devices
  3. Housing
  4. Information and Communications Technology
  5. The New Government
  6. Tax and Spending
  7. Public Services
  8. Healthcare
  9. Social Care
  10. Services for Older People
  11. Rights for Disabled People
  12. Services for Children and Young People
  13. Civil Society
  14. Support for Business, Universities and Science
  15. News in Brief

1. Mobility and Transport

Mobility, the campaigning charity for disabled motorists, passengers and Blue Badge holders, has updated its policy statement on off-street parking and published two new policy statements. One covers shared surfaces planning and its potential impact on disabled people. The other covers the use of scooters and other mobility vehicles. The statements are here.

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2. Medical Devices

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has published the following Medical Device Alerts:

  • MDA/2010/042: Therapy chair manufactured by Pronefro SA and supplied in the UK by Hymed Healthcare Products Ltd. Details are here
  • MDA/2010/045: Handle assembly fitted to monkey pole manufactured by Rolko GmbH and supplied in the UK by Hill-Rom. Details are here.

The latest Medical Device Alerts are here.

MHRA has published the following Field Safety Notices:

  • Possum Ltd has identified a potential overheating problem with a batch of Nickel metal hydride battery packs used in the Freeway and Companion A and B. Details are here.
  • Field Safety Notice for the Acheeva Learning Station from The Helping Hand Company. Details are here.
  • Field Safety Notice for Ventnor mobile shower chairs from James Spencer & Co. Details are here.

The MHRA has published a report on medical device-related adverse incident reports in 2009 (DB 2010(03), which is here

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3. Housing 

Grant Shapps is the new Minister for Housing and Local Government. For more information, follow this link

Age UK (formerly Age Concern and Help the Aged) has published a report by the University of York looking at 32 older people’s experiences of living in the private rented sector. The majority of participants had health or mobility problems and in some cases adaptations had been made to their properties. The report outlines a strategy for older renters, which should include a local register of properties that are adapted or already suitable for the physical needs of older tenants. The register would be 'maintained in conjunction with the local aids and adaptations service'. The report is here.

Foundations, the national body for home improvement agencies,is urging its members to send all new MPs a copy of ‘HIAs - the key to independent living', which is available via this link. Grants are still available from Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT) Hardship Fund for clients of HIAs to help resolve health-related heating and insulation problems. For more information, go here.

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4. Information and Communications Technology

The government has confirmed in its coalition agreement that it will support investment in new high-speed broadband internet connections. Details are here.

An article in Community Care by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) discusses ethical issues in the use of telecare, and is here. The article is based on the SCIE briefing here. SCIE films on telecare are available here.

SCIE is also offering grants up to a value of £20,000 to improve ICT access for service users and staff. For more details, follow this link.

Universit of Stirling's Dementia Services Development Centre has published a new booklet on using telecare to support people with dementia.This is one of a number of publications funded by the Scottish Government’s National Telecare Development Programme and is available here.

Latest news from the Department of Health's Whole System Demonstrator Action Network includes an update from the Newham pilot site (here), which has made available a series of case study videos (here) and a report on Norfolk's integrated approach to telecare and telehealth delivery (here).

e-Access 10, the conference on access to technology by all, will take place on 13 July at Olympia 2, London. There is a 15% discount on delegate rates using the promotional code FAST10. The conference website is here.

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5. The New Government

The new Conservative/ Liberal Democrat coalition government has taken office, with Conservative leader David Cameron as Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister and Lord President of the Council (with special responsibility for political and constitutional reform). The new Cabinet includes four other Liberal Democrats and there are Liberal Democrat ministers in all departments and on all Cabinet committees. Cabinet members include: 

  • Chancellor of the Exchequer - George Osborne MP
  • Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Women and Equalities - The Rt Hon Theresa May MP Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
  •  Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills - Dr Vincent Cable MP (Liberal Democrat)
  • Secretary of State for Work and Pensions - The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP 
  • Secretary of State for Health - Andrew Lansley CBE MP
  • Secretary of State for Education - Michael Gove MP
  • Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government - Eric Pickles MP
  • Secretary of State for Transport - Philip Hammond MP
  • Chief Secretary to the Treasury - The Rt Hon David Laws MP (Liberal Democrat) was originally appointed, but resigned for personal reasons. He was replaced by fellow Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander MP

Also attending the Cabinet: Minister of State (Universities and Science), Department for Business, Innovation and Skills - David Willetts MP

A full list of ministers is here.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats published an initial coalition agreement on 12 May as the basis for the new government, which is here.

The final coalition agreement on 20 May, 'Freedom, Fairness, Responsibility', set out a more detailed programme to 'deliver radical, reforming government, a stronger society, a smaller state, and power and responsibility in the hands of every citizen' (see under subject headings for plans in specific policy areas). More via this link.

A Cabinet Office document sets out how the parties will work together in coalition and is available here.

The Queen’s Speech on 25 May outlined the government's legislative programme. The first priority is to 'reduce the deficit and restore economic growth' Planned Bills include:

  • the Academies Bill - to give state schools in England the freedom to become academies, allowing them to opt out of local authority control, and to make it easier for parents and other groups to set up 'free schools'
  • the Decentralism and Localism Bill - to give English councils more powers over housing and planning decisions and begin a review of local government finance
  • the Health Bill - to give health professionals and patients more say over decision-making in the NHS in England, cut health service quangos and some central targets, and increase the focus on health inequalities
  • the Welfare Reform Bill - to create a single welfare-to-work programme and make benefit payments more conditional on willingness to accept work.

The speech and details of the planned Bills are here.

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6. Tax and Spending

The government’s approach on tax and spending was set out in the initial coalition agreement:

  • an accelerated reduction in the structural deficit over the course of a Parliament, mainly through reduced spending rather than increased taxes
  • cuts of £6 billion to non-front line services within the financial year 2010-11
  • a plan for deficit reduction to be set out in an emergency budget (on 22 June)
  • a new independent Office for Budget Responsibility
  • a full spending review to report in the Autumn

Other plans include:

  • arrangements to protect those on low incomes from the effect of public sector pay constraint and other spending constraints
  • a substantial increase in the personal allowance for income tax from April 2011 to help those with lower and middle incomes (partly funded with the money that would have been used to pay for the increase in Employee National Insurance thresholds proposed by the Conservatives. The increase in Employer National Insurance thresholds will go ahead)
  • an independent commission to review the long term affordability of public sector pensions, while protecting accrued rights

The agreement is here.

The government has announced how it will save over £6 billion from departmental spending during the financial year 2010/11. The aim is to cut 'Whitehall waste' and 'low value' programmes, while protecting front-line services. Savings in health, defence and international aid will be reinvested in front line services in those departments, and spending on schools, Sure Start and education for 16-19 year-olds will be protected. Areas for cuts include:

  • consultancy, travel, IT and property costs
  • delaying and stopping contracts and projects, including immediate negotiations to achieve cost reductions from major suppliers
  • a recruitment freeze across the civil service for the rest of 2010/11
  • cutting the cost of quangos (including closing BECTA, the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency)
  • £1.165 billion of savings in grants to local authorities (the Government will also remove the ring-fences around over £1.7 billion of grants)
  • reducing and then stopping Government contributions to the Child Trust Fund (payments to disabled children due this year will be made, and the Government will ensure that the funding allocated for these payments in future years will be redirected to other forms of support for disabled children)

The government is also re-examining all spending approvals made since 1 January 2010, to ensure that they are consistent with the government’s priorities and good value for money. The announcement is here.

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7. Public Services

The Prime Minister has announced that bonuses for the Senior Civil Service (SCS) and senior NHS managers will be cut. The move follows a decision made by the first Cabinet of the new government to cut 5% from the Prime Minister and Ministers’ pay packets. The budget for performance related pay for senior civil servants for 2010/11 will be reduced by two thirds, delivering savings of around £15million. Only the top 25% of performers will receive a bonus so that in future only those making an exceptional contribution will be rewarded. It has already been agreed that SCS and NHS senior managers will receive no headline pay increase in 2010/11. More here.

The final coalition agreement includes plans for a fair pay review in the public sector to implement a proposed ‘20 times’ pay multiple between the lowest and highest paid. Anyone paid more than the Prime Minister in the centrally funded public sector will be required to have their salary signed off by the Treasury. 

The agreement also commits to 'end the era of top-down government by giving new powers to local councils, communities, neighbourhoods and individuals', including greater financial autonomy for local government (phasing out ring-fenced grants) and community groups. 'We will introduce new powers to help communities save local facilities and services threatened with closure, and give communities the right to bid to take over local state-run services'. Local government inspection will be cut and comprehensive area assessment will be abolished. More here.

Eric Pickles is the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and his ministerial team is here.

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8. Healthcare

Andrew Lansley becomes Secretary of State for Health, having served as Conservative Shadow Health Secretary from 2003. Simon Burns is Minister of State for Health, Paul Burstow (Liberal Democrat) is Minister of State for Care Services, Anne Milton is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Earl Howe is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Quality. Ministers’ portfolios and biographies are here and here.

The final coalition agreement aims to 'free NHS staff from political micromanagement, increase democratic participation in the NHS and make the NHS more accountable to the patients that it serves'. There will be health spending increases in real terms in each year of the Parliament and fewer central targets. A new independent NHS board will allocate resources and provide commissioning guidelines. Other plans include: 

  • stopping 'top-down reorganisations' of local services
  • cutting the number of health quangos and cutting the cost of NHS administration by a third (this will include the abolition of strategic health authorities in 2012)
  • strengthening the power of GPs as 'patients’ expert guides through the health system' by enabling them to commission care
  • PCTs will commission 'those residual services that are best undertaken at a wider level, rather than directly by GPs' and take responsibility for improving public health
  • directly elected individuals on the boards of local primary care trusts (PCTs). The remainder of the PCT’s board will be appointed by the relevant local authority/ies and the Chief Executive and principal officers will be appointed by the Secretary of State
  • a stronger role for the Care Quality Commission, and Monitor to be developed into an economic regulator
  • reform of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, moving to a system of value-based pricing, so that 'all patients can access the drugs and treatments their doctors think they need'
  • patients will be able to rate hospitals and doctors according to published data and choose any healthcare provider that meets NHS standards within NHS prices (including independent, voluntary and community sector providers)

Best practice on improving discharge from hospital and enabling community access to care and treatments will be extended. Older people will be helped to live at home for longer through solutions such as 'home adaptations and community support programmes'. More details of NHS plans available via this link and here

Professor Dame Sally Davies will take up the role of Chief Medical Officer following the departure of Sir Liam Donaldson at the end of May until a substantive appointment is made. She remains Director General of Research and Development and Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health and NHS. Details via this link.
The Department of Health has published 'Health Profile of England 2009', which shows declining mortality rates from targeted killers and increasing life expectancy, alongside on-going public health challenges and health inequalities. The report, which includes international comparisons, is here.

The May newsletter of the British Society of Rehabilitation Medicine is here.

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9. Social Care

Government plans for social care include: 

  • a commission on long-term care, to report within a year. The commission will consider a range of ideas, including a voluntary insurance scheme to protect the assets of those who go into residential care and a partnership scheme as proposed by Derek Wanless
  • breaking down barriers between health and social care funding 'to incentivise preventative action'
  • greater roll-out of personal budgets to older and disabled people and carers
  • increasing direct payments to carers and better community-based provision to improve access to respite care

The government has also announced that it will not be commencing the provisions in the Personal Care at Home Act 2010 relating to free care at home. However, the government will be considering 'what more can be done on re-ablement and carers' breaks in the light of available resources'. More details via this link.

The NHS Information Centre has published data on social services staffing, expenditure and activity in England for 2008/09. Key findings include:

  • in 2009, the whole time equivalent number of occupational therapists (OTs) decreased by 5 per cent to 1,850 from 1,940 in 2008, but it has increased by 12 % from 1,650 in 1999
  • numbers of 'OT assistants, equipment aids and other officers' have increased by 60% since 1999 and by 5% over the last year to 2,500
  • expenditure on older people increased from £8.8 billion in 2007/08 to £9.1 billion in 2008/09, an increase of 4% in cash terms and 1%in real terms
  • expenditure on day/domiciliary (non-residential) care spend, including equipment and adaptations, has increased in cash terms by 8% and 5% in real terms from £6.0 billion in 2007/08 to £6.5 billion in 2008/09
  • in 2008/09, of the 1.54 million clients receiving community-based services, 582,000 clients received home care, 547,000 clients received equipment and adaptations (an increase of 5% from 2007/08), 501,000 received professional support , 214,000 received day care and 121,000 received meals (includes some double counting)
  • 77% of clients receiving equipment and adaptations were aged 65 and over

The statistics are here.

From 1 October 2010, all adult social care providers will have to be registered with the Care Quality Commission under a new registration system based on new standards for quality and safety. The current quality ratings system (star ratings) will also cease and the Commission is discussing with stakeholders what might replace it. Find out more via this link.

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10. Services for Older People

Plans in the final coalition agreement include: 

  • restoring the earnings link for the basic state pension from April 2011 with a 'triple guarantee' that pensions are raised by the higher of earnings, prices or 2.5%
  • phasing out the default retirement age
  • a review to set the date at which the state pension age starts to rise to 66 (not sooner than 2016 for men and 2020 for women)
  • protecting key benefits for older people such as the winter fuel allowance, free TV licences, free bus travel, and free eye tests and prescriptions 

More details via this link.

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11. Rights for Disabled People

Iain Duncan Smith is the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. His team of ministers includes Maria Miller as Minister for Disabled People and Lord Freud as Minister for Welfare Reform. Details via this link.

The Office for Disability Issues has published the latest statistics on the living standards of disabled people which are here.
According to the final coalition agreement, there will be a single welfare to work programme to help all unemployed people get back into work and receipt of benefits for those able to work will be conditional on the willingness to work. All current claimants of incapacity benefit will be re-assessed for their readiness to work and those assessed as fully capable for work will be moved onto jobseeker’s allowance. A review will investigate how to simplify the benefits system in order to improve incentives to work. Access to Work will be reformed so disabled people can apply for jobs with funding already secured for any adaptations and equipment they will need. The agreement is here.

Iain Duncan Smith has set out his vision of how to make work pay and 'end the absurd situation where some of the poorest face huge penalties for trying to get off benefits and into work'. More details via this link.

The Government has also published a report on poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency in the in the UK which is available here.

Employment support allowance (ESA) was introduced 18 months ago to replace incapacity benefit. So far, only those claiming after 2008 have undergone the new ESA medical assessment, but longer-term claimants are due to be transferred to ESA in October. A BBC Scotland investigation has found that under ESA, more than two thirds of claimants are being found fit to work, almost 20% more than the government had planned. Citizens Advice Scotland believes that the system is unfit for purpose and has called for an urgent review. The Department for Work and Pension has confirmed plans to press ahead with the wider roll out in October. For more information, go here.

Theresa May has been appointed Minister for Women and Equalities as well as Home Secretary, supported by Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone as Minister for Equalities. Details here.

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12. Services for Children and Young People

The Department for Education has replaced the Department for Children, Schools and Families but is still responsible for the same range of education and children’s services. Headed by the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP as Secretary of State for Education, the ministerial team includes Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather MP as Minister of State for Children and Families. Details via this link.

Plans in the final coalition agreement to 'roll back state intrusion' include scrapping the ContactPoint children’s database. In the belief that 'strong and stable families of all kinds are the bedrock of a strong and stable society', the agreement maintains the existing goal for government of ending child poverty in the UK by 2020. Parents, teachers, charities and local communities will be given the chance to set up new schools and there will be a premium for 'disadvantaged pupils'. The agreement is here

Public sector savings in 2010/11 include the closure of Becta, the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency. The implications for its Home Access programme, which gives laptops and broadband, including assistive technology to the poorest children, and for its support for the alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) sector are not clear. The announcement is here.

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13. Civil Society

The government believes that 'the innovation and enthusiasm of civil society is essential in tackling the social, economic and political challenges that the UK faces'. Plans in the final coalition agreement include: 

  • support for mutuals, co-operatives, charities and social enterprises, and enabling these groups to have greater involvement in the running of public services
  • a new right for public sector workers to form employee-owned co-operatives and bid to take over the services they deliver
  • measures to encourage charitable giving and philanthropy
  • using funds from dormant bank accounts to establish a ‘Big Society Bank’, which will provide new finance for neighbourhood groups, charities, social enterprises and other non-governmental bodies
  • measures to encourage volunteering and involvement in social action

The agreement is here.

The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have launched the Big Society programme. To find out more, follow this link.

Nick Hurd has been appointed the new Minister for Civil Society. Details are here.

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14. Support for Business, Universities and Science

Liberal Democrat Vince is the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Conservative David Willetts is Minister for Universities and Science, attending Cabinet. Details are here.

The final coalition agreement commits to cut red tape and reduce regulation for business, review small business taxation and reform the corporate tax system. Small business procurement will be promoted by introducing an aspiration that 25% of government contracts should be awarded to small and medium-sized businesses and by publishing government tenders in full online and free of charge. The agreement is here

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15. News in Brief

Services for People with Multiple Disabilities
The report for the Department of Health, 'Raising our sights: services for adults with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities', written by Professor Jim Mansell, argues that there is enormous scope for developing the use of AT for this client group. To find out more, go here.

Prescription Charge Exemption for People with Long- term Conditions
The Government has published the report of an independent review on how a prescription charge exemption for people with long term conditions should be implemented. Any decisions will be taken in the context of the next spending review, which is due to report in the autumn. More here.

RAatE 2010
This year's RAatE conference will be held on 29th November at the Warwick University conference centre in Coventry. RAatE 2010 is the only UK conference focused on the latest innovations and developments in assistive technology and will be of interest to everyone who uses, works with, develops or conducts research on assistive technologies. This year's themes include AT for older people; telecare and telehealth; innovative access and wheelchair control; AT in education; and case studies of successful interventions. The Call for Papers is now open and the deadline for submission of papers, posters or workshop ideas is 14 July. More information here.

FAST Trustees vacancies
FAST is currently seeking to recruit new trustees to FAST's Trust Board. Candidates should ideally be able to demonstrate experience in a range of areas including: direct use of assistive technology; financial management and/or business planning, and income generation. Would you like to help guide FAST’s small dynamic team within the rapidly growing field of assistive technology and contribute to our future strategic direction and achievements? To find out more follow this link.

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