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Putting a value on volunteering in the age of austerity - Sun, 21 Dec 2014
Individuals should be encouraged to volunteer because of the personal benefits, while businesses stand to benefit from a more skilled, productive and better-motivated workforce, writes Larry Elliott

Britain’s volunteer army will be out in force on Thursday, providing a Christmas dinner for the hungry, shelter for the homeless and a shoulder to cry on for the old and lonely. David Cameron calls this the ‘big society’ in action. His opponents say the reality is a cash-strapped charitable sector struggling to cope with a bigger caseload thanks to the government’s spending cuts.

As a concept, the big society is a good thing. Nobody could really object to the idea that people should be encouraged to help others. Those who will be running soup kitchens and hostels on Christmas Day deserve nothing but praise. There are sound economic reasons why the government should be encouraging people to volunteer. But they are not the ones normally used by Cameron and his ministers.

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Drivers face roadside drug test in Christmas crackdown - Sun, 21 Dec 2014
New ‘drugalyser’ kits will allow police to test samples of saliva instantly to detect for illegal narcotics and legal highs

A new roadside test could be used by police as part of a Christmas and New Year crackdown on drug driving, a home officer minister has indicated.

Policing minister Mike Penning said motorists pulled over will not know whether they will be breathalysed, “drugalysed” or both.

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Ambulances target times for some patients could be lengthened - Sun, 21 Dec 2014
Report says time to reach patients with illnesses including strokes and seizures could increase from eight to 19 minutes

Target times for ambulances to reach some seriously ill patients could be lengthened, according to a leaked report.

The document includes plans to change the response time for some Red 2 patients - those with serious but not the most life-threatening conditions – from eight to 19 minutes in England.

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Domestic abuse will now be harder to ignore | Barbara Ellen - Sun, 21 Dec 2014
Theresa May’s proposed legisaltion on coercive and controlling behaviour is to be welcomed

Well done to home secretary Theresa May on the new domestic violence legislation – “coercive and controlling behaviour”, stopping short of physical violence, could carry a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine.

There have been mixed reactions. Domestic abuse charity Refuge made the point that there is not enough success in implementing existing laws, even when there is physical violence involved, and control and coercion would be more difficult to prove. Then there is the complex business of identifying what is abuse and what isn’t?

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Anti-inflammatory drugs ‘could fight depression’ - Sun, 21 Dec 2014
Scientists to launch £5m study that explores links between immune disorders and mental illness – and could lead to new treatments

Scientists at seven UK universities are to set up a research consortium aimed at exploiting a newly discovered link between immune disorders and mental illness.

The connection raises hopes that anti-inflammatory drugs can be adapted to treat patients with depression or senile dementia.

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Glasgow’s living-wage policy shames corporate giants | Kevin McKenna - Sun, 21 Dec 2014
The council’s decision to make contractors commit to paying the city’s living wage shames Celtic FC and the Labour party

By any instrument you wish to measure it, 2014 has been an outstanding year for Glasgow. As our biggest city is the boiler house that heats the nation’s economy and culture, that means that this has been a year like no other for the rest of the country too. The Commonwealth Games were successfully delivered with so much style and zip that an event that was in danger of becoming a sporting irrelevance has now been revivified.

Glasgow also hosted the UK and Commonwealth’s main commemorations of the start of the First World War, the MTV Europe Music Awards and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Yet the city’s proudest moment was announced just last week but to curiously little media fanfare. Glasgow has formulated a new policy that represents a major victory in the war to reduce the gap between rich and poor. Companies bidding for contracts from Glasgow city council must now demonstrate their commitment to paying the Glasgow living wage.

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The View... from Birmingham | Josh Allen - Sun, 21 Dec 2014
It may be hip and happening, but budget cuts are having a terrible impact on the city’s poor

It has been a good week and a bad week to be a Birmingham resident. The good news is that in its 2015 list of hip and happening places Rough Guides declared Birmingham the ninth best place in the world to visit.

“Ninth!” you exclaim? Yup, the city best known to most Britons for Spaghetti Junction and New Street station, both great mid-20th-century monuments to wanting to be elsewhere, is officially a global must-see.

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The Observer view on a broken housing system | Observer editorial - Sun, 21 Dec 2014
Homelessness can be solved, but only if there is the political will for change

While congratulations should go to the activists on the New Era estate who successfully fought off the potential loss of their homes to an American property developer, the crisis in housing offers more sad stories than triumphs. According to the charity Shelter, 93,000 children will be in temporary accommodation this Christmas. Many will be living with their family in one room, with limited cooking facilities and nowhere to play. Yes, there is room at the inn, but it’s not good for the young or the peace of mind of their parents.

Families may not know their rights and charities such as Shelter, offering invaluable free advice, are at times overwhelmed with the demand. (188 funds a Shelter helpline adviser for a day.) Bed and breakfast hostels were a disgrace in the 70s and 80s and they are no better now. Yet none of the political parties has a bold enough strategy to sort out the mess.

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Planning guidance: NHS England sets out next steps for realising forward view - Fri, 19 Dec 2014
Health economies seeking to be at the forefront of moving to the new models of care set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View have been given six weeks to submit an expression of interest to NHS England

NHS England says CCGs must increase mental health spend - Fri, 19 Dec 2014
Clinical commissioning groups have been told by NHS England to increase in real terms the amount of money they spend on mental health services as part of the 2015-16 planning guidance.

New national advisory board to tackle workforce issues - Fri, 19 Dec 2014
A new national advisory board with a system-wide coordination role for workforce issues is to be created, the NHS planning guidance has revealed.

CCGs must set targets for reducing health inequalities - Fri, 19 Dec 2014
Clinical commissioning groups will have to set targets for reducing health inequalities and improving outcomes for health and wellbeing, under the 2015-16 planning guidance.

NHS England drops treatments scorecard following legal threat - Fri, 19 Dec 2014
NHS England has dropped a controversial scorecard that was supposed to help it make decisions about whether to fund treatments for a number of rare conditions

Clatterbridge to reconfigure cancer care after ‘resounding’ public support - Fri, 19 Dec 2014
STRUCTURE: A specialist cancer trust in Merseyside is pressing ahead with plans to build a new centre in Liverpool.

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The top ten social work stories of 2014 - Thu, 18 Dec 2014

All your favourite articles of the year in one handy compilation

Government approves ‘temporary’ fix to best interests assessor training dilemma - Fri, 12 Dec 2014

College of Social Work endorsement scheme will be used as vehicle to approve new providers wanting to set up BIA courses until January 2016

Government back-to-work schemes ‘failing’ people with mental health problems - Fri, 12 Dec 2014

Campaigners call for creation of specialist employment support programme better suited to mental health as Work Programme 'ineffective' for client group

NHS pilot schemes to review CAMHS thresholds and out-of-area placements - Thu, 11 Dec 2014

Eight local areas to take part in NHS England funded programme to test improvements to children’s mental health services

Withdrawing social workers from NHS mental health teams will hamper personal budget integration, says guide - Tue, 09 Dec 2014

Social Care Institute for Excellence guide urges staff to support people in positive-risk taking around personal budgets

BASW’s Faye Wilson: ‘I live and breathe mental health’ - Fri, 05 Dec 2014

BASW’s mental health chair, Faye Wilson, reflects on her 40 year career after winning the ‘outstanding contribution to social work’ accolade at the Social Worker of the Year Awards

How NHS England justifies its claim of a ‘real terms’ rise in mental health spending - Thu, 04 Dec 2014

Last week NHS England told us spending was rising beyond inflation. We asked for the evidence. Here's what we were sent

Mental health trust investigated by health watchdog after racking up £1.7m deficit - Wed, 03 Dec 2014

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust to be investigated after concerns over finances and leadership

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Northern Ireland regulator receives eight concerns a month, report says - Fri, 19 Dec 2014
The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland received 370 concerns between February 2011 and December 2014 - 320 have been concluded

Oxfam 'should have done more to avoid misperception of political bias' in poverty tweet - Fri, 19 Dec 2014
But a report by the Charity Commission also accepts that the charity had no intention of acting in a party political way with its Perfect Storm tweet

Government will reform Work Programme to improve engagement with voluntary sector - Fri, 19 Dec 2014
A report from the Department for Work and Pensions says it accepts most of the recommendations of a best practice group, including lengthening the tendering period

HMRC says value of tax reliefs for charities will have grown by 7.5% this year - Fri, 19 Dec 2014
And it says the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme is likely to have quadrupled in value compared with 2013/14

The year in volunteering: 2014 - Fri, 19 Dec 2014
From a slump in post-Olympics volunteering and rallying around during the floods to the value of student volunteering and the collapse of BeatBullying - that was the year that was

Charity Commission completed 60 per cent more operational compliance cases last year - Fri, 19 Dec 2014
And these figures, contained in a document called Tackling Abuse and Mismanagement, are evidence of a more robust regulator, says chief executive Paula Sussex

UK lags behind European neighbours in social investment, report says - Fri, 19 Dec 2014
A study for the socially responsible investors organisation Eurosif says the UK is sixth of nine countries surveyed, way behind the top three of the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden

Former head of finance at Cyrenians Cymru arrested in connection with fraud allegations - Thu, 18 Dec 2014
Mark Davies was dismissed by the homelessness and poverty charity when the fraud came to light, and he was subsequently arrested

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Other News
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CQC reviewing all data publications to 'prevent recurrence of mistakes' - Thu, 18 Dec 2014

Care minister said regulators will ‘learn lessons’

RCGP urges graduates to choose general practice as 'the future's bright' - Wed, 17 Dec 2014

College sends letters to graduates extolling virtues of general practice

NHS 111 putting 'disproportionate pressure' on GPs and A&E - Wed, 17 Dec 2014

Call handlers have little choice of services

All GP practices will see improvement in financial resources, NHS finance chief says - Wed, 17 Dec 2014

Government’s extra £2bn investment in the NHS next year

GPs told to just say 'no' to friend requests - Wed, 17 Dec 2014

Social media presents ‘serious ethical challenges’ says defence body

GPs should ask women with mental health problems about contraception, NICE says - Wed, 17 Dec 2014

Discussions urged for women with mental illness

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