Weekly political news round up – 3rd October 2014

October 3, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

The Department for Education has published “The young person’s guide to the Children and Families Act 2014”, outlining the main changes and provisions of the Act and how they may affect children and families. It provides a simplified outline of how the Act helps children and young people with special educational needs or a disability, as well as an outline of changes to the role of the Children’s Commissioner.

The Department of Health has published two factsheets on the transfer of 0-5 children’s public health commissioning to local health authorities.  One of the factsheets outlines changes to the commissioning of the National Healthy Child Programme, whilst the other outlines the financial issues of the transfer of commissioning duties to local authorities.

The Institute of Education has published research which has found that the behaviour of many children with disabilities often worsens between the age of 3 and 7 – the period where they first start school. Notably, the study found that children with disabilities encountered increasing difficulties in terms of hyperactivity, emotional problems and interactions with other children. The report concluded that disabled children might have fewer behavioural issues in their early years if more schools introduced stringent anti-bullying measures and other support strategies. It also recommended that better support is provided for parents of children with an impairment or special educational need, as such interventions have “very substantial” long-term benefits.

NHS England has announced that, effective from 1st October 2014, children (and adults) in receipt of NHS Continuing Healthcare will now have a “right to have” a personal health budget. This builds on the “right to ask” for a personal health budget that patients have had since April 2014. Personal health budgets are an allocation of NHS money to individuals with identified health needs, which allow them to buy services or products which they believe will enable them to meet specific goals around health and wellbeing.

Forthcoming events

Both the House of Commons and the House of Lords are set to return on 13th October, following the end of party conference season. The final major party conference before the 2015 election, the Liberal Democrat party conference, will take place from 4th to 8th October.

Overview of Conservative Party conference – health and education

The Conservative’s final party conference before the 2015 general election took place in Birmingham this week, with speeches being given by Prime Minister David Cameron, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. Below are summaries of their speeches:

 

Prime Minister David Cameron

In his speech, Cameron announced that a Conservative government would ring-fence the NHS budget in real terms, whilst asserting that the delivery of a successful health service was closely tied to strong economic performance. Making references to his own family’s experiences of the NHS, and echoing Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative leader accused Labour of “spreading complete and utter lies” about the Conservative Party’s record on, and plans for, the NHS.

Cameron promised to continue reform of the education sector, presenting his party as one unafraid to “take on those who get in the way of high standards”.

The headline policies of Cameron’s speech were plans to raise the tax-free allowance from £10,500 to £12,500 by 2020, and plans for the 40p income tax threshold to be raised from £41,900 to £50,000, also by 2020.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

In his speech, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt he announced plans to provide patients with seven days a week access to GPs by 2020, with appointment hours being extended to between 8am and 8pm. In order to make this a reality, he also confirmed plans to train and retain an extra 5,000 GPs.

Hunt also announced the reintroduction of the requirement for every patient to have their own named, personal GP. He noted that this would be beneficial to those with chronic conditions and complex needs, who would no longer have to explain their condition to different practitioners. Medical records would also be available online.

Discussing funding, Hunt said that NHS spending had increased more – in real terms – since the Coalition came to power in 2010 than by the £2.5 billion spend outlined by Labour leader Ed Miliband at the Labour party conference last week. He warned against significant extra funding at the expense of balancing the budget, noting that “you can’t fund the NHS if you bankrupt the economy”.

Hunt argued that Labour had turned the NHS into “national political football”, accusing them of “scaremongering” about claims that the NHS was being privatised.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan

Nicky Morgan gave her first speech to a Conservative arty conference as Education Secretary. In her speech, Morgan expressed her sympathy for the workloads of teachers, promising to find ways for teachers to spend more of their time in the classroom teaching and offering an olive branch to the teaching unions to discuss these concerns.

Although very little was revealed by way of specific policies, Morgan did indicate strongly indicate the direction she wanted to lead her department in: repair relations with teaching unions and teachers themselves; apply a greater focus on 0-5 and post-18 education; end Michael Gove’s “obsession” with curriculum and exams reform; and ease the rate of school reform and allow the momentum already generated to keep up the academisation of the sector.

Welsh Government announces draft budget for 2015-2016

The Welsh Government has announced its draft budget for 2015-16.

Although the budget is £1.5bn lower in real terms than 2010-11, an extra £425m of funding is being provided for the NHS over the next two years. Of the £425m being delivered, £200m will be delivered in 2014-15, with £225m being delivered in 2015-16.

The extra funding comes following the publication of an independent report by the health think-tank the Nuffield Trust in June 2014, which found that rising costs, increasing demand, an ageing population and a growth in the number of people experiencing chronic conditions was placing an increasing challenge on all parts of the system and required an innovative response. The extra funding seeks to enable the NHS in Wales to maintain its delivery services, whilst it continues to reform and reshape services.

As Labour do not have a majority in the Welsh Assembly, the budget will likely be passed following a deal with the Liberal Democrats involving extra funding for schools in poorer areas.