Significant Increase in the Number of Degree Apprenticeships Forecast

A report from Universities UK is predicting a significant increase in the number of people opting for degree apprenticeships in England.

Degree apprenticeships – first introduced in 2015 – enable apprentices to split their time between university study and the workplace and, as with other apprenticeships, the cost of course fees are shared between government and employers.

A range of employers – of varying sizes – are already working with universities to offer degree apprenticeships, including Mercedes-Benz, Nestlé, IBM, Airbus and Transport for London.

The report is based on a survey of 66 universities on degree apprenticeship provision in England. It also includes feedback from employers about why they find degree apprenticeships beneficial.

Key findings from the report include:

  • There will be a 658% increase in degree apprentice entrants – from 640 in 2015-16 to 4,850 in 2017-18
  • 91% of universities surveyed are actively involved with degree apprenticeships
  • Chartered management, digital and technology solutions, and engineering represent the top three areas of study
  • Degree apprenticeships provide opportunities for people who might not have considered university – including part-time and mature students whose numbers have dropped drastically in recent years.

The survey also asked universities to list the benefits and challenges of delivering degree apprenticeships. Benefits included the fact that students’ fees are paid for and employers’ skills needs are more closely met. There were concerns about the continuing lack of awareness among some employers and the public about degree apprenticeships.

Dame Julia Goodfellow, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kent, said: “Universities are constantly striving to be flexible in the kind of qualifications they offer to meet the needs of students and employers. Degree apprenticeships go a long way to addressing this.

Many people feel they have been left behind in the drive to increase higher level skills in recent years. Degree apprenticeships are an excellent way to get to these harder-to-reach groups while, at the same time, ensuring that what we deliver on campus meets the needs of students, the local area and its employers.

The report shows that there is a still long way to go in communicating to students and employers how degree apprenticeships work and the mutual benefits. We would urge the government to work with us to do more here as part of its industrial strategy.

The artificial dividing line between academic and vocational education is gradually disappearing. Degree apprenticeships build on the work that universities already do to deliver skills that employers need.”

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CQC’s 2017 Regulatory Fees Confirmed

The Care Quality Commission has published its fees for 2017/18.

The amounts that providers will pay for their regulation will depend on the type of health or social care they offer. Examples of the changes providers can expect to see in 2017/18 include:

  • £163 increase for a care home with 26-30 residents to £4,375 a year.
  • £823 increase for a single-location community social care provider (such as a home-care agency) to £2,192 a year.
  • £65,375 increase for a NHS trust with an income of £125 million to £225 million to £202,239 a year.
  • £1,952 increase for a single-location GP practice with 5,001-10,000 patients to £4,526 a year.
  • £113 decrease for a single-location dental practice with four chairs to £837 a year.

These sizeable increases reflect the fact that the CQC has been told it must move away from a subsidised model of funding, where the Department of Health covered a sizeable part of the cost, to a ‘Full Chargeable Cost Recovery’ (FCCR) model for all health and adult social care providers that it regulates.

The CQC is keen to point out that it continues to make savings within its own organisation in order to minimise the rate of increase in fees.  In 2015/16, their budget was £249 million. The budget for 2019/20 will be £217 million, a reduction of £32 million. During 2016/17, CQC has made over £10 million in efficiency savings.

In total CQC fees for 2017/18 represent 0.16% of overall indicative turnover of the health and social care market.

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Will There Be Anyone Left to Work in Social Care Post Brexit?


The number of non-British EU nationals working in the UK’s social care system has increased by over 40% in the last three years.

Government data shows an increase from 65,000 in December 2013 to 92,000 in September 2016.  Raising fears that if immigration and/or access to work visas is restricted post Brexit, the resulting squeeze on staff numbers could break the already stressed care sector.

In all, EU workers make up 7% of the social care workforce, although the numbers vary significantly from region to region, with only 2% of the workforce coming from the EU in the north-east, and 12% in London.

Talking to the Observer, Dr Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Commons Health Comittee, said “I am very concerned about existing workers, but I am also concerned about future staff,” Wollaston said. “The government has to ensure that those who need care are not left high and dry when we leave the EU.”

During an appearance before the health select committee last month, health secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted that the system would not be able to operate without EU workers, saying: “Frankly, we would fall over without their help.”

Whilst government officials keep stating that they are confident that Europeans will still be able to live and work in the UK, supporting sectors including health and social care, no detailed plans have been forthcoming.

On a visit to Estonia, Brexit minister David Davis promised that Britain’s door won’t ‘suddenly shut’.

Speaking on the visit he went on to admit that “In the hospitality sector, hotels and restaurants, in the social care sector, working in agriculture, it will take time. It will be years and years before we get British citizens to do those jobs.

He went on to reassure his audience “Don’t expect just because we’re changing who makes the decision on the policy, the door will suddenly shut – it won’t.”

Time will only tell if these reassuring words will be enough to give workers the confidence to make the move and live and work in the UK.

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Successful Self Publisher Swimming Against the Tide

Joanna Penn has been something of a poster girl for the self-publishing community in the UK and has surprised many by announcing that she has moved into physical book publishing.

Her publishing company, Curl Up Press, is an independent small press, currently focusing on thrillers and dark fantasy fiction, self-help and writing related non-fiction, written by J.F.Penn and Joanna Penn.

In a recent article on her blog Joanna explained her reasons for the move:

  • She is already working with other authors and paying royalties, and so needs formal administrative, sale and financial systems to track these activities.
  • She would like to expand her own print distribution and by using an imprint name bookstores and libraries won’t question how her books are published.
  • She would like to be able to license more of her own intellectual property rights, and this is easier to do from a company imprint and with a separate brand.

Joanna is not alone is setting up an independent press as a vehicle to achieve her own publishing dreams.  Other big name indie authors have started small presses or larger companies, working alone or with other authors, including:

  • Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and David Wright. They went from 3 guys self-publishing in disparate genres to running Sterling and Stone, a company with several different imprints, and plans for a story studio to rival Pixar.
  • Marie Force started Jack’s House Publishing to publish fellow authors in romance.
  • New York Times & USA Today bestselling indie author Liliana Hart started SilverHart Publishing, also for romance novels.

Joanna’s blog post is crammed full of practical advice for would be hard-copy publishers – click here to find out more!

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CQC Rates Ealing GP Practice As Inadequate

The CQC has rated Dr Naz Asghar’s practice in Ealing, west London, as Inadequate.

The practice was rated as Inadequate for being safe, effective and well-led. It was rated Requires Improvement for caring and Good for being responsive.

Some of the areas where CQC have told the practice it must improve are:

  • The practice must introduce clear and effective processes for recording and reporting significant events and incidents.
  • It must provide staff with appropriate training to carry out their roles in a safe and effective manner.
  • It must ensure that Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are undertaken as part of the recruitment process for all staff employed at the practice or a risk assessment to indicate the risks of not having one have been assessed.

Ursula Gallagher, Deputy Chief Inspector of General Practice, at CQC said “We found that people registered with Dr Naz Asghar’s practice are not getting the high quality care which everyone should expect to receive from their GP.”

“We are placing this practice in special measures – and we would now encourage the practice to seek the support it needs to improve. Practices 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.”

You can view the full report on the CQC’s website.

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Innovate UK Looking to Recruit 2017 Graduates

Innovate UK, the government sponsored innovation agency, is currently looking for graduates to fill 16 cross-disciplinary roles across its directorates. This includes the sector teams, development directorate, operations and information technology and business change.

Innovate was set up to work with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy, They are looking for individuals who are determined, bright and goal-orientated.

Their two-year programme will provide on-the-job training, tailored learning and development to help graduates build skills that will further their careers.

What Do They Do?

With a strong business, science and technology focus, Innovate works with companies to de-risk, enable and support innovation and growth.

  • Determining which science and technology developments will drive future economic growth
  • Meeting UK innovators with great ideas
  • Funding the strongest opportunities
  • Connecting innovators with the right partners they need to succeed
  • Helping innovators launch, build and grow successful businesses

Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive, Innovate UK, said “Innovation doesn’t just happen. Aspiring business entrepreneurs rely on Innovate UK to help them realise their ideas and take them to market. We need good people to make this happen and support the UK to be cutting edge. If you’re a recent graduate with an interest in innovation we could be just the place to start your career.”


Innovate are looking for people who have either graduated with an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification in the past year or are set to do so within 2017. The range of roles available means we will consider applicants across different fields of study. Applicants should be predicted or have achieved a 2:1 or above.

Further information can be found at:



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Health and Social Care Reforms Are Not Delivering

The National Audit Office has issued a damning report on the progress of the government’s plans to integrate health and social care.

The report concluded that work has been slow, with expected benefits reduced or simply non-existent for patients, the NHS and local authorities. The NAO went as far as to state that “the government’s plan for integrated health and social care services across England by 2020 is at significant risk”.

“In the face of increased demand for care and constrained finances, while the Better Care Fund, the principal integration initiative, has improved joint working, it has not yet achieved its potential. The Fund has not achieved the expected value for money, in terms of savings, outcomes for patients or reduced hospital activity”

Highlights of the Report

  • Compared with 2014-15, emergency admissions increased by 87,000 against a planned reduction of 106,000, costing £311 million more than planned.
  • Days lost to delayed transfers of care increased by 185,000, against a planned reduction of 293,000, costing £146 million more than planned.
  • The seven new care models championed by the Fund are as yet unproven and their impact is still being evaluated.
  • The Department of Health and the Department for Communities and Local Government have identified barriers to integration, such as misaligned financial incentives, workforce challenges and reticence over information sharing, but are not systematically addressing them.

Whilst the general tone of the report was critical, it did highlight a number of successes:

  • More than 90% of local areas agreed or strongly agreed that delivery of their plan had improved joint working.
  • Local areas also achieved improvements at the national level in reducing permanent admissions of people aged 65 and over to residential and nursing care homes, and in increasing the proportion of older people still at home 91 days after discharge from hospital into reablement or rehabilitation services.

Chris Ham, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said: ‘We agree with the NAO that place-based planning and health and social care integration are the right ambitions for the NHS and local government to pursue.

If these ambitions are to be realised, barriers to integration such as misaligned financial incentives and different planning cycles must be removed. Sufficient time must be allowed to build the relationships on which partnership working depends, and to deliver measurable improvements in care…. National bodies should respond with urgency to address the shortcomings identified by the NAO. Our forthcoming analysis of the 44 STPs in England will outline the other changes required, including earmarked funding to support new care models and to invest in the out of hospital services that hold out most hope of moderating demand for hospital care. The ambitious proposals included in STPs now need to be worked up into credible plans to deliver on the high expectations associated with them.”

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Applicants for Higher Education in the UK Down for 2017

UCAS has published its analysis of full-time undergraduate applications made by the 15 January deadline – the first reliable indicator of demand for UK higher education for the 2017 cycle.

Overall, UK applicant figures have decreased by 5% to a total of 469,490 and EU applicant figures decreased by 7% to 42,070. The number of applicants from other overseas countries is 52,630, similar to last year.

The analysis reveals that the largest decreases are for older applicants from England and Wales. In England the number of 19 year old applicants has fallen by 9%, 20 year olds by 9%, 21-24 by 15%, and 25 and over by 23%.

The number of first time applicants has decreased by 4%, whilst the total re-applying to higher education has decreased by 10%.

The subject experiencing the most notable decrease in applicants is nursing. Applicants from England making at least one choice to nursing fell by 23% to 33,810 in 2017. Most applicants to nursing are over 19 years old and English applicants from this age group decreased by between 16% and 29%. English 18 year old nursing applicants fell by 10%.

“Despite the overall decrease, it is encouraging that the number of 18 year old applicants remains high, and that application rates for disadvantaged groups continue to rise,” said Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS Chief Executive.

“However, we are seeing large falls for older applicants, partly because of strong young recruitment in recent years depleting the pool of potential mature applicants, and probably also reflecting increased employment, the higher minimum wage, and more apprenticeship opportunities.

It’s clear that the tough recruitment environment for universities will continue through 2017, leading to unprecedented choice and opportunity for applicants. Although the January deadline has passed, it is not too late to apply and we would expect around another 100,000 people to apply to higher education through the remainder of this cycle.”

Responding to the publication of the figures, Dame Julia Goodfellow , President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kent, said: “There seem to be a number of factors behind this decline in applicant figures. This includes the possible impact of the Brexit vote on EU applicants and changes to the way degrees in nursing, midwifery and some other allied health professions in England are funded.

While the drop is not catastrophic, particularly given last year’s record high, there is a need to address some issues urgently.

The benefits of getting a degree remain clear. Official data shows skilled graduates are still in a substantially better position to obtain a job and, on average, earn substantially more than non-graduates over a working lifetime.”

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Using Your Voice to Log into Your HMRC Account

HMRC is making it faster and simpler for customers to confirm their identity to access its services however they choose to do it.

Customers using the HMRC mobile app can already use their fingerprint to access their information. Now HMRC is introducing technology that will recognise a customer’s voice when they call.

Starting this month, some customers calling the tax credits and Self Assessment helplines will be able to enrol for voice identification (Voice ID), a move which will speed up the security steps customers are asked when calling HMRC.

The enrolment process is straightforward. The first time you call, you will be asked to repeat a vocal passphrase up to five times and then be passed back to an adviser to complete their call. The recorded passphrase will be securely stored and you can use your voice to confirm your identity in future.

Director General for Customer Services, Ruth Owen, said “Millions of our customers are choosing to use our digital services rather than picking up a phone or pen, with more joining them every day. But we know that not everyone can, or wants to, deal with us online, and so we’re continuing to improve our services across all contact channels. Voice ID is the latest example of the cutting-edge technology we are using to make it easier for people to manage their tax.”

HMRC will be encouraging customers who call to take advantage of the Voice ID service, but they can choose to opt-out and continue to use HMRC’s services in the usual way if they prefer.

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Adult Social Care CQC Inspections to be Fast-tracked

In the latest set of CQC board papers, the Chief Executive, David Behan, has said that his organisation is working on rapidly re-inspecting care homes which have restrictions on admission, in order to reopen bed capacity and help ease intense NHS winter pressures.

“The CQC has committed to review those services where there is a restriction on admissions and where the lifting of these restrictions would have the potential to increase capacity in those areas where there are the most significant pressures on the health service,” Behan wrote in his report.

“This review would take into account an assessment of the risk at the service and consider whether a re-inspection could be brought forward with a view to lifting the restrictions on admissions if sufficient improvement has taken place and can be sustained.”

The CQC “will not be compromising on standards of quality” in reopening the beds, its chief executive stressed.

Evidence shows that on re-inspection, over 50% of care providers improve their rating and the CQC and NHS England are keen to identify these services as soon as possible, to get more beds into the system and support acute services.

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