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Can the public sector improve collections, post Covid? Asks Christian Jacob, Managing Director, Qualco UK

Christian Jacob, Managing Director, Qualco UK

With millions outstanding in tax revenues and unpaid debts, local authorities and central government agencies are evaluating how they recoup their losses.

Around six million people across the UK have found themselves with bills they cannot pay as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This figure, from Citizens Advice, was taken from a survey conducted among 6,015 adults between 29 June and 8 July. Since then, Britons have been faced with more job cuts and local lockdowns, so it is reasonable to assume that the number of people with unmanageable debts is even higher.

For local authorities, this poses an enormous challenge. Even before Covid-19, local authority finances were in a sorry state. An Institute for Government report, published in November 2019, attributed the financial difficulties of local councils to the previous decade of austerity, which saw councils such as Lancashire, Northamptonshire and Torbay take special measures to balance the books.

The arrival of the novel coronavirus, then, is particularly ill-timed, loading another financial burden on the already fully-stretched finances of local government authorities.

According to the Local Government Association, Covid-19-related costs and lost income by councils amounted to £3.2 billion between March and May alone.

Subsequent figures released by Moody’s Investor Services suggest that local and regional authorities in the five largest countries of Europe are collectively facing a shortfall of €77 billion.

Researchers found that the financial strength of UK local authorities is particularly weak and likely to require “the use of reserves to balance budgets” until the end of the financial year, at least.

A shift in thinking

Traditionally, public bodies have used the threat of enforcement agents and evictions as blunt methods to extract payments from indebted citizens. But, in June, as industries remained closed, people self-isolated, and the economic consequences of the pandemic were becoming clear, a temporary block on bailiffs seizing assets came into force, running until 23 August 2020.

During this period, the government launched its Fairness in Government Debt Management consultation, which seeks to explore how local authorities can work more collaboratively with citizens to maximise repayments, and minimise mental anguish to the customer.

“Fair debt management lessens the physical and mental impact on individuals struggling to repay what they owe, and the pressure on businesses and business owners,” the government report states.

Enforcement was previously the “go to” for most authorities until the Covid-19 outbreak. For many public bodies, the decision to appoint bailiffs and begin evictions may seem as a low-cost and efficient option.

In actual fact, it is anything but. Opting to use enforcement action at the earliest opportunity can bring a host of unintended consequences. The distress that the customer feels from such an interaction can have a lasting effect on their mental health. And, if evicted, it will be the local authority that will then be tasked with rehousing the individual or offering further support down the line. Local healthcare providers may also find they are tasked with rebuilding the customer emotionally after the psychological trauma of such an event.

According to the government’s Fairness in Government Debt Management report, working more collaboratively with customers can also improve returns to creditors “by avoiding the use of aggressive recovery techniques.”

A National Audit Office case study showed that employing the use of affordable repayment plans saved the creditors of one debt advice agency some £82m in one year alone.

Wokingham Council has become one of many local authorities to review its collection procedures, after it considered the impact that its methods could have on its residents and on its income.

Embracing a new approach

While enforcement techniques are coming back into play for local authorities, the Crown Commercial Service is urging decision-makers to use the new Debt Market Services (DMS) framework, which helps organisations better identify and understand customers in financial difficulty.

The framework — delivered through Qualco — gives authorities access to a government-approved centralised service of customer analytics, debt management advice, collections, error reduction tools, litigation services and, if appropriate, enforcement options.

“DMS uses analytics from credit reference agencies, and other sources, to understand consumer circumstances, meaning that local authority resources are focused towards delivering best value and returns,” explains Matthew Hooper, Senior Commercial Lead, Debt Management at the Crown Commercial Service.

“In addition DMS also saves valuable resources, and costs, by providing access to multiple best in class services delivered through a single supplier.”

Crucially, the DMS services are designed to treat customers fairly and they are open to all UK public sector organisations, including both central government and local authorities.

The DMS was established after its predecessor, the Debt Market Integrator (DMI), had established the need for best practice in government debt management. When the DMI was introduced back in 2015, the economy was in a very different position, but it did highlight the need for a more co-ordinated approach on collections throughout government, as well as a need to resolve inadequate data sharing between the private sector and public bodies. The DMI is now closed to new clients.

A fair, realistic approach

While the DMS framework can never totally remove the need for enforcement, particularly for those cases where all other forms of engagement with the customer have failed, it does offer public bodies the best possible chance of understanding the pain points of their customers. It also gives a clearer picture of those who can’t pay and those who simply choose not to pay.

Some believe that a supportive approach to debt management yields better results for creditors and for customers. The DMS allows public bodies a chance to access the tools which can enable successful outcomes for both parties.

As the UK focusses on getting the economy back on track, public bodies will need every bit of assistance to maximise their revenues, whilst at the same time embracing the Fairness in Government Debt Management initiative. It is only by harnessing the technological advances of recent years, better data analytical capabilities, and available insights into consumer behaviours that government organisations will be able to achieve this goal.

allpay and Blocser confirm card contract for fast-growing UK gig economy

Blocser believes cards still have a hold

Ambitious Danish fintech Blocser has partnered with top UK card manufacturer allpay.cards with designs on the fast-growing gig economy.

Blocser has pinned their Butterfly Card to one of its biggest market moves yet – the UK offer to the near 5million now estimated as working in the nation’s gig economy.

Butterflies, says Blocser founder and CEO Henrik Danbjørg, are those who “dare to work on their own and only collect what they need”.

allpay.cards took that on board – and the butterfly took flight.

“At allpay.cards, we understand the importance of card design and the impact it can have on the market.

Our designers created a wide range of stunning design options, all of which enhanced the card with multiple printing techniques, bringing the butterfly to life,” said Emily Lovelock, Head of Sales, allpay.cards.

“We are excited to be working with Blocser and look forward to supporting them through their launch,” she said.

From the off, Blocser’s offer has backed those working beyond the 9-5 model with an account, payment card, billing tool and digital business card. To draw a direct comparison with the gig economy, Danbjørg says: “Think of us as a ridesharing service but instead of rides you sell your work – build your work-life one deal at the time.

“We will help you find customers and use all the great free online channels that exist today if you are looking for extra income selling your skills and time directly to others.”

For a fintech offering a full range of solutions, Blocser believes cards still have a hold.

“You will find many advocating the death of cards. In China they pay with face recognition, Apple pay and Google Pay converts smartphones into payment vehicles and wearables are on the rise as well – but the fact is that card payments hold a huge proportion of payments,” says Danbjørg.

“It is universally accepted and with the rise of Fintech, it has become a cornerstone of a lot of the new valuable services offered to freelancers, cross border workers, ex-pats and everyone else who is marginalised by traditional banks.

“Cash is declining and the first ones to get hit by that are people who would normally get paid in cash – primarily “The blue-collar freelancers”.

“These people live from gig to gig, the absence of a monthly paycheck makes them irrelevant to banks and Tax authorities struggle to collaborate with them – they get marginalised… stigmatised… underserved…”

Blocser’s partnership with allpay.cards offer the UK gig market transition support allowing digital payments directly to the Butterfly card.

Those payments are pitched as instant and fee-free between blocsers.

“And it will feel like cash because they get a card they can use in more than 30 million stores and three million ATMs,” says Danbjørg.

Michelle Pacey, director of allpay.cards said getting ahead of the gig economy is one of the biggest challenges facing UK fintech.

“Our work with Blocser demonstrates what can be done with cards as the sector rises to this challenge – a challenge we’re ready to lead on at allpay,” she said.

Please visit: allpay.cards/

New era begins for cross-party environment group

Anthony Browne MP

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Environment is ushering in a new era today, bringing in a new secretariat and an ambitious calendar of events ahead of the 2021 ‘Super Year’ for the environment. Led by a new cross-party committee chaired by Anthony Browne MP, the APPG is relaunching with Green Alliance taking the reins as secretariat.

Founded in 1979, Green Alliance has a uniquely close working relationship with a wide network of NGOs and parliamentarians, including founding the Greener UK coalition in 2016 to defend and strengthen environmental protections as the UK renegotiates its relationship with the EU. Robin Bines and Adrian Wilkes, who have managed the group for over 27 years, are due to retire at the end of September. Plans are already in place to ensure MPs from all parties are best informed as they look to support, scrutinise and challenge the upcoming government programme of legislation, such as the new Energy White Paper and the National Tree Strategy.

Kicking off the APPG’s schedule of events is former Bank of England governor Mark Carney, who will address parliamentarians on the need for a green economic recovery in the aftermath of COVID-19 at a virtual event later today (Tuesday 15 September). He is expected to discuss what global governments can do to ensure that the post-Covid economic recovery accelerates progress towards the Paris climate goals, and what can be expected of the postponed COP26 climate summit, which takes place in Glasgow in November next year.

Anthony Browne, Chair of the APPG on the Environment, and former environment editor of the Observer and Times newspapers, said: “We have a moral duty to pass on a sustainable world to future generations. I am determined to raise the profile and understanding of environmental issues across the House of Commons and House of Lords, as well as more widely across government and policy-making circles. Relaunching the APPG, fuelled by the impressive expertise of Green Alliance, is a key way of doing that. Their long history working with NGOs and legislators, as well as their politically-neutral evidence-based approach, will be essential as we look to ensure environmental priorities are at the heart of government policy.”

He continued: “I want to thank Robin and Adrian for the many years of service they have given both the APPG and its cause. They have achieved a great deal in pushing the group to influence public policy and debate on the environment and laid the groundwork for a bright future ahead.” 

Chris Venables, Head of Politics at Green Alliance, and staff lead for the APPG Environment, said, “We’re really excited to be taking the reins of this all-party environment group. It has an impressive history of driving forward action on the nature and climate crises, and with so much at stake in this most crucial of decades, we believe it’s vital that parliamentarians collaborate across party divides. There is no area of environmental policy in which increased scrutiny and calls for greater ambition from MPs and peers would be unwelcome – so that is our goal – and we’re excited to work with the officers and members to achieve it.”

Konica Minolta cloud solution plays vital role in helping Walsall Council modernise and streamline critical processes

Konica Minolta Business Solutions (UK) Ltd today announced that it is helping Walsall Council to deliver enhanced ICT, as part of the council’s PROUD programme, which is transforming the way public services are delivered. The council has deployed a cloud-hosted PlanetPress solution as part of its centralised communications strategy, hosted and managed by Konica Minolta.

“We took the decision to move to PlanetPress in order to automate more processes and cut down on manual, repetitive print tasks,” explains Elizabeth Pearson, IT Project Manager, Walsall Council. The new cloud-based solution was purchased through Lot 1 of the Crescent Print Consortium (CPC) Multifunctional Devices and Associated Print Services and Supplies framework. It replaces the council’s legacy document management application that was used to support high-volume print services such as council tax invoices, election polling cards and other customer correspondence.

“By digitally enabling our work processes, we are ensuring council services keep pace with the changing needs of residents, communities and local businesses,” continues Elizabeth. “The cloud is an intrinsic component of this transformation strategy, it means we can develop and deploy modern digital services faster and more cost effectively.”

PlanetPress expertly manages a complex system 24x7x365, ensuring council tax and other important document services continue uninterrupted. Benefiting from the fixed-fee cloud hosted service, there are no up-front capital costs for hardware, maintenance, or support, and it is hosted and maintained in a highly resilient and fully backed-up UK-based data centre. No council staff intervention is required, they simply connect to the PlanetPress workflow automation through a VPN line.

Elizabeth adds: “Konica Minolta is playing a vital role in helping Walsall Council modernise and streamline critical work processes that enable sustainable business delivery. By making use of a managed cloud service and simplifying day-to-day work, we can increase efficiency, which will improve customer service and drive down costs.”

Jonathan Smith, Head of Public Sector Sales at Konica Minolta states: “The PlanetPress project for Walsall Council is the perfect example of the power of cloud technology in supporting public sector organisations with their digital transformation. Our Professional Print solution provides a highly agile, practical and powerful, yet flexible and cost-effective way of providing improved services, exactly where and when they are needed.”

 About Konica Minolta Business Solutions (UK) Ltd

Konica Minolta’s innovations help businesses to shape the future, today, changing the way people conduct business and use technology to work smarter, faster and better. As a leading Smart Data and Digital IT Services company, we meet the changing needs of customers with our Digital Print, IoT, Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality solutions.

As a provider of comprehensive IT services, Konica Minolta also delivers consultancy and services to optimise business processes with intelligent workflow automation, and implements solutions in the field of IT infrastructure and IT security as well as cloud environments.

Konica Minolta’s solutions are proven to improve quality, reduce cost, eradicate risk, increase accuracy and streamline business processes. Recognising there are no two businesses the same, we pride ourselves on our customer partnerships and tailor our solutions to our customer needs, giving them the competitive edge they need to remain at the forefront of their markets.

Combining our market leading, award winning and easy to integrate technological platforms, with our strategic partnerships, business solutions and services portfolio, Konica Minolta is continually improving quality, reducing cost, eradicating risk, increasing accuracy and streamlining business processes for our customers. Our strategy has our customers at its core. With strong and mutually beneficial customer partnerships, our aim is to achieve mutual sustainable growth through technological innovation – giving shape to our customers’ ideas. We bring flexible solutions that not only meet our customer expectations, but exceed them, time after time.

Part of the global Konica Minolta Group, Konica Minolta Business Solutions (UK) Ltd is headquartered in Basildon, Essex and operates out of 10 offices across the UK, employing over 750 people.

Terms and product names may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders and are hereby acknowledged.

Web: www.konicaminolta.co.uk

Women’s Equality Day 2020: Let’s hear it for the girls!

This year, Women’s Equality Day celebrated its hundredth milestone, celebrating the date of which women in the US gained the right to vote for the very first time. Since 1920, the world has dramatically changed for women in every sector, from making strides in their education and in their work, to winning more nobel prizes and becoming CEOs of large corporations. But it doesn’t stop there. We spoke to eight industry leaders on their thoughts about the day and why women’s equality is crucial for the future of technology.

100 years is just the beginning

“Even though 100 years have passed since the 19th Amendment was signed into law, there are many areas in which women are still fighting for equality,” argues Sofia Kaufman, CPO at Zerto.While topics like equal pay and the lack of women in male-dominated industries still need to be addressed, I want to encourage women across the world to use this year’s Women’s Equality Day as a reminder of their worth. Women achieve amazing things every day, and we need to be celebrated in our success as much as our male counterparts are. It’s no longer time to be humble; it’s time to speak up, move up, and be proud of what we achieve.”

Hugh Scantlebury, Co-Founder and CEO at Aqilla, highlights how women have also passed the centennial milestone in accountancy too:

“Not only has it been over 100 years since women were passed the vote, it’s also now passed 100 years since women were first permitted into the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). Although this is encouraging, and it’s meant that over the past 50 years or so the amount of women that have a job in the finance or STEM sectors is gradually increasing, there is still, sadly, a notable gender gap within STEM.

“As technology develops to increasingly include automation, job descriptions will also likely begin to change. It will mean that users will be able to focus less of their time on crushing numbers and creating reports, and utilise their time to solve business challenges. This, I believe, will be the catalyst for an increase in the amount of women working in the industry we’ve been waiting for.”

Diversity issues don’t just stop with gender. In fact, Dalibor Siroky, CEO and Co-Founder at Plutora, upholds that, “It is important that every organisation or team be made up of the best possible selection of people to achieve success. The way to do that is to bring together people of different backgrounds, perspectives and genders. By combining diverse voices, you create a stronger team and encourage an environment of acceptance and equality.

“With diversity being front and centre and a positive force in nearly every aspect of our lives, it’s more important than ever to ensure that women’s voices are elevated and being heard. Isn’t that what Women’s Equality Day is about in the first place: commemorating the passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote? With that barrier legally removed, we need to be aware of more subtle and cultural obstacles like unconscious bias and lack of diversity. It’s no secret that the number of women in tech are lower than we’d like to see, and we need to find ways to change that by integrating the voices of those in our industry equally. If we can do that, we all benefit.”

“Recent global circumstances have put the spotlight on working mothers”

The pandemic revealed more inequalities

“In this new reality of pandemic uncertainty, gender imbalances have been exacerbated – a Boston Consulting Group report found that the recent increase in remote working has had a major impact on women, who have spent on average 15 hours more per week on domestic work during the pandemic,” highlights Liz Cook, People Director at Six Degrees.

She continues: “Women’s Equality Day highlights the importance of supporting women and men alike through agile working structures that level the playing field and empower people to be the very best at what they do, no matter what their circumstances. As the People Director of a technology company, I am passionate about working every day to deliver these agile working structures that promote gender-balance and drive a better working world.”

Kleopatra Kivrakidou, Channel Marketing Manager EMEA at Ergotron, agrees: “Recent global circumstances have put the spotlight on working mothers, with many organisations implementing flexible work structures to help them maintain a work-life balance during this difficult period. This includes enabling them to continue to work from home, if their personal circumstances don’t allow a return to the office, and providing the right technology and equipment to support both productive working and wellbeing. Working environments that build their success on respecting diversity, giving equal opportunities for development to all, and who trust their workforce for who they are, become, by definition, the ones where you find more women.”

Lead by example

“This year, Women’s Equality Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves that we need to get more women in tech,” emphasises Marilou van Doorn, COO at Leaseweb Global. “Just because an organisation currently doesn’t have an equal ratio of men to women shouldn’t be a reason not to apply for a role, in fact, it should be the opposite. When I first joined the tech industry, I was the only woman. After a while, my CEO confessed that he had noticed a positive change in the team, the atmosphere and the overall way of working. My advice is to apply – don’t feel intimidated, be the cultural change the organisation needs.

“An organisation’s leadership team plays a significant role in future talent wanting to grow and develop themselves in tech. We as a generation need to see more female role models come forward and show both the current and next generation that women can and will succeed in tech. It’s not just a man’s game. Women can also be the next CTO, COO or CEO.”

Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA at Skillsoft, supports this and believes gender equality affects the whole organisation – it’s not just an issue for the female employees within the business: 

“Women bring a different dynamic, different thinking and different strategies – so why not have equal representation of genders when it comes to the boardroom? Despite the number of women in leadership positions on the increase, many women across organisations – from the board to roles in IT – are still victims of the gender pay gap. We’re now in 2020, women should be equally paid and for this to be addressed, more organisations need to be transparent about their salary bandings and who is being paid what.

“For women to be truly equal, we need to teach about gender equality within schools. Both boys and girls need to learn to regard themselves as equal and they are both capable of taking up any role, whether that’s in STEM or leadership. Educating children at a young age is the only way to remove unconscious bias that affects us later on in our professional working life.”

Crendal Kear, VP of Global Sales Operations at Exabeam, concludes with some advice for future women leaders in technology:

”‘Be curious. Stay curious.’ More than adopting a growth mindset, indulging your curiosity develops a comfort in asking questions, seeking counsel and getting to the root of the question at hand. These two skills are invaluable to growing your career, serving equally when striving for the next phase of your career or creating the next groundbreaking innovation.

“‘Choose your leader wisely.’ No one rises to the top alone, and it’s important to have strong advocates. A great challenge for women in tech is a lack of community and professional support. Choose a leader who values you, will mentor you, will empower your professional development and will challenge you. Look for a leader from whom you can learn and represent your values. Working for a leader who took the time to invest in me professionally and advocate for me —and coming to fully understand the impact and rarity of such a situation—has been invaluable to my career advancement.”

The Queen has approved new appointments

The Queen has been pleased to approve the following appointments:

  • Luke Hall MP to be a Minister of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (previously a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Ministry).
  • Kelly Tolhurst MP to be a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (previously a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport).
  • Robert Courts MP to be a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport.

This follows the resignation from Government of Simon Clarke MP.

Affordable homes: Comment from Arcadis

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick today unveiled a new £12 million boost for affordable homes, in a bid to make it easier for people to get on the housing ladder. The programme represents the highest single funding commitment to affordable housing in a decade. 

Commenting on the measures, Peter Hogg, UK Cities Director at Arcadis, told GPSJ:

“The Secretary of State’s announcement today on the Affordable Homes Fund is a clear commitment from the Government to prioritise housing delivery. Not only does it make clear the Government is serious about the levelling up agenda but, at the same time, it hasn’t forgotten the unique housing challenges in London, with £4.5m alone earmarked for the city. It shows that the Government is sticking to the Conservative totem of a home-owning democracy with strong emphasis on accessible ownership, inclusive design and less emphasis in the announcement on other tenures. It also talks of private/public sector collaboration to deliver the number of homes targeted in the timescale proposed, which is very encouraging news.

“Linked to recent announcements on planning reform, it shows that the Government really does plan to deliver on the Prime Minister’s “Build, build, build” pledge. This is pragmatic and logical but, as with many other aspects of the announcement, the detail of what this means and – more importantly – how it will work is yet to be made clear. This will be no small task and the Government and the industry must work closely together if the aspiration is to be delivered.”

Weathering the Storm: Prepare Your IT to Ride the “Second Wave”

By Sascha Giese, Head Geek, SolarWinds

Sascha Giese, Head Geek™, SolarWinds

As the second half of the year gets well underway, and lockdown restrictions generally continue to ease, one of the main topics of concern is a “second wave” of COVID-19 potentially hitting the U.K. in the coming weeks or months. With some scientists predicting “a second wave is almost inevitable”, the public sector needs to ensure it’s ready for any eventuality. In terms of technology, while it has thus far enabled many employees to work remotely, more can be done to improve IT systems if a widespread lockdown is reintroduced.

What Tech Challenges Are on the Horizon? 

The main difficulty is if the country as a whole tries to return to normal too soon. For many people, working from home has not been easy, or even possible. While many others are happy working from home, those individuals who haven’t been able to do so will no doubt be keen to return to their offices. But if this isn’t managed carefully across all organisations, the likelihood of a potential second wave becomes a worryingly high possibility. Add to this the increased allowance for more social activities to recommence, and the risks become even higher.

In general, the challenges for public sector technology, if a second wave occurs, isn’t much different than what has already been implemented. If further local or national lockdowns are enforced, the office-based employees needing to work from home already have the measures in place—such as VPN—to do this securely. And the technology supporting those on the healthcare frontline will still be up and running to help patients recover. Most or all organisations now have the processes, means, and experience to ensure moving back to remote working is doable, and should be a smoother transition than it was the first time around.

However, if organisations are perhaps too enthusiastic about returning to offices, and IT solutions put in place to enable remote working are reversed and the resources used elsewhere, we’re back at square one. So what can organisations do in the next few months to prepare their IT systems for a potential second wave?

Where Should IT Investments Focus? 

One of the biggest impacts the pandemic has had on public sector organisations—particularly in healthcare—this year has been the increase in cyberattacks. The World Health Organization (WHO) has observed a fivefold increase in cyberattacks since the start of the pandemic, suggesting cybercriminals have been taking advantage of the focus being less on security and more on addressing the health risks around the world. While the technology for remote working is now in place, attention over the next few months should be on ramping up cybersecurity measures across the board. Not only will this help protect organisations in the day to day, it’ll also ensure, should a second wave hit, there’s less risk of a cyberattack bringing down vital IT services.

Vulnerability management 

One of the first steps organisations should take is implementing a vulnerability management lifecycle. The aim of this is to highlight any system weaknesses potentially allowing a hacker to infiltrate the network. This lifecycle is comprised of five stages:

  1. Identify any operating system weaknesses in network devices and systems, and determine how critical these are
  2. Protect these systems and applications by increasing security measures
  3. Detect new vulnerabilities by introducing firmware against common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE)
  4. Respond quickly to any new threats, particularly while existing vulnerabilities are being fixed
  5. Verify threats have been eliminated and keep up-to-date reports on all activities

IT tool consolidation 

Once these processes are in place, organisations should aim to consolidate their IT management tools where possible to increase efficiency. For applications to run effectively, they rely on multiple dependencies across the IT stack. Failure or poor performance from any of these can impact the experience delivered by the application, including its security. To combat this, a layered approach is required along with automation to ensure assets and data are protected and policies are enforced.

IT consolidation is beneficial because it can help organisations to: automate monitoring to react faster to obstacles; see logs or configuration changes within the context of the item having the issue; and reduce functional overlaps between different silos having their own tools. Doing so can prove to be the cheaper option as more cost-effective solutions can be found to cover multiple needs, rather than paying for several different tools across the organisation.

Automation is particularly important to bolster cybersecurity efforts. By integrating it, organisations can improve the reliability of their critical security functions. Some examples of tools designed to support these efforts include:

  • Patch management – Security patches can be implemented as soon as they’re available without IT managers having to integrate them manually several times
  • Threat detection and response – Cyberthreats can be identified and responded to quickly to prevent a widespread impact
  • Access rights management – Having visibility into who has access to any part of the network means unusual changes can be noticed quicker
  • Configuration management – Alerts for any changes to configurations of networks, servers, applications, and databases helps flag any security threats

As autumn approaches and the potential for a second wave of COVID-19 increases, organisations across the public sector would benefit from investing in IT solutions designed to keep systems up and running during the tougher winter months. Not only for the healthcare sector left to cope with an influx of patients, but also for the entirety of the public sector, which ultimately is the backbone of our society.

Diegesis secures a two-year managed services agreement with the Office for National Statistics

Following an initial proof of concept phase, Diegesis Limited, an independent business technology and IT systems integration company, has been awarded a managed services contract by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) under the Digital Outcomes and Specialists 4 framework.  Under the two-year agreement, Diegesis will support and maintain ONS’s existing Ingres/Actian-X systems written in Applications-By-Forms (ABF) and OpenROAD while maintaining business as usual (BAU) during the organisation’s critical period of IT transition.  The programme requires Diegesis to provide a team of experienced, skilled staff requiring government Security Clearance to support a number of systems that collect and process data for a variety of surveys conducted by the ONS. 

Diegesis will carry out a comprehensive range of activities including essential support and maintenance of operational systems, responding to service desk requests and providing updates to existing systems to help meet strategic and legislative changes.  The Diegesis team and its progress will be monitored and measured against ONS-defined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Nick Denning, Chief Executive Officer of Diegesis Limited commented, “We were chosen for our experience of Actian and our commitment to meeting the high levels of quality and good governance required by ONS.  Our strong sense of accountability, openness and willingness to share knowledge closely matches ONS’s requirement for responsible teamwork. This is a hugely exciting project for Diegesis that showcases our capabilities and skills in this technology and we look forward to working with ONS to deliver a successful IT transition and management of systems with minimal risk and to meeting our commitments to improve quality, efficiency and to reduce operational costs.”

Diegesis staff have worked on Ingres projects over the past 30 years.  They have established a solid reputation as specialists in relational database technology, all aspects of integration and in data analytics particularly in the government sector including Ingres/Actian-X IBM DB2, MariaDB and SQL Server.  Today, the company applies its knowledge and expertise to remove the operational business support risks to enterprises using the Ingres database and applications written in these tools.  Diegesis also helps organisations refactor and service enable this reliable and trusted code and then develop replacement web front ends to invoke these services.   Diegesis works closely with customers to deliver a robust, responsive and sustainable business as usual (BAU) framework from day one, at reduced cost.  Diegesis can also integrate with an organisation’s existing consulting team to maximise resources and results.  For more information visit diegesis.co.uk/

Digital Wellbeing Initiative For Guys and St Thomas Charity

Wellspace announce 12 month partnership to provide digital wellbeing services to Guys and St Thomas Charity

Wellspace will be providing digital services for 12 months to Guy’s and St Thomas Charity as part of their staff health and wellbeing programme.

Guys and St Thomas Charity is an independent urban health foundation. They work with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and others to improve health in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, and beyond.

The Charity focuses on tackling complex health issues that are prevalent locally but also relevant to other urban areas across the UK and internationally.

“As a charity dedicated to improving people’s health, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity believes in a proactive approach to supporting the health and wellbeing of our own team.  This is in recognition of both the benefit for individuals’ health and the organisation through enhanced motivation and productivity.  

As part of our corporate response to Covid-19, we wanted to strengthen our wellbeing programme, particularly around mental health.  The Wellspace platform offered what we were looking for in terms of providing a range of tools and resources for individuals which connects into our Employee Assistance Programme.  Given the significant impact of the pandemic on our lives and ways of working, it also provides a way for us to monitor, at an organisational level, how everyone is doing.  This provides insights that will help us adjust and evolve our programme and ways of working in response to the changing external context.”   

Catherine Cullen, Director of Communications and Engagement, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity

It is a fact that happy, safe and healthy employees are better engaged, more productive and have fewer absences. This helps grow the bottom line, retain the brightest sparks, and reward staff with the best gift of all; health.

The Wellspace corporate wellness solution works with Guys and St Thomas Charity’ existing policies and activities to bring their best team to work.

Wellspace is a fully comprehensive wellbeing provider and is on a mission to improve mental and physical health and wellbeing by using cutting edge intelligent technologies, real time reporting, data based clinical workshops and seminars and a clear evidence of success and ROI.

“At Wellspace we are thrilled and excited to be working with Guys and St Thomas Charity. The Wellspace solution is well positioned to support the staff with the overall health and wellbeing.”

Jake Adams, Co-Founder and COO Wellspace

The Wellspace Digital Wellbeing Package includes:

  • iOS and Android Wellspace smartphone application
  • Health & Wellbeing blogs, tips, articles, exercises, challenges
  • Company / Sub Account challenges
  • Mental Health & Sleep daily digital diary
  • Direct chat access to health and technical support
  • EAP awareness and signposting
  • Local services and resources signposting
  • Red Flag alert system for duty of care
  • Content management tool
  • Online portal dashboard
  • Real time reporting
  • Health insights and trends
  • Push notification tools
  • Dedicated account manager
  • Technical support
  • Regular review sessions and health data insights
  • Engagement points, leaderboard and prizes
  • Comprehensive roadmap of feature enhancements

We look forward to a long and successful partnership.

For further information please visit: yourwellspace.com/

Public backs debt enforcement to support vital public services – survey

TWO THIRDS of the public think that vital public services, such as social care, are put at risk when people who can pay their council tax do not, according to a new YouGov survey.

Already hundreds of millions go unpaid every year and over 80% of the public think that this would continue or get

Continue reading Public backs debt enforcement to support vital public services – survey

Getting digital inclusion onto the health and care agenda

The rapid deployment of healthcare technology has been one of the most commented features of the NHS’ response to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet a significant minority of patients cannot benefit from new, digital services; and risk being overlooked in the rush to go ‘digital first’ in a post-Covid reset. So what can be done to

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Thousands of Scotland SMEs to benefit from free DigitalBoost support thanks to treble funding boost

Thousands of SMEs across Scotland are set to benefit from vital free support after the Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop announced that it was trebling funding for msp

The £1.5m of funding is considered a critical lifeline for helping many businesses to overcome the exceptional challenges brought about by COVID-19.

Now in its fifth year, DigitalBoost

Continue reading Thousands of Scotland SMEs to benefit from free DigitalBoost support thanks to treble funding boost

Lexacom launches Cabolo: a unique, portable, standalone unit incorporating the latest AI speech technology to transcribe any conversation 

Reporter: Stacy Clarke

Cabolo is a brand new addition to Lexacom’s voice-to-text portfolio. It is a unique solution that records and transcribes any conversation with complete security, using the latest AI speech recognition technology. Delivered as a small, portable, standalone unit, Cabolo needs no access to the internet and nothing more than a power source

Continue reading Lexacom launches Cabolo: a unique, portable, standalone unit incorporating the latest AI speech technology to transcribe any conversation