Childcare problems cost mums £3.4 million each day

The childcare system is costing mothers in England £3.4 million a day because it prevents them from working, according to new analysis from Save the Children. That’s £1.2 billion every year.

Save the Children logo

The charity estimates there are around 89,000 mothers of children under five who would like to get back into work but say that childcare is the main barrier to doing so.

Steven McIntosh, Director of UK Poverty Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns at Save the Children said: “Mothers describe a childcare system that feels stacked against them. They tell us it’s nightmare to navigate with barriers to work at every turn. The result is an astounding loss in earnings, hitting families already battling to make ends meet. The financial pressure and stress that creates at home is never good for parents or their children. It’s time to make childcare work for families.”

Research shows childcare issues are the number one barrier to work for parents with young children. Despite recent reforms, Save the Children says that parents are still facing sky-high childcare bills and struggling with a complicated system – with almost half of parents saying they have no idea or are confused about what support they should get. The charity says that they are left unable to access the childcare they need to work, which can tip families into hardship.

Bianca, 36, is a Mum from East London with two boys aged three and seven. After working full time for ten years, childcare issues forced her to give up her job as an education team leader in a college.

Bianca said: “ I absolutely loved my job and I could see myself progressing. It was the cost of childcare that made me give it up, because if I’d had to pay for my younger son to be in nursery full-time that would have been a massive chunk of my salary. We made sure we lived within our means but of course you lose out on some things.

“There are a lot of people who have a lot to give to the economy, but childcare is such a massive barrier. The only way you can jump over that barrier is if you’re willing to shell out a lot of money and have little left for three or four years. We did make that choice to have children, but we shouldn’t be penalised for it, and that’s how it feels at the moment.”

Research shows that the average take home pay for a mum working full time is just over £20,000 and almost £45,000 for a couple both working full time. Even taking into account free childcare hours and government subsidies, the cost of childcare for two children can still be more than £8,000 a year. That is 39% of the mother’s take home pay – twice as much as she pays in tax. Parents say that childcare bills are still too high, with many claiming it costs more than their mortgage or rent, or that it doesn’t make financial sense to go back to work.

To address the problems of cost, complexity and accessibility in the childcare system which are preventing parents from working, Save the Children is calling on new government ministers responsible for childcare to urgently set out the next steps to delivering a childcare system in England that is high quality, affordable, easy to use and fits around families’ lives.

Research reveals postcode lottery of care

Responses to a Freedom of Information request to local authorities have revealed a worrying postcode lottery of care, Royal London has revealed.

Royal London logoThe insurance company contacted 150 local authorities, of which 125 responded. The replies show a huge variation in both the amount councils will pay towards care home costs, and the extent to which people have to ‘haggle’ with their local authority to get a good deal.  Elderly people who enter care in a ‘crisis’ situation and do not have family members to advocate on their behalf could lose out when it comes to negotiating care fee packages, according to Royal London.

The research identified three different approaches taken by local authorities to funding care:

  • Authorities which have a fixed ceiling for care home funding which they will not exceed, regardless of actual care costs
  • Authorities which have a published ceiling but which regularly exceed it on a case-by-case basis
  • Authorities which say they have no set fee limit but negotiate each placement on a case by case basis

Commenting on the findings, Dominic Carter, Alzheimer’s Society Senior Policy Officer, said:  “The unacceptable postcode lottery of care that people face nationwide has been exacerbated by a lamentable lack of funding from Government. Local authorities have been left with precious little resource to provide the care people with dementia need.

“Because people with dementia have such complex needs, places in care homes are on average seven to ten per cent more expensive – but the rates local authorities pay hardly ever recognise this additional cost. On top of this, the report today highlights how much local authority funding differs across the country, heaping even more financial pressure on families in unlucky postcodes.

“The Government says it is committed to reforming social care, but we need to see enough funding to provide good quality, affordable care for everyone with dementia, no matter where they live.”

Steve Webb, Director of Policy at Royal London, added: “We have uncovered a disturbing patchwork of support for people needing residential care, which varies hugely depending on where you live.  The most worrying variation is the extent to which residents are expected to haggle with the council in some parts of the country.

“Whilst responding to individual needs and circumstances sounds like a good thing, it is very likely that older people who have vocal family members to support them will be able to strike a better deal. Local authorities must be very careful to ensure that they do not take advantage of the poor bargaining power of vulnerable elderly people, leading them to accept the cheapest care provision rather than the most suitable”.

BBC Radio Shropshire presenter’s 10,000ft charity skydive

Vicki Archer, a radio presenter who co-hosts the afternoon show on BBC Radio Shropshire, has undertaken a 10,000ft charity skydive to raise vital funds for disabled children in the county.

Vicki Archer, BBC Radio ShropshireThe mother of three, who lives in Shrewsbury, travelled to Tilstock airfield, near Whitchurch, Shropshire, to complete the jump.

Money raised from the hair-raising, free-fall, challenge, has boosted the charity coffers of Caudwell Children, helping them to continue providing practical and emotional support to disabled children and their families in the region.

Vicki, who has been a presenter at BBC Radio Shropshire for the last 10 years, said she was compelled to fundraise for the charity after finding out online about the support that it gives to disabled children.

“I know a lot of people who have children who haven’t had the best of starts in life,” explained Vicki. “By doing something as simple as this, you can help Caudwell Children to provide family support together with a range of specialist equipment, therapies, short breaks and holidays to disabled children.”

Vicki Archer, BBC Radio Shropshire

Vicki is no newcomer to fundraising, but says that this is the most extreme way in which she has raised funds for a charitable cause. She said: “I think many of my friends thought I was going through a mid-life crisis when they found out that I was going to do the jump.

“They could understand why I wanted to do it, but they thought I was mad. I know that my late father would have been proud of me, but I have to say I didn’t really think too much about what I was doing until the day of the jump.”

Vicki says that she would recommend people to take on the challenge.  “Don’t think too much about it, if you’re even considering it, that means that you can do it. Just sign up, it will be the most memorable experience of your life. It’s like watching an action film in 3D but you’re actually in it. And what’s more you’re changing the lives of disabled children. What’s not to love about that?”

Credit union calls for volunteers

London Capital Credit Union is looking for volunteers to help deal with the ever increasing number of member enquiries.

Volunteering graphic

The credit union is a not for profit savings and loans co-operative based near Archway tube station in London, which is dedicated to encouraging people to save rather than borrow, while also providing low cost loans when needed. They are looking for additional volunteers to help their busy team assist with enquiries from members.

Volunteers need to have certain skills and capabilities, including being good with numbers, competent in basic spoken English, honest, reliable, friendly and outgoing. In return, the credit union will provide experience and training including in customer service, effective telephone use, using computers and different software packages and effective office management.

Volunteering with the credit union can provide many benefits, including a ‘feel good factor’ of knowing you are helping people, excellent work experience in financial services, experience of working in a busy commercial environment and access to training and improved employment opportunities.

Martin Groombridge, London Capital Credit Union Chief Executive, said: “As a financial co-operative, which is owned and run by our members, the credit union relies on the support and dedication of a team of volunteers working alongside our small staff of paid employees. A number of additional volunteers are now being sought to assist with the increase in our business as we help more and more people manage their money.

“Although the positions are unpaid, they offer several benefits, including meeting new people and making friends while working in a supportive and friendly team, gaining direct experience of the financial services industry, strengthening your CV and helping to benefit the community.”

To find out more about volunteering with the credit union click here, or call them on 020 7561 1786 for an informal, no obligation discussion.

Powys communities sign up for new plastic film recycling scheme

Town and Community Councils in Powys are introducing a new recycling scheme, developed by Welshpool-based charity Cae Post, to deal with unwanted plastic film.

Mayor of Brecon, Councillor Ieuan Williams, at the launch of the  plastic film recycling scheme with Chair of Cae Post, John Harrington

Mayor of Brecon, Councillor Ieuan Williams, at the launch of the plastic film recycling scheme with Chair of Cae Post, John Harrington.

Following the decision by Powys County Council to stop the collection and recycling of plastic film, waste and recycling experts Cae Post were approached by a number of Community and Town Councils to see if they could fill the gap.

Although Powys County Council no longer offers recycling collections for plastic film and suggests disposing of it with household refuse, stretchy plastic film items, such as carrier bags, magazine wrappers, bread bags, frozen food bags, cling film and bubble wrap, can be recycled.

Cae Post is working with eight councils in Powys, including Brecon Town Council, to roll out its new film recycling scheme and the results to date have been very encouraging.

Mayor of Brecon, Councillor Ieuan Williams, said: “We are delighted with the response to our new plastic film recycling point that has been set up outside the Co-op in Brecon. Although we were originally expecting to empty the bin once a month, demand has been so great that we are now emptying it at least once a fortnight. This shows that the people of Brecon recognise the importance of recycling plastic film and that there is a real need for the service. We would like to thank Cae Post for setting it up.”

John Harrington, Chair of Cae Post said: “We are pleased to be working with councils in Powys, such as Brecon Town Council, to manage plastic film recycling for their communities.

“The environmental impact of plastic film should not be underestimated. Studies suggest that plastic bags, for example, can take anywhere between 20 and 1,000 years to degrade, if they degrade at all in modern landfill sites. In fact, many countries around the world have now banned them. So, if we are going to use items made from plastic film, it is important that, as a society, we do what we can to recycle them.

“At Cae Post, we believe it is vital that these items do not end up in general waste and so we are pleased to offer a collection service for communities in Powys, as well as for businesses, charities and other organisations.”

While it is true that plastic film can be difficult and expensive to sort from other materials by mechanical means, Cae Post has maintained its manual sorting capacity and so is happy to offer this service.

John Harrington added: “As a charity and social enterprise, Cae Post has a mission to tackle disadvantage and create opportunity through environmental initiative. By using Cae Post to recycle plastic film, communities in Powys are helping us to fulfil our social objectives, providing work opportunities for disabled people and those who are disadvantaged in the jobs market.”

The other Community and Town Councils in Powys that are trialling the scheme include Banwy, Castle Caereinion, Dwyriw, Llangunllo, Llangynidr, Llanwrtyd Wells and Trewern.

If your community group or organisation would like to find out more about plastic film recycling in Powys, contact Cae Post on 01938 570426 or email info@caepost.co.uk.

Calls for musicians to help reopen the Montgomery Canal

A new music event to be held in Welshpool in June 2018 is on the lookout for bands and musicians to help draw attention to the campaign to reopen the Montgomery Canal between Shropshire and the Welsh border.

Montgomery CanalMusic for the Monty Cerddoriaeth i’r Monty will be taking place in Welshpool during the Welshpool Transport Festival (Saturday 23 – Sunday 24 June 2018) and organisers are looking for musicians who would like to busk at one of a number of venues around the town.

Musicians will be asked to perform at venues hosting events for the Transport Festival and will be able to collect money from visitors which will go towards the Restore the Montgomery Canal campaign.

As a charity event, all money raised from Music for the Monty will be going towards works that are needed to reopen the Montgomery Canal, which would link Shropshire to Welshpool and Newtown.

Said David Aylwin of Music for the Monty: “The Montgomery Canal is a beautiful link between Shropshire and Powys and we want to showcase some of the great music that is being made by musicians near the canal.

“Once reopened, the canal will connect Welshpool to the rest of the canal network and provide a tourism boost to the town and the surrounding areas.”

To find out more about Music for the Monty, please visit www.musicforthemonty.co.uk.

If you would like to take part in Music for the Monty, please email a short sound file of one of your songs along with a contact name and number to theoddbods.musicbox@gmail.com and organisers will be in touch.

Music for the Monty is being held to support The Montgomery Canal Restoration Appeal. The appeal is being managed by the Appeal Steering Group on behalf of:

  • The Friends of the Montgomery Canal, registered charity number 510448.
  • Shropshire Union Canal Society, registered charity number 245875.
  • IWA, Shrewsbury District & North Wales branch, registered charity number 212342.

Report shines light on mental health services

In its annual State of Care report, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the independent regulator of health and social care services in England – has found some improvements in mental health services, but has also highlighted areas of concern and challenges that services must overcome around high demand, workforce shortages, unsuitable facilities and outdated services.

Mind logoWhile there have been many improvements, a greater proportion of mental health services were found to have deteriorated in quality compared with other parts of the NHS. Of services originally rated as good, 26 per cent of mental health services dropped at least one rating. This is in comparison to 23 per cent of adult social care services, 18 per cent of acute hospitals and two per cent of GP surgeries.

The CQC said it was surprised and concerned that 73 per cent of mental health beds are on locked rehabilitation wards, as it suggests an outdated approach to care in which people are institutionalised rather than helped to recover and live independently.

Also, many facilities were found not to meet safety standards, with fixtures and fittings that could be used in suicide attempts and examples of medicines not being stored securely.

Responding to the report,  Chief Executive of Mind Paul Farmer said: “It’s very concerning to see that, as of July this year, more mental health services had deteriorated in quality than other parts of the NHS and that issues of safety, among others, have not been addressed despite being raised in previous reports. It shows the scale of the challenge facing NHS mental health services; we have a sound plan for starting to improve services over the next few years but after decades of neglect and underfunding it is going to take sustained effort and investment over many years to reverse the damage that has been done.

“That the CQC continues to highlight the same basic ward safety issues time and time again is very worrying. When someone is in hospital for their mental health, they are at their most vulnerable and they and their loved ones should be able to trust that they are receiving care in a safe, therapeutic environment. We are concerned to see that many facilities don’t meet the needs of people with mental health problems, and that inspections continue to reveal examples of outdated and sometimes institutionalised care.

“The prevalence of locked mental health rehabilitation wards is particularly alarming, and highlights the need for the review of the Mental Health Act recently announced by the Government. This review must thoroughly explore the problems with the current Act in full consultation with people with experience of being treated under it, so that future legislation is fit for purpose and put the rights and needs of the person in crisis first.

“Last year, a five year plan for improving mental health services was launched, with a commitment by the NHS to spend £1 billion more on mental health services by 2020-21. This is a good plan and we need to see it delivered in every local area. The CQC report reiterates the need for that funding to be invested in services on the ground, so that we can start building NHS mental health services that will carry us in to the future.”

PR for charity events

Ethos public relations has introduced a new PR package to help charities promote their events.

Director ShauPR for charity eventsn Fisher said: “Ethos public relations is passionate about helping charities, community groups and voluntary organisations get publicity for their activities. This isn’t just because it is our business but because we have a commitment to highlighting the valuable contribution made by charitable and voluntary action.

“Over the years, we have seen, and even attended, a wide range of charitable activities that haven’t been as successful as they could have been. Often this is because of time constraints, a lack of appropriate communication and marketing or simply a lack of organisational capacity.

“For most local charities part of the problem of organising a successful event is budget. Not many voluntary organisations can afford the rates charged by large public relations businesses. But that’s where Ethos public relations can help. As we are committed to helping local community efforts flourish, we are offering a bespoke package for local charities seeking to ensure their events are a success.”

For a set fee of £200 including VAT, Ethos public relations will discuss your event with you and give their opinion on the idea, work with you to ensure it is communicated suitably on your website, Facebook and Twitter, write a press release for your local media and upload it to appropriate listing sites and advise on photography.

Shaun Fisher added: “This whole package should not only help you get more visitors or participants to your charity’s event, but will free up your time so you can focus on the important job of putting the event together.”

Click here to find out more and if you would like to work with Ethos public relations to give your charitable work the boost it deserves, give Shaun a call on 07968 211664 or email info@ethos-pr.com.

Sir Geoff Hurst unites with Alzheimer’s Society at Memory Walk

England football legend Sir Geoff Hurst is joining forces with Alzheimer’s Society to tackle dementia in support of his fellow 1966 World Cup heroes who are living with the condition.

Sir Geoff HurstSir Geoff has pledged his backing for Memory Walk, Alzheimer’s Society’s flagship fundraising event which is taking place across England, Wales and Northern Ireland this autumn, in honour of former team-mates Martin Peters, Ray Wilson and Nobby Stiles and their families.

The former England and West Ham striker has teamed up with the UK’s leading dementia charity to appeal for people to take part in the 34 flagship walks – including the first night walks in London, Liverpool and Cardiff – which will raise vital funds to improve care, fund research and create lasting change for people affected by dementia.

The 75-year-old, who famously scored a hat-trick in the World Cup final victory over West Germany, is also gearing up for his local Memory Walk which will take place at Cheltenham’s Pittville Park, on Sunday, October 8 (11am).

He will be officially opening the event before embarking on a three-kilometre walk alongside hundreds of families who will be among up to 110,000 walkers striving to help raise £9 million  for people affected by dementia.

Sir Geoff, who recently led the Alzheimer’s Society United Against Dementia campaign with fellow England icon Gordon Banks, said:  “The fight against dementia is a cause that is very close to my heart and I wanted to do my bit to support people affected by the condition like Martin, Ray and Nobby by raising funds through events such as Memory Walk.

We were always there for each other when we were England team-mates and I will always be there for them and their families now as they live with dementia.”

Sir Geoff added: “I have done my own little practice walk and I’m raring to go on what I am sure will be a very emotional occasion. It will mean a lot to me because even though none of my family members are living with dementia, people like Ray, Nobby and, especially Martin, are like family to me. I am keen to help because we had a special relationship that will always remain special because of what we achieved as a group of people.”

Alzheimer’s Society Chief Executive Jeremy Hughes said: “Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walks are going from strength to strength each year – which is just as well because with dementia set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer, we must unite more than ever to show dementia we are no walkover.

“While dementia can devastate lives without help, every pound raised by Memory Walk will help Alzheimer’s Society provide information and support, improve care, fund research and create lasting change for people affected by dementia.”

Alzheimer’s Society is urgently calling on people to unite against dementia – register now at memorywalk.org.uk to find a walk near you.

Stand Up To Cancer is back

Stars of stage and screen are joining forces and channelling their inner rebel to launch Stand Up To Cancer 2017, a joint fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4.

Launched in the UK in 2012, Stand Up To Cancer raises money to support game-changing cancer research that will save lives here in the UK.

To mark the campaign’s return and encourage the nation to join the rebellion against cancer, Alan Carr, Davina McCall, Kirstie Allsopp, Scarlett Moffatt and a host of other celebrities have raided their dressing up boxes and transformed into their rebel hero.

Other rebels with a cause include, Aisling Bea, Anita Rani, Ann Widdecombe, David Coulthard, James Morrison, Jamie Laing, Kimberly Wyatt, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Laura Whitmore, Steve Jones and Susan Wokoma.

Davina McCall, who lost her sister to the disease, said: “Getting involved in Stand Up To Cancer is a no-brainer when you think that one in two of us is going to get cancer at some point in our lives. But cancer doesn’t have to be the really scary word that it used to be. Thanks to research, there’s real hope and there are great prospects for the future. It’s something that we can absolutely conquer by raising money and supporting Stand Up To Cancer’s scientists.

“I chose Joan of Arc as my rebel hero because she was French, and I’m half French. She’s the ultimate strong woman. She felt that she had a destiny in her life, and even though it was incredibly dangerous and there were no other women doing what she was doing, she went and she fought. I just think she’s a very strong, incredible role model and in some ways reminds me of Stand Up To Cancer – rebelling against this awful disease by taking a different, bolder route.”

Krishnan Guru-Murthy, presenter of Channel 4 news, added: “I had a little trepidation about dressing up as Jimi Hendrix in case I didn’t do him justice. When I told my eleven-year-old what I was doing he looked at me and said, ‘You’re just so embarrassing’. But it’s for a great cause!”

Rachel Carr, head of Stand Up To Cancer, said: “The UK’s spirit and determination to join forces against cancer has never been stronger. Our scientists are carrying out work that will change what it means to get a cancer diagnosis, speeding up the development of kinder, more effective treatments. We’re making huge progress and this is just the start. We hope that people across the UK will be inspired by our brilliant celebrity supporters to get involved, join the rebellion and stop cancer in its tracks.”

The celebrities’ rebel choices include Billy Idol (Jamie Laing), Cyndi Lauper (Laura Whitmore), Florence Nightingale (Ann Widdecombe), Jimi Hendrix (Krishnan Guru-Murthy), Joan of Arc (Davina McCall), Katniss Everdeen (Scarlett Moffatt), Marlon Brando (Alan Carr), M.I.A (Anita Rani), Princess Leia (Aisling Bea), the Queen (Kirstie Allsopp), Steve McQueen (James Morrison), Thelma and Louise (David Coulthard and Steve Jones), Tina Turner (Susan Wokoma) and Vivienne Westwood (Kimberly Wyatt).

The Stand Up To Cancer campaign will continue throughout September and October and there’s lots of ways that people can get involved. From being a ‘hair raiser’ and waxing or shaving body parts to raise cash, dusting off aprons to create and sell ‘ballsy bakes’, or getting sponsored to take part in ‘Game On’, Stand Up To Cancer’s gaming marathon, there’s more than one way to rebel this autumn.

For more information on Stand Up To Cancer, visit Standuptocancer.org.uk.