Monthly Archives: October 2013

New Welfare Reforms Will Bring Financial Crisis to Families

64% of all families in Britain receive some kind of welfare benefit. For 9.6 million families, these benefits make up more than half of their income. Recent welfare reforms could result in a huge number of families facing financial crisis.

Universal Credit (a new single payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income) is being slowly introduced from October 2013 throughout the welfare system. The rollout of this new benefit will be completed by the end of 2017.

One main difference between Universal Credit and the current system is that claimants will receive just one monthly payment paid into a bank account, just like a monthly salary. But for those used to being paid weekly or fortnightly the impact on their household budgeting could be catastrophic.

Jacqui Scott, a specialist debt adviser with Ridley & Hall solicitors in Huddersfield has some suggestions:

“To cut costs if you have school age children, it’s worth checking to see if your local school provides breakfast clubs or after school clubs –  www.gov.uk/childcare-out-of-school-hours. Do not forget that free school clothing is available at the discretion of local education authority; you can apply to your local council. Free school transport may be available in certain circumstances from the council and healthy start food vouchers and vitamins for expectant and new mothers of children up to 4 years old on low income:  www.healthystart.nhs.uk.”

Her advice for others facing difficult times financially is to get good advice from the right people:

“It is tempting to take out loans and to buy on credit..but that can just make a bad situation worse. I offer free initial advice on debt at the Crossroads Centre in Meltham on a Wednesday morning. My colleague Sangeeta Enright offers free welfare benefits advice there on a Tuesday morning. There are many other good sources of advice for local people including the Citizens Advice Bureau.”

Jacqui is passionate about helping people to get the help that they are entitled to:

“There is help out there, but it can be difficult to know where to go and who to ask. My role is to help people to manage their debts, in part by explaining the ways that they can reduce their outgoings.”

Some of the options that are available are:

Council Tax

Council Tax benefit has been abolished and replaced with localised Council Tax reduction schemes from April 2013. The rules are different in England and Wales. Help is no longer available for Council Tax from discretionary housing payments. Jacqui’s advice is to spread payments over 12 months rather than the standard 10 months.

Crisis/No Money

Community Care grants and Crisis loans were abolished in April 2013. Advances of benefit maybe available from the DWP if you are waiting for benefit to be paid and are in financial need.

Food Banks

Food banks sometimes provide more than a short term option and may provide other kinds of support:

The Welcome Centre
Huddersfield Methodist Mission
3-13 Lord Street
Huddersfield
HD1 1QA

Tel: 01484 340034
Web: www.thewelcomecentre.org
Email: thewelcomecentre@btconnect.com

Monday to Friday, 1pm – 4pm.

Energy and Energy Saving

You may be able to save money by changing the way that you are billed for energy and by adding energy saving measures.

Free independent advice on saving energy and the possibility of grants is available in certain circumstances to help with insulation, draught proofing, central heating and other energy measures:

www.energysavingtrust.org.uk

Jacqui says: “I suggest that people should make sure a direct debit or payment scheme has not been set too high. Check to see if you are due any rebate on payments.”

Household Goods

There are many local charities that help with recycled furniture and white goods.

Water

Check eligibility for help with water costs. Water Sure is a service available to customers on certain benefits with a high essential use of water, which can cap bills. If you are on a water meter go to www.ofwat.gov.uk.

If you are not on a water meter, use the water meter calculator on the CC Water website to see if you can save money by going on a water meter – www.ccwater.org.uk

If you are on a low income and have debts you can apply for assistance: www.ywct.org.uk

When Someone Dies

Charities or benevolent funds may be able to offer financial help when someone dies. The benevolent trust fund and bereavement payment may be available; www.gov.uk/bereavement-payment. Also check your entitlement to a funeral expenses payment; www.gov.uk/funeral-payments.

British Gas can help if outstanding funeral expenses are causing hardship; www.britishgasenergytrust.org.uk/help/grants-for-individuals-help-pages/how-can-the-trust-help

Travel

Compare fuel prices at www.petrolprices.com

These are difficult times for families, especially those living in poverty. There is help and advice available but Jacqui Scott is deeply concerned:

“As the effects of the introduction of Universal Credit start to be felt, there are going to be many families in our area that will be very severely affected. Since legal aid has been withdrawn from welfare benefits and debt advice, the system relies on the charitable sector. And it’s struggling to keep up already with the demand for advice.”

For more information on welfare benefits, please contact Ridley & Hall on 01484 538421 or by e-mail and ask to speak to Jacqui Scott or Sangeeta Enright.

Workplace Accidents – New Law Scraps Employees’ Rights

New legislation will make it more dangerous for employees to go to work, according to Huddersfield solicitors Ridley & Hall.  The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 removes the right to sue for breach of health and safety regulations as from 1st October 2013 – this massive change in the law will have a huge impact on anyone who is injured at work.

The most recent Health & Safety Executive figures for 2011/12 show: -

• 172 workers were killed at work.
• 111,000 other injuries to employees were reported.
• 27 million working days were lost due to work related illnesses and workplace injury.
• There are 1.1 million people suffering from work related illnesses.

The Act states that it “aims to cut the cost of doing business in Britain, boosting consumer and business confidence and helping the private sector to create jobs”.  The government produced Guide to the Act makes one of its aims even more transparent:

“limiting civil liability for breaches of health and safety duties.”

The government has relied on cases such as that of Stark v The Post Office in support of its argument that the law needed to be changed.  Mr Stark was employed as a postal worker and rode a bicycle to carry out his duties.  The bicycle was supplied to him by his employers, the Post Office.  He was injured at work when the front brake of his bicycle snapped, which locked the front wheel – Mr Stark flew over the handlebars and suffered injuries.  He brought a claim against his employers and the Post Office argued that they should not have been expected to foresee the random nature of the fault.  The Court ruled however that there was an obligation on the Post Office to ensure that the equipment was at all times in an efficient state of repair.  They were in breach of workplace regulations that were introduced in law in 1992 as a result of a European directive.  Mr Stark did not need to prove that his employers were at fault – but simply establish that they had been in breach of the relevant regulation. This is called strict liability.

Employers and their insurers have long sought to remove strict liability so that any employee suffering an injury would have to prove negligence before they could succeed in a claim for compensation.  In the coalition government, they have finally found their champions.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 significantly reduces the burden on employers to care for their employees’ safety.

The President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, Matthew Stockwell says: -
“The effects are likely to be profound and the consequences will not just effect employees but society as a whole”.

There is now a risk that that employers will down grade the time and investment that they spend on health and safety.  Samantha Hirst, personal injury specialist at Ridley & Hall Solicitors commented: -

“Health and Safety Executive statistics record that employer reported non fatal injuries have been decreasing gradually over the period from 1997/98 to 2011/12.  Removing the financial pressure on employers and their insurers to focus on health and safety at work is almost certainly going to lead to an increased number of fatal and non fatal workplace injuries.”

She is concerned that injured workers will also suffer:

“Employees who are injured are going to find it harder to claim compensation because of the new Act and will struggle to get solicitors to take on their cases on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.  So this is good news for employers and insurers but almost certainly very bad news for employees.”

She went on to say: -

“We often hear about the “compensation culture”.  The reality is that if someone is injured at work and it wasn’t their fault, they ought to be compensated fairly for their injuries.  There is always the odd case that hits the headlines but the vast majority of claimants are hard working individuals who were just doing their job.  Reducing the regulatory burden on employers is a good thing – but not at the expense of protecting employees.  Profits are not more important than people.”

Samantha Hirst - Personal Injury specialist

Samantha is a paralegal in Ridley & Hall’s specialist Litigation team with years of experience in personal injury cases.

For further information please contact Samantha Hirst of Ridley & Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2HL on 01484 538421.

Tick Tock – The Time is Now for Family Members

“There is no time like the present” is an old saying but it could not be more appropriate for family and friends carers and the support groups that work with them.

Frequently when local authorities issue care proceedings, there has been reluctance by family members to put themselves forward as carers in the early stages of the case.

This can be for a variety of reasons. Often it is due to grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends not being aware of the seriousness of the situation. They don’t want to undermine the parents’ chances of resuming the care of the child. The impact has been that family members have come forward at the later  stages of a case when they realise that the child may be heading for adoption or long term fostering. This has led to final decisions in where a child should live being delayed.

However, from October 2013 the government’s Public Law Outline pilot scheme was implemented nationally. Cases will be expected to be completed within a strict 26 week time period.

The implications for family members is that by the 12th day after an application by a local authority for either a care or supervision order has been made,  parents must have nominated alternative family and friend carers so the case can be fully timetabled.  If family members are not nominated by this date then there is a real likelihood that they will not be considered, unless in the most exceptional of cases.

Grandparents and other family members must act quickly to make sure they are going to be considered as carers. Family members can no longer take a back seat and see how the parents do prior to coming forward as in doing so may mean they are not assessed and their grandchild, niece/nephew is placed outside the family.

Commenting, James Cook, Partner with Ridley & Hall solicitors said “They urgently need expert legal advice. Family and friends carers play a significant role in the care of children. The Public Law Outline timetable is tough. And with courts making clear that every avenue of care must be explored before they will support a plan for adoption, it’s vital that kinship carers and those who work with them act quickly.”

For more information on the Public Law Outline, please phone 01484 538421 and ask to speak to a member of the Care department.

Nigel Priestley wins Legal Champion of the Year

We are delighted to announce that Nigel Priestley, Senior Partner at Ridley & Hall Solicitors has won Legal Champion of the Year at the Inaugural Kinship Care Awards.

Nigel Priestley and Kathy Ashley, Family Rights Group

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus commented “Nigel Priestley recently won Legal Champion of the Year at the Inaugural Kinship Care Awards that we hosted jointly with Neil Stewart Associates.  He won because he is the country’s recognised leading legal advocated for grandparents and other family members who are in the position of having to raise a child who can no longer live with their parents, and who then often find they face the additional battle of having to challenge their local authority.”

“Nigel doesn’t just win cases for individual grandparents – important though that is – but the cases he is bringing have an impact far beyond that case and effectively change policy and practice for others as local authorities start to adjust what they do in light of his victories in order to avoid a legal challenge themselves.”

For further information contact Nigel Priestley on 01484 538 421.

Latest ‘Bedroom Tax’ Challenge against the Government for Grandparent Carers

The controversial government policy faces a new challenge as Child Poverty Action Group has recently issued judicial review proceedings.

Mr and Mrs Rutherford look after their grandson Warren who has a rare genetic disorder. They rent a bungalow from a housing association in Pembrokeshire, Wales, which has been specially adapted for Warren’s needs. However, when the Government changed the rules in April 2013, the grandparents were told their housing benefits would be cut by 14%, as they had a third bedroom in their home and they would have to pay the shortfall themselves.

They argued that the room was needed for carers who stayed the night regularly to look after Warren and to store equipment relating to his disability. Mr Rutherford contacted the Grandparents Legal Centre and was put in touch with our Welfare Benefits Adviser, Sangeeta Enright.  Sangeeta listened to their story and assisted them to appeal their benefits decision urgently and to claim a discretionary housing payment. The story was widely reported as the Papworth Trust became involved and soon Channel 4 news, as well as the Welsh press, began to report how unfairly the new ‘bedroom tax’ policy was operating. The shortage of appropriate housing for tenants to move to was also being reported.

The controversial policy is facing many other challenges with some appeals succeeding at tribunals in Fife and Westminster. The case of ten other tenants went to judicial review, on different grounds to the Rutherfords’ case and lost as the judge decided that the discrimination was not unlawful. That case has just been allowed to be appealed further to the Court of Appeal. Carers and disability organisations and many campaigners are beginning to see some hope at last for the tenants in rent arrears facing the real threat of eviction.

Read more about the Rutherford case here

Sangeeta Enright, Ridley & Hall Solicitors

Sangeeta Enright
Email Address
Tel     : 01484 538421
ddi     : 01484 558879

Nigel Crosses the Line in Impressive Time

Nigel Priestley joined the Family Rights Group running team last week and took part in the Royal Parks Half Marathon in support of kinship carers. Having just celebrated his 61st birthday the week before he crossed the line in 2 hour 30 minutes and raised over £600.

There are over 200,000 vulnerable children in this country who cannot live with their parents, and are being raised by grandparents or other relatives.  These children have experienced tragedy or trauma and yet it’s a postcode lottery as to whether they and their carers receive any practical or financial help, despite many of these carers being in severe financial poverty.  Monies raised will fund Family Rights Group’s much needed lobbying and campaign work on family and friends care.

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Steep Rise in Elderly Abuse and Neglect Allegations

In the last year there has been a 28.4% increase in alerts made to councils about abuse of older people.  Data just released from the Health and Social Care Information Centre reveals that in 2012–2013 local authorities received 173,000 alerts relating to the abuse of adults, 60% of which related to people aged 65 and over.  Over a quarter of these referrals related to suspicions of physical abuse and over a third to cases of neglect.  18% of cases were of financial abuse –  a form of abuse that is often overlooked.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK says: “Any abuse of older people is unacceptable and we need a zero tolerance approach to any abuse whether through neglect, financial manipulation or physical or mental cruelty.  Our biggest fear is that there are still many cases that are not reported and we would encourage anyone who suspects that an older person is being abused to contact their social services department or the police straight away.”

Age UK is campaigning for changes to the proposed Care Bill to provide better protection for vulnerable adults.  Ms Abrahams goes on to say “We want to  see stronger powers to investigate suspected abuse where a third person is denying access to the person, a new offence of neglect of a vulnerable person who has mental capacity, and an offence of corporate neglect so that directors of care providers can be held to account for neglect”.

Age UK describes the high level of cases in which no further action is taken is “worrying”; in over a third of the completed referrals relating to people aged 65 and above no further action was taken against the alleged perpetrator.

Sarah Young, Partner at Ridley & Hall Solicitors in Huddersfield comments:

“Since the scandal over the treatment of residents at the Winterbourne View Hospital in Bristol came to light, there has been a surge in official “safeguarding alerts” recorded by social services departments – so it’s not clear from the statistics whether more incidents of abuse are happening or whether more previously unreported incidents are now being reported.  Either way the figures are disturbing and we all need to take responsibility for protecting the elderly from abuse.”

She adds:

“It’s a good idea for everyone to complete a Lasting Power of Attorney; this lets you name an attorney who you trust, who can act for you when you need them to. They then have a legal responsibility to act in your best interests. If it’s just a friend, family member or a neighbour ‘helping out’, the line can become blurred. So giving them the ‘odd tenner’ as a thank you may become a situation where the tenner is expected…and taken even when not offered. This is how financial abuse can start.”

She goes on to say:

“I am increasingly coming across cases where vulnerable adults, often elderly, have been financially abused and I am asked to try to recover the money; these are difficult cases to investigate because often the person who is being abused is isolated from others by the perpetrator – but there are criminal and civil sanctions that can be pursued.  The charity Action on Elder Abuse is a useful resource for anyone who may be concerned”.

Sarah Young is a Partner with Ridley and Hall solicitors. She specialises in contentious probate and personal injury. Sarah has an LLM in Personal Injury Law and has a record of bringing the most complex cases to a successful conclusion.

For further information please contact Sarah Young of Ridley and Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield HD1 2HL on 01484 538421 or 07860 165850.

Ridley & Hall wins Law Firm of the Year 2013

We are delighted to announce Ridley & Hall Solicitors won Law Firm of the Year at the Yorkshire Lawyer Awards 2013. The ceremony took place last night at Clarence Dock in Leeds. The category was one of the most fiercely contested of the awards and Ridley & Hall, who work on both a local and national stage, are extremely proud to have been given this honour.

This award was the icing on the cake for the firm as it wraps up a fantastic 7 days, having received accreditation with the Legal 500 for the third consecutive year and successfully passed its annual Lexcel audit.

Nigel Priestley, Senior Partner at the firm collecting the award.

The Ridley & Hall team with Gaynor Barnes2013 winnersL to R: James Cook, Claire Aydogan, Adam Fletcher, Nigel Priestley, Vicky Medd

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