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Russell and Russell Solicitors can deal with all the legal aspects of your new life together. Whether you’re buying or selling a property, looking to protect your assets, thinking about starting a family or want to leave your possessions to those you care about, we can help.

We’ve nine offices across the North West; in Bolton, Atherton, Bury, Chester, Farnworth, Horwich and Middleton. And, because anything can happen at any time, we’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Call us on 0800 103 2600 or visit russellrussell.co.uk

Number of children involved with Social Services rises dramatically. Sad reading but we must all be aware.

Alarming figures have shown a steep rise in the use of children’s social services over the last decade which is pushing council budgets to breaking point.

According to research published by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, over the last year almost 2.4 million people reported concerns over the welfare of a child – a 78% increase on 10 years ago. The number of investigations in to children at risk of harm have more than doubled, from 77,000 in 2008 to almost 200,000 last year – a staggering 159% increase.

There are two types of child protection. Section 47 investigations - when there are fears that a child is at risk of significant harm - have seen the steepest rise. Social workers, police and other agencies are involved, so a huge amount of resource, money and effort goes into these cases.

That said, there’s also been a considerable increase in the number of children placed on child protection plans. This is when social workers monitor the way a child is being looked after to keep them safe because their basic needs are not being met; for example not getting enough food, having nowhere suitable to sleep or living in a cold home.

Child protection is a really complex subject with no one reason being the sole cause of the problem. Here, we outline the study’s main explanations behind the surge in numbers and why they’re putting pressure on local authorities.

Awareness

Well documented cases, such as Baby P and Victoria Climbié have generated greater awareness of child abuse and neglect. Now, the public is far more vigilant at spotting and reporting concerns over children.

The numbers in care

Although the majority of children on the social services radar will remain with their families, the number of children taken into care over the last 10 years has increased by 24%. Most of the 75,000 children in local authority care are there because of abuse or neglect. Other reasons for being taken in state care are family dysfunction or because their family is in serious distress. Disability makes up a small number of those children in care.

Age and gender

Children aged between 10 and 15 represent the largest group in care. More boys than girls tend to be entrusted to the local authority. Increases in the number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children, who are more likely to be male, is the driving reason behind this, according to official statistics. Despite 75% of the children in care being white, the over-representation of children from non-white backgrounds is thought to be linked to the number of young asylum seekers.

Geography

The number of children in care depends on where they live. In Blackpool, 184 in every 10,000 children are in care. Further south, the stats for Windsor and Maidenhead are in stark contrast. There, only 34 children in every 10,000 are being looked after by the local authority.

The research also suggests that regardless of where they are in the UK, those children living in the most deprived areas are 10 times more likely to be taken into care. Deprivation is the biggest factor for children becoming involved with child services, according to the Child Welfare Inequalities project. Around one child in 60 was in care in poor areas, while this was one in every 660 in affluent areas.

Domestic abuse

Domestic violence has also played a primary role in the number of children being a ward of child protection services. Nearly half of the cases assessed were as a consequence of domestic abuse. Mental health issues was the next biggest factor.

Costs

In an age of austerity, funding is an obvious problem. Despite councils maintaining they’ve tried to save children’s services from cuts, the effect of inflation has had a negative impact. Coupled with increasing demand and more complex cases it’s inevitable for councils to have overspent on budgets.

With such constraints, budgets have often been focussed on statutory services which protect children at risk of neglect or abuse. The bad news is that this has meant cuts to the early intervention teams who might be able to ease future pressures. The good news is that the government committed an extra £84 million for children’s services over five years in the recent budget.

Staffing

Staffing is a real problem for local authorities. Keeping consistent faces is imperative to build the trust needed to form relationships with children at risk. While there are a lot of vacancies, many of these roles will go to agency social workers which, of course, come at a higher cost than staff on the payroll. Figures collected by the BBC show that between 2012/13 and 2016/17 at £356 million, local authority spending on agency staff nearly doubled.

Foster care

Government policy since the 1960s has been to move away from placing children in residential care homes. Now, nearly 75% of those in local authority care are housed with foster parents, costing around £1.7 billion each year.

The importance of foster carers can’t be underestimated, but there aren’t enough of them. Adoption figures have fallen since their peak in 2015 when David Cameron championed a campaign to increase the number of foster carers in Britain. The shortage of foster carers, and their ability to take on ‘challenging’ children, depended on which area of the country a child lived, according to a review published in February 2018.

Around 4,000 children who aren’t with foster carers are still living with their parents under the supervision of local authority while almost 8,000 spend time in children’s homes, secure units or live semi-independently.

Going home

Of the 31,000 children in care in 2017, almost a third of them went back to the families. 12% were placed under special guardianship orders where a relative took care of them. 14% of the children were adopted after having spent an average of two years in care and most of those were between the age of one and four. Sadly, only 1% of children aged 10 or over were adopted.

Life after care

Around 25% of children looked after by foster carers continue to live with them after they turn 18 and stop being under the remit of the local authority.  For others, however, it can be difficult.

In terms of education, only 6% of care leavers went to university in comparison to 33% of all 18 year olds, although half of those leaving care were in some form of training, education or employment. It’s thought that around 25% of those in youth prisons have spent time in care.

Speaking of the report, Amanda Connor, head of family law at Russell & Russell, said: “The figures come as no surprise to me. As a practice, we’ve seen an alarming increase in the number of child protection cases over the last year.

“Clearly much needs to be done to secure the safeguarding of vulnerable children – from greater budget allocation, to resources to a more joined up service in order to ensure that children and young people are cared for and can look forward to a brighter future”.

 https://www.russellrussell.co.uk/

Published on - Wed, 21 Nov 2018

HSE Report highlights accidents at work are still a problem. What are your options?

 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released the latest figures showing the full scale of accidents in the workplace.

The Health and Safety at Work Summary Statistics for Great Britain 2018 revealed that 1.4 million people were suffering from work-related health problems, while around 555,000 sustained non-fatal injuries. Combined, this resulted in 30.7 million working days being lost in 2017/2018.

595,000 people experienced work related stress, depression or anxiety and despite Britain being one of the safest places to work, 144 people were involved in fatal accidents.

Fines totalling £72.6 million were imposed on 493 cases that were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive or passed to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in Scotland. Details of the report follows new legislation that came into force on the 1st November which has the power to jail employers who are proved to be responsible for employee workplace deaths (see our news article dated 24/09/18).

As has been the case in the past, agriculture and construction are the highest risk areas for injury. Overall, slips, trips and falls accounted for the majority of injuries (31%) with handling, lifting and carrying coming in at 21%. Being struck by an object made up 10% of injuries while falls from height was recorded at 8%. Injuries sustained as a result of violence in the workplace accounted for 7%.

In 2016/2017, workplace injuries cost Britain £5.2 billion, while new cases of work-related ill health cost £9.7 billion.

Speaking of the report’s findings, Jane Penman, partner in Russell & Russell’s personal injury department said: “Although the UK has an enviable track record in health and safety it’s clear there’s still much to be done. All too often, we see lots of people who have suffered an accident at work due to employers trying to cut corners or save money.

“Employers have a responsibility to keep their workforce safe, so they need to ensure their safety protocols leave nothing to chance. If they don’t, they can expect to see not only monetary fines, but also prison sentences imposed should they be found to have been negligent.”

More here https://www.russellrussell.co.uk/

Published on - Fri, 16 Nov 2018

The cost of dying will rise from April next year. Probate fees to rise leaving families as much as £6,000 out of pocket Read what you can do below..

In what is being described as a stealth death tax, the government is introducing new fees which will see families being hit with bills as much as £6,000 to secure probate on a loved one’s estate.

The cost of probate, which is gaining legal control over a deceased person’s assets, is to increase from a flat fee of £215 to as much as £6,000 for wealth estimated at over £2million.

Currently, bereaved families pay £215 to apply for probate to administer a loved one’s finances when they die. This fee is slightly less – £155 – if they use a solicitor. Typically, probate has to be granted before families can access any money from an estate.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the new sliding scale charges will start at £250 and be capped at no higher than 0.5% of the value of the estate. This will affect around 280,000 families a year, 56,000 of which will be faced with bills of between £2,500 and £6,000. One saving grace is that estates valued at less than £50,000 will be exempt from the charges. At the moment the threshold is £5,000.

Executors will have to pay the fee up front before reclaiming it from the estate once probate has been granted. It’s expected that some grieving families will have to resort to loans to cover the fees, but the Ministry of Justice has stated that it will be publishing guidance on ways to pay.

The increase has stuck a chord with legal groups, campaigners and charities. Sir Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, branded the increase “astronomic”. This has been echoed by Steve Webb, a former pensions minister. Mr Webb, who is now policy chief at investment firm Royal London, accused the government of sneaking out the announcement.

Critics also allege the government will use the new fees to help prop up a £1.6billion shortfall in the cost of the ailing courts service. The MOJ is expected to make an extra £185million a year from the charges by 2022-23.

In contrast, the government argues that the fee is not a tax and will see 25,000 families benefit from the changes each year. Justice Minister, Lucy Frazer said: “Fees will be set at a level to ensure that they will only be paid by those who can afford them, with all income going directly to our courts and tribunals – ensuring justice is done, and protecting victims and vulnerable people.”

The government is also defending the move by declaring the increase is not as much as it had proposed last year when bills were projected to rise as high as £20,000 (see our news article dated 20/03/2017 on the Russell & Russell website). Opponents are quick to point out, however, that the cost of the probate process will not require extra work or resources for the additional fees.

Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell & Russell Solicitors said: “When changes to the probate system were proposed in 2017, a cross-party parliamentary committee warned that they might not be lawful. The MOJ was clearly informed that the fee should cover the cost of the probate process and there’s no more work involved in administering an estate of £5,000 than there is to one of £500,000, so I’m at a loss as to how the government can justify this as anything other than a tax.”

https://www.russellrussell.co.uk/

Published on - Thu, 08 Nov 2018

Abuse of lasting power of attorney is on the rise, but don’t be put off making one as this could affect you..

The number of people being investigated for abusing property and financial lasting power of attorneys has risen 46%. The Office of the Public Guardian is looking into 1,647 more cases than last year, prompting concern amongst the industry and public alike.

A lasting power of attorney is a legal document that allows a person – known as a donor – to select an individual, or individuals, to act on their behalf should they lose mental capacity due to an accident or illness, such as dementia. These elected people are known as attorneys.

There are two types of power of attorney; one covers property and finances and the other deals with health and welfare. In both cases a power of attorney must be completed while the donor is still of sound mind.

A property and affairs LPA allows your attorney to handle your finances, such as any property and savings you may have, paying for care fees or arranging the sale of your home if necessary.

A health and welfare power of attorney addresses your personal well-being. It outlines what medical treatment you should receive or where you live, for example. You can even give your attorney the power to accept or refuse life-sustaining treatment on your behalf.

Although the number of investigations into misconduct has risen, many in the sector believe the problem is not due to the principle of a power of attorney, but perhaps with whom donors choose to represent them. Usually, it’s adult children who are appointed attorney, but donors need to be brutally honest about who they pick – after all, it’s they who will face the consequences of their choice.

Those with adult children who are not good at managing money or who could potentially steal from them need to face reality. Whether siblings get along with each other also needs to be considered as it could prove problematic when making decisions on behalf of the donor.

To help combat this, donors who have more than one attorney can determine whether they must all agree on every decision or whether they can act independently of each other. Alternatively, solicitors can be appointed as attorney. Once activated, they charge for their service, but the advantage is that they’re neutral and are accountable for any wrongdoing.

Around 850,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia and this figure is set to rise following a sharp increase in the number of people being diagnosed, or at risk of being diagnosed, with the condition.

Despite this, people aren’t looking ahead. In fact, a recent report produced by Solicitors for the Elderly warned that the UK is heading towards a dementia crisis because people aren’t making arrangements in case they’re diagnosed with a degenerative mental illness.

The report claims that 12.8 million people over the age of 65 have a high possibility of future incapacity, yet they haven’t planned ahead by setting up a lasting power of attorney.

Records show that there are only 928,000 health and welfare lasting powers of attorney currently registered in England and Wales. This is expected to increase to 2.2 million by 2025, but by then around 13.2 million people will be at risk of dementia.

While three quarters of the population fear dementia or the loss of capacity to make decisions, 97% – 49 million people – will be at risk with no relevant legal plans in place for their future care.

Although incidents of attorneys acting questionably do occur, families without a power of attorney can face real problems. As many as 65% of people believe that they if they lack mental capacity, their next of kin can specify medical and care decisions on their behalf. But without a power of attorney, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the person who has lost capacity can choose who makes decisions for them.

In the event of a lasting power of attorney not being in place, there is a £400 application fee for someone to volunteer to be a deputy for the donor, as well as ongoing supervision charges from the Court of Protection to safeguard the vulnerable person. There could also be care fees to pay while the deputyship is being processed. All of this takes far more time and money than setting up a lasting power of attorney in the first place.  

At Russell & Russell, we have a team of qualified lasting power of attorney experts. We also offer a free, no obligation consultation where we can talk you through the process and answer any questions or problems you may have.

More here https://www.russellrussell.co.uk/

Published on - Mon, 22 Oct 2018