Jeremy Hunt announces free childcare for kids over nine months old and energy bill support
NEWS JUST IN
Jeremy Hunt has said in his spring Budget that the current energy price guarantee will be extended as well as an expansion for free childcare coverage.
In the lunchtime announcement, the chancellor said the energy price guarantee will be extended for a further three months from April to June at its current level. In doing so, he cancelled the planned £500 hike in average energy bills which was due to come into force next month.
It will see bills for the average household staying at around £2,500, instead of going up to £3,000 as was previously announced.
A planned 12p rise in fuel duty – a tax charged on any petrol, diesel and other fuels used in vehicles or for heating – has also been suspended and the current relief of 5p per litre will be extended for another year
Action on prepayment meters will see an end to the so-called ‘prepayment premium’ from July, something that the Treasury expects will save more than four million households £45 a year on their energy bills.
Mr Hunt also announced further help for parents of preschool-age children with free childcare — which currently covers three and four-year-olds for up to 30 hours per week — to be expanded to include all children over nine months old – for families where all adults are working at least 16 hours.
The chancellor said: “The 30 hours offer will now start from the moment maternity or paternity leave ends. It’s a package worth on average £6,500 every year for a family with a two-year-old child using 35 hours of childcare every week and reduces their childcare costs by nearly 60%.
“As it is such a large reform, we will introduce it in stages to ensure there is enough supply in the market.
“Working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of free care from April 2024, helping around half a million parents. From September 2024, the 15 hours will be extended to all children from nine months up, meaning a total of nearly one million parents will be eligible.”
The move comes in a bid to get more parents back into the workplace and help boost economic growth. Efforts to encourage the over-50s, the long-term sick, disabled, and benefits claimants back into the workplace are also included in the plans.
A newly announced pilot will see the incentive payments of £600 for new childminders rise to £1,200 for those who join through an agency, while funding to nurseries providing free childcare will rise to £288m next year.
On top of that, the government will extend the minimum staff-to-child ratios, which currently stand at 1:4, to 1:5 for two-year-olds in England – however, this change will be ‘optional’.
The eligibility system — used to assess eligibility for sickness benefits, paying parents on Universal Credit childcare support upfront and increasing the amount they can claim by several hundred pounds — will now be axed. This means claimants can continue to receive the payments after they return to employment — a move hoping to encourage people back into work.
The chancellor also unveiled a £63m fund to keep public leisure centres and pools going in the face of rising energy prices, as well as £10m assigned over two years to help the voluntary sector play a role in suicide prevention.
Draught beer in pubs will also be taxed less, and from August 1st duty on draught products in pubs will be 11p lower than supermarkets.
£30m was offered up to increase support and housing for veterans, and 12 new Investment Zones were confirmed – with the chancellor calling them ’12 potential Canary Wharfs’ – including one in Greater Manchester – if chosen, these areas will have access to £80m of support.
New Levelling Up Partnerships will have £400m available to areas including Blackburn, Oldham, Rochdale, Redcar and Cleveland, Mansfield, South Tyneside, and Bassetlaw.
Woman tragically dies in Manchester petrol station incident
Emergency services attended the scene but the woman was sadly confirmed dead
An elderly woman has died following a crash at a petrol station in Manchester.
Officers believe the woman, who was in her 70s, suffered a medical episode while at the wheel of her car when she crashed into a small brick wall.
She had been trying to drive the Nissan Micra off the forecourt of the Asda petrol station in Moston Lane, Harpurhey, at approximately 10.45am on Wednesday, March 22nd.
Emergency services attended the scene but the woman was sadly confirmed dead. Greater Manchester Police have appealed for any witnesses to help them.
A section of stretch of road, near the junction with Rochdale Road, was closed for a number of hours while emergency services dealt with the incident. Paramedics and two air ambulances were seen.
Anyone with information or on the forecourt at the time of the incident should contact police on 0161 856 4741 quoting log 1103-22/3/2023.
Information can also be reported online or by using the LiveChat function at www.gmp.police.uk. If you can’t report online, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
‘Postbox to heaven’ now installed at Greater Manchester crematorium
Such a lovely idea!
A postbox allowing people to send letters to their loved ones in heaven has now been installed at a Greater Manchester crematorium.
The white and gold Royal Mail letterbox can be found at Howe Bridge crematorium in Atherton, Wigan Borough. It was the idea of nine-year-old Matilda Handy who wanted to send a letter to her late grandparents to help her cope with the grief of her loss.
The first was set-up at Gedling Crematorium, near Nottingham, and proved a popular concept with over 100 letters and cards posted within its first few weeks. Speaking to Granada Reports, Matilda’s mother Leanne, who is Gedling Crematorium’s Memorial Advisor, said: “She was four when my mum died, and never met my dad.
“Now the postbox is in place, I am so pleased that local people are using it, and taking some comfort from it, as another way of feeling connected to their loved ones.”
UK crematorium and cemetery operator, Westerleigh Group is now rolling out the postboxes across all of its sites.
Lindsey Edwardson, Site Manager at Howe Bridge Crematorium, said: “Feedback has shown that the process of writing a letter, or perhaps a birthday card, to a lost loved one has already brought therapeutic comfort to many people.
“Now, the communities in and around our crematorium can do the same thing. No address or stamps are required on any of the letters or cards. This is just another way in which we can provide emotional support to local families.”
A post on the Howe Bridge Crematorium Facebook page read: “We are proud to announce the official opening of our Letters to Heaven Post Box. Our thanks go to Alison Regan Civil Funeral Celebrant for her beautiful service to commemorate its opening.
“For all those who wish, you can post a letter to your loved ones that are no longer with us at the Post Box.”
Woman with undiagnosed brain tumour had to visit doctors nine times to get scan
Doctors told her if she had not had the surgery within a few hours or days then it could have been a different story
A woman with an undiagnosed brain tumour who was told ‘we don’t give out brain scans to 24-year-olds willy nilly’ is now campaigning for change.
Claudia Laird, from Burnley, went to see a medical professional on nine occasions as she tried to get to the bottom of why she felt so unwell. One week later, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Claudia told ITV Granada Reports: “I think the initial reaction was trusting of the GP. I was in shock after, because I found out I definitely needed that brain scan.
“It was all quite quick – they weren’t sure what was on the brain at first. It was all up in the air.
“I can’t believe I went through that. We were just waiting for the doctors to tell us the outcome. It was challenging, but more so looking back on it now. At the time, you don’t know the outcome.”
Claudia was experiencing symptoms of confusion, hallucinations and fatigue. But doctors put it down to what they thought to be gastroenteritis. After discovering the tumour, Claudia had to then undergo an eight-hour operation.
Doctors told her if she had not had the surgery within a few hours or days then it could have been a different story. She said: “I was asleep all the time. My friends would call me lazy. I thought it was because I was working long hours.
“I walked into a window thinking it was a door. I spent a night in bed with my mum and dad because I was hallucinating.”
Claudia is now training to be a paediatrician, to give people the same level of care. After the difficulty she had in getting diagnosed, Claudia has decided she does not want the same mistakes to happen to someone else.
Claudia said: “We need everybody to understand the difficulty of getting that diagnosis. It took me over nine times to get that diagnosis. I went to opticians, GP and A&E just to push to say ‘I really don’t think something is right here’.
“I want to see some changes, some research, funding into brain tumours. 1% of cancer research goes into brain tumours.”
The NHS lists the symptoms of a brain tumour as:
- seizures (fits)
- persistently feeling sick (nausea), being sick (vomiting) and drowsiness.
- mental or behavioural changes, such as memory problems or changes in personality.
- progressive weakness or paralysis on one side of the body.
- vision or speech problems.