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Southport & Mersey Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 3 December 2007

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FINANCIAL worries make Christmas a stressful experience for many people.  Millions of stockings could be left empty this Christmas because there are so many cash-strapped Brits, according to a new research by Life Assistance Firm, CPP Group.

Although APACS, the UK payment association estimates that we will spend over £53 billion over the Christmas period, up 4.2% on December 2006, a recent CPP poll has revealed a staggering 3/4 of people are already worrying about the cost of Christmas, even though it is still another month away.

According to the poll, 30% of people have had such severe financial problems in the past that they have been unable to buy any Christmas presents for their loved ones. And while 15% of those just told friends and family they would get their gifts a bit late, 1% have been so short of money they were forced to turn up empty-handed on Christmas Day.  46% of the 3,000 people polled even said they are absolutely dreading the festive season. It’s not surprising though as 74% find Christmas shopping a stressful experience.  38% of the people in Manchester even get stressed at work because they are worrying about how much they’ve got to do to prepare for the December holiday.

Money worries are the most stressful thing about Christmas, followed by deciding what to get people and battling with the crowds of shoppers to buy the gifts. And 47% of the people in Manchester reckon another cause of the stress is trying to decide who to spend the day with – with 13% saying they would actually prefer to spend Christmas with friends instead of their family.

Some people bring their anxiety on themselves though as 49% say they do tend to leave their festive preparations to the last minute. The poll also revealed that a cheeky 66% of Mancunianas would quite happily go away for Christmas so the organising is someone else’s problem.

Nick Jones, Communications Manager at CPP, says people should also be aware of the fact that identity and card fraudsters will be looking for rich picking this Christmas:- “While the Christmas period can be stressful in terms of filling stockings, don’t take your eye off the ball when it comes to the security of your bank account and personal details.  Debit, credit and online spending are all estimated to increase this Christmas and people should make sure that they protect and safeguard their personal information during the festive season. Filling stockings is a priority, but do it safely.”
Top 10 most stressful things about Christmas
1 Spending too much money
2 Deciding what people might like as presents
3 Shopping for presents and dealing with the crowds of people
4 Worrying about spending time with the family and preventing arguments
5 Long shopping queues
6 Putting on weight
7 Cooking for all the family
8 Eating and drinking too much
9 Juggling family commitments
10 Deciding where to spend Christmas

Liverpool scoops £9m for early years

LIVERPOOL is to receive an extra £8.6m from the government over the next 3 years for early years education.  The huge cash boost, which Liverpool will receive between 2008 and 2011, will be used to extend the free early education entitlement for all 3 and 4 year-olds, from 12.5 to 15 hours each week.

Liverpool is one of 15 local authorities to be selected by the government for Wave 2 of the pilot project to deliver improved, more flexible, free education for nursery-aged children. By 2010, the government plans to extend the project across the country, investing almost £600m in extending early years entitlement for every local authority.

The city council’s executive member for children’s services, Councillor Paul Clein, said:- “We are delighted to have been selected as one of the local authorities for the second wave of this programme. It will enable us to deliver improved access to early education entitlement which better meets the needs of local families.  It’s a massive boost for children in our city and a wonderful opportunity for us to enhance existing provision available to families. Currently 92% of Liverpool’s three-year-olds access free early education. Some families cannot make best use of this because 12 and a half hours per week may not fit around their working arrangements.

We hope that by being a pilot authority for this programme we will see an increase in the number of children accessing early education, ideally to 100% of 3 year olds. This will give them opportunities to develop their skills and a thirst for learning and at the same time, provide more flexible opportunities for parents to make use of this free entitlement while they work or study.”

Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes said:- “Free nursery education is essential to supporting high quality early learning and care for children and to meet the needs of today’s parents for flexible childcare.  We want to support families as much as possible and this will help parents make difficult decisions such as returning to work.

Children deserve the best start in life and nursery education helps them in the long term by boosting their communication, language and social skills. It is available to all those who want it and I hope to see even more children benefiting from the free hours. It also allows parents to sample childcare as a route back to work and training.”

The funding is part of the government’s commitment to ensuring every child gets the best possible start in life and helping thousands of families balance their work and home life through the expansion of free, flexible childcare.

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