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Issue Date:- 14 April 2008

Apprentice-style challenge gives charity shops youthful edge

YOUNG people from Merseyside and Cheshire have been transforming the image of charity shops and making them more appealing to today’s youth as part of the Agents4Change campaign.

15 volunteers aged between 16 and 25 were given training by design professionals from brand new Cavern Walks boutique Amethyst, before going head to head in an Apprentice style challenge to transform the window displays of five different Cancer Research charity shops in Old Swan, Huyton, West Kirby, Moreton and Southport.

Rachel Solomon, Agents4Change volunteer coordinator, says:- “Charity shops like Cancer Research UK are a treasure trove of vintage clothes and accessories and the volunteers managed to find some hidden gems that were just perfect for attracting stylish young people.  The event was hugely successful and it was great to see everyone working hard and enjoying a bit of healthy competition for a really good cause. We hope that the event will inspire more young people to volunteer and make their mark on charities in a creative way.”

The event took place on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 April and the finished displays will be assessed at the end of the week by young entrepreneurs Kate Derefaka and Jodie Gasteretous, whose new boutique, Amethyst Designer Clothing Store, will be opening later this month. An award will be presented to the team behind the best transformation.

Agents4Change is a project coordinated by volunteering charity CSV with support from Tesco and youth volunteering charity v. It aims to empower people aged between 16 and 25 to get involved in community projects.

David Vickers from Cancer Research UK says:- “It was great to have these young volunteers creating fantastic eye-catching window displays. They've turned heads and received a huge amount of positive feedback from our customers, both old and new. We hope that this Agents4Change project will encourage more young people to volunteer some of their time to Cancer Research UK. It's incredibly worthwhile and good fun!”

Prospective local Liberal Democrat candidate signs up to Social Care

PROSPECTIVE local Liberal Democrat candidate signs up to Social Care pledge Mr Colin Francis Trollope commits to reinvigorated vision for social care Mr Trollope has signed a social care pledge, committing to working towards a reinvigorated vision for social care if elected.

The Right care, Right deal is the new national campaign launched to build public awareness and support for the need for brave and innovative solutions for the social care system. With the Government indicating that social care is an urgent political priority, and in advance of the expected green paper later in 2008, the campaign combines three of the UK's largest charities working with and for older people and their families and carers, and will urge the government to renew its vision for the future of social care in England.

Mr Trollope said:- "Many people in Ravenmeols are reliant on social care services in their day to day lives.

The term 'social care' covers a huge range of services from care homes and meals on wheels to fostering services and drop in centres for disabled people. Sefton council is in charge of delivering these services for residents of Ravenmeols.

I believe social care should be about supporting people to live a better life, expanding their opportunities, not just managing their needs.

If I am elected, I will work to achieve a reinvigorated vision for social care, ensuring we have a personalised, easy to understand and accessible system for all."

Paul Cann, Head of Policy at Help the Aged, said:- "I'm pleased to welcome Mr Trollope to our campaign. Right care Right deal is the new joint national campaign launched to build public awareness and support for brave and innovative solutions for the social care system."

For more information about Right care, visit:-

Winter bills checklist

ENERGY bills for the 2008 winter quarter will start thudding onto doormats across the country over the coming days and weeks.

With average energy bills having rocketed by 14% over the last 3 months independent energy price comparison website is urging customers to pay special attention to the detail in their winter bills to ensure that their bills are accurate and that they are not unknowingly running into payment difficulties. 

These are just a few reasons why customers need to take particular attention with these bills now...

Firstly average energy bills have risen by over 14% since the beginning of 2008, which will add £128 a year to the energy bills of the average household.

With the winter quarter accounting for 35% to 40% of annual fuel usage, customers will begin to feel the impact of this increase almost immediately.

The earlier your energy supplier increased their charges, the bigger the impact on your bill. The prospect is for another round of price hikes later in the year.

Secondly, recent energy price hikes are estimated to have put 4.5m people into fuel poverty. However, because a large proportion of bills are based on estimated, rather than actual meter readings, and direct debit monthly payments are typically only adjusted once every 6 to 12 months, some customers may be getting into financial difficulties without being aware of it.

Thirdly, although billing inaccuracy only affects a very small proportion of customers, for those affected it can be a frustrating experience and in extreme circumstances can lead to debt problems. Customers should be careful to spot potential problems early on.

Joe Malinowski, founder of commented:- “Consumers are much more likely to pay attention to the rising cost of their mortgage than they are to their energy bill. But because energy bills are often estimated and payment amounts adjusted infrequently, consumers can be storing up trouble down the line, which they may not be able to afford. It’s best to be prepared.” has produced a 5 point checklist to help consumers better understand where they stand with their energy bills.

Energy Bills Checklist

(1) If your bill is based on an estimated meter reading, take your own reading and pass this onto your energy supplier. Ask your supplier to send you a revised bill based on the actual meter reading. This will tell you exactly where your account stands. You may even be due a refund.

(2) If you are elderly or disabled and cannot easily take a meter reading ask your supplier to take one for you. To qualify for a regular quarterly meter reading you will need to be on your supplier's Priority Services Register. If you meet this requirement it will not cost you anything to get regular meter readings.

(3) If you think there is a problem with your meter, rather than your bill, you should contact your energy supplier. They will be able to test your meter to ensure that it is working properly. If you are still concerned about the meter's accuracy direct your enquiry to energywatch who will be able to offer you advice on resolving the matter. Once the meter has been checked, if it is shown that you have been overcharged, your supplier will have to repay the excess owed. On the flip side, if the meter test shows that you have been undercharged, the supplier has the right to reclaim the extra cost from you.

(4) If you think you will have difficulty paying your bills, contact your energy supplier as soon as you can. Licensed energy suppliers must offer you help and advice if you have difficulties paying your bills and should discuss alternative ways for you to pay. Again, if you are not satisfied with the way your supplier handles your situation, then contact energywatch. They will offer you advice and assistance (but not money).

(5) Consider switching to a cheaper supplier. Use an energywatch accredited website such as for a free price comparison.   Switching to an online tariff and paying by monthly direct debit could save you around £200 a year.

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