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Issue:- 10 March 2010

Rogue traders prey on the elderly in North West, warns the Gas Safe Register

ALARMING research released by Gas Safe Register reveals that over 65s in the North West are most at risk in Britain from rogue traders, with 57% saying they have already been targeted by preying tradesman on their own doorstep - well above the national average (42%).  With Age UK figures claiming that nearly 2.5 million people fell victim to scams last year, Gas Safe Register is warning older people that they might be vulnerable to unscrupulous rogues.

Worryingly, the survey carried out for Gas Safe Register found that over 65s living in the North West don't always know how to keep themselves safe from rogue traders. Only 8% think carrying an ID card is important for a tradesman; 56% would hand over cash for a job which then can't be traced (well above the national average of 37%); and most are not fully aware what to do if a tradesman does a poor job in their home, with just 36% prepared to report substandard work to Trading Standards. Over 1 in 10 older people in the North West have also had to say:- "no" very aggressively to get rid of fast talking rogue traders on their door step.

The survey also identified over 75's as being particularly at risk, with many saying if the illegal gas fitter seemed polite and helpful then they wouldn't always think twice about making further checks.

Paul Johnston, chief executive of Gas Safe Register explains the dangers:- "All too often our investigations team find illegal gas fitters specifically preying on the elderly, offering discounted OAP rates and using charm tactics. Many use the Gas Safe logo on their van, adverts or paperwork when they are not registered. With a quarter of a million gas jobs carried out every year by illegal gas fitters who don't have the skills or the qualifications to work safely on gas, it is vital that older people living in the North West always check that the engineer they use is on the Gas Safe Register or they could be putting their lives and pocket at risk."

Sadly, this was the case for 70 year old widow Patricia when she needed a new boiler and central heating system last winter. She was caught out by illegal gas fitters who "sounded friendly." Their local advert stated they were big enough to cope but small enough to care; only this wasn't the case when they left her with a dangerous gas boiler she couldn't use in the winter and couldn't afford to fix after already handing them nearly £6,000.

Paul Johnston adds:- "We want to help older people understand how to keep themselves safe from illegal gas fitters and our advice is always ask to see the Gas Safe ID card before letting anyone work on your gas appliances. If you're in any doubt, contact us immediately on our free helpline. Illegal gas work could cost you twice to rectify, or worse, it could cost you your life."

Gas Safe Register's top tips for the elderly:-

► Never trust a gas fitter on first impressions or recommendations alone, no matter how helpful and polite they seem - always ask for the Gas Safe Register ID card. It's the only way you can guarantee that your engineer is legally allowed to work on your gas boiler, gas fire and gas cooker.

► Check on the back of the Gas Safe Register ID that the engineer is registered for the specific type of work you need. If they're registered to fit gas boilers, it doesn't mean they are automatically qualified to put in a gas fire, for example.

► After the gas work is done, you can nominate your home for a free gas safety check.

► If you suspect an illegal gas fitter report them to Gas Safe Register anonymously.

► Gas Safe Register can help you find a local Gas Safe registered engineer. Call the free helpline on:- 0800 408 5500 or go to:-

Usdaw says a woman's place is active in her union

THE shopworkers union Usdaw are marking International Women's Day by celebrating a record number of women activists and highlighting the recent gains the union has achieved for its 227,000 women members.

Usdaw has had a majority of women members since 1970, but now for the first time in its history more than half of the union's 8,000 shop stewards and 12,000 activists are women.

The union is also highlighting some of the recent gains it has made for its women members which include:-

► An average pay increase of 2.33% compared to a whole economy average of 1.6%.

► A pay increase of over 20% for young women working in Tesco and Sainsbury's, as a result of the union negotiating the abolition of youth rates in both companies.

► Securing £8,111,600 in personal injury compensation for around 1,200 women members and £1,176,953 for 248 women members in employment claims through the union's free legal service.

► Around 300 women members a month returning to learning through one of the many Usdaw organised workplace based learning programmes.

The Union's award winning Parents and Carers campaign, which aims to improve statutory and contractual rights for members with families, has also made significant gains for women members. Over half the Union's women members have seen improvements to their employment contracts as a result of the campaign, improvements that include the introduction of contractual maternity pay, new flexible working practices and the introduction of employer support for childcare. The union has recently negotiated with Tesco one of the best examples of paid time off for fertility treatment in the entire private sector.

John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary said:- "Over 50,000 women have joined Usdaw in the past decade as a result of our focus on workplace recruitment and organisation and I'm thrilled that the great efforts we make to help and support all members to get active in the union are so clearly paying dividends with our women members.  Usdaw prides itself on listening and acting on our members concerns. Our women members have made it clear to us that issues around work-life balance have equal importance to pay which is why we have focussed so much attention on them."

Ruth Cross, Usdaw Equalities Officer said:- "The Union is not just there for when things go wrong at work. Most of our women members are juggling work with caring for their families and we understand the pressures they are sometimes under. We have helped thousands of women to get the support they need at work - whether its hours of work that fit round their families, time off when their children are ill or extra breaks during pregnancy."


THE age old problem of A-Boards and the council is about to be back in the news again as Sefton MBC has been out and about in Formby warning businesses of the impending enforcement action to remove objects from the streets. Local businesses have again reacted strongly to this saying:- "Not so long ago the council told us that we are ok to do this as long as we are not coursing a hazard to the public, yet they are doing this all over again. We are struggling to get business in Formby. All the businesses we are carful not to course problems with our signs and other items on the pavements. The pavements are exceptionally wide and we have demonstrated that they are not an issue. The character of the village is suffering and businesses are closing as a result of these actions." said one of the shop owners who were issued a warning notice. Email us your views on this issue to:-

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