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Issue:- 9 February  2012

Dogs Trust Merseyside appeals for homes for two special dogs this Valentine’s

STAFF at the Dogs Trust on Merseyside are hoping that this Valentines Day will bring a lifelong partner for 2 special dogs at the rehoming centre.

Tom Jones, a 10 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier Cross, and Rosalie, a 18 months old Labrador Cross have been at the rehoming centre for several months and have their paws crossed that love will be in the air for them on the 14th.

Georgina Lowery, Dogs Trust Merseyside Rehoming Centre Manager, says:- "Tom Jones and Rosalie are lovely dogs who are getting overlooked in kennels. They have an awful lot of love to give so it would be fantastic if this Valentine’s Day they could find two special families to give them all the love that they deserve. They are not looking for a home together but, as you can see, they certainly became good chums on their photoshoot!"

Mr. Jones or Tom to his friends was found taking himself for a walk one day. Sadly no one ever claimed him, so he is now looking for his forever home. He loves tummy rubs and has a lovely singing voice that would charm the socks off anyone. Tom can live with children over 10 years of age.

Rosalie is a fabulous girl with boundless energy. She loves playing with her doggy friends in the free run and going for long walks. Rosalie is only young and still needs some basic training so would benefit from a home with someone around for most of the day. Rosalie gets on well with other dogs so can live with the right companion. She would prefer an adult-only home.

If you would like to offer a home to Tom Jones or Rosalie, please visit the centre at:- Whiston Lane, Huyton, Liverpool L36 6HP or call:- 0151 482 6425 for further details on how you can help.

A&E patients seen fastest at Southport and Ormskirk

PATIENTS attending A&E at Southport and Ormskirk hospitals are being seen faster than at any other hospital in the North West.  On arrival patients receive an initial assessment within 15 minutes and are either discharged, transferred to another hospital or admitted to a bed for further treatment within 4 hours. Between October and December 2011, the Trust was the region’s best performing non-specialist trust with nearly 98% of patients waiting less than four hours in A&E.  The figures also show that in the last nine months more than 97% of Trust patients were seen within the Government's 4 hour target.

Medical Director Dr Geraldine Boocock said:- "This is an outstanding team effort by the doctors, nurses, managers and other health professionals who care for the more than 70,000 people who attend our A&E departments each year.  It is worth remembering too that a performance like this, particular during the colder months of the year, simply isn’t a matter of chance. It is the result of working together and recognising the importance of a good experience for patients."

The on-going £3m-plus refurbishment of A&E at Southport had provided an additional challenge, she said. A new resuscitation area opened in November and work to create a triage area is getting under way.  Dr Boocock added:- "All our staff also work against a continuing background of high A&E attendances.  A&E is a service for people with life-threatening and emergency conditions, such as heart attacks, strokes, breathing problems and serious accidents. We need to make sure we can concentrate on helping these emergency cases and always urge patients to consider using other services such as their GP and local walk-in centres when appropriate."

Once in a lifetime opportunity to carry the Paralympic Flame with thanks to Sainsbury’s in Southport

CUSTOMERS at Sainsbury’s Southport have their final opportunity to nominate teams or individuals to be a part of the London 2012 Paralympic Torch Relay.

The Southport store, situated in Lord Street launched it’s public nomination campaign on Wednesday 11 January. It’s the last of three campaigns run by the London 2012 Paralympic Torch Relay Presenting Partners. The final campaign, involving Sainsbury’s stores across the country, will give customers the chance to nominate a team or individual from their local community who they feel has inspired them.

Sebastian Coe, Chair of LOCOG, said:- "All around the UK there are teams or individuals that embody the Paralympic values and make a difference to the lives of others. The London 2012 Paralympic Torch Relay aims to recognise the contribution of some of these amazing people. “The Sainsbury’s nomination process is the final of the three campaigns run by our Paralympic Torch Relay Presenting Partners so if there is a team or individual in Southport that you feel deserves recognition for their contribution, then I would encourage you to nominate them."

Sainsbury’s Southport customers can nominate individuals or teams by picking up a leaflet in-store (which is freepost), calling the helpline on:- 01299 382 074 or visiting the stores website.  Nominations close on Tuesday, 14 February 2012. But only 100 places are available for customers through Sainsbury’s nomination campaign. They will then have the once in a lifetime opportunity to carry the Paralympic Flame on a very special 24 hour relay from Stoke Mandeville in Aylesbury, the spiritual home of the Paralympic Movement, to the Olympic Park in Stratford, East London, where the Flame will be used to officially open the Paralympic Games. The relay will take place overnight from 28 August  to 29 August 2012.

Sainsbury’s Southport Store Manager Marc Gordon added:- "This a great opportunity for our customers in Southport to get involved in build up to the Paralympic Games To have the opportunity of carrying the Paralympic Flame and help launch this year’s games really would be a great honour for an individual or team from Southport. We’re looking for nominations of people who have really made a difference by inspiring those around them. It’s quick and easy to nominate, so we hope the nomination process is a big success with our customers."

New powers to tackle PAYE dodgers

NEW powers to tackle employers who try to dodge paying their PAYE or National Insurance contributions (NICs) have come into effect this spring. From April 2012, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) can require employers to pay a security, where there is serious risk that they won’t pay over their PAYE tax deductions or NICs.   The new power will be targeted at employers who deduct money from employees’ pay packets, under the pretext of paying their employees’ income tax and NICs, but have no intention of paying it to HMRC. These employers often build up substantial PAYE and NICs debts, and ignore HMRC’s attempts to contact them. In many cases, the business becomes insolvent, to avoid tax, and sets up a new company soon after, to continue trading (known as a "phoenix company"). This is an extension of a power that has already been successfully used for VAT, insurance premium tax and environmental taxes, and will not affect employers who have genuine payment difficulties. The required security will usually be either a cash deposit from the business or director, or a bond from an approved financial institution that is payable on demand. HMRC will calculate the amount of the security on a case-by-case basis, depending on the amount of tax at risk, the employer’s previous behaviour and other risks.  Businesses that fail to provide a security face a fine of up to £5,000, which will be enforceable by the courts.  More information on the new measure can be found on the HMRC website.  Employers who have genuine problems paying their PAYE and NICs should contact HMRC as soon as possible.

Forum says Government needs to boost the credibility of apprenticeship schemes as Banks boost places

THE Forum of Private Business has urged the Government to simplify the entire apprenticeship system in order to make them more business-friendly and appealing to industry leaders. This call by the Forum comes as number of major high street banks announced that will create new apprenticeship schemes and offer more places to young people.

The Forum says training courses such as apprenticeships need to be seen as more worthy, with better information provided to bosses about courses and their effectiveness. It’s also urging decision-makers to incentivise small businesses that take on young people and reward those that do; to work more closely with employers on delivering training provision in terms of local need; and to simplify other aspects of these types of training schemes.

The Forum also reiterated in its submission previous calls on government to help improve the employability of pupils through better education, and additionally to formulate a plan which would bring together skills offerings in one place, with support from dedicated staff, such as on the new Business Link website.

The Forum’s Jane Bennett said that:- "Our members value on-the-job training, and our latest research backs this up. Apprenticeships are an attractive training method for employers, but we think the Government could boost their appeal by making them much more business-friendly. The problem is that the majority of courses are not flexible, which is essential for small firms. There is also a lack of information available to small businesses about course benefits and therefore they find it difficult to navigate a complex system made up of numerous courses. Clear information on the effectiveness of courses is also especially important because small firms need good quality that increases competency. We would also like to see small firms who recruit apprentices to be given financial help to cover training costs and at least some of the wages. BIS research suggests companies see payback after three years – that’s too long for small firms. While we welcome apprenticeship subsidies for those that go through the NAS, we feel they should be extended to those who carry out in-house training, either through tax or subsidies."

The Forum also suggests closer co-operation between business and education providers to allow a more tailored approach to local skill needs, and also welcomed the announced reduction on health and safety compliance for apprenticeships, but urged more in this area. A more proactive approach in reaching out to businesses will better shape the schemes being offered, and the benefits to small firms will become clearer in the process,” added Miss Bennett. "Training providers must work must work with small businesses to better understand the needs of the local community and create courses which reflect the job opportunities in the labour market. Recent announcements on reducing health and safety compliance for small businesses that employ apprentices are welcome, but this reform should go further in cutting red tape, by reducing employment law burdens, and making it easier to let unsuitable apprentices go. As well as recommendations on apprenticeships, we believe improving the skills system more generally would help to improve the quality of training schemes. Small firms need work-ready recruits who have the basic skills. This we know is not always the experience of our members."

Yet, on Tuesday, 7 February 2012, the Prime Minister announced round 2 of the Higher Apprenticeship Fund which will support thousands of apprenticeships up to degree equivalent, helping deliver the world class skills firms need to drive growth. Plus the announcements by the Skills Minister, John Hayes, during National Apprenticeship Week, at a financial services sector roundtable, held at HSBC in Canary Wharf, might be in part addressing what the Forum is saying.

That event in Canary Wharf was looking at the creation of new apprenticeship routes into employment and the Banks have now announce plans to further engage with the Government’s educational and back to the work reforms. These reforms include:-

Barclays will create 1,000 new apprenticeships across England and Wales with a major programme launching in April

HSBC will create an extra 688 apprentices bringing the total number of employees within its apprenticeship scheme to 1,000 by the end of 2012

Santander will launch an apprenticeship scheme that will see up to 50 people offered places at the bank.

Speaking from the breakfast roundtable at HSBC, Skills Minister John Hayes said that:- "I am delighted that these banks are investing in apprenticeships which will help them secure the high-quality skills they need to create economic growth and provide new pathways to excellence for the brightest and best young people. Creating a highly skilled workforce that can take on the best in the world means seeing apprenticeships as an access route to the professions."

Antony Jenkins, Chief Executive of Barclays Retail and Business Banking, said:- "Tackling youth unemployment is one of the biggest challenges facing the UK economy. As a large employer we want to create opportunities which raise young people’s skills and aspirations, and help them to support future prosperity. We are really excited about this programme because it will give many young people their vital first job opportunity, which they can then go on to develop into rewarding long-term careers."

John Morewood, head of Apprenticeships at HSBC commented:- "Apprenticeships complement our graduate schemes and help us continue our journey of professionalising our workforce. For many employees who wouldn’t have had the chance to gain a professional qualification, apprenticeships will give them increased skills and career opportunities as well as a nationally recognised qualification. Driving up the capability of our employees is a key element of our Strategy. Furthermore, HSBC aims to have 1,000 employees within its apprenticeship scheme by the end of 2012."

Cameron Bird, Resourcing Director, Santander UK today said:- "Santander welcomes the Government’s efforts to develop a new generation of apprenticeship schemes that will support young people into work and meet the needs of British businesses for skilled, motivated employees. In 2012, Santander will launch an apprenticeship scheme that will see up to 50 people offered places at the bank. The scheme will provide both internal and external applicants the benefits of a formal work-based training programme which will lead to a recognised qualification. Both school leavers and older applicants looking for a new career will be eligible for a Santander Apprenticeship."

Plus data released on 31 January 2012 has also confirmed the record growth in apprenticeship starts, with 457,200 starting an apprenticeship in the full 2010/11 academic year. This represents a 63.5 per cent increase on 2009/10 figures. Growth took place at all levels of learning, for all age groups, and across all sectors and all regions. According to the National Audit Office, every £1 of public investment in apprenticeships delivers a return of £18 to the wider economy.

Also this week The Prime Minister has opened the bidding for the new Employer Ownership pilot, inviting employers in England to apply to access up to £250m of public investment and secure more control over how skills training is designed and delivered. As well as announcing that small firms will be offered an incentive of £1,500 to hire their first young apprentices. This is expected to support up to 40,000 new apprenticeships over the next year. Add to that, successful applicants to the Barclays Apprenticeship programme will receive 12 months training and support and progress to a permanent position. During their training, apprentices will also work to achieve a competency qualification in Financial Services similar to an NVQ, a BTEC Award in Customer Service, and qualifications in numeracy and literacy.

So what are your views? What do you our readers think about Apprenticeships and do you think more value on-the-job training and entry to Apprenticeship programs made more simple?

Do you think that the Government fears some schools have used vocational qualifications worth the equivalent of multiple GCSEs to boost their ratings and it's removal of many of them from league tables has devalued them? So if yes, will that also affect Apprenticeships?

Why not email your views on this topic to us via:- and let us know what you think!

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