One In Three Brits Stressed Over Costs Of Hospitalisation

One in three people feel stressed about the extra expense they or their family will incur whilst in hospital with half of this group fearing their stress levels could hinder recovery.

These are the findings according to new research conducted by Medicash.

The survey questioned 400 Britons who had all recently been in hospital or were undergoing regular outpatient treatment.

The top five costs respondents said they were unprepared for were car parking charges, TV cards, food, travel expenses and medication with patients being out of pocket to the tune of £50 on average.

Car parking, TV cards and travel expenses were ranked as the most expensive items and people in employment reported an average loss of earnings of £190 per day. With an average hospitalisation period of nine days, this amounts to an average total of over £1,700.

Family and friends were asked to fork out for extra food or drink for 40% of patients in hospital and in areas such as the North West this figure rose to 60%. Other areas where family members met the cost included the purchase of nightwear, toiletries and pharmaceuticals with travel being rated at the costliest area.

Chief Executive Sue Weir said: “The survey demonstrates that the true cost of being ill is far higher than people realise and people are being affected by stress which can severely impact on their recovery. When you add up the costs of parking charges, TV cards, food and travel, the financial burden for many people is considerable and people who haven’t been able to budget in advance can be hit hard. We want to encourage people to take steps to plan ahead so that, in event of sudden illness, they can have peace of mind that they are prepared.”

Medicash healthcare plans provide a range of benefits which give members cash back on day to day healthcare expenses as well as pay outs ranging from £16-£105 each night for inpatient stays in hospital and £14-£90 for outpatient stays in hospital.

Tesco reveals lowest price school uniform

Tesco is already gearing up for back to school in September, even though the summer tern has only just started, by unveiling its one-price-fits-all school uniform.

Despite rising cotton prices, Tesco has managed to offer customers a low price school uniform option from the Tesco Value range. The flat price applies to all sizes (3-16 years) so regardless of a child’s age parents can expect to pay the same price giving families on the tightest budgets great value.

You could get your children kitted out with a full set of new wares for as little as £3.60.

Normally priced at £4.50 there is an extra 20 per cent off the collection running throughout June, making it the cheapest option on the high street.

Jan Marchant, Tesco Clothing buying director said: “Parents like different price options for Back to School and our Value range offers them a fantastic quality product, fully covered by our ethical trading programme, at an unbeatable price. We are pleased to offer our customers a whole school uniform at the lowest possible price, and certainly the most competitive price on the high street.”

Tesco’s Value Back to school uniform, along with Tesco’s Core and Premium F&F Signature uniform ranges, have been rigorously tested for wear and tear to British and European Testing Standards.

This year Tesco has over 80 pieces of Back to School uniform, across its Value, Core, Signature and Fairtrade range as well as more features and benefits than ever before, with superior quality.

The Tesco Back to School range is available all year round with new styles in store in June.  A wide range that includes shirts, pique polo shirts, school trousers, school shoes, skirts and pinafores is available in 500 stores and online at Tesco’s website. Essential Back to School items such as shirts, polo shirts, socks and briefs will be available during the summer in 600 stores across the country, including Metro stores. The Value uniform will be available in 200 stores and online.

Property developer jailed for £25m VAT fraud

A Middlesex man who evaded £25m in tax by submitting false VAT repayment claims for 15 different companies has been jailed for eight and a half years after an investigation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Charles Victor Scarrott (61) who was the sole director of 15 property development companies, pleaded guilty to 15 counts of cheating the revenue at Kingston Crown Court and was sentenced to eight and a half years on each of the counts to run concurrently.

The investigation uncovered evidence that between 2003 and 2008, Scarrott submitted 178 fraudulent repayment claims totalling more than £25m. He provided false purchase invoices, bank statements and other business records to support the claims and used the proceeds of his crime to purchase luxury items which included:

  • £1m penthouse in Teddington, Middlesex
  • £500,000 holiday home in Dorset
  • Flats for his two children
  • £36,000 attending sporting events
  • £42,000 on private school fees
  • £40,000 on dental work
  • Over £80,000 on holidays
  • Maserati luxury car

When passing sentence, His Honour Judge Hopmeir said: “You played with high stakes, you have now lost and must pay the price. Those that cheat the Revenue cause direct and indirect damage to the community. Those that pay their taxes are effectively victims of those like you that cheat the system. As a result of careful and conscientious work by customs officers, your fraud has been detected.”

John Cooper, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HMRC said:

“Scarrott stole from the pockets of innocent people and deprived the nation of vital funds needed for public services whilst funding his own extravagant lifestyle by claiming fraudulent VAT refunds. The sentence Scarrott received yesterday will act as a deterrent to anyone considering carrying out this type of crime. HMRC investigators will look to recover the profits made from these illegal activities.”

Confiscation of assets is being sought.

Festival Goers Urged to Check Home Insurance Policy

With the Music Festival season upon us… Download, and the Isle of White festival’s have already been and gone. But fear not still to come are Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, and V festival!

Swinton Insurance is offering a word of warning for festival goers to make sure they have their personal possessions covered on their home insurance policy.

Swinton, the UK’s leading high street retailer of home insurance, surveyed 2,200 customers and found that 37% of regular Festival goers take valuable possessions to festivals but only 11% of this percentage would make sure their items were insured.

Swinton also found that just over 7% of festival goers had had items stolen from their tents and campervans. A further 11% had lost or damaged items themselves whilst camping at festivals.

As theft, loss and damage of possessions is common at festivals, Swinton is advising customers to check what items are currently covered on their contents insurance policy before they take their valuables away. If customers do require any additional cover for personal items, they can easily add them to their existing home insurance policy.

Steve Chelton, Insurance Development Manager at Swinton said, “It’s important that festival goers try and be on their guard for opportunistic thieves who, unfortunately, target these sorts of events. Tents are often left unguarded for long periods of time, so we advise people to keep valuables on them at all times. We also advise adding any valuable possessions to their home insurance policy if they plan to take them to festivals.”


Temporary migrants will no longer be able apply for settlement

The government is implementing reforms to the immigration system which will reduce immigration to sustainable levels. Today’s announcement is the next step in this process.

Launching a public consultation on reforms to the work routes leading to settlement, Immigration Minister Damian Green set out plans to re-classify visas as either ‘temporary’ or ‘permanent’ and introduce stricter criteria for those who want to stay.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said:

“The proposals I am making today are aimed at breaking the link between temporary and permanent migration.

“Settlement has become almost automatic for those who choose to stay. This needs to change. The immigration system has got to be made to work properly.

“We want the brightest and best workers to come to the UK, make a strong contribution to our economy while they are here, and then return home.”

Under the current system, many workers are allowed to apply to stay here permanently. In 2010, 84,000 people who entered the UK for employment were granted settlement. This compares to less than 10,000 who qualified for employment related settlement in 1997.

The government has already implemented new settlement requirements for skilled workers entering under Tiers 1 and 2 of the Points Based System, which require applicants to demonstrate English-language proficiency, continue to meet the salary requirements and to pass a new criminality test.

Key proposals under consideration in the 12 week consultation are as follows:

* re-branding Tier 2 (the skilled worker route) as temporary, ending the assumption that settlement will be available for those who enter on this route;

* allowing certain categories of Tier 2 migrant, for example those earning over £150,000 or occupations of a specific economic or social value to the UK, to retain an automatic route to settlement;

* creating a new category into which, after three years in the UK, the most exceptional Tier 2 migrants may switch and go on to apply for settlement;

* allowing Tier 2 migrants who do not switch into a settlement route to stay for a maximum of five years with the expectation that they and any dependants will leave at the end of that time;

* introducing an English language requirement for adult dependants of Tier 2 migrants applying to switch into a route to settlement;

* restricting the maximum period of leave for Tier 5 Temporary Workers to 12 months; and

* closing or reforming routes for overseas domestic workers.

Damian Green added:

“A small number of exceptional migrants will be able to stay permanently but for the majority, coming here to work will not lead automatically to settlement in the UK.”

The Government has committed to reforming all routes of entry to the UK in order to bring immigration levels under control. The settlement, Tier 5 and overseas domestic worker reforms will work alongside the annual limit, the new student visa reforms and changes to the family route which will be consulted on later this year.

‘Loans’ dominate consumer online searches

Five of the ten most queried search terms used by UK consumers to find personal finance products online in January, were loan-related. This is according to the latest quarterly research, ‘Retail Banking- January 2011, by independent search marketing specialist and technology firm Greenlight.

According to the report, there were 2.7 million retail finance-related searches conducted online. This was a 700,000 increase when compared with October 2010.

Most queried terms

Mortgages were the most popular subsector and accounted for 35% of searches (951,000), up 71% on October totals. The term ‘Mortgage calculator’ was the most queried, making up 13% (368,000) of all retail finance-related searches, almost double October levels.

33% of all searches were for loans. Whilst fewer in volume when compared to those for mortgages, the terms ‘Loans’, ‘Payday loans’, Loan calculator’, ‘Student loans’ and ‘Personal loans’ accounted for five of the ten most searched for terms used by UK consumers to source personal finance products, online.

Totalling 49,500, the keyword ‘ISA’ accounted for 10% of all searches related to bank accounts in January. This was an 83% rise on October’s 27,000.

‘Credit cards’, was the most popular search term used to find credit and debit card offerings online. It was queried135,000 times (a 74,500 increase on October levels), accounting for 38% of the 352,000 searches related to this sub-sector.

Most visible sites

Greenlight determined the 60 most visible websites in natural and paid search in this sector.

MoneySupermarket was the most visible website in natural search, achieving 68% visibility. Halifax followed and replaced MoneySavingExpert in second place. It attained a 38% share of voice, an 11% increase on the previous quarter.

MoneySupermarket was also the most visible advertiser in paid search. It achieved a 51% share of voice – 7% less than the previous quarter. Santander, whose visibility increased by 19%, made gains and replaced FirstDirect to take second place, with 33% share of voice.

Most social and interactive

Social media sites are becoming a very important source for companies to gain consumers.

LloydsTSB replaced MoneySupermarket as the most followed brand in Greenlight’s social media league table. Since October, it has seen a huge increase in the number of Facebook fans (by more than 59,000).

uSwitch was the most interactive brand, cumulatively posting 280 posts and tweets.

With nearly 11% of marketing budgets expected to be devoted to social media in 2011 (source: eMarketer), Greenlight advises firms to connect and build relationships with those speaking to them as engagement is key to building social media optimisation.

Consolidation loans

£2 million VAT fraud brothers jailed

Two brothers, who stole more than £1.6m through tax fraud and by stealing from their employees to finance their luxury lifestyles, have been jailed at Croydon Crown Court today for six years, following a complex investigation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Haris and Adam Mukhtar, from Ilford, made £1.3m worth of fake VAT claims for various bogus companies, from chauffeuring to importing rice. Haris Mukhtar also told 200 of his own staff that £330,000 cash taken from their debit and credit cards was for national insurance and tax payments; Haris, described in court by the judge as “thoroughly dishonest” and “totally bent”, pocketed some of the cash for himself. HMRC specialist investigators prevented a further £320,000 being paid in other fraudulent VAT claims.

Haris and Adam bought themselves Lamborghinis and a hand-built Mercedes McLaren with their ill-gotten cash. The brothers, who shared a home, filled it with high-spec televisions, buying one for every room in the house.

John Pointing, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HMRC, said:

“Criminals such as this are menaces who steal from honest taxpayers. HMRC is cracking down on fraud and the Government has made a further £900 million available to us for tackling evasion, avoidance and attacks by criminal gangs.”

Confiscation proceedings against both brothers are ongoing.

UK Green Economy Lags Behind Following Launch Of Europe’s Most Advanced Eco Village

UK-based Oxford Sustainable Group, Europe’s largest renewable energy and sustainable development business, has announced the launch of Oxford Park, the most advanced sustainable village in Europe. Located near Tallinn, Estonia, the £170m project is a carefully planned sustainable community that consists of infrastructure, energy and social provision to meet the needs of its residents and the businesses that choose to locate there.

The Oxford Sustainable Group has designed Oxford Park using its Oxford 360 degree Sustainability Index. This has allowed it to create a community that is well in advance of UN Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI) norms for sustainability. This considers the broader requirements of the residents, surrounding economic, environmental, energy, educational, transport and leisure needs as well as long-term job creation, regeneration, finance and investment requirements. The Oxford Sustainable Group has shown that by taking a holistic approach to sustainable development it can increase profitability while benefitting other stakeholders including residents, the local and wider economcy, society and environment.

“Sustainability means a lot more than planning carbon neutral buildings or trendy underground transport systems,” said Hadley Barrett, chief executive of OSG. “We can only create truly sustainable communities if we consider all of the stakeholders in a project. That includes government, investors, and the entire supply chain – as well as the people who will live and work there – and be able to supply a sustainable product at the right price. True sustainability does not mean higher prices.

“We have a practical and down-to-earth approach for Oxford Park that is successful, sustainable and economically viable – investors do not need to turn to projects in the Middle East for green growth. We would like to replicate the planning success of Oxford Park in the UK but we need simplified regulation which allows ‘good developers’ to be fast-tracked rather than held back. We do not need more definitions of carbon free homes, we need facilitating regulation which allows trusted partners to move quickly and effectively and bring about positive changes through entrepreneurship. Practical government agencies from Finland and other locations have been asking us to help them replicate the success of Oxford Park in their countries. Currently the UK is lagging behind.”

Sainsbury’s Help Farmers Go Green At The Bath And West Agricultural Show

Sainsbury’s has outlined a major initiative at the Bath and West show to help farmers go green, prevent tonnes of carbon from being wasted while also saving thousands of pounds in fuel and energy bills.

Experts from Sainsbury’s agriculture team held an industry-leading seminar for delegates at the show, including the President HRH, The Countess of Wessex, to present findings from a farm carbon footprinting project – the largest of its kind to be undertaken by a UK retailer. Sainsbury’s is keen to use the results to support farmers, suppliers and growers and identify where changes can be made to reduce carbon emissions and outline where best practice can be shared.

Since 2007, farmers in the Sainsbury’s Dairy Development Group have used new techniques to reduce their emissions by almost six per cent, which equates to over 42,000 tonnes of carbon or 108 million car miles. Collectively this has saved farmers £1.2 million in energy bills since 2007.

Speakers at the seminar included Sainsbury’s Property Director Neil Sachdev, Head of Agriculture Annie Graham and Paul Crewe Head of Engineering, Energy, Environment and Sustainability. The audience also heard from one of Sainsbury’s dairy farmers, Robert Reader, about the steps he has taken to ‘green up’ his farm.

Neil Sachdev, Sainsbury’s Property Director, said: “We’ve invested a lot of time to help minimise the impact Sainsbury’s has on the environment. Some of what we’ve trialled has made a real difference to our energy consumption and we want to give the knowledge that we’ve built up to farmers to help them reduce their energy consumption and, in turn, save some money.”

Sainsbury’s has Development Groups for all of its farmers – from pork to dairy – allowing them to work closely on issues such as the environment and animal welfare. Farmers have said that saving energy and reducing their impact on the environment is a top concern, so this event presented a unique opportunity to share the results of the carbon footprint initiative and outline new ideas.

Local farmer Robert Reader said: “The seminar presented a good opportunity to share ideas and techniques on the new processes that I have introduced on my farm. The evidence gathered by Sainsbury’s and the different techniques to reduce carbon have not only improved the efficiency of my business, but it has also significantly reduced my carbon footprint and costs.”

Green techniques have been trialled and implemented by Sainsbury’s in its stores and depots. For example, new biomass boilers that burn wood pellets in instead of gas can generate up to 30% of a stores energy requirements and a biomass combined heat and power generator allows a store to generate not only all of its own heat but also much of its own electricity.

The seminar also discussed other measures including using different types of grass, solar panels, rainwater harvesters that provide water to flush the toilets, low flush toilets, waterless urinals and self-closing taps. ‘North lights’ which are windows that specifically face north and are designed to maximise daylight, automatic light dimmers to reduce energy use on brighter days and energy monitoring via web-based technology that shows how much energy is being consumed in each part of a building was also discussed.

Sainsbury’s is one of the key sponsors of the Royal Bath & West Agricultural Show. The Sainsbury’s stand has an area where local farmers could meet with buyers and visitors could see an interactive ‘Field to Fork’ display, which demonstrates where food comes from and the process it goes through from farming to appearing on supermarket shelves. Regional suppliers have been showcasing great local produce, such as sausages, tomatoes, chicory and celeriac and the Sainsbury’s ‘Try Team’ have been cooking up quick and easy recipes such as omelettes and salads.