Will No2NP succeed in their Judicial Challenge or will every child in Scotland have a “Named Person” in 2016?

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 received Royal Assent on 27 March 2014 and will be rolled out across the country in 2016.

The Act includes a provision to assign a “Named Person” (probably a teacher or health visitor) to every child / young person in Scotland under the age of 18.  The Named Person will have a duty to:

  • Advise, inform or support the child / young person and the parents of the child / young person
  • Help the child / young person or parents of the child / young person to access a service or support system
  • Raise a matter about a child / young person with a service provider or relevant authority.

This controversial Act is now subject to legal challenge by a campaign group, No to Named Persons (No2NP), which includes several hundred parents, academics and professionals concerned about the proposed imposition of a Named Person.

Of course, parents do not need to accept help or advice from the Named Person but the Named Person can act independently of parents in raising concerns they might have about a child / young person to outside agencies if they believe the child / young person to be at risk.

No2NP believe the role of parents will be diminished by the policy and that it constitutes unjustified interference with an individual’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.  Article 8 of the ECHR states that:

  • Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
  • There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health and morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The position of the Scottish Government is that the legislation will stop vulnerable children  from slipping through the net  and will provide families in need with assistance that they might find difficult to obtain in other circumstances.

We will have to wait for the outcome of the review requested by No2NP , whether it will be successful remains to be seen, but certainly this legislation and challenge will have implications for the vast majority of families in Scotland.

Mitchells Roberton Solicitors Support Mary’s Meals

Mary's Meals Backpacks

Mary’s Meals is a registered charity that sets up school feeding projects in some of the world’s poorest communities. It is a simple idea – by providing a daily meal in a place of education, chronically poor children are attracted to the classroom where they can gain a basic education that provides an escape route from poverty.

Mary’s Meals was founded in 2002 and has grown from its first feeding operation of 200 children in Malawi to a world-wide campaign providing free school meals in hundreds of schools and feeding over 860,000 children daily.

One of the charity’s high profile projects is the Backpack Project and it is this project that the staff of Mitchells Roberton supports. With staff donations we purchase backpacks and fill each one with a notebook, pencils, coloured pencils, a rubber, a pencil sharpener, a ruler and a pencil case. We also put into each pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and a towel.  Additionally a new outfit, sandals, a ball and a spoon are included.

Margaret Ritchie, our receptionist organises the firm’s efforts. She says “I believe that a backpack may often be the first gift received by a child attending one of Mary’s Meals schools. We all hope that the bag will help to make a practical difference to the child receiving it. It’s a lovely project to be involved in and we will continue to contribute as best we can.”

Since the beginning of 2011 Mitchells Roberton has donated 450 filled backpacks to be gifted to children receiving Mary’s Meals.

There Should Be A Will But Show Me The Way

Solicitors are always telling their clients how important it is to have a Will and I am sure most clients would agree. What many clients, however, may fail to understand is that in the vast majority of cases making a Will is simple. Let me guide you through the process.

Step 1.  What do you own?

Note down your assets .

Most people’s assets consist of all or a mixture of the following:-

  • Your home
  • Other property or land
  • Cars and other vehicles
  • Home contents including  furniture and fittings
  • Items of particular value e.g. jewellery, art, antiques etc
  • Money in banks & building societies
  • Shares, Investments, National Savings/Premium Bonds etc
  • Insurance and pensions
  • Other savings and assets

Next make a list of your current liabilities.

  • Your mortgage
  • Loans and overdraft
  • Your credit cards
  • Credit or HP Agreement
  • Other liabilities

The value of your estate will be your assets minus any outstanding debts, mortgage, loans etc

Step 2.  Who will be the Executor?

Choose who you would like to be your Executor. The Executor is the person or people you want to make your Will happen. This can be a partner, close friend or professional advisor. There is no restriction on an Executor being a beneficiary of your Will.

Step 3.  Decide to whom you want to leave your assets

Outline who you would like to receive your property. There is no limit to the number of gifts you can make. Once you have provided for your family, you could also consider making a gift to charity to transform the lives of people in need. There are a number of different types of gifts:-

  • Specific : a definite object or property
  • Pecuniary : a gift of a particular sum of money
  • Residuary : a gift of money or assets left when other legacies and expenses have been paid.

 

Step 4 : Guardians for young children

If you have children under 16 in Scotland it is advisable to choose a guardian to look after them in the event of both parents dying.

Step 5.  Meeting your Solicitor

When you have gathered all the relevant information you should meet with your solicitor to discuss your instructions. If you do not have an Executor your solicitor can arrange this for you. If your estate is large your solicitor will also advise you on Inheritance Tax Planning.

Step 6. Approving your Will

When drafted, your Will will be sent for approval. Any changes can be made at this point. Once you are happy with the document your solicitor will ask you to sign it in the presence of a witness.

Step 7 Keeping your Will Safe

You can keep your Will at home but most people leave their Wills with their solicitor in the firm’s fireproof safe. Normally there is no charge for this. We certainly do not charge.

I have prepared A Will Planner for clients use .

If you wish to have a Will Planner sent to you please contact Jacqui Brown on jb@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by telephoning 0141 552 3422.

Obesity … Not Just a Medical Problem

Danish childminder Karsten Kaltoft, who weighs in at 25 stone, was sacked by his local council, Billund Kommune, for being too obese to do his job. The local authority maintained that due to his size Karsten was unable to perform his duties effectively and had to get other colleagues to carry out certain tasks for him, for example tying the children’s shoe laces. Karsten in turn claimed that his bosses had discriminated against him for being overweight and took his case to the Danish courts which referred the case to the European Court of Justice. The outcome of this landmark case will decide whether obese people should be automatically defined as having a disability, a finding which could have serious implications for UK employers.

Currently under the UK Equality Act individuals are protected from discrimination if they have a “protected characteristic” such as age, disability, race, religion or sex amongst others. If the court rules in Karsten’s favour UK employers could soon have to ensure that any employees who are obese receive the same protections from discrimination as those already protected on the above mentioned grounds. This would include having to make “reasonable adjustments” for obese workers such as providing special desks or altering duties to minimize walking or travelling or even preferential access to parking.

There are also wider implications. If an employer were to make adverse assumptions about an overweight candidate or an overweight employee’s ability to do their job based purely on the individual’s size then that would be direct discrimination. Employers would also have to take an active role to make sure untoward and unfavourable comments are not made against an obese individual to avoid any possible harassment claim.

Few cases of this type have been heard in the UK. In 2012 Walker v Sita which came before an Employment Appeal Tribunal involved an obese man who suffered a number of health issues. The court ruled that being significantly overweight in itself did not make the individual disabled but could make it more likely that a disability developed in the future.

The US Equal Opportunity Commission already defines obesity as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act. In a recent case in the USA a 48stone forklift truck operator grew too fat for the seat belt in his truck and asked his bosses for an extender but instead the company sacked him. He brought a case of discrimination and was awarded $50,0000 in compensation.

In the UK it is estimated that a quarter of all adults are already clinically obese while 64% are either obese or overweight. Last year it was reported that more than 7,000 UK adults are being paid sickness benefits because they are too fat to work. Department of Work and Pensions statistics show the number of obesity claims had doubled between 2010-13 to 7080.

So far disability groups have been unwilling to go on record to give their views.

The Property Market is Showing Signs of Recovery

The Scottish property market is showing its first real signs of recovery since the economic downturn in 2008 according to a long term report issued by the Registers of Scotland which reviews the market trends from 2004 to 2014.

The key findings are as listed below :-

  • Residential house prices grew steadily between 2004 and 2007.
  • On average residential house prices over the decade increased by 36.9%. The average price in 2004-5 was £115,056, while in 2013-14 it was £157,476. The average price over the financial year 2013-14 was the highest in the decade.
  • Between 2004 and 2014 the number of residential properties sold for over one million pounds has more than doubled. In Scotland’s seven cities volumes are now at their highest level for five years.
  • In terms of volume the height of the market was in the second quarter of 2007-8 with 42,493 residential sales applications. The lowest volume of sales was 11,787 in the fourth quarter of 2008-9.
  • Over the decade, residential sales volumes decreased by 32.3% from 129,276 in 2004-5 to 87,475 in 2013-14. Volumes in 2013-14 are the highest since 2007-8 and are up by 19.8% when compared to 2012-13. The final three quarters of 2013-14 all showed volume increases in excess of 20% compared with the same periods of the previous year.
  • The year on year value of total sales grew by 22.2% to £13.8bn in 2013-14.
  • Flats have represented the largest share of the property market, making up 40% of all residential sales over the last decade
  • The number of sales being registered with a mortgage in 2013-14 fell by 46.3% when compared with 2004-5. This is also down by 53% on the height of the market in 2006-7.
  • Title coverage in Scotland via the registration of properties in the Land Register now stands at 57.4%. This represents almost 26% of the land mass in Scotland. The Land Register County of Renfrew has the highest coverage with 76.1% of titles being registered, while Ross and Cromarty has the lowest at 36.7%
  • The total value of residential sales in Scotland since 2004 is £148.7bn, contributing an average of almost £14.9bn a year to the Scottish economy.

Registers of Scotland Director of Commercial Services Kenny Crawford said “It’s been an interesting decade for the Scottish property market, which is now showing real signs of recovery since the economic downturn in 2008.”

If you are thinking about buying or selling anywhere in Scotland we can help. Please contact Alison Gourley by email  ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk  or by phone 0141 552 3422.

Home Improvements

In a sluggish property market, more people consider extending their existing property rather than move house.  Building works and home improvements can be an expensive and time consuming business.  It is important to plan carefully to help avoid disputes with the contractor after works have started.  Let’s face it, prevention is always better than cure.  Here are some helpful points to consider.

Before the works start:

  • Make sure you have a written quotation and contract in place.  As a minimum, the contract should include details of the work to be carried out, any local authority consents required, the cost, arrangements for payment and dates for beginning and completing the work.  Keep copies of all paperwork.
  • Do not pay the whole cost to the contractor upfront, if possible.  Withholding payment(s) until certain stages of work have been completed gives you bargaining power in the event that work is unsatisfactory.  This will also save you from some of the consequences in the (hopefully unlikely) event of your contractor going bust or disappearing with your money.
  • Consider appointing a contractor who is a member of a professional body such as the Federation of Master Builders or the Royal Institute of British Architects.  They set out codes of conduct and can offer mediation or arbitration services.  It is also worth asking for references from a contractor’s previous customers.  Ask friends and colleagues too for recommendations.

After commencement of works, the law states that contractors must observe the following:

  • Use reasonable care and skill and perform the work to a proper standard of workmanship.
  • Finish the work within a reasonable timeframe.
  • The goods and materials provided must match the supplier’s description and be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and of a standard to meet the reasonable expectations of the consumer.

What should I do if things go wrong?

If any of the following factors apply you may be entitled to compensation:

  • The contractor has not carried out their work with reasonable care and skill or within the agreed timeframe
  • The contractor has been negligent in their work
  • A repair carried out is unsatisfactory
  • You have incurred additional expenses or suffered inconvenience because of a breach of contract
  • Someone has suffered a personal injury as a result of unsafe goods or services

If it becomes necessary to take action:

  • Always try to resolve the matter directly with the contractor.
  • Gather all relevant documents including the quotation, contract, guarantee, any relevant photographic evidence and other agreements you have entered into with the contractor.
  • Contact the contractor to outline your grievances, making it clear what you would like to happen and when.
  • If the contractor fails to resolve the situation, contact their trade association and make use of any arbitration procedure.  Remember that arbitration may be chargeable and any decision reached via this method may rule out the possibility of raising a separate court action.
  • As a final resort you can raise a court action against the contractor.

If I can help with resolving any building related disputes, please contact me at paul@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or on 0141 552 3422.

 

Give Green a Chance

It is estimated that around 750 million plastic bags are used every year in Scotland. For a while now some supermarkets like M&S , Aldi and Lidl have been charging  their customers for plastic bags  whilst others such as Asda,  Morrisons and Sainsburys  have not.

But as from October 2014 the Scottish Government has confirmed it will introduce a 5p levy on all plastic bags. The reasoning behind this is to reduce bag use and raise £5m for good causes each year.

Mr Lochhead the Environment Secretary said “Carrier bags are a highly visible aspect of litter and we are taking decisive action to decrease their number.  By reducing the amount being carelessly discarded we can cut litter and its impact on our environment and economy.” He further stated that “A small charge should also encourage us all to stop and think about what we discard and what we can re-use.”

The CBI, however, have expressed their concern, a spokesman claiming “Modest economic growth coupled with a continuing shift to internet shopping is making conditions challenging for the high street which is already feeling the ill-effects of the Scottish government’s £95 million retail rates surcharge and its £36m rates levy on empty shops and other premises. This is going to cause costly red tape when in fact by voluntary means carrier bag use has fallen by 40%”.

But I am for this levy.  Plastic bags are not biodegradable. They clog waterways, spoil the landscape and end up in landfills where they may take hundreds of years to break down into even smaller particles that continue to pollute the soil and water.

Plastic bags also pose a serious danger to birds and marine animals who often mistake them for food. Thousands die each year after swallowing or choking on discarded bags.

Finally producing plastic bags requires millions of gallons of petroleum that could be used for transportation or heating.

All our staff at Mitchells Roberton are given a reusable shopping bag when they start with us so we are already giving green a chance.