HSE to investigate ‘Black Friday’ safety concerns

MPs and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have voiced concerns over the wellbeing of UK logistics workers during ‘Black Friday’ promotions.

The news comes after UK courier Hermes reportedly asked as many as 5,000 members of staff to work up to 20 days without a break, in order to keep up with consumer demand for speedy deliveries.

Reports suggest that delivery drivers who already work six days a week have now been asked to work seven by Hermes – which is expected to deliver some 750,000 parcels for major retailers such as Next and John Lewis during ‘Black Friday’ promotions.

According to a report in The Guardian, Hermes has told employees that Sunday work is “completely optional”.

However, a number of couriers have commented that they feel ‘under pressure’ to oblige.

One employee said: “They are requiring us, if we can’t get cover, to do the Sundays because they threaten to take our rounds off us. I am very concerned about safety”.

Another added: “It is dangerous. One Friday, after I’d worked two Sundays, I pretty much fell asleep and had to pull over … [But] I can’t afford to lose a round … We end up in a position where we almost aren’t given the option to say no.”

Labour MP and chair of the work and pensions select committee, Frank Field, has called upon HSE to investigate the potential health and safety risk of Hermes’ requests – particularly with regard to road safety.

Meanwhile, UK consumers are expected to spend approximately £2.9bn over the four-day period following the promotion, which will take place on Friday 25 November. Online retail association IMRG predicts a 12 per cent year-on-year rise in the number of parcels processed over ‘Black Friday’ weekend.

Shorter Family Court proceedings lead to faster permanent placement, research finds

Children involved in shorter Family Court proceedings are more likely to find a permanent placement, and to be placed into one faster, a new study has found.

The research, published by the University of East Anglia (UEA), investigated the outcomes of children in the two years after their final court hearing.

To test this, the average time from court application to final hearing was reduced from 49 weeks to 27 weeks from April 2012 to March 2013

The study looked at whether children in the reduced year ended up in more or less stable placements than those whose proceedings took, on average, almost twice as long in the years previous, and whether there was increased or reduced delay between final hearing and permanent placement.

Overall, researchers found that children involved in shorter care proceedings experienced a more positive outcome than those subject to longer exposure to the Court.

They found that a slightly higher proportion of children in the abridged year were already in their planned permanent placement when proceedings ended – 65 per cent compared to 60 per cent the year before.

And for those who did need to move to a permanent placement afterwards, the focus on shorter care proceedings saw the wait from final hearing to placement fall from 30 weeks to 14 – a reduction of more than 50 per cent.

Prof Jonathan Dickens, lead author, said: “Care proceedings are one of the most intrusive state interventions into the lives of children and families and this was a unique opportunity to track and compare the outcomes for children and assess the impact of such a major system change.

“There is widespread interest in ensuring that proceedings are brought in appropriate cases, conducted in a fair, thorough and timely manner, and that the outcomes are as beneficial as possible for the children. It is not easy to satisfy all these requirements but our findings show that is it possible to reconcile these demands. Shorter care proceedings do not necessarily mean that delay is squeezed to either side of the proceedings.”

Britons are ignoring the importance of lasting power of attorney

Data suggests that approximately 85 per cent of UK adults do not have a lasting power of attorney (LPA), despite the unpredictability of long-term illnesses and life-changing accidents.

A lasting power of attorney is a vital yet simple document which gives relatives or carers authority to handle the financial affairs of a loved one who is no longer able to look after themselves, or has lost the ‘mental capacity’ to do so.

For many, such a situation is unfathomable – and perhaps the last thing on their to-do list in terms of future planning for themselves, or for their relatives.

But according to the Alzheimer’s Society, the rate at which adults in the UK develop dementia is equivalent to one person every three minutes, and the number of people with dementia is likely to reach a worrying one million within the next decade.

Worse still, it is predicted that as many as hundreds of thousands of people have a very real chance of encountering an illness or accident within the next 12 months – which, in the worst instances, could leave them reliant on relatives or carers to take charge of their financial affairs.

A lasting power of attorney is quick and easy to set up by seeking specialist legal advice, yet a worrying 44 million UK adults do not have one, and are unprepared for what the future may hold.