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What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘grandparent’? If it’s a little old lady knitting in a rocking chair, then you might want to think again. These days you’re as likely to see an octogenarian tweeting from her iPad as casting off her purl stitch.

Gransnet, the social networking site for the over 50s (don’t let the name fool you – all older people male or female, grandparent, parent or not are welcome to join us!), launched in 2011 and is now the largest social networking site for older people in the country. New members have been joining every day for the past 2 years, to talk about everything from politics to memories, books to relationships, snorkelling to, OK, yes, knitting. In 2013 came the launch of Gransnet Local, a network of sites across the country run by people aged 50-plus, offering listings of activities and events; a directory of services, from health centres to plumbers; forums for discussion of local issues; and the possibility of meeting up.

One of the joys of the internet is that no one has to know what you look like. The great thing about the web is that prejudices – about someone who has a disability, or is over 50 and living alone – don’t have to get in the way of who you are. Gransnetters value this anonymity. Even so, it quickly became apparent that many of them do want to meet offline, particularly once they’ve made friends. Members have taken it upon themselves to organise lunches and visit each other, including in hospital; some have even holidayed together.

Gransnet Local Colchester is the local site covering the whole CO postcode area and is thriving with new groups, businesses and events being added each day. Discussions have started on the local forums and a monthly newsletter is being sent out. Gransnet Local Colchester also has Facebook and Twitter pages for those wishing to take social networking for the over 50s one step further.

It is free to join and free to add to the local website listings, whether it’s to tell everyone about your fantastic hairdresser or inviting us all to your jumble sale. There is also the opportunity for local businesses to advertise to their target market or to offer promotions or competitions.

We want to hear from you if you have something to add to our local Gransnet community.

 

You can in on the ‘Strictly’ action with FITSTEPS

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ARE you a Strictly Come Dancing fan and watch the show thinking ‘I fancy a bit of that?’

 

Well, now you can in on the Strictly action with FITSTEPS (www.fitsteps.co.uk), the new Strictly Come Dancing-inspired workout devised by two of the show’s professionals: Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe.

Dancing is a fabulous way to maintain flexibility and keep your heart healthy, too. But, when it comes to ballroom and Latin, you usually need a partner, which puts a lot of people off. Now you can learn real ballroom and Latin steps, and have a giggle to boot, with FITSTEPS, the new dance workout that’s ‘Strictly’ fun!

Fitsteps master class teacher training with Ian Waite and Katy Louise  - watch the video!

“If you want to tone up like the celebs on Strictly, come along and give FITSTEPS a whirl,” says Katy Louise, instructor for Colchester and the surrounding area.

FITSTEPS is suitable for all ages, from 30-something mums to ladies in their 60s and 70s.

“It puts a huge smile on my face seeing everyone having a laugh while working out, as fitness can get so boring. Not so with FITSTEPS as we aim to have fun,” she adds.

Your chance to dance
Dancing is not only good for your posture, helping you avoid the dreaded ‘dowagers hump’, but FITSTEPS also helps you tone up various body parts:
TONE YOUR THIGHS: The waltz and tango target your thighs and glutes as you keep your knees gently bent throughout. This strengthens your legs and stabilises your core muscles as you have to maintain posture and control. The rumba focuses on inner thighs and, when done correctly, will tighten up those wobbly bits in weeks!
BANISH BINGO WINGS: The fiery paso doble targets upper arms and shoulders as you create tension on each sweeping movement. Channelling your inner matador, you swirl an imaginary cape aloft, which, when done at speed, really helps you feel the burn in those bingo wings!
TIGHTEN YOUR TUM: The samba helps tighten your core, as you do mini stomach crunches (not on the floor, but while dancing!) as well as hip swings to activate oblique stomach muscles, making it great for your waistline as well!

Other dances include the Quickstep, American Smooth, Jive, Cha Cha, Salsa, and Viennese Waltz to help get your heart pumping and calories burning, all while having fun – what’s not to love?

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“FITSTEPS is a fun and enjoyable workout,” says regular class participant Linda Young, 52, from Colchester, who has just become a grandmother for the first time.

“I like FITSTEPS because it’s a fun way to keep fit with my friends,” says Vanessa Perkins, 57, also a Colchester resident who attends the Marks Tey classes.

Find out more
Choose from FITSTEPS Tight & Tone, a lower-impact class that focus on toning, or FITSTEPS Cardio Blast, with faster dances, including cha cha, jive and quickstep.

Only £5 per class. Call Katy Louise on 07980 382009.

Claim your FREE first class voucher at www.strictlyfunfitness.com where you can find the new September timetable. Classes in Colchester, Marks Tey and near Maldon. Visit the official site at www.fitsteps.co.uk

A summer visit to Beth Chatto’s gravel garden

Gransnet Local Colchester:

Beth Chatto Gardens are featured on Gransnet Local Colchester http://bit.ly/VKxUe7 . We would love your reviews.

Originally posted on gardentrip.co.uk:

Situated in the not-so-pretty village of Elmstead Market, between the Essex towns of Colchester and Clacton, Beth Chatto’s marvellous garden is a great day out. The gravel garden alone, which is just a part of what is on offer, is a morning’s entertainment in itself.

Beth, now aged 90, began the garden with her husband in 1960. They owned a fruit farm nearby and started the garden on what they called “wasteland”. Beth was a flower arranger and speaker at that point and began with an interest in unusual plants. She built up a collection which led to the nursery in 1967 and then began writing books, including The Dry Garden, The Damp Garden, Plant Portraits  and The Green Tapestry.

The gravel garden is not irrigated; indeed Beth says that the original idea was an experiment to see what can be done on an unpromising former car park. Miraculously, you…

View original 370 more words

School’s out for summer

birkettYou’re browsing through a holiday brochure, deciding where to go for that hard-earned break. The kids will have finished their exams for the year, and it would be good to spend some time together. Where could you take them for that treat? The Lake District perhaps, or Centre Parks, or how about Spain? You then look at the prices and your heart sinks. How can the cost of a holiday double at the end of July, just at the only time you and your family are free?

This is a familiar situation in which many readers will have found themselves. ‘Out of school’ holiday costs make it easy to understand why so many parents and grandparents are tempted to take holidays during term time. However, it is not as easy as that!

Schools used to be able to allow pupils up to ten days‘ term-time absence during the course of an academic year, but this is no longer the case and the change has caught out many parents and grandparents.

The new regulations mean that there are now very limited reasons as to why a pupil can be absent from school and parents must seek the school’s authorisation in advance before taking children out of school. The school can authorise absences where there are “exceptional circumstances” but holidays, visiting relatives, birthdays and routine appointments are not regarded as “exceptional circumstances”. This can make matters difficult for parents and grandparents who want to minimise holiday costs, but the law now ties the hands of schools in this respect.

Given that the school leaving age has gone up and will be going up again, those in further education will be caught by the new rules as well.

If, on investigation, the reason for any absence has not been provided to the school or the reason that has been given is not sufficient and does not fall within the new regulations, the pupil’s absence will be marked as unauthorised in the register and the school may have to inform the Education Welfare Officer. This can lead to fines and other penalties for the parent, so what you thought was going to be a cheap holiday can turn out to be a very expensive one after all!

Not only does this create financial pressure on parents and grandparents, but it can also put strain on working arrangements. It may be difficult to take your holidays at the same time as others who have children, especially if you work in a small business or a team with other parents. Although in some sectors workloads may lessen over the school holidays, this is certainly not the case for all. As much as employers might like to be able to allow their staff to take holidays when they wish, this is simply not possible; many employees do not realise that their employers have the right to decide when they can and cannot take their holidays. Such matters should be treated carefully by businesses, but informal arrangements between staff can help greatly, such as taking turns to book time off over school holidays, and employees should be encouraged to discuss holidays between them before booking.

Some have advocated a case for staggered school holidays to help to ease this situation. But given that children are often at different schools to their siblings and that the majority of parents need to work, I can think of many more day to day problems that might arise from such a change.

Emily Brown

BIRKETT LONG

T – 01206 217317

E – emily.brown@birkettlong.co.uk

Travel to the Clacton Air Show by Train.

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Abellio Greater Anglia are providing many additional seats for customers travelling to the Clacton Air Show on the 21 & 22 August.
They are running additional train services; and adding more carriages to some services on these days.

On both days of the Air Show the additional train services include:

  • 09.36 Colchester to Clacton-on-Sea
  • 09.56 Colchester to Clacton-on-Sea
  • 10.45 London Liverpool Street to Clacton-on-Sea
  • 10.56 Colchester to Clacton-on-Sea
  • 11.56 Colchester to Clacton-on-Sea
  • 12.26  Colchester to Clacton-on-Sea
  • 14.56 Colchester to Clacton-on-Sea
  • 15.56  Colchester to Clacton-on-Sea
  • 11.09 Clacton-on-Sea to Colchester
  • 12.09 Clacton-on-Sea to Colchester
  • 13.09  Clacton-on-Sea to Colchester
  • 16.09 Clacton-on-Sea to Colchester
  • 16.33 Clacton-on-Sea to London Liverpool Street
  • 17.09  Clacton-on-Sea to Colchester
  • 17.33 Clacton-on-Sea to London Liverpool Street
  • 18.32 Clacton-on-Sea to Colchester
  • A special train service will also run between Walton-on-Naze and Clacton-on-Sea on both days.  

For friends and family travelling together off-peak, they would recommend  Groupsave:
When three to nine people travel together off-peak, they all get 1/3 off.  (That’s like every third person travelling free)
For more information please see:http://www.abelliogreateranglia.co.uk/tickets-fares/discounts/groupsave-tickets

Special Guardianship Orders

birkettIf you look after a child who is related to you or you wish to obtain parental responsibility for a child in your care, it may be appropriate to apply to the court for a Special Guardianship Order.

A Special Guardianship Order is a court order which appoints one or more individuals to be a child’s ‘special guardian(s)’. The effect of a Special Guardianship Order is that while it is in force, a special guardian has parental responsibility for the child. This parental responsibility can be exercised by the special guardian to override everyone else who has parental responsibility.

Special Guardianship Orders are usually used where a child is to retain a relationship with
other family members, such as parents, but where the child is to be brought up by a relative or friend other than a parent, for example a grandparent, aunt or uncle. There are a number of categories of individuals who can automatically apply to the court for this type of order. Otherwise an application for permission to make an application to the court is necessary before you can give your Local Authority notice of your intention to make an application. You must give your Local Authority three months’ notice of your intention to make an application to a court. This can be done by writing a simple letter to Social Services. Social Services will then prepare a report for the court looking at your suitability to become a special guardian for the child. Once the assessment has been concluded you will be able to make the application for a Special Guardianship Order to the court. The matter will then be determined by the court, who will decide at a subsequent hearing what order to make in accordance with the best interests of the child.

Liz Jones

BIRKETT LONG

T – 01206 217364

E – childcarelaw@birkettlong.co.uk

Grandparents’ gifts

birkettIt is not uncommon for grandparents to set money aside for their grandchildren and we are often asked: ‘What is the best way to do this?’

There are many ways and you should take advice to see what suits you best, but one way is to use a Junior ISA. A sum of £3,840 (current tax year) can be paid into a Junior ISA and there are neither capital gains tax nor further tax on any income. Interest on cash held in a Junior ISA is paid gross and no withdrawals are permitted until the child reaches 18, when their Junior ISA is automatically converted into an adult ISA. It is then they are entitled to have full access to their investments and savings, which can help with the cost of university or perhaps provide a deposit for a house.

Any payments to a Junior ISA will be a gift and will usually be counted as part of your estate, and therefore potentially subject to inheritance tax, should you die within seven years of giving the gift.

There are exceptions to this rule; the first exception is the annual exemption allowance, which allows a person to give away up to £3,000 in any one tax year and this amount will not be subject to inheritance tax. If you don’t use this allowance in a year, you can carry it forward for one tax year only.

If you have already made a gift of your annual exemption, then the second exception may
be of use: the small gift exemption allows you to make a gift of £250 without inheritance tax implications. However, it cannot be given to the same person that received the annual exemption.

Finally, if you have income which you do not spend on an annual basis you may be able to make gifts from this surplus income. This exemption is called ‘gifts from normal expenditure out of income’ (a bit of a mouthful!) and provided that the gift formed part of your normal expenditure, was made out of your income, and leaves you with enough income to maintain your normal standard of living, there will be no inheritance tax implications and the seven year survival rule does not apply. In addition, you can still make the annual exemption gift.

For example, if you have net income of £40,000 per year and your usual annual expenditure each year is £30,000, there is a surplus of £10,000 each year. You can give some or all of this entire surplus away on an annual basis to your children or grandchildren without inheritance tax implications. This is a very useful exemption, but one on which the Government is clamping down, and so it is really important that you take advice in order to get it right.

The above is just a summary and other conditions and restrictions may apply, so please give us a call and we can guide you through the investment and legal process from start to finish.

Claire Read specialises in inheritance tax mitigation work, trusts, wills and probate. She is a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.

Birkett Long

T – 01245 453835

E – claire.read@birkettlong.co.uk