Living on a Prayer? Tips to Stretch Your Income Until Pay Day

I've just been reading an article in today's Daily Mail written by a freelance journalist named Liz Hoggard entitled, "I've become one of the new middle class poor: How one writer is keeping up the illusion of prosperity" and I must admit it makes for an interesting read.

In recent months, I've noticed through conversations I've had, quite a few people making cuts to their spending habits. This has been a sort of silent revolution as people don't tend to talk about it outwardly, rather it just happens to slip in the course of a chat. Lots of families it seems are curbing their spending habits and it's something I'm happy to state we're doing in our own family too. I must point out though that we've never been big spenders anyway, but it's actually an educating prospect realising you can't go spending money without thinking about whether or not you can afford to in the first place!

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FINAL Elsie artwork 280312[1]More than a fifth of smokers admit to lighting up in front of their children in the home or car, is the finding from a new Department of Health survey. And almost 15 per cent believed that their children’s antics in the back of car makes them reach for a cigarette.

The findings come following a raft of tough measures unveiled by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley this spring designed to cut the biggest cause of premature death in England. This includes a new hard-hitting national campaign on secondhand smoke.

The adverts show how children are exposed to smoke in the home even when their parent moves away from them - for example by smoking by an open door or smoking in the car with the window open.

The new findings also suggest that parents think they are protecting their children from the harmful poisons of secondhand smoke by opening a door or car window - without realising that is not enough. Figures show one in four open the car window when children are in the car; and one in five said that they smoke out of a window or door when children are at home.

But up to five million children across the UK are still regularly exposed to secondhand smoke in the home. People don’t realise that they could be breathing in deadly smoke because more than 80 per cent of cigarette smoke is invisible. Opening a car window or smoking out of the house door just isn’t enough to protect children.

Even the school run isn’t a smokefree zone as almost one in ten smokers admit to smoking in the car which exposes children to the harmful cancer causing toxins and poisons of secondhand smoke whilst making the daily journey to school.

Three hundred thousand children visit the GP each year, in the UK, due to secondhand smoke with 9,500 visiting hospital. This costs the NHS a staggering £23.3 million every year.

Children cannot protect themselves from secondhand smoke and are particularly vulnerable to it due their higher breathing rate, less well-developed airways, lungs and immune system.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more at risk of respiratory illnesses, asthma, meningitis and even cot death.

They are also 90 per cent more likely to become smokers themselves. In the UK, 23,000 young people each year start smoking by the age of 15 as a result of exposure to smoking in the home

Public Health Minister Anne Milton said:

“It is important that we help parents protect their children from possible harms to their health. We want parents to know that by making their cars and homes smokefree they can protect their children's health.

“Figures show that 9500 children have to go to hospital each year because of the second hand smoke and toxins they breath in. It's hard to quit but worth doing for your children. Get more information by getting a free Smokefree Kit at, or for help quitting get in touch with your local stop smoking service, GP or pharmacist.”

Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation Dame Helena Shovelton said:

“The harm caused by second-hand smoke to children is irreparable. Once the damage has been done, their lungs will never fully recover.


Guys and Dolls - Sales of new Oobicoo soft toy Ollie outstrip Orla 2:1

Boys’ dolls are selling twice as fast as girls’ dolls according to Totseat founder Rachel Jones, who believes the media have been integral in helping to break down gender stereotypes.

The UK toy industry is worth £2.96bn and since launching the soft toy tots Ollie and Orla last year, multi award winning entrepreneur Rachel Jones has sold twice as many of the boy ‘doll’ Ollie. Sales of boys’ toys take 55% share of the UK toy market and Rachel believes sales of Oobicoo Ollie reflect society’s changing perceptions of traditional gender stereotypes.

Rachel says, “We live in a culture where many people look to the media as a guide to behavior and as a result many people conform to majority norms. Traditionally girls have been expected to play with dolls and wear pink and many parents have discouraged their sons from playing with dolls per se, however there appears to be a shift in this gender stereotyping which can only be a good thing.”

Oobicoo was originally developed and sold as a mannequin to display the multi-award winning Totseat; a safe, portable, fabric highchair for families travelling with babies. Rachel soon realised their appeal when they became the unlikely classmates of her daughter Freya and her friends, who loved the fact that they were so big and cuddly!

The adorable, soft toy tot Oobicoo is made from gorgeous soft plush fabric and, at 60cm tall, is the same size as a six month old baby - the perfect size to be an instant baby brother, sister or best friend. They come in their own wee fabric 'pod' and are designed to be dressed in hand-me-down-baby clothes. This simple idea not only saves money, it encourages the reuse of outgrown baby clothes, teaches children dexterity and provides Oobicoo with an instant wardrobe.

With sound eco credentials, Oobicoo is filled with recycled polymer, manufactured from recycleable fabric and is raising money for the Children's Immunology Fund - £1 from every sale goes to the charity. Oobicoo even has its very own dance tune, penned by Emily Philips and Josh Wilkinson who co-write for pop superstars One Direction and Alexandra Burke!

Rachel added, “Oobicoo not only helps your child’s development, they are perfect for imaginative play, great for teaching dexterity in terms of dressing and undressing and because of their realistic size, they give children someone to cuddle!

“We are delighted to announce the launch of Olwyn, our fourth soft toy tot, who has a different skin tone to the other Oobicoo tots. We are keen to encourage diversity and since launching Oobicoo Ed last year, who is entirely bald, we have had great reactions to the entire Oobicoo family.”

Get ready for a new career with NCT and University of Worcester

If you’re looking for a rewarding job you can fit around your family, or are thinking about returning to study or work after having a baby, a change of career to become an NCT practitioner could be just what you need.

NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, and the University of Worcester have joined forces to provide university-accredited training for those wanting to support parents on their journey from pregnancy to parenthood by becoming an NCT practitioner.

NCT College admissions are open for courses beginning in September 2012. There’s no better training if you want to build up a rewarding and enjoyable career working with parents at a unique and important time in their lives.

NCT is well-known for the information and support its practitioners provide through antenatal courses, breastfeeding counselling and facilitated postnatal groups, enabling parents to feel more confident and prepared for their new role.

The courses allow students to learn through a mixture of tutorials, one-to-one time with tutors and online learning. With tutorials run across the UK and study days hosted regionally, students can complete the majority of their studies without the need to travel to Worcester. This flexibility is ideal if you’re looking for a career you can juggle around a young family, and the varied syllabus offers plenty of choice depending on your interests and aspirations.

One NCT antenatal teacher, Fiona, said: “For me, my NCT work fits around the needs of my teenage boys. The training is very comprehensive, diverse and interesting and of a very high standard. I also love getting together with other practitioners and sharing ideas. I have a job I can do around my family and earn a decent hourly wage.”

The new Certificate of Higher Education – Birth and Beyond Practitioner, completed over one or two years, is the only university-accredited qualification for parenting education. Qualifying students can then begin a year of probationary practice, delivering innovative Preparation for Birth and Beyond (PBB) courses based on the Department of Health’s new framework. So, you can start earning an income from your new knowledge and skills right away.

Students can then choose from a range of modules from the Foundation Degree course. Will you train as an antenatal teacher, breastfeeding counsellor, postnatal leader or NCT Doula? Or perhaps you’d be more interested in running NCT Yoga for Pregnancy classes.

In the climate of an ever-increasing birth rate and overstretched maternity services, there could not be a better time to build a fulfilling career as an NCT practitioner working alongside midwives and other health professionals to support new and expectant parents. As one of the UK’s largest network of practitioners working with new and expectant parents, students are supported to find work quickly and easily through the charity’s national operation.

Clea Harmer, Education Manager at NCT, said: “We’re delighted to offer a range of exciting opportunities through NCT College. The varied training programme allows students to specialise in a wide range of areas, while the flexibility means they can fit their learning around families and potentially be earning an income after one year. So if you’re interested in a new career making a real difference to new parents, come and join us at NCT College.”

Professor Geoffrey Elliott Director of Regional Engagement at the University of Worcester at the University of Worcester, said: “We are delighted to have been chosen to work with NCT to help parents in their transition to parenthood and will do all we can to help the country’s parents and children get off to the best possible start.”

If you are interested in finding out more about our training or a career working with new parents, visit for more information about the full range of courses on offer.

Case studies are available: to speak to a current NCT practitioner about their work please contact the NCT press office.
For more information about NCT or NCT College please contact the press office on 020 8752 2412 or email

NCT has an ISDN line. Please call the press office in advance to book.

For more information about the University of Worcester please call 01905 857517 or email

Keeping Your Children Safe in Your Home (Guest Post)

By nature, children are inquisitive and want to explore. As a parent, you don't want to squelch this natural curiosity, but you do want to keep your children safe wherever they may journey. Employing security measures around your home, whether you're investing in an alarm system or childproof locks, is invaluable when it comes to protecting your family.

Home security systems serve a number of purposes. In addition to guarding your property while you're away, most alarms will sound when a window or door has been opened, which can help you feel more secure when you're at home. The small beep or chime you hear will be helpful for families with small children who can get to a doorway before parents can catch up, as well as announcing the arrival of adolescents trying to sneak in after curfew. Some systems also feature carbon monoxide detectors, a smart measure that can alert you to otherwise undetectable dangers. As an added bonus, the installation of an alarm system might mean discounts on your homeowners' insurance, making it easier to save for future expenses like your children's college education.

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Children with Disabilities: What Expecting Parents Should Know (Guest Post)

When we hear “nursing homes,” or “nursing facilities,” the mind seems to instantaneously turn to the elderly generation. However, nursing homes are becoming a popular means of care for disabled children. If you are expecting, or know you are at risk for, a child with disabilities, then you need to know what that will entail.

Care for a disabled child is exceedingly expensive and demanding. The situation is this: Medicaid, the service for people below a specified income level, also serves those who are disabled. However, state and federal governments lack proper funding for the equipment and personnel to facilitate at-home care for everyone that needs it. So, parents whose income does not qualify their child for Medicaid are left with two options. One, pay out-of-pocket for at-home medical assistance. Two, institutionalize the child into an adult or child nursing home.

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5 Tips for Achieving Work-Life Balance as an Employed Parent (Guest Post)

Whether you are currently pregnant and are on maternity leave, or you have just had your child, you cannot help but think about the future. While now it is more common for mothers to pursue a career after having children, it is always a struggle striking a fair balance between having a financially and personally rewarding career while making time to be an enthusiastic and effective parent. A recent Forbes article discussed the trials and tribulations inherent in working parent situations. Surveys cited in the article have indicated that many working mothers realize that they cannot have it all, but they make do with what they can. Here are a few tips for new mothers who plan to begin or return to their careers after having children.

1.Plan short- and long-term goals with your partner regarding parenting and your respective careers.

The most important thing to keep in mind if you intend to be a working parent is that you will need all the support that you can get in raising young kids. Talk to your partner or co-parent about their career plans. If you are taking on a high-demand job, your partner should be willing to take on more parenting tasks if their respective job is less demanding. Talk to your partner as clearly as you can about how both your lives will change, what each is willing to sacrifice, and come up with a back-up plan in case your goals don’t work out.

2.Talk to your boss about your career goals and how they may change with having children.

Most employers are very understanding of working parents and are supportive as possible. If you are staying with the same company and you intend to spend more time with your children, ask for a possible switch in positions within the company. Ask your boss what he expects from you now that your family situation has changed. Discuss with him or her your future.

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In August we celebrate Breastfeeding Awareness Month! - Guest Post

Every August, we take a step back and remind ourselves of what babies really need: You.  Your nurturing, your heartbeat, your voice and warmth and, yes, your milk.  It's free, it's chock-full of antibodies and has the perfect balance of nutrients.  Breastmilk is flavorful (it changes as much as your diet does), it's the perfect temperature and it's perfectly suited to your particular baby.  (We'd like to see a formula company even try to come close to that!)

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Guest Post: Wet Nursing in the UK

Wet nursing has a long and illustrious history, but in current times the idea of feeding babies breast milk from someone other than their biological mother can seem shocking. However, a number of organizations and individuals in Britain are striving to change this idea. The United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking (UKAMB) is a charity supporting milk banking and exploring the opportunities for human mothers to feed human babies. Breast milk provides the perfect nutritional source for infants, especially those born pre-term or with medical conditions. A milk bank, similar to a blood bank, collects milk from donor mothers, pasteurises it and tests it for all communicable diseases and then provides it to babies whose mothers cannot provide their own milk.

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Guest Post: Donating and Shipping Breast Milk

Wet nursing has a long and illustrious history, but in current times the idea of feeding babies breast milk from someone other than their biological mother can seem shocking. However, a number of organizations and individuals in Britain are striving to change this idea. The United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking (UKAMB) is a charity supporting milk banking and exploring the opportunities for human mothers to feed human babies. Breast milk provides the perfect nutritional source for infants, especially those born pre-term or with medical conditions. A milk bank, similar to a blood bank, collects milk from donor mothers, pasteurises it and tests it for all communicable diseases and then provides it to babies whose mothers cannot provide their own milk.

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