Childcare funding for under 9-month-olds

In a recent press release the Department for Education confirmed that parents of children from 9 months old can now apply to access government-funded childcare from September 2024, as England’s largest ever childcare expansion continues.

From 12 May 2024, eligible working parents of children who will be 9 months old by 31 August can apply to access 15 hours of funded childcare a week – set to benefit hundreds of thousands of families across the country.

This is the second step in the government’s long-term plan to support hard-working parents to balance their family and career. As the successful launch of the offer in April demonstrates, this plan is working.

Since the launch of the offer, 211,027 two-year-olds are already benefitting from government-funded places, providing parents with financial support to return to work or increase their hours and kick-starting the government’s commitment to grow the economy through affordable access to quality childcare.

Working parents whose children will be aged between 9-months and 23-months old on 31 August 2024 can apply for their government-funded childcare code via the childcare service, which they then take to their chosen childcare provider to validate. 

In this next stage, the historic rollout will deliver direct government support with childcare costs from the term after their child turns 9 months old, until they start school. By September 2025, support will increase to 30 government-funded hours a week, saving families an average of £6,900 per year.

Universal Credit changes

Universal Credit claimants working less than half of a full-time week will have to look to increase their hours but will be able to benefit from extra work coach support. These changes will see 400,000 Universal Credit claimants receive more help to progress in work.

The changes come as the PM announces once in a generation welfare reforms to help people find work, boost their earnings, and grow the economy.

Before 2022, someone could work only nine hours a week and remain on benefits without being expected to look for more work.

The latest rise in the Administrative Earnings Threshold (AET) means someone working less than 18 hours – half of a full-time week – will have to look for more work.

These Universal Credit claimants will move into the ‘Intensive Work Search group’, meeting with their work coaches more regularly to plan their job progression, boost their earnings and advance the journey off welfare altogether.

Combined with previous increases, 400,000 claimants are now subject to more intensive Jobcentre support – and with that the expectation that those who can work must engage with the support available or face losing their benefits.

The move comes as last month the Prime Minister announced a once in a generation package of welfare reforms to help thousands more people benefit from employment, building on the Government’s £2.5 billion Back to Work Plan providing extra help to over a million people to break down barriers to work.

Act now to claim dormant funds

The Ministry of Justice has published an urgent warning for anyone with unclaimed dormant funds held by the Courts Funds Office (CFO). Recent changes in legislation have changed the rules for individuals or entities with dormant funds held by the CFO.

The new rules come into effect from 1 June 2024 and mean that any account that has been held dormant within the CFO for 30 years or more will be surrendered and any future right to claim the funds will be extinguished.

Funds are classified as dormant if they have been held by CFO for an extended period, with no activity on the account, and any efforts to trace the intended beneficiary have been unsuccessful.

There is now less than 1 month left to claims funds dating back 30 years or more. Going forward, any account that subsequently reaches 30 years of dormancy will be surrendered on the date that this milestone is passed.

There is a range of reasons why CFO hold funds including, but not limited to, the following:

  • damages that were awarded to children as a result of civil legal action in a county court in England, Wales, or the High Court of Justice;
  • assets belonging to people who lack capacity to manage their own financial affairs and where the Court of Protection has appointed someone else to do so; and
  • pending settlements of civil court action, or on behalf of dissenting shareholders, widows, and other clients.

If you think you may be affected there is an online database available at https://find-unclaimed-court-money.service.justice.gov.uk/ or you can contact the CFO directly.

Cyber protection laws introduced

New consumer protections against hacking and cyber-attacks came into force at the end of April 2024. All internet connected smart devices will be required by law to meet minimum-security standards. 

Manufacturers will be legally required to protect consumers from hackers and cyber criminals from accessing devices with internet or network connectivity – from smartphones to games consoles and connected fridges – as the UK becomes the first country in the world to introduce these laws.

Under the new regime, manufacturers will be banned from having weak, easily guessable default passwords like ‘admin’ or ‘12345’ and if there is a common password the user will be promoted to change it on start-up. This will help prevent threats like the damaging Mirai attack in 2016 which saw 300,000 smart products compromised due to weak security features and used to attack major internet platforms and services, leaving much of the US East Coast without internet. Since then, similar attacks have occurred on UK banks including Lloyds and RBS leading to disruption to customers. 

The move marks a significant step towards boosting the UK’s resilience towards cyber-crime, as recent figures show 99% of UK adults own at least one smart device and UK households own an average of nine connected devices. The new regime will also help give customers confidence in buying and using products, which will in turn help grow businesses and the economy.

An investigation conducted by Which? showed that a home filled with smart devices could be exposed to more than 12,000 hacking attacks from across the world in a single week, with a total of 2,684 attempts to guess weak default passwords on just five devices.

Post Office Offences Bill to be extended

The Government has tabled amendments to expand the territorial extent of the Post Office Offences Bill. Convictions resulting from the Post Office Horizon scandal in Northern Ireland will now be within scope.

This blanket exoneration will automatically quash convictions brought about by the scandal, including 26 in Northern Ireland, clearing the names of many people who have had their lives ruined.

As in England and Wales, convictions in Northern Ireland will need to meet a set of criteria before they are quashed, including:

  • Prosecutions brought about by the state prosecutor or the police.
  • Offences carried out in connection with Post Office business between 1996 and 2018.
  • Were for relevant offences such as theft, fraud and false accounting.
  • Were against sub-postmasters, their employees, officers, family members or direct employees of the Post Office working in a Post Office that used the Horizon system software.

Postal Affairs Minister Kevin Hollinrake said:

” We always carefully consider the territorial extent of each piece of legislation and are rigorous in our commitment to devolution. However, it has become apparent that the Northern Ireland Executive does not have the ability to rapidly address the 26 convictions known to be within its purview.

It has become clear that postmasters in Northern Ireland could have their convictions quashed significantly later than those who were convicted in England and Wales, which would be unacceptable.

This follows the decision to introduce landmark legislation – which is making its way through parliament – to quash the convictions of hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters wrongly convicted as a result of the Horizon scandal. This will speed up the financial redress process – where we are offering a £600,000 fixed sum which can be administered quickly for those who accept it.”

Do’s and don’ts for Standard Visitors to the UK

There is useful guidance published on GOV.UK that explains the do’s and don’ts for Standard Visitors to the UK. Visitors to the UK who are classed as a ‘Standard Visitor’ are allowed in the UK for tourism, business, study (courses up to 6 months) and other permitted activities.

Permitted activities include the following:

  • for tourism, for example on a holiday or vacation;
  • to see your family or friends;
  • to volunteer for up to 30 days with a registered charity;
  • to pass through the UK to another country (‘in transit’);
  • for certain business activities, for example attending a meeting or interview;
  • for certain paid engagements or events (a ‘permitted paid engagement’) as an expert in your profession, for example to give lectures or perform;
  • to take part in a school exchange programme;
  • to do a recreational course of up to 30 days, for example a dance course;
  • to study, undertake a placement or take an exam;
  • as an academic, senior doctor or dentist; or
  • for medical reasons.

The following activities are not permitted for a Standard Visitor:

  • undertake paid or unpaid work for a UK company or as a self-employed person, unless you are doing a permitted paid engagement or event;
  • claim public funds (benefits);
  • live in the UK for long periods of time through frequent or successive visits; or
  • marry or register a civil partnership or give notice of marriage or civil partnership – you will need to apply for a Marriage Visitor visa.

Tipping boost

The government’s Tipping Act is a step closer to coming into force, as the Code of Practice is published and laid before Parliament. The new Code of Practice will protect the tips of more than 2 million workers giving them a fair share of the tips received by a company.

Millions of UK workers are set to take home an estimated £200 million more of their hard-earned cash, as landmark legislation on tipping took a step towards coming into force.

The government introduced the Code of Practice on the fair and transparent distribution of tips that will have legal effect under the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act 2023.

The updated Code of Practice will be statutory and have legal effect, meaning it can be introduced as evidence in an employment tribunal.

The Act and secondary legislation make it unlawful for businesses to hold back service charges from their employees, ensuring staff receive all of the tips they have earned.

The measures are expected to come into force on 1st October 2024, once they have been approved by Parliament.

Many hospitality workers rely on tips to top up their pay and are often left powerless if businesses do not pass on service charges from customers to their staff.

This overhaul of tipping practices is set to benefit more than 2 million UK workers across the hospitality, leisure and services sectors helping to ease cost of living pressures and give them peace of mind that they will keep their hard-earned money.

Smart energy

In a recent press release, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero confirmed that consumers are set to benefit from cheaper and more convenient energy deals as part of new measures to create a smart, flexible electricity system to help save money on bills. They said:

“New proposals set out in a recent consultation will introduce minimum requirements for cyber security and grid stability, and minimum product standards for energy smart appliances to give consumers confidence to accept smart devices and make it easier for them to benefit from cheaper bills. Electric heating appliances with the greatest flexibility potential – like heat pumps – could also be required to have smart functionality.

“Smart appliances enable consumers to manage their energy use to benefit from cheaper tariffs at times of low electricity demand, for example a smart charge point which waits for a period of low-demand overnight to charge the car. This will reduce the consumer’s bill while also ensuring that their car is ready to be used in the morning.

“By shifting some electricity use away from peak periods, this will ease pressure on the grid and reduce reliance on backup fossil fuel generation and the need for new infrastructure like pylons, helping to save up to £50 billion by 2050. The use of smart systems and flexibility could create 10,000 jobs and increase GDP by up to £1.3 billion by 2050. A further 14,000 jobs could be created by exporting the technology.”

View and prove your immigration status

A UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) account can be used by eligible users to view and prove their immigration status online. This may be required to provide proof of your status to employers or higher education providers.

The service can also be used to update personal details or to check what rights you have in the UK, for example the right to work, rent or claim benefits.

You will have a UKVI if you have ever:

  • applied to the EU Settlement Scheme;
  • used the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to prove your identity when applying for a visa;
  • created one when applying for a visa (you will have received a UKVI account confirmation email); and
  • created one to get access to an eVisa (an online record of your immigration status) – you will have received an email about this.

If you are unable to access your account, then you will need to recover your UK Visas and Immigration Account by calling the UK Visas and Immigration phone line on 0300 790 6268.

Accessing the HMRC mobile APP

HMRC’s free tax app is available to download from the App Store for iOS and from the Google Play Store for Android. The latest version of the app includes updated functionality.

The app can be used to see:

  • your tax code and National Insurance number;
  • your income and benefits;
  • your income from work in the previous 5 years;
  • how much you will receive in tax credits and when they will be paid;
  • your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) self-assessment;
  • how much self-assessment tax you owe;
  • your Child Benefit; and
  • your State Pension.

The app can also be used to complete a number of tasks that usually require the user to be logged on to a computer. This includes:

  • get an estimate of the tax you need to pay;
  • make a self-assessment payment;
  • set a reminder to make a self-assessment payment;
  • report tax credits changes and complete your renewal;
  • access your Help to Save account;
  • using HMRC’s tax calculator to work out your take home pay after Income Tax and National Insurance deductions;
  • track forms and letters you have sent to HMRC;
  • claim a refund if you have paid too much tax;
  • ask HMRC’s digital assistant for help and information;
  • update your name and / or postal address;
  • save your National Insurance number to your digital wallet; and
  • choose to be contacted by HMRC electronically, instead of by letter.