No Consultation and No Consideration

No Consultation and No Consideration

So, 6 days ago this new and much-beloved Tory government decided to remove a system that has helped many break the cycle of fuel poverty and that many small businesses have built up around.

The Green Deal has most certainly had it’s problems but as those involved in the Green Deal, we have worked with those and made sure that awareness is as high as possible for our clients. Below are the main issues that arise from suddenly removing such a key mechanism:

Those that benefited directly

The Green Deal has been in place since 2012 and although a rocky start has been helping those who wish to make energy efficiency improvements to their homes. I started conducting Green Deal assessments near the start of this year, whilst the GD Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF) was in full swing. Many of the properties I assessed were rental properties in low income areas; yes, the money went towards a landlord with rather a number of properties, but it will have improved the comfort levels and fuel bills of the tenants, so excellent!

Those invested in the system

Here I am referring to Assessors (such as myself), GDAOs, Installers and smaller Providers. Despite what the mainstream press often claims, it isn’t particularly easy or cheap to gain Green Deal Approved status and for some of us it is rather a large risk each year. The bureaucracy is heavy, the fees high, and most poignantly right now, it is hinged on the whim of an unethical government.

I have worked with installers who have lost 90% of their clients to the big energy providers as soon as the Green Deal Finance (GDF) that they were relying on to top up ECO2 was removed overnight with no warning. The assessments required for GDF disappeared off the books overnight.

The wider world

Okay, I sound like a raving hippie right now, but the UK has the oldest housing stock in the world and GD was going some way to making up for the energy inefficiencies of old properties.

Quite simply, if we still have old, leaky, inefficient buildings then the energy used to heat those buildings will be high and the associated environmental damage higher than if we had improved the buildings. Our CO2 emissions stay high, the planet warms, everyone suffers….. We’ve all heard it before, but it is exactly what the GD was trying to combat, and now it’s gone without any replacement in place.

This change has come in over night without a single bit of consultation with those most affected;

It has come in without making sure that a suitable alternative is in place;

But why am I surprised? Why would a government who only 24% of the voting-age population voted for have any thought for those members of it’s country?

 

 

Whatever happened to childhood and a successful education?

Whatever happened to childhood and a successful education?

I do not remember much of my childhood!

As such, maybe I am not best placed to be comparing the early education of my time to that of the present. However, in preparation for Teacher Training commencing in September, I have been spending a lot of time in schools and I have been surprised by the literacy level and manners of many of the children.

There are likely many reasons – pressure on teachers, larger classes, media influences, spending free time in front of the TV, lack of parental input into their education, a move to a digital culture, and more – but that does not take away from the shock at the level of ability in literacy and relative lack of wonder at the natural world.

What I do remember of my childhood involves reading amazing stories with my dad, playing outdoors, exploring my local area, getting muddy, roller skating with friends, and baking yummy things. We didn’t watch much TV at all, we ate healthily, got out and about, and were encouraged to ask questions and voice our views.

Surely this all still happens!

I see a lot of myself in the odd few of the primary pupils, cubs and scouts I have worked with, but very few. In a large number of places, children are lacking basic manners, respect, communication abilities and general zest for life.

Are parks no longer safe enough to play in?

Do parents know how to read to and with their children?

Is non-TV stimulation just too much effort?

Is there not enough time to cook from scratch and in a way that engages the children?

Are mobile phones and the internet stopping people actually conversing face-to-face?

I genuinely do not understand it, what it is to be a modern child, but I don’t think it sounds as fun as a more holistic childhood. Maybe I’m just getting old!

Your body is NOT good enough!!

Your body is NOT good enough!!

Recently, particularly since starting to work with young people again, the issue of the mass media perpetuating insecurity about body image has come back to my mind. I am going to talk about this from the perspective of a woman but this does not deny the fact that men can be equally affected.

Everything from hairstyles to makeup to clothes, size, shape, and even grooming is being dictated. Pressure is coming from every angle, be it advertising, TV shows, celebrity, packaging, etc. The idea of a slender, tall, smooth and immaculate woman is constantly pushed down our throats, we are left to feel that we simply aren’t good enough by comparing ourselves to unnaturally thin builds, unrealistically pure skin and and other areas that we might have insecurities about.

Alas, where there is insecurity there is a profit to be made! For every part of ourselves that we are made to hate, there is a product or service that we can buy to make it all better. We cannot allow ourselves to be manipulated like this by huge faceless corporations that only have eyes on the coffers.

And in today’s age, we have yet more to battle with than when I was growing up. The prevalence of social media, constant connection, an inside life surrounded by TV’s and computers, makes it hard to get away from these false images of so-called perfection. And with that comes the whole new world of cyber bullying, meaning that not even away from the schoolyard are our young women safe from having their individuality used against them.

So how do we solve this? How do we undo the damage that the media, advertising and celebrities have caused? Well, some celebrities and various other organisations are already making great steps to increase the self confidence of men and women, young and old alike. But whilst there are 8 year olds wearing makeup, perfectly healthy teenagers with eating disorders and on diets, and grown women insistent on cosmetic surgery in it’s many forms, there is clearly much more to be done.

If only there was an answer to this problem, but all we can really do as individuals is raise awareness and challenges false images that have the potential to cause harm.

Until then, love your body in every way, know that you are beautiful, and let those who need reassurance know their beauty too…

 

Skiing on a budget

Skiing on a budget

398393_10151230673455648_1848770821_nIn February this year I got my first ever chance to go skiing. Until then it had always seemed financially prohibitive. I’ve been thinking about that holiday again recently and thought it might be nice to show others how I managed it for less than £400/pp for 6 days ALL IN.

The main holiday part

Right, we ended up going for a package which included flights, transfers and half-board accommodation. It’s not necessarily how i would do it in the future, but it worked well. We booked up relatively late, about a month before leaving. The way we managed to get this part of the holiday cheap was by taking advantage of a holiday sites such as teletext holidays and booking.com. This way, the 6 days half board in a double room in a 3* hotel in Borovets plus return (with 20kg luggage each) and transfers both ways set us back £439 between the two of us.

Total per person: £219.50

The ski pack

This usually ends up being what makes skiing holidays cost so much, however we stumbled upon a company that took a lot of the pain out. http://www.skiholidayextras.com/ . When we got ours for Borovets, it was £130 for me as a beginner and about £150 for my partner as an intermediate. When i checked for similar dates today (early February), it was ~£150 for anyone. Just to confirm, this price includes a 6-day lift pass, 6 days of 4 hours a day lessons, and rental of skiis, poles and boots. Pretty good considering that bought direct (from http://www.bulgariaski.com/borovets/borovetsskipackages.shtml) the same ski pack would set you back £220, so not a bad saving. Bought at the site a 6 day lift pass on its own is £130.

Total per person at current rates: £150

Travel insurance

Shop around, but don’t go without it! Bare in mind also that there IS a difference between the different companies in terms of the chance of it actually paying out if it needs to. We went with TopDog Insurance in the end (though i can’t remember why), and got single trip cover with winter sports (really important bit there), which was £23.20.

Total per person: £11.60

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We bought all our own kit beforehand, which set me back about £100, however I realised when we were there that it was worth it. You can hire it all for about half that price, but it seems pointless if you want to going skiing more than once, and probably even if you only want to go once as you can always sell it on afterwards without losing too much.

We got absolutely everything online, most of the time having tried the same items on in a shop beforehand. Generally speaking, “cool” brand names were avoided. Having said that, I did go for Bloc goggles (there’s not much choice if you need to wear glasses underneath). I found a 3-in-one new North Face coat on ebay for £25, which was great, my Bloc goggles were £25 (you can get much cheaper, but unlike most other people in my class, I didn’t have a single steaming-up issue and they worked great) from an online store called trekwear, where i also got my salopettes (Dare 2b Headturn Ladies Salopettes: £30). Other than that, it was just warm waterproof ski gloves which i think were about £15, and a couple of pairs of ski socks (bought on offer in my local Regatta store for ~£7 for two pairs).

So total for kit, all of which worked really really well, is £102, and that will do me for a good few more trips. You need to count this bit as an investment.

So, how much in all?

I’m going to exclude the kit from this.

To summarise…

flights, transfers, hotel, most food = £219

Ski Pack = £150

Insurance= £11.60

SO TOTAL=  £380.60 !

Obviously, this is reliant on getting good deals and going to a less popular resort like Borovets in Bulgaria.

We also took £150 worth of spending money and came back with half of that.

Some extra advice to keep the costs down

  1. Make use of online retailers
  2. Rather than eating out for lunch, make sandwiches and take them with you (our lunches worked out about £1 each, as opposed to ~£7 to eat out)
  3. When going out, prices and atmospheres tend to better further from the slopes. (my favourite in Borovets was Katy’s Pub, between the gondola and the main pub stretch- great food, drinks, happy hour and lovely atmosphere, and best of all, no-one hassling you to go inside)
  4. Don’t take too much cash, or unless you are a strict budgeter like myself, it will go!
  5. If you have space and weight allowance left, take items for lunches with you (i had a good 7kg left but didn’t think of it).

I hope this has been of use to someone.

Costs can be even lower if you get a self-catering place between about 4 people upwards and take your own food. … So if I know you and you fancy a ski trip in February, let  me know 😉