The benefits of baby massage

Relaxation is really important for mum, dad and baby and using baby massage techniques is one way you can promote this, while also being a chance for some quality bonding time together.

According to the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), the benefits of baby massage include helping the long-term emotional health of a child, the development of body awareness and coordination, reducing post-natal depression and improving mother/baby relationships.

There are also lots of other benefits, from helping circulation, digestive and nervous systems, to stimulating growth hormones. It can also help manage and relieve the symptoms of teething, colic and colds.

And it’s not just for mums – dads may find introducing a regular massage routine helps them feel closer to baby, especially if they are spending time away at work.

So what is it?

Baby massage involves the gentle and rhythmic stroking of a baby, generally moving from the legs to the arms, hands and body. It can also include the gentle manipulation of joints, such as fingers and ankles. It is done with the hands and you may choose to use baby moisturiser or similar to help your hands glide smoothly.

What do parents say

Before I had my own children I taught the IAIM technique of baby massage to new parents. Along with all the other positive outcomes it is a great tool to enable parent and baby to communicate, by taking time out from a busy day to concentrate on what he or she is trying to tell you.

Babies are born ready and very willing to communicate as a survival skill, but signs can get lost or misinterpreted. Dads can also often feel at a loss when mum is breast feeding, so this gives them a specific task and makes them able to ‘do’ something.

In my own family the massage time has had importance with each successive child, as protected one-to-one time with each specific child. We have adapted the moves as they have got older and they also do it to each other now, which is lovely.

Want to find out more

Check out what baby massage clinics are taking place in your area. A good place to start is to contact your doctor’s office or to ask your health visitor.

Guest blog provided by Beverley Squire, a health visitor and mother of three from Devon

A tall tale for one little bookworm!



Earlier this year we launched a special ‘Let’s Get Kids Reading’ campaign, designed to help parents motivate and inspire their children to read.

We had a fantastic response from families, especially to a competition we ran on our interactive Facebook page.

Hundreds of parents entered and one little bookworm from Hampshire is now going to be kept very busy, after receiving a special delivery of his height in books!

5-year-old Jake was delighted when the pile of over 200 children’s books arrived, after mum Jeni Wareing was named the winner of our competition.

The precious cargo of books was personally delivered to Jake by CVS Sales Director Iain Williamson and team member Lucy Osbaldeston, who coordinated the campaign.

Jake was delighted with his prize and mum Jeni remarked: “They should keep him going for a while! Jake just loves reading and now our only problem is going to be choosing which book to read next!”

From astronomy and pirates to Roald Dahl classics, The Gruffalo and even Spider Man, when stacked up the diverse pile of reading books reaches just over a metre in height.

Congratulations Jake and well done Jeni! And don’t worry, if you weren’t the lucky winner this time around remember to keep checking our Facebook page, as we’ll be running another competition soon.

If you haven’t visited us on Facebook yet, we’d love you to stop by and say hello. You’ll find us here: www.facebook.com/computersharevoucherservices

An award for Vicki as pupils benefit from ‘reading buddy’ scheme

An employee at Computershare has been honoured with a special award in recognition of her dedication and efforts in helping local primary school children improve their reading skills.

Vicki has been managing our Computershare Reading Buddy scheme, which sees employees volunteering to visit local primary schools for half an hour each week to listen to pupils reading.

Since becoming the reading buddy coordinator in 2010, Vicki has taken the scheme from strength to strength and has helped to more than triple the number of volunteers taking part.

The reading buddy initiative is part of a series of structured volunteering opportunities run by a charity called Ablaze. Last year over 800 volunteers donated more than 21,000 hours, impacting over 4,500 young people and helping to motivate children to develop an enjoyment of reading independently.

Ablaze has been so impressed by Vicki’s efforts that they have honoured her with a special award, which she received at a recent ceremony attended by charity representatives, volunteers, business leaders and young people from across the region.

“I think the buddy scheme is a fantastic project and I was delighted to get involved with it,” said Vicki. “The feedback from volunteers and the schools is amazing and we hope to grow our bank of volunteers even further this year, so we can help even more pupils with their reading.”

Here are some of the fantastic comments we have received from the schools:

Miss Emma Drew, head teacher at Fairfurlong Primary School, said: “Well done Vicki! We have always been really pleased with the support provided for us by the Computershare volunteers.  Most of the children we select for support are children who are below the correct levels for their age.

“Through the support of Computershare volunteers, the children learn the importance of practising their reading with an adult, get some "special" time with an adult that is about them, and make progress with their reading. Just 30 minutes a week does have a massive impact for the children at our school.”

Mark Lacey, head teacher at Parson Street Primary School, said: “We really value our partnership with Computershare. We are working hard with our whole school community to raise standards of literacy for our children and the fact that a local business like Computershare is willing to work with us in this endeavour is fantastic. We are so pleased to welcome volunteers here every week - they really make a difference!”

Tony Halloran, head teacher at St Pius X Primary School, said: “The contribution of Computershare reading volunteers to our school is invaluable. They help us to support children who would not normally read with an adult who is not a member of school staff. The children have built strong working relationships and friendship with 'their' volunteer (and they really are possessive about volunteers) and they are really appreciative of the time that is given.  Without the volunteers some of our children would not share or build a love of reading. Long may they come forward.”

Well done to Vicki and all our volunteers!

How Honeypot can help… Loredana’s story

Honeypot is a fantastic charity that provides respite holidays and on-going outreach support to young carers and children at risk. The charity supports around 1000 children every year, all aged between 5 – 12 years.

At a recent Honeypot event an inspiring lady called Loredana read out her story in her own words:

‘My name is Loredana and I consider myself to be one of the luckiest children in the world.. No I never got the chance to go to Disneyland, no I didn't get a Barbie Dream House, or get tickets to see the Spice Girls in concert... I got to go to a house. Not just any house, a house with surrounded by fields, with a family  dining table covered with plaid cloth, a fireplace, a pool, a shed full of mountain bikes, a craft shed with all the glitter a girl could dream of, a living room with a video player and bean bags... And that was just the beginning...

Before I continue down the path of awesome Honeypot nostalgia, a bit about me. I'm the 3rd of 5 kids. I grew up in a refuge and a hostel respectively, escaping domestic violence. My mother who is disabled and couldn't work, struggled to give us what we as kids wanted toys, CDs, a pony those kinds of things. Me and my brother, who came to Honeypot with me, spent a lot of our time helping our mum with chores and shopping, as her disability hindered her from doing a lot of those things without our help.

In 1998 we joined a young carers club, to give us a break from things going on at home. We got to visit and do many things we couldn't do with our mum because of financial reasons - going to the farm, cinemas, pizza hut, the little things. It was late in 98 we were told we were going to Honeypot... I didn't know what it was but anything to get me out of the house I was excited for.

We'd never seen the country, it was like a dream. The hills, the tiny houses and the cows! Lots of them... We were told we were getting nearer... We drove over a cattle grill and up a winding path and in the distance a little house stood. I couldn't believe my eyes! Little old me from a one room hostel, going to a mansion! I couldn't believe it! We all pressed our noses against the window and was greeted by the lady all Honeypot kids know and remember as THE best - Claire.

Those few days were full of lots of things, many wonderful first experiences - seeing the ocean, baking a cake in the kitchen, sitting round the table eating spaghetti hoops,  watching George of the jungle and having hot chocolate. It's those things that children crave. The simple things.

Honeypot provides a "home" for children who may not find that in the real world. It provides respite to the kids who work 24hrs a day caring for a family member, most of all it provides a safe environment where kids can be just that.

As a child I struggled with the real world - no money, no luxuries, and so made up stories, sang and entertained myself, and thankfully there was always a Honeypot staff member who would listen to my singing, or answer my many random questions... To this day I still love trivia.

My point is that Honeypot has affected me in such a way that I'm always drawn back, I'm always retelling my stories from my time at Honeypot. I still have the cards and the presents they'd send on every birthday and Christmas. No matter what was going on in my life, where I moved, Honeypot never forgot about me. They never forget a child.

Personally I think that a lot of people fail to realise that children experience in their childhood is what makes them as an adult, everyone of you in audience are how you are because of a person who interacted with you, a friend, in my case - a charity who gave up their time to give me some normalcy in my childhood.

After revisiting Honeypot house back in 2006 I knew what I wanted to be  - I wanted to work with kids, and be someone that they would remember when they're all grown up. I've worked in the U.S for four years with children at a summer camp for the privileged and underprivileged alike. I applied to volunteer at the house this summer and I'm now studying to be a primary teacher and thank Honeypot for being the driving forces in making that decision.

Please support this charity because without them, I wouldn't be half as amazing as I am today. You have the power to help change a child's life!’

CVS are continuing to work in partnership with this fantastic charity. For more information on Honeypot, please visit the website to find out more.

These words and opinions are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Computershare Voucher Services

Employers: Are you up to speed on salary sacrifice VAT changes?

It’s been nearly three months since VAT changes came into force affecting salary sacrifice schemes, so we thought we would put together a little refresher for employers on what the changes mean for childcare vouchers.

The changes

On 1 January 2012, changes to the way VAT is levied on salary sacrifice schemes came into force, bringing with them the potential to increase the overall costs of such schemes.

Salary sacrifice is a way for employees to exchange part of their salary for a non-cash benefit. Traditionally they have been used for pension contributions, but they can now also be used for benefits such as bikes, childcare vouchers, high street shopping vouchers, mobile phones and in certain areas even bus passes. The new rules mean that some of these items will now be liable to VAT.

What's behind the VAT change?

The changes have been made as a result of a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling in a case regarding Astra Zeneca and the high-street shopping vouchers it provided to employees under salary sacrifice arrangements. The ECJ ruled that the provision of shopping vouchers to staff as part of a salary sacrifice scheme was a supply of services in return for payment. This meant that Astra Zeneca was able to reclaim the VAT it had paid to acquire the vouchers, but the company also had to pass on to employees the cost of the vouchers including VAT.

So what now?

Following the changes, all salary sacrificed in exchange for benefits that are liable to VAT - including bikes and high-street vouchers - will now be liable to VAT.

What about childcare vouchers?

Computershare Voucher Services Limited (“CVS”) has obtained confirmation from HMRC that childcare vouchers provided by us are “credit vouchers” as defined by Sch 10A VATA 1994, as we never charge more than the face value for the voucher itself, the voucher is outside the scope of VAT.  As HMRC consider that the employer is an intermediary supplier of the voucher to employees, the same VAT liability rules will apply, although each employer should seek their own professional advice on this matter.

HMRC have also confirmed that the CVS service charge for the administration of the scheme is a separate standard rated supply.  As employers do not charge employees more than the face value of the voucher, then (depending on the employer’s circumstances), the VAT that CVS charge for the service charge, should be a deductible expense.  If, however, an employer starts to charge employees more than the face value for the vouchers, this position would change and employers should take their own professional advice.