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:

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.

Parents urged to act to protect their financial savings

Many parents may be unaware they are at risk of losing out on the highest level of childcare voucher savings unless they act now, and here’s why...

Parents currently using childcare vouchers may be aware that last April the Government introduced new legislation lowering the savings limits for new joiners of the scheme.

This legislation had significant financial implications, particularly for those higher rate taxpayers who wished to sign up and make use of the savings.

For parents already on the scheme their level of savings was unaffected, but their existing level was only protected provided that they ordered childcare vouchers at least once in every twelve month period.

So many parents could now be in danger of losing out - unless they act quickly.

And it is not just higher and additional rate taxpayers who stand to lose out – see how this issue could affect you.

Higher or additional rate taxpayer

 If you are a higher or additional rate taxpayer who joined your employer's childcare voucher scheme before 6th April 2011, then while you remain eligible you have a right to a higher level of savings. This means you can receive up to £243 per month in childcare vouchers.

If you have ordered vouchers in the past twelve months, or do so now before the twelve months is up, then you will remain at this level for a further year. This will mean you are still able to make savings of up to £1,224* a year in tax and National Insurance payments if you are a higher rate taxpayer, or £1,516* a year if you are an additional rate taxpayer.

Basic rate taxpayer

For a basic rate taxpayer, you may also want to order childcare vouchers within this 12 month period to retain your protected rights. This means you will be able to receive childcare vouchers up to £243 per month if you ever become a higher rate taxpayer.

If you lose your protected rights then you can continue to receive childcare vouchers up to £243 per month, but ONLY while you remain a basic rate taxpayer. Remember, as a basic rate taxpayer you can still save up to £933 per annum in tax and National Insurance payments.

To order your vouchers, or if you would like any further information on this issue, then the team at CVS would be happy to help you. You can reach them on 0845 002 1111 (8am-8pm, Monday to Friday)

CVS launches ‘Let’s Get Kids Reading’ campaign for World Book Day

Today is World Book Day and we’ve launched a special campaign to help parents motivate and inspire their children to read. The ‘Let’s Get Kids Reading’ campaign has a dedicated Facebook page where parents will find practical advice, reviews and competitions – including the chance to win their child’s height in books!

We surveyed our parents to find out how long they spend reading with their children and it’s gold stars all round with 51% half dedicating 25 minutes a day to the task. An enthusiastic 20% of parents are reading even more – clocking up an impressive 42 minutes a day!

Busy parents face a number of time pressures and it’s very positive to see that despite this, a majority are reading with their children regularly - with a quarter even managing over five hours a week!

This is great news, as research suggests that children who are read to on a regular basis before they start school are most likely to succeed, and it is thought to be a key predictor of educational success.

Speaking earlier this month, School Minister Nick Gibb said that reading books for just half an hour a day could be worth up to 12 months’ extra schooling by the age of 15.

A report by The Literacy Trust* into young people aged 8 to 17 has also shown a direct link to attainment, with 8 in 10 children who read over 10 books a month being above average readers, compared to just 3 in 10 of those who rarely read. 

Parents are the most important reading role models for children and young people, according to The Trust, with mums taking the lead. 67% of parents who read to their children are mothers compared to just 17% of fathers.

Our ‘Let’s Get Kids Reading’ page let’s you get involved – not only can you find out what other parents are reading with their children and read reviews of some of the top children’s books but you can enter our competition to be in with a chance of winning a stack of books, as tall as your child, to fill those shelves with!

Visit the page, and ‘like’ us today!

To read the competition T&Cs, please click here.