Balhousie Care homes open their doors to the lonely this Christmas

Balhousie Care Group, Scotland’s leading provider of residential care, is opening its doors to people who face spending Christmas Day alone.

Care home managers are liaising with local authorities to identify members of the community who face a lonely festive season and could benefit from some companionship this Christmas Day. The invitations are going out, via social workers, for people to share Christmas dinner and join in festivities at Balhousie Care Group’s 25 care homes across the north east of Scotland.

With a presence in five regions of Scotland and strong community contacts, Balhousie Care Group is in a prime position to extend the hand of friendship this festive season, said Operations Director Louise Barnett. She said:

“So many people, particularly the elderly, spend the festive season feeling isolated, with only a TV for company. We’re in the business of caring, and all 25 of our care homes already have close community partnerships. So it makes sense for us to open our doors to those who don’t have family or friends to be with this Christmas Day. Our care home managers across Scotland are liaising with their local authorities to identify those who may be feeling isolated, and invite them in.”

The move comes among reports of a worldwide “epidemic” of loneliness, which is affecting our health. In Scotland, the problem is particularly serious among the elderly, says the charity Age Scotland. Recent research showed that 60,000 older Scots will spend Christmas Day alone, an increase of 50% on two years ago.

The award-winning Balhousie Care Group put social issues such as loneliness and homelessness firmly on its agenda during 2017, and has plans to ramp up its charity and community initiatives in 2018. The Group, which supports Alzheimer Scotland and Social Bite, among others, recently raised almost £16,000 by taking part in the outdoor Sleep in the Park event for homelessness.

To find out more about Balhousie Care Group visit

For more on Age Scotland’s research click here:

To enquire about visiting a Care Home on Christmas Day call 01738 254254.

Tayside grand-parents advised how to give cash gifts without falling foul of the taxman this Christmas

Christmas is a time when many parents and grand-parents choose to gift cash to younger relatives – to put towards a car or first home, for example.But before you whip out the cheque book to spread some seasonal cheer, it’s wise to take the taxman into account and be aware of the rules.
That’s the advice from Ernest Boath, Head of Private Client at Miller Hendry Solicitors and Estate Agents, who advises: “While larger gifts may be taken into account, anyone can make smaller gifts or gifts out of surplus income without it being taken into account for inheritance tax purposes, as long as some simple rules are followed.”
Broadly, these come under two headings: gifts where the allowance is automatic if the gift fits the rules, and those where the exemption must be claimed after death, such as gifts out of surplus income. The automatic allowances include gifts to charities or political parties, gifts on marriage or civil ceremony, an annual exemption of £3000, and small gifts up to £250 per person.
Any number of so-called small gifts can be made each year, of up to £250 per recipient, with no limit on the number of recipients, as long as no one person receives more than £250. If anyone receives more than £250, then the whole small gift exemption in relation to that recipient is lost for the year, not just the excess.
Alongside, the annual exemption of £3000 can be used to make gifts to one or more people. There’s an added benefit if the allowance isn’t fully used in any year, as any remaining allowance can be carried forward one year. It cannot be combined with the small gift exemption for any one individual.
In any tax year, you can also give a cash gift when a friend or family gets married or has a civil ceremony. The limit is £5000 for a child and £2500 for a grandchild, or £1000 for those outside immediate family, whether a friend, niece or cousin.
You can also make payments to help with another person’s living costs, such as an elderly relative or a child under 18.
And if giving to charity is important to you at Christmas, it’s worth knowing that gifts to charities and political parties will not count towards the total taxable value of your estate. You can also cut the Inheritance Tax rate on the rest of your estate from 40% to 36%, if you leave at least 10% of your ‘net estate’ to a charity.
Mr Boath continued: “These allowances are automatic, unlike the gifts from surplus income, but even so, it’s a good idea to track any gifts as it will help to ensure that you keep inside the rules, and makes it easier in any later dealings with HMRC.”
When it comes to relief on gifts from surplus income, record-keeping is essential as the gift will only qualify for exemption if it is part of a regular pattern of giving, and if you can demonstrate that you maintained your normal standard of living after making the gifts and all other usual expenditure.
He added: “To make gifts from surplus income, it’s essential you record your intention in writing, setting out that you mean to make the gifts regularly, and then keep a record of income and outgoings to demonstrate the money you gave was indeed out of surplus income. It doesn’t need to be too complicated, just a simple log of your income received during the year and the amount spent, figures which could come from monthly and annual summaries on bank account statements.”
The exemption for gifts from surplus income must be claimed after death, by the executors of a person’s Will, and can be used for any regular payments, such as monthly contributions to a grandchild’s savings account or payment of school fees, or making regular gifts on special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas.
Any other gifts made, unless they go into a trust, will be potentially exempt transfers (PETs), which become exempt if you survive the making of the gift by seven years. Otherwise, the value will be brought into account for inheritance tax purposes.
Said Ernest Boath: “Making gifting part of an annual review is a good idea as the rules do change from time to time, and it’s good practice to check back what you’ve done each year, just as it’s important to keep your will up to date as circumstances change.
“And if you’ve reached the end of inspiration on gift ideas for your spouse or civil partner, it’s worth remembering that you can give them as much as you like during your lifetime, as long as they are living permanently in the UK.”
For further advice or information on Tax Law or other legal issues, visit

Massive shake-up: It’s a new dawn for Tayside’s private renters

Massive changes to the law came into force this month for Scotland’s 760,000 private renters.

The private residential tenancy rules – rolled out as part of the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 – scrap fixed-term rentals, meaning leases will effectively be open-ended.
Rent increases can only be made once every 12 months, and tenants who believe them to be unfair can take them to a new tribunal which deals with disputes.
Leading Tayside solicitors and estate agents Miller Hendry have landlords and tenants as clients. Jeffrey Hope, property law expert with the firm, says it is “vital” for everyone involved in private renting to understand their new rights and responsibilities.
Anyone signing a tenancy from December 1, 2017, will be covered by the new rules, and all landlord and tenant disputes will be heard in a new specialist tribunal.

Jeffrey Hope said: “These new rules have been described as the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation, and it is vital that landlords in particular take early legal advice.
“While the paperwork will certainly be simplified for both tenants and landlords, many owners will be concerned that there is no initial minimum period of rental. In essence, the tenant has long-term security.”
In areas like Dundee and Perth, Mr Hope said there may be problems for landlords who rent to students during term-time, then to visitors in the summer. Some landlords may decide to pull out of the student letting sector if they cannot be sure of students moving out at the end of the academic year.
Mr Hope explained: “Strikingly, the new Private Residential Tenancy has no end date, and landlords will no longer be able to recover possession of their property just because the lease has reached its end date.

“If a tenant does not want to leave, a landlord will have to rely on one of the grounds for eviction set out in the new Act, otherwise the lease continues.”

Grounds for eviction range from criminal and anti-social behaviour to overcrowding and change of use. The Act also makes changes to existing criteria and introduces a number of new grounds for eviction. These include:

• The landlord wants to sell the property or use it for a non-residential purpose.
• The landlord or a family member of the landlord intends to live in the property. Unlike previous legislation, a family member is now more widely defined and includes a spouse, civil partner, cohabitant, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild or sibling of the landlord;
• The tenant is in one month’s rent arrears for three or more consecutive months. If such arrears amount to at least one month’s rent the tenant will be evicted, if the arrears are less than one month’s rent the new Tribunal will have discretion on whether to evict the tenant. This is a significant change as presently the mandatory ground of possession requires three whole months’ rent arrears but the Act means the tenant will be evicted if they do not pay a full month’s rent and those arrears are outstanding even if over the next two months they pay the full monthly rent.

The new Act also establishes a new tribunal to deal with disputes, and includes safeguards to stop landlords bypassing the eviction grounds by, for example, putting the property on the market at an unrealistically high price.

Holiday lets and social, police and military housing are not covered by the new legislation. Student accommodation will also be exempt from the new rules if it is classed as Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) including at least 30 bedrooms or is provided by an academic institution. This will allow universities, colleges and PBSA providers to continue to offer fixed-term lets to students.

During the lengthy debate of the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill 2016, former Housing Minister Margaret Burgess said new legislation was necessary to “rebalance” the relationship between landlords and tenants. The Minister also said it would prevent unfair eviction and big rent increases.

For further advice or information on Property Law or other legal issues, visit

Balhousie Sleep in the Park

Sleep in the Park a “brutal” wake-up call for care home workers who took part

A group of care home workers who swapped their uniforms for sleeping bags last week have shared the “brutal” reality of taking part in Sleep in the Park.

The team of 20 Balhousie Care Group participants raised almost £16,000 when they joined 9.000 others, including celebrities, politicians and business leaders, to brave sub-zero temperatures in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens to raise awareness of homelessness.

Highlights for the staff, who were joined by Balhousie Care Group chairman Tony Banks and CEO Steve White, were meeting Sir Bob Geldof and making it into the event’s Top 10 corporate fundraisers with £15,895.00 raised. But as the temperatures dipped, the “brutal reality” of the event sank in, said the staff, each of whom had a different reason for taking part.

For Elaine Smith, a care assistant at Balhousie Wheatlands home in Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire, it was a personal challenge and one that was highly emotional. Elaine, who was moved to write about her experience in a blog, explained:

“Five years ago I lost my son to an accident at work. It should never have happened. He was my first child and just 22. He shouted goodbye that morning and never came home. I honestly thought I would die due to a broken heart. Over the last five years I’ve hit rock bottom; I’ve had every bit of mental health care and counselling that anyone could ask for. Slowly, thanks to family, friends and my work at Balhousie Care, my confidence has started to come back.

“But since the accident, one thing I’ve always said was that if miracles could happen, I would go homeless on the streets every night just to have my son David back. It’s a quote that has always stuck, so when Sleep in the Park came up, I jumped at the chance to take part.”

Said Yvonne Manson, Dementia Consultant for Balhousie Care Group and another participant:

“There are no words to describe what it was like to sleep out in the cold. It was a brutal reality but I found myself reflecting on how it was one night for us and that for many this is a daily reality. The experience is something I will never forget.”

Chloe Hunter, also a care assistant at Balhousie Wheatlands, took part for personal reasons. Chloe said:

“The hardest part for me was the cold, and I was so hungry but because I was so cold I couldn’t even feel the hunger pain. I hate to think people sleep like that every night.”

Claire Coleman, a support worker at Balhousie Orchard Court in Balbeggie, said the experience had made her think more deeply about homelessness.

“I felt sad, the fact I can come home and get heat but the homeless do not have that privilege. It actually made me feel guilty to an extent. I would definitely take more time for the homeless and consider them more,” said Claire.

There are an estimated 1500 people across Scotland sleeping rough at night, according to a report by charity Social Bite, which organised Sleep in the Park.

Taking part in the event has strengthened Balhousie’s resolve to highlight social issues such as homelessness and loneliness among its employees, residents and local communities, said Balhousie Care Group CEO Steve White. This Christmas Day, Balhousie’s 25 care homes across the north east of Scotland will work with local authorities to extend an invitation to anyone who wants to join in their festivities.

Steve, who shares his experience in a blog, ‘9000 people, 9000 reasons: the reality of Sleep in the Park’, said: “With 25 care homes in 25 local communities, we are in a perfect position to highlight social causes. As a business we’ve always been community collaborators and supporters of charity, but last Saturday’s experience at Sleep in the Park made us even more determined to do so.

“Last Saturday was a wake-up call in so many ways. After a freezing night, Tony and I resolved to up Balhousie’s game and draw attention to basic human issues. We see it as our duty, not only as successful business people but as human beings.”

Social Bite, which addresses homelessness through its cafes, restaurants and free food distribution in Scotland, hopes to raise £4m through the event. Among those who took part in the Sleep in the Park event were Bob Geldof, John Cleese, Liam Gallagher, Deacon Blue and Amy Macdonald.

Balhousie is still taking donations. To support go to:

Read Steve White’s blog here:

Read Elaine Smith’s experience here:

Read all the Balhousie Care Group workers’ experiences here:
To find out more about Balhousie Care Group, visit

For more information on Sleep In the Park go to:

Employment law specialist Alan Matthew urges locals to register tribunal fee refund claim

Employment tribunal fee refunds are now being processed paving the way for millions of pounds to be repaid to claimants.

The opening phase – which saw around 1,000 people contacted individually – rolled out in October/ November with the full scheme now fully open In December.

The repayment scheme was introduced in response to a Supreme Court ruling which found that the UK Government acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the charges of up to £1,200 in 2013 in a bid to reduce the number of malicious and weak cases.

Ministers will now have to refund up to £33m to claimants after trade union Unison argued successfully that fees prevented workers accessing justice.

The news has been warmly welcomed by Tayside employment law expert Alan Matthew who has publicly lobbied for a rethink on tribunal charges since 2013, strongly supporting the right of employees to access justice.

Alan Matthew, a consultant with Miller Hendry solicitors and estate agents, with branches in Dundee, Perth and Crieff, said:

“Scrapping employment tribunal fees has restored the principal of employment rights for all and I warmly welcome their removal and the introduction of the current scheme to refund the fees.”

For those who have paid Employment Tribunals fees, the Westminster Government has set up a registration scheme so that claimants can register an interest. Those who wish to do so can register either by email at:; or alternatively by post to the following addresses: Employment Tribunals Central Office Scotland/Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) Fees, PO Box 27105, Glasgow, G2 9JRX.

Mr Matthew continued: “When fees were introduced they had the fairly immediate effect of creating a financial barrier to proceeding with a claim for those wishing to take their employer to tribunal.

“While this was good news for employers who faced significantly less litigation and costs, the balance of power in the employment relationship was affected and not for the better.

“A significant number of people found these fees unaffordable and this latest judgment has helped restore that principle of employment rights for all, including the lower paid.

“However, now that the charges have been scrapped employers will have to brace themselves for a large increase in such claims.

“I would advise anyone seeking to pursue an employment tribunal claim against an employer to seek legal advice on this matter as soon as possible.”

For further advice or information on employment law or other legal issues, visit

Miller Hendry’s Angel Trees help the Salvation Army in Perth and Dundee

Leading Tayside solicitor and estate agent, Miller Hendry, has been encouraging staff at its branches in Dundee, Perth and Crieff to get involved in its festive charity campaign, which sees the collection of small gifts for underprivileged children, with donations being delivered to The Salvation Army today (Friday, December 15).

The Miller Hendry Angel Tree takes pride of place in the reception areas of the three offices and is decorated with little angels. Each angel contains the catalogue details and price of a child’s Christmas gift costing between £3 and £10 from a high street store and staff have been asked to take an angel of their choice and donate the gift to help vulnerable families this Christmas through The Salvation Army.

2017 marks 152 years of The Salvation Army helping people facing difficulty from all walks of life across the United Kingdom. The work that they do to help local communities is completely reliant on donations and so campaigns, such as the Miller Hendry Angel Tree, are what enables them to help on average around 15,000 parent and toddlers a week and provide over three million nourishing meals throughout the year.

John Thom, Chairman of Miller Hendry, commented:

“The festive period gives us a great opportunity to help those a little less fortunate than ourselves and make sure they’re able to celebrate this wonderful time of year. The staff have jumped at the chance to help and we’ve seen a great collection of children’s gifts that we can donate to The Salvation Army.

“As solicitors, we deal with many different cases involving families and young people so we are very aware of the difficulties facing children in the local area. It’s the little things that can really make a difference and we’re thrilled to have been able to give a little back to our local community.

Volpa’s Head of Publicity goes back to school

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail asking if I would be interested in speaking to 3rd Year school pupils about Business and Language. Having considered a career in teaching at various points and perhaps a glutton for punishment, I jumped at the opportunity.

The workshop programme would visit different secondary schools around Dundee with a view to encourage more of them to study foreign languages in their later years of school. As someone who worked in business I was expected to talk to kids about the importance of language in business. I decided that i would talk about business communications and the decision-making that goes on behind the scenes.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of school and don’t consider myself academic, though I did well enough to get into University and managed complete a degree in Business Studies. Going back to school was a bit intimidating and exciting at the same time. Harris Academy was a million miles away from the dreary halls of Inverkeithing High School…you can imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon their recording studio!

After heading to my classroom, I was to speak to 6 groups of 30(ish) students, for 25 minutes at a time, and I had opted not to bring any props!

25 minutes is a LONG time to be standing & talking to 14-year olds!

I started with the basics…companies want to transact with consumers and will use an array of communication methods to do so etc, etc…

Before long we were talking about influencer strategies, communications plans and in-depth campaign marketing. It was amazing how quickly the pupils “got it”. They accepted that not all companies wanted to sell to them and that it was ok to target very specific consumer groups to keep your marketing strategy effective. This is something that can take businesses a long time to grasp (sometimes they never do!) and we see wasted efforts and budgets regularly.

As groups moved on and other groups arrived it was evident that some of the other invited speakers had brought goodies with them…school boy error on my part!

We moved onto social media strategies and this is where they really woke up. Not only was I able to get an insight into the teenage market psyche, but I was also very impressed at the level of knowledge the kids had about each of the networks and the differences/ similarities of each. Scottish businesses have a well-documented skills gap in digital marketing and none of the pupils I spoke to understood or appreciated the value of their knowledge. Not one of the 150 pupils that I met today would include their social media skills on a CV or job application! It surprised me that our future work-force were unable to identify this as a transferrable or valuable skill, and one which a business will (and do) pay handsomely for. The presentation delivered by a representative of DYW (Developing the Young Workforce) at the start of the day mentioned non-academic skills that employers would be looking for but failed to mention social media. My parting words to each of the groups I spoke with, was to make sure these skills were on any CV or job application going forward.

I am fortunate that I work for a company that indulges my desire to get involved at event such as this and get out of the office for a few hours. I hope that the kids got something out of the day as I know that I did. I hope that not only do they choose to study business in school but that they will one day decide to open their own business.

According to ScotGov 98.3% of private sector enterprises in Scotland have less than 50 employees (70.6% have no employees at all) as of March 2017. This highlights the importance of enterprise and entrepreneurship in our economy and given that 0% of pupils I spoke to had ambitions of starting their own business, I would suggest we need to review how we encourage entrepreneurialism in our schools.

On a side note, the kids I met today were engaged, interested and respectful. Thanks to Harris Academy for having me.

Fraser Kirk, Head of Publicity

Perthshire Businesswomen’s Network celebrates 20th anniversary

Chairperson Jane Rennie welcomed members past and present to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Perthshire Businesswomen’s Network at Grayson’s Wine Café on Tuesday evening (December 5).

The busy event was attended by a number of past presidents, including Anne Bunting, Nicola Martin, Fiona McLellan, Simone Bett and Sara Wood and was a great opportunity for guests to mingle and network in a relaxed and friendly festive atmosphere.

Jane Rennie thanked members for their support during the year, and revealed that PBN is all set to launch a new website today (Friday).

Jane said: “It’s been another hugely successful year for PBN which has been marked by a number of high profile business events which have attracted some of Scotland’s top entrepreneurs and business leaders, including Chris van der Kuyl (4j Studios), Oli Norman (itison) and Helen Smout (Culture Perth & Kinross).

“As well as our monthly breakfast and evening networking sessions, we have had a great response to our ‘Striving For Excellence’ and ‘Big Business Breakfast’ meetings. Building on this success, we are developing an exciting programme of business and networking opportunities for 2018 which will feature top name speakers and the introduction of a new ‘learning lunch’ element where members can tap into relevant training topics over lunch.

“Full details of these events will be advertised on PBN’s new website which has been developed by PBN committee member Tricia Fox and her team at the Volpa PR and Marketing Agency.

“I’d like to encourage local businesswomen to join our friendly organisation. You will be made very welcome.”

More information about Perthshire Businesswomen’s Network at

Tayside families advised to set up Power of Attorney as Visa beefs up its biometric security in bid to beat the fraudsters

A leading Tayside solicitor this week advised local people to set up Power of Attorney instead of relying on informal arrangements with family and friends to manage financial affairs.

Ernest Boath’s comments came after it emerged that Visa customers in Tayside could soon be using selfies, fingerprints and voice records to approve their purchases as the international payment processor beefs up its biometric security in a bid to beat the fraudsters.

The increased use of biometric identification is designed to prevent anyone other than the named account holder from using the credit/debit card.

Mr Boath, Head of Private Client with Miller Hendry, explained:

“There are many reasons why you may want to allow someone else to manage your finances. The obvious situation is if you are elderly or ill, but it’s just as likely to be needed by someone undertaking long-term travel or working overseas for a corporate employer. Even day-to-day management of family finances may see couples sharing access to their single named bank accounts.

“But it’s not a good idea to have informal arrangements in place, even when it’s family left in charge, as you’re likely to be breaching the terms and conditions of your account, and leaving yourself exposed.  Combined with stricter requirements by banks and others, it’s something that should be dealt with through formal agreements.”

By using a Power of Attorney people can appoint someone to look after their financial affairs on their behalf. While many imagine these are something for the elderly to consider in case of dementia, they have an increasingly important place, for asset protection and to manage today’s strict security procedures.

Mr Boath continued: “By granting a Power of Attorney and appointing an attorney to manage things for you, they will have power to enter into any transaction, unless you have specifically forbidden it, so they will be able to deal with investments and to write cheques.

“But the important consideration is choosing the right person to be an attorney.  So, think about how well they look after their own finances, how well you know them and how sure you are that they will make the right decisions for you.  As an added precaution, you can appoint two or more attorneys who must each be involved in each decision, although that can make transactions more complicated if they must all be involved at the same time. Another option is to appoint a family or friend to act, but also appoint a professional, and they can undertake regular checks on how matters are being handled.”

As well as financial Powers of Attorney (known as ‘Continuing’ Powers of Attorney), used to appoint someone to look after your finances, there are also ‘Welfare’ Powers of Attorney, used to appoint someone to deal with issues such as where you live and medical treatment if you become mentally incapable.

Any Power of Attorney must then be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (which has a statutory responsibility in Scotland to supervise attorneys), before it can be used, and involves a fee of £75 per power of attorney.  The registered document can then be submitted to any institution such as a bank or utility provider so they can deal directly with any appointed attorney named.

Mr Boath added: “Powers of Attorney are often thought to be for older people, but they can be just as important when you are younger – for example, it can be invaluable if someone is involved in an accident which leaves them incapable of managing their affairs, or if you are travelling or working out of the country for long periods and unable to manage your affairs directly.”

The other advantage of an Attorney is that without one, where someone has become mentally incapable, for whatever reason and at whatever age, their financial and personal affairs will have to be managed by a Guardian appointed by the Sheriff Court. This is a slow and expensive business for most families, the guardian is required to produce annual accounts, and there are legal and Court fees throughout the process.

Balhousie care home raises funds to take its residents ‘virtually’ anywhere as ‘Flying Sam’ skydives to success

Staff at a Fife care home have raised money to buy state-of-the-art virtual reality and other hi-tech equipment to enhance the lives of their residents – thanks to a daring skydive by one of its managers.

Samantha Beattie, deputy care home manager at Balhousie Forth View in Methil, completed a skydive on Remembrance Day, November 11th, raising £1500 for the home. The cash raised has bought a laptop, virtual reality headset, three Amazon Echo voice activated services and a tablet for residents and visitors.

Now known to fellow staff and residents as ‘Flying Sam’, Samantha first learned of the benefits of VR technology to the elderly in training sessions and through videos. These include improved memory, mood and verbal communication.

Balhousie Care Group, a leader in residential care in Scotland, has been testing the VR headsets throughout its 25 care homes. The software enables them to visit ‘virtually’ anywhere, from visits to Paris, rock climbing, the cinema and, thanks to Google Earth, their childhood homes.

Samantha said: “I’d watched videos where residents who aren’t able to communicate verbally or even non-verbally all of a sudden are using VR headsets and they come back to life. They’ve started talking and singing. I think it just brings back a lot of memories for them, it stimulates their mind.”

Forth View care home manager Gordon Candlish said: “Many of our residents have severe dementia and we’d do anything to try and help them. We thought we’d like to try it and see what benefits they could give them. We’re thrilled that, thanks to our own Flying Sam, we can now offer these on a permanent basis.”

Yvonne Manson, Balhousie’s dementia consultant, said:

“VR technology is an alternative, and very valuable, form or supporting our residents with extra mental and physical stimulation, and that’s essential for their well being and state of mind. It’s exciting that technology is offering up all of these possibilities for the elderly and we’re delighted to be giving those experiences to our residents.”

To find out more about Balhousie Care Group, visit