New mothers are to be paid to breastfeed their babies as part of a research project examining whether or not uptake rates will increase if they are offered financial incentives.
Vouchers for Matalan, John Lewis or Mothercare - as well as supermarkets - will be dished out to new mothers if they feed their babies with breast milk.
Researchers from the University of Sheffield are examining ways to boost the low rates of breastfeeding.
Despite numerous attempts to encourage new mothers to breastfeed their babies, rates remain stubbornly low in parts of the UK.
The new study is to be trialled in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire - in areas where breastfeeding uptake rates are low.
Mothers will be given shopping vouchers worth up to £120 if their babies receive breast milk until they are six week old, and a further £80 if their babies continue to be breastfed until they are six months.
If the "feasibility" project is successful, the authors will conduct a national research project into the scheme.
The NHS recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies during the first six months. Despite this, only 34% of UK babies are breastfed at six months with only 1% exclusively breastfed at this stage said principle investigator Dr Clare Relton.
The senior research fellow at the University of Sheffield said breastfeeding is "stigmatised" in parts of the UK - for example, some advertising for formula milk sends out subliminal negative messages about breastfeeding which contributes to low uptake rates, she said.
"The UK has one of the worst breastfeeding rates in the world and breastfeeding rates vary very widely across different parts of the country," said Dr Relton.
"If you are a six-week-old baby the chances of you being breastfed vary depending on where you live. If you live in an affluent area you are four times more likely to be breastfed than if you live in a deprived area.
"Babies who are breastfed have fewer health problems such as upset tummies and chest infections, and are less likely to develop diabetes and obesity when they are older. Breast milk is perfectly designed for babies and provides all they need for the first six months of their life.
"The scheme offers vouchers to mothers who breastfeed as a way of acknowledging both the value of breastfeeding to babies, mothers and society, and the effort involved in breastfeeding.
"Offering financial incentives for mothers to breastfeed might increase the numbers of babies being breastfed, and complement on-going support for breastfeeding provided by the NHS, local authorities and charities."
The preliminary study will focus on up to 130 mothers who give birth between November and March.
If the mothers breastfeed their children for a full six months they will receive £200 shopping vouchers - half for supermarkets and half for high street stores.
The vouchers, which are being funded by the National Prevention Research Initiative, will be dished out in five stages of £40 each.
The initiative will not be rigorously policed and will simply require the participating mother and their health visitor or midwife to sign off to say they are breastfeeding.
Dr Relton said the test will not only ascertain whether or not the payment improves uptake rates, they will look at whether women think they are being "bribed or rewarded" after they receive the vouchers.
She added: "Money is really interesting isn't it? If I wave a £5 note around we all know what it means, it's a very quick way of communicating with people regardless of their age, their gender, their ethnicity, their level of deprivation or their education. It's a shorthand way of valuing things in society.
"We're testing whether this is a way of increasing the perceived value of breastfeeding."
Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health at the University of Oxford, said: "We know that breastfeeding has long term benefits for the baby and most mothers in the UK have now heard the 'breast is best' message loud and clear. Yet despite years of health promotion, breastfeeding rates are still low and socially patterned.
"Financial incentives have proved modestly effective in changing some other health-related behaviours, but it is not clear whether this might enhance breastfeeding rates, especially the maintenance of breastfeeding.
"This type of intervention can be readily studied in a research trial and finding out whether it is effective or not is the first step. If it passes this hurdle we need to assess whether it is also cost effective.
"Then we need a public conversation about whether this should be adopted into policy. It's important not to condone or condemn this until we have clear evidence of whether or not it may be effective."
Janet Fyle, professional policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said: "Whilst we are not against financial incentives for the right reasons, there is a much bigger social and cultural problem here that needs to be tackled instead of offering financial incentives for mothers to breastfeed.
"In many areas, including those in this study, there are generations of women who may not have seen anyone breastfeeding their baby, meaning it is not the cultural norm in many communities.
"The motive for breastfeeding cannot be rooted by offering financial reward. It has to be something that a mother wants to do in the interest of the health and well-being of her child.
"Investing in midwives and improving ante-natal and post-natal care will go a long way to reversing the worryingly low levels of breastfeeding that we are seeing in certain communities."
False economies in a recession
New mums 'paid' to breastfeed baby
Consumers are often tempted to use appliances such as washing machines and dryers late at night when energy tariffs are typically lower. However a Fire Service representative said it was not advisable to leave a washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher running overnight since they are a fire risk because of their high wattage, friction and motors.
"The practice of leaving these appliances on after you have gone to bed, means if anything goes wrong, you are not in a position to do anything about it. Electrical faults have frequently caused fires that have proved fatal to those sleeping upstairs," the source said.
But it is not just fire hazards a burst hose could mean the whole downstairs of your house is flooded resulting in a hefty insurance claim and undoubtedly increased premiums as a consequence.
There is nothing wrong in itself in switching utility suppliers as if you do it properly you can reduce your bills. However if you are not careful you might actually increase your outgoings.
If you don't establish the type of tariff that best suits your needs you could be throwing money down the drain. With some suppliers, for instance, you pay less for the energy you use during the night than the energy used during the day. However, you'll need to use about 20% of your energy consumption at night to really make a saving (cheaper tariff starts at 1a.m. and finishes at 8a.m.). For those on shift work this might be very useful but for others there may be little benefit and we have already talked of the dangers of running appliances when you have gone to bed.
Fixed or capped price plans offer a set price for a period of time (usually 18 months to 2 years) but sometimes this includes a premium on the supplier's standard unit rate.
Finally, be wary of sales people who call at the door and try to talk you into switching to their company. It is just as easy to switch online yourself when you have time to make a considered and non-pressurised decision.
When stock markets go into freefall – and we have seen plenty of that over the last 12 months – there is always a tendency to try and save money by selling shares quickly or just trying to move investments to another provider. But some times all you are doing is incurring extra trading costs or charges on fund switches. Unless you are totally convinced that the only way is down, it is usually best not to sell shares when they have hit rock bottom – all you are doing then is crystallizing a loss. It makes sense to plan a less knee-jerk exit strategy.
And as far as funds go, investors have a habit of chasing the latest theme and piling in at the height of the market only to see their investments fall as sanity returns to proceedings
Glasgow-based IFA Alan Dick believes investors are getting severely short changed by active fund managers and he insists investors are far better off in low-cost Index tracker funds.
"This idea that fund managers can beat the market and pick out the winners just doesn't stand up to close scrutiny. Constantly switching fund providers only piles up extra charges and costs and offers no added value."
Anyone who has ever bought electrical goods at a major retailer will have been subjected to the hard sell of 'have you considered taking out an extended warranty?' Then follows the spiel about how you will have piece of mind if anything goes wrong blah, blah, blah….
In theory it sounds like a way of saving you hefty repair bills in the futuer but in the vast majority of cases extended warranties are overly expensive and not necessary. With most electrical goods you have a legal right under guarantee for the retailer to repair or replace faulty goods within a specified amount of time – typically 12 months. The only conceivable reason for buying an extended warranty would be for something like accidental damage cover - but in most instances that would be covered under a typical home contents insurance anyway.
Extended warranties are of course designed to cover goods for a longer period than the 12-month guarantee the product is sold with. They normally cover the three or five years, after the guarantee has run out. But you are not obliged to take out this insurance when you buy the goods nor do you have to buy the policy from the retailer selling you the item. You can pretty much bank on the fact that the in-store policy will be more expensive than any stand-alone policy as the retailer will take a commission charge. If you really feel you need an extended warranty at least shop around for it.
You might be paying lower premiums on your health insurance but that's not much good if the policy exclusions mean you are denied the treatment you suddenly find you need. Going for a policy based on budget alone rather than specific levels of cover could prove a false economy. One of the most common exclusions is home care or private nursing – you may think you are covered but the small print says otherwise. If you have to economise on personal health plans, make sure you understand exactly what you are giving up under the terms of your policy.
If you are unhappy with the response or would just like to explain a missed payment on your file you can send a Notice of Correction. This is a statement of up to 200 words that will be added to your file. Although lenders don't have to take this information into account, it at least gives you the chance to tell your side of the story.
Experian states that agencies will also help you escalate the dispute to a third party arbitrator if necessary, such as the Information Commissioner's Office.
With interest rates at record lows, it seems like a no brainer to move your savings to the best rates currently offered on the market. But moving money in this way will often only have short term benefits unless you are prepared to continue this process on a regular basis.
For instance the ING Direct Savings account is currently one of the best instant access deals on the market offering a variable rate of 2.75% for new customers including a 2.22% gross pa bonus fixed for 12 months. But after the 12 month period customers go onto the standard variable rate currently 0.5%. If you don't then move on to another provider returns on savings will come down pretty sharply.
One obvious plus with this account is that you can move your money when you like with no penalties or restrictions.
However the trade off for the decent introductory headline rate is that you have to bank entirely online or by phone there is no branch or post facility available.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this account but the restrictions on access (no branch or post) may mean you don't use the account efficiently. And apathy to switch to another account provider after the introductory period has ended might mean your money gets little in the way of improved returns going forward. The onus is on you the saver to keep moving your money around to get the best rates.
It might seem like a way of dealing with an immediate cash flow problem but loading up on your credit card to pay your way out of recession-related problems could prove a very bad call in the longer term.
Debt counselors frequently hear cases of people paying for their mortgage on their credit card – possibly because they have lost their jobs so there is briefly no income coming into the house. It might seem like a simple solution to a short-term cash flow problem but what if the cash flow problem is not quite as short term as you imagine?
Using credit cards in this way is one sure way to rack up debts fast and accumulate interest on what you owe. If you have problems paying a mortgage or any other regular outgoings, contact your mortgage lender immediately and talk through the problem with them.