Thursday, July 9, 2020

Gear up to Grow with Brown Turner Ross: Maintain a Happy Household

Once lockdown was announced, the team at Brown Turner Ross immediately began working remotely, and have continued to see existing and new cases progress.

Sam Bushell Director of Brown Turner Ross

Every year, during the weeks following Christmas, lawyers like myself always see a surge in divorce enquiries, so much so that mid-January has a day labelled as “D Day”. It is apparent that long periods spent locked up at home together during the festive period is the final straw for many couples, who seek a divorce lawyer once the final strips of tinsel are packed away. After 12 weeks of lockdown, the family law team here at Brown Turner Ross is braced for another surge in divorce enquiries, potentially on a larger scale than what we experience post-Christmas.

It comes after it emerged from lockdown, China saw a spike in the number of divorce applications, so much so that officials in the Fujian Province of southern China, had to limit the number of divorce appointments to just 10 couples per day after being overwhelmed with the number of couples seeking a separation.

The UN has also recently described the global increase in domestic violence as a “shadow pandemic” alongside the Coronavirus pandemic. The UN believes that cases of domestic abuse have increased by 20% globally during lockdown, where many victims are spending months with no escape from their abusers.

So why does this happen? While being physically marooned 24/7 with your spouse for a long period of time can be a positive experience for some couples, it can lead to amplified frustrations, arguments and conflicts for others, which under normal circumstances rarely surface thanks to personal hobbies and work to keep us independent as individuals - one of the bedrocks of a successful relationship. Of course normal conditions also distracts some couples from having to face the inevitable truth that the relationship had stopped working a long time ago.

The last 12 weeks have been anything but normal. Like no other time, the Covid-19 pandemic presents couples with a unique set of challenges that unfortunately some will not be able to overcome. Concerns about health, finances and employment security are a leading factor when couples start considering a separation.

So how can couples keep calm during this strange and unprecedented time, and maintain a happy household?

Clear communication is vital, so it’s important to talk about what’s on your mind with your spouse. It’s also really important to enjoy activities separately, whether that’s going for your daily exercise alone or enjoying a TV programme without being disturbed.

Couples’ counselling may also be a good idea - many providers are offering online sessions now to tackle relationship problems. Relate, for example, are an organisation providing relationship help and advice, and are operating a range of online or over the phone counselling options here.

If you do find yourself still needing advice on separations and divorce, there’s a number of important things that any good divorce lawyer will guide you with as you go into this process.

Firstly, take advice from a professional, they will guide you without emotion, through what is a life changing decision that will affect the whole family. When getting divorced the practical side of things can be a trigger for frustrations to spill over. In my experience the two most divisive issues are children and the dividing up of assets. You must think of what is best for your children and your future, no matter what kind of partner they may be, they are still dad. Also be mindful not to disregard your pensions. There are many options including pension sharing orders, or offset agreements to consider.

If lockdown has left you considering speaking to a family law expert, know that you’re not alone, and that you will reach a solution with the help of a good divorce lawyer who will fight to protect you and your future.

And if you and/or your children are suffering at the hands of domestic abuse, seek help immediately. There are some useful links below.

Women’s Aid online anonymous chat service
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247
Government advice on how to get help if you are, or know someone who is, a victim of domestic abuse 

Sam Bushell is MD and head of family law at BrownTurner Ross with offices in Liverpool and Southport. 

Looking for help to grow or adapt your business? For more information about the support available through The Women’s Organisation to help you and your business, please contact us via e-mail at if you're based in the Liverpool City Region.

Leading social entrepreneur will use new academic role to promote ‘business for good’ agenda

A leading voice in women’s and social enterprise, Maggie O’Carroll, has been appointed as a Visiting Professor at Scotland’s University of Strathclyde, where she hopes to support the development of a more inclusive and socially focused approach to entrepreneurial education and research.

Maggie O’Carroll has taken on the role to promote
the ‘business for good’ agenda 
Liverpool-based social entrepreneur and internationally leading voice on women’s enterprise, Maggie O’Carroll, has accepted the role at the University of Strathclyde Business School (SBS), in the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship.

The Centre, which is endowed by the celebrated entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter, is recognised as Europe’s leading academic centre for research, teaching and engagement in the areas of entrepreneurship, innovation and strategy within the context of SMEs and entrepreneurial ventures.

O’Carroll, a Cambridge graduate, is a co-founder and CEO of The Women’s Organisation, an internationally recognised social enterprise which has supported over 70,000 women to take a more active role in social and economic life and has helped create more than 4,000 businesses since its inception in 1996.

The Women’s Organisation was this year listed in the top 1% of UK Social Enterprises in the SE100 Index, which is the country’s leading source of market intelligence on social enterprise.

Working on an international scale to ensure that women's interests are represented across communities, business and government policy, O’Carroll supports the agenda of women at the highest levels and speaks widely on issues relating to women’s employment and entrepreneurship.

She was also named as one of the UK’s most influential people in the social enterprise sector, making the top ten in Natwest’s WISE100 list as part of the SE100 Index.

O’Carroll now hopes to pass on this expertise and industry knowledge to the university’s faculty, wider research and policy community and especially to students who will be the business leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Professor Nigel Lockett, Head of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Strathclyde, says: “We are delighted to welcome Maggie on board as a Visiting Professor to the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship.

“As Europe’s leading academic centre for research, teaching and engagement in the context of SMEs and entrepreneurial ventures we are always looking for ways to develop and enhance our offering. Maggie’s decades of experience in the field of entrepreneurship, particularly in the context of women’s enterprise and social entrepreneurship, will be an invaluable addition to this. We now look forward to welcoming Maggie to the department as she finds innovative ways to contribute to and enrich our academic community.”

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation, says: “The University of Strathclyde Business School and the Hunter Centre is a pioneering, internationally renowned academic organisation and I am delighted to be joining the exceptional team there as a Visiting Professor.

“Supporting evidence-based policy development and the next generation of business minds and entrepreneurs is hugely important, not just for the talent pipeline but for the wider economy and society at large. It is so important that our future leaders recognise that business for good is not limited to charities and social enterprises alone, but has a hugely significant role to play in commercial businesses. If I can inspire just one student to go out into the world of business with a socially focused mindset and to take that knowledge forward with them, that will be a great thing.”

O’Carroll will be shortly joined by two new academics, Dr Suzanne Mawason from the University of Stirling and Dr Nadia Zahoor from the University of Central Lancashire, alongside five Enterprise Fellow who will work to support an exceptional student experience.

Change It: Renew is LIVE!

We are excited to announce the release of the latest sessions for our ‘Change It: Renew’ programme.

With support from The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and The National Lottery Community Fund, we are able to extend our offering to support vulnerable women right across the City Region to improve their resilience, coping mechanisms, and mental wellbeing through the current crisis and beyond.

Our aim is for the sessions to create a safe, inclusive space for women to gather, connect and support each other through the current crisis and beyond, connecting vulnerable women from diverse backgrounds and communities across the Liverpool City Region to build a brighter future.

The Change It: Renew sessions will run every 2 weeks, covering a wide range of themes, such as adapting to change, health and well-being and exploring new opportunities.
The events will offer different formats to meet the needs of local women, some with key speakers and others with a panel of experts, all supported by our team who will offer guidance and support along the way.

All events are listed below and you can book on them immediately, and we will be adding further details of our guest experts as we confirm them.

Change It: Adapting To Change 

Wednesday 15th July - 11:00am 

Change It: Exploring new opportunities 

Tuesday 28th July - 11:00am 

Change It: Coping Mechanisms 

Wednesday 12th August - 11:00am 

Change It: Health and Wellbeing 

Wednesday 26th August - 11:00am 

Change It: Be Prepared

Thursday 10th September - 11:00am 

Change it: Renew is open to women from all six boroughs of the Liverpool City Region, including Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Halton, St Helens and Knowsley.
Funding from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund, is supporting ‘Change It: Renew’. Thanks to the Government and The Department for Digital, Culture, Media , and Sport for making this possible.

Those wanting to find out more should contact for more information.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Chancellor's Summer Statement: Our Reaction

As we look towards economic recovery post COVID-19 it is essential that businesses are properly supported to start trading and start hiring again. 

In today’s (Wednesday 8 July) Summer Statement we heard The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announce a package of measures to get our economy moving again, but there are still some sectors left with limited solutions.

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation, says: “As we heard today, the hospitality and tourism industries employ over £2 million people across the UK, with women, BAME and young people accounting for a disproportionate amount of these workers. While we of course welcome the Chancellor’s support of these sectors and the protection that this should offer these groups, there is a real risk that other sectors, particularly SME’s, are being left behind in the Chancellor’s plan.

“We urgently need to see more financial support in place for SME’s which are viable in the long-term but are facing an immediate cash flow problem. These are the very businesses which would stand to benefit most from schemes like the re-employment bonus but might not have the financial capacity to operate even with this support. Without the right financial injection now, we risk losing these enterprises altogether, along with the creation of decent jobs down the line.

“When it comes to the Chancellor’s plan for jobs, supporting start-ups will be crucial in creating new quality employment opportunities. Programmes like Enterprise Hub here in the Liverpool City Region offer an incredibly valuable resource in equipping aspiring entrepreneurs with the skills, knowledge, and support to successfully launch and grow new enterprises. This not only enables entrepreneurs to create quality employment for themselves, but also serves to support and nurture the employers of the future. A major scale up of investment into small business support schemes like this will be essential to aiding long-term economic recovery.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Networking - Embracing New Thinking

The following is a guest blog by Johanna King

The morning commute from your bedroom to the living room has become somewhat of a routine and you’ve managed to master an array of genius lunch recipes to compete with the likes of Pret and EAT so finally this permanently working from home lark is beginning to feel normal!

But how about networking? The global pandemic has forced everyone to limit their interaction with others and ultimately rethink the way we operate on a day to day basis and unfortunately this means no scrumptious networking breakfasts in swanky crowded conference rooms for a while!

So how do you continue to grow your business using networking throughout the current Covid-19 restrictions?

Here’s some handy tools and tips to get you back on track with networking for your business!

Start the conversation..

Don’t be afraid to start the conversation, if the global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how to think outside the box when communicating with others! Reaching out to companies or organisations that you would like to potentially collaborate with is a great way to open up the lines of communication and working on skills share basis, can create opportunities for you and other businesses with no major costs attached.

Befriend Zoom

Zoom - If you hadn’t heard of the video conferencing before lockdown you certainly would have now! From the weekly pub quiz to catch up calls with friends and relatives, it feels as if the Zoom platform has been a crucial life line to many throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

Zoom is an ideal space to arrange a ‘virtual coffee’ or for team meetings with colleagues. With the ability to screen share, all attendees can give input and a clear visual ensures that discussions flow in a conference call setting.

If you’re currently on furlough or unable to work for various reasons, now is the ideal opportunity to improve your zoom skills and build your confidence using video conferencing.

Share ideas on social and networking platforms

Reports show that the general use of social media platforms increased by 23% at the peak of lockdown, so upping your game on social is key when communicating your business updates and brand messaging. Sharing ideas or even simply opening a conversation on a current topic, can lead to new connections and business leads. Business platforms such as LinkedIn are the ideal space to provide interesting industry content and connect with like minded professionals.

Virtual communities

This is the perfect time to explore the array of virtual communities via their various platforms! A number of individuals have turned to local projects and businesses throughout lockdown and have been able to seek solace in staying connected through this incredibly uncertain time.

Virtual communities can vary, from action communities that are campaigning for social change, to professional communities who are doing similar work. No matter the community, each gives you the opportunity to share advice and experience which can be invaluable within business. The feedback and sense of community spirit can also be empowering and help when growing your brand.

Create a podcast

Creating a podcast is a brilliant way to help tap into another audience, as the popularity of your podcast grows, its reach will increase, helping to gather interest in your business.

If starting a podcast feels a bit daunting, start off by selecting a theme. When promoting your business, you want to strike a good balance between informative and interesting, so keeping the narrative engaging is key and a lighter approach can be favoured to encourage listeners to tune in.

Researching popular podcasts and successful formats can help too, navigating through the world of podcasts can be overwhelming so as a beginner, find what you like and engages you and then work from there.

Take your events to the virtual side

As traditional networking events are not possible at the moment, consider taking your events online! Creating a workshop style event that can streamed, is a brilliant way to get your business out to the masses. The popularity of online exercise programmes such as yoga and dance classes has dramatically increased since gyms and studios have been closed and many leisure based brands have found providing online offerings have kept their brand current and accessible within a difficult climate.

You can also create watchable content by demonstrating a brand new product, running an online session or interviewing an industry influencer to help create new connections.

Business Support

If you’re a woman based in the Liverpool City Region or Greater Manchester and you’re looking for support to grow your business, contact us on to find out more about the support available.

‘Why can't the Chancellor do the right thing by women entrepreneurs?’ ask leading women’s groups

The government has announced a partial U-turn on Covid-19 financial support for the self-employed which left new mothers at a significant financial disadvantage. But leading women’s enterprise groups say there is still more to be done.  

Co-Chair of the WEPG and Professor of Entrepreneurship
at Manchester Metropolitan University, Julia Rouse

New mothers who had taken maternity leave in the last three years were previously being unfairly disadvantaged under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), according to campaigners.

Under the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, the government will pay self-employed people grants of 80% of their average profits, up to £2,500, for three months.
These average profits are calculated based on the last three years of tax returns, but these calculations did not previously consider any time taken off for maternity leave in that period, which substantially brought down the average for thousands of self-employed women.

Campaigners estimated that this was set to potentially impact around 80,000 women in the UK who took leave during this time.

The Women’s Enterprise Policy Group (WEPG), which represents leading experts from business support and academia across the UK, launched a lobbying campaign on the issue together with leading social enterprise, The Women’s Organisation, last month.

This came alongside work from the Pregnant Then Screwed campaign group, which is expected to launch a legal case against the Chancellor on the grounds of sex discrimination this week.

Following these lobbying efforts, two groups of parents who were previously excluded from the SEISS are now set to benefit from updated HMRC guidance.

The extension now means that self-employed parents who did not submit a tax return for 2018-2019, or those for whom self-employment was not their main job, will now be able to claim under the scheme, as long as they meet the other required eligibility criteria.

These groups will now be able to submit a claim using either their 2017-18 or both their 2016-17 and 2017-18 self-assessment returns as the basis for their eligibility and grant calculation.

Those who are now eligible under the amendment will be able to make a claim for both the first and the second SEISS grants, depending on when their businesses may have been adversely affected by Covid-19, when applications for the second grant open in August. 

However, the leading women enterprise groups who lead the lobbying campaign say that this support does not go far enough and still fails to properly recognise the value of female entrepreneurs.

Campaigners from the WEPG say that the extended support still fails to help new parents overcome the disadvantage of having a reduced self-employment income due to having a child in 2016-17 or 2017-18.

Likewise, those who took parental leave between 2018-19 and were previously eligible for the SEISS will still not have any reduced self-employment income taken into account.
This means that thousands of self-employed parents still stand to take a substantial financial hit under the scheme.

Professor of Entrepreneurship at Manchester Metropolitan University and Co-Chair of the WEPG, Julia Rouse, says: "We welcome HMRC moves to make new parents eligible for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme. However, we still consider it to be a real injustice that HMRC is not taking periods of low income caused by taking maternity into account across the 3-year period over which payment is assessed.

“Sustaining a business while having a baby is a huge challenge and mothers are now battling for business survival amid the business disruption caused by Covid-19. For instance, we know that women typically find themselves as primary care givers in their households, add to this the disruption of nursery and school closures, alongside reduced access to family help with infant and childcare.

“Why can't the Chancellor do the right thing by women entrepreneurs by properly recognising the value of their businesses and their mothering? We support Pregnant Then Screwed in their legal case to get proper justice for new mothers who are self-employed.”

Thousands of disabled self-employed missing out on ‘pandemic support’

New research claims at least 50,000 disabled people who became self-employed last year are missing out on government funding during the coronavirus pandemic.
A report by IPSE – the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed – also says disabled self-employed people are more likely to need financial support during the crisis because, in normal times, their average daily pay rate is 12% lower than freelancers who do not report having a disability.
They are disadvantaged further by finding looking for work more challenging (21% compared with 16% of people not reporting a disability), having, in the first place, been forced into self-employment for reasons of discrimination in their previous job compared with people without disabilities (14% against eight per cent), says IPSE.
The report also claims disabled self-employed do not enjoy the same employment opportunities as others (26% compared with 20%).
However, their reasons for becoming self-employed, research says, are still largely positive, including having greater control over their hours (52%), more control over their work (51%) and having a better work-life balance (47%).
There are now 662,000 disabled self-employed people in the UK, an increase of eight per cent since 2018, and 41% since 2013.
The number of disabled women choosing self-employment is also rising, with 30,000 becoming their own boss in the past year alone, which is an increase of 12%.
Maggie O’Carroll, chief executive of social enterprise The Women’s Organisation, says this is a sector that must be backed up with support from the Government.
Maggie O'Carroll, CEO of The Women's Organisation
She said: “We have seen that those missing out on vital government support are all too often those who need it most.
“The benefits of self-employment are acutely significant for disabled people, including greater control over their hours, more autonomy over their work and having a better work-life balance, particularly in the context of disabled people who are more likely to find looking for work challenging, not have other employment opportunities available, and even face discrimination in other roles.”

She added: “Self-employment, on the other hand, offers real, tangible advantages which considerably improve the quality of life for disabled people, both socially and economically, and they must be protected at all costs.

“What’s more, losing these roles and incomes would be a huge loss for the UK’s economy which would stand to lose out on significant value added in the long term.

“The figures revealed in this report speak for themselves. Nearly half reported that they have been self-employed for over a decade.

“There is a real risk that we are going to lose viable, sustainable businesses in the interim if they aren’t protected now.

“That is why we urgently need to see the right financial support in place to safeguard these positions and secure the future of thousands across the country.”

One programme working to support disabled people across the Liverpool City Region to take a more active role in social and economic life is Directions, a brand-new pre-employment programme.

Directions aims to engage disadvantaged, hard to reach groups in activity and skills development which will help to raise aspirations and awareness of pathways into employment and training opportunities.

In particular, the programme will work with participants with disabilities by linking them up with project partners who specialise in tailored support for these groups to help them reach their full potential.

Lisa McMullan, Director for Development & Consultancy
at The Women’s Organisation and Directions Project Lead

Lisa McMullan, Director for Development & Consultancy at The Women’s Organisation and Directions Project Lead, says: “When it comes to exploring routes to employment, we know that self-employment can offer a flexible, fulfilling and viable option for many, particularly for those with a disability who may have faced discrimination in previous workplaces and struggled to find the right role for them.

“It is essential that those considering their next steps, or what their own future might look like, have visible and recognisable role models who are excelling in their fields. The research shows us that the number of disabled self-employed people across the country has nearly doubled over the last decade. The government must now make sure that those who have taken this leap are being properly supported if that trajectory is to continue.”