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Young carers challenge ‘discriminatory’ law

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YOUNG adult carers in Carmarthenshire launched a national campaign to change the law regarding the length of time a young carer can study and still receive Carers’ Allowance.

Current eligibility criteria for Carers Allowance states that carers:

1. Must provide 35 hours or more care per week
2. Must not earn more than £110 per week
3. Cannot be in education, training or employment for more than 21 hours per week.

Carmarthenshire Young Adult Carers (YAC) have teamed up with the Carers Trust and Fixers organisation to launch a parliamentary petition to seek to change the 21 hour rule which it says discriminates against carers who wish to study to improve their employment prospects and to reach their full potential in life.

The petition was launched on Friday (Nov 3) on the UWTSD campus with a range of organisations present to support the campaign.

The campaign hopes to achieve the 100,000 signatures necessary for the debate to be held in Parliament.

Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards is also supporting the campaign and attended the official launch where he pledged to do all he can in parliament to help bring about a change in the law. Mr Edwards said the young carers were just asking for a chance to help themselves.

Urging everyone to sign the petition, the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP, said: “We first have to remember that caring is not a uniform job in which every carer undertakes the same role. Caring comes in many forms and, depending on an individuals’ need, their carers may deliver around the clock care or work with professionals to share caring responsibilities.

“At the heart of this campaign is enabling young adult carers – those who selflessly help look after their loved ones – to study and improve their future employment prospects.

“When we consider that Carers Allowance is equivalent to around £2 per hour, it’s notable that these young people aren’t asking for more money, but are instead asking for the chance to help themselves.

“Many carers and their families experience financial hardship due to an illness or disability within the family, so the current 21-hour rule increases the likelihood that a cycle of financial hardship will continue if young people aren’t able to get good education.

“I don’t doubt the current legislation was deliberately designed to save the state money, but the government must recognise that one small change to the law will better support young adult carers and, of course, save the state money in the longer term.

“I’m very proud to see young people in Carmarthenshire establishing a national campaign which seeks to make life better for young adults across the UK. I’m 100% behind this campaign, and I pledge to do all I can in parliament in support these young carers in their endeavours. I would urge as many people as possible to back the campaign too and sign the petition.”

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Demand for Christmas Toybox Appeal donations almost doubles

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MORE families than ever before have asked for support from Carmarthenshire County Council’s Christmas Toybox Appeal.

Families who have requested assistance are up 40 per cent on previous years, and despite more toys than ever before being donated to the appeal, co-ordinators are struggling to keep up with demand.

The deadline for donations has now been extended in the hope that more generous people will donate.

In particular, donations are being sought for older girls and boys. Anyone wishing to donate is asked to keep gifts unwrapped to allow for easier sorting.

All families who will receive support have been nominated by a social worker, family health visitor, or their school, and a strict process is in place to ensure help is given to those most in need.

The council’s Toybox Appeal is now in its 8th year, and was set up to prevent families going into poverty or turning to loan sharks to get through the Christmas period.

The Appeal also helps ensure that no child wakes up on Christmas morning without a visit from Santa.

Cllr Mair Stephens, Deputy Leader of the council, said: “It’s really very sad that we have seen such a huge increase in the number of families who have asked for, or been nominated to receive, support.

“Whilst we are amazed by the number of gifts donated this year, unfortunately, we do not have enough to meet the demand and we are appealing to the generosity of local people to help families who are less fortunate.

“We are still collecting donations, and in particular we are asking for gifts suitable for older children. We really are very grateful of all donations.”

To donate a gift, visit any of the below locations, or call Appeal co-ordinator Nia Thomas on 07814716380 to arrange collection

·         Customer Service Centre, 3 Spilman Street, Carmarthen

·         County Hall, Carmarthen

·         Natwest Bank, Carmarthen

·         Blas Myrddin at Parc Dewi Sant, Building 2, Carmarthen

·         Block 1, Parc Myrddin, Carmarthen

·         Cillefwr depot, Carmarthenshire County Council, Johnstown, Carmarthen

·         Nant y Ci, Carmarthen

·         Llandeilo Community Education Centre

·         Tesco Ammanford

·         Town Hall, Ammanford

·         Pontyberem Hall

·         Town Hall, Llanelli

·         Hub, Llanelli

·         Cathedral Hygiene, Unit 1, Dragon 24, North Dock, Llanelli

·         Burns Pet Nutrition, Kidwelly

·         Jennings Solicitors, Llanelli

·         Ffwrnes Theatre, Llanelli

·         Yr Atom, King Street, Carmarthen

·         Llanelli Library

·         Ammanford Library

·         Carmarthen Library

·         Leisure Centres at Llanelli, Carmarthen, Ammanford, Newcastle Emlyn, Llandovery, St. Clears

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Drakeford confirmed as First Minister

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MARK DRAKEFORD was confirmed as the new First Minister after a vote in the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday (Dec 12).

Carmarthen-born Drakeford succeeds Carwyn Jones as Welsh Labour leader, after Jones resigned on Tuesday.

Mr Drakeford, 64, has styled himself as a ’21st Century socialist’, and throughout his leadership campaign promoted continuity and stability as a candidate, having worked as a Welsh Government special advisor under Rhodri Morgan and being the only Welsh Government cabinet minister to support Jeremy Corbyn when he ran for the UK Labour leadership in 2015.

The AM for Cardiff West has been in the Assembly since 2011, becoming Health Minister in 2013 before becoming Finance Secretary in 2016.

Mr Drakeford grew up in Carmarthen, and was educated at the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School for Boys. He then went on to study Latin at the University of Kent, before working as a probation officer and Barnardos project leader in west Cardiff.

Mr Drakeford went on to pursue a career in academia, lecturing at Swansea University, and then becoming a professor of social policy and applied social sciences at Cardiff University.

His first experience of electoral politics was as a councillor on the old South Glamorgan County Council, before serving the Cardiff ward of Pontcanna between 1985 and 1993.

Mr Drakeford was one of the two candidates, alongside Eluned Morgan, to have produced a manifesto during the leadership campaign, setting out many of the policies he hopes to introduce. These include an extension of the smoking ban to outdoor areas such as restaurants and town centres, the cutting of emissions through greater emphasis on public transport and building on Superfast Cymru – a scheme to rollout 733,000 homes and businesses across Wales.

The manifesto also proposed installing drinking fountains across Wales, double allotments, and piloting a ‘baby bundle’ – similar to baby box schemes in other countries with a package of essential items.

Mr Drakeford also suggested introducing a committee to advise the Welsh Government on the Hinckley Point power plant in Somerset, as he has spoken of his scepticism regarding nuclear power.

The new First Minister has also backed proposals put forward by economist Gerry Holtham to fund elderly social care in Wales through a tax. An annual review of PFI contracts across the Welsh public sector would be introduced, and the 22 councils across Wales would be kept as they are.

One issue that has been subject to much debate is the potential for the M4 Relief Road, but Mr Drakeford’s manifesto does not mention it specifically. Instead, it states a commitment to dealing with congestion, citing the A40 in Mid and West Wales, the A55 in the North and the M4 in South Wales.

The other two leadership candidates, Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan, had both backed another referendum on whether the UK leaves the EU, yet Mr Drakeford is less set on another vote, saying he would only back it should the final deal fail to protect workers’ rights.

As Finance Secretary, Mr Drakeford has been in charge of much of the Welsh Government’s approach towards Brexit so far.

In Wednesday’s vote, Mr Drakeford was backed by 30 AMs, with 12 voting for the Conservatives’ Paul Davies and nine supporting Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price.

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£300 anonymous donation to food bank

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WORKERS at the Ammanford food bank were shocked to find an anonymous donation had provided the organisation with 33 crates of food, with a total value of £300.

The food bank expects to help at least 100 people over the next three weeks, and speaking to the BBC, worker Paul Kennedy said that this donation provides ‘peace of mind that we can definitely manage, no matter how many come through the door’.

Tesco called the food bank last Thursday (Dec 6) to inform them that a delivery had been put through their system.

Judging from the contents it is thought the donor had checked the food bank’s website to see what items they needed.

Kennedy said: “The person who phoned through said it was at least £100 worth of food, which we were amazed at – it was very generous.

“When the delivery arrived the food bank manager asked which crates were ours and was told ‘they’re all for you’.

“We were blown away. It’s the largest donation by an individual to our food bank.

“Universal Credit comes into the area today and, with Christmas as well, it’s by far our busiest time.

“We just want to express our gratitude really on behalf of our clients because, while it helps us as a food bank, that help goes straight to the clients.”

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