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Llanelli Food Festival makes mouthwatering return

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LLANELLI TOWN CENTRE was jam-packed on Saturday (Oct 19) as the Llanelli Food and Drink Festival returned for its second annual event.

The festival, hosted by Ymlaen Llanelli, saw over 65 street food and produce traders lining Stepney Street and Vaughan Street, flooding the centre with thousands of people hungry for a taste.

The festival was a resounding success, supported by a large social media following which generated a buzz.

Street food vendors offered a range of hot food, from burgers, pizza, curry, noodles, sushi and more, while artisan producers sold delights such as fudge, cakes, doughnuts, honey, tea and alcohol. Local musicians played to the public enjoying a sit-down to eat their goods.

Chair of Ymlaen Llanelli, Lesley Richards, was blown away by the crowds. She said: “We had an absolutely incredible day at Llanelli Food Festival and I can’t believe how many people were there! There were big smiles on everyone’s faces and the atmosphere couldn’t have been better.”

Festival organisers at Ymlaen Llanelli said the turnout surpassed expectations. Manager Mandy Jenkins explained: “Last year’s food festival was previously our most attended event, which was recently topped by last month’s Vintage Festival attendance. Saturday’s food festival blew it out of the water so we’re incredibly pleased to see that Llanelli is being put on the map.”

Festival-goers could pick up a skill or two in St Elli Shopping Centre’s live demonstration kitchen, where local experts showcased their culinary tips and tricks. Chefs included Rotary’s Young Chef of the Year, Lisa Fearne of Pumpkin Patch, Llanelly House’s Simon Davies, Tofu Tash and Masterchef 2018 contestant Louise Craig.

Y Ty Celf also hosted a Craft Festival in Spring Gardens, showcasing local artists’ work on sale. Art bus Annibendod got children involved in the food-themed craft fun with Hungry Caterpillar workshops on Bridge Street.

Ymlaen Llanelli’s next event takes place on Tuesday, October 29 with Harry’s Halloween Returns, with Harry, Ron and Hermione lookalikes visiting Stepney Square from 12pm to 3pm.

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The latest increase in coronavirus in Wales is ‘sobering’ says First Minister

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THE FIRST MINISTER, Mark Drakeford has criticised the lack of communication with the UK government as he gave a briefing on what he described as the “sobering” increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalisation in Wales.

The infection rate in Wales has risen to 23.6 infections for every 100k people as cases have spiked in areas including Merthyr, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Caerphilly and Newport.

Hospitalisations remain low but are rising, with five people currently in intensive care with Covid-19 and and 53 Covid patients on all hospital wards, according to the latest data from Public Health Wales from Sunday, September 13.

Mr Drakeford said that the number of people in hospital with coronavirus had risen to 41 with four people in intensive care.

He also said that the R number in Wales was almost certainly now above one – meaning the virus is spreading exponentially again. The latest estimate, he said, was between 0.7 and 1.2.

Mr Drakeford said: “In this most difficult week, there has been no meeting offered to First Ministers of any sort. Since the 28 May, there has been just one brief telephone call from the Prime Minister.

“This is simply unacceptable to anyone who believes that we ought to be facing the coronavirus crisis together.

“We need a regular, reliable, rhythm of engagement: a reliable meeting even once a week would be a start. I make this argument not because we should all do the same things, but because being round the same table allows each of us to make the best decisions for the nations we represent.

“There is a vacancy at the heart of the United Kingdom, and it needs urgently to be filled, so we can talk to each other, share information, pool ideas and demonstrate a determination that the whole of the country can face these challenges together at this most difficult time.”

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WASPI unaffected by appeal’s failure

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A CAMPAIGN group for women born in the 1950s, whose state pension age has increased from 60-65, lost an appeal against a decision to deny them compensation for lost pension income.
Backto60 brought two test cases to the High Court last year when those cases were lost the group appealed. The Court of Appeal released its judgement rejecting the appeal on Monday, September 14.
The group’s campaign calls for a reinstatement of the age of 60 for women’s state pensions and compensation of the pension women have missed out on.
The Court found making the state pension age the same for men and women did not constitute unlawful discrimination.

WASPI CAMPAIGN UNCHANGED

The case’s failure will not affect the far better known and more widely-supported Women Against State Pensions Injustice (WASPI) campaign.
WASPI has long campaigned on the issues regarding the increase in the state pension age for women. They argue that setting aside any claim of discrimination, the UK Government failed in its duty to inform affected women adequately of the changes to the state pension age and the effect those changes would have on their pensions.
A statement issued by WASPI after the Backto60 legal challenge failed said: “Many women will be disappointed today at the judgement from the High Court.
“Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) will continue to campaign for what we believe is achievable and affordable. Compensation for women who have been unfairly disadvantaged with a rapid increase to their State Pension age (SPa).
“WASPI is not opposed to the equalisation of the SPa with men but it was done without adequate notice, leaving no time to make alternative arrangements. Women were informed directly some 14 years after the SPa was first changed, many only given 18 months’ notice, of up to a six-year increase, many others were not informed at all. This left their retirement plans shattered.
“The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is currently considering six sample cases of maladministration out of the thousands of complaints made to the DWP by WASPI women.”
Former Conservative Pensions Minister, Baroness Roz Altmann, said: “When Pensions Minister, I saw copies of letters written by the Government to millions of these women in 2003 and 2004 about their State Pension, which failed to highlight that their pension would not be paid at age 60. These official letters failed to highlight that these women’s pension would not start being paid at age 60. It merely informed them what State Pension they might receive when they reached State Pension Age, but they did not tell them what that age would be!
“Receiving a letter from the Pensions Department about their State Pension, which did not urge them to check what their State Pension Age would be, may have lulled them into a false sense of security that they would receive it from age 60.
“This looks like maladministration.”
During the election campaign last year, Boris Johnson pledged to place ‘fresh eyes’ on the issue and said he felt sympathetic to the WASPI campaigners. Asked on Tuesday about the progress of those promised considerations, he failed to answer.

THE APPEAL ISSUE

The main issue in the appeal was whether the changes to the state pension age brought in by Parliament from 1995 onwards, unlawfully discriminated against women. Backto60 argued, amongst other things, women born in the 1950s were less likely to have contributed to the state pension scheme or were disproportionately in lower-paid jobs than men.
The Pensions Act 1995 provided that a woman born before 6 April 1950 would still receive her state pension at age 60 but a woman born after that date would receive her pension on a specified date when she was aged between 60 and 65, depending on her date of birth. The Pensions Acts 2007, 2011 and 2014 then accelerated the move to age 65 as the state pension age for women and raised the state pension age for some men and women to 66, 67 or 68 depending on their date of birth.
Successive UK Governments made changes to address the massively-rising cost of state pensions.
When the state pension age was originally set, both pension ages were fixed at 65. When revised in 1940, women’s pension age was dropped to 60. At the time those ages were fixed, life expectancy meant the state pension was likely to be paid out for only a few years after retirement age. The lower age was fixed at 60 for women to reflect their then-dependence on a single male breadwinner in the family and the prevailing age difference between married couples.
In the post-war period, life expectancy increased, first gradually and then with increasing speed.
The boom in average life expectancy means the state pension is the largest single drain on the welfare budget – taking £111bn of it in the year 2018-19 (DWP figures). In comparison, payments for unemployment benefits totalled £2bn.
The UK Defence budget is around £28bn
In normal circumstances, the claims brought to the Court would have been barred due to the delay in bringing them. Time was extended to bring the claims. The question of the delay was, however, relevant only to the discretion whether to grant relief if unlawful discrimination was proved.
The long delay in bringing the claims made it impossible to fashion any practical remedy. The Court noted unchallenged expert evidence that the cost of reinstating pensions would exceed £200bn – more than seven times the total defence budget and around the same as the whole of the health and education budgets combined (Figures Office of Budget Responsibility).

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Call for care homes to be given top priority amid ‘totally unacceptable’ testing shambles

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A SOCIAL care leader has hit out over the “totally unacceptable” shambles around Covid-19 tests and called for Hywel Dda Health Board care homes to be given top priority.

Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, the lack of capacity and the delays in providing results were causing major problems for the sector, potentially putting lives at risk.

In too many cases, he said, the results were not coming back and contacts being traced within the “golden 48-hour window” when the tests proved positive.

As a result, the regime was ineffective in curbing the spread of Covid-19 which was a massive worry as a second surge now seemed inevitable, with two local lockdowns in place in Wales and more likely to follow.

He was concerned that lessons has not been learned from the first wave of coronavirus when Care Forum Wales had been ahead of the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales in urging care homes to close their doors to visitors.

In February the organisation, which represents nearly 500 social care providers in Wales, launched a campaign to shield social care to save lives.

As part of the campaign, Care Forum Wales also called for a comprehensive and effective testing regime, plentiful supplies of PPE and extra funding to help providers to survive the economic cataclysm.

Mr Kreft said: “The UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, is right, we should absolutely be prioritising our care homes.

“There are a number of new quick test technologies undergoing validation. We are calling for a Welsh Government commitment to ensure they are made available to care homes as a matter of urgency as soon as they come online. Care homes must get them before airports, schools, and factories.

“We would also like an assurance that the machines already pre-ordered are prioritised for care homes.

“Care Forum Wales started this discussion in February when we were talking about the importance of testing for social care because the sector underpins the NHS here in Wales and enabled it to function.

“The current situation we’ve got it just totally unacceptable. It’s not the case that everyone isn’t trying hard but we’re not actually achieving what we need to do.

“They did adjust the access to the testing but in far too many cases we’re not getting the results quickly enough and that is causing huge problems in the sector.

“We’ve got this 48 hour golden window to ensure that we stop transmission.

“We’ve got tens of thousands of people working in our care homes in Wales. They’re coming in and out from the community.

“We know we’ve already got local lockdowns in the communities so have to make sure that people if they are asymptomatic in particular have got regular tests and that the results come through quickly so we know whether or not they have the virus.

“This disease which for many people might be quite mild is an absolutely horrendous disease for older people, people with underlying health conditions, and of course the 20,000 people in our care homes in Wales are by definition vulnerable and many of them have serious underlying health conditions.

“Our members in Care Forum Wales locked down early, way before government advice.

“We really got ahead of the game but had to make sure there was a testing regime. “There is a great news story about many care homes in Wales. Most of them have been Covid free, and those that have had the virus have been able to in most cases to deal with it and eradicate it quickly.

“What we’ve seen as lockdown has eased is that the defences have been weakend, making it easier for that transmission to come in.

“We’ve got to make sure that our care homes are protected and that’s why we launched our campaign, Shield Social Care, Save Lives.

“It’s been running for months, and it will have to run for the whole winter, because our care homes and the NHS are facing the biggest challenge we’ve ever seen. It really is a hideous situation.

“Prioritising certain sectors like social care is an absolute must. This is a safeguarding issue, for the vulnerable people living in the care homes and the magnificent staff who look after them.

“Care homes are vital to ensure that the NHS can function. Most of our hospitals have a population of older people which is probably about 60 or 70 per cent of the total patients.

“Those people have to be discharged. Our care homes need to be ready and available and they can’t do that without a regime of testing that is delivering what we need in Wales.”

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