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Have your say on council’s budget proposals

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PEOPLE are being encouraged to have their say on a range of savings proposals being considered by Carmarthenshire County Council as part of its annual budget setting process.

A public consultation has been launched giving people an opportunity to review proposals that could help the council save £16.5million over the next three years.

The council is inviting local residents, businesses, community and voluntary organisations to complete an online budget survey or drop-in to a face-to-face consultation event, to say how the proposals might impact on their families and communities.

The council is also asking whether people would accept a higher increase in council tax in order to avoid some of the efficiency proposals.

Feedback will be considered in early February before final decisions are made by councillors in March when they must set a balanced budget.

Several proposals have been put forward for public consultation.

Amongst them are plans to help schools manage budgets more effectively by sharing resources and merging schools where there are low pupil numbers; as well as supporting children with additional learning needs to attend their local school by upskilling staff, therefore saving costs on specialist settings.

The household waste recycling centre at Whitland could be closed; charges could be raised at the council’s cemetery in Ammanford; three public toilets could be closed where there are alternative facilities nearby, and charges for ‘superloos’ could be increased.

Some services that the council is not required to provide could be reduced, including the closure of some under-used facilities and the scaling back of maintenance and cleansing routines.

Meanwhile, income targets have been raised for some of the council’s facilities, including Pembrey Country Park, Pendine Outdoor Education Centre, Dylan Thomas Boathouse, theatres and leisure centres.

Further income is being sought through more vigorous income recovery from the council’s trading standards team and a potential paid-for treatment service for Japanese Knotweed.

And council staff have been told they need to find £13million of internal savings across all departments to save money by working more efficiently, including plans to reduce travelling, printing and energy costs; as well as looking at procurement arrangements and staffing structures.

Continued efforts are also being made to provide a range of preventative services to support vulnerable people at home and in their communities to improve their wellbeing whilst reducing the need for costly reactive social care.

Cllr David Jenkins, the council’s Executive Board Member for Resources, said: “Like other councils, we continue to face increased costs and demand for our services which is not matched with the same level of increased government funding. We are making savings by improving efficiency and looking carefully at how services can be better provided – this allows us to continue spending in areas of most need, caring for our most vulnerable residents and providing a range of front-line services.

“Asking people how our proposals might impact on them is important to us, so that we can fully understand public opinion and make decisions based on that feedback.

“This is an important consultation, and we encourage everyone to spend time reviewing the proposals and telling us their thoughts.”

Anyone without access to the internet is encouraged to visit their nearest library or customer service centre to use the free public access computers. Alternatively, hard copies of the survey are available on request.

A series of drop-in events are also being planned – dates and venues will be published on the council’s website and social media feeds.

For further information, or to share views in another way, contact the consultation team by email, consultation@carmarthenshire.gov.uk, or by calling 01267 234567.

The consultation runs until January 28, 2020.

Drop-in events will be held between 10am and 2pm at:

Friday, January 10 – Llandeilo, Municipal Buildings
Tuesday, January 14 – St Clears (location TBC)
Wednesday, January 15 – Hwb, Quay Street, Ammanford
Thursday, January 16 – Cawdor Hall, Newcastle Emlyn
Monday/Wednesday January 20/22 (date TBC) – Llandovery Library
Thursday, January 23 – Hwb, Stepney Street, Llanelli
Monday, January 27 – Hwb, Spilman Street, Carmarthen

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Pals make touching programme about living with Alzheimer’s Disease

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A FORMER care worker with Alzheimer’s Disease tracked down an old school pal who’s a famous TV director to make a touching documentary programme to prove there is life after dementia.

Mother-of-three and grandmother-of-five Eirlys Smith, 59, from Menai Bridge, on Anglesey, lost touch with Tim Lyn, 58, who now lives in Llansteffan, near Carmarthen, nearly 50 years ago but she found him again on Facebook.

The result is a “hugely emotional and often hilarious rollercoaster of a programme”, Eirlys, Dementia a Tim (Eirlys, Dementia and Tim), made by Caernarfon-based television production company Cwmni Da which will be shown on S4C at 9pm on Sunday, January 26.

As part of the programme, they recreated a quirky and uplifting music video to a song by the Australian singer, Tones and I, which topped the charts in 30 different countries last year.

In the original video two friends come to the rescue of an old man sat in a chair at home and ends up with them enjoying a dance party on a golf course.

Eirlys’s version, also starring her family and friends, starts with her rising out of a hospital bed and sees her, clad in leathers, riding off into the sunset as the pillion passenger on the back of a high-powered motorbike.

Before making the documentary, the duo had last seen each other when they were in primary school together in Menai Bridge between 1968 and 1970.

Eirlys was diagnosed with early onset dementia just before Christmas in 2018 and she made contact with Tim in January last year.

He had gone on to become an actor and an award-winning director who has made some of the most popular and acclaimed dramas on S4C, including Tydi Coleg yn Gret? (Isn’t College Great?), Eldra, and Fondue, Rhyw a Deinosors (Fondue, Sex and Dinosaurs).

The message she wrote to Tim via Facebook in January last year was blunt and to the point.

Tongue in cheek, she asked him whether he wanted to follow her journey with dementia until she became “doolally”.

At first, according to Tim, he struggled to remember Eirlys but the request particularly resonated with him because his own father, David Lyn, one of Wales’s most eminent actors and directors who passed away aged 85 in 2012, had also been diagnosed with early onset dementia.

The documentary highlights the challenges Eirlys faces day-to-day and how she is overcoming them.

Making the programme was an emotional experience for Tim because it brought back memories of his father whose career meant the family lived a nomadic life based wherever he was working.

David Lyn was the artistic director of Theatr yr Ymylon in Bangor when Tim was at school with Eirlys and he was instrumental in the development in Welsh language theatre in Wales.

Tim said: “My father was in a similar situation, and we buried him, and it broke up our family totally because he was the one person who kept us all together. I think Eirlys is the rock in her family.

“I was very close to my dad growing up and I went on to work with him so it was very tough when he got diagnosed with early onset dementia because he changed and became very difficult. My family is still suffering because of my father’s illness.

“When Eirlys got in touch on Facebook we hadn’t spoken for around 50 years. She was very anxious before filming, but she became a different person during it.

“I think filming the documentary was an empowering experience for her.”

Eirlys said: “The main message I want people to get from the documentary is that there is life after dementia, and I plan to live it while I still can because there is good in everything.

“It took me time to get over the shock after I had the diagnosis. Then I started to accept it, because I can’t change it. I just have to do the best I can with the cards that I’ve been dealt. I still have difficult days, but I’m not going to just sit in the corner and wait to die

“My mum had dementia, and I’ve also worked with people with dementia so I know what’s coming down the tracks.

“My memory is unreliable on a day-to-day basis, so if I want something upstairs, I can go up and down the stairs 10 or 20 times. If I am going up to get my shoes, I have to keep repeating the word ‘shoes, to myself, or I will have forgotten what I want by the time I get there.

“I also used to work on a supermarket checkout and I would have to remember all the different prices and I didn’t have a problem with it. You had to remember the changes in the prices and I didn’t have a problem.

“My short term memory is awful but I remember more from a long time ago, including my school days.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m a failure. I get lost in my own neighbourhood, the place I grew up.

“I have to try to get out or I would just be a recluse, on my own in the house, and that’s not healthy for anyone. I’m scared of not knowing where I am.

“I wanted to do the documentary with Tim to see if I could rekindle happy memories from when we were kids. I also want to film something that shows that Alzheimer’s isn’t the end of the world, and that my life hasn’t come to an end. I don’t need to sit in a corner with a blanket over my knees.

“Filming the video was fantastic, an amazing feeling. I never thought I would be on the back of a motorbike ever again. I absolutely loved it.”

Producer Sion Aaron, from Cwmni Da, said: “We are massively indebted to Eirlys and Tim for making what is a hugely emotional rollercoaster of a programme that’s peppered with pathos and hilarity in equal measure.

“It has given us a much better understanding of what it means to live with dementia which is very important because it’s estimated that one in three of us will develop the condition.”

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Heart charity search for Welsh heart heroes

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Do you know a special person in your community who deserves a British Heart Foundation (BHF) Cymru award in 2020?

The charity’s Heart Hero Awards 2020 are open and people can now nominate their heart hero. The awards recognise the different ways people are helping beat heartbreak from heart and circulatory diseases. This could be through fundraising, volunteering or helping patients and their families.

This year there are three categories: Healthcare Hero, Young Heart Hero and the Inspiration Award. Nominations can be made at
https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/in-your-area/heart-hero-awards/nomination-form

The Healthcare Hero award will recognise a doctor, nurse, or person working in a healthcare setting who has made a special effort to make a difference to the life of a heart patient or their family.

The Young Heart Hero award will go to an exceptional person under the age of 18 years who has done something amazing for the BHF and is a source of inspiration to others.

The Inspiration award will recognise a person who inspires others through their determination and dedication. Whether that is through their fundraising efforts, taking part in a physical challenge, organising an event, or volunteering activities.

Nominations are open until Saturday 29 February. The winners will be announced at a very special gala awards dinner which will take place in London in September 2020.

Previous winners in Wales include 11 year old Llew John from Efailwen in Carmarthenshire; Healthcare Hero Liana Shirley, a Physiologist from Anglesey and Inspiration Award winner Jovita Jones from Abergavenny.

Adam Fletcher, Head of BHF Cymru said: ““Heart and circulatory diseases affect the lives of thousands of people across Wales, often in devastating ways. Yet, there are so many ordinary people who, when confronted with that challenge, are doing extraordinary things.

“The BHF’s Heart Hero Awards recognise and celebrate the efforts of those who are working selflessly to make life better for other people.

“It would be fantastic to reward some of our supporters in Wales, so if you know someone who is making a difference then please put them forward for an award so that their contribution can be recognised.”

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Carmarthenshire leads the way in supporting families to stay together

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CARMARTHENSHIRE’S approach to supporting families and preventing children from going in to the care system has been recognised at a national level.

First Minister Mark Drakeford and Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan have visited Carmarthenshire County Council to meet the team who are driving a positive change to family social care.

Carmarthenshire has the lowest number of children in care throughout Wales, and figures are reducing steadily year-on-year with more and more families being supported to stay together.

The council’s strategic aim to reduce the number of looked after children is aligned to the Welsh Government’s, and is achieving this via a whole range of services which are together making a positive difference to hundreds of local people.

In conversation with social work managers, Mr Drakeford said Carmarthenshire stood out because the team is prepared to think and do things differently, and he wanted to find out how other areas of Wales can replicate their success.

One of the simplest, yet most effective, changes made in recent years is to align teams working across children’s services and education and bringing staff with specialist skills together to provide a whole team around a family in need, opposed to attaching a single social worker to an individual case.

The First Minister was told how this has allowed sharing of skills, perspectives and ideas to provide a bespoke package of support for each family, as well as creativity in finding different ways of linking in with families and keeping them together.

Teams say they focus on building relationships with families to fully understand their needs, and what intervention will work best for them – often inviting families to work with them to commission tailor-made specialist support ensuring their needs are met in a way that best works for them.

Prevention and early years intervention is also a key feature – in the last six months the service has supported 18,000 families with a range of community-based services to build resilience and prevent the need for families to have contact with the statutory social care system.

Mr Drakeford said he was keen to share his learning from Carmarthenshire with other authorities in Wales to reduce the number of children being taken in to the care system and keeping more families together.

“Carmarthenshire Council is doing some great work to keep families together and avoid children going into care,” he said. “As First Minister, I want to build on the work happening here, understand why it is having an impact and to share the good practice throughout Wales so we can help to keep more families together.”

Jake Morgan, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Director for Communities, said: “We share and support the Welsh Government’s strategic intent. For us, it’s not about targets, but about keeping families together, and reducing the number of children requiring care without ever compromising safe practice.”

Leader of the council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said he was proud that Carmarthenshire is at the forefront of developing such a diverse range of services that support families with a variety of needs and supports them to care for their children at home and within their own communities.

“Keeping families together with the right kind of support is something I feel very strongly about,” he said. “I’m proud of the work of our teams, and their willingness to work differently and try new approaches to support families in need and prevent them from needing our services. It was great to hear the enthusiasm of the team today and their pride in making a difference to so many children’s lives.”

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