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Council hits back after ‘cheapskate’ care claim

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has been named in a “terrible ten” local authorities for paying the lowest care home fees in Wales amid the coronavirus crisis.

The Cheapskate Awards have been launched by Care Forum Wales who say the biggest difference between the highest and lowest weekly fee per person is more than £12,000 a year – equivalent to nearly £500,000 in a care home with 40 residents over a 12 month period.

The “league table of shame” was revealed by the organisation which represents more than 450 social care providers in Wales and they are writing to all the members of the Senedd to point out the unfairness of the system.

However, the County Council has hit back at the claims and says its support package for local care home providers is far more generous than Care Forum Wales claims.

According to Care Forum Wales chair Mario Kreft MBE, the huge gulf between the top and the bottom payers showed an unfair postcode lottery which was threatening the well-being of the nation’s most vulnerable people and the future of social care in Wales.

The First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS, had admitted the sector was fragile even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck and Mr Kreft is concerned that many care homes across Wales will not survive.

Care Forum Wales say the root of the problem is that for more than 20 years the social care sector has been managed and funded separately by the 22 local councils and the seven health boards in Wales which was a recipe for disaster.

They are calling for an urgent national action plan to sort out the mess and ensure fair funding for social care across Wales.

Currently bottom of the heap in terms of funding is Powys County Council who increased the weekly fee for a person in a residential EMI care home for older people with mental frailty by 2.2 per cent to £559.

In contrast, providers in Cardiff – where fees were already higher – will receive £793.48 a week for providing exactly the same level of service, a four per cent increase that works out as £12,192.96 more for every resident than in Powys over the course of a year.

Even in Cardiff, says Mr Kreft, the fees do not cover the true cost of care and are on average £100 less than the amount paid by people receiving care privately.

Mr Kreft said: “The aim of the Cheapskate Awards is to highlight the really serious problems created by a crazy fee structure here, in Wales.

“This mess has come about because the market has been mismanaged by the 22 local authorities in Wales for more than two decades of devolution.

“As the First Minister himself pointed out, the social care sector was in a fragile state well before the pandemic and what we are calling for is an urgent national action plan which can ensure fairness and equity in the system, and it’s patently neither.

“We need to build a sustainable care system that will truly be an effective scaffold for the NHS.”

“We do welcome the commitment of authorities like Cardiff, Torfaen and Pembrokeshire for recognising the care, dedication and skill of care staff who have been in the front line of the battle against Covid-19.

“Social care is part of the foundation economy and, given the appropriate level of support can help lead the economic recovery in Wales.

“What we need as a matter of urgency is a national action plan to sort out the total hotch-podge of fees so what we can provide the care that our vulnerable people deserve.

“Social care should not be seen as a cost to society but rather as an asset that represents all that is best in our nation, notably its wonderful workforce.”

Cllr Jane Tremlett, the County Council’s Executive Board Member for Health and Social Care, responded: “We are committed to working with all providers and Welsh Government to deliver a long-term model for social care funding – this must be a national priority.

“However the financial support from Carmarthenshire to residential providers vastly exceeds the rates Care Forum Wales use to compile their list.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak residential providers in the county have been given well over £550,000 in additional payments and hundreds of thousands of items of free protective equipment that are not reflected in these figures.

“These payments continued to be made weekly and are in addition to other government assistance private providers may be receiving.”

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Carmarthenshire hometown heroes & lockdown legends sought for 2020 National Lottery Awards

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The National Lottery Awards 2019 winners on stage, including Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson from Wales, the first ever recipient of The National Lottery's Lifetime Achievement Award.

THE National Lottery is searching for your ‘hometown hero’ or ‘lockdown legend’ as part of the 2020 National Lottery Awards.

This year the annual search for the UK’s most popular National Lottery funded projects will, for the first time, honour individuals who have made an extraordinary impact in their community, especially those who have adapted during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

New figures reveal more than £3.2 million of National Lottery funding has been invested in good causes in Carmarthenshire in 2018/19 alone.

A total of 158 National Lottery grants were awarded in the region during the previous financial year, providing vital support to arts, sports, heritage and community projects.

From today, The National Lottery are calling for nominations of people who have done amazing things with the help of National Lottery funding and are an inspiration to us all.

Winners in each category will receive a £3,000 cash prize for their organisation and a coveted National Lottery Awards trophy.

Jonathan Tuchner from The National Lottery is encouraging the people of Carmarthenshire to make their nominations.

He said: “The National Lottery continues to have a positive impact on life across the UK. Thanks to National Lottery players thousands of projects are making an incredible difference to their local communities.

Now, more than ever, people have rallied together, and individuals are performing inspirational acts and extraordinary endeavors to help in cities, towns and villages up and down the country.

Thanks to National Lottery players, up to £600 million has been made available to support communities throughout the UK amid the coronavirus crisis. People have used National Lottery funding in amazing ways during these challenging times. We want to honour them as part of this year’s National Lottery Awards and recognise their selfless dedication and thank them for their fantastic work.”

Encompassing all aspects of National Lottery good causes funding, the 2020 National Lottery Awards are seeking to recognise outstanding individuals in the following sectors:

And there will be a special Young Hero Award for someone under the age of 18 who has gone that extra mile in their organisation. All nominees must work or act for a National Lottery funded organisation or have received National Lottery funding.

To make your nomination for this year’s National Lottery Awards, tweet @LottoGoodCauses with your suggestions or complete an entry form through our website www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards . Entries must be received by midnight on 19th August 2020.

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Chancellors economic update includes VAT cut for hospitality sector, and customer discounts

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The Chancellor had set out his coronavirus recovery package today.

Rishi Sunak set out the measures in his summer economic update in the House of Commons on Wednesday (Jun 8), as he faces pressure to assist those who are most vulnerable to the financial crisis.

The Chancellor said he will cut VAT from 20% to 5% for food if people eat out to help those businesses which he said had been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The chancellor announced discount to encourage people to eat out in August.

He says restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels as well as other attractions will be able to claim the money back within five days. It had been reported he was considering giving all UK adults a £500 voucher to spent with companies hit by coronavirus, but the Chancellor has decided not to go ahead with that proposal.

Instead Sunak announced a discount worth up to £10 per head for eating out in August. He said his final measure has never been tried in this country. It is an “eat out to help out scheme”, offering customers as discount worth up to £10 per head when they eat out from Monday to Wednesday in August.

Speaking in the Commons today, he said: “Our plan has clear goals, to protect, support and retain jobs.”

Regards furlough scheme, he said it must wind down, adding: “flexibly and gradually supporting people through to October” but that he is introducing a bonus for employers who bring staff back from furlough.

Employers who bring someone back from furlough and employ them through to January, paying them a minimum of £520 a month, will receive a £1,000 bonus.

He says that “in total we have provided £49bn to support public services since the pandemic began”.

He added: “No nationalist can ignore that this help has only been possible because we are a United Kingdom.”

Mr Sunak says the UK economy has already shrunk by 25% – the same amount it grew in the previous 18 years.

He also announced:

A £2bn kickstart scheme paying employers to take on unemployed 16 to 24 year olds for a minimum of 25 hours a week – he says the Treasury will pay those wages for six months plus a sum for overheads. He says there is no cap. This will apply in England and Wales.

VAT on food from restaurants, cafes, pubs and hotels will be cut until January 12 from 20% to 5%
Funding for apprenticeships and traineeships in England, there will be a separate announcement for Wales.

£1bn for the DWP to support millions of people back to work through Job Centres. A £2bn green homes grant in England to cover two thirds of the cost, up to £5,000, for energy efficient home improvements. Again the Welsh Government will have their own proposals on this given time.

A temporary cut to stamp duty in England and Northern Ireland.

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Calls for Amman Valley rail line to be mothballed

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL today passed a motion tabled to investigate the opportunity to mothball the Amman Valley rail line until a Metro for the region can be established.

With the Amman Valley Railway line coal transportation coming to the end of its life, Carmarthenshire Council agreed there should be a feasibility study of the railway line, to see if we could do a modern environmentally-friendly green railway. The modern rail bus would connect the Amman Valley and the Gwendrarth Valley with Llanelli and Swansea.

This motion follows on from a motion tabled by Carmarthenshire Council nearly three years ago on the need for sustainable, environmentally-friendly and cheap public transport within Carmarthenshire, under the umbrella of a Swansea Bay Metro.

As part of the discussion, it was revealed that a feasibility study into the Swansea Bay Metro has now moved to Transport for Wales for competition after a delay in its competition.

Cllr Rob James, Leader of Carmarthenshire Labour, stated: “Like many communities in Carmarthenshire, residents in the Amman Valleys are unable to catch a bus a lot of time, when they do they realise the costs of ticket and it’s our town centres that are suffering as a result.

“There is a need arising with opencast mining ceasing in the near future to mothball the Amman Valley railway line until plans can be furthered on the Swansea Bay Metro proposal.

“We know from experience that attempting to bring lines back into use after years of neglect is extremely costly and as a result, makes infrastructure projects, such as this, less desirable for Governments.

“We cannot afford to sit on our hands and hope others will pick up the slack if we are to sort out public transport in Carmarthenshire.”

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