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Fuel poverty crisis is ‘catastrophe unfolding across Wales’ says Citizens Advice Bureaux

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AMOST 200,000 households in Wales were living in fuel poverty at the end of last year, new figures have revealed.

The figures also show that 98% of households on lower incomes are now estimated to be in fuel poverty following the recent price cap increase.

Citizens Advice has said there is a “catastrophe unfolding for people across Wales” as 91,700 households are now predicted to be in severe fuel poverty.

Data published by Welsh government reveals the scale of the cost of living crisis in October – six months before the rise of the domestic energy cap by 54 per cent this month.

The modelled figures release show that 196,000 households in Wales were estimated to be living in fuel poverty, equivalent to 14% of households.

38,000 households were estimated to be living in severe fuel poverty and a further 153,000 households – equivalent of 11 per cent of households – were at risk of fuel poverty.

On top of soaring energy prices, households must also pay increased standing charges on their domestic energy bills and people in Wales are among the hardest hit.

The highest increases in the UK are thought to be in North Wales, with standing charges increasing by 102 per cent. These additional costs have a disproportionately negative effect on lower income households and those on pre-payment meters.

The main data from the stats modelling release states:

196,000 households in Wales were estimated to be living in fuel poverty, equivalent to 14% of households.
38,000 households were estimated to be living in severe fuel poverty, equivalent to 3% of households.
153,000 households were estimated to be at risk of fuel poverty, equivalent to 11% of households.
169,000 vulnerable households in Wales were estimated to be living in fuel poverty, equivalent to 14% of vulnerable households.
26,000 vulnerable households were estimated to be living in severe fuel poverty, equivalent to 2% of vulnerable households.
141,000 vulnerable households were estimated to be at risk of fuel poverty, equivalent to 12% of vulnerable households.
130,000 lower income households in Wales were estimated to be living in fuel poverty, equivalent to 59% of all lower income households.
34,000 lower income households were estimated to be living in severe fuel poverty, equivalent to 16% of lower income households.
58,000 lower income households were estimated to be at risk of fuel poverty, equivalent to 26% of lower income households.
and…
Up to 45 per cent (614,000) of all households could be in fuel poverty following the price cap increase in April 2022
Up to 8 per cent (115,000) of all households could be in severe fuel poverty
Up to 15 per cent (201,000) of all households could be at risk of falling into fuel poverty.
Energy price rises are likely to hit lower income households disproportionately, as they spend a higher proportion of their income on utility bills.

So for households on lower incomes there could be significant increases with up to 217,700 (98%) predicted to be in fuel poverty following the price cap increase of April 2022 and up to 91,700 (41%) predicted to be in severe fuel poverty.

The remaining households on low incomes are all potentially at risk of fuel poverty (3,500, 2%).

Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt, has described today’s figures as “stark and worrying”.

She said: “They show the depth of the energy crisis before the winter started and before OFGEM raised the domestic energy cap by 54% in April.

“Sadly, we know the worst is yet to come. We are in the midst of an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis, which is being driven by runaway energy prices. The war in Ukraine has deepened this crisis.

“The introduction of the new energy price cap at the start of the month risks plunging tens of thousands more people into energy insecurity and fuel poverty.

“We hear terrible accounts daily about people and families who are afraid to turn their heating on and from families who face the awful choice between heating and eating.

“Although these are just estimates, these figures underline, once again, the need for urgent action from the UK Government to alleviate the financial pain and worry being experienced by families and households all over Wales.

“The action offered to date – the £200 rebate on electricity bills, which must be repaid by every bill payer over five years – is too little.

“The Spring Statement was an opportunity for the UK Government to protect the most vulnerable in our society, instead it was an ideological, regressive statement from the Chancellor, which lacked practical measures to help those who need help the most – there is nothing for those who cannot work and those on lower incomes.”

Luke Young, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Citizens Advice Cymru said:

“The latest fuel poverty estimates should send a cold shiver down the spine of every politician and decision maker.”

“Ninety eight per cent of low income households are now estimated to be in fuel poverty, with forty one per cent of low income households in severe fuel poverty.”

“This is a catastrophe unfolding for people across Wales.”

“We have continually warned that people have been unable to meet their basic needs.”

“Our services have seen month-on month records break as ever more need crisis support, and energy price rises have pushed more into poverty.”

“The help we have been calling for – money directly to lower income households through the benefits system – is now urgently needed.”

The Welsh Government has now reiterated its calls to the UK Government to “take concerted and targeted action to ease the cost-of-living crisis” by:

Paying the £200 electricity bill rebate as a non-repayable grant to all bill payers.
Introducing a lower energy price cap for lower income households so they are better able to meet the costs of their energy.
Increasing the rebate paid through the warm homes discount and winter fuel schemes.
Removing all the social and environmental policy costs from household energy bills and instead meeting them from general taxation, at least part-
funded by a windfall tax on the excess profits being made by gas and oil producers.
Reinstating the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit.
Ms Hutt added: “We will continue to do all we can to help people through this unprecedented cost-of-living crisis. Since November, we have invested more than £380m in a package of targeted support for people. This includes the first round of the Winter Fuel Support Scheme – a £200 payment for eligible low income households. This will be extended in winter 2022-23 to reach more households.

“People are also starting to receive their £150 cost-of-living payment – this is available to everyone paying council tax in bands A to D and all those receiving support from the Council Tax Reduction Scheme in all council tax bands. A further £25m will be available to local authorities in the form of a discretionary fund.

“I will be chairing a second cost-of-living summit in the coming months to look again at more we can do, working with partners, to address the inequalities that the current crisis has brought so starkly into focus.”

Two weeks ago the UK Government issued a ‘fact sheet’ detailing what new steps they have taken to tackle the cost of living crisis, it states:

Cutting fuel duty
A 12-month cut in the main rates of fuel duty for petrol and diesel of 5 pence per litre. This is the largest cash terms cut that has ever been applied to all fuel duty rates at once and represents savings for consumers worth almost £2.4 billion over the next year. This comes on top of freezes to fuel duty for 12 years in a row.

Raising National insurance thresholds
National Insurance starting thresholds will rise to £12,570 from July 2022, meaning hard-working people across the UK will keep more of what they earn before they start paying tax. The cut, worth over £6 billion, will benefit 30 million working people with a typical employee saving over £330 a year and, means the UK now has some of the most generous tax thresholds in the world.

Reducing NICs for lower-earning self-employed people
from April, self-employed individuals will not pay Class 2 NICs on profits between the Small Profits Threshold and Lower Profits Limit, meaning lower-earning self-employed people can keep more of what they earn while continuing to build up National Insurance credits. This change represents a tax cut for around 500,000 self-employed people worth up to £165 per year.

Universal Credit (UC) taper rate
Reducing the UC taper rate from 63% to 55% and increasing work allowances by £500 per annum from late 2021. This is effectively a tax cut for the lowest paid in society worth around £1.9 billion in 2022-23. This change also means that 1.7 million households will on average keep around an extra £1,000 on an annual basis.

Help with energy bills
A £9.1 billion energy bill rebate package, worth up to £350 each for around 28 million households. Domestic energy customers in Great Britain will receive a £200 reduction in energy bills this Autumn, which will be paid back automatically over the next 5 years. Households liable for Council Tax in Bands A-D in England will also receive a £150 non-repayable Council Tax Rebate, and Local Authorities are receiving extra discretionary funding to help those who are in need but not eligible.

The Household Support Fund
Doubling the Household Support Fund to £1billion by providing an extra £500 million from April 2022, on top of the £500 million already provided since October 2021. The Fund will help households with the cost of essentials such as food, clothing and utilities and, in England, will continue to be distributed to Local Authorities, who are best placed to direct help to those who need it most. Devolved administrations will receive £79 million of this additional funding.

Freezing alcohol duty
As announced at Autumn Budget 2021, we are freezing alcohol duty for 2022-23, for the third year in a row. Duty rates on beer, cider, wine and spirits will be frozen in 2022-23, saving £3 billion over the next 5 years. Consumers will save 3p off a pint of beer, 2p off a pint of cider, 14p off a 75cl bottle of wine and 52p off a 70cl bottle of Scotch.

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Health

Werndale Hospital recognised for outstanding patient care in national award

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STAFF at Werndale Hospital near Carmarthen have been recognised for the quality of their patient care. 

The prestigious ‘Private Hospital Group of the Year’ award is presented to an organisation that has shown excellence in its delivery of care, commitment to the community and innovation within healthcare.

Werndale Hospital was also recognised for their initiatives to support staff in their career progression and wellbeing.   

The latest statistics show, 98% of patients at Werndale Hospital were satisfied with their overall level of care, 98% of patients would recommend their care to family and friends, and 98% of patients rated the nursing staff as excellent or very good. 

In addition, independent analysis of Circle hospitals’ hip and knee procedure outcomes of health improvement shows that Circle scored 8.4 versus an independent sector average of 7.8 in the hip category, and a score of 15.4 versus an independent sector average of 13.9 in the knee category.   

The award presented to Circle Health Group, owners of Werndale Hospital, in London in June, also noted the extraordinary contribution the teams at the hospital had made to the community. 

In 2021 alone, Werndale Hospital partnered with Air Ambulance Wales and raised £1,205 to support the charity’s work in the community.  

In addition to the charitable work, Werndale Hospital was recognised for it’s commitment to support staff through a series of wellbeing initiatives and career development opportunities. The judges were particularly impressed with the launch of the ‘Be Heard’ survey at the hospital.   

The survey looks to empower staff to feedback on everything from the working environment at the hospital through to their own career ambitions. Building directly on the feedback from this survey, the ‘Grow Your Own’ campaign was launched which supported staff to work towards specific qualifications from nursing degrees with partnered universities through to bespoke management programmes and MBA qualifications.   

As a direct result of this support for staff at what is a challenging time for healthcare workers, Werndale Hospital and Circle Heath Group were recognised as being a Top 20 Best Large Company to work for.   

At the heart of Werndale Hospital’s approach to treating patients is a commitment to the community they serve.  

 Paolo Pieri, CEO of Circle Health Group, said:  “The award is a testament to what an amazing year 2021 was for Werndale Hospital with considerable investment into the facilities and services on offer to patients in west Wales. I couldn’t be prouder of what our staff and doctors have achieved.”  

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News

Aberglasney Gardens delighted to win 2022 Trip advisor Travellers’ Choice Award

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ABERGLASNEY Gardens is thrilled to have been recognised by Tripadvisor as a 2022 Travellers’ Choice Award winner for being in the top 10% of attractions worldwide.

The Award recognises businesses that consistently deliver great service with the Gardens being rated ‘Excellent’ by 342 visitors.

The award celebrates businesses that have received great traveller reviews from around the globe on Tripadvisor over the last 12 months. As challenging as the past year has been, Aberglasney stood out by consistently delivering positive experiences to visitors.

Aberglasney’s Director of Operations Jim Stribling said: “We are delighted to have once again won an award from Tripadvisor. It is fantastic recognition for the team’s hard work and dedication. To rank among the top ten percent of those listed on Trip Advisor as one of the best places to visit is outstanding.

“We are grateful to all those who take the time to leave us a review after visiting. It is no cliché when I say all the team, be it in the gift shop, the gardeners, the tearooms and the administrative team, all take the reviews on board to help make a visit to Aberglasney the best possible experience for everyone.”

Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travellers, from planning, to booking, to taking a trip. Travelers across the globe use the Tripadvisor site and app to discover where to stay, what to do and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before.

With more than 988 million reviews and opinions of nearly eight million businesses, travellers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodation, book experiences, reserve tables at restaurants and discover great places nearby.

As a travel guidance company available in 43 markets and 22 languages, Tripadvisor makes planning easy no matter the trip type.

“Congratulations to the 2022 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Winners,” said Kanika Soni, Chief Commercial Officer at Tripadvisor. “The Travellers’ Choice Awards recognise the best in tourism and hospitality, according to those who matter most: your guests.

“Ranking among the Travellers’ Choice winners is always tough – but never more so than this year as we emerge from the pandemic. Whether it’s using new technology, implementing safety measures, or hiring outstanding staff, I’m impressed by the steps you’ve taken to meet travellers’ new demands. You’ve adapted brilliantly in the face of adversity.”

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Education

Council’s plan to expand bilingual education will be a gradual journey over 10 years

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Carmarthenshire County Council

CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s vision to increase bilingual education in Carmarthenshire will be a gradual journey over 10 years.

The Cabinet met yesterday (Monday, July 4) to discuss the Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP), and emphasised that it was important to give all children and young people the opportunity to develop their Welsh language skills.

However, members stressed that families will still have a choice on the language in which their children will be taught over the next decade and after 2032.

The plan sets out how the council will develop Welsh language provision in schools based on the outcomes and targets set by the Welsh Government.

All councils across Wales have to submit 10-year Welsh language education plans to the Welsh Government in order to meet its target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.

The outcomes include more nursery and reception children being taught through the medium of Welsh; more young people studying for qualifications in Welsh as a subject, and subjects through the medium of Welsh; increasing provision for learners with Additional Learning Needs; and increasing the number of teachers able to teach Welsh and through the medium of Welsh – with continuing support to develop staff through a comprehensive and flexible training programme.

The Cabinet said it was important for the council to provide more opportunities to be bilingual and referred to the various benefits it brings – from educational attainment to employability and health.

Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language, Cllr Glynog Davies said the aim was to meet and exceed the target set by Welsh Government on the percentage of Carmarthenshire pupils receiving their education through the medium of Welsh by 3032 (10-14%).

It included changing the language provision at 10 schools over the next 10 years creating an opportunity for a further 300 learners to be educated in Welsh.

He said: “We want to build on the progress made in early years education provision, and my ambition is clear – equal opportunities across the county.

“It is worth noting that we have the largest percentage 57.5 percent of nursery age children taught through the medium of Welsh. Immersion education is key to the strategy, and it is important that we continue to see an increase in the percentage of children transferring from the Meithrin groups to Welsh-medium education in the Foundation Phase.

“These early years are so important, the children are like sponges, absorbing information and absorbing a new language.

“We must then continue to see an increase in numbers in our reception classes, we say this even though we are the authority with the largest percentage (62.5 percent) of children receiving their education through the medium of Welsh.

“Children must continue to improve their Welsh when going from one school phase to another, and we need to make sure all children have the opportunity to pursue their secondary education through the medium of Welsh.

“At the same time, we need to give children and young people the confidence to use Welsh, in school and in the community. That’s what we want to see isn’t it, more and more using Welsh, hearing Welsh on the street. We need to develop and build on skills and confidence.”

Cabinet Member for Rural Affairs and Planning Policy, Cllr Ann Davies said: “I am extremely pleased to see this document and have a pleasure in supporting it. Working with young children, that is children under three-years-old, I can say that children pick up language very quickly, they absorb it, and the process is very different to learning a language. As they get older the process in the brain is completely different. I am pleased to see that there is an emphasis on early years, that is when we need to start.”

Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Alun Lenny said: “It is very important to state that there are many advantages to learning a language, obviously for careers, especially in health and social care where patients and clients must have a choice of language, it’s important particularly for older people, and young children, and people with dementia.

“The Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police has stated he is keen for all his staff to speak a certain level of Welsh, so we have a duty here to support that.

“The advantages of being bilingual are multiple, socially and in the world of work, and this strategy is very much welcomed.”

The WESP has come back to the cabinet for discussion following feedback from the Welsh Government, mainly to include some additional data and detail. It will now be submitted to the Welsh Government for final approval. A public consultation was held last year.

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