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Older people in Carmarthenshire face misery as cost-of-living increases, warns local charity

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OLDER people will face the real possibility of not being able to heat their homes or even afford food, as the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, warns local Carmarthenshire charity.

Care & Repair Carmarthenshire supports thousands of older homeowners in the county and have raised the alarm for what they describe as an “escalating situation”.

Care & Repair Carmarthenshire Chief Officer, Mark Warren said: “We believe that everyone deserves to live independently for as long as they’d wish to. Yet, with the cost-of-living rising, the situation is becoming desperate. So, with the local elections taking place, we’re calling on newly elected local councillors to do everything they can to ensure our older residents aren’t forgotten.”

Latest figures for the county show that it now costs up to £1,455 every year on average to heat our homes. Even before the cost-of-living crisis, 16% of our over 65’s were already in poverty. With few options to offset this increase in cost, it is older people who will often struggle the most with the sudden rise in bills.

Richard Leahy and Mark Warren

With the cost-of-living so high many will turn off their heating altogether, yet evidence shows that living in a cold home worsens health conditions associated with later life, such as Alzheimer’s and respiratory conditions.

Rising costs of materials are making repairs harder, and some households have put off repairs in recent years because of Covid. The condition of a property impacts on the well-being of those who live there, with a cold and damp house likely to cause significant health issues.

For vulnerable older and disabled people, there is support available. Care & Repair Carmarthenshire’s Caseworkers can visit older people at home and provide free advice and support on home energy saving techniques and housing improvements. They also run a Handyperson service for the county’s older residents.

Home Maintenance Officer, Richard Leahy, said: “We see a lot of older people who are afraid of being scammed by rogue traders or simply don’t know where to go for help with small repairs and adaptations. It’s a very rewarding job as people are always very grateful for our help’’.

A Care & Repair client from Llanelli, recently said: “I have had a stair rail fitted today, and can I just say how courteous and efficient the gentleman was. I believe in praise when you get staff like this. I felt very comfortable and at ease with him in my home. Also, my 21-year-old son was very impressed with him and said, ‘top man he is mam’! So, Thank You.”

Care & Repair Carmarthenshire can often help with the cost of works using funding received from Welsh Government, Carmarthenshire County Council and other sources, accessed by the Agency on behalf of their clients. During the 2021/22 financial year, the Agency helped over 2,000 older people complete vital repairs and adaptations so that they could continue to live safely and independently at home. These repairs and adaptations cost over £1 million, carried out by both local contractors and the ‘in-house’ Practical Services Team.

A major piece of advice being given by Care & Repair to older people is to make sure to claim the benefits they are entitled to. According to the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, over £200 million of Pension Credit went unclaimed in Wales last year. Each year, Care & Repair Carmarthenshire help hundreds of older people claim the benefits they are entitled to, raising around £380,000 extra income per year for their clients.

If you or an older loved one needs repairs, adaptions or help with keeping the home warm, contact 01554 744300 or visit www.careandrepair.org.uk/carmarthenshire.

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Households in Carmarthenshire start to receive £150 cost of living payment

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MORE than 31,000 homes in Carmarthenshire have started to receive a £150 cost of living payment to help tackle the cost of living crisis.

The council is making a single payment directly into the bank accounts of all eligible households that pay their council tax by direct debit. These payments have been able to be made because the council already holds this information.

For all other eligible households where the council does not hold bank details (approximately 40,000), letters have started to go out with information on how to apply for the payment by completing a short online registration form. 

Please do not attempt to register your details until you receive your letter as you will need an access key code.

Householders that do not have online access are being advised to attend one of their Hwbs in Llanelli, Ammanford or Carmarthen where one of their customer service team will be able to provide support. 

Please take along the letter containing your access code as well as proof of residency, such as a driving licence, utility bill or bank statement (no older than 3 months).

The council aims to make payment within 20 working days from application, as long as there are no queries with the information provided.

The cost of living payments are being provided to all households in properties in council tax bands A to D, and all households which receive support from the Council Tax Reduction Scheme regardless of their council tax band.

The payments are being delivered by local authorities across Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government to support households as we recover from the pandemic and to help deal with the impact of increasing energy and other costs.

Please be assured the council is working as quickly as possible to process these payments and if there are any queries householders will be contacted directly.

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Nearly 7,000 in Wales sign up for UK’s biggest ever plastics investigation

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THE BIG PLASTIC COUNT, the UK’s biggest ever investigation into household plastic waste, kicks off today.

Over 140,000 are planning to take part across the country, including schools, Westminster MPs, community groups, businesses, families and individuals. 6,804 people in Wales have signed up, including nine MPs and 80 teachers who will be taking part with their classes.

The Big Plastic Count is a collaboration between Everyday Plastic and Greenpeace UK.

Celebrities including Chris Packham, Joanna Lumley and Bonnie Wright are also taking part.

94 cross-party Westminster MPs, including 9 from Wales, 3,500 school classes from all over the UK and People’s Postcode Lottery have also signed up.

The UK produces more plastic waste per person than any other country except the USA.

In 2018, the country generated 5.2 million tonnes of plastic waste, enough to fill Wembley Stadium six times over.

The UK also exports vast quantities of plastic waste abroad, as highlighted last year by Greenpeace’s Wasteminster viral animation.

The Big Plastic Count will reveal how much plastic packaging waste is leaving UK homes and what happens to it after we throw it away.

This will provide a national snapshot of our plastic waste problem, filling a crucial evidence gap and showing the UK government and supermarkets that they must act to tackle the problem.

Chris Packham said: “The UK is one of the worst plastic polluters in the world. Our broken recycling system doesn’t work so instead of dealing with our plastic waste ourselves, we send vast quantities of it overseas where it’s out of sight and out of mind for us, but destroying nature and harming people elsewhere.”

“The Big Plastic Count is such an exciting project. It will, for the first time, tell ordinary people what happens to their plastic waste after we throw it away, and we hope it will force the government to take action and address the plastic waste crisis.”

Chris Thorne, plastics campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “The biggest ever investigation into the UK’s plastic waste is officially underway.”

“We’re delighted that so many people across Wales have signed up, making clear once again that the public is concerned about their plastic waste, and want to see genuine action from the government to turn the tide on our plastics crisis.”

“That means an immediate end to us dumping our waste on other countries like Turkey, and legally binding targets that actually tackle the plastic problem at source.”

Daniel Webb of Everyday Plastic said: “I decided to count all of my plastic waste for a whole year back in 2017. Doing so helped me to understand my personal plastic footprint, which completely shocked me and drove me to begin campaigning for change. ”

The results from The Big Plastic Count will show us what’s really happening to our plastic waste, at a national scale, and inspire thousands of participants to demand real action to stem the tide of plastic packaging.

“This really is a crucial moment in the struggle against the plastic problem.”

“We hope the results of The Big Plastic Count will persuade the government, supermarkets and big brands to take bold steps to tackle the plastic crisis once and for all, which is extremely exciting, perhaps even revolutionary.”

Every participant will record the different types of plastic packaging waste they throw away, and submit their results. This will generate a national picture of our plastic waste, demonstrating the scale of the problem and putting even more pressure on the government to act.

The unique methodology behind the Big Plastic Count was developed by Everyday Plastic’s founder, Daniel Webb.

He collected every piece of his plastic waste for a year, and worked with a scientific researcher to turn this into a robust methodology which the public can now use to discover what happens to their plastic waste when they throw it away.

Surveying by YouGov for Greenpeace UK found that while over three-quarters (77%) of people in the UK recycle plastic products to reduce their waste, almost as many (75%) don’t know what happens to their plastic recycling after they throw it away.

Greenpeace UK and Everyday Plastic will release the results of the survey as soon as they have been processed. Campaigners hope these results will push the UK government to reduce single-use plastic by 50% by 2025, ban all plastic waste exports and implement a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for recycling and reuse.

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2022 Urdd Eisteddfod Crown and Chair Unveiled

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THE 2022 Denbighshire Urdd Eisteddfod Chair and Crown were revealed in a special event at Denbigh Library on Monday evening, 16 May.

Jeweller Ann Catrin Evans from Caernarfon designed the crown and carpenter Rhodri Owen from Ysbyty Ifan created the chair. Having had to postpone the work for two years, integrating elements from the local area and the Urdd’s centenary celebrations into the pieces was very important to them both.

“As the Urdd is celebrating 100 years this year, I redesigned the crown which was originally meant for the 2020 Eisteddfod to reflect this,” said the notable designer and maker Ann Catrin. This is the eighth crown that she has designed during her career, and she was inspired by the agricultural landscape of Denbigh and the surrounding area and agricultural tools and equipment.

“I am a farm girl and the ‘Bamford Major’ grass cutting machine was an inspiration. I have used contrasting materials in the crown that create drama – copper and sterling silver are the main materials, and the lovely velvet and silk cap complement the drama. It is a majestic crown and I can’t wait to see it worn by the winner within the month.”

Rhodri Owen from Ysbyty Ifan is the chair designer. Creating the chair for the Eisteddfod in the Urdd’s centenary year was very important to him, as well as reflecting the Eisteddfod’s region and its young people.

“The Urdd’s Art, Design and Technology competitions played an important part as I nurtured my creativity as a child, and without a doubt the same is true for thousands of other children all over the country,” said the carpenter. “I wanted to note the Urdd’s centenary in a subtle way that was relevant to the area, and so the marks on the chair count to 100, and also spell Sir Ddinbych on both sides.

“The bottom panel is in the form of some of Clwyd’s hills and the colourful marks on the largest panel denotes the area’s vibrant youth in the shape of a river flow. I see these colours running through the beech like the River Clwyd’s source on Hiraethog before running from one end of the County to the other.”

The chair is sponsored by Ysgol Uwchradd Glan Clwyd. As Wales’ first Welsh secondary school, celebrating the growth and innovation of new generations of Welsh people was at the core of the brief.

Siân Alwen, Deputy Headteacher at Ysgol Uwchradd Glan Clwyd said: “As the Urdd celebrates its centenary, it is a pleasure to sponsor the Denbighshire Urdd Eisteddfod chair this year. Our aim when working with Rhodri was to convey the vibrancy of our youth and the flow of Welshness that can be seen from one end of the valley to the coast. When designing, colour was an important element to represent the freshness and vigour of our young people. As the first Welsh secondary school in Wales celebrating growth and innovation of new generations of Welsh people continues to thrill and affirm our purpose and vision as a school.”

The crown is sponsored by Cymdeithas Gymraeg Dinbych (Denbigh Welsh Society), and according to their Secretary Dilwyn Jones, it was a “pleasure” to work with Ann Catrin to make their vision a reality: “Cymdeithas Gymraeg Dinbych was very keen to sponsor the Crown for the Urdd Eisteddfod but Covid has meant that we have had to wait a long time to fully realise the gift.

“Ann Catrin Evans has been excellent from the beginning, giving us the chance to share our ideas but we have also benefitted from her experience, talent, and wise and knowledgeable guidance. Working with Ann Catrin has been a pleasure and we look forward with anticipation to see the winner crowned… hopefully!”

According to Siân Eirian, Director of the Urdd Eisteddfod and Arts; “The change to the date has been a part of the challenge for our skilled makers this year, and we are extremely grateful to Ann Catrin and Rhodri Owen for creating such striking prizes.

“People from all over Wales and beyond are looking forward to returning to the Eisteddfod this year and to enjoy what the festival and this wonderful area has to offer. I do hope that we will have winners in both competitions so that the prizes can be enjoyed in homes for years to come.”

The 2022 Denbighshire Urdd Eisteddfod will be held on the outskirts of Denbigh town between 30 May and 4 June and entry to the festival is free this year. The Chairing Ceremony will be held at the Urdd Eisteddfod on Thursday 2 June and the Ceremony is sponsored by the Ivor and Aeres Evans Charitable Trust. Grŵp Cynefin sponsors the Crowing Ceremony which will take place on Friday, 3 June.

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