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The Bank Holiday plea as emergency worker assaults continue to rise

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EMERGENCY workers in Wales are reminding the public to treat them with respect in the face of a continued rise in assaults.

The monthly average of emergency worker assaults has increased from 203 in 2019, to 226 in 2020, to 237 in 2021, representing a year-on-year increase of 4.9 per cent.

More than 1,440 assaults were committed in the six-month period 01 July 2021 to 31 December 2021, new figures have revealed.

The top five most common types of assault were kicking, spitting, verbal abuse, punching and shoving.

Among the victims is Joanna Paskell, a paramedic in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, who was assaulted last May by a patient at Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales.

Joanna, an ambulance worker of 25 years, was subsequently left with panic attacks.

The mother-of-four recalls: “It was while we were trying to move the patient from the trolley to a bed that she lashed out and punched me straight in the chest.

“I was stunned as it was completely out of the blue, and there had been no indication that she was going to get aggressive.

“Although shaken, I thought nothing of it at the time, just taking painkillers for the pain.

“It was only as I was getting ready for my next shift that realisation dawned, and I actually had a panic attack.

“I subsequently had to take time off work.

“It took a lot for me to come back, and even now, I’m very cautious around patients.”

Meanwhile, Andy Davies, a paramedic in Llangefni, Anglesey, was left with a dislocated shoulder when he was assaulted by a patient last June.

Andy recalls: “The patient was becoming verbally aggressive to the point where we actually called for police back-up.

“As I tried to assess him, he threw me to the floor, partially dislocating my left shoulder.

“I had to have six weeks of physiotherapy afterwards to help me recover from the injury.

“I’m ex-military police so I’m quite good at compartmentalising these things, but it doesn’t mean to say we should accept it.”

Ahead of the extended Bank Holiday weekend, when assaults will typically spike, emergency workers are appealing to the public to treat them with respect.

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “The last couple of years have been a fraught time for all of us, but that’s no excuse to assault an emergency worker, who are people, just like you and I.

“With a Bank Holiday weekend comes lots of people enjoying the revelry, and with alcohol consumption usually comes an increase in assaults.

“There were 80 verbal attacks alone on our ambulance control room staff in the second half of last year.

“We know it’s distressing when you’re waiting for help, but abusing our call handlers is not the answer – if anything, it could potentially delay help.

“On the road meanwhile, crews might have no choice but to leave a scene if their safety is compromised, and that’s not helpful for anyone, especially the patient.

“The debt of gratitude we owe to our emergency workers has never been greater, so please treat them with respect.”

In the six-month reporting period, almost half of emergency worker assaults took place in South East Wales; Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Bridgend were the most prolific local authority areas.

For 2021 as a whole, Denbighshire in North Wales had the highest rate of emergency worker assaults at 1.24 per 1,000 population.

Offenders aged 26-35 account for the highest portion of offending (21.9 per cent), and alcohol intoxication continues to apply to a third of incidents.

Twenty three incidents involved the use or threat of use of a weapon, eight of which caused injury to the victim.

 Assaults on police account for more than two thirds of the total number; there were an average 165 victims each month in 2021, up from 152 in 2020.

Pam Kelly, Chief Constable at Gwent Police, said: “Every day, our officers are working to protect and serve local residents and businesses.   

“Being a victim of hate crime or being assaulted on duty is not acceptable for members of our own community as they go about their job.

“We already ask a lot of our officers and staff in the course of their working day as they often deal with situations most of us hope never to encounter. 

“Working where the threat of verbal or physical assault is an increasing possibility makes the role even more challenging. 

“We work hard to support any officer who has faced this situation and we will take firm action against those individuals who cause them harm.”

Carl Foulkes, Chief Constable at North Wales Police, added: “Every single day our officers, staff and volunteers are often dealing with very difficult and challenging situations, putting themselves in harm’s way to uphold the law and protect the public.

“They must be able to carry out their duties as safely as possible.

“Being assaulted is not and should never be regarded as ‘part of the job’.

“Assault is a traumatic offence that causes great distress to anyone, and it is no different when the victim is an emergency worker.

“It is wholly unacceptable for them to be threatened, attacked, verbally abused or spat at – and those responsible should face the full force of the law.

“Assaults stay with the victims for the rest of their careers, and none of my officers and staff should have to go to work serving the public and be afraid of being assaulted.

“With the busy summer season almost upon us, please respect and protect our emergency workers.”

May 2021 saw the highest volume of emergency worker assaults with 294, rising as Covid-19 restrictions were eased across Wales.

More than 100 instances are known to be Covid-19-related, for example, where an assault occurred during police attendance for a breach of regulations.

Under the Assault on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act, the definition of an emergency worker includes police, fire and ambulance staff, as well as prison staff and NHS workers.

Judith Paget, Chief Executive of NHS Wales, said: “Emergency workers provide life-saving and life-changing care every day in often difficult circumstances and deserve to be treated with respect.

“Any form of attack on emergency workers is completely unacceptable and can have a significant impact on someone’s mental health and wellbeing.

“During the pandemic emergency workers worked tirelessly on the frontline to keep Wales safe and now they deserve to feel safe and appreciated for the great work they do.

“We must all work together to reduce their risk of being exposed to violence.”

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of the With Us, Not Against Us campaign, created by the Joint Emergency Service Group in Wales to try and reduce the number of assaults on emergency workers.

You can pledge your support on social media using the hashtag #WithUsNotAgainstUs or #GydaNiNidYnEinHerbyn.

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Business

Ascona Group announces new Car and Truck wash facilities

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Charlie's Truck Wash

ASCONA GROUP, one of the UK’s fastest-growing forecourt operators, is pleased to announce two new vehicle washing partnerships as part of improvements to its unique roadside retail proposition across its forecourt estate.

As part of a new partnership with the American based PDQ Manufacturing, a leader for in-bay automatic vehicle washing facilities, Ascona Group will be the first in the UK to install the ‘Laserwash 360 Plus’, a touchless car wash system for its customers.

The partnership will initially expand the wash options at the Hinton Service Station, with a view to roll out the system to other sites under the Ascona Group’s brand, ‘Charlie’s Express Car Wash’ later this year. The partnership is a significant investment for Ascona and demonstrates its commitment to ever improving the experience for customers.

Ascona Group is also delighted to announce a strategic partnership with WashTec UK that will see Ascona introduce a ‘First of its Kind’ truck washing facility at the Tenby Road site on the A40 Eastbound in Carmarthenshire, which offers the very best technology available to HGV drivers.

The truck wash employs a fully ‘closed loop’ total water recycling system, the first of its kind in Wales, which recovers all water used within the wash process, filtering it for reuse with little or no water entering the mains drainage system. This system ensures Ascona not only has the best commercial wash in South Wales, but also offers customers one of the more environmentally friendly approaches in operation.

Commenting on the announcement, CEO Darren Briggs said: “From the very beginning, we knew that our sites must present our customers with a unique and compelling offer which is why we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to improve our roadside retail facilities.

“These two new partnerships further demonstrate our focus on creating industry-leading propositions and we are really excited to be working with PDQ Manufacturing USA and WashTec UK. Together, we are keen to continue to build on the success of these new operations and we are actively reviewing multiple opportunities across the Ascona portfolio to roll out more units such as these.”

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Community

Nearly £50,000 of National Lottery funding for community groups in Carmarthenshire

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FIVE local community organisations across Carmarthenshire are celebrating after being awarded a share of £49,575 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the past month.

One successful project was MolTân Makers who will use their £9,820 grant to provide metal working workshops for people wishing to improve their mental health and well-being. The group will reach out to mental health groups and the wider community and also allow people to reconnect with the community following the pandemic.

One participant with MolTân Makers explained, “ The course was professionally run by four hard-working people who helped us with one to one tuition when needed. They were so welcoming and adaptable to individual needs and allowed me to attend the course at different hours due to health reasons.

“They were great company and created an interesting and positive atmosphere to help people with mental and physical health problems feel included and understood and we all took home what we made in the course.”

The Hangout received £10,000 and will help young people improve their mental health and wellbeing through structured outdoor activity programmes. The project will build on a previous pilot project that led to more young people becoming re-engaged in school following the pandemic and continuing to volunteer with the group after the initial sessions finished.

The Alternative Learning Company in Llanelli were awarded £9,955 and will recycle plastic bottles to build full size greenhouses. They will propagate plants for growing schemes in local schools and communities. The project will reduce the levels of plastic sent to landfill or polluting open spaces, and give young people an understanding of the impact of climate change.

Newcastle Emlyn Town Council will build an outdoor structure in collaboration with the community, to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee. This £10,000 grant will fund building and design materials, and a water harvesting kit.

Messy Projects will use their £9,800 grant to run the activities and events they missed due to the pandemic. Activities will include celebrating the Queens platinum jubilee, a BBQ, and a Bonfire party.

John Rose, Wales Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said “These groups play a vital role in supporting their communities and these grants will allow them to continue being there for people in future. 

 ”National Lottery players raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK and the projects funded over the past month show the crucial difference players make through their tickets. I look forward to following all of their progress.”  

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Family of power station worker calls on former colleagues to help with asbestos claim

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THE WIFE of a Carmarthenshire man, who was just 66 when he died of an asbestos-related cancer, is calling on colleagues who worked with him in the 1970s to help understand where and how he contracted the disease.

Peter Colton, from Llanelli, died in July 2021 after being diagnosed with the asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma.

He worked as a conveyor and weighbridge operator for the CEGB at Carmarthen Bay Power Station. During his time at the power station, his duties included offloading coal wagons and conveying coal to the boilers.

It is possible that Mr Colton was exposed to asbestos during those years and now his family has sought the help of local asbestos specialists J.M Parsons, to investigate a claim for compensation.

Ann Colton, Mr Colton’s wife, wants answers. She said: “Peter was diagnosed with mesothelioma and died just six weeks later. He had been suffering from shortness of breath and just had no quality of life.

“It was devastating to see someone who had been so healthy and active slowly get worse and worse. We just want to know where and how he was exposed to asbestos and hope someone out there can help us.”

According to data from the Health and Safety Executive, annual mesothelioma deaths in Britain increased steeply over the last 50 years, a consequence of mainly occupational asbestos exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos during 1950-1980.

Amanda Jones is one of the specialists at J.M Parsons, which is owned by Thompsons Solicitors. Thompsons has paved the way for asbestos litigation in the UK ever since it brought about the first successful asbestos disease claim to the House of Lords in 1972, 50 years ago.

She said: “We would be grateful to hear from anyone who remembers working with Peter Colton in Carmarthen Bay Power Station in the 1970s or anyone who worked in the same field as Peter beyond the 1970s.

“Such individuals will be invaluable to Mr Colton’s family as they may be able to add important information that will assist us in building a civil claim. We hope that we will then be able to answer questions about the conditions that Mr Colton worked in during his working life.”

Anyone with information should contact Amanda Jones on 01554 779940, or via email at amanda@jmplaw.co.uk.

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