ITS WEBSITE says that Cymdeithas Tai Cantref is a housing association which provides ‘good quality affordable homes’ and housing services for almost 3,500 people across four local authority areas in West Wales: Ceredigion, North Pembrokeshire, North Carmarthenshire and the Machynlleth area in Powys.
What it does not tell visitors to the website is that it is currently under investigation by the Welsh Government and has been the subject of previous investigations into its management and an alleged culture of bullying.
With 84 staff, largely based in its Newcastle Emlyn HQ, Cantref is a major employer. And one it appears with a number of major problems.
The recent AGM of Cantref was held at Cardigan Castle, a venue itself no stranger to controversy. It was a bumper event, with tenants invited to partake of a hog roast and free wine, while residents of Cantref’s hostel were similarly entertained.
The uncharitable have suggested that perhaps the Association’s money would have been better spent on repairing its existing stock. Something which it is claimed the Association is too cash-strapped to manage.
Meanwhile, The Herald has been told that Cantref is struggling to find people to take up residence in its new Felinfach development while the student accommodation built in Aberystwyth, and which was intended to fund further projects, has proven a similarly hard sell.
The Herald has confirmed that three senior staff left Cantref’s employment, among them the Director of Housing, whose replacement Jamie Saunders took up his post earlier this month. Mr Saunders’ background in housing appears limited to the twelve years’ experience he gained working for Hugh James Solicitors, latterly as a senior associate solicitor specialising in property litigation.
The Finance Director was replaced in March. The new post holder, Rhodri Jones, was formerly with Newport City Homes. In 2013, the Welsh Government reported that ‘Newport City Homes recognises that it is not yet always providing excellent outcomes in the way services are delivered’. Comments made by former staff were less kind. One staff comment dated March 20, 2015 on the site glassdoor.com said: “Horrendous working environment, incomprehensible structures & processes, mainly incompetent managers & directors completely out of their depth with personal values to match with all too few exceptions. Stress levels that hugely impact on your quality of life, ill health, huge staff turnover, very high staff absence mainly due to stress. Incredibly poor recruitment policy”.
The Herald has confirmed that officials from the Welsh Government are now using their powers to investigate Cymdeithas Tai Cantref. The Herald has been told, but has not been able to confirm, that this is the first time the Welsh Government has used those powers.
The Herald has, however, confirmed that the investigation has arisen following ‘whistleblowing’ by either past or current Cantref employees.
The Welsh Government is following three lines of enquiry: Governance of the organisation, procurement irregularities and HR (treatment of staff ).
The Herald has been told that the Welsh Government’s officials initially made great play of the situation’s seriousness.
Our sources have confirmed that staff are unaware of any further visits by the Welsh Government to Cantref to follow up that initial intervention. Consultants from a firm called Campbell Tickell, a housing consultancy, are involved and while its representatives have spoken to senior managers, no staff have been interviewed to date, or even been asked their availability. One source has told us that Cantref’s management have told staff the investigation could take four months.
The Herald understands that a letter sent to stakeholders by Cantref has played down the importance of the Welsh Government’s intervention.
We have also been told that senior managers have told staff that if they say anything to WG or the investigators the Association will be shut down and everyone will lose their jobs. A planned (cost of living) pay rise has been cancelled. The move has been widely regarded by staff as a collective punishment for the actions of the whistle-blowers.
Our reporter contacted Cymdeithas Tai Cantref and asked them to comment on the situation.
Lynne Sacale, Cantref’s Chief Executive, told The Herald: “Cantref believes in ‘placing our customers at the heart of our work’ and we want to reassure our tenants that Cantref is fully compliant with all financial and regulatory requirements to date. We have recently undergone a robust and successful statutory audit and our performance indicators show we deliver high quality services to our customers. We welcome the inquiry on the basis that any findings will be to the benefit of the association going forward”
What impact will digital media have on Welsh speaking rural communities?
At an open forum under the title Tynged yr Iaith (The Fate of the Language in Carmarthenshire): The Contribution of Digital Media on Saturday the 25th of September, Cymdeithas yr Iaith will bring together elected councilors and officers of the county council, chief officers of Yr Egin center and those developing online Welsh language content to discuss how digital media can benefit our communities.
Carmarthenshire County Council is due to publish its Digital Transformation Strategy. This will include funding specifically to develop the network. According to Cymdeithas yr Iaith, there will be new opportunities for rural communities but, to take advantage of these opportunities, specific steps need to be taken
A spokesperson for the Cymdeithas yr Iaith in Carmarthenshire said: “Digital media can strengthen rural Welsh-speaking communities in Carmarthenshire by enabling more people to find work locally and even work from home, and by broadening and enhancing the community culture and links between communities.
“The council’s digital strategy and Yr Egin in Carmarthen will provide opportunities, but we must plan to capitalise on the opportunities. In the past, it has been assumed that the development of better highways is sure to boost the economy, but they can just as easily attract commuters to work out of county and raise house prices Similarly, the development of “digital highways” could be used only by people moving into the county to work from home and further inflate house prices beyond the reach of local people – unless there are concrete steps in place for training, collaboration with the Education Department and the Careers Service, and projects for Yr Egin to work with the county’s local communities.
“There will be an opportunity for everyone to ask questions and be part of the discussion by sending us a zoom link”
As well as discussing infrastructure and connectivity there will also be a presentation on the concept of creating a digital Menter Iaith, to ensure that Welsh language material is available online.
Psychological thriller from Carmarthenshire author draws on real experience with victims
John Nicholl’s new book Killing Evil features a child abuse survivor who takes revenge
Psychopath or agent of justice? John Nicholl’s compelling narrator in his new book Killing Evil is a victim of devastating childhood abuse who sets about hunting down and killing abusers.
A cunning loner who uses her job in the probation service to find her victims, Alice Granger gives each her own “trial” and punishment – but as she continues with her mission, she descends further into darkness and her crimes become harder to comprehend.
Told through the killer’s eyes, the tale is dark and gripping, with a satisfying twist at the end. It asks important questions about the rehabilitation of offenders, the plight of victims and the dangers of taking justice into your own hands.
Like his previous 10 bestsellers, Nicholl’s book draws on his own experience in his previous roles in the police and child protection.
In a long career that saw him start out as a police officer, move into social work and become a head of child protection services, Ferryside-based Nicholl experienced many harrowing cases.
He was left with PTSD and started writing fiction after a psychologist recommended writing as a form of therapy.
Nicholl self-published his first book, White is the Coldest Colour, in 2015 It sold 150,000 copies on Amazon; this led to him getting signed by an agent and a publisher, and he has written prolifically ever since.
John Nicholl says:
“What I’m always trying to get across is the rage and the anger that survivors often feel – and it’s a rage that’s often shared by the professionals trying to protect them. I worked with so many people who had been through those sort of awful experiences – some even worse than what Alice goes through. There’s a lifelong effect from that. One thing which has surprised me is the number of people who messaged me after reading Killing Evil saying they went through similar experiences. I don’t think a lot of people realise how many predatory offenders there are out there. This is the first book I’ve written through the eyes of the killer. As with all my books, I hope people find it a gripping read, but also that it gets people thinking. It’s been surprising how people have said they sympathised with Alice and wanted her to get away with it until she crossed the line.”
What people are saying about Killing Evil:
“The master of the psychological thriller at his brilliant best.” Sarah Stuart – Award-winning author
“Ice cold, chilling and brilliant.” Goodreads
“This was a great, page-turning, intriguing book that I highly recommend.” Joyce Stewart Reviews
Council launches campaign to recruit carers
CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has today (Monday September 20) launched a county-wide campaign to encourage more people into a career in social care.
The campaign, which focuses on real people in real situations, shines the spotlight on the council’s dedicated team of carers who deliver an outstanding service throughout the county and encourages others to consider a career in care.
Cllr Jane Tremlett, Cabinet Member for social care and health, said: “Our new recruitment campaign focuses on the type of person we are looking for to help us deliver a quality care service. We need positive, kind and caring individuals to join our team and help us to make a difference to service users in Carmarthenshire.
“We can offer support and training to those with no previous experience, but what we need most are people with a friendly nature and a positive attitude.”
Home and residential care vacancies are available throughout the county with full time and casual positions available.
As a carer, duties include providing personal care (bathing, dressing and other tasks), meal preparation and a range of other duties, to help promote independence where possible and to provide a good quality service to those in need.
The council offers good rates of pay with full and part-time, permanent and temporary contracts available.
For more information on care job vacancies please e-mail SCRecruitment@carmarthenshire.gov.uk or call 01267 228703.
To apply or to read any job descriptions visit www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/jobs-socialcare
If you have worked within the care sector previously and would consider returning to work, please get in touch.
The council’s requirement to recruit additional care workers in both home and residential care roles mirrors shortages seen throughout the UK.
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