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Fears over unaccountable service ‘third sector’

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The unacceptable face of charity?: Camila Batmanghelidjh

The unacceptable face of charity?: Camila Batmanghelidjh

AS COUNCILS across Wales face unprecedented downward pressures on their budgets, more and more of them are looking towards third sector providers (usually charities or trusts) to take on responsibilities normally provided by councils themselves.

There is, however, a significant fear that the lack of clear oversight and governance of projects is leading to what amounts to grant farming by organisations who are only notionally independent third sector bodies.

The Herald has previously exposed the way in which millions of pounds of European money was squandered on the Coastal Care programme that delivered very few measurable benefits in return for £51.7m, including the revelation WHOLE COASTAL project had delivered full-time employment to – at most – 37 of those supported by June 2011, almost two thirds of the way through the project’s four and a half year existence.

USE AND ABUSE OF PUBLIC MONEY

In the case of Coastal, there was strong evidence that at least one Council (Carmarthenshire) had creamed off some of the European funds to provide statutory services covered by its Revenue Grant from the Welsh Government.

Also in Carmarthenshire, an inquiry into the shambolic administration of the Supporting People Programme, where the Council worked hand in glove with third sector service providers, led to a finding that there were “inadequate controls, a high risk of not meeting objectives and a high risk of fraud, negligence, loss and damage to reputation”.

The Authority’s Financial Procedure Rules had not been complied with and in particular, monthly payments to providers had been paid in advance without any authorisation – advance payments are not permitted without prior approval.

Documentation to support spending was insufficient and money was being transferred to in-house service provision without any documentation to prove that it was either eligible or met the grant criteria. Payments to providers were also being made which lacked supporting documentation.

Out of 154 Supporting People contracts only ten were current and properly signed by a representative of the Council.

But the application of public money to third sector organisations, delivering what would otherwise be publicly accountable functions is not confined to Carmarthenshire.

SUPPORTING PEOPLE IN CEREDIGION AND PEMBROKESHIRE

Cymdeithas Gofal is taking over many of the functions of the former Ceredigion Care Society and claims to be operating in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Powys.

Cymdeithas Gofal owns, or leases, 26 Cambrian Street (a shelter) and 21 Terrace Road, Aberystwyth.

Jacothenorth.net reports that of Cymdeithas Gofal’s income of £1,152,457 for the year ending March 31, 2015, Cymdeithas Gofal obtains almost £725,000 from grants made to it by third parties. Of that figure, over £650,000 comes from the Welsh Government, Ceredigion County Council (administering funds on the Welsh Government’s behalf) and other public sources.

Of the remaining £428,000, just over £295,000 is obtained from rents receivable and further £57,000 from management fees.

In the same period, Pembrokeshire Care Society, based in Haverfordwest, received £308,279 direct from the Supporting People Programme, whereas the charity’s main other income derived from the operation of Pathway Lettings, a social lettings agency which is also supported by Welsh Government funding. That income amounted to in excess of £220,000 for the period ending March 31, 2015.

In the cases of both Cymdeithas Gofal and Pembrokeshire Care Society over half of all expenditure was on salaries.

There is no suggestion that either Cymdeithas Gofal or Pembrokeshire Care Society are parties to the sort of public funding shambles that has bedevilled Carmarthenshire County Council’s past administration of Supporting People funds. Neither is there any suggestion of wrongdoing or inflation of figures to obtain greater sums in public funding than would otherwise be available.

One issue that is clear, is that the bodies in receipt of poorly-administered public money in Carmarthenshire, and the apparently well-run Cymdeithas Gofal and Pembrokeshire Care Society, are not directly accountable to the public for the expenditure of public money.

WHEN IS A CHARITY NOT A CHARITY?

In the broader picture, the UK Government’s attempt to prevent charities in receipt of public funding from funding political activities has been presented as an attempt by central government to silence dissent. However, the key issue seems to be more that large charities are in receipt of £10 billion of public money from HM Treasury to enable them to carry out their functions.

That money is in addition to whatever European funding, local authority funding, and indirect public funding via quangos and the National Lottery that charities receive.

Kid’s Company, which closed last year, has been in and out of the headlines following the revelation that the charity effectively went bust on an annual basis and used government grants as its cash flow. It received taxpayer money with no proper oversight and folded like a deckchair when that funding was withdrawn.

The relationship between public funding and charities’ activities is problematic: the question arises as to how much money is devoted to boxticking compliance to obtain public funding and how much is devoted to delivering a charity’s charitable objectives. Moreover, a further issue arises as to the steps government can take to recoup public money misspent by a charity or otherwise not used for the purposes for which it was contributed from the public purse.

A National Audit Office investigation in 2007 revealed that several large charities received more public money than some government departments. Of the £218m income of Action for Children, almost £200m came through different public funding streams. In 2013/14, the NAO reported that of MENCAP’s total income of £201.2m, all but £13.2m came from the taxpayer one way or another.

Most small, local charities make a difference to the communities they service without recourse to public funds. They make a difference by delivering real improvements for the communities they serve. But questions remain as to why so much public money is handed over to large national charities who remain unaccountable to the electorate who increasingly pay for them. Like it or not.

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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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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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