LAST WEEK’s County Council meeting (Mar 10) received a presentation from Marcia Vale, the Dementia Friendly Communities Coordinator from the Alzheimer’s Society.
Ms Vale prefaced her remarks by apologising for her lack of IT skills and lack of facility in the Welsh language.
Her report was well-received and touched upon the Alzheimer’s Society’s campaign calling for the Welsh government to commit to an appropriately resourced National Dementia Strategy, in respect of which it has launched a petition seeking support for its stance from members of the public.
Ms Vale also welcomed the expansion of a pilot scheme for supporting those with dementia in remaining living in their home communities and praised the success of a council-backed pilot scheme in Pontyberem.
In the run up to the 2016 Welsh Assembly elections, Alzheimer’s Society will be campaigning to ensure that all prospective candidates recognize the urgent need for a dementia strategy in Wales.
Responding to the report, Cllr Alun Lenny expressed his disappointment that the presentation was not bilingual, suggesting that it demonstrated a lack of awareness of the role of the Welsh language in the area of dementia.
Cllr Lenny stated: “It is a clinical fact that a number of Welsh speakers lose the ability to speak their second language namely English as this awful disease takes its toll. Imagine being a Welsh speaker who has dementia – advanced dementia – and has staff in a residential home speaking at you in English.
“I am sorry if it is an oversight. If this is an oversight, I hope that it is not a factor in the treatment and advice in all other fields of work by the Alzheimer ‘s Society in Wales.”
Marcia Vale apologised and said: “I am an English speaker. The Alzheimer ‘s Society does not present its policy as being not bilingual. In fact it is due to the Alzheimer ‘s Society’s lobbying of the Welsh Government that we now have the policy that bilingual memory testing services in Welsh will be part of the Health Board’s offer to support people living with dementia.
“It is my lack of skill that it is not side by side translation, not any lack of respect.”
The presentation itself was positively received by members, who took in turns both to praise the work of the Alzheimer’s Society generally and the work being done to assist those with dementia to remain in their home communities and continue to have fulfilling lives within them.
The presentation in part looked forward to the extension of a pilot scheme in Pontyberem to Ammanford, Kidwelly, and Llanelli, a fact spoken on by Cllr Gwyneth Thomas, who praised Parc y Scarlets for coming on board with the aims of the community scheme.
Cllr Sharen Davies (Llwynhendy) expressed surprise at discovering that the Llanelli area was to be part of a dementia friendly community, a fact of which she said she was previously unaware. Cllr John James reminded councillors that the local authority had itself voted to press the Welsh Government to bring forward the sort of concrete strategy the Alzheimer’s Society proposed.
Concluding the discussion, Cllr Jane Tremlett, the Executive Board Member for Social Care & Health, who has worked hard on the Council’s social inclusion policies, called upon councillors to act as leaders in their communities to share what they had heard about the Alzheimer’s Society’s work and to encourage those with dementia to remain engaged in their communities. She assured councillors that a Welsh translation of the presentation would be made available after the meeting.
Cllr Tremlett also made the point, responding to Cllr Lenny, that it was Carmarthenshire’s policy to have a Welsh-speaking member of staff on hand to ensure that those using County Council facilities, who had either lost the ability to communicate in English or preferred to communicate through the medium Welsh were able to do so.
A few days after the meeting, The Herald was contacted by three Labour councillors who expressed their misgivings at what they said was a school masterly approach to the Welsh language issue adopted by Cllr Lenny.
Cllr Sharen Davies told The Herald: “I was appalled at the way she was spoken to like a child in school! Brings back memories! This is no way to encourage individuals to learn or speak Welsh when you have those who criticise! We all understood the presentation and it’s a shame when someone who concentrates more on the language of the presentation than that of the positive delivery services it provides.”
Cllr Alun Lenny responded and told The Herald: “It’s truly sad that a small minority of Labour members just cannot hide their dislike of the Welsh language, judging by their reaction to my comments in the council meeting.
“Not only that, but they failed to understand the connection I was trying to make between language awareness and dementia care and treatment.”
Cllr Lenny explained: “Having care through the medium of Welsh is not just a human rights issue, it’s a clinical necessity. The Dementia Vision for Wales clearly states that if an assessment is carried out in the person’s language of choice, the diagnosis is more likely to be accurate.
“It’s also a clinical fact that as this awful condition progresses, people with dementia may only be able to communicate in their first language. In the case of many people in Carmarthenshire, that language is Welsh.”
Reflecting further, Cllr Lenny continued: “Over the years, I’ve known of Welsh-speaking dementia patients who became isolated and distressed because care staff could only speak English to them. Happily, the (Labour) Welsh Government – which I commended in the Chamber – recognises this in its strategy ‘Much More Than Words’.
“As a consequence, every effort is made by the County Council’s Social Care department to provide services through the medium of Welsh for dementia patients who need such care.”
Alun Lenny concluded: “As one who took part in a long campaign to ensure such service for those suffering from this cruel illness, I feared that the language of the presentation reflected a lack of awareness about language as a clinical factor in dementia. Hence my comments. To my great relief, I’ve since been assured that the Alzheimer’s Society, which does such excellent work, is fully aware of the linguistic dimension.”
The Alzheimer’s Society confirmed that the use of Welsh in the delivery of services to those living with dementia is central to its engagement in Welsh communities.
Llandeilo Festival publishes its Entertainment schedule
“CHILDREN AND families are at the heart of our festival this year,” announces festival vice chair Debbie Ince. “On Friday 18th November the festival stalls will start trading at 10am but in the evening there will be the official opening, followed at 6:15pm by Santa coming through the town on his sleigh. A children’s Lantern procession from CK to King Street led by Llandeilo Primary School’s Samba group will meet Santa on King Street to tunes by the Llandeilo Town Band and bilingual hymn singer Ffion Haf. Once the children had their fill of Santa, the Christmas Lights will be switched on by Mayor Gordon Kilby. Local legend singer and actor Harry Luke and Ffion Haf will entertain the crowd until 8pm.”
A spectacular and pet-friendly Laser Show will replace the controversial fireworks at 8pm. “There’s also a tea cup ride on King Street for kids,” adds Ince. “On Saturday and Sunday kids can go to Santa’s Grotto 10 – 4, and on Saturday to St Teilo’s Church or Hengwrt for activities. At our park and ride on Beechwood Estate ‘Sgiliau’ will be open for our youngest visitors.”
“There is of course plenty of entertainment for adults, too,” adds festival chair Christoph Fischer. “From Davies & Co Station Road to Flows on Market Street, most Llandeilo venues will play indoor music, many day and night. The stage will host a variety of acts: from school and adult choirs, bands, solo singers and dance groups, such as Mixed Youth Group, Lotus Sisters Belly dancers and Sunflowers Wales. Cooking demonstrations on Saturday and a Santa Run on Sunday morning round up the festival programme. You can find updates on the Llandeilo Town App Dyma Llandeilo.”
“With our wide selection of street food, arts-,crafts-, fashion- and food stalls there should be something for everyone,” adds stalls coordinator and treasurer Mered Williams. “See you all on the 18th.!”
Carmarthenshire County Council has launched its annual Christmas Toybox Appeal
The appeal, in its 12th year, helps hundreds of children with families who can’t afford to buy toys or gifts.
Last year saw us help more families than ever who were struggling financially with more than 7,700 gifts distributed to 1,287 children. This year during these unprecedented times we rely on support more than ever.
The appeal was launched online for the first time in 2020 following the coronavirus pandemic and people were asked to make a financial donation instead of buying gifts and toys.
This year people can either give a financial donation or drop off gifts from games, arts and craft items to toiletry gift sets for all ages – from 18 months up to teenagers, at one of a number of collection points around the county.
Schools, family centres and youth workers identify those who are in greatest need of support and council staff will distribute them in the run-up to Christmas.
The council’s executive board member responsible for the Toybox Appeal, Cllr Linda Evans said:
“I am proud to be following on from the legacy of Cllr Mair Stephens who sadly passed away earlier this year. The Toybox appeal this year is going to be more important than ever. We have always had fantastic support and this year we hope this will continue to ensure that hundreds of children will receive a Christmas gift. We know times are hard, but if people are able to spare a gift or a donation no matter how big or small, it will make a great difference to those families less fortunate.”
You can make a donation of your choice online at the Christmas Toy Box Appeal website. If you have a cash or cheque donation please call 01267 246504.
To view the collection point locations please visit the council’s website
Donations are being taken up until November 30.
Council responds at pace to deliver significant improvements in its planning Service
Audit Wales has carried out a Follow-up Review of Planning Services by Carmarthenshire County Council and concluded that the council has successfully addressed all its recommendations.
In July 2021, Audit Wales published a report following a review of the council’s planning services, with its findings identifying significant and long-standing performance issues in the planning service that needed to be urgently addressed to help support the delivery of the council’s ambitions.
A total of 17 recommendations were made by Audit Wales for the council to address. All of which the report has confirmed have been met.
In response to the recommendations of the report, Carmarthenshire County Council convened an Intervention Board to provide oversight of a 49 point action plan to respond to the Audit Wales findings that were published in July 2021. Over the past 15 months, progress against the plan has been monitored through the council’s governance framework to provide assurance of progress made against the recommendations.
Audit Wales has been following the council’s progress through regular catch-up meetings with the council, document reviews and observing governance and audit committee meetings. They have also interviewed key council officers during the audit process.
Within the follow up-review, which can be viewed on their website, Audit Wales states that:
“The Council is to be commended for the swift, decisive action it took in response to the findings of our 2021 report, and for the way it has driven improvements in its planning service.
“The constructive way in which the Council received our report and acted on the recommendations is a particularly positive example of a Council demonstrating its commitment to driving improvement in service delivery.
“The Council has learnt lessons from the review that it has also applied more widely, particularly in relation to performance management.
“Overall, we found that the Council has successfully addressed all our recommendations and has responded at pace to deliver significant improvements in its planning service.”
Cabinet member for rural affairs and planning policy, Cllr Ann Davies said:
“I am very pleased with the Audit Wales report which states that Carmarthenshire County Council has succeeded in overcoming challenges within our planning department.
“The report is excellent, it praises the work and the change in systems, procedures and leadership, recognising the significant improvement that has been achieved.
“The issues in question were not due to a lack of work ethic, as I know first-hand of the effort and commitment that is put in by a number of our officers. It was rather the processes which were to blame and needed to be adjusted, as it did not provide officers with the appropriate environment to carry out the work required.
“I would like to thank all council officers that have worked so hard since the Spring of 2021 to achieve the goal of meeting all 17 of the recommendations that were initially set out by Audit Wales.
“The next step, of course, is to keep going, keep moving forward to stay at the forefront as one of the most productive planning authorities in Wales. There is further work to be done and we are committed to continuous improvement, especially in the world of enforcement but we are moving in the right direction with over 1000 enforcement cases having already been resolved in the last year.”
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