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Older people missing out on benefits

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AGE CYMRU helped older people in Wales claim more than £6.5m in benefits last year; additional income that could have a massive impact on the quality of life for those individuals who came forward seeking help.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg as it’s estimated that more than £3.5 billion of state benefits available to older people in the UK goes unclaimed each year. In Wales this would equate to approximately £175 million of unclaimed benefits; a significant amount of money that could help bring about positive changes to thousands of older people in Wales.

Additionally, a recent study by the National Assembly for Wales found that more than 120,000 older people in Wales are living in poverty.

To help combat such levels of poverty amongst older people, Age Cymru has updated More Money In Your Pocket for 2019/2020; a bi-lingual guide to help older people and their carers claim benefit entitlements in later life.

The guide covers a wide range of benefits and entitlements, including state pensions, Pension Credit, help with Council Tax, help with heating costs, Attendance Allowance and Carers’ Allowance.

Take the case of Jack, who contacted one of Age Cymru’s partners for help in 2018.

Jack is 82 and lives with his wife Gwen who is 73. Jack has suffered six heart attacks and has several other debilitating diseases. As a result he has limited mobility and little stamina so rarely leaves his home.

An Age Cymru adviser undertook a thorough exploration of Jack and Gwen’s circumstances and identified that they were not claiming all their benefit entitlements.

In summary, Jack was awarded the highest rate of the Disability Living Allowance care component at £85.60 per week; Pension Credit for the couple was awarded at £119.00 a week and their Council Tax payments were reduced from £155 to £25 a month. They also received a number of backdated amounts, totalling £5,587.46.

As a result, their life has changed for the better. They can now afford to pay for food and heating and can also pay for transport if they need to go somewhere and therefore no longer feel trapped in their home.

Gavin Thomas, who manages the charity’s information and advice services across Wales says: “Poverty can have a devastating effect on an older person’s quality of life forcing many to choose between eating and heating. It can also keep an older person trapped in their homes leading to loneliness and isolation and, in many cases, poor mental and physical health.”

“Some people miss out on benefits because they mistakenly believe they don’t qualify or are put off by the claims process.

“However, older people might be surprised to learn what help is available to them. I would urge any older person in Wales to claim all their benefit entitlements and to use our guide as a useful tool to start the process.”

More Money In Your Pocket is available free of charge from Age Cymru and local partners throughout Wales. You may call the Advice Line free on 08000 223 444 or email advice@agecymru.org.uk to order a copy. You may also download the free guide from our website: www.agecymru.org.uk/moneyguides

The charity’s expert advisers can also carry out a full benefits check to find out what you might be entitled to claim. Age Cymru also offers a range of information guides and factsheets on many other topics.

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Paramedic students receive vaccination

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Swansea University paramedic students have received their coronavirus vaccine as they continue to work on the NHS frontline.

The students say they are delighted they have now been protected as they go about their duties helping support vital services.

Sarah Board, a second year Dip HE Paramedic Science student, said: “Having transported a very unwell Covid patient into Bronglais Hospital this week, I felt far happier spending an hour in the ambulance treating her and being in such close proximity knowing I had had my vaccine.

“It felt like having an added layer of PPE!”

Josephine McCarthy, who is in her first year on the BSc Paramedic Science course, added: “Being able to have the vaccine enables us to keep others and ourselves safe. At the moment, every little helps.”

Nikki Williams, team lead for paramedic studies, said: “At Swansea University we enjoy a close partnership with the Welsh Ambulance Service (WAST) and this has strengthened over the past year.

“Throughout the pandemic our students have been able to continue their education and training, particularly their clinical placements.

“WAST has ensured all students have been issued with appropriate PPE, protecting them, their colleagues, service users and their carers.

“Providing the vaccine to our students is the next step in this exemplary process and demonstrates the vital role students play in delivering care during their training.” 

Mel De Castro-Pugh, a second year Dip HE Paramedic Science student, said: “As a frontline paramedic student with an underlying health condition, having the vaccine – combined with the right level of PPE – has given me some peace of mind working with Covid patients.

“I can finally see a light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel, we just need as many people as possible to get vaccinated.”

WAST vaccination lead Jo Kelso said: “As a Trust, we have been delighted to have our student paramedics join us to directly fight against this disease and have ensured they are afforded access to the vaccines alongside their frontline WAST colleagues in patient-facing roles, our volunteers and our sub-contracted partners.

“Having the support of our health board colleagues to include Swansea University students in their mass vaccination clinics is deeply appreciated.”

Paramedic students have been working alongside qualified colleagues throughout the pandemic. Back in March, 101 Swansea students signed up to work with WAST and support the non-urgent and non-critical, planned patient transport services which in turn freed up qualified paramedics for more urgent duties.

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All local hospitals to become smoke-free from March

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PEOPLE living across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire are being reminded that today marks just two weeks until all hospital grounds in the three counties become smoke-free.

New laws, being introduced across Wales on Monday 1st March, build on the smoking ban introduced in 2007, and will result in all parts of Glangwili, Bronglais, Withybush and Prince Philip hospitals becoming smoke-free.

The law will also apply to all other Health Board run facilities.

The move is part of a national drive to create a healthier Wales and healthier future by protecting everyone from harmful, second-hand smoke, supporting those trying to quit, as well as reducing the normalisation of smoking, which is why the smoke-free law includes schools, public playgrounds, and outdoor areas of children’s daycare and childminding settings.

Anyone found breaking the law by smoking on these grounds could face a £100 fine.

Ros Jervis, Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “This is great news for people in the three counties and Wales as a whole. Preventing people smoking on our hospital grounds will promote healthier care environments, protect hospital users from harmful second-hand smoke and support those using NHS services to quit.”

“We know the harms smoking can do to health, so I look forward to having the backing of our staff, patients and visitors, to ensure we all play our part in building a healthier Wales for the future.

Many smokers have already been motivated to give up smoking due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it is hoped this new legislation will encourage even more to do so. We have learnt that smoking can increase the risk of contracting COVID-19 and also the severity of the disease.

Quitting with support provides the best chance of stopping smoking for good, which is why we are making smoking support services available to those who would like help.

The Hywel Dda Healthy Lifestyle and Wellbeing Team (Smoking) can provide expert and confidential NHS behavioural support and access to medication to help stop smoking or access to stop smoking medication.  Support is currently provided via telephone.  The service can be contacted via 0300 303 9652, which is a freephone number.

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Updated Covid-19 testing strategy for Wales published

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The original testing strategy was published in July 2020 and has been revised in light of our greater understanding of the virus, the development of new testing technology and the roll-out of our vaccination programme. The new strategy also expands our testing approach to include more regular testing for NHS and care home staff and patients in hospitals.

A community testing framework is also being published today which builds on the pilot schemes in Merthyr Tydfil and Lower Cynon to test asymptomatic people to stop the spread of the virus.

Today’s revised strategy focuses on the following priority areas;

·       Test to diagnose – Testing patients on admission to hospital, patients who develop symptoms while in hospital, asymptomatic in-patients five days after admission and planned admissions to protect patients who are at increased risk.

·       Test to safeguard – Regular asymptomatic testing for NHS and care home staff, supported living staff, staff working with vulnerable people in special schools, domiciliary care staff and prison staff.

·       Test to find – Continuing to test anyone who thinks they have symptoms to identify to isolate Covid-19 cases in the community, reduce the transmission of infection, support contact tracing, protect vulnerable individuals and help to slow or stop the spread of the disease.

·       Test to maintain – Regular testing of the workforce in various settings to find cases and exploring whether testing of asymptomatic contacts could allow people to safely remain at work or schools instead of isolating for 10 days. We are currently piloting and evaluating this approach.

·       Test to enable – Considering how testing might work alongside vaccination to enable people with a negative result or those who demonstrate the required level of antibodies in their system to travel internationally, attend work or cultural or sporting events or meet family and friends.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:

“Testing has continued to play a pivotal role in our overall approach to preventing the transmission of Covid-19 across Wales.

“Since the last strategy was published, new testing technologies have demonstrated it is possible to test at far greater scale, frequency and speed than ever before. Testing remains important as we roll out the vaccine. Once vaccinated, it is still critical that people continue to follow the guidance and if showing symptoms, get tested.

“Today I’m setting out our revised approach so we can continue to safeguard our most vulnerable people and protect the NHS. The strategy also looks ahead at how we can use testing as an appropriate and effective safeguard alongside the vaccine as we return to normality.”

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