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Britain’s freezing homes, ‘a silent killer’

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COLD homes are a bigger killer than road accidents, alcohol or drug misuse, new research shows.

During the Coalition Government’s five years in power, 46,700 people have died simply because they live in cold homes.

Analysis of official data by the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) today reveals, for the first time, the number of deaths each year directly related to cold homes. This represents 30% of the total number of Excess Winter Deaths according to the World Health Organisation.

The new figures from ACE estimate that this winter (2014/15) has been the deadliest in the last five years, with two thirds more cold homes deaths than the average.

The Energy Bill Revolution, the world’s largest fuel poverty campaign, has slammed the Coalition for failing to live up to its rhetoric on cold homes.

Over 46,000 people have backed an Avaaz petition which was delivered to George Osborne, Ed Balls and Danny Alexander today demanding that all parties prioritise using infrastructure funds to invest in home energy efficiency in their manifestos which are due to be finalised this week.

Campaigners point to a long list of Government failures throughout the last Parliament which have seen an unprecedented fall in the support available to people who can’t afford to heat their homes:

  • The Coalition has cut the Energy Companies Obligation, presided over Green Deal debacle, and abolished schemes like Warm Front.
  • The most effective way to bring down energy bills is to install energy efficiency measures which can save a household more than £400 per year. But the amount of energy efficiency support available to the fuel poor has plummeted 80% in the last two years. This year saw the lowest number of families since 2002 receive Government insulation support to keep their homes warm, according to today’s ACE research.

The Government boasts about installing energy efficiency measures in 1 million households under their new schemes but if they had kept to their old schemes, 2.8 million households would have received them. As a result 1.8 million families have missed out on home improvements during the Parliament.

Ed Matthew, director of the Energy Bill Revolution, said: “Cold homes are one of the most deadly killers in Britain today, but this silent menace is too often ignored because it happens behind closed doors. The evidence shows that insulation support for the fuel poor has plummeted through the floor during this Parliament. The Government must step up and put a stop to these unnecessary deaths, by committing infrastructure funds to home energy efficiency and ending our cold homes crisis once and for all.”

Today’s figures show that cold homes killed more people in 2013 than carbon monoxide, fire, assault, and road/rail accidents combined.

Britain is second only to Estonia for fuel poverty in Europe, and cold homes have led to more people admitted to hospital with breathing problems than Sweden over the past five years.

The NHS is bearing the burden of this Government failure. Cold homes cost the NHS £1.36billion every year, according to Age-UK.

Leaky and cold homes are a cause of illnesses including chronic lung disease, asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia.

According to consultants Cambridge Econometrics, investing just 3% of the infrastructure budget in energy efficiency would take 2 million homes out of fuel poverty by 2020. Such a programme would increase UK GDP by £13.9billion a year by 2030 and create 108,000 new jobs.

Mass public support saw the Energy Bill Revolution’s campaign video recently go viral. The video of political leaders singing a spoof version of Frozen hit ‘let it go’ reached 5 million people.

Sam Barratt, Campaign Director of Avaaz said: “David Cameron may think insulating homes is ‘green crap’, but having a warm home can be the difference between life and death for the most vulnerable in our society. It really is a disgrace that only Estonia has worse fuel poverty than Britain in Europe. All parties must commit to radical action using infrastructure funds to insulate homes to save lives in their manifestos to stop this country’s cold home killer.”

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Third annual Burry Port Raft Race is eagerly awaited

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THE THIRD ANNUAL BURRY PORT RAFT RACE, organised by Burry Port couple, Craig and Isabel Goodman, will be held on Saturday (July 27).

The event which is held in Burry Port Harbour, raises much needed funds for both Burry Port RNLI and a children’s football academy and primary school the couple support in The Gambia.

The day launches at 12pm with stands, food stalls and children’s inflatable games and rides and these will be available until 5pm. You’ll also have a chance to meet the crews, who’ll be busy putting the final touches to their rafts.

Rafts launch at 3pm, followed by a presentation ceremony, including prizes for first raft over the line, first raft to sink and best dressed raft.

Craig said: ” A huge thank you goes to all our sponsors, including overall sponsor Dawsons, along with continued sponsorship from Celtic Couriers, Parker Plant Hire, Burns Pet Nutrition, Burry Port Co-Op, Llanelli Star, LBS Builders Merchants, Burry Port Marina, First Choice Flooring and Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council.

For any further information about the event, please contact 07825 842981.

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The tale of the WW2 Luftwaffe pilot who mistakenly landed in west Wales

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IT WAS this time of year, 1942, that a bizarre series of events led to a German fighter pilot landing at RAF Pembrey in South Wales, unintentionally aiding the war effort of The Allied Forces in the process.

On June 23, 1942, Oberleautnant Armin Fabar was ordered to a fly a combat mission along with his squadron, in response to an Allied bombing raid of northern France.

Armin Faber mistakenly flew to South Wales after the dog-fight

Fabar’s squadron (the 7th Staffel) all flew Focke-Wulf 190 fighter planes. These planes were seen as superior to the then current Spitfires of the Allied Forces, and in the subsequent dog-fight that developed over The English Channel seven Spitfires were shot down, compared to only two Focke-Wulf 190s (FW-190s).

One Czechoslovakian Spitfire pilot, Alois Vašátko, dramatically lost his life when, in the fray of combat, he collided head-on with an FW-190. The German pilot bailed out and was later captured by Allied Forces.

Spitfire pilot Alois Vašátko lost his life in the battle

In the ensuing battle, Faber became disorientated and was separated from his squadron. He was attacked by a Spitfire manned by Seargent František Trejtnar. In a desperate attempt to shake off his pursuer, Faber fled North over the skies of Devon. He pulled off a brilliant ‘Immelman Turn’, a move in which the sun is used to dazzle a pursuer on your tail. Now flying directly from Trejtnar’s view of the sun, Faber shot him down.

Trejtnar crashed near the village of Black Dog, Devon suffering shrapnel wounds and a broken arm.

The victorious Faber had another problem entirely, though he was unaware of it at the time. He had mistaken The Bristol Channel for The English Channel, and flew north into south Wales, thinking it was northern France!

Finding the nearest airfield – RAF Pembrey, in Carmarthernshire, Faber prepared to land. Observers on the ground ‘could not believe their eyes’ as Faber waggled his wings in a victory celebration, lowered the Focke-Wulf’s undercarriage and landed.

Faber expected to be greeted with open arms by his German brothers, but was instead greeted by Pembrey Duty Pilot, Sgt Matthews, pointing a flare gun at his face (he had no other weapon to hand).

As the gravity of the mistake slowly dawned on him, the stricken Faber was ‘so despondent that he attempted suicide’ unsuccessfully.

Faber was later driven to RAF Fairwood Common for interrogation under the escort of Group Captain David Atcherley. Atcherley, fearful of an escape attempt, aimed his revolver at Faber for the entire journey. At one point the car hit a pothole, causing the weapon to fire; the shot only narrowly missing Faber’s head!

Fabers mistaken landing in Wales was a gift for The Allied Forces, a disaster for The Third Reich.

He had inadvertently presented the RAF with one of the greatest prizes of the entire war – an intact example of the formidable Focke-Wulf 190 fighter plane, an aircraft the British had learned to fear and dread ever since it made its combat debut the previous year.

Over the following months Faber’s plane was examined in minute detail, the allies desperately looking for any weakness in the FW-190. There were few to be found.

They did find one, however.

The FW-190s became relatively sluggish at higher altitudes. This knowledge aided the Allied Forces and saved countless lives, as the aerial battles turned increasingly in their favour.

Faber was taken as a prisoner of war, eventually being sent to a POW camp in Canada. Towards the end of the war he was sent home to Germany due to his ill health.

49 years later Faber would visit the Shoreham Aircraft Museum, where parts of his FW-190 are displayed to this day, along with parts of the Spitfire that he shot down in the skies over Devon. He presented the Museum with his officer’s dagger and pilot’s badge.

This little-known but important piece of Carmarthenshire history illustrates not only the high-stakes arms race between The Third Reich and The Allied Forces during WW2, but also the cost of human error.

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NSPCC: Wales conference puts spotlight on domestic abuse

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PROTECTING women and children from domestic abuse was the focus of a ground-breaking conference in Wales this week (Mar 28).

Organised by Cardiff University’s Exchange Network – with support from NSPCC Cymru / Wales and Welsh Women’s Aid – the event aimed to share information on the most effective approaches to tackle all forms of violence against women, domestic abuse and support for victims – be they adults or children.

Preventing violence from happening and protecting those who fall victim to domestic abuse formed the focus of the conference, at Cardiff’s Novotel Hotel.

Representatives from Welsh Government, Relate Cymru, Barnardos and Rape and Sexual Abuse (RASA) Centre also attended.

Domestic abuse continues to be a significant reason for young people to contact Childline. In 2016/17 volunteers at the NSPCC-run helpline undertook 120 counselling sessions with children from Wales who had concerns about abuse by a partner in their own relationship.

And 241 children from Wales contacted Childline to discuss parental domestic abuse.

Some young people who witness this also experience physical abuse by their parents. This can sometimes happen when they try and intervene in the abuse taking place, with some children telling Childline they were hit by their mother or father when trying to stop a fight.

“Sometimes my dad gets in a bad mood and gets really aggressive. He says horrible things to me and my mum and it scares me. In the past he was threatening to hit my mum, when I tried to get him to calm down he slapped me instead. I feel like neither of them listen to me and they don’t understand how upset it’s all making me.” (Girl, 16-18, Wales)

Head of NSPCC Cymru / Wales, Des Mannion, told The Llanelli Herald: “Domestic abuse can have a huge impact on a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing and it’s hugely important that we share information and discuss ways to both prevent violence and protect victims.

“We all have a part to play in tackling domestic abuse and it’s important to pick up the phone if you’re concerned so that our advisers can offer guidance and get help where it’s needed.

“Stepping in early helps to change behaviours and avoid abuse escalating, and putting the child at the heart of interventions is paramount in keeping children safe and limiting long-term damage.

“It is also vital that children and young people affected by domestic abuse have access to the right kind of support to overcome the trauma of witnessing and experiencing domestic abuse.”

Any child worried about domestic abuse can call Childline on 0800 11 11. Any adult who is concerned about a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.

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