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Garden aims to quell language row

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Feeling the heat: Garden boss aims to ease row.

Feeling the heat: Garden boss aims to ease row.

AFTER being engulfed by a row over its failure to use the Welsh language in signage, the National Botanic Garden of Wales has attempted to fight back against stinging criticism made by Cymdeithas Yr Iaith.

The row began when Iola Wyn, of Ysgubor Bryncaerau near St Clears wrote to the National Botanic Garden pointing out recent marketing emails had been in English only and pointing out that a sign positioned at Foelgastell advertising ‘Easter Fun for all the Family’ was also in English only.

The Garden’s own policy on use of the Welsh language reads: ‘Standard written correspondence with the public in Wales will be bilingual, ensuring that where an individual’s preference is not known, their preference for use of Welsh or English is respected and facilitated’.

The above is in addition to the promise that: ‘Any correspondence in Welsh will receive a reply in Welsh’.

In relation to signs, the policy reads: ‘signage will uphold the principle of equality, with Welsh appearing together with the English in equal prominence’.

The response from David Hardy, the Garden’s Marketing Manager, to Iola Wyn appears to have been in English only and to claim that signs were designed to attract English tourists heading down the M4 corridor at speed.

Iola Wyn’s husband wrote, in Welsh, to the National Botanic Garden taking it to task over its failure to treat Welsh equally. He wrote: ‘Taking into account that you have received support from the Welsh Government and the County Council, we would be interested to know why you’re not in a position to provide material in Welsh, and in Carmarthenshire – the county with the highest number of Welsh speakers in Wales’.

She received a response in English: ‘Thanks for your email. I’m sorry you are not happy with the efforts we are making here to attract new visitors to the Garden. In order to save you from further inconvenience and upset, I am happy to remove your name from my distribution list’.

The high-handed response caused outrage and Cymdeithas Yr Iaith were swift to act. A barrage of complaints to and about the Garden’s approach followed. In a letter to both the First Minister and the leader of Carmarthenshire Council, the Society said: ‘The Garden’s attitude towards the Welsh language is very far from what is expected in the twenty-first century’.

In a letter to the Garden’s director, Dr Rosie Plummer, Cymdeithas said: ‘As a national institution that receives significant public funding and support from the local authority and central government it stands to reason that there should be full Welsh language services available. The response to public complaints about shortcomings in Welsh provision are bordering on arrogant, and it raises significant questions about the attitude of the whole organisation towards the Welsh language’.

Cymdeithas’ key criticism is that the National Garden of Wales regards the last part of its title and the Welsh language as an afterthought.

Responding, Dr Plummer said: “The Garden, as an iconic organisation and environmental flagship for Wales, is very committed to its wide support for the culture, language, and heritage of Wales and makes substantial allocation of resources and effort to this. It is therefore enormously disappointing to be subject to such vigorous approaches that largely seem to overlook the very wide range of ways in which the Garden actively contributes to bringing the unique importance of Wales to everyone who visits. The Garden works hard to offer a warm, Welsh welcome and to promote and develop its language resources to the more than 2 million visitors it has welcomed in just 15 years. Necessarily this effort is constrained, particularly at a time when funding everywhere is extremely tight. Nevertheless, all our press releases, brochures, published materials, and visitor signage are bilingual and we take a great pride in the way in which we present our information and learning, and encourage use of the language in a friendly and engaging way. The Garden hosts many thousands of education visits each year, and offers more than 50 curriculum-linked courses through the medium of Welsh.”

There was no sign in Dr Plummer’s response of an apology to Iola Wyn or her husband for the way in which the Garden dealt with their correspondence.

The Herald contacted the Garden’s media office and asked whether it wished to comment on the way it had responded to Iola Wyn and her husband.

No comment was forthcoming

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Compensation offered after FSCS declares Llanelli firm in default

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CONSUMERS could get back money they have lost as a result of their dealings with a failed regulated firm in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. The firm is Hayden Williams Independent Financial Services Limited formerly Assura Protect, Room 1, 7 Meadows Bridge, Parc Menter, Cross Hands, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales SA14 6RA.

The firm was declared in default in June 2019 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

FSCS is the UK’s statutory compensation scheme that protects customers of authorised financial services firms that carry out certain regulated activities. A declaration of default means FSCS is satisfied a firm is unable to pay claims for compensation made against it. This paves the way for customers of that firm to make a claim for compensation with FSCS.

Alex Kuczynski, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at FSCS, said: “FSCS steps in to protect consumers around the UK when authorised financial services firms go bust. This vital service, which is free to consumers, protects deposits, insurance, investments, home finance and debt management. We want anyone who believes they may be owed money as a result of their dealings with this firm to get in touch, as we may be able to help you.”

Since it began in 2001, FSCS has helped more than 4.5m people, paying out more than £26bn in compensation.

If you wish to make a claim with FSCS against Hayden Williams Independent Financial Services Limited, you may be able to do so using FSCS’s online claims service at https://claims.fscs.org.uk Or you can contact its Customer Services Team on 0800 678 1100 or 020 7741 4100

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Disabled people hit hardest by changes to benefits

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CHANGES to the welfare system over the past ten years have left disabled adults four times worse off financially than non-disabled adults, according to new research commissioned by the Disability Benefit Consortium, a coalition of over 80 UK disability organisations.

While many people who receive welfare support have experienced cuts of an average of £300 as a result of changes to the welfare system, disabled people have typically lost around £1,200 per year.

. The research, funded by the Three Guineas Trust, is the first comprehensive study looking specifically at the cumulative impact of welfare changes on disabled people, and conducted by the University of East Anglia, the University of Glasgow and Landman Economics.
The research also found:

. The more disabilities you have the more you lose out, for example someone who has six or more    disabilities loses over £2,100 each year on average, whereas someone with one disability loses around £700 each year.

Households with one disabled adult and one disabled child lose out the most, with average losses of over £4,300 per year.

Today’s report by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), ‘Has welfare become unfair – the impact of changes on disabled people’, which is based on this research, looks at the financial impact and lived experiences of welfare reform on disabled people over the past ten years.

As part of the research, 50 people living with a variety of conditions and disabilities were interviewed about their experiences. People said that they found the application and assessment processes highly stressful, and that they did not feel trusted, and constantly challenged.

The DBC also state that the current system has become so complex and dysfunctional, that many disabled people have found it has had a devastating impact on their wider health and wellbeing.

Pam McGee, 48, from Kent, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1994, which severely impacts her mobility. After a PIP assessment in 2017 she lost the higher rates for both the mobility and daily living components, which means her support was cut by £290 a month and she no longer qualifies for a Motability car. She’s now appealing the decision and says the stress caused by this process has impacted her health. She said: “If I lost my car, I don’t know how I’d carry on. I’m terrified I’ll be out of a job because without the car I won’t be able to get anywhere. If I can’t work at the age of 48, I would lose all of my pride. People always ask ‘What’s your name and what do you do?’ My job is what defines me.

“In the last 10 weeks I’ve had a massive relapse. I went dizzy and lost all feeling in my left leg. When I spoke to my neurologist he said the relapse was probably caused by stress. I’ve also been depressed and eating less.

“PIP has caused me and my family a lot of anxiety and stress. It’s caused my MS symptoms to worsen, which has reduced my mobility, confidence, and ability to take care of myself physically as well as mentally.”

The DBC say that the failure to include disability premiums as part of Universal Credit, and poorly designed assessment criteria are just two examples of the problems that are leaving disabled people worse off and is calling on the Government to make urgent improvements to the welfare system to ensure it works for everyone.

Michael Griffin, Research Lead for the DBC and Senior Policy Adviser at Parkinson’s UK, said: “For the first time, our research has shown just how much disabled people are bearing the brunt of the disastrous changes to welfare.

“Many disabled people have not yet even experienced the full extent of the cuts because they are still waiting to be moved over to Universal Credit. However, when this happens there will be a surge in poverty among those who are already at a crisis point.

“This is simply disgraceful and cannot be allowed to continue. The Government must make urgent improvements to the application processes and assessment criteria, and resolve the flaws in Universal Credit before more people are denied the support they desperately need to live independently.”

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Ysgol Pontyberem officially opens its doors

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PUPILS, staff, governors and invited guests have come together to celebrate the official opening of Ysgol Pontyberem.

A total of £4 million has been invested into refurbishing and re-modelling the school, along with a new roof, floors and walls.

The full refurbishment was funded equally between Carmarthenshire County Council and Welsh Government through the 21st Century Schools initiative.

A special ceremony was held in the school hall, where invited guests and dignitaries were entertained by pupils and the school choir.

Headteacher, Mr Gareth Owen, said: “Two years of building work has passed in order to achieve the goal, but the journey has been worthwhile. I would like to thank the councillors and officers at Carmarthenshire County Council for investing in our school. The cooperation between us has been vital in order to achieve all of our aspirations. A firm foundation has been set for the future of our pupils.”

During the ceremony, Chair of Governors, Mrs Deris Williams, said as part of the celebrations a new school motto ‘Creu’r Wên, Caru’r Iaith’ has been created by parent of the school and Chaired Bard, Aneirin Karadog.

Ysgol Pontyberem is the latest school to be delivered through Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme (MEP) which aims to give every child in the county access to first class accommodation and facilities.

To date, around £280 million has been invested in Carmarthenshire schools, including 10 new primary schools, two new secondary schools, 41 major refurbishments and extensions and work in 12 other schools.

Executive board member responsible for education, Cllr Glynog Davies said: “It’s great to see the children and staff at Ysgol Pontyberem have settled in to this totally refurbished school. There’s now plenty of room inside the school with great facilities and a spacious play area outside. It’s a school fitting for the 21st century. We have given a promise that we will do our best for education in Carmarthenshire and that is what we are doing under the Modernising Education programme.”

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