PLANS for a group home in Lon Hir, designed to offer homeless veterans a new start in life, will not now be acted upon, despite a successful appeal to the Welsh Planning Inspectorate. The original bid, by Christian charity Alabare, was to change a house in the cul-de-sac from a residential dwelling into a multiple-occupancy, catering for service veterans. Alabare run a number of homes across the country, and estimate that they have helped over 300 veterans in the past six years. However, despite the plans being recommended for approval by Carmarthenshire Council’s head of planning, they were rejected at a planning committee meeting on September 23 last year, citing ‘highway safety and the detrimental effect on the local community’ as reasons for refusal. Among the objections raised by residents were ‘potential noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour; loss of privacy and the proposal would dramatically affect local residents’ enjoyment of the peace and tranquillity they currently experience; totally wrong location for such a use; the road outside the property is unadopted and there is no lighting,’ and ‘there are two busy footpaths joining onto Lon Hir, which are designated safe routes to school’.
The comment regarding the school was described as ‘disgraceful’ by a council member in an interview conducted at the time. At the meeting a representative for Alabare pointed out that no formal complaints had been raised over the six years that they had been running homes across the country. Alabare then appealed the decision, and the Welsh Planning Inspectorate approved the plans. However, Alabare announced that they had decided not to press ahead with their plans for Lon Hir. In a statement, the charity’s Chief Executive Andrew Lord explained their reasons for this: “In all our homes our key priority has always been the welfare and care of homeless and vulnerable Veterans. Part of the support we provide is to help them to live in a community, integrating and positively contributing to life in their neighbourhood. We have spent a lot of time talking to people living in Lon Hir and have met people with strong feelings both for and against opening a Home for Veterans in their road. The positive opportunities offered by this house and location led us to pursue our planning application.
Despite our reassurances and 6 year track record of successfully supporting Veterans in communities across the South West, we have been unable to win around those immediate neighbours who have continually felt extremely negative towards our proposal and who have made it very clear that they would not welcome our staff or residents, nor would they wish to join us in any Community Forum. We are very sad that we have been unable to convince these neighbours of the merits of our proposal and benefi ts that it could bring to everyone in this community. It is therefore with a sense of sorrow that our Board of Trustees has today taken the decision not to proceed with the purchase of this property. Given the exceptional and continuing negativity of a small number of immediate neighbours, we no longer believe it will be in the best interests of our staff or potential residents to live at this address.
Our Trustees stand by the decision to take this planning application through to a successful appeal, as they do not wish the circumstances of this change in our plans to have a negative impact on the future development of Supported Housing for vulnerable adults in Wales. Ultimately we believe that Veterans should be afforded the same opportunities to live successful and fulfi lling lives as anybody else. Due to the length of time it has taken to complete this planning process, and in recognition of the needs of homeless Veterans in Carmarthen, six months ago we rented a number of Wales Homes for Veterans in the town. We are delighted that this has enabled us to help those who are vulnerable and in need of a home and our support.
We will continue to support Veterans in these homes, and will be looking to open Homes for Veterans in other areas in the near future.” Carmarthen veteran Lt Col John Skipper expressed his disappointment at Alabare’s decision, but added that he could understand their reasons. In a statement made to the press, he explained why projects like the proposed Lon Hir development are an essential part of provision for veterans of the armed forces: “This type of housing is of critical importance to Armed Forces veterans across the UK, assisting their transition back into civilian life. This transition can be made all the more diffi cult due to Service-related mental and physical health issues. It is a fundamental element in bringing the provisions of the Armed Forces Covenant alive. It also resonates with the recent 70th anniversary of VE day – we must look after those who have put their lives on the line, then and now. I know of many veterans in Wales who are struggling to make ends meet – servicemen to whom we owe an enormous debt for the freedoms we so often take for granted. It is important that a line is now drawn under this unfortunate issue: recrimination and attribution of blame serves no one.” Lt Col Skipper also refl ected on some of the issues raised by objectors: “This very unsavoury argument depicts the veteran as someone who can never be rehabilitated, which is rubbish. My biggest fear is that this will drive away people who would benefi t from this service.”
Compensation offered after FSCS declares Llanelli firm in default
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
Disabled people hit hardest by changes to benefits
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.”
Ysgol Pontyberem officially opens its doors
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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