EACH year Carmarthenshire County Council receives a ‘Supporting People’ grant of around £6.7m from the Welsh Government.
To put it simply, the grant is aimed at helping vulnerable people live as independently as possible and covers, for example, homelessness, domestic violence, drug abuse, mental health issues and physical and mental disability, for young and old alike.
Many of the services are commissioned by the council and provided by external sources.
A recent report from the council’s own Internal Audit shows that all is definitely not well and failures delays and mismanagement of this grant, by the council’s Department for Social Care have led to the Welsh Government withholding £3m until the appropriate certificates have been signed off, currently a year overdue. This is shocking.
The Internal Audit found ‘Fundamental weakness’ for the second year running which, in general terms of risk means; ‘inadequate controls, a high risk of not meeting objectives and a high risk of fraud, negligence, loss and damage to reputation’.
The Authority’s Financial Procedure Rules have not been complied with and in particular, monthly payments to providers had been paid in advance without any authorisation – advance payments are not permitted without prior approval.
Documentation to support spending was insufficient and money was being transferred to in-house service provision without any documentation to prove that it was either eligible or met the grant criteria. Payments to providers were also being made which lacked supporting documentation.
There was also non-compliance with the council’s Contract Procedure Rules. Out of 154 Supporting People contracts only ten were current and properly signed by a representative of the council.
Only one of those had actually been in place and signed in the grant certificate period in question.
In the majority of cases, contracts had been awarded without following the appropriate tendering/quotation process. Documentation for contracts are not maintained and the majority of providers do not have up to date contracts.
These contracts were not always signed by a representative of the council and evidence of approval was not available to support the extension of contracts.
Where contracts are in place there was no monitoring to make sure that providers were only getting paid what they were supposed to be.
A further fundamental weakness was identified as ‘Insufficient monitoring arrangements’ – there was no evidence that the eligibility of providers were being monitored or that they were delivering the service as required by the terms and condition of the grant.
Many had not been visited for eight years and none had received a monitoring visit in the financial year in question. There was also no evidence that the projects were being managed appropriately or progressing as expected.
Although some financial information and ‘outcomes’ from providers were collated by staff in the department, there were no checks to ensure that any of it was accurate before being provided to the Welsh Government.
The report concludes with a warning that unless there is a marked improvement the council is currently at risk of having grant monies withdrawn and having applications for further funding refused.
The Wales Audit Office are currently assessing the council’s grant management procedures in relation to property grants and I would imagine they’d be casting their auditing eye over this lot too. Or they should be.
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7-year-old Mattie from Pembrey takes on home Pen y Fan-tastic challenge for Action for Children
Plucky Mattie Denman will climb the equivalent of Pen y Fan in the drive at her family home in Pembrey on Friday 22nd May to raise funds for Action for Children.
Mattie (7), has always wanted to climb the highest mountain in South Wales and is unable to currently because of the coronavirus pandemic. As the family exercise at home every day, she decided she wanted to do the 6-mile equivalent journey there while she waits for the chance to do it for real. Mattie chose Action for Children as her mother, Sian, works for the charity in Carmarthenshire.
Mattie said: ‘My Mammy works for Action for Children and I want to help as well because lots of families need help. My older brother and sister help Action for Children, so I asked Mammy if I could do something. We exercise everyday walking up and down the drive and I have always wanted to climb Pen y Fan, but we have never done it.
‘Mammy said I could pretend I am walking it and people will give money to the charity. I said brilliant, that is what I am going to do and I am super excited to do it. I will use mammy’s step counter and I hope I can help children that need support especially because it is so hard for some families because of coronavirus.’
Proud mum and family support practitioner for Action for Children, Sian, added: ‘Mattie has a lovely heart and really wanted to do something and I’m very proud she chose Pen y Fan as her home challenge. Action for Children has been going the extra mile during the coronavirus pandemic continuing to support vulnerable families through phone and video sessions as well as food and help with the basics from our Emergency Appeal Fund.
‘It is a tremendously challenging time for our families and every bit of money will directly help those in our communities who need it most. I hope as many people as possible will donate to Mattie’s brilliant fundraising effort, it’ll make it even more special when we finally get to climb Pen y Fan for real.’
If you want to support Mattie’s Pen y Fan challenge please go to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mattiesclimb
Housebuilder launches Coronavirus move in package
A South Wales housebuilder has launched new incentives which mean homes are ‘ready to move into’ during the Covid-19 crisis – without the need for tradespeople or delivery people.
People in Wales are allowed to move into new build houses during the lockdown – and many people have successfully done so.
However, the limitations of social distancing can add extra stress when it comes to having things like dishwashers, washing machines and turf installed in the new property.
That’s why Persimmon Homes West Wales has launched a new incentive package which gives purchasers the chance to buy a house with white goods and flooring already in place.
Sharon Bouhali, sales director at Persimmon Homes West Wales, said: “Our sales advisors have done a terrific job in talking with customers and guiding them through the buying process remotely, without the need of face-to-face meetings.
“It’s been a huge challenge, but we’ve risen to it – and Persimmon has sold more than 120 properties in South Wales during the lockdown period. We have customers moving into their new homes every week.
“But, understandably, some people are cautious about having too many tradespeople and contractors enter their home, even if they are doing their utmost to abide by social distancing rules.
“That’s why we have launched these new packages which mean people can turn the key, unpack and get on with enjoying their new home.”
The package includes carpets and vinyl throughout, turf in the back garden, sliding wardrobes, integrated fridge freezer, integrated washer/dryer, integrated dishwasher and £500 discount towards removal fees.
The deal is on offer at Glas Y Felin in Bridgend, Parc Yr Onnen in Carmarthen, The Bridles in Llanelli, Peterson Park in Pontyclun, Parc Brynderi in Llanelli and Allt Y Celyn in Rhos.
Persimmon’s marketing suites in Wales remain closed for the time being. Visit www.persimmonhomes.com or call 01792 229800 for details of homes available.
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