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‘Technically homeless’

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LH270516_Page_05_Image_0005SHE MAY not be the only one in Llanelli or Carmarthenshire who describes themselves this way.

The truth is that nobody really knows how many people are homeless in the county. While there are figures for people in temporary accommodation and figures for those waiting for housing. the figures for ‘homelessness’ are less well-defined.

A person can be homeless while sofa-surfing or staying with mates from night to night with no permanent address of their own.

Sitting in the graveyard of Llanelli Parish church Daisy begins by telling us how she became homeless. She admits that some of it was of her own doing but also says that the issues with the authorities played a part in her current plight: “I was doing well for myself, keeping out of trouble for about sixteen years.

“A neighbour moved in and I couldn’t cope with it. He was getting aggressive and banging doors in the early hours of the morning. He wasn’t dealt with by anyone.

“I saved up some money to move but it wasn’t enough. I started shop lifting. I went through some bad stuff and I made a complaint to the police.”

Daisy showed us some of the documents relating to her complaint. She said she only wanted to get away from a bad neighbour but she was told to go back to the property but was eventually evicted. Daisy has made a complaint to the group, Civil Liberties regarding her arrest.

She told us: “I came back to this area because I had nowhere else to go. I thought I might be able to see my children. I have lost everything. All my possessions including my ID have gone. I have asked for them back and I have asked my probation officer to help me get them back.”

As we were speaking to Daisy another man passed by and said hello to Daisy. I asked her if he was also homeless. She confirmed that he was sleeping rough but would not speak to us. She said some of the causes of homelessness include high rents and a lack of opportunities for getting out of a rut.

Speaking about her own situation Daisy told us: “My prospects are really bad. I have temporary accommodation now and they gave me some tins of food from the food bank, but I don’t have any saucepans.

“There are quite a few homeless people in Llanelli. You see them with their rucksacks around town. There is a place down Station Road that gives them food.

“I am not entitled to social housing because I am in arrears. It was under £500 but I still got evicted. They never gave me a form with an option to pay those arrears. They told me they were not going through with an eviction.

“My rent jumped from £435 to £900. I have asked for the paper work to look at. I could not afford that. I have been sitting in town and I do get hassled. I would get charged with a public order offence.

“I have to try and find private housing. I can claim £317 per month. I can’t find anywhere affordable to live for £317 per month. The lowest priced property I have seen is £425 per month. I haven’t got any money now.

Basically I have nothing. Some of it was of my own doing. I suffered because they put me in a place next to a terrible neighbour. Nobody wanted to listen. I had an abusive husband. The last thing I needed was an abusive neighbour.”

The Herald contacted The Big Issue and Shelter Cymru.

Jenny Bibbings is the campaigns manager for Shelter Cymru. We asked Jenny if she had any accurate figures for the number of homeless people in Wales and specifically in Carmarthenshire.

“I am not entirely sure of the figures in Carmarthenshire. There is a mobile worker who covers the Carmarthenshire area. The law on homelessness changed in April last year. All the stats have changed as well. It now considers households found homeless, roofless, sofa surfing and suffering from over crowding.”

We asked Jenny what the current position is on the definition of homelessness.

“It used to be that you had to be threatened with homelessness within 28 days, now that has doubled to 56 days. In England, the Department for Communities and Local Government is currently considering adopting the Welsh system.

Before the law changed in Wales, homelessness prevention was not within the law. There were no rights attached to it. It is now statutory for councils to do what they reasonably can to prevent a person becoming homeless through prevention work. In the past if you didn’t fit into the priority need criteria you didn’t get the help, which meant that single homeless people were most at risk of falling through the safety net.

Speaking about what support is available to people like Daisy she said: “Everybody should be getting a decent level of assistance for somewhere to live. The numbers are going up. There is monitoring but it isn’t brilliant. You have seen more than that by walking around Llanelli.

“We have seen a lot of welfare reforms making it more difficult for people to stay housed. Benefits don’t cover minimum rent and bedroom tax. A lot of homelessness is caused by simple life events.

“When you lose your home it is difficult to get it back. There is nowhere near enough social housing to go around. Private sector accommodation is all that is available. Landlords don’t want to let to people on benefits. We see people from all walks of life.

“The homeless figure is around 16,000 people across Wales. The cost of housing is a major factor. Rent arrears is the biggest issue because we have the most expensive housing in Europe. Increases in evictions from social housing coupled with court costs have doubled debt for people.”

Jenny Bibbings singled out Carmarthenshire County Council as having a very good team dealing with homelessness but she said that she was worried about the impending cuts to services within the authority, which she said would impact on the most vulnerable.”

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Cllr Kevin Madge elected as new county council Chairman

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THE new chair of Carmarthenshire County Council said he will work tirelessly during his term of office.

Cllr Kevin Madge, member for Garnant, takes the chain of office whilst celebrating 40 years as a councillor.

Taking the chair, Cllr Madge paid tribute to outgoing chairman Cllr Mansel Charles, member for Llanegwad, saying he had fulfilled his duties with passion.

Cllr Madge will chair the council for the next 12 months, with Cllr Ieuan Davies, member for Llanybydder, as his vice chair, and his wife Catrin as his consort.

“I’m very much looking forward to the year ahead, I will do my best for everyone. I will work tirelessly,” he said.

Cllr Madge has chosen the Trussell Trust, which supports a nationwide network of food banks and emergency food provision for people in crisis, as his Chairman’s Charity of the Year.

The Chair is the first citizen of Carmarthenshire County Council, and is elected at the Annual General Meeting.

Duties include chairing full meetings of the council, representing the council at formal and ceremonial occasions, welcoming visitors to the county, and attending and supporting events organised by local people and organisations.

Cllr Madge has been a county councillor since 1996, and a member of Cwmaman Town Council since 1979.

He also serves as chairman of the Royal British Legion Garnant branch, Garnant Family Centre and Cwmaman Meals on Wheels, and is a member of Amman Valley League of Friends.

He represents the county council on the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, and the Mynydd y Betws Wind Farm Community Fund, and is on the governing body of Ysgol Y Bedol.

A former pupil of Amman Valley School, Cllr Madge has worked in the Amman Valley throughout his life, most recently as agent and researcher to Dr Alan Williams MP until 2001.

A keen football supporter, he has served as chair and president of Cwmaman Football Club and spent 25 years as a Welsh League and Neath and District football referee.

He is married with two children and three grandchildren.

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‘UK Government should work with the Welsh Labour Government on Tata’

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LOCAL Assembly Member Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said ““This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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MP and AM call for Trostre certainty after merger fails

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LOCAL ASSEMBLY MEMBER Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said “This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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