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Community radio gets Assembly boost

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A COMMUNITY radio body should be set up to provide practical and effective support for Wales’ network of community radio stations, says a National Assembly for Wales Committee.
A report from the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, also recommends establishing a closer relationship with the BBC and commercial radio stations to share knowledge, access to resources and help with talent development.
Community radio was introduced following legislation, in order to introduce a new tier of radio broadcasting in the UK, focused specifically on community engagement. There are currently eleven community radio stations in Wales.
Ten stations, Calon FM, Tudno FM, BRfm, Radio Tircoed, Radio Glan Clwyd, Môn FM, Radio Cardiff, Rhondda Radio, Bro Radio and GTFM are already on air with Radio Aber aiming to start broadcasting soon.
The Committee’s short report into community radio in Wales contains a total of eight recommendations and is published based on information gathered during a Community Radio Symposium held on 20 June 2019 at The Atrium in Cardiff.
People from all community stations, academia, commercial radio, the BBC and members of the Committee attended the symposium to discuss a range of issues including where stations could collaborate (both within the community radio sector and with commercial radio/the BBC) and solutions to common problems.
The first recommendation published in the report is that the Welsh Government should fund a community radio body for Wales to offer practical support to stations, perform a representative role and co-ordinate cross station knowledge sharing. Practical support might include performing common tasks for stations like HR, marketing or grant writing.
The body should also help forge links between community stations and commercial and BBC radio, to help volunteers gain experience and develop skills across Wales.
The Committee also recommends that community radio is given access to the output of the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service and are given first refusal with a preferential rate when the BBC sell off equipment they no longer need.
Bethan Sayed AM, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee: “During our work into community radio stations in Wales, we discovered the wide range of benefits that these stations provide the communities they serve, as a community link and hyperlocal news provider. They also provide a route for people to gain valuable training and experience in radio, whether they are interested in a career or just want to learn new skills and meet new people.
“Early into the symposium event, we saw for ourselves the value of networking as representatives from one station managed to help another with advice on a long-term technical issue. This affirmed our opinion that radio stations must be given opportunities to share knowledge and help each other. A Community Radio Body, funded by the Welsh Government, would co-ordinate this network and provide much needed practical support for both on-air and non-studio roles.
“We also believe that the sector would benefit greatly from closer co-operation with the BBC and commercial radio stations and sharing access to the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service would enable them to cover their local authority proceedings as part of a valuable hyperlocal service.”
Labour’s Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire Candidate Marc Tierney, who has extensive experience in commercial and community radio, told The Herald: ““I am pleased that Assembly Members have taken an interest in developing the Community Radio sector here in Wales. Over the years, community radio in Wales has been one step behind other parts of the United Kingdom due to various restrictions imposed by the regulator which has, due to our rurality and lower population, made it more difficult to establish stations here.
“At a time when commercial stations are consolidating and regionalising or even nationalising their output, the community sector can fill a vital gap in providing programme content that meets the needs of our diverse communities. As someone who started work in Commercial Radio almost twenty years ago, I understand the importance of a vibrant local media that gives a voice to communities, provides access to local news and current affairs and offers training opportunities for young people.
“The future of radio is very certainly now DAB and this report gives a welcome push to Ofcom, the communications regulator, to do all it can to embrace community broadcasting and to support the sector in empowering communities in every corner of Wales.”

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Community

Partnership outreach van providing help and support to those in need

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Partnership outreach van providing help and support to those in need in Llanelli extended thanks to further funding by Police and Crime Commissioner

Following the success of a partnership outreach van parked up in Station Road, Llanelli in December – the initiative is being extended thanks to further funding provided by Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn. The Commissioner originally instigated the additional partnership working pilot in Llanelli in response to local concerns relating to substance misuse – and the response to the van in Llanelli was overwhelmingly positive, with 35 people receiving support from one or all of the agencies on the van across both nights.

Dyfed-Powys Police teamed up with Dyfed Drug and Alcohol Service (DDAS), Carmarthenshire County Council and Crimestoppers Fearless campaign in order to be able to engage with members of the community on the new outreach van, in order to support and signpost those in need during the festive period. The partners then came together and held a debrief session to consider the initial success and value of the initiative. Of the 35 people who had visited the van to seek support on both evenings – 12 were referred into DDAS and housing and employment services for longer term support.

At the conclusion of the debrief, there was consensus amongst the partners that the communities of Tyisha and Glanymor would benefit from extending it and there was an appetite for it, therefore each agency was keen to commit ongoing resources to the outreach van for the next three months. The initiative will then be reviewed again at that point.  

Chief Inspector Chris Neve of Dyfed-Powys Police said: “I am once again grateful to the Police and Crime Commissioner and our partners for their ongoing support for this initiative – which proved to be a popular and valuable opportunity for the communities of Llanelli to speak and work with the services involved. I was pleased to see so many people receiving the support and advice they needed in the initial phase of the initiative – and we now look forward to being able to continue to provide these services for the next three months and helping many more people. I encourage anyone who requires support and advice from any of the agencies, or would just like to chat with any of them, to come along and visit the van.

The council’s Head of Homes and Safer Communities Jonathan Morgan said: “This is an excellent opportunity for the community to speak to our officers first-hand about any issues they may have or any advice they may need on housing matters. We have exciting plans to transform the Tyisha ward and the community is a big part of that, we want to make Tyisha a better place to live and work for everyone.”

The project aims to provide a convenient and approachable opportunity for those in the community that would benefit from advice and support from these services, but who may not always proactively seek this out. It also allows the agencies to understand and experience first-hand the issues in the area.

The outreach van will next be parked in the St Elli Shopping Centre, Llanelli on Thursday January 16 between10am and 2pm, where all the partners will be there promoting the project and explaining what they can offer. 

Then from Thursday January 23, the van will be parked back in Station Road between 2pm and 7pm for anyone to access, and then every two weeks for the next three months. They’ll be ready and waiting to provide advice and support to all those in need.

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RNLI in Wales urges people to stay safe as Storm Brendan hits

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The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is urging people to stay safe near the Welsh coast as severe weather could make our seas and coastlines particularly dangerous.

Lifesaving charity, the RNLI, is encouraging people to exercise extreme caution if visiting the shoreline, especially along exposed cliffs, seafronts and piers.

The expected strong winds and severe gales pose a severe safety risk to those visiting the coast.

Named Storm Brendan by Met Eireann, it swept eastwards across Ireland before making its way through the rest of the UK this morning with yellow wind warning in place for most of the Welsh coast.

Chris Cousens, RNLI Regional Water Safety Lead for Wales said:

‘This rough weather could make visiting parts of the Welsh coastline treacherous and bring very dangerous sea conditions.

‘Sadly, around 150 people lose their lives on British and Irish coasts each year and over half of these people didn’t plan on ever entering the water. Slips, trips and falls can be a major factor in these kinds of incidents.’

If you see someone else in danger in the water, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. If you have something that floats that they can hold on to, throw it to them. Don’t go in the water yourself – too many people drown trying to save others.

The charity, which provides a search and rescue service around the UK and Ireland, is facing its own Perfect Storm as demand for its services has increased but it is facing a shortfall in funds. This past year, the RNLI has been busier than ever, and stormy conditions can mean additional call outs for the already extremely busy volunteer crews. Whatever the weather, RNLI volunteers will still be on call to rescue those at difficulty at sea.

The RNLI’s major new fundraising appeal, The Perfect Storm, which aims to help the charity get back to living within its means, is running throughout November and December. To find out more or to donate visit RNLI.org/ThePerfect Storm.

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Community

Are you missing out on a Council Tax reduction?

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IF YOU’RE struggling to pay your Council Tax bill, then help could be available for you through the Welsh Government’s flagship Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS).

The scheme, which will continue to support vulnerable households in 2020-21, currently benefits one in five of all households in Wales. In the last year almost 280,000 low-income households have received help from the scheme, with 220,000 paying no council tax at all. Many more receive other discounts or exemptions.

You may be entitled to pay less council tax if:

• you believe you live on a low income
• you live alone, or with people/children who do not pay council tax
• you are a student
• you are disabled
• you are severely mentally impaired

Understanding why there are still vulnerable households not benefitting from the help they are entitled to is a priority for the Welsh Government. Last year we commissioned research to understand the circumstances of households in Wales and the effects of the UK Government’s Universal Credit on the CTRS.

The interim report out today shows that for many households, the move to Universal Credit can have a significant impact on council tax reduction awards. Whilst many households currently receiving a 100% reduction will continue to do so, for others, the move to Universal Credit is shown to have an adverse impact, particularly for employed households, self-employed households, and working households in receipt of a Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

Full findings of the interim report are available on the Welsh Government website. These findings will now be considered in more detail to inform the next stages of the research and policy development in this area.

Encouraging people to make sure they are not missing out on help they could be entitled to, Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said:

“Ensuring every household in Wales receives the council tax support they are entitled to is an important part of our commitment to making council tax fairer.

“Our scheme is already helping hundreds of thousands of households across Wales, but we know that there are still many missing out on the discounts, reductions and exemptions they are entitled to. I encourage everyone to check the Welsh Government website to find out if they could be paying less.”

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