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Council hits back after ‘cheapskate’ care claim

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has been named in a “terrible ten” local authorities for paying the lowest care home fees in Wales amid the coronavirus crisis.

The Cheapskate Awards have been launched by Care Forum Wales who say the biggest difference between the highest and lowest weekly fee per person is more than £12,000 a year – equivalent to nearly £500,000 in a care home with 40 residents over a 12 month period.

The “league table of shame” was revealed by the organisation which represents more than 450 social care providers in Wales and they are writing to all the members of the Senedd to point out the unfairness of the system.

However, the County Council has hit back at the claims and says its support package for local care home providers is far more generous than Care Forum Wales claims.

According to Care Forum Wales chair Mario Kreft MBE, the huge gulf between the top and the bottom payers showed an unfair postcode lottery which was threatening the well-being of the nation’s most vulnerable people and the future of social care in Wales.

The First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS, had admitted the sector was fragile even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck and Mr Kreft is concerned that many care homes across Wales will not survive.

Care Forum Wales say the root of the problem is that for more than 20 years the social care sector has been managed and funded separately by the 22 local councils and the seven health boards in Wales which was a recipe for disaster.

They are calling for an urgent national action plan to sort out the mess and ensure fair funding for social care across Wales.

Currently bottom of the heap in terms of funding is Powys County Council who increased the weekly fee for a person in a residential EMI care home for older people with mental frailty by 2.2 per cent to £559.

In contrast, providers in Cardiff – where fees were already higher – will receive £793.48 a week for providing exactly the same level of service, a four per cent increase that works out as £12,192.96 more for every resident than in Powys over the course of a year.

Even in Cardiff, says Mr Kreft, the fees do not cover the true cost of care and are on average £100 less than the amount paid by people receiving care privately.

Mr Kreft said: “The aim of the Cheapskate Awards is to highlight the really serious problems created by a crazy fee structure here, in Wales.

“This mess has come about because the market has been mismanaged by the 22 local authorities in Wales for more than two decades of devolution.

“As the First Minister himself pointed out, the social care sector was in a fragile state well before the pandemic and what we are calling for is an urgent national action plan which can ensure fairness and equity in the system, and it’s patently neither.

“We need to build a sustainable care system that will truly be an effective scaffold for the NHS.”

“We do welcome the commitment of authorities like Cardiff, Torfaen and Pembrokeshire for recognising the care, dedication and skill of care staff who have been in the front line of the battle against Covid-19.

“Social care is part of the foundation economy and, given the appropriate level of support can help lead the economic recovery in Wales.

“What we need as a matter of urgency is a national action plan to sort out the total hotch-podge of fees so what we can provide the care that our vulnerable people deserve.

“Social care should not be seen as a cost to society but rather as an asset that represents all that is best in our nation, notably its wonderful workforce.”

Cllr Jane Tremlett, the County Council’s Executive Board Member for Health and Social Care, responded: “We are committed to working with all providers and Welsh Government to deliver a long-term model for social care funding – this must be a national priority.

“However the financial support from Carmarthenshire to residential providers vastly exceeds the rates Care Forum Wales use to compile their list.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak residential providers in the county have been given well over £550,000 in additional payments and hundreds of thousands of items of free protective equipment that are not reflected in these figures.

“These payments continued to be made weekly and are in addition to other government assistance private providers may be receiving.”

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Deliveroo launches in Llanelli ahead of planned date

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FOOD delivery company Deliveroo has announced its early launch in Llanelli this week. According to Deliveroo, the company has brought forward the launch by weeks in order to help restaurants and customers through lockdown. This means that locals can now order food from a range of restaurants and grocery retailers in the local area. 

Deliveroo is an app and website that enables Brits to check out the very best local food in their area. The British company has seen great success and is now available in 12 different markets across the world. Deliveroo works with both the best independent restaurants like Best Pizza and Kebab House, Harry Watkins and Tinworks Brewery, well-known high street favourites like KFC, Burger King and Pizza Hut as well as grocery retailers and convenience stores such as Co-op (see Editor’s Notes below for full list available on Deliveroo in Llanelli).

The food delivery company will continue to add new local restaurants, takeaways and convenience stores to the platform over the coming months, with the likes of Nando’s joining Deliveroo as lockdown eases. Apply here to become a Deliveroo partner. 

 The food delivery company is also giving customers 20% off orders for the next four weeks with code: LLANELLI10

The launch will be a major boost to small restaurant businesses across Llanelli who will be able to reach new customers and grow their restaurant businesses through offering delivery.  

Working with Deliveroo increases restaurants’ sales as they can reach a wider range of customers. This enables restaurants to expand their businesses, often employing more staff, broadening their menus and lengthening opening times as a result. 

Deliveroo will be looking for up to 50 people in Llanelli to become riders. Those who work as riders will be able to work when they want and where they want, delivering food and groceries to customers’ doors in as little as 20 minutes. 

This comes as Deliveroo will also be extending further into the suburbs of existing cities or towns that it currently operates in. The drive behind the rapid expansion is underpinned by the company’s belief that people in every part of the UK should have access to amazing meals wherever and whenever they want them.

Harrison Foster, Regional Director in the UK: “Launching in Llanelli is a key milestone for Deliveroo. Llanelli has a thriving foodie community and a wide range of restaurants and retailers, so we’re excited to connect them. We look forward to working with our new partners to reach a new customer base and expand their businesses.”

Deliveroo is focused on providing the ultimate food delivery experience. Customers have the option to schedule orders via the Deliveroo app up to one day in advance or receive food as soon as possible between 11.30am and 11pm on weekdays and 11.30am and 11pm on weekends, from a variety of independent eateries, traditional takeaways, high-quality chain restaurants as well as grocery retailers.   

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Lifeline for cockle-gathers could be on the way after Llangennech rail crash

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Plaid Cymru MS Helen Mary Jones has raised the impact on cockle-gathers of the Llangennech derailment last year.

She received an assurance from the First Minister that the Welsh Government was looking at way to help the cockle industry.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Economy, Transport and Tackling Poverty Minister, Helen Mary Jones MS said:

“In the Senedd I congratulated the public services for the way they co-operated around the clean-up after the Llangennech derailment, which, so far, has been very successful. I demanded a life-line scheme to help the cockle gathers.

“I raised with the First Minister issues for two groups of businesses particularly badly affected in the short-term by the derailment. 

“One of those was the very important cockle-gathering industry, the other, of course, were farmers who graze animals on those low-lying banks by the river. 

“There has been a request for the Welsh Government to consider whether some interim financial support might be made available to the cockle gatherers and the grazers while responsibility for the derailment and long-term compensation becomes a possibility. Many of these are small businesses; they operate on quite low margins and currently in difficult circumstances.

“The First Minister emphasised he was aware of the impact on cockle gatherers and particularly that they were unable to carry out their normal activities while the level of environmental contaminants in the estuary were being surveyed.

“Plaid Cymru believes it must be the polluter in the end that must pay for the damage that has been caused, but the rail accident investigation branch work is not coming to a conclusion quickly.

“The Welsh Government is expecting to receive advice in the next few days whether or not it is possible to devise a scheme through the Welsh Government in which some interim assistance to those industries could be supplied.

“The Welsh Government is keen to obtain that advice from officials in case it is possible, before the rail accident investigation is completed, so they can offer some assistance to those who have been most directly affected.”

The environmental impact of the Llangennech derailment last year was amongst the most significant in Wales since the Sea Empress disaster of 25 years ago. 

Monitoring of the site and surrounding area, which includes four sites of special scientific interest and a special area of conservation will continue for many years to come.

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UK Budget must take crucial steps to help recovery

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LLANELLI Labour representatives are urging the UK Government to take the necessary steps to begin recovery and secure prosperity across all parts of the UK.

Llanelli’s MP Nia Griffith and MS Lee Waters set out Wales’ priorities ahead of the UK Budget on Wednesday March 3 2021.

They are urging the UK Government to make a series of commitments to Wales, including:

• sustaining UK-wide business support
• delivering welfare and taxation measures to support the most vulnerable
• redressing the historical under investment in Wales on research and development and rail infrastructure
• providing an injection of funding to support the transition to Net Zero carbon emissions
• providing guarantees for Wales’ specific funding pressures

Speaking ahead of the UK Budget announcement, Nia Griffith MP reiterated her calls for continued business support for those on the lowest of incomes. She said:  

“It is vital that the Job Retention Scheme and Self Employed Income Support Scheme are retained – not threatened with being removed at the eleventh hour and putting livelihoods at risk. A delay to repayments should also be introduced for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme with recognition given to the self-employed who are facing deferred bills.”

“It is also vital that the £20 per week increase to Universal Credit is maintained and put on a permanent basis, making it available to people in receipt of legacy means-tested benefits. More than 300,000 families in Wales have benefitted from an extra £1,000 a year as a result of the uplift and removing this now would have a detrimental and long-lasting effect on thousands of households across Wales.”

Lee Waters MS said:

“The UK Government should continue to take advantage of historically low interest rates to invest in Wales’ infrastructure and public services. Particularly on rail, where we have been underfunded to the tune of billions since the start of devolution, this is the moment where Rishi Sunak can demonstrate his commitment to ‘levelling up’ all four nations of the UK.”

“This budget is a chance to hardwire a greener, fairer way of doing things into our recovery from Coronavirus. We are ambitious about our target of being Net Zero carbon by 2050, and averting the climate crisis which is increasingly affecting Wales through flooding. But to make that transition, we need a step change from the UK Government’s budget that allows us to invest in renewable energy and green jobs.”

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