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Candidates called to act on debt

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CANDIDATES standing to become the MP for Llanelli in May’s General Election are facing calls to make promoting free debt advice a priority, after a debt charity revealed it has received more than 500 calls for help from people with debt problems in the constituency since 2013.

A total of 510 calls for help from people in Llanelli were received by National Debtline, the free advice service run by charity the Money Advice Trust, during 2013 and 2014.

In addition, the charity’s Business Debtline service, which advises the self-employed and other small business owners, received 22 calls from businesses in the constituency last year.

With research showing that only 17% of people with unmanageable debt in the UK seek advice, the need for debt help in Llanelli is likely to be far higher than these figures suggest. The Money Advice Trust says that higher awareness of free debt advice in and around Llanelli could ‘mean the difference between financial recovery and financial disaster’ for thousands of people. After contacting National Debtline, 82% of people say they feel more in control and knowledgeable in managing their money.

MPs are often contacted by constituents about unmanageable debt, including problems with credit cards, personal loans, mortgage debts, payday loans, council tax arrears, rent arrears bailiffs and county court judgments (CCJs). As well as signposting these constituents to seek advice from charity-run services such as National Debtline and Business Debtline, many MPs take a pro-active role in promoting debt advice charities in their communities.

Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline and Business Debtline, said: “Whoever is elected as Member of Parliament for Llanelli on May 7 needs to put promoting free debt advice in the area near the top of their to-do list after the General Election. While National Debtline has given more than 500 advice sessions to people in Llanelli in the last two years, we know that potentially thousands more are suffering in silence. MPs can play a crucial role in the fight against problem debt – not only by directing people who come to them for help to the free advice they need, but also through raising awareness of services such as National Debtline in the local community. Our message to anyone in Llanelli who is struggling to cope with problem debt is simple: Seek free advice from a debt charity such as National Debtline as soon as possible. The earlier you seek advice, the quicker and easier the problem will be to solve.”

Nia Griffith, Labour’s candidate for Llanelli, told The Herald: “Sadly with prices having gone up faster than incomes in 4 out of the last 5 years, many people in Llanelli are struggling with debt problems. I would strongly urge contacting National Debtline early to obtain trustworthy, independent advice as unfortunately there are also the unscrupulous out there who will promise you everything and leave you worse off. I think it is vital that we have a service like National Debtline readily accessible to people.”

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Food help available for projects in Llanelli and Carmarthen

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A great opportunity is opening up for food projects in Llanelli and Carmarthen. Food distribution charity FareShare Cymru is expanding further into West Wales and is looking for charities and community groups that provide food as part of their project. 

FareShare Cymru currently redistributes quality surplus food and drink from the food industry to over 170 community groups and charities based between Newport and Swansea. The surplus food benefits services such as homeless hostels, community centres, refugee centres, primary schools etc.

FareShare Cymru turns the environmental problem of food waste into a social solution. They aim to maximise the social impact of food that would otherwise go to waste; encouraging members to provide a service that is more than just food handouts and that tackles the causes of food poverty rather than just the symptoms.

FareShare Cymru offers a competitively priced membership scheme to provide a weekly provision of a variety of meat, dairy, fruit, veg and ambient produce.

It’s vital for a lot of the older diners who perhaps wouldn’t come out otherwise. But without Fareshare, that might not be able to happen. We couldn’t necessarily go out and buy all the produce you provide us. We couldn’t afford to. – Liam Turner, volunteer chef at Cornelly Luncheon Club 

This growth is happening thanks to a grant from the Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Fund, which aims to divert waste from landfill.

Expanding into West Wales has been on our agenda for some time and we are grateful to the Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme for supporting us to be able to do this. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has meant it is more important now than ever to get good, nutritious food to those who need it and to support community resilience. – Katie Padfield, Head of Development at FareShare Cymru

If groups are interested in finding out more about becoming a FareShare Cymru member, please contact members@fareshare.cymru. For more information about our service, visit www.fareshare.cymru

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Applications open for emergency financial support from Economic Resilience Fund

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Eligible businesses can apply for grants of between £2,500 to £25,000

BUSINESSES in Wales impacted by the rapid spread of the Omicron virus can now apply for emergency financial support from the Welsh Government’s Economic Resilience Fund (ERF).

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething previously said £120 million would be available for retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism business and their supply chains affected by the move to alert level 2 announced by the First Minister on Wednesday 22 December.

Eligible businesses can apply for grants of between £2,500 to £25,000, with grants dependent on their size and number of employees.

The application window will be open for two weeks, with payments starting to reach businesses within days.

Vaughan Gething

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:

“Following positive engagement with businesses, trades unions and other partners, we recently changed the eligibility criteria for the ERF support. The ERF grant is a Wales-only top up payment that currently supports eligible businesses who have seen a 60% drop in their income between December and February compared with the same period two years ago. The new criteria means that businesses in these sectors who have seen a 50% reduction in their turnover will now also be able to access the ERF.

“This means more businesses will receive more support from the Welsh Government.”

Non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses in Wales can also receive support from the Non Domestic Rates (NDR) linked grant which is being administered by local authorities. Businesses will be entitled to a payment of £2,000, £4,000 or £6,000 depending on their rateable value.

Local authorities are also administrating a discretionary fund for sole traders, freelancers and taxi drivers and businesses that employ people but do not pay business rates. Last week this was doubled to £1,000.

The Welsh Government has provided in excess of £2.5bn funding to Welsh businesses since the start of the pandemic. Focused particularly on backing small businesses and Welsh communities, it’s targeted approach has helped protect in excess of 160,000 Welsh jobs which might otherwise have been lost.

Apply for Economic Resilience Fund support here:

COVID-19 Support for Business | Business Wales (gov.wales)

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Plans for Cross Hands Health Centre to go before Welsh Government

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AN OUTLINE Business Case for the development of a Wellbeing Centre to be based in Cross Hands is to be resubmitted to Welsh Government, Hywel Dda University Health Board is pleased to announce.

The business case outlines our intention to develop an integrated health and social care network of services for the Amman Gwendraeth area and the construction of a Wellbeing Centre. If approved, the centre will provide a base for health and care services which will accommodate two local GP practices (Tumble and Penygroes), a library, family centre, community pharmacy and also community police support officers and voluntary sector groups.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we deliver some health and care services. Hywel Dda University Health Board has been working with partners and stakeholders to refresh the business case for the development to ensure that these continue to be fit for our population’s health and care needs both now and in the future.  It is anticipated that the Business Case will be resubmitted to Welsh Government in Spring 2022.

Rhian Dawson, Integrated System Director for Hywel Dda University Health Board and Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “I am delighted that we are now able to refocus on the development of the Wellbeing Centre in Cross Hands. This will not only be an asset for Cross Hands but will benefit Carmarthenshire as a whole. While it is unfortunate that the pandemic has delayed our progress, it has also demonstrated the importance of delivering services as close to home as possible.”

It is anticipated that the Centre could potentially be complete in 36 months from the approval of the Outline Business case. 

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