IN THE latest update on the Ukraine crisis, Wales’s Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt thanked all those households across Wales who have come forward to offer their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the War and encouraged more households to provide this vital support.
APPEAL FOR MORE HOST FAMILIES
The Minister for Social Justice said: “I’m delighted to say that over 5,650 people from Ukraine, sponsored by the Welsh Government and Welsh households, have already arrived in the UK.
“More than 8,200 visas have now been issued to people from Ukraine who have sponsors in Wales, so we expect the number of arrivals to continue to grow in the coming weeks.
“Thousands of Welsh households sponsored Ukrainians to arrive in Wales and committed to hosting them for at least six months.
“As we move into the autumn, we approach the end of that initial period.
“We hope hosts and Ukrainians will agree to extend many of those placements, but we need additional hosts to support those who cannot continue living where they are.
“To ensure a warm welcome to Wales, I’m inviting households across Wales to come forward and open their homes to welcome those seeking sanctuary.
“We’re immensely thankful to all those across Wales acting as hosts to Ukrainians, but more households must come forward.
“I completely understand that there are those who want to help but may not have the resources to do so, given the circumstances we’re all facing with the cost-of-living crisis.”
WALES WILL STEP UP TO THE PLATE
Jane Hutt continued: “What we all know, and has been proven countless times, is that the people of Wales are one of the most generous across the globe, and I’m sure we will step up to the plate once again.
“The idea of hosting can be daunting. That’s why we have funded Housing Justice Cymru to provide a Host Support service which includes expert and reliable information, training, advice, and guidance for people hosting, or those considering hosting, Ukrainians in Wales.
“More information on sessions and training can be found on the Housing Justice Cymru website. We also publish regularly updated guidance for hosts and sponsors at gov. wales/ukraine.
“We still need many more households to consider whether they could provide a home for those in need. This would normally be a commitment to hosting for 6 to 12 months.
“If anyone is considering this, we encourage them to register their interest at gov.wales/offerhome, and to attend one of the ‘Introduction to Hosting’ sessions, facilitated by Housing Justice Cymru. You won’t need to continue the process if you decide it is not for you.
“We have also partnered with Airbnb.org to ensure very short-term emergency placements can be provided to prevent homelessness.
“If you cannot host for more than 6 months but you could offer your property for up to 30 days at a time, you may also be able to contribute. Visit gov.wales/offerhome and follow the link to the Airbnb.org platform.”
Finally, the Minister stated: “We will continue to communicate with those who host Ukrainians, with updated guidance and information to support the valuable role you are undertaking.
“To all those that are already hosting and to those that are considering hosting, thank you, we owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.”
WESTMINSTER MUST BACK HOSTS
DURING COST-OF-LIVING CRISIS
Conservative MS Mark Isherwood raised how the cost-of-living crisis affects Ukrainian refugees.
Where families had taken in those fleeing Russian aggression, he noted a risk of sponsorships not continuing beyond six months because the hosts cannot afford the rise in fuel costs.
He asked the Minister what discussions she’d had with the UK Government about increasing the £350 contribution to households who’d taken in Ukrainian refugees.
The Minister agreed with Mark Isherwood that ending a specific ministerial post dealing with refugees was regrettable.
She noted a lack of information from the UK Government over the summer months and since Liz Truss replaced Boris Johnson as head of the Conservative Government.
Ms Hutt said: “We asked for an increase at least to £500, or up again, doubling to £700 per month. An urgent decision is needed regarding this as they reach the end of their six-month period.
“That period is underway, so we’re writing to all hosts to see if they will continue.”
UK GOVERNMENT URGED
TO PICK UP THE PHONE
The Minister thanked Mark Isherwood for introducing her to a charity offering support in North Wales, Link, and hoped that he and his colleagues would bring pressure to bear on their Westminster colleagues to ensure those in need from Ukraine and those in Wales helping them received support.
She added: “I look forward perhaps that we might have some telephone calls from the Prime Minister and other Ministers to us in Government. We must engage with them and follow this through.
“There is a huge job of work to be done here. We’re taking responsibility in the way I’ve outlined, funding our welcome centres and paying thank-you payments to hosts if they support a family who initially arrived in Wales under the Ukraine family scheme.
“That’s not happening in England. The commitment that we’re making is considerable.
“I hope everyone will join us today, saying that we need to press for those answers in terms of financial support.”
THE THREAT OF HOMELESSNESS
Sioned Williams of Plaid Cymru raised the spectre of Ukrainian refugees becoming homeless in Wales due to a lack of financial support and the end of existing hosting and housing placements.
The Minister praised the work of local authorities across Wales supporting refugees.
She said: “There are very imaginative programmes. That includes a whole range of issues like repurposing empty buildings.
“Local authorities are really coming up with a whole range of ways in which we can support people, perhaps, from a welcome centre, or a host family, into that intermediate accommodation, and then on to other longer-term accommodation.”
Pembrokeshire currently houses around 200 Ukrainian refugees, with the demand for assistance outstripping the availability of suitable accommodation.
NOT ONE PENNY FROM WESTMINSTER
TO SUPPORT FAMILIES FLEEING WAR
Responding to a question from Mabon ap Gwynfor about problems housing family groups, Jane Hutt hit out at the lack of support from the UK Government and how it’s u-turned on a commitment to help families.
“The UK Government has never given a penny towards the family scheme.
“The former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in one of his last PMQs, actually said that he thought the Ukraine family scheme should get the same funding and support as the Homes for Ukraine scheme. It’s never happened.
“We have provided thank-you payments to people who are hosting Ukrainian families. It’s all Welsh Government money; it’s not UK Government, because they don’t provide a penny. And also, the British Red Cross—£246,000—who are actually supporting Ukrainian families who are hosting family members under the Ukrainian family scheme.”
On Wednesday, September 28, Eluned Morgan, Wales’s Health Minister, announced the continuation of free healthcare in Wales to Ukrainian residents displaced by the ongoing conflict.
The exemption will continue to apply unless there’s a significant change in circumstances in Ukraine.
Swansea Building Society expands Cradock Street head office
SWANSEA BUILDING SOCIETY has expanded its head office at 11/12 Cradock Street, Swansea, with the acquisition of the adjoining property – number 13. The refurbishment of the adjoining property is set to take approximately 10 weeks, with a move-in date scheduled for the end of January 2023.
The acquisition has been made to help accommodate the Society’s growing workforce, which has grown by 10 percent over the past year. Extensive work is now required on the new property, with a full refurbishment, new windows, and a new roof needed before it can comfortably accommodate the Society’s additional staff.
The move in date is set to tie in with an important milestone in Swansea Building Society’s history – it will celebrate 100 years as a mutual in 2023.
As it approaches this key landmark, the Society is enjoying a period of sustained and significant growth – the result of many years planning and investment. Its total assets, mortgage balances, savings, capital, and profits all reached record highs in the past year, passing the landmark £500 million in total assets for the first time.
It has also invested more than £1 million in its IT and back-office infrastructure, in a project that replaces all its hardware, considerably strengthens its cyber security, improves resilience with a remote disaster recovery site, and enhances the online offering it is able to provide its customers.
Along with this, the Society has invested in new talent across a number of departments including mortgage underwriting, IT, marketing, and the mortgage sales team. It has also employed several new customer-facing staff to help it support the increased footfall it has experienced at all its local branches in Swansea, Mumbles, Carmarthen and Cowbridge.
Alun Williams, Chief Executive at Swansea Building Society, said:
“The acquisition of number 13 Cradock Street is much needed to accommodate our growing head office workforce. When completed, the refurbished extension to our property will host 14 staff and allow us room for further expansion if needed.
“Our success and investment over recent years means that we are even better prepared to help our members plan their finances and get the savings and mortgage products they need for a better and more secure future. By increasing our staff, expanding our premises, and updating our IT infrastructure, we are better able to serve them with the financial advice and products that are right for them. It also means we can provide them with a choice of options about how they manage their finances – in person at one of our many branches or online – whichever is most convenient.”
Cllr Rob Stewart, Leader, Swansea Council, said:
“The expansion of Swansea Building Society’s headquarters in Cradock Street is more great news for our city centre. The Society is a shining example of a successful, community-minded mutual, and to see it expanding its workforce, creating jobs, and bringing them right into the heart of the city is fantastic.
“Cradock Street is undergoing considerable redevelopment with the renovation and repurposing of the Albert Hall by Depot Swansea – directly opposite Swansea Building Society’s headquarters – into a multi-purpose venue. Renovation of this area is another example of how we are saving the city’s heritage for future generations in a way that is useful and meaningful to the people of Swansea. The city is undergoing an important phase in its regeneration, and organisations like Swansea Building Society play a vital role in ensuring that this regeneration is sustainable for the future.”
BHF Cymru celebrates Heart Heroes across Wales
BHF CYMRU is celebrating the inspirational people from Carmarthenshire who’ve been nominated in the British Heart Foundation’s Heart Hero Awards 2022.
The annual awards ceremony returns for a fifth year on Thursday 1st December. The charity will honour incredible young heart heroes who’ve shown remarkable bravery and gone above and beyond to help others while coping with the devastating impact of heart disease, as well as CPR lifesavers, innovative fundraisers, corporate partners, research champions and healthcare heroes working in the NHS.
Winners will be announced at a glittering ceremony in London, with Vernon Kay hosting for the fourth time. He’ll be joined by celebrity judges including footballing legend David Ginola and Olympic gymnasts Becky and Ellie Downie.
Healthcare Hero Nominee
Dr Lena Izzat from Llanelli has supported BHF Cymru to raise awareness of the Heart Attack Gender Gap in Wales. As a female cardiologist she has spoken out about the unconscious and systemic bias in the health care system which leaves women who have heart attacks less likely to get diagnosed and receive the best care. Lena has been integral to a campaign which has secured a commitment from the Minister for Health to tackle health inequalities in Wales.
Innovative Fundraiser Nominees
Lisa Pudner from Llanelli is a former Paralympian who raised over £2,000 for the BHF through a sponsored handcycle and walking event in memory of her friend Nest Davies. Nest died suddenly from a heart attack. Lisa was awarded a BHF Cymru medal in recognition of her achievements and said: “We did this for the BHF because they fund research into heart and circulatory conditions, and we want to stop other families and friends losing loved ones in the future.”
Lifesavers nominated as CPR Heroes for performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in a life-threatening emergency
- Alun Sturley from Carmarthen who saved his father John.
- Jean Thomas from Carmarthen, saved her husband Michael.
Head of BHF Cymru, Rhodri Thomas, himself from Carmarthenshire said: “The Heart Hero Awards are the highlight of our year, bringing together inspirational nominees from different walks of life and from every part of the UK. From fantastic children to remarkable pensioners, they all share such spirit and embody the very best of us.
“I’m proud and humbled that so many nominees are from Carmarthenshire, and I’m delighted to thank them for the amazing support they give the BHF and the motivation they bring to myself and the whole BHF Cymru team.
“Whilst we celebrate these brilliant Heart Hero nominees, we also thank each of our brilliant BHF supporters who power our lifesaving science and bring new hope to the 7.6 million people across the UK living with conditions such as stroke, heart disease and vascular dementia.
“I’m in no doubt that their dedication and selflessness will mean more lives will be saved from heart and circulatory disease, so thank you and congratulations to all our inspirational nominees”.
The Heart Heroes Awards will be live-streamed at 8pm on Thursday 1st December. Register to watch the celebration online at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heartheroes
Public Services Board seeks views to improve local well-being
CARMARTHENSHIRE’S Public Services Board (PSB) is seeking residents’ views to find out what matters to them and their local communities.
The PSB has developed its Well-being Objectives and draft actions to deliver them, based on feedback received on its Well-being Assessment. The results of a survey at that time gathered views and helped shape the PSB’s understanding of the economic, social, environmental, and cultural factors that impact the well-being of individuals and communities within Carmarthenshire.
Once again, residents are being asked to contribute to help public service partners develop Carmarthenshire’s Local Well-being Plan for 2023-28.
To help shape the future of well-being please visit: Current Consultations (gov.wales)
The survey closes on 25 January 2023.
Cllr Darren Price, Chair of the Carmarthenshire PSB and Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “To deliver what is important to our communities, we need to their feedback and input. This survey is an opportunity for our residents to tell us if we, as public services, are on the right track to help create a better future for our children’s generation, and the generations to follow, as we strive to reach this goal.”
Andrew Cornish, Vice-Chair of the PSB andChief Executive Officer / Principal of Coleg Sir Gar and Coleg Ceredigion said: “Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our work so far. Our Well-being Assessment gives us a strong foundation on which to build our Well-being Plan and I would like to encourage everyone to take part in our involvement work for the preparation of the Plan.”
Carmarthenshire’s Public Services Board is a partnership of public and third sector organisations working together to improve well-being across the county and includes Carmarthenshire County Council, Hywel Dda University Health Board, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Natural Resources Wales and other organisations.