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Council grants at risk due to ‘fundamental weakness’

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‘Fundamental weaknesses’: Carmarthenshire County Council

‘Fundamental weaknesses’: Carmarthenshire County Council

EACH year Carmarthenshire County Council receives a ‘Supporting People’ grant of around £6.7m from the Welsh Government.
To put it simply, the grant is aimed at helping vulnerable people live as independently as possible and covers, for example, homelessness, domestic violence, drug abuse, mental health issues and physical and mental disability, for young and old alike.
Many of the services are commissioned by the council and provided by external sources.
A recent report from the council’s own Internal Audit shows that all is definitely not well and failures delays and mismanagement of this grant, by the council’s Department for Social Care have led to the Welsh Government withholding £3m until the appropriate certificates have been signed off, currently a year overdue. This is shocking.
The Internal Audit found ‘Fundamental weakness’ for the second year running which, in general terms of risk means; ‘inadequate controls, a high risk of not meeting objectives and a high risk of fraud, negligence, loss and damage to reputation’.
The Authority’s Financial Procedure Rules have not been complied with and in particular, monthly payments to providers had been paid in advance without any authorisation – advance payments are not permitted without prior approval.
Documentation to support spending was insufficient and money was being transferred to in-house service provision without any documentation to prove that it was either eligible or met the grant criteria. Payments to providers were also being made which lacked supporting documentation.
There was also non-compliance with the council’s Contract Procedure Rules. Out of 154 Supporting People contracts only ten were current and properly signed by a representative of the council.
Only one of those had actually been in place and signed in the grant certificate period in question.
In the majority of cases, contracts had been awarded without following the appropriate tendering/quotation process. Documentation for contracts are not maintained and the majority of providers do not have up to date contracts.
These contracts were not always signed by a representative of the council and evidence of approval was not available to support the extension of contracts.
Where contracts are in place there was no monitoring to make sure that providers were only getting paid what they were supposed to be.
A further fundamental weakness was identified as ‘Insufficient monitoring arrangements’ – there was no evidence that the eligibility of providers were being monitored or that they were delivering the service as required by the terms and condition of the grant.
Many had not been visited for eight years and none had received a monitoring visit in the financial year in question. There was also no evidence that the projects were being managed appropriately or progressing as expected.
Although some financial information and ‘outcomes’ from providers were collated by staff in the department, there were no checks to ensure that any of it was accurate before being provided to the Welsh Government.
The report concludes with a warning that unless there is a marked improvement the council is currently at risk of having grant monies withdrawn and having applications for further funding refused.
The Wales Audit Office are currently assessing the council’s grant management procedures in relation to property grants and I would imagine they’d be casting their auditing eye over this lot too. Or they should be.

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Global Litter Charity has announced the date of its next Welsh litter picking event

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Uocean project Carmarthenshire weekend clean up taking place on Saturday 25th September 21 at Pembrey Country Park

THE UOCEAN Project, part of the Vayyu Foundation, which has set itself the target of removing 1 billion kilos of waste from the world’s oceans by 2030, will be holding its next litter collection taskforce event at Pembrey Country Park  in Carmarthenshire.

Everyone is invited to join The UOcean Project volunteers and to make a difference by collecting litter, especially plastics, which are polluting our environment and ending up in the world’s oceans.  The UOcean Project has highlighted the dramatic increase in litter from plastic bags to face masks since lockdown restrictions were lifted, making it even more important to clean-up and reduce waste pollution. 

Chris Desai, head of The UOcean Project commented. “Picking up one plastic bottle or single use face mask may not appear to be significant, but at each event we are collecting many kilos of plastic because more and more individuals are joining our litter picking teams.

RSVP TO JOIN WWW.THEUOCEANPROJECT.COM

The combined collections here and overseas are the only way to make a difference and start fighting back against pollution.” 

The UOcean Project organises litter pick-up teams who work across the UK, especially around coastlines, as well as internationally.  By organising volunteers into Chapters and providing them with the tools and equipment to pick up litter, they have already collected 53,000 kilos of waste which would have ended up in the seas.  

All volunteers are provided with the equipment needed to safely pick up litter so that it can be disposed of in the right way.  For more information about The UOcean Project please go to the website www.theuoceanproject.com

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Warning! Dangerous Valium circulating in Llanelli

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the drugs being distributed and used in the Llanelli area at present could be extremely dangerous

Warning! Dangerous Valium circulating in

POLICE are warning drug users in Llanelli to take extra care following information received that dangerous valium is circulating in the area.

A Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson said: “We have reasons to believe that the drugs being distributed and used in the Llanelli area at present could be extremely dangerous for anyone taking them.

“We would also appeal to drug users to seek medical attention immediately should they become unwell.

“Please share this information with anyone that you believe could come into contact with these drugs.”

To seek advice and support, visit https://barod.cymru/where-to-get-help/west-wales-services/ddas-dyfed-drug-and-alcohol-service/

Please be aware that some services may operate an automated service outside office hours.

In an emergency, or if you think someone’s life is at risk, always dial 999.

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Parents warned to look out for respiratory illness in children

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RSV is a common respiratory illness which is usually picked up by children during the winter season

RESPIRATORY Syncytial Virus (RSV) is circulating amongst children and toddlers in the Hywel Dda area (Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire)  

Hywel Dda UHB Medical Director and Deputy Chief Executive Dr Philip Kloer said: “Because of the COVID restrictions, there have been few cases of RSV during the pandemic, but this virus has returned and in higher numbers now people are mixing more.

“RSV is a common respiratory illness which is usually picked up by children during the winter season, and causes very few problems to the majority of children.  However, very young babies, particularly those born prematurely, and children with heart or lung conditions, can be seriously affected and it’s important that parents are aware of the actions to take.”

Parents are being encouraged to look out for symptoms of severe infection in at-risk children, including:

*a high temperature of 37.8°C or above (fever)

*a dry and persistent cough, difficulty feeding, rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing).

The best way to prevent RSV is to wash hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser regularly, dispose of used tissues correctly, and to keep surfaces clean and sanitised.

Most cases of bronchiolitis are not serious and clear up within 2 to 3 weeks, but you should contact your GP or call NHS 111 if:

  • You are worried about your child.
  • Your child has taken less than half their usual amount during the last two or three feeds, or they have had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more.
  • Your child has a persistent high temperature of 37.8C or above.
  • Your child seems very tired or irritable.

Dial 999 for an ambulance if:

  • your baby is having difficulty breathing
  • your baby’s tongue or lips are blue
  • there are long pauses in your baby’s breathing
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