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Banks closures put businesses on the brink

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Banks are ‘turning their backs’ on small communities: Marc Tierney

Banks are ‘turning their backs’ on
small communities: Marc Tierney

THE CLOSURE of banks across rural Wales continues apace as, despite evidence that loss of banking services disproportionately affects small communities and their businesses, high street banks desert towns and villages. Derek French of the Campaign for Community Banking Services (CCBS) said: “Communities are having to get used to a new environment where, following the government approved Access to Banking Protocol, which has applied to all branch closures announced after May 1, all that can be expected from engagement with the closing bank is some limited post closure provision for banking needs and early signs are that this is inadequate for many.”

28 towns and villages are now without any banks, with some people having to drive up to eight miles to their nearest branch Substantial settlements like Whitland in Carmarthenshire have seen banks withdraw and only piecemeal services replacing them. Speaking to The Herald, Labour candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire in next May’s Assembly elections, said: “The decisions taken by Barclays and now NatWest to close their branches in St. Clears means customers will have to travel much further, to either Carmarthen or Narberth, for the full range of banking services. “I worry of the effect these closures will have on existing businesses in the town and the added costs local businesses will have to bear when doing their banking. “Just last year NatWest closed in Whitland, merging with St. Clears when customers were assured services would continue to be offered relatively close by. These large, highly profitable banks are turning their backs on rural Welsh communities without any form of consultation with customers or care for the effect on the wider community.” Mr Tierney concluded: “I know that the way people bank is changing. To cut costs, the banks have encouraged us to use online and phone banking which I accept is practical for some.

“But for many older people, those reliant on public transport and for local businesses the options put forward by the banks to access counter services are not a suitable alternative.” The FT notes that ‘The acceleration in the pace of bank branch closures risks hitting local retailers hard as customers without easy access to cash go elsewhere to do their shopping’. That certainly appears to have been the case in Llandovery, where banking hours have been progressively cut so that services are only part time. As a result, retail footfall in the town centre has declined. Across England and Wales, banks closed 500 branches last year — more than double the year before — and are on track for at least 650 closures in 2015. 1,500 communities have lost all the banks in their town and 840 are left with only one bank, with market towns and seaside communities the worst hit. While banks claim to carefully consider cuts to banking services in rural communities, their repeated insistence that an ageing rural population does more and more of its banking online is not borne out by individual experiences.

One bank customer, Annie Eveson, told The Herald: “I don’t have a computer, I don’t use email. I have a bank card, but nowhere accepts cheques anymore. How can I get my money out of the bank when even the Post Office has closed?” Age Cymru said having a local bank that was convenient for older people was “vital” for ensuring they did not become socially isolated. Graeme Francis, the charity’s head of policy and public affairs, said older people were at increased risk of financial abuse because of the branch closures. “We know that around one in five older people regularly give their bank card and pin number to someone else they know, often a family member or a domiciliary care worker, to get money for them,” he said. “And whilst most people would be very trustworthy in that situation, it does clearly open a risk of financial abuse up for people. “So there are real safety concerns that go along with a reduction in services.”

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Health

Those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster should get jabbed by end of June

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ALL those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster are being urged to take up their offer of the vaccine before the end of next month.

A deadline of 30 June has been introduced to ensure all those eligible for the spring booster will have a long-enough interval between this and the autumn 2022 booster, if they are also eligible.

An announcement by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) about which groups will be eligible for the autumn booster is due to be published shortly.

The JCVI has advised that people over-75, older care home residents and all those aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed are eligible for the spring booster.

Those who are 75 on or before 30 June, can get their booster at any point up to the deadline.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “It is important we continue our very high take up levels of the vaccine to help protect us against the risk of serious illness from Covid-19. I would urge everyone who is offered a spring booster vaccination takes up the invitation.”

If someone eligible for a spring booster has had a Covid infection recently, they will need to wait 28 days from the date they tested positive before they can be vaccinated. They will still be able to get vaccinated after 30 June as part of this campaign if they have to postpone their appointment.

All those eligible for spring boosters will be invited by their health board or GP.

It is not too late for anyone who needs a primary dose (first, second or third) to be vaccinated.

Please check for local arrangements.

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Health

Young people in Wales being failed when moving from child to adult mental health services

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MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES are failing young people when they move from child to adult services, says a mental health charity.

Mind Cymru is calling for Welsh Government to make urgent changes to improve the system.

Nia Evans, Children and Young People Manager at Mind Cymru, said: “Young people have told us that their needs, thoughts, and feelings about moving to adult services are often unheard, or ignored.

“Welsh Government must support Local Health Boards to make sure this doesn’t happen, change the way services are run and make sure our young people are being heard and properly cared for.”

Mind Cymru has published a report, in ate the result of interviews with young people about their experiences of moving from Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – (SCAMHS) to AMHS.

They highlighted five key areas where services are failing young people:
– Poor information offered to young people, particularly on their rights
– Inconsistent use and follow through of care and treatment plans
– High thresholds for SCAMHS and AMHS referrals to be accepted
– Feeling abandoned / cut off from SCAMHS
– Age still dominates decision making process for moving from SCAMHS to AMHS

Nia Evans said: “Any one of these issues could make the process of moving from children’s services to adult services difficult for our young people. But often, more than one is happening at any one time.”

“Our young people have a right to care and support from a mental health system that has been put in place to help them recover. Action must be taken immediately to make sure support systems are robust and doing the job they were designed to do.”

Mind Cymru is asking people to email their Member of the Senedd (MS) and amplify the voices of these young people whose experiences are often unheard, and use the #SortTheSwitch hashtag on social media.

The full report is available here, including what a good move from SCAMHS to AMHS would look like for young people, and where the current system could improve.

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Business

Average UK price of diesel hits record of more than £1.80 a litre

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LESS than two months after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a 5p a litre cut on the average price of fuel – diesel prices have reached a record high price of 180.29p a litre.
The previous high of 179.90p was recorded on March 23rd 2022 – the day of the Spring Statement from Sunak.

In recent weeks, the UK government has tried to move away from its reliance on importing Russian oil, following President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Worryingly for drivers of petrol cars, the price per litre is fast approaching the record levels of 167.3p per litre set on March 22nd.

This latest price rise adds another challenge to UK households, as the cost of living crisis continues to impact families across the country.

RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Sadly, despite the Chancellor’s 5p a litre duty cut the average price of a litre of diesel has hit a new record high at 180.29p.”

“Efforts to move away from importing Russian diesel have led to a tightening of supply and pushed up the price retailers pay for diesel.”

“While the wholesale price has eased in the last few days this is likely to be temporary, especially if the EU agrees to ban imports of Russian oil.”

“Unfortunately, drivers with diesel vehicles need to brace themselves for yet more pain at the pumps. Had Mr Sunak reduced VAT to 15% as we call on him to do instead of cutting duty by 5p, drivers of diesel vehicles would be around 2p a litre better off, or £1 for every full tank.”

“As it is, drivers are still paying 27p VAT on petrol and 29p on diesel, which is just the same as before the Spring Statement.”

“The average price of petrol is also on the rise having gone up nearly 3p a litre since the start of the month to 166.65p which means it’s less than a penny away from the all-time high of 167.30p set on 22 March.”

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