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Neath Port Talbot

Welsh Government to invest £4.9m in improving digital public services

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The Welsh Government is investing £4.9m to improve digital public services in Wales so that they are easier and slicker for people to use.

One consequence of the coronavirus pandemic has been that many more people have needed or chosen to access public services online, and this has already driven the transformation of some digital services.

An example of this has seen Neath Port Talbot Council working with Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen Councils, and supported by the Centre for Digital Public Services, on a project to improve people’s experience of accessing adult social care services online. First-hand insights from users and social care staff are being used to develop better digital services including improvements to the referral process.

Meanwhile, Caerphilly County Borough Council’s work to use digital automation to process applications for free school meals has resulted in a much speedier process. Working with the private sector, the local authority can now ensure that eligible school children are accepted on to the free school meals programme on the day of their application.

This development has been invaluable during the pandemic when demand for free school meals has surged and as a result many more children have begun receiving healthy and nutritious meals delivered direct to their doorstep.

Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, Lee Waters has said he wants this £4.9m investment in digital public services to drive more innovative and user friendly approaches across Wales.

The funding will be directed to the Centre for Digital Public Services, which was established last year to transform the design and delivery of digital public services.

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The investment will support specialised training programmes and digital squads who will work with public sector organisations and help them to drive up their digital knowledge and improve their online services.

This will help ensure that people accessing public service digitally can have an experience that is as easy and user friendly as when they shop or bank online.

The funding is part of the Welsh Government’s Digital Strategy for Wales which is being ‘crowdsourced’ to test ideas and gather new suggestions. The strategy will determine how the Welsh Government harnesses digital, data, technology and AI now and in the future to benefit people in Wales.

Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, Lee Waters said: “Digital is now a central part of all our lives and that has never been more evident than during the pandemic.

“It is crucial that our public services evolve to meet the changing expectations of the people who need and use them, and that they are as simple to use and intuitive as many of the services we access when we are online shopping or providing our energy meter readings.

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“We want people to be able to easily access the services they want through a few clicks of the mouse or taps of the screen. This means ensuring that first class digital services become the norm in our public services and this investment in skills, leadership and standards will be key to helping us achieve that goal.”

Chief Executive of the Centre for Digital Public Services, Sally Meecham said: “The Centre for Digital Public Services will support the Welsh public sector to deliver good digital public services that meet the needs of all users. It’s absolutely brilliant to have received this investment and the commitment to continue our work.

“This will allow us to work with colleagues across the public sector in Wales and our ever-growing network of partners, suppliers and stakeholders to deliver inclusive and accessible public services and ensure the people that design and deliver the services have the right skills, capability, ambition and support.”


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Dance

Doctors prescribe dance classes to keep patients on their feet

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Over 65s in Swansea Bay are being encouraged to attend dance classes in a bid to keep them on their feet.

Five of the health board’s clusters – groups of GP surgeries working together within a geographical area – are backing the scheme as the exercise to music is proven to aid falls prevention.

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Each class is led by a trained dance teacher with participants encouraged to follow a range of routines, designed to develop their strength and balance, with the option of using a chair for support if their mobility is limited.

The Dance for Health programme is a collaboration between the health board, clusters, local authorities, and Aesop, an arts focused charity.

Alyson Pugh, Programme Manager at Aesop, said: “We are delighted to be working with our partners in the health sector to improve the health and wellbeing of people aged over 65 through the medium of dance.

“During each class participants will move to a variety of music from all around the world. The classes are fun and vibrant, increasing fitness, mobility and strength.

“Afterwards, participants will have a good chance to get to know one another over a cup of tea or coffee. No previous experience is needed, everybody is welcome.”

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So far classes are held in Pontardawe, Morriston, Seven Sisters, Cwmavon and Briton Ferry, Upper Killay, Reynoldston, Mumbles and the Waterfront Museum.

Alyson said: “The health board asked for 12 classes across Swansea Bay and funded the management side while the GP clusters are funding the delivery of the classes. They wanted it to be grass roots up.

“Anyone can walk in but they wanted the main referrals to come from the virtual wards and local area coordinators and social prescribers, a whole community approach.”

Lizzie MacMillan (Image: Swansea Bay HNS)

Dance artist Lizzie MacMillan (left), a development officer for Dance for Health, said: “It’s for older people and people who are struggling a little bit with perhaps balance issues, mobility issues as well, so we are not expecting them to foxtrot along the floor on the first class or anything like that. It builds up over the weeks.

“We start off quite gently, just seeing where everyone is in the class – I like to gauge the class first of all to see if people are having problems with balance or perhaps giddiness or joint problems. I like to get to know each person in the class so that I can look after them and know their capacity for movement.

“We use the chairs quite a lot if someone is unsteady on their feet. They can still do a variation using the chair for support. We also do a standing variation if people are a little fitter or a little bit more able to push themselves further in the class.”

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Over 65s in Swansea Bay are being encouraged to attend dance classes in a bid to keep them on their feet. (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Mike Garner, Cwmtawe Cluster lead, said: “We are delighted to be participating in this programme as it fits in perfectly with our goal of improving well-being and helping people remain fit and healthy.”

One participant, Pauline Anderson, said: “I’ve been to four or five classes. I thought I would try it to see what it’s like and it’s been very good.

“As you get older you become more immobile. I’ve been struggling with my knees and joints, so I have found it helpful.

“I would advise anyone thinking about it to just come along.”

Another participant, Betty Didcock, said: “I try to keep active as much as I can. I used to enjoy dancing when I was younger. I’ve made friends here. If you’re a bit shy, it’s a wonderful place to come to get used to talking to people. I’m a quiet one. I don’t always do it right but I have a go.”

While Amber Davies said: “I thought I’d come along to see what it was like. It’s important to keep busy and remain active. It’s also a good way of meeting new people.”

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(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Construction

Housebuilder reports “exceptional demand” as Aberavon development launched

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“Exceptional demand” has been reported as the first homes at a new development on Aberavon seafront were released for sale.

All appointments were fully booked on Saturday as Persimmon Homes West Wales opened the doors to the sales office.

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Two homes were purchased at the Awel Afan development and a further 10 reserved on the Early Bird scheme over a busy weekend.

A total of 137 homes are being built on the former Afan Lido Leisure Centre site on Princess Margaret Way.

Sharon Bouhali, Sales Director at Persimmon Homes West Wales, said: “We’re pleased to have launched our Awel Afan site.

“The demand has been exceptional. Right from the moment we acquired the site and announced the plans, we have seen a phenomenal amount of interest from a wide range of people wanting to live in his amazing location.

“The housing market remains buoyant in West Wales but, even so, the buzz around Awel Afan is almost unprecedented.”

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Opened by the Queen in the 1970s, the Afan Lido was destroyed in a fire in 2009 and the site has been unused since.

Persimmon say the development will bring a massive boost to the local economy through the construction industry and its multiplier effect. According to figures from the House Builders Federation, for every £1 spent on housing, £3 goes back into the economy.

The national house builder says that each home built also creates 1.5 full-time direct jobs – and at least twice that number in the supply chain.

The development will be made up of two, three and four-bedroom houses, as well as a range of two-bedroom flats.

Homes currently on sale include the popular two-bedroom terraced Alnwick with its modern open plan kitchen/diner and the four-bedroom detached Hornsea with ensuite and integral garage.

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Persimmon Homes recently supported Afan Lido Girls FC with a game-changing grant of £20,000 through its Building Futures campaign.

(Lead image: Persimmon Homes)

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Port Talbot

Police launch appeal to find missing disabled woman

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South Wales Police have launched an appeal to find missing Waunarlwydd woman, Kelly Randell.

45 year-old Kelly was last seen in Port Talbot on Tuesday 3 May.

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A wheelchair user with one leg, Kelly is described as being around 5ft of medium build with brown hair which is tied up – possibly in a bun.

She was last seen wearing black jeans and a black coat.

She has links to both Swansea and Port Talbot.

South Wales Police are appealing for anyone who may have seen Kelly, or who has information which will help them to find her, to contact them online or by calling 101 quoting occurrence number 2200149152.

(Lead image: Family photo / South Wales Police)

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