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New facilities and improved services for care residents thanks to Welsh investment bank

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Older people in care homes in Wales will benefit from new facilities and improved services with the help of a £4 million investment in the first half of 2021 by the Development Bank of Wales.

As part of the Welsh Government’s foundational economy, health and care services is a key sector that people rely on to keep them safe, sound and civilised. It is estimated that the foundational economy accounts for four in every ten jobs and £1 in every £3 that is spent with rising demand for quality care including specialist EMI facilities across Wales.

Seven Welsh businesses providing residential care have benefitted from loans totalling £4 million from the Development Bank of Wales in the period from January to June 2021, helping to fund growth and service improvements. This compares to less than £1 million in the same period last year and includes funding for care home providers that deliver care services for the elderly and adults with mental health and learning difficulties.

Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan said: “We are committed to supporting the care sector and doing everything we can to ensure people in Wales have access to the best quality of care possible.

“We have supported care home providers, who have faced significant challenges over the last 18 months, with increased funding as we appreciate the pressures their services have been under. This Development Bank of Wales funding will improve the range of services and specialist care available for those who need it.”

Padda Care currently has two care homes situated in Llandybie, Ammanford and in Morriston, Swansea. Both homes provide specialist dementia care that is tailored to the individual needs of residents by using a person-centred approach.

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A £1.5 million loan from the Development Bank of Wales is helping to fund the development of a new 36-bed unit adjoining Glanmarlais. Expected to open in late 2021, the unit will provide specialist EMI care and create 30 new jobs. Padda Care has also acquired a site in Llwynhendy, Llanelli (pictured above) for the development of an 80-bed care home. Work is expected to start later this year.

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Managing Director of Padda Care Piers Tumeth said: “It has been a testing time for the care sector but we remain committed to developing our services and investing in our people to ensure the continued delivery of our personalised and specialist dementia care.

“All that we do is based on our ethos of supporting and buying local. We create local jobs, provide local people with first-class care whilst also working with local businesses to benefit the local economy. We’ve partnered with local construction company Sterling of Cross Hands to build our new facility in Llandybie and worked closely with Llanelli-based Peter Lynn and Partners and our business adviser Jamie Reynolds of Cennen Solutions to develop our business strategy.

“It was Jamie that introduced us to the Development Bank of Wales and from the out-set we knew that we had found a long-term funding partner that shares our values and commitment to delivering social and economic value for local people, including the creation of well-paid and rewarding jobs. The whole process has been so straight-forward with the team at the Development Bank really stepping back to see the bigger picture and focus on what matters for us as a growing business.”

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Dale Roads Group is a long-established and highly regarded provider of care services with six residential care homes in Pembrokeshire. The privately owned business has recently acquired Pembroke Haven Residential Care Home in Pembroke Dock with a £1.8 million loan from the Development Bank of Wales.

 Richard Easton from Development Bank of Wales and Mike Davies, Managing Director of Dale Roads. 

Mike Davies is Managing Director of Dale Roads Group. He said: “Our relationship with the Development Bank dates back to 2017. They’ve been hugely supportive of our growth; providing flexible and affordable funding that has enabled us to continuously invest in the care that we provide for our residents. The acquisition of Pembroke Haven as a purpose-built residential care home is a perfect fit with our business. We’ve been able to safeguard 43 local jobs and maintain the provision of community-based high-quality care right in the heart of Pembrokeshire.

“Continuous investment in our sector is critical if care providers are to be in a position to offer a high-quality of life for residents with excellent standards of care delivered by a professional and motivated workforce.”

Nick Stork, Fund Manager for the Development Bank of Wales said: “We’re supporting the Welsh Government’s focus on developing the foundational economy. As people live longer and technology is transforming the way we live, lifestyles and expectations have changed.

“Reports estimate that 113% more people will be over the age of 85 by 2035, fuelling demand for an increase in the quantity and quality of care including specialist EMI facilities. That’s why a modern health and care system needs to be designed and delivered around the needs and preferences of individuals, with a greater emphasis on keeping people healthy and well. We should all be able to age well and live in age-friendly communities where older people feel valued, included and respected.

“Our support for the care sector includes loan and equity to fund business growth and acquisitions. This year we are definitely seeing an uplift in demand for finance in this sector with an increasing number of care providers needing our support to step-up their investment in staff, creating jobs and working to address the skills gap by spending more on the recruitment, development and retention of staff.”

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Welsh and UK Governments agree to establish Freeports in Wales

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The Welsh Government has reached agreement with the UK Government on the establishment of Freeports in Wales.

Welsh Ministers have agreed to support Freeport policies in Wales following the UK Government’s agreement to meet the Welsh Government’s demands that UK Ministers provide at least £26m of non-repayable starter funding for any Freeport established in Wales, which represents a parity with the deals offered to English Freeports.

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The UK Government have agreed to meet a number of other demands – including that both Governments will act on the basis of a ‘partnership of equals’ to deliver any Freeports in Wales.

In addition, both Governments have agreed a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated clearly it will operate in a manner that aligns with the Welsh Government’s policies on fair work and environmental sustainability, including the commitment to Wales becoming a net-zero carbon nation.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Following considerable engagement between our Governments, I’m pleased we have been able to reach agreement with UK Ministers to establish Freeports in Wales. The agreement we have reached is fair to Wales, and respects the Welsh Government’s responsibilities in devolved policy areas.

“However, we have made it clear to the UK Government that a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated, using robust evidence and analysis, that it will support our fair work agenda and deliver long-term, sustainable benefits for Wales, and value for money for Welsh taxpayers.

“I very much hope that the UK Government’s willingness to work with the Welsh Government as equals on Freeports can provide a positive model for future co-operation between our governments on other initiatives.”

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The UK Government’s Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said: “I am delighted that Wales is the latest area in the UK set to benefit from a new Freeport.

“The UK Government’s ambitious Freeports agenda will help to level up our coastal communities and create new opportunities for people right across the country.

“Together with the Welsh Government, I look forward to seeing innovative proposals come forward that demonstrate tangible benefits for the people of Wales.”

In addition, Welsh and UK Ministers have agreed that the UK Government will provide tax incentives for Freeports in Wales in parity with Freeports in other parts of the United Kingdom for the reserved taxes that have been designated to advance the policy aims. The Welsh Government will design tax reliefs from local and devolved taxes (Non-Domestic Rates and Land Transaction Tax) to support the policy aims.

Both Governments say they will remain open to the possibility of a multi-site Freeport in Wales. In recognition of Wales’ unique economic geography and the Welsh Government’s aspirations for economic development in Wales, the UK Government is willing to relax the 45 km boundary limit for a multi-site Freeport solution, should there be a sufficiently compelling case for doing so.

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Both Governments will also remain open to the possibility of allowing more than one Freeport in Wales, should they be presented with a sufficiently compelling business case.

As with English Freeports, a fair and open competitive process will be used to determine where the policy should be implemented in Wales. Both Governments will work together to co-design the process for Freeport site selection, and both will have an equal say in all decisions throughout the implementation process. This includes the final decision on site selection.

Both Governments have begun the process of designing the bid prospectus for the competition and further details about the timing of next steps will be released in due course.

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Swansea digital agency iCreate enters the metaverse with bespoke digital environments

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Swansea-based creative agency iCreate is entering the metaverse by creating 3D visual environments for Dubai-based NFT boutique Jumi – a new outlet for curated digital art.

The metaverse hit the headlines last year when Facebook’s parent company rebranded to Meta, reflecting the growing potential of the internet to offer an interactive virtual world through AI and 3D digital animation.

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The metaverse offers social connection through technology, interaction with brands and businesses, and online recreation.

It encompasses everything from online video games to virtual shops where you can digitally try on items before you buy them, and bespoke venues for online events of all kinds.

It’s expected to expand into an online world where people will have their own virtual avatars which they take from one virtual environment to another, purchasing virtual products for them and housing them in virtual homes.

This is where iCreate – which specialises in creating digital environments – comes in. The company provides CGIs, 3D flythrough animations, VR tours and marketing brochures to the off-plan property sector.

From interactive, customisable home interiors that enable buyers to plan every detail of their dream home, through to large-scale digital animations of new housing developments, iCreate is adept at creating virtual environments that look and feel like the real thing.

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Now it’s teaming up with Jumi and other partners to create digital environments that will never be built in the real world, but will exist in the metaverse, where people’s avatars can explore and socialise in them.

A key aspect of the metaverse is non-fungible tokens (NFTs): digital assets that can be bought and traded. These are increasingly hitting the headlines as everyone from independent artists to big brands creates and sells digital-only products, music, artwork and more.

Dawn Lyle (right) and the team at iCreate

Jumy, which completed a $1.2M seed funding round last year, is the ultimate NFT boutique marketplace for exclusive digital art. All artworks are curated from the world’s most creative digital artists, to guarantee outstanding quality.

The platform is the world’s first to offer a fully integrated digital art experience where visitors will be able to purchase pieces with payment cards, trade their NFTs, order NFT frames (digital frames for NFT art) and flex their NFTs on metaverse – all in one place.

By collaborating with Jumi, iCreate will make beautiful, exclusive digital environments for displaying NFTs in the metaverse. From here, it’s expected that a new market in bespoke virtual homes and offices will develop over the coming years, as more aspects of all our lives are lived in the metaverse.

Dawn Lyle, iCreate’s co-founder, said: “We’re delighted to have formed this new partnership with Jumi and to be taking our bespoke digital environments into the metaverse.

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“The metaverse offers such a wealth of possibilities, and over the coming years it will become increasingly common to play, meet and do business with people all over the world in virtual settings.

“We’re excited to be creating stunning digital environments in which these activities can take place; in the metaverse, there are no limitations and it’s possible to bring dreams to life, creating astonishing virtual places that delight and surprise. It gives us the opportunity to put all our creative skills to use in exciting new ways and we can’t wait to get started.”

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River Island launches its brand new Swansea concept store this weekend

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Fashion chain River Island is revealing its brand new concept store at Morfa Retail Park in Swansea on Saturday (7 May).

Located at the former New Look store at Unit 6 on the Brunel Way shopping centre, the new store is just a few doors down from its previous outlet, although promises to be an even bigger and better boutique shopping experience.

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Located across two floors, the 8,253 square foot store has been specially curated to the tastes of Swansea shoppers according to the fashion chain.

Set across one level, womenswear will occupy just over half the space, with the remainder split between menswear and kidswear, stocking kids, mini and baby.

To celebrate the new opening, River Island will be hosting a launch event weekend in-store on the 7th and 8th of May, where shoppers can expect to hear celebratory sounds with in-store DJ sets, whilst the first lucky 100 customers through the doors will receive a £10 gift card which can be redeemed in-store or online.

Frances Baker, River Island Property Director said: “River Island is thrilled to be relocating and open ing a new boutique store in Swansea, Morfa as part of our segmentation programme.

“We are excited to introduce our concept store to our existing loyal customers, with exciting opportunities to acquire new customers with our new look-and-feel store.”

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River Island say the store upgrade strengthens its 300 strong estate and solidifies its message of “standing by the high street”, a campaign set up in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to show solidarity with other high street brands negatively hit by the effects of the pandemic.

The fashion chain say that by investing in finding ways to encourage and entice customers to return to in-person shopping it hopes to “enhance and improve the shopping journey for its customers”.

(Lead image: River Island)

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