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Oak tree marks contribution of Jewish refugees

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An oak tree has been planted in the grounds of Swansea’s Guildhall to mark the 80th anniversary of the Association of Jewish Refugees.

The national charity, which supports Holocaust refugees and survivors living in Great Britain, is planting 80 native oaks at different sites across the country.

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Swansea Council was eager to support the initiative to recognise the huge contribution Jewish refugees have made to the city and the UK.

Council Leader Rob Stewart and Lord Mayor Mary Jones were joined by Norma Glass MBE, a leading member of the Jewish Community in Wales, 

and representatives from the inter-faith community and the City of Sanctuary.

Cllr Stewart said: “It is a privilege that Swansea is one of the 80 locations chosen for this fantastic initiative by the Association of Jewish Refugees.

“We are proud that Swansea welcomed refugees at a time of crisis and celebrate the contribution that they have made to the city over so many years.

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“Equally we must never forgot that so many millions were not so lucky and perished in the Nazi death camps during the Holocaust.

“On December 10 Swansea will declare its intention to become a Human Rights city and today’s events are a step towards that, sending out a clear message that Swansea is a safe and welcoming place to live.”

Ms Glass said: “On behalf of the Swansea Jewish community we are so grateful and appreciative of this thoughtful gesture by Swansea Council for this memorial of 80 years to be marked by the planting of a tree.

“We thank all those involved in the organisation of this event and feel honoured. Shalom “

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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South Wales Police

Police issue apology after independent Mayhill riot report says residents ‘left unprotected’

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South Wales Police have been criticised in an independent report into the Mayhill riot that took place on 20 May 2021.

The report says that “residents of Waun Wen Road, Mayhill were left unprotected for a significant period of time”.

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It says that there were “failings in command structures and decisions, operational decisions and tactics, and communications” with regard to the Police’s response to the disturbance, and calls on a “forensic investigation” to take place to better understand “the full extent of these failings and explanations for any failings”.

Large numbers of youths gathered on Waun Wen Road in Mayhill on the night of 20 May, 2021 setting fire to cars and throwing bricks at vehicles and homes as a “vigil” into the death of teenager Ethan Powell turned violent.

Ethan’s father, Jonathan Russ later condemned the actions of the rioters.

South Wales Police say that the subsequent investigation has involved the taking of 118 statements and officers have viewed over 600 multi-media video clips ranging in length from 11 seconds to 12 minutes in duration. The police added that officers have examined every piece of this footage together with reviewing more than 23 hours of CCTV and body worn footage.

The criminal investigations have resulted in files being submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service and charging decisions are expected shortly.

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46 arrests have been made following the incident, with South Wales Police awaiting a charging decision from the Crown Prosecution Service on a total of 37 individuals involved in the disorder.

The independent review into the riot was led by a three-member panel chaired by a QC, Prof Elwen Evans, alongside vice-chairs police expert Martin Jones and local government expert Jack Straw.

Panel members spoke to members of the community in Mayhill as part of the report.

The Chief Constable of South Wales Police has issued an apology to the residents of Mayhill for the operational police response following publication of the report, with the police saying it was clear from the incident and from footage circulated on social media that local residents were worried for their own safety and for the safety of their homes and property in what was a frightening incident for the community.

Rioters damaged cars and threw bricks at homes during the disturbance

Police issue apology

Chief Constable Jeremy Vaughan said: “I want to apologise to all those who have been affected by this incident and particularly those local residents who were tormented by those responsible. We failed to take action quickly enough on the night and for that I am truly sorry.

“We have made some immediate improvements to our operational practices following this incident including how we manage information around an escalating incident and how we draw upon resource from across South Wales and beyond more quickly.”

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Assistant Chief Constable Mark Travis, who oversaw the initial operational review following the incident, said: “I know the community wants to see those responsible for these terrible events brought to justice and I would like to personally thank those who have assisted our investigation so far and we are hopeful of a charging decision from the Crown Prosecution Service in the very near future following a comprehensive investigation into what went on.

“A large group of individuals were involved in shocking scenes of disorder which led to vehicles being set alight and a number of residents feeling terrified in their own homes and in need of help and support.

“Our response to that incident was reviewed internally and has now been the subject of the Independent Learning Review which has concluded that there were areas where our response on the night fell short of our usual high standards and the expectations of the community. A number of areas of learning have been highlighted in relation to our response and we fully accept the findings of the review.

“We are determined that our learning from this event will continue as we use the recommendations of the Independent Learning Review with oversight from the College of Policing so that we can fully understand how events unfolded on the night and take appropriate action.

“South Wales Police has an excellent reputation for policing major sporting and other international events. We have well-trained officers who have the skills to deal with the most challenging of incidents which makes it all the more frustrating that on this occasion  we recognise that  we got our response wrong, something  which we fully accept.

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“The local policing team in Swansea is committed to providing the best level of service to the community of Mayhill and will continue to work with residents, partners and organisations to ensure we keep them safe.”

The aftermath of the riot on Waun Wen Road in May 2021

Police and Crime Commissioner reacts to report

South Wales Police & Crime Commissioner, Alun Michael said: “As we publish the extremely helpful report of the Independent Learning Review, led by Professor Elwen Evans QC, Chief Constable Jeremy Vaughan has given a clear and straightforward apology for shortcomings on the night of May 20. I welcome his statement.

“The most important people in this are the local residents, particularly those who were direct victims of criminal violence or antisocial behaviour and it is to them that the Report, the apology and our responses are directed today. The scenes we saw in Mayhill on May 20 were truly shocking and led to detailed investigations which I sincerely hope will lead to court cases shortly. A full file of evidence has been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service and is under active consideration.  It is with the local community that local police have sought to reconnect and build confidence and I pay tribute to the way in which the community itself rallied and united in the face of the terrible events of that night.  But none of that detracts from the importance of the Report and its findings.

“Our priority now is to act on the findings of the Report so with the support of the Chief Constable I have asked the College of Policing to provide external expertise and professional oversight to the on-going learning of South Wales Police, using the recommendations of the Independent Learning Review for that work, so that I can be satisfied that all necessary improvements have been made. If issues can be addressed now they will be, although some issues may have to wait until the court cases have been completed.  

“I believe that we will all benefit from the decision taken by myself and the Chief Constable jointly with the Leader and Chief Executive of Swansea Council to commission the Independent Learning Review together rather than waiting until after the end of court processes.  I look forward to us working with the Leader and the Council on issues that require cooperation and partnership rather than being matters for a single agency. 

“South Wales Police has a well-justified international reputation for handling major events as well as for local policing and working with partners to reduce crime and harm. Officers take great pride in that and rightly so.   On this occasion South Wales Police got their response wrong and the test of quality is to accept criticism when it is justified and to tackle the issues head on.  That is what is happening now.

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“I know how keen people are to ask why specific events happen but from previous experience – I was a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee investigating the London Riots of 2011 – I know it is often easier to frame the question than to find answers.  In this case, it seems evident that there was no single cause of the disorder and that there is a complex set of circumstances behind what happened.

“Finally I thank the Council for their partnership and Welsh Government Ministers Jane Hutt MS and Rebecca Evans MS for supporting the Review.”

The clean-up operation the following day (Image: Swansea Council)

Swansea Council response

Swansea Council have also responded to the report. In a statement, the council said they welcomed the findings of the panel.

A spokesperson for the council said: “The events of 20 May last year were not reflective of the residents or these communities and we will continue to be there for Mayhill and Waun Wen.

“We are grateful the panel recognised the comprehensive plan we have developed for Mayhill and Waun Wen detailing the significant investment and support the council has made over many years and our plans for additional investment to build on this.

“We have already started work to address the panel’s recommendations for the council and are meeting with partners to improve the way we work together and to develop a plan to further strengthen community development, including youth provision and safe spaces.

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“We will look to further support groups, organisations and individuals who make positive contributions to the community and also develop initiatives in other areas of Swansea.

“In the last few years a new health and children’s centre has opened, there has been investment to further extend Flying Start provision, money has been spent on creating an early help hub and on school holiday activities and other youth provision.

“Since May the council has installed a new play area in Mayhill Park and a pop-up youth club has started in the community centre and there have been other activities including a very success free family fun day.

“We will be further boosting our youth services and facilities in this area as part of our on-going investment in our young people.

“We’ve also been talking with businesses about improvements to commercial areas such as Gors Avenue to make them a more welcoming space as part of Swansea’s Economic Recovery Plan for businesses across the city.

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“Following our immediate response to clear and repair damage caused during the disturbance, we have also taken action to resurface roads, spruce up street furniture and cut back overgrowth with more to come.

“We are working with residents on developing a new road layout and landscaping to create a new natural barrier on Waun Wen Road and, subject to their support, we will look to create a new play area and community space as part of this work.

“We will also be furthering our community engagement activities and community action projects, not just in Mayhill and Waun Wen but across Swansea, by developing local initiatives to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, raising awareness of volunteering and promoting shared values, diversity and inclusion.”

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Neath Port Talbot

Police name 18 year-old who died in Swansea Valley crash

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The 18 year-old woman who died in a road traffic collision in the early hours of Sunday morning has been named as Chantelle Thomas from Godre’r Graig.

Chantelle died when the car she was travelling in left the road while travelling along the A4067 from Swansea towards Godre’r Graig.

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Her family has paid tribute to her, saying: “As a family we are devastated to lose our princess Chantelle, she was a much-loved daughter, sister and granddaughter and loved by everyone she met.

“Sleep tight my princess.”

South Wales Police are continuing to appeal for witnesses to the collision which occurred shortly before 1.30am on Sunday January 23rd.

The single vehicle collision involved a white Citroen C1 which left the road while travelling along the A4067 from Swansea towards Godre’r Graig.

Another 18 year-old woman remains at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff where she is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

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Officers are continuing to appeal to anyone who may have witnessed or has dash-cam footage of the incident or the manner in which the white Citroen C1 was being driven prior to the collision to contact South Wales Police.

(Lead image: Family photo / South Wales Police)

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Neath Port Talbot

Wales’ first Milk Bank for newborn babies opens in Swansea Bay

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A milk bank has been set up for the first time in Wales to help ill or premature babies and, over time, mothers facing feeding difficulties.

The new milk bank hub, based in Singleton Hospital, Swansea, is supplying human milk to babies being cared for in hospital, with much of the milk being donated by Welsh mothers.

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Donor milk can help ill or premature babies in supporting their feeding, growth and development and in preventing complications, while also supporting mothers who need time to establish their own milk supply.

Until now, hospitals in Wales had received donor milk directly from milk banks in England.

As the milk hub begins operating to its full capacity, babies across south Wales will be able to receive milk from the hub in Singleton Hospital, as it will supply donor milk to the other health boards in south Wales.

Having a milk hub based locally will also allow more women from Wales to donate their milk to help support mothers and babies who need it.

Taylor Pearson was the first mother to put herself forward as a donor after giving birth to her daughter at the University Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff, in January 2021.

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The 29-year-old, from Cardiff, decided to donate her excess breast milk to help other mothers who may be experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding.

“After my daughter was born last year I found that I had an excessive supply of breastmilk which was more than she needed,” she said.

“I asked staff at the hospital if they had any milk bank facilities after reading about it online and I was told there wasn’t anything in Wales.

“I contacted Hearts Milk Bank, just north of London, who told me that a hub would be opening in Wales. Closer to the time they contacted me and asked if I still wanted to donate and I said yes.

“I didn’t want to waste my breast milk. I know quite a few people who have had babies in NICU (neonatal intensive care units) and I know it can be quite difficult to get your supply to breastfeed, especially when you’re separated from your baby.

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“If people really want to breastfeed but are struggling then this can help.”

Each donor goes through a screening process, which includes questionnaires and blood tests to rule out any infections.

They then provide at least two litres of milk over 10 weeks, which is then pasteurised, before being frozen and stored ready to be given to babies.

Taylor added: “It’s giving families who have their heart set on breastmilk more options to feed their baby when not having access to milk is the only reason they can’t do so.”

Helen James, matron for neonatal services, said: “Exclusive breast milk feeding can improve long-term development outcomes and donor milk is often used as a bridging gap while lactation is being established.

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“It’s a fantastic opportunity for Swansea Bay and a privilege to host this hub to support neonatal units across Wales.”

Blood Bikes Wales, a charity that provides a free courier service to the NHS, had previously been transporting donor milk from England to Singleton Hospital for babies in need.

The charity will continue to deliver the supplies to Swansea and to each of the health board regions in Wales to make it easier for mothers and babies to receive the donor milk.

Dr Sujoy Banerjee, consultant neonatologist and clinical director for children and young people services, said: “The first human milk bank hub in Wales will offer an invaluable resource for the care of premature and sick newborn babies, preventing complications, and improving outcomes. 

“It will provide equity and easy access of human milk for clinical services in south Wales and will make it easier for lactating mothers to donate their excess milk for the benefit of many babies. 

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“The project is a great example of a social, healthcare and research collaboration and will raise awareness and promote breastfeeding in our communities. 

“We are very proud to be given the opportunity to host this project.”

The hub has been launched thanks to research and funding from Swansea University, which will study the impact it has on supporting families.

Professor Amy Brown, director for the centre of Lactation, Infant Feeding and Translation at Swansea University, said: “We were delighted to have been awarded research funding from Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) to develop our infant feeding research.

“Part of this funding enabled the set up and delivery of the hub alongside a programme of research to examine its impact within the hospital and community.

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“Going forward we will be conducting a number of research studies to better understand how donor milk can support families including when babies are born prematurely but also where breastfeeding might not be possible, such as when a mother is undergoing cancer treatment.

“We are particularly interested in how donor milk may support parental mental health, both through receiving it for a baby or from the experiences of breastfeeding mothers being able to donate their milk to support other families.”

 The university was helped to launch the first hub in Wales by the Human Milk Foundation, a charity that supports parents to feed their babies with human milk.

As part of her work at Imperial College to research the impacts of human milk banks, Dr Natalie Shenker co-founded the UK’s first independent, non-profit human milk bank, Hearts Milk Bank, which will manage the hub in Swansea.

“The aim of the charity is to make sure there’s national equity for families to both receive and donate milk,” she said.

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“Wales hasn’t had a milk bank service of its own for many years, and that has really affected how many mums are able to donate, and how hospitals can use donor milk, if there are challenges in accessing sufficient supplies when needed.

“We know it can be a wonderful thing for mums to be able to donate their milk to help other families.

“It can be utterly heartbreaking for women to have to throw away their milk, particularly for mothers with babies in hospital, and those whose babies sadly do not survive.”

Gareth Howells, executive director of nursing, said: “Everyone at Swansea Bay is committed to building a truly equitable service where families can donate and access donor human milk.

“We are very proud to be opening our milk hub at Singleton Hospital.

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“We are also looking forward to helping more families to receive and donate human milk and to growing the hub in the coming years.”

To find out more about the work of the Human Milk Foundation and Hearts Milk Bank and find out more about donating your milk visit their website here https://heartsmilkbank.org/donating 

Lead image: Dr Natalie Shenker (left), who co-founded Hearts Milk Bank with Gillian Weaver (right), with Professor Amy Brown of Swansea University (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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