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Unrealistically low fees forcing care homes out of business say Care Forum Wales

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An investigation by social care champions Care Forum Wales (CFW) has revealed the local authorities in Carmarthenshire, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot are among the worst payers in Wales.

As a result CFW say care homes in those areas were being forced out of business because the sums don’t add up.

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The figures are contained in a table published by CFW of the postcode lottery of fees paid across Wales.

There are mixed results among Carmarthenshire’s neighbouring authorities with Powys 15th and Ceredigion 11th in what CFW describes as the League of Shame and even Pembrokeshire in ninth place paying over £6,000 a year less per resident than top of the table Torfaen, in Gwent, which spends £46,000 annually per resident.

CFW say the rates set by many councils are “budget driven” and not based on the true cost of providing care.

Swansea is the third from bottom of the table with only Wrexham and bottom-placed Flintshire below them

Meanwhile, Neath Port Talbot are fifth from bottom and Carmarthenshire just two places further up the table, despite all three councils in South West Wales having increased their fees by between 11 and 12.4 per cent this year.

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According to CFW, setting rates with little regard to actual costs has meant care fees have fallen behind neighbouring authorities.

It was shocking, said CFW chair Mario Kreft MBE, to discover that residents of care homes in Ceredigion homes receive £7,500 less per person a year than those in Torfaen for providing exactly the same level of service

CFW Chair, Mario Kreft MBE

He said: “Keeping their fees low for so long has contributed to a real crisis in care in many counties.

“It is no secret that Swansea and Neath Port Talbot work together to set the fees they pay but they have only stored up trouble for themselves.

“While they were congratulating themselves on saving money, care homes across those two council areas were going out of business and now they face a severe shortage of care homes offering the right service.

“The fact is that they have reacted too late and now not only are they still among the poorest payers but they lack the capacity to look after those in their communities with the right care.

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“Care homes across the region see a massive difference in fees between these three authorities and the likes of better payers in South East Wales and Gwent.”

North Wales authorities fill five of the bottom seven places after what CFW describe as the “fee-fixing North Wales cartel” was blown apart by Gwynedd Council whose Cabinet voted unanimously for increases of up to 25 per cent.

Their decision followed similar hikes in Merthyr Tydfil where councillors were warned that not paying fees that reflected the “true cost of care” would be unlawful.

According to CFW, it’s left the remaining five local authorities in North Wales and others across Wales “with nowhere to hide” and Flintshire County Council at the bottom of what’s come to be known as the League of Shame, detailing the fees paid in different parts of Wales.

The dubious honour has earned Flintshire a giant, five foot tall wooden spoon awarded by CFW.

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Mary Wimbury, Chief Executive at Care Forum Wales presents the giant spoon to Flintshire Council (Image: Mandy Jones)

The postcode lottery was brought into sharp focus when Torfaen Council announced big increases in their rates – 17 per cent for residential care and 25 per cent for nursing care.

It means that a 50-bed care home in Torfaen will receive £546,000 a year more for providing residential EMI care than a similar sized home in Anglesey, Wrexham and Flintshire for exactly the same levels of care.

In South Wales Blaenau Gwent (14.9 per cent) and Caerphilly (13.4 per cent) found even more money but across Wales the situation has left Mario Kreft fuming.

He added: “We are calling on all fair-minded people in local government – and through the good offices of the Welsh Local Government Association – to ensure, as put to the councillors in places like Merthyr, Torfaen and Gwynedd, they need to urgently review their fees.

“A number of other councils deserve credit for committing to conduct urgent reviews of their rates and we trust that they will now also follow suit and do the right thing.

“It is vital that these authorities fulfil their statutory responsibilities and ensure that they act lawfully and set their rates in such a way that they reflect the true cost of providing care for the most vulnerable people in our society.

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“If, however, they continue to act unlawfully, it will put more unacceptable pressure on hard-pressed, hard-working families to make up the difference which is unfair at the best of times but totally intolerable during the current cost of living crisis.

“It is frankly unbelievable that in Wales we have 22 local authorities all setting their own fees and we are seeing massive differences in those fees – it means that in most parts of Wales the system is just unsustainable.

“We rightly have national standards that we need to abide to and we need a national framework for setting fees as recommended by the Welsh Government in their White Paper, Rebalancing Care and Support.

“At the moment the only way providers in places like Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Carmarthenshire can manage is to go back to the hard-working families of their residents who will suffer financially – it’s a stealth tax.

“As a consequence we are seeing care homes closing because they are not financially viable which is something that is required by law.”

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Mary Wimbury, the chief executive of Care Forum Wales, said: “We rightly have national standards that are required in terms of the quality of the care provided and the national regulations governing the social care sector.

“What we need now is a complete overhaul of the system and the introduction of a sensible and fair national framework for commissioning a national fee which ensures realistic and sustainable rates that cover the true cost of care and allow providers to properly reward their valued workforce.

“This is becoming increasingly urgent because the demographics are going in one direction with the recently published census results show that one in five people in Wales are now aged 65 or over.

“Our network of care homes and domiciliary care companies provide essential support for the NHS.

“Without that scaffolding, the burden on an already stretched NHS with hospitals bursting at the seams will become even more intolerable and the whole system could collapse like a house of cards.”

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RegionLAResRes EMINursingNursing EMIAverage fee for LAAverage increase
GwentTorfaen£806.88£885.91£902.29£944.83£884.98£153.8521.0%
C&VCardiff£813.16£820.47£875.54£881.52£847.67£70.329.05%
GwentNewport£707.19£828.46£857.39£898.82£822.97N/KN/K
GwentBlaenau£719.90£825.70£793.50£841.80£795.23£103.2314.9%
N WalesGwynedd£645.00£780.00£800.00£900.00£781.25£124.1217.88%
CTMMerthyr£718.00£794.00£782.00£815.00£777.25£122.5918.7%
GwentMonmouthshire£725.00£810.00£766.00£794.00£773.75£59.008.3%
C&VVale£732.57£810.43£732.57£810.43£771.50£76.4511.0%
W WalesPembs£722.11£786.21£743.87£805.80£764.50£66.709.6%
GwentCaerphilly£725.64£791.72£714.62£788.96£755.24£89.4713.4%
W WalesCeredigion£702.80£748.65£729.12£776.44£739.25£67.2510.0%
CTMRhondda CT£710.00£752.00£717.00£758.00£734.25£62.509.3%
N WalesConwy£654.00£714.00£745.00£790.00£725.75£50.757.5%
CTMBridgend£691.00£737.00£713.00£759.00£725.00£66.0010.0%
PowysPowys£710.00£721.00£711.00£753.00£723.75£52.257.8%
W WalesCarms£688.51£726.07£664.95£776.27£713.95£71.2311.1%
N WalesAnglesey£636.80£707.17£703.79£800.88£712.16£62.329.6%
Swansea BayNeath PT£688.20£724.50£696.60£732.90£710.55£78.6212.4%
N WalesDenbighshire£631.72£700.12£715.88£779.38£706.78£60.479.5%
Swansea BaySwansea£658.00£658.00£722.00£754.00£698.00£77.2512.4%
N WalesWrexham£646.52£675.17£711.27£754.20£696.79£45.697.0%
N WalesFlintshire£646.52£675.17£703.79£746.72£693.05£47.807.4%
Wales average £699.07£757.81£750.05£802.82£752.44£76.5611.33%
Annual Difference
between highest and lowest
 £9434.88£11,851.32£12,341.68£11,020.36£9,980.36  

Carmarthen

Fire Service in search for new Carmarthenshire firefighters

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Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service has launched a hunt for new firefighters to join its Carmarthenshire fire stations.

It’s looking for people who live within 10 minutes of fire stations in Carmarthen, Llandysul and Newcastle Emlyn to become On-Call firefighters.

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On-Call firefighters get paid to respond to emergencies. They do not staff the fire stations 24 hours a day, like full-time firefighters, but get notified of an emergency call via a personal pager, which they carry with them when they are on duty.

Most On-Call Firefighters have other jobs with an agreement from their employers to leave to attend an emergency call if required. Others are available outside typical working hours like evenings, weekends, or between school runs.

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service say they’re looking for people wh consider themselves to be reasonably fit and healthy, who want to be of service to your local community.

They say applicants should be someone who can always be relied on to be somewhere on time, committed to maintaining your physical fitness, maintaining and developing your skills.

You should be someone who has the sensitivity to deal with members of the public when they are distressed, confused, or being obstructive, can get on with people from different backgrounds and cultures and work as part of a close-knit team.

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You should also be someone who works well under pressure, think on your feet and solve problems.

In return, if you become an On-Call Firefighter, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service say they will provide all the training and support required to respond to emergency incidents such as property fires, road traffic collisions, and incidents involving flooding, rescues from height, and many other specialist emergency calls. You will also receive training to deliver Community Safety advice that will help keep people safe in their homes and communities.

In addition to having an exciting career, you will earn a salary-based pay and, from your induction day as an On-Call Firefighter, you will be able to contribute to the Firefighters Pension Scheme

The fire service say they work with local employers to release their staff to respond to emergency incidents.

To apply or for more information visit Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s website.

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(Lead image: Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service)

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Business

Fashion students design sustainable leggings for Commonwealth Games thanks to Llanelli manufacturer

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Two Fashion Design students at the University of South Wales (USW) have designed leggings for Team Wales athletes – made from sustainable materials – to wear at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Bethan Jones and Olivia Soady, both in their final year, won a design competition set by Commonwealth Games Wales in partnership with USW.

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The students worked closely with Onesta, an award-winning sustainable clothing brand based in Llanelli, to bring their designs to life, and in total, Onesta manufactured 360 pairs of leggings for Team Wales.

They were officially revealed last week (Friday 1 July) when the Queen’s Baton Relay passed through Llanelli and stopped at the Onesta studio, where the baton-bearer, Wales Women’s rugby international Jasmine Joyce, modelled the Team Wales kit.

Onesta has only been trading since June 2020 but is already kitting out the likes of Rosie Eccles, Anwen Butten and Alys Thomas as they represented Wales at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

The collaborative project was developed with funding from the USW Exchange Partnership and Engagement Programme, which enables organisations to directly benefit from scoping and feasibility support, as well as access to USW’s academic expertise.

Following a brief from Team Wales, Bethan and Olivia’s designs focused heavily on sustainability, ensuring the leggings are practical, long-lasting and have a clear Welsh identity.

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Olivia said: “From the offset it was made very clear in the brief that these leggings were meant to be worn and to last, which is something that Bethan and I took into consideration throughout the design process. I’d read an article on all these amazing things which had originated in Wales, which gave me the idea of our country being small but mighty.”

Bethan and Olivia’s legging design
(Image: University of South Wales)

Bethan added: “Olivia and I both had a very similar concept. Mine was all about Welsh power symbols, and being proud to be Welsh, alongside the importance of sustainable production. So we merged those ideas together and got something very contemporary, which we’re really proud of. Being able to work on this project with Team Wales is such an exciting opportunity for me, and something which really aligns with my values as a person and as a designer.”

Owner and founder of Onesta, Gabriella Diana, said: “We are proud to have been selected as the manufacturer of casual leggings for Team Wales, designed in collaboration with USW students.

“Manufacturing in Wales not only lowers the carbon footprint of our clothing, but also puts money back into our local economy, strengthening industry here in the UK, and providing skilled jobs to local people and graduates. Plus, we know all our garments are made by happy hands.

“Working on this project with Team Wales has been really exciting, and we have loved being involved in developing sustainable sportswear for the Commonwealth Games.”

Stacey Grant-Canham, lecturer in Fashion Design at USW who worked with Bethan and Olivia on this project, said: “The designers are fully immersed in the industry from day one on the Fashion Design course here at USW; both taking advantage of our option of a year out in industry, they have the commercial awareness and creativity underpinned with a strong knowledge of circularity for fashion. It’s a real winning combination. The fact that they opted to collaborate is testament to the holistic way they see their place in this global industry too.”

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Bethan and Olivia’s legging design
(Image: University of South Wales)

Cathy Williams, Head of Engagement at Commonwealth Games Wales, added: “’The partnership between Commonwealth Games Wales and USW has become stronger and stronger over the past few years, and it’s great that once again we can bring in young and talented individuals like Bethan and Olivia to create something special for the team.

“We first ran this competition with USW for the Gold Coast 2018 Games, and we’ve built on that success, and we love seeing the athletes wearing the finished design.”

Chris Jenkins, CEO of Commonwealth Games Wales, said: ‘’Working alongside USW on such projects is really important for the organisation; not only does it provide a platform for young designers and university students to get a feel for the industry in the ‘real’ world, but for us, it opens up our support network to people who wouldn’t necessarily be drawn into sport.

“The Commonwealth Games is more than a sporting event – it’s an opportunity to bring in communities across the country and support Wales on a global platform. Congratulations to both designers, and I’d like to thank USW and Onesta for all their hard work.”

Since it commenced trading, over two years ago, Carmarthenshire County Council has supported Onesta, not only during the COVID-19 pandemic but also to realise the company’s long-term ambitions. In June 2021, Onesta was awarded an Economic Resilience Fund grant of £2,500 by Carmarthenshire County Council as support to cover the business bills during the COVID-19 restrictions of May and June 2021. They were also awarded a £2000 Non-Domestic Rates Grant during the COVID-19 support schemes in February 2022.

In April 2022, Onesta was awarded a Business Growth & Recovery Grant of £10,000 to assist with the purchase of manufacturing equipment and workshop and office furniture. The grant money will fund a cutting table, overlockers, cutting machine, industrial iron, industrial sewing machine and lockstitch, which would assist in the manufacturing of the clothing for the Wales Commonwealth Team for the 2022 Games.

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The company’s founder, Gabriella Diana, was nominated by the Council for the Wales Start Up Awards in 2021 in which she went on to win the Rising Star category.

Since then, Onesta has also won the Marie Claire Sustainability Award for Best Sustainable Small Brand 2021, UnLtd Social Entrepreneur Award, and was a finalist in the Cardiff Life Awards 2021 and the GBEA Awards 2021.  

Onesta was highly commended in the Heroes of Net Zero competition at a special awards ceremony, hosted by Intuit, at the COP26 international climate change summit in Glasgow. More than 160 businesses entered the competition, making a commitment at the UK Business Climate Hub to achieve net zero by 2050, in line with the government’s own climate commitment. They were highly commended in the micro business category for demonstrating a range of measures taken on their journey to net zero, including sourcing eco-friendly materials locally, removing toxic chemicals used in manufacturing and re-purposing fabric scraps to make sustainable products for Surfers Against Sewage.

Gabriella Diana, Founder and Owner of Onesta added: “I’m very grateful to Carmarthenshire County Council for the financial support we have received to, not only survive the COVID-19 restrictions but also to build the business and strive.”

Since launching the Business Growth & Start-Up Grant scheme in early 2022, Carmarthenshire County Council has approved 61 business grants to Carmarthenshire businesses. Of which 44 approvals were Business Growth & Recovery Grants, totalling £299,225.17 and 17 approvals were Business Start Up Grants, totalling £117,924.31.

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Cllr Gareth John, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure Culture and Tourism said: “As a local authority, we are delighted to have been able to invest in Gabriella and her company to enable her to grow the business. We are also very proud to have provided financial support to Onesta, and other companies based in Carmarthenshire, to weather the difficult COVID-19 restrictions of the past two and a half years.

“We have all enjoyed watching Wales’ athletes compete at the recent Commonwealth Games and the fact that they are wearing a kit that is made in Carmarthenshire has been a source of much pride for Carmarthenshire County Council.”

(Lead image: University of South Wales)

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Cadw

Mysterious Discovery Digs arrive at three Welsh Castles

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The last Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, (also known as Llywelyn the Last) is a national hero – but his life and times are shrouded with a 740-year-old mystery… The location of his long-lost crown jewels.

Could they be hidden at a historical site in Wales?

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Cadw is inviting visitors to dig into the history of Llywelyn the Last this August – as a series of archaeology-inspired events arrive at the Castles of RhuddlanLaugharne and Beaumaris.

Visitors to Cadw’s series of three and four day ‘Discovery Dig’ events will be invited to uncover ‘artefacts’ — from coins to crown fragments and shield splinters — as Cadw launches a search for families to find the long-lost crown of Wales.

Visitors are being encouraged to uncover ‘artefacts’ — from coins to crown fragments and shield splinters

Llywelyn the Last is well known for his conflict with the English crown — but it’s his final battle against King Edward I which  is the backdrop for Cadw’s series of events.

At the start of his final defence against King Edward I in 1282, Llywelyn left his coronet — the Welsh crown, with the monks at Cymer Abbey in Dolgellau, for safe keeping.

Yet, following his death in battle, the coronet is said to have been captured from the ruins of the Principality of Gwynedd and taken to London as a token of the Principality’s defeat.

Centuries later, it’s widely believed that under the orders of Oliver Cromwell,  the coronet was destroyed alongside many of the English crown jewels… But others believe the monks had stepped in long before this could happen, and the crown is still hidden somewhere in Wales.

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Junior archaeologists will get an official Discovery Digs’ certificate for their finds

Suitable for children of all ages, visitors to Cadw’s Discovery Dig events will rediscover long-lost stories from Welsh history, all while learning about real-life archaeology in staged dig-sites.

Junior archaeologists that hand in their findings will return home with an official ‘Discovery Digs’ certificate — but it’s hoped that they’ll also leave with a newfound love and awareness of Welsh history.

In support of this, selected events will feature bilingual performances from theatre company, Mewn Cymeriad — bringing the story of the last native Prince of Wales and his grandfather, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (also known as Llywelyn Fawr), to life.

It’s all part of Cadw’s Rediscover History campaign, which aims to tell the stories of Wales in a new way, while igniting an interest in archaeology — which links the 21st century to centuries upon centuries of history.

Laugharne Castle in Carmarthenshire is one of the locations hosting Cadw’s Discovery Digs

Head of Marketing and Tourism Development, Gwydion Griffiths, said: “Archaeology has played — and continues to play — an integral part in our understanding of historical Wales, so it’s wonderful to be simulating the activity with budding, young archaeologists across the country.

“Interactive and sensory events such as the Discovery Digs introduce a new way for children to get involved and interested in learning more about the culture, heritage, and the rich history of Wales. I hope this event series inspires people of all ages to learn about Llywelyn the Last and encourages a life-long love of heritage among future generations.”

To learn more about the Discovery Dig events and other activities happening at Cadw sites across Wales this summer, visit: https://cadw.gov.wales/visit/whats-on.

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Lead image: Laugharne Castle (Image: Cadw)

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