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Sandy Bear: Local child bereavement service to shut its doors in June



sandyA BEREAVEMENT service helping children and young people will close within months, it has been confirmed today.

In a statement a spokesman said for Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “The Sandy Bear Service will end in June 2016 as a commissioned service.

“We continue our work with the county council and other partners to explore new opportunities for bereavement services for children young people and their families.”

The Pembrokeshire-based community service has been working with children aged from 0-18 for 19 years and has been cited as an example of best practice in helping children with unresolved grief issues.
The service has ​two​ funded part-time coordinators and volunteers recruited from health, education and social services.
The development of this service was unique and innovative within Pembrokeshire as research states that by and large the mental health service field had not previously appreciated the impact of loss and bereavement on a child’s emotional health and well-being.
Despite the excellent work being delivered by the service, a post appeared in the Save Essential Services Facebook group from an unimpeachable source stating that the service is definitely to close.
Reactions to the news were appalled.
Samantha-Jane Connor wrote: ​”​Sandy bear helped me when I lost my dad 10 years ago (I was 11) I still even have the teddy they gave me and the memory box that was created! It’s wrong … I think children need this!​”​

Service users, both past and current, were unanimous in their condemnation of the service cut. A check on the County Council’s website revealed that there appeared to have been no discussion of cutting the service with councillors, and the service is not mentioned in the string of cuts to the social services budget rubber-stamped by the County Council’s Cabinet.
As the cut to funding is likely to have an impact on the welfare of a defined group of young people, the Council should have carried out an impact assessment. There is no sign of it having done so.
The Herald asked the local authority to confirm or deny that the services was to close, in a statement which neither confirmed nor confirmed its closure, a spokesperson told The Herald: ​”​Council services provided by the Families First grant – including Sandy Bear – are currently being reviewed following a reduction in funding from the Welsh Government.​”​
Sandy Bear is part of the Council’s Emotional Health and Well Being service commissioned from the Hywel Dda University Health Board.

​”​Tellingly, an online link to information on the county council’s own website no carries the information described on a Google search as being held there.

As the Council’s statement had flagged up the involvement of the Health Board, we approached it for a comment as well. Libby Ryan-Davies, Director of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities, told us: “Hywel Dda University Health Board are working together with Pembrokeshire County Council to review the current provision of Bereavement services in Pembrokeshire as a result of the recent confirmation of Welsh Government funding reduction.
“We are committed to looking at all opportunities to ensure the delivery of evidence-based services, locally.”
Pembrokeshire County Councillor Stephen Joseph joined the online discussion on Thursday (Mar 24), commenting: ‘I have only become aware that funding has been cut to this service through Facebook today. I have spent the morning trying to establish who has made the decision and why it has been made without, it appears, any involvement from any councillors’.
At the time of writing this article, an online petition started by Nina Evans has gathered 2,600 signatures in under forty-eight hours.
Nina’s petition states: “​This is a service that help hundreds of children who have encountered bereavement. They carry out an amazing service supporting children & helping them understand what has happened. I would hate to think what dark place my child would be in now if he had not been lucky enough to have the support from Sandy Bears.

​”​Please help to make Pembrokeshire county council sit up and re-think their decision. As a mother of a child who has suffered a bereavement of a parent I know how difficult it is dealing with grief, so please sign and let others have the support that that my family did.
​”​Fiona Skeate, a former volunteer with the service responding to the petition wrote: ​”​I work with some of the most damaged LAC children in Wales and see first-hand the devastating emotional and psychological impact that bereavement and loss can have on children and young people, both in the immediate and long term.
​”​I volunteered for Sandy Bears a few years ago and have seen first hand the positive difference this kind of support group provides to troubled teens and children as well as providing vital support to families who are having difficulty supporting themselves and are often at a loss as to how best help their children.

​”​Karen and Anita have been able to visit families in their homes to provide immediate guidance and develop a rapport with families.At a later date, children can then share their grief, express feelings and emotions, talk, share memories, carry out therapeutic activities and have pertinent questione answered that in most cases they have previously been unable to do.
​”​Think again and research into the therapeutic value of this kind of intervention before it is too late.”​
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Welsh Guards sergeant shot dead during Castlemartin live-fire training exercise



A BRITISH ARMY sergeant was killed on Thursday night (Mar 4) in a shooting accident at Castlemartin Training Area, The Herald can confirm.

The solider was training with live ammunition, ahead of a planned deployment to Iraq this summer.

Five police cars and an ambulance were seen screaming through Pembroke towards the incident at approximately 10pm towards the incident.

A coastguard helicopter, CG187, was scrambled to the scene, and hovered near Bosherston for a while, but was stood down and returned to base.

The Herald has contacted the MOD for a comment, who said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on the 4th of March.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”


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Pembrokeshire County Council bills Home Office for Penally camp costs



THE COUNCIL has sent an invoice for more than £80,000 to the Home Office.

It is to cover some of the costs that the local authority has incurred in connection with the Penally Asylum Seeker Centre, near Tenby.

Following a question on the issue from Cllr Jonathan Preston at Full Council the Council have confirmed that a bill has been sent.

The Member for Penally ward asked: “Please can the relevant Cabinet Member provide a breakdown of all costs to this authority which have been incurred in providing staff, services and other associated resources to Penally camp since its re-purpose by the Home Office last September?”

Council leader Cllr. David Simpson confirmed that on February 22 Pembrokeshire County Council submitted an invoice for £83, 858 which includes £65,564 in staff costs, £12,799 of specialist support and £5,495 for works such as barriers.

Pembrokeshire County Council is currently awaiting payment, the Authority confirmed.

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Hospitality sector welcomes Budget boost



IT HAS been so long it seems since we could stand at a bar and enjoy a well-earned pint, but now we are on the road back to normality, the Herald has spoken to some of those in the hospitality sector who have been asked to close. We wanted to know what the owners in businesses in these sectors locally thought of the budget and if Rishi Sunak had done enough to help them.

We first spoke to a Milford Haven restaurant business. Owner of Martha’s Vineyard in Milford Haven, Dan Mills said that the budget was not a silver bullet to fix all problems but said that the budget had gone a fair way to delivering what many in the Pembrokeshire hospitality sector have been calling for in recent weeks.

Dan Mills said: “The biggest risk many of us were facing was the cliff edge of a VAT increase, the end of the Furlough Scheme and a return to full business rates, I’m pleased that the Chancellor has recognised this and taken action on all fronts.

“With talk of the Welsh Government restricting us to outside trading for an initial period, the flexibility that the Furlough Scheme brings will be a huge help to ensure staff retain their jobs.

“I was also delighted to see that the Chancellor has provided funding to Wales to ensure that we benefit from a further 12 months of Business Rate Relief here in Pembrokeshire, that’s money that many of us can instead invest into restarting our businesses.

“I hope that the conversation that unfortunately began due to Covid between politicians and the Pembrokeshire hospitality and tourism sector can continue long beyond this crisis, it seems that through some open and honest feedback we are making real progress.

Award winning gastro-pub The Griffin Inn is well known throughout Wales and has received many national reviews. Their reputation puts them in a strong position once they are allowed to re-open. We spoke to Sian and Simon Vickers about the budget.

Simon Vickers, co-owner is also a director of Visit Pembrokeshire. He told The Herald: “I think the budget was very positive for the hospitality industry with the reduction in VAT being the biggest help.

“Overall I feel the government have supported the industry amazingly

In regard to tax on alcohol, Simon said: “Duty has been frozen It would have been nice to have seen a cut in it. Whether there’s a cut or not the breweries always increase their prices so in all honesty it never affects us.”

The ongoing financial support has been welcomed by industry group CAMRA, The Campaign or Real Ale, but the organisation said that the Chancellor had missed the opportunity to lower beer duty to save our pubs.

Their national chairman Nik Antona issued a statement to The Pembrokeshire Herald saying: “Freezing alcohol duty is obviously better than a rise. However, CAMRA had hoped to see the Chancellor announce a cut in duty on beer served on tap in pubs and social clubs to benefit consumers and help the great British pub recover and thrive in the difficult months and years ahead by being able to compete with supermarket alcohol.

“The Government’s commitment to review alcohol duties in the coming months is welcome. CAMRA will continue to call for a lower rate of duty for beer served in pubs – an option available to the Government now we have left the European Union.

“Reducing tax on beer served in pubs and social clubs would encourage responsible drinking in a supervised, community setting – as well as boosting jobs and local economies, helping consumers and benefiting pubs and licensees.”

On financial support announced, Nik commented: “Cutting VAT as pubs begin to reopen, and reducing it until April next year, means they can now start benefiting from that cut – but CAMRA believes this VAT cut should be extended to alcohol so that traditional locals that don’t serve food can benefit too.

“The extension of furlough until September and new grants of up to £18,000 are very welcome. However, pubs are unlikely to be able to fully reopen at pre-COVID trading levels due to outside space and then table service only indoors. The beer and pubs sector will need further support over the coming months, over and above new loans, to help them get back on their feet until there is a full and proper re-opening and they can trade at full capacity.

“Extending the business rates holiday until the end of June will help keep the wolves from the door for many English pubs, with the two-thirds reduction for the rest of the financial year a welcome step. However, given how tough it will be for many pubs we believe the 100% cut in business rates needs to be extended for a full 12 months as has already happened in Scotland.”

Picture: Simon Vickers, Griffin Inn, Dale

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