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Two schemes to help people self-isolate to be introduced in Wales

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PEOPLE told to self-isolate for up to 14 days will be eligible for financial support from the Welsh Government as two new schemes are unveiled on Friday (Oct 30).

People on low incomes can apply to receive a £500 payment if they have tested positive for coronavirus or they are asked to self-isolate by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

And a new top-up payment is being introduced for the social care workforce in Wales, to increase statutory sick pay to their normal wages if they have to take time off because they have coronavirus or are self-isolating.

Up to £32m is being made available by the Welsh Government for the two schemes to support people and remove the financial barriers faced by people needing to self-isolate.

First Minister, Mark Drakeford said:

“The pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone and we have asked people to sacrifice so much this year, including during this latest firebreak. We are committed to doing everything we can to support people and protect people’s health and wellbeing.

“Asking people to self-isolate is an important way to break the transmission of the virus but for many people it can mean the loss of income.

“We all have a responsibility to protect our own health and our loved ones’ too but we know just how difficult that can be when faced with a choice between staying at home and not being able being able to feed your family or going to work.

“These new support schemes are targeted towards people on low incomes and are designed to relieve some of the financial pressures people face if they are asked to self-isolate.”

A £500 fixed payment will be available to people who are asked to self-isolate because they have tested positive for coronavirus or because they have been identified as a close contact by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

The payment is available to people on a low income who are unable to work from home and would lose income as a result of self-isolating. To be eligible, people must be self-isolating and in receipt of Universal Credit or another specified benefit.

The final arrangements are being made for the scheme to go live. People will be able to apply for the payments via their local authority website and they will be backdated to October 23.

The Statutory Sick Pay Enhancement scheme for social care staff working in care homes, domiciliary care and as personal assistants will start on 1 November and will run until 31 March 2021.

The scheme will top up statutory sick pay to eligible care workers’ full pay if they need to take time off with suspected or confirmed coronavirus or if they are self-isolating because someone in their household has coronavirus or they have been told to by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

Julie James, Minister for Housing and Local Government said: “If you are told to self-isolate, working from home is not an option for everyone, making this an even more stressful period for people. Some people can feel under pressure to go to work, just to pay the bills.

“The £500 self-isolation payment and the SSP enhancement scheme will help us protect the vulnerable and give people the financial security they need to stay-at-home and break the cycle of transmission.

“There will be some people who do not meet the criteria for the £500 payment but who will suffer financial hardship as a result of being asked to self-isolate. This is why we have introduced a discretionary element to the self-isolation payment, which will be available to a wider group of people.

“Financial support is already available to people through the Emergency Assistance Payment coronavirus hardship element of the Discretionary Assistance Fund.”

Alongside the two schemes, the Welsh Government intends to strengthen coronavirus regulations by imposing a legal requirement for people to self-isolate if told to do so by NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

The regulations will also be strengthened to make it an offence to knowingly provide false information to the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

And a duty will be introduced to ensure employers cannot prevent an employee from following NHS Wales Test Trace Protect advice to self-isolate.

These two schemes will form an important part of the national support and measures which will be introduced after the firebreak.

The First Minister will today start to set out what will happen when the firebreak ends on November 9 at the Welsh Government press briefing, which is held at 12.15pm.

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Bluestone National Park Resort achieves international environmental award

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PEMBROKESHIRE’S Bluestone National Park Resort has achieved the international Green Key award in recognition of its excellent environmental standards.

With awarded establishments in 65 countries, Green Key is the fastest-growing eco-label for the tourism industry. In Wales, Green Key is operated by environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy, who also manage the iconic Blue Flag programme.

Bluestone has joined an exclusive group of prominent hospitality industry leaders in Wales who have been awarded Green Key accreditation, where the award clearly demonstrates their ongoing commitment to the high environmental standards being implemented.

Marten Lewis, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Bluestone National Park Resort said: “We are delighted to have been awarded the prestigious Green Key eco award. Our team have worked so hard to achieve this and we are so proud to be accredited.

“At Bluestone, we take sustainability – and protecting and supporting our environment – very seriously. Free Range Future is our sustainability movement. We thank Green Key, our guests and our teams for all their fantastic efforts and great support as we all work towards a more sustainable, and Free Range Future.”

Bluestone has committed to sustainability since the resort first opened in 2008, but dedicated improvements have been made across the site over the past year to meet Green Key standards.

These have included a staff engagement programme, halving the amount of general waste produced and using a local anaerobic digestion facility to turn all food waste into biofuel and fertiliser. Bluestone is also investing in new infrastructure to help reduce shower and tap water usage by more than half.

Lesley Jones, Chief Executive for Keep Wales Tidy said: “It’s fantastic to see one of Wales’s leading holiday resorts taking action to help protect and enhance our environment. We’d like to congratulate the Bluestone team on their success and welcome them to the Green Key family.

“After a difficult period for the tourism industry, Green Key provides an opportunity to put Wales on the map as a 21 st century, sustainable destination. By opting to visit a Green Key establishment, you can be sure that you are visiting somewhere with the highest possible environmental standards.”

For more information or to apply for Green Key visit the Green Key website www.greenkey.cymru

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Camp security boss threatened unpaid staff

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  • Guards walked out last week over wage dispute, police on stand-by

SECURITY staff guarding the Asylum Seekers Accommodation Centre in Penally have told The Pembrokeshire Herald they have not been paid regularly or on-time.

They claim their managers have been putting profit before safety.

One shocking revelation is that those tasked with ensuring the safety of asylum seekers have been told to ‘toss any weapons found, such as knives over the fence’.

The company in charge, AK security, does not want any complications which could jeopardise its contract with the Home Office, it seems.

One security guard provided The Herald with a recording of what he says is a telephone conversation between the managing director of AK Security and himself.

In the phone call, the security guard is apparently threatened after asking for £1,000 in unpaid wages.

AK Security managing director Ali Mohammed Khan is heard in the recording of a mobile telephone conversation.

Mr Khan says: “If you show up again, I promise you I am going to do something.

“And trust me you don’t want me to do it. I do not like threatening people, but I am not a kid my friend. You’re a boy, listen to me innit – you don’t want me to do it.”

In the phone call with AK Security’s MD, the security worker is heard politely asking for his pay to which Khan replies: “Do you understand English? Are you thick in your head? Do you have a brain? Do you know how the bank system works? I am a company.

“When companies do transfers it isn’t done within minutes. It’s coming from the company account…. It takes three working days for your payment to come through. I told you yesterday that within three working days the money will be in your account.”
A previous payment had been made instantly. The worker consequently questioned the 3-day transfer – normally reserved for substantial companies who pay using the now-outdated BACS system.

The guard questions Khan again saying: “How is it you paid me alright on Sunday, but it is taking forever now?”

Kahn answers: “The last payment was done differently – why are you asking so many questions. The payment has been done. I am not a guy who is going to run away with someone else’s money – I am bigger than that!”

Other security guards told this newspaper they were instructed to throw any weapons they found at the camp ‘over the wall’ and not to report the weapons’ presence at the Camp.

The reason given for this was to prevent AK Security from losing their contract with the Home Office to guard the asylum seekers in Penally.

Police were put on standby on Tuesday night (Nov 17), after reports security staff had walked out in protest over non-payment of wages.

The Tenby Observer reported: “[Because] they had not received any wages from their employers at the firm ‘AK Security’, the staff ‘downed tools’ and refused to work, standing outside the gates for a period of time on Tuesday night, with one eye-witness stating that police officers were also on hand to monitor the situation.’

Since the Home Office repurposed Penally Camp almost two months ago, the facility has been dogged by controversy and unrest. The facility currently houses around 170 asylum seekers, with scope for that to increase to 234.

This week’s incident is the latest in a string of controversial events surrounding AK Security.

The firm, whose base is in London, has been contacted by The Pembrokeshire Herald to respond to this article’s content.

The Herald also contacted the Home Office regarding the serious allegations.

As we went to press, neither the Home Office nor AK Security had responded to our invitation.

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Pupils from two Pembrokeshire school’s asked to self-isolate

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FURTHER cases of Covid-19 has been confirmed in Ysgol Harri Tudur/Henry Tudor School (Pembroke) and at Milford Haven School.

As a result, all pupils in Year 11 from Ysgol Harri Tudur and some students from year 7 in Milford Haven have been asked to stay home and self-isolate for 14 days.

Parents of the pupils in those classes have been informed.

Parents and carers do not need to contact the schools to find out if their child has been affected.

Pembrokeshire County Council, Public Health Wales and Hywel Dda University Health Board are working with the school to ensure that all possible precautionary measures are being taken to minimise risk of transmission of the virus.

Parents/guardians have been given the following advice by Hywel Dda University Health Board:

If a child/parent/household member develops symptoms of Covid-19, the entire household should immediately self-isolate, and book a test for the individual with the symptoms. It is unnecessary to test the entire household if they are not symptomatic.

The Covid-19 symptoms are:
● a new continuous cough
● a high temperature
● loss of or change to sense of smell or taste

Booking a Covid-19 test:
Hywel Dda University Health Board recommends testing only for those with a new continuous cough, a high temperature, or loss of or change in the sense of taste or smell.

If a child does not have symptoms of Covid-19 but has other cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, they do not need to be tested and they and you do not need to self-isolate. Your child can go to school if fit to do so.
If a Covid-19 test is required, this should be arranged via the UK Booking Portal, https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-test or by ringing 119. Testing is available within Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire or via a home testing kit delivered to and collected from your home. The Covid-19 test is undertaken via a throat swab or combined throat and nose swab.

 Self-isolation:
It is essential that people who have Covid-19 symptoms, or who share a household with someone who has symptoms, must self-
isolate, even if your symptoms are mild. To protect others, you must not attend school, nursery, other childcare settings, work, or go to or to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

Anyone with symptoms must self-isolate for 10 days from when their symptoms started. They can return to school or work after 10 days if they are well enough to do so. A pupil must remain fever free for at least 48 hrs.

Anyone in the household who does not have symptoms must self- isolate for 14 days from when the first person in the home started having symptoms.

If a parent thinks their child has symptoms BUT chooses not to put them through a test all household members must remain in self-isolation for 14 days from the onset of symptoms.

If you receive a positive test result, you will be contacted by the Test, Trace, Protect Team who will advise you further.

Non-household members/contacts:
If a person has been in contact with an individual experiencing symptoms, they should carry on as normal until that individual
receives their test result. If this is positive, the Test, Trace, Protect Team will contact those people identified as contacts and advise accordingly.

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