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Parents of autistic children get answers

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County Hall

County Hall

A LOCAL parent has expressed her concerns and frustration over the provision for education from Pembrokeshire County Council (PCC) for those on the Autistic spectrum. Speaking with The Herald, Lisa O’Sullivan recounted her personal experience with PCC over her son James: “He is clever, but autistic, and cannot mix with peers or indeed people he doesn’t know. He was capable of GCSE’s but he has anxiety issues associated with autism. He went to Bush in September 2011, initially to have 60% in mainstream and 40% in the autism centre, and was fine, but he started attending the autism unit more as he started absconding.

“By October he couldn’t cope and I was attending constant meetings with the school and PCC in order to find a solution. They didn’t understand him, the transition wasn’t done properly, and they weren’t aware James was a ‘runner’ before he went from primary to secondary school. He lasted there until April 2012 and then was pulled out of the school (the school with a dedicated autism centre!) at this point he was at home, with no support and no academic work at all, with no offer of another school (but then why would he when he was already at the autism centre?). He had no books or anything.” After calling every week, Lisa O’Sullivan said she finally had a tutor appointed for her son at the end of the school year in 2012.

She explained that initially he had 7 hours of tuition a week which was recently changed this year to 5, as he now attends a half day at the school. She continued: “He is too stressed to go on his own so I have to go with him. He has come on well with the tutor but he has missed so much school he is now miles behind. Isn’t the specialised unit supposed to know how to deal with pupils like James? I question the idea that he is only entitled to five hours of tutoring a week. What is James supposed to do know he has missed so much schooling?” The Herald spoke exclusively with PCC’s Head of Inclusion, Nichola Jones, who opened her response by defending the autism unit at Bush, and provision generally, as well as the rigorous training available to Pembrokeshire’s education providers for children with ASD: “The needs of youngsters with ASD vary widely, with some youngsters able to lead relatively independent lives whilst others needing a much more intense package of support. Each child’s needs are met individually.

The local authority work with families, schools and young people to put in place the best possible package of provision. The local authority have recently appointed a speech and language therapist to take forward ASD provision together with three outreach support workers. “The team will be fully up and running in January 2014 and will work closely with the specialist communication outreach team consisting of a teacher, three teaching assistants and three speech and language therapists. There are 24 specialist places currently available for children at key stage one and two, and a further 30 places for children and young people at key stage three and four. “The secondary specialist provision will also be providing outreach support to neighbouring secondary schools. The special school provides specialist outreach support and provision for more complex youngsters.

An annual programme of training and development takes place throughout the year to help schools and parents support children and young people with ASD. “The introduction of the ASD friendly school training is being rolled out to all schools providing training in relation to the impact on young people as well as strategies for reducing environmental triggers. The roll out in November of this year of the early screening pack for nursery aged children provides schools with the tools for identifying children whose communication skills are delayed or unusual as well as interventions and where appropriate an onward referral to specialist services. An ASD training and resource pack has also been developed for schools and is being launched in the New Year providing schools with a range of advice, guidance and intervention approaches throughout the key stages.”

She was also keen to point out how PCC were effective in inclusion, stating: “Schools and the Inclusion Service within Education in Pembrokeshire work very hard to ensure that agencies work together to meet the holistic needs of the child wherever possible. Frequently this involves staff speaking to social care, youth workers, sports clubs and the voluntary sector to try and co-ordinate support for young people (with parental and child’s consent where appropriate).” The Herald was also keen to know what the procedure of diagnosis was, given the complaints of many parents that it took simply too long to obtain. Nichola Jones said: “In the past the waiting time for an assessment has been up to five years. This has been reduced considerably in the last year and is currently around 26 months. Early screening tools and a building capacity programme for schools is providing school staff with the right approaches for supporting children and young people who have ASD traits without a formalised assessment.”

She also commented on Lisa O’Sullivan’s concerns about how her son’s transition was handled: “Transition ordinarily takes place through the school ALNCO and for more complex youngsters a key worker is currently employed by the local authority to work with schools, families and the young person to ensure the best possible transition between key stages.” Finally she commented upon the provision of education, once the child has been excluded from mainstream, and though she did not address the meagre 5 hours James O’Sullivan receives, she did say: “The Local Authority has a duty to provide an ‘efficient’ education which meets the age, aptitude and ability of the child in agreement with the parent.” Of concern to parents, may be, the the statistic from the most recent Inclusion Services Annual Report that stated that over 16% of Pembrokeshire families wait for over half a year for a statement. This means that children who go to school in September do not receive a statement until the following March or April.

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Natural Resources Wales approves Ireland-UK interconnector licence

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GREENLINK INTERCONNECTOR LIMITED says it welcomes the decision by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to approve its application for a Marine Licence for the Greenlink electricity interconnector project, which will link the power markets of Great Britain and Ireland.

An important project for Pembrokeshire, and the UK as a whole, NRW’s go-ahead is one of several consents required for the construction of the project and covers installation of the marine cable in UK waters.

The approval is a major milestone for Greenlink and joins the onshore planning consents granted unanimously in July last year by Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.

Greenlink’s proposed 190km subsea and underground electricity cable will run beneath the Irish Sea to connect National Grid’s Pembroke Power Station in Wales and EirGrid’s Great Island substation in County Wexford, Ireland. It will have a nominal capacity of 500 MW.

The Wales-Ireland link is just one of four interconnectors being installed

Nigel Beresford, CEO for Greenlink Interconnector Limited, said: “We are delighted by Natural Resources Wales’s decision to grant this licence. This marks a significant milestone for Greenlink and another important step towards project construction, which we expect to commence later this year.

“The Greenlink team has worked constructively with Natural Resources Wales and Welsh marine stakeholders to find workable solutions to the many technical and environmental challenges facing a large infrastructure project like this, and this has been reflected in the quality of the final proposal.

“The thorough environmental and technical assessments we have undertaken, supported by the practical and value-adding feedback we have received from key marine stakeholders, have ensured that we move forward confident that we are delivering a well-designed project with the interests of the Welsh marine habitat at its core.”

The subsea section of the cable will be approximately 160km in length and uses high voltage direct current (HVDC) technology. The preferred route and installation methods were chosen following the conclusion of subsea surveys and consultation with key stakeholders.

In Ireland, a Foreshore Licence application was submitted to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Foreshore Unit) in 2019 and the onshore planning application was submitted to An Bord Pleanála in December 2020.

Greenlink is one of Europe’s most important energy infrastructure projects and brings benefits on both sides of the Irish Sea for energy security, regional investment, jobs and the cost-effective integration of low carbon energy. The project will offer important local supply chain opportunities and plans are being drawn up for ‘meet-the-buyer’ events in the local area prior to construction.

Once fully consented, Greenlink is expected to have a three-year construction programme, with commissioning planned by the end of 2023.

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Appeal from Fire and Rescue Service to install working smoke alarms

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AT 01:17am this morning, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, crews from Milford Haven were called to a property fire in the Hakin area of Milford Haven.

The fire was confined to a pan on a stove in the kitchen area and extinguished by firefighters using two breathing apparatus, a hose reel jet and a thermal imaging camera.

Crews also ventilated the property and fitted smoke alarms within the property.

The Fire Service left the incident at 02:00am.

Watch Manager Alun Griffiths, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said “This fire was the result of cooking left unattended. It is so important to remove all pots and pans from a heat source when you are called away from the cooker.

“Thankfully, the occupiers of the property managed to exit the property before our firefighters arrived, but it could have ended very differently as there were no smoke alarms fitted in the property.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of installing working smoke alarms in your homes and testing them regularly. In the dreadful event of a fire, they can alert you to the danger sooner and could mean the difference between life and death.

“As a Fire and Rescue Service, we provide Home Fire Safety advice which is free of charge. We also offer Safe and Well Visits which you can arrange by phoning us on 0800 169 1234 or by visiting the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service website.”

For further Home Fire Safety advice or to talk about the possibility of a Safe and Well Visit by Fire and Rescue Service personnel, please phone us on 0800 169 1234.​​​ Alternatively please complete an online Request a Safe and Well Visit​ form on the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service website: https://www.mawwfire.gov.uk/eng/your-safety/in-your-home/

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Milford Haven: Apocalyptic scenes as work truck catches fire in Meyler Crescent

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A MILFORD HAVEN businessman says that he is “absolutely gutted”, after he lost his tipper truck in a dramatic fire overnight.

Callum Hicks, of Meyler Crescent, was woken just after 1am on Monday morning (Mar 1) to see his vehicle in flames, with fuel running down the street on fire.

The apocalyptic scenes brought neighbours out of their homes and the fire brigade was quickly called and put out the blaze.

At this time the police and fire brigade are not suspecting foul play, but in a telephone call to a Herald reporter Callum Hicks said that he thought it was impossible that the vehicle would just spontaneously combust.

Work van: Callum Hicks with his truck, which he says was his “pride and joy”

Explaining that he thought his truck had been set on fire deliberately, he said: “There was CCTV of the fire, but its a football pitch length away, with a white van parked blocking the view of the camera. There was not a clear uninterrupted view.”

“I parked the truck at 2pm on Sunday afternoon so it was 11 hours before the fire started. The vehicle was therefore cold, and locked up.”

Firefighters at the scene

The Herald has asked two mechanics, one of whom has worked on Transit vans for decades. The first said: “It is very unlikely that a vehicle like this would catch fire on it’s own – its impossible – I am 99.9% sure that this was arson.”

The second, a specialist in vehicle electronics said: “There are so many fuses and fail safes its highly unlikely for diesel vans to burst into flames like this without some kind of catalyst.”

Burned out shell: The vehicle after the fire

“There have been issues regarding Transits in the past, even a product recall involving a fire risk from a towing module. But, the chances are a million to one of it catching fire after being parked up for almost twelve hours. It just doesn’t happen.”

The Herald asked Callum Hicks if he could think of anyone who may want to torch his truck. He said that he could not think of anyone who would do such a thing.

Commenting on the police handling of the matter, he said: “They told my missus, Rhianna Pearce, that they were not taking matters further because it was just an accident – its not!”

“I have been in trouble with the police before, and they know I am a bit of a boy, but I think this is the reason that the police are not looking into this properly.

“At the end of the day this was a large fire in a residential area, lives could have been in danger. I have lost thousands because I was insured third-party only and I do not have cover for fire.

Dyfed-Powys Police and Mid & West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have been asked for a comment.

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