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Government’s ‘Back to Work’ schemes failing

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Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind: “These schemes are not appropriate for people with mental health problems.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive
of Mind: “These schemes are not
appropriate for people with mental
health problems.”

THE MENTAL health charity, Mind, has called for all people with mental health problems to be taken off mainstream Government backto- work schemes and moved onto a specialist programme. Research from the mental health charity claims they have found that support provided through the Work Programme and Jobcentre Plus is damaging people’s health, and making them feel less able to work than when they started.

At the same time, these schemes, they say, are ineffective for people with mental health problems, as they quote a figure of only 5 per cent of people that have actually been helped into work. In addition to this, figures for Preseli Pembrokeshire reveal that, in a three year period, no one with mental health problems on the Work Programme was helped back into work. Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Just five per cent of people with mental health problems are being helped into work, while the vast majority tell us their health has worsened and they feel less able to work as a result of being on these schemes.

“It’s perverse that programmes which are supposed to help those who are unwell and struggling to get into work are having the opposite effect, damaging their health.” He continued: “These schemes are not appropriate for people with mental health problems. If someone is out of work because of depression and anxiety, simply asking them to attend a CV writing course is a waste of time and money, as it doesn’t address the real problems they are facing.

“Forcing people to engage in these activities, and cutting their benefits if they struggle to do so, is inappropriate and counter-productive. This approach assumes people don’t want to work and the only way to motivate them is to withdraw financial support, which only causes greater anxiety and stress, and makes returning to work less likely.” Mr Farmer expressed the opinion that everyone out of work due to their mental health problem needs to be placed onto new, locally commissioned schemes, which reflect individual and local needs.

He added: “Such a scheme would take a personalised, tailored approach which really understands and addresses the complex nature of mental health problems and how they can impact someone’s ability to find and keep a job.” The Herald spoke with a representative from Mind in Pembrokeshire, who have been involved in just such a local scheme.

A spokesperson said: “The Creating Opportunities and Skills Team (COAST) scheme that was funded by the Council did get people back into work. That was run in conjunction with people like ourselves and Frame, which finished in the early part of this year. “People that were on a work program couldn’t be on COAST which we were using, because they wouldn’t fund the two things. People wanted to enrol on our COAST projects, and do the courses, but couldn’t because they were on a Work Programme or Work Choice.

“COAST had a huge range of courses; emotional well being, anger management, bricklaying, motor mechanics, etc. If people came to us they could gain funding through COAST but not if they were on the Back to Work scheme”. They went on to question whether the Government schemes even offered effective back to work courses, such as those that could give them experience of job interviews or just what to wear at these interviews. They said that they had got many people into work through the COAST scheme.

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Welsh Guards sergeant shot dead during Castlemartin live-fire training exercise

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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.”

THIS STORY IS UPDATING

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Pembrokeshire County Council bills Home Office for Penally camp costs

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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

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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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