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Week in Week Out: 1st Grade Care accused of ordering a client to be abandoned

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Marie Perry - George's wife

Marie Perry – George’s wife

A Welsh council is investigating a case made in a Week in Week Out programme where a care worker was ordered to leave a distressed 92-year-old woman alone on the floor of her home, following a fall.

That careworker is employed by a firm which tenders for work in Pembrokeshire and Cardiff.

Vale of Glamorgan Council-contracted 1st Grade Care  is accused of ordering the care worker to abandon Doris Jones from Barry, and attend their next call before an ambulance or relative arrived.

The care worker told Week in Week Out: “I rang the paramedics straight away and all the time she’s on the floor. I then rang the office to say my lady is on the floor and was told to leave the call within the time I was allocated and go to my next call.  I asked if somebody could do my next call for me because I didn’t feel happy leaving her, and I was told no. I had to leave her and to leave the door open for the paramedics.”

The care worker says she felt so awful about what she was asked to she do she challenged the order: “I asked if they would be happy if it was their mother lying on the floor and somebody left. I was told it was just the job.”

It’s a shocking accusation. We spoke to the son of 92-year-old Doris Jones who took the call. He told us there had been many concerns with 1st Grade Care including missed and shortened calls. When his mother came out of hospital she was placed with another care company at the family’s request. Doris Jones passed away last year.

1st Grade Care  has been in operation since 2011 and was set up by former property developer Michael Poole.

log-final-2015-300x119The allegation levelled against the company is just one of a series made on Week In Week Out by families unhappy at the level of care provided as well as care workers who say the company failed to train them and they found it impossible to meet the demands of their everyday rotas.

In a damning report by the Care Standards Inspectorate for Wales (CSSIW) published in January this year, 1st Grade Care was said to be putting service users in “unnecessary and significant risk to their health, safety and well-being due to a lack of sufficient training for a high percentage of staff.”  Issues surrounding rotas were also found. The company was served with a non-compliance notice and the CSSIW have been back to re-inspect. They say they expect to publish a new report by the end of the month.

Jackie Toom worked for the company in Pembrokeshire as a care worker and admits to being regularly late to assist clients as she struggled to follow a rota that only gave 15 minutes to travel from St David’s to Newport, or ended one call in Milford Haven and started the next at a location north of Haverfordwest, at the same time.

“You can’t be in two places at the same time. To get from A to B in zero minutes. We are not given any travel time so we could get more working hours – more calls.”

Marie Perry from Pembroke has Parkinson’s Disease and needed a care package to help her get to the bathroom four times a day but her husband George tells the programme visits were regularly late or even missed.

Mr Perry, who has had major heart surgery and whose condition is deteriorating, was left to lift his wife when care workers were late or didn’t turn up. He says he is angry over the experience and doesn’t understand why the authorities haven’t investigated the company earlier. Mr Perry told The Herald: “I don’t know how much control the local authority has over them. It’s not being properly policed otherwise they would have lost their contract some time ago”.

Week in Week Out has discovered that 1st Grade Care has come under scrutiny by both Pembrokeshire and Vale of Glamorgan but neither council has thought it appropriate to cancel the company’s contract.

In a statement 1st Grade Care, said that the company admits they have been failings managing care workers appointments but they now have a new monitoring system in the Vale of Glamorgan. But they had no comment about why problems with rotas and training had continued in Pembrokeshire despite a damning inspection in the Vale, and targets set by both councils.

Welsh councils have been under pressure to save money and drive down costs with Welsh Local Government Association figures showing £55 million shortfall in adult services over the past financial year.

There are over 400 registered care companies in Wales. The industry argues that for them to operate effectively a minimum payment of £15.74 per hour is needed, with even more in rural areas. But Week In Week Out has discovered that only three councils in Wales are paying this basic rate.

Industry insiders say the hourly rate councils are prepared to pay means they are increasingly unable to deliver services to home users effectively as they drive down their own costs to survive.

In Cardiff a new tendering system has been introduced that sees care companies bid against each other in a live auction for care packages. Professor Luke Clement from Cardiff University and an expert in social care law says he is worried by a system he believes lacks humanity and dignity.

Cardiff Council has defended the system saying it is offering value for money, improving quality as well as attracting new companies. But Week In Week Out has learned that the UK’s largest care company Allied Healthcare has pulled out of Cardiff, saying their decision was due in part to the new auction system.

Professor Clement is also critical of the inspectorate CSSIW. He told the programme: “If it is their job to make sure the sort of abuses and failures we are discussing don’t happen then clearly it’s not doing its job properly. If things go wrong there may be a letter or a slap on the wrist but companies are not being closed down”.

The Inspectorate has the power to shut down care companies that aren’t complying with regulatory standards. In the programme the CSSIW said the last year they had shut down five following inspections and 14 companies had been given strict conditions to conform to. David Francis, Assistant Chief Inspector of CSSIW said more people were coming forward with complaints tripling over the last four years, but they wanted to hear from more. He said: “If there are people out there who wish to make contact with us we welcome that. We would welcome them raising their concerns with us.”

Last year plans by Powys to reorganise home care fell into chaos and hit the headlines after companies failed to deliver and were shut down. Assembly Member Kirsty Williams says there were a number of issues that caused the new system to collapse. She wants councils to respond quicker when things go wrong. She said: “They simply do not know what is happening on the ground and then that makes the system really vulnerable. It relies on individuals making complaints and what we know about people in receipt of domiciliary care is often they are really frightened to speak out because they are worried that their carers are going to be taken away from them, they are worried that they will get people into trouble and often people are so grateful have any kind of support they are very reluctant to speak out if things are going wrong.”

The Welsh Government is working on a new law to strengthen the inspection of Domiciliary Care companies. Health Minister Mark Drakeford told the programme: “Our bill allows us to be helpful to those companies when we can help them to improve. But where there are companies who provide services of the sort that would not be acceptable to you or me or the people watching this programme. We want the law to be quicker, more effective and to make sure these companies are no longer part of our landscape”

  •  Please watch BBC Week in Week Out, Tuesday, June 9, BBC One Wales, 10.35pm
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Farming

Pembrokeshire farming couple honoured at Downing Street reception

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MIKE and Joy Smith from Pembrokeshire were among the select few invited to a prestigious reception at 10 Downing Street, recognising their outstanding contribution to farming and food production. The couple, who are well-regarded pillars of the local farming community, were nominated by Stephen Crabb MP to attend the event which celebrated Food and Farming Champions across the nation.

Farming is more than just an occupation in rural communities like Pembrokeshire; it is a way of life that has sustained families for generations. The Smiths, who farm in partnership with their brothers at Parc Y Marl near Llysyfran and Pelcomb Farm near Haverfordwest respectively, embody the dedication and passion that characterise this vital industry.

Their commitment to fostering the next generation of farmers and ensuring the sustainability of the sector is well acknowledged. “It was a real pleasure to nominate my good friends and outstanding Pembrokeshire farming couple, Mike and Joy Smith, to attend a reception for Food and Farming Champions in 10 Downing Street today,” said Stephen Crabb, expressing his pride in the couple’s achievements and their significant role in feeding the nation.

Before the celebration at No. 10, the Smiths were treated to an exclusive tour of the Houses of Parliament. They had the unique opportunity to watch live debates from the viewing galleries, witnessing firsthand the legislative process in both the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

The recognition of Mike and Joy Smith serves as a reminder of the critical role farmers play in maintaining the supply of local produce and sustaining the agricultural heritage of regions like Pembrokeshire. Their story is a testament to the hard work, resilience, and community spirit that underpin the farming industry.

As the local community and indeed the nation continue to benefit from the dedication of farmers like Mike and Joy, the message is clear: without farmers, there is no food. The recognition at Downing Street not only honours their personal contributions but also shines a light on the broader significance of farming in ensuring food security and preserving rural ways of life.

Stephen Crabb MP, in acknowledging the contributions of the Smiths and the wider farming community, extended his gratitude: “Thank you to Mike, Joy, and all farmers in Pembrokeshire for your role in helping to keep local produce on our plates.” This sentiment resonates with the appreciation felt by those who understand the importance of farming to our daily lives and the fabric of rural communities across the UK.

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Farming

Thousands of farmers descend on Cardiff to say: ‘Enough is enough!’

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THOUSANDS of farmers and supporters converged outside the Senedd in Cardiff, Wales, to voice their strong opposition to the Welsh Government’s proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) and other contentious issues threatening the agricultural sector. The protest, marked by a sea of placards bearing the stark message “No Farmers, No Food,” highlighted the depth of the farming community’s fears for its future.

The demonstration, the latest in a month-long series of actions across Wales, saw farmers, many arriving on tractors, gather to contest plans they argue would compel them to sacrifice a significant portion of their land for environmental purposes. With estimates suggesting that the scheme could lead to 5,500 job losses, the stakes for the agricultural community and rural Wales are high.

Despite police estimates putting the crowd at around 3,000, below the anticipated 10,000 to 20,000, the turnout was a record for a protest of this nature outside the Welsh Parliament. The demonstration saw a mix of solemnity and spirited resistance, with the Welsh song ‘Yma O Hyd’ resonating amongst the crowd, symbolising steadfastness and resilience.

At the demonstration, notable figures lent their voices to the farmers’ cause. Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, was seen engaging with protesters, underscoring the political dimensions of the dispute.

Sam Kurtz MS, from Pembrokeshire, addressing the protest

Sam Kurtz, another Conservative MS, told the crowd that he was a farmer’s son. He told the gathering that he would fight tirelessly for the farming community.

Afterwards he told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “It was the proudest moment of my life addressing the farmers in Cardiff Bay today. Made prouder still that my father was there.

“The momentum is with the industry now and whomever becomes Wales’ next First Minister, and next Rural Affairs Minister, must work hard on the SFS, NVZs, and Bovine Tb, to repair a broken relationship between government and the agricultural sector.

“Can I thank all those who attended the protest for the respect and order that they showed.

“It was the largest of its kind and if the message hasn’t got through to the Welsh Government now, I’m not sure it ever will.”

Tractors lined the outskirts of Cardiff as the protest took place

Perhaps more movingly, Nigel Owens, renowned former international rugby referee and a farmer himself, addressed the crowd from the Senedd steps. Owens, comparing the protest’s significance to his experience refereeing the 2015 World Cup final, underscored the fundamental role of farming: “There can be no Six Nations game in Cardiff next Saturday against France if there is no referee. There can be no food on the table if there are no farmers.”

The protest was not just a platform for airing grievances but also a moment for collective expression of a deep-seated love for farming and the rural way of life. Ioan Humphreys, a fifth-generation farmer, poignantly articulated this sentiment, emphasizing the fight for the future of young farmers and the unity required to overcome current challenges. “I’m also here to make sure as farmers stick together and unite through this time of hardship,” Humphreys stated, capturing the protest’s spirit of solidarity.

Rhun ap Iorwerth, leader of Plaid Cymru, reiterated the essential bond between Wales and its agricultural heartland, advocating for government support at all levels to ensure the vitality of rural Wales. His call for action highlighted the broader implications of the proposed changes, touching on the sustainability of rural communities, biodiversity, and the Welsh economy at large.

The protest, while a manifestation of immediate concerns over the SFS, also brought to the fore ongoing frustrations with the Welsh Government’s anti-water pollution measures and the persistent challenge of TB in cattle. The demonstration’s peaceful nature, emphasized by South Wales Police’s statement, belied the deep undercurrents of anxiety and determination among the farming community.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s interaction with the rural community at the Welsh Conservative Party Conference in Llandudno, where he assured farmers of his support, underscores the national significance of the issues at stake. Meanwhile, the Welsh Government’s assurance of its willingness to listen and adapt the proposed scheme following consultation reflects the dynamic and contentious process of policy-making in areas critical to national interest and well-being.

As the protest unfolded, with wellington boots symbolically placed in front of speakers, the agricultural community’s message was clear: the future of farming, and by extension, the fabric of rural Wales, hangs in the balance. The collective call for support, understanding, and meaningful engagement from the government resonated beyond the steps of the Senedd, touching the hearts of many across Wales and beyond.

This convergence of farmers at the Senedd, while a significant moment, represents just one chapter in an ongoing dialogue between the agricultural community and policymakers. As Wales navigates the complexities of environmental conservation, economic sustainability, and rural livelihoods, the voices of those gathered in Cardiff Bay will undoubtedly continue to echo in the halls of power, reminding all of the indispensable value of farmers to the nation’s past, present, and future.

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Business

McDonald’s thanks Milford Haven after a busy first day

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MC DONALD’S new restaurant in Milford Haven, which opened its doors for the first time today, February 28th, at 11am, has already become a hit with the locals, thanks to an overwhelming turnout.

The opening day saw the restaurant bustling with patrons eager to check out the new location.

Reflecting on the day, the McDonald’s team extended a warm message of gratitude. A spokesperson said: “Wow, you came to see us in your droves today!

“We certainly tried our best to provide good service to you all. Inevitably at times, service was a bit slower than we would have liked, but we hope to see you all again soon.

“Thank you from team Milford.”

Despite the busy start and not offering breakfast on its first day—a detail proactively communicated to customers—the franchise’s focus remained steadfast on ensuring everyone had a positive experience.

The commitment of the new McDonald’s restaurant to the local community extends beyond its menu. In partnership with the police and Port Authority, the franchise is actively working to address anti-social behaviour and improve traffic management around the new site.

These collaborations aim to create a safe and enjoyable environment for both patrons and the broader community, reinforcing McDonald’s dedication to making a positive impact, the company said.

The opening of the restaurant has also brought significant employment opportunities to Milford Haven, with 90 new jobs created.

This boost increases the total number of individuals employed by Lonetree Limited, the local franchisee, to around 1,700 across its 17 McDonald’s outlets in South West Wales.

As McDonald’s encourages residents to follow their social media for updates, the overarching message is one of gratitude and excitement for the future.

A local councillor said: “The successful launch day sets a promising tone for the McDonald’s restaurant in Milford Haven as it embarks on its journey to be more than just a place to eat but a valued community partner.”

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