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Sincere apology to whistle-blower following Mik Smith cover-up

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THE COUNCIL has apologised after a damning report into the Mik Smith affair has heavily criticised senior council officers, including the former Head of Youth Service Eirian Evans, former Chief Executive Bryn Parry Jones, and former Council leader Jamie Adams.

The report prepared by a task and finish group of councillors takes no prisoners as it lays into the series of missteps and attempted cover-ups regarding the way the local authority’s then-leadership responded to a whistle-blower who reported serious concerns about the convicted paedophile’s relationship with young people in his care while a youth worker for the Council.

As the Leader of the present Administration of Pembrokeshire County Council, I am extremely pleased to see this report produced by the Members of the Task and Finish Group and I appreciate the input of Members, Officers and individuals to produce the conclusions in the report.

Cllr David Simpson said in a statement: “I am however drawn to the involvement of the Whistle Blower in this case. It is never an easy thing to whistle blow in the workplace and I appreciate this is something people have concerns over. It is crucial to ensure that we continue to encourage people to whistle blow and our policy and procedures, I am pleased to say have been updated and reviewed significantly since the period of time these matters occurred. These procedures now can empower people to whistle blow when they wish to report matters of concern.

“Regarding the case in question, I would very much like to thank the Whistle Blower who came forward in the first instance and who provided information of that experience to the Task and Finish Group process. That experience and insight is crucial when organisations like ours seek to learn from negative situations and by adopting recommendations from the group today we are continuing to ensure ever improving safeguarding procedures.

“Therefore I am extremely thankful for the involvement of the whistle blower in this process and would like to offer my sincere apology to her for having to be engaged in this sensitive matter over such a protracted period of time and having to re-visit what would have been a challenging and upsetting set of circumstances.

Community

Wales hurtling towards 10,000 care home bed deficit over next decade

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EXPERTS have warned there will be desperate shortage of 10,000 care home beds in Wales over the next decade.

The alert has been raised specialist business property adviser Christie & Co who say there is a growing need for new, “future proof” care homes to meet the need.

Their prediction comes at a time when demand is spiralling upwards, with the over 85 population set to double over the next 20 years.

According to sector champions Care Forum Wales (CFW) the “alarming figures” illustrated the need for social care to be funded properly for existing homes to survive and encourage the development of new ones.

CFW warned that Wales was “sleepwalking into disaster” because the growing shortage of care home beds would pile pressure on the beleaguered NHS when hospitals were already virtually at breaking point.

Building new care homes is a costly business as Gwynedd and Flintshire county councils have shown recently.

They have plans to build two new facilities with a total of around 100 beds between them at an estimated cost of more than £250,000 per bed.

If their figures are correct that would mean it would mean it would cost £400 million for the extra beds needed in North Wales and £2.5 billion for the whole of Wales over the next 10 years.

Worryingly, Christie & Co also revealed in the report  that 40 elderly care homes in Wales closed and only four opened between 2020 and 2023 – with no new ones in North Wales.

Among the closures in North Wales were Trewythen Hall in Gresford, Bay Court in Kinmel Bay, Gwastad Hall in Cefn y Bedd and Morfa Newydd in Greenfield with the loss of more than 160 beds.

CFW Chair Mario Kreft MBE said: “The report from Christie & Co paints a bleak picture an illustrates how the existing crisis is going to get even worse, creating a double whammy for our overstretched hospitals which have rows of ambulances queuing outside and patients on trolleys in corridors.

“Instead of being able to build more care homes to meet growing demand, we are seeing more and more care home closures.

“The cost of building new care homes and replacing the beds we are losing now is absolutely eye-watering.

“Our public finances in Wales are already under pressure so where is this money coming from?

“The way care homes are funded in Wales is a total postcode lottery with 29 variations on a theme, with most of social care being commissioned by the 22 local authorities and seven health boards.

“Within that there is a gaping North-South divide with five of the six county councils in North Wales paying the lowest fees, arrived at by a fee-fixing cartel known as the North Wales Regional Fees Group.

“The one shining exception is Conwy Council where earlier this year announced inflation-busting plans to increase fees by up to 20% after warnings that care homes were at risk of financial meltdown and closure.

“Following a long-running campaign by Care Forum Wales they have introduced fairer fees which reflect the actual cost of providing care for vulnerable people in privately run homes, including those with dementia.

“That came about because Conwy broke away from the North Wales Regional Fees Group and took our advice by  commissioning leading healthcare economists Laing & Buisson to analyse the true costs of care providers for the current year.

“It’s and internationally recognised tool to ensure that and those living and working in care homes can receive the best care, while at the same time, ensuring that the

“This is something we have been calling for over many years. All we want is fairness in line with the Welsh Government’s ‘Let’s agree to agree’ guidance.

“The fundamental issue threatening the viability of care homes is the unrealistically low fees that the vast majority of councils and health boards pay, fees that come nowhere near covering the true cost of providing care.

“Economically, it would make a lot more sense to ensure the financial security of our existing care homes instead of just relying on the forlorn hope that somebody is going to magically build enough new ones to  meet current needs and the increasing demands for social care.

“We’ve had a generation of injustice and it’s a generation where the institutional prejudice and discrimination against the private care sector in Wales has meant that those living and working in these fantastic community assets have not been valued.

“The problems we have in social care lead to the pressures in the NHS which lead of course then to extra costs being placed on the NHS which would largely be alleviated if local authorities had a more enlightened approach to social care.

“If Conwy can do it, the other five local authorities in North Wales can and should do it and of course, the money has always been there. It’s how you politically choose to spend it.

“Across the famous Foryd Bridge, which links Kinmel Bay and Rhyl, Denbighshire County Council is budgeting announced  much smaller increases of around 8% on rock bottom fees which have been immediately wiped out by inflation and the cost of living crisis.

“The vastly differing rates mean that Denbighshire will be paying £9,224 a year less per person than Conwy towards the cost of giving exactly the same level of nursing care to residents.

“It is simply an outrage. It’s an affront to the families that that bridge spanning the mouth of the River Clwyd can mean such a massive difference for vulnerable people, including those with dementia.

“The families of those people, who will often be expected to make up the difference,  need to ask why and quite frankly, it is a bridge too far.

“This is undoubtedly a stealth tax on families and quite frankly, the people making these decisions in those authorities should be utterly ashamed of themselves in the way they are betraying vulnerable people including those with profound dementia and their families.

“What this demonstrates is that there is an urgent need for us to look again at the way social care is funded.

“We need a national approach to eliminate this iniquitous postcode lottery so that the people for whom we provide care and our staff are treated fairly.

”This is too important to be left to local authorities and health boards alone – it has to be driven by the Welsh Government.”

Pictured: Mario Kreft MBE, Chair of Care Forum Wales

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Community

Tenby park and ride service returns for summer

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THE ANNUAL summer Tenby park and ride service returns from this Saturday, July 20th.

The handy service operated by Pembrokeshire County Council runs between 11am and 6pm every day until Friday September 13th.

Buses operate from The Salterns car park and call at The Green and South Parade.

The bus service is free with customers just needing to pay for parking as normal.

Buses run approximately every 15 minutes (with exception of one 45 minute driver break per day, taken when demand allows).

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Community

Petitions against Pembrokeshire day care centre closures to be discussed

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TWO PETITIONS calling on Pembrokeshire County Council to reverse its decision to close day care centres in Pembroke Dock, Crymych and Narberth are to be heard at County Hall later this week.

The two petitions, on the council’s own e-petitions webpage, drew nearly 3,400 signatures between them.

Earlier this year, senior councillors backed plans to close two of the county’s centres for older adults and those with learning disabilities, Portfield SAC, Haverfordwest, and Avenue SAC, Tenby; service users moving to other centres in the county.

The county council is currently changing care provision for older adults and those with learning disabilities, and fears have been raised recently that Pembroke Dock’s Anchorage day care centre is to close.

A series of engagement events have taken place at The Anchorage recently, outlining the reasons and the options in continued service.

One parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “One young woman who attends ran out of the first meeting sobbing when she was told it was going to close.

“Another, at the second meeting, tried to address the meeting, but was so choked up at the thought of not seeing her friends any more she could hardly speak.”

It now is feared Narberth’s Lee Davies Day Care Centre and Crymych’s Bro Preseli Day Centre could also close, with concerns it is due solely to budgetary reasons.

An e-petition on the council’s own website, by John Llewellyn of Living Memory Group, entitled against the closure of the Lee Davies and Bro Preseli day care centres.

The two petitions, which have now both closed, attracted 1,701 and 1,675 signatures respectively.

As they have both met the threshold for debate at council, they will both be heard at the July 18 meeting of full council.

Peter Welsh, in his petition for Pembroke Dock’s The Anchorage, says: “We call on Pembrokeshire County Council to reverse its decision to close the Anchorage Social Activity Centre based in Pembroke Dock as part of the council’s reduction in services being imposed following the recent budget approval.”

Mr Llewellyn’s petition for the Lee Davies and Bro Preseli day care centres reads: “We call on Pembrokeshire County Council to Review the closure of the Lee Davies Day Care Centre at Bloomfield’s and the Bro Preseli Day Centre at Crymych.

“Staff at both Day Care Centres were informed in Mid-March that both facilities would be closing due to PCC budget cuts. Both centres are an essential outlet for the well-being of the attendees and their families.”

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