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Pembrokeshire Council first in Wales to achieve ‘disabled’ accreditation

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PEMBROKESHIRE County Council has become the first local authority in Wales to achieve the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Disability Confident Leader accreditation.

The Disability Confident campaign is about creating a movement of change, encouraging employers to think differently about disability and take action to improve how they recruit, retain and develop disabled people.

As a Disability Confident Leader, the Council is leading the way to support its staff, the employment of people with disability and the support it provides to other employers.

The Authority’s Chief Executive, Ian Westley, said: “There are around seven million working age people with a disability or long-term health condition in the UK, yet only around one half of them are in work.

“As a Council, we recognise the social justice case that we cannot afford to ignore this huge pool of untapped talent.

“Through a positive and inclusive approach to managing disability, we hope to reap the benefit of increased loyalty and commitment from staff. They also need to feel they have a voice in the organisation to allow their different perspective to be heard.

“As one example of what we’re doing, we’re continuing to promote mental health awareness and support at work.

“Mental health awareness training has been rolled out across our workforce. We want our staff to feel as comfortable talking about mental health as physical health.”

DWP’s senior employer and partnership manager, Jonathan Feild, said: “Many congratulations to Pembrokeshire County Council on becoming the first local authority in Wales to achieve the Disability Confident Leader Accreditation.

“As one of Pembrokeshire’s largest employers, this accreditation sends out a strong message to all employers and businesses across the county – it shows that Pembrokeshire County Council is leading by example and can now ‘champion’ Disability Confident across the county and beyond.”

Pembrokeshire County Council’s journey to Disability Confident Leader began in December 2018 when two Learning Disability Champions, Rachel Bailey and Rhys Eynon – employed by the Authority to promote volunteering and employment for people with a learning disability – gave a presentation at a DWP event attended by over 80 people.

Rachel and Rhys are just two of around 50 people with a disability employed by Pembrokeshire County Council who benefit from its supported employment programme run by Norman Industries and Workways+ and which is supported by DWP’s Access to Work scheme and the Welsh Government’s Integrated Care Fund.

As well as recognising the ongoing support for people with disability offered by the Human Resources and Occupational Health teams, the assessment acknowledges the support provided by Norman Industries, the Workways+ and Experience 4 Industries projects.

This support includes help to apply for jobs, work experience, a paid work opportunity or supported employment. Workways+ Employer Liaison Officers are also working with the Learning Disability Champion for Employment, Rachel Bailey, to develop the skills of local employers in employing people with disability.

Through the assessment process, the County Council has taken a hard look at itself.

It has already made changes to its recruitment practices and as a result, now offers a guaranteed interview to anyone declaring a disability who meets the essential requirements of the person specification of the jobs it advertises.

It will also be sharing good practice across its departments and improving the opportunities for people with disability across the whole Authority.

For more information on how to register for the Disability Confident Scheme, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/disability-confident-campaign or contact Fred Hatton (01646 483431) or Diane Phillips (01437 823204) at Jobcentre Plus in Pembrokeshire.

Caption: Jonathan Field (second from left) presents the accreditation certificate to the County Council’s Director of Social Services and Housing, Jonathan Griffiths with them Rachel Bailey and Karen Davies of Norman Industries.

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Three kayakers assisted by St Davids inshore lifeboat crew

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WHILST on exercise, Tuesday (June 22), St Davids In-shore Lifeboat was tasked by the coastguard at 3:15pm to assist three kayakers off St Davids Head.

The volunteer crew made way to the casualties and once one scene could see that one of the kayakers had made their way around the headland to the safer waters of Whitesands Bay.

The party had paddled out from Whitesands Beach when the tide had been ebbing and made there way North around St Davids Head. When the tide turned a wind against tide situation occurred on the headland causing 1.5m choppy seas and 5 knot current preventing the other two kayakers from returning back into Whitesands Bay, a member of the public had spotted the situation and called the Coastguard.

The crew assisted the remaining two kayakers around the headland one at a time by taking them on-board the lifeboat and around the headland. Once the party was reunited in the safety of Whitesands Bay they were escorted back towards the beach where RNLI lifeguards were informed and expecting their arrival.

The crew returned to exercise and complete its crew assessments with the on board assessor before rehousing at around 4:30pm.

When going out on kayaks always wear a lifejacket, check tides and weather, and bring a means to call for help, on 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

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Green hydrogen electrolyser and car refueler arrive at Milford Waterfront

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL says it is leading the way in renewable energy with a collaborative £4.5 million project exploring the vital role hydrogen could play in a decarbonised energy future.

Milford Haven : Energy Kingdom (MH:EK) is a two-year ‘detailed design’ project, completing in 2022, exploring what a renewable energy based Smart Local Energy System could look like for the Milford Haven Waterway – including the concept of a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (HFCEV).

The aim is to gather detailed insight into the whole energy system around the Waterway, looking at how to make, using and distributing hydrogen financially viable within the different energy sectors of buildings, industry, power and transport.

The MH:EK team will investigate the potential of local renewable energy, including solar, onshore wind, future offshore wind and biomass for decarbonised gas transition.

One element of the project involves a consumer trial of two Riversimple ‘Rasa’ HFCEV’s. The MH:EK team is building a green hydrogen electrolyser and refueler on Milford Waterfront – and this will be used to produce green hydrogen on site to fuel the two trial HFCEV’s.

The project will demonstrate the practical application of hydrogen technology. The aim is to test the feasibility of two hydrogen powered Rasa cars. They will be built by Welsh company Riversimple, and operate as fleet cars in and around the Haven.

Pembrokeshire County Councillor Cris Tomos, Cabinet Member for the Environment and Welsh Language, said: ‘We welcome the progress made by the partnership, particularly in view of recent news that new petrol and diesel cars will not be sold in the UK after 2030. This innovative approach will help us to switch to a low carbon future and promoting sustainable transport as we respond to the climate change emergency.’

Work is underway and should be operational for the trial in July. A hydrogen-ready smart hybrid heating system is also being designed and will be installed and tested in an operational Port building.

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Council’s building maintenance teams to resume non-emergency responsive repairs

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THE HOUSING Building Maintenance teams within Pembrokeshire County Council are now able to re-commence non-emergency responsive repairs to customers’ homes around the County.

Lockdown has prevented tradesmen and women from entering homes to carry out anything other than emergency repairs for many months but the PCC Contact Centre is now able to take calls from customers to request a non-emergency service in their homes once more.

The Contact Centre receives around 38,000 building maintenance related service requests each year and even throughout lockdown Building Maintenance have proudly maintained a 99.2% success rate in responding to emergency repairs within 24hours since restrictions came into force.

Covid has caused a large disruption to the service and while the authority is now in a position to re-open phone lines to routine responsive repairs, a delay in providing that service is inevitable as the backlog is worked through but the authority is working hard to meet the demand.

Backlog is likely to take several months and is dependent on a number of factors including the numbers of repair requests received, availability of materials and contractors.

PCC currently employs 64 tradesmen and women directly and has a considerable number of contractors on its framework to undertake a wide range of maintenance works and Building Maintenance are in the process of tendering a New Minor Works Framework.

All maintenance employees and contractors will continue to work under strict guidelines in people’s homes to ensure that all safety and social distancing measures are adhered to.

The Housing Building Maintenance service is also in the final stages of implementing ‘Repair Finder’ which will enable Contact Centre staff to diagnose the faults in customer’s homes far quicker and more accurately than before, which will in turn ensure that Building Maintenance are better informed and resourced ahead of arriving at the property to carry out the repair.

This is expected to reduce the length of calls to the Contact Centre and subsequently reduce call-waiting times.

The ‘Repair Finder’ tool is expected to be available later in the year and will soon offer residents direct access to an online version which will enable them to report responsive repairs themselves.

Once trialled and released, service requests can be logged by the tenant via the Council’s ‘Housing Online’ portal.

When residents report a problem within their home via the Call Centre or ‘Repair Finder’, they will receive text message alerts informing them of the timescales within which they can expect the repair to be made.

Cabinet member for Housing, Cllr Michelle Bateman said: “We’re under no illusion that lockdown measures have caused a major disruption to the building maintenance service.

“We’re receiving new requests now on top of those that have been on standby during the Covid restrictions. Pembrokeshire residents have shown tremendous patience and understanding of services that have been stretched throughout the crisis so we’re counting on their ongoing support and we hope they appreciate that it will take a period of time to get back to where we were.

“People can be assured that we are working very hard to bring back the outstanding levels of service we provided before Covid and it’s things like ‘Repair Finder’ that will help make this possible going forward.

“With one in every six employed people in Pembrokeshire working for the local authority, it’s important to remember that we are very much in this together”.

If you wish to report a repair to your home you can call the Contact Centre on 01437 764551.

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