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Silverdale still a worry for the residents of Johnston

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THE RESIDENTS of Johnston have said the Silverdale Lodge has been a worry for the village since the council rented the premises to house the homeless throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

But The Herald has spoken directly with homeless people staying at the Silverdale. One of them is Mark Thornton.

He wants the local community to come and speak to the residents, and to get to know them first-hand before condemning them.

He said “I’m not here to disrupt, I just want a bed.

“I’m in the Silverdale Lodge because I’m homeless. How does that mean I’m a criminal?”

He added that he is not aware of any trouble from residents within the lodge and that the “majority of recent incidents within the village are a result of kids” and they are unjustly “getting the blame”.

The Herald has this week been contacted by numerous concerned residents.

They overwhelmingly have expressed their disappointment at the increase in anti-social behaviour in the village and blame the Silverdale.

The council say that there has been hardly any trouble at the premises – but residents and an email from police to the local community suggest otherwise.

A petition has been set up against the new temporary use of the premises, signed by over 500 people.

Locals claim onsite security guards and regular police patrol have been ineffective in culling the behaviour of some individuals.

Security guards at Silverdale gave exclusive interview with The Herald

Johnston’s county councillor Ken Rowlands said he had not been told of the Silverdale’s use before arrangements were made and confirms he has been inundated with complaints about drunken and yobbish behaviour by some of those moved there.

Not satisfied with the information he has received Cllr Rowlands made representations to Council Chief Executive Ian Westley, the police and the council’s social services department.

Jonathan Griffiths, County Council’s Director of Social Services, said the council were aware of complaints and were in constant communication with police about the nuisance alleged to have been caused.

Mr Griffiths said that the council was placed under an obligation placed on it by the Welsh Government and the lodges at the Silverdale were available and identified as suitable accommodation to meet it.

Adding that not all of those at the Silverdale should be or deserved to be tarred with the same broad brush.

In a recent video interview with this newspaper, published on our Facebook page, two security guards working on the premises, said that residents have to adhere to an 11pm curfew, a statement that Mr Thornton refutes.

He said: “There is a register of attendance, but no curfew has been issued to the residents.”
Speaking on past troubles, Mr Thornton admitted there had been an issue prior to his residence at the lodge, but the individual concerned had since been removed. He added that to his knowledge there has been no arrests made of any residents of the lodge.

Head of adult services, Jason Bennett, said: “A larger number of people at Silverdale are adhering to all the social distancing and working positively with the housing team.

“A small minority we’ve had to engage with, and police have had to engage with, are tarnishing the otherwise good work that’s happening”

A Pembrokeshire County Council spokesperson confirmed the premises has been leased to ensure social distancing for people who would otherwise be using shared facilities at its homeless hostel in Pembroke.

Adding “There have been some rumours circulating that the site is being used specifically for prison leavers or as a bail hostel or halfway house and will bring more people into Pembrokeshire.”

“We would seek to reassure the community that our primary focus is to use the site to support people from Pembrokeshire who are faced with homelessness”

The Herald has also obtained emails between local residents, Pembrokeshire County Council and the police which confirm that they are aware that some individual’s behaviour are causing problems for the wider community.

In an email from a council representative to one Johnston resident, it said “There is a small minority that are not adhering to the required terms and I have written to all the current occupants to remind them of their responsibilities and to ask for their support and cooperation.

“We are also issuing formal notices to individuals who do not comply and will ask them to leave if this continues.”

One Johnston resident, who wishes not to be named, expressed to us his frustration at comments made on Facebook towards the Johnston community branding the villagers as Heartless.

Our source said: “We are being painted to be heartless. That is not the case. We are more than happy to help those genuinely homeless or vulnerable and support them in any way we can.”

“But as a community we are scared to even walk down our cycle path, we’re avoiding all of our local beauty spots through fear of certain individuals.”

“They congregate in groups of anything from ten to even bigger, they are strewn across the paths with beer cans and apparent drug paraphernalia”

“It is not a case of we don’t want to help vulnerable individuals.

“We have been told that there is a young family that has fled domestic violence being housed there. With the incidents that I have seen at the lodge, it is very sad for that poor family, they must be petrified, and my heart goes out to them.

“The council has a duty of care to both the vulnerable residents of the lodge and the wider Johnston community to do something about this situation”

In an email sent by police to some local residents, the police said: “We have taken proceedings against some individuals and issued relevant paperwork to others to ensure that their attendance at the site is prohibited in the future.”

The resident also told us he had an off record conversation with a county councillor who said that one of the residents at Silverdale had been sent “back to prison”.

This has increased the current feelings of the villagers that the council are not being truthful with the type of residents that are being housed at the accommodation.

Another resident contacted this newspaper to tell of another recent incident, which apparently took place at Nisa, Johnston by an alleged Silverdale resident on Tuesday (June 30).

Image sent to the Herald of the most recent incident in Johnston

We contacted Dyfed-Powys Police for a statement on the incident.

A spokesperson said: “Police were called to the Nisa shop in Johnston at approximately 8.10pm on Tuesday, June 30, following a report of a man being verbally abusive to staff and customers.

“Michael Carruthers, who had also been throwing items around the store and smashing bottles of wine, was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage.

“Following his arrest and subsequent charge of theft, criminal damage and assaulting a police officer, Carruthers of no fixed abode, was transported to Swansea Magistrates Court on Thursday, June 2.

“He pleaded guilty to theft and criminal damage, however a third charge of assaulting a police officer was withdrawn.

“Carruthers was given unconditional bail and will be sentenced at Haverfordwest Magistrates Court on Monday, 27 July.”

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Hywel Dda encourages vaccination as flu expected to be a major public health issue this winter

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HYWEL DDA University Health Board is urging anyone who is eligible for a free flu vaccine to take up the offer.

It comes as Public Health experts have warned that they are expecting a significant flu season this winter for the first time since the pandemic.

There are concerns that it may start earlier this year and affect more people.

In addition, the Covid-19 autumn booster programme is now live and many people including everyone over 50 years old, and those at risk of severe disease are among those being offered a Covid-19 booster to reduce their chances of getting seriously ill with Covid-19.

If you are eligible for an autumn COVID-19 booster, please wait to be invited by either your GP or the health board. Everyone eligible will be offered an appointment by November.

GP practices are also preparing to invite eligible patients for their seasonal flu vaccine and aim to offer an appointment to everyone eligible by December. Again, please do not contact your GP practice at this time, you will be invited when it is your turn.

Cases of flu (also known as influenza) are already being detected in Wales. Public health scientists say that the flu season could be as severe as the 2017/18 flu outbreak, where 16.5 thousand people in Wales were diagnosed with flu by their GP, and 2,500 people were hospitalised. There was also a high level of seasonal excess deaths that year – the worst for around 20 years.

Since March 2020, the Covid-19 lockdowns and international travel restrictions have disrupted the amount of respiratory viruses in circulation, but as our lives are going back to normal, viruses are returning in higher numbers. This year, Australia experienced a flu season which was earlier than usual and saw the highest case levels in five years. It is possible that the UK – and Wales – will experience similar flu activity.

With Covid-19 also in circulation, and added winter pressures on the NHS, it is more important than ever that those who are eligible for a free flu or Covid-19 vaccine get vaccinated to help prevent them becoming seriously unwell and protect the NHS this winter.

Dr Joanne McCarthy, Deputy Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “Flu is caused by the influenza virus. It can be a very unpleasant illness and also lead to serious problems, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

“The pandemic has made us much more aware that vaccination saves lives and reduces hospitalisations. Vaccination may not stop you from catching flu or COVID-19, but it makes it far less likely that you will be severely ill or need hospitalisation.”

Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services, said: “We are encouraging everyone to get both their jabs this winter, when flu and COVID will be at their peak, to protect themselves, those around them and the NHS during what will be a busy time for healthcare in Wales.”

To promote the vaccinations, Public Health Wales has launched a campaign encouraging those eligible to ‘power up’ their protection against serious illness this winter by getting the flu and Covid-19 vaccines. The campaign launches on 27 September with digital and social content as well as stakeholder outreach and radio adverts.

Vaccination is particularly important for those who are older, pregnant, or have a health condition and are more vulnerable to complications as a result of the infections. It is also very important that frontline healthcare workers and those who work in care homes or providing care in peoples own homes get their vaccines to help reduce spread.

To help stop flu and other viruses spreading, remember to ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it.’

For more information about how to get the vaccines, please visit https://phw.nhs.wales/topics/immunisation-and-vaccines/flu-vaccine-and-covid-19-autumn-booster/.

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Pembrokeshire Sibling Group thanks Valero Energy Ltd for second major donation

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VALERO first supported Pembrokeshire Sibling Group back in 2018 when they were blessed to be chosen as their charity of the year. 

Throughout 2018 Valero staff, through the Valero Volunteer Council, took on various challenges and organised fundraising events with all the funds going to their group. In total, Valero raised close to £20,000 for them that year which as they said at the time, was enough to sustain them for a couple of years on its own! 

After 2019 came and went, Covid-19 meant that they had to suspend their activity programme and like many others, they didn’t restart normal activity until well into 2021.

This meant that they still had some of the Valero money in their bank accounts towards the end of 2021 and this meant that they were able to take 10 young people on the voyage of their lives on the tall ship, Johanna Lucretia. Even though voyages on this training vessel are partially subsidised by the Island Trust, it’s true to say that without Valero funding, this would definitely have remained a dream for the Sibling Group.

This trip was an amazing experience for all who sailed, and it was life changing for a couple of the young people who have since enquired about further sailing experiences.

They are incredibly grateful to Valero for enabling them to be able to give young people this fantastic experience.

Now again, Valero have chosen Pembrokeshire Sibling Group as one of the recipients of the Valero Benefit for Children Classic golf event and they are delighted to announce that they have received £10,928 donation from this event.

As in 2018, this donation cements their existence and will allow them to both enhance what is already planned but also to provide additional treats to the young people they support that would be otherwise unaffordable. They would like to publicly thank Valero for their continuing and unwavering support.

Lee Hind, Pembrokeshire Sibling Group Chairman said “Once again, I find myself here thanking Valero for an amazing donation. This means the world to us, and we are honoured to have been selected to receive this money. This will enable us to plan in another residential experience later this year or early next and not have to worry about funding for it. Thank you to everyone at Valero!”

Stephen Thornton, Valero Refinery Public Affairs Manager said: “We are delighted to support Pembrokeshire Sibling Group, children are in need of respite and following the Covid Pandemic, it is essential that a service of this nature continues. We hope that many more children in our community benefit from the service”

If you’d like to know more about Pembrokeshire Sibling Group, including their referral criteria for a child and opportunities to volunteer, please visit www.pembrokeshire-sibling-group.org.uk or email psg.enquiries@gmail.com 

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£200 Fuel Support Scheme payments begin

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AROUND 7,000 Pembrokeshire households will receive payments direct into their bank accounts this week under the Welsh Government’s Wales Fuel Support Scheme, 2022-2023, Pembrokeshire County Council has said.

The £200 payment per household is to provide support towards paying fuel bills and is available to all eligible customers, regardless of how they pay for fuel.

It is in addition to the Energy Bill rebate being offered by the UK Government and the Winter Fuel Payment normally paid to pensioners by the Department for Work and Pensions.

From the information the Council holds on its Council Tax and Council Tax reduction records, it has been possible to identify thousands of people who are likely to be entitled to the payment.
If you have recently received a cost of living payment and you are in receipt of a means tested Council Tax reduction, you are eligible for this payment and it will be made automatically to the bank account that the cost of living payment was credited to.
Please check your account to see if a payment has been made before applying.
Who can apply?

The scheme will be open to eligible households, where an applicant is responsible for paying the fuel costs for the property and they or their partner are in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits between 1st September 2022 and 31st January 2023:
• Income Support
• Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
• Employment and Support Allowance
• Universal Credit
• Working Tax Credits
• Child Tax Credits
• Pension Credit
• Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
• Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
• Attendance Allowance
• Carers Allowance
• Contributory Benefits
• Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS)
The full criteria, decided by the Welsh Government, is available on the Pembrokeshire County Council via the link below.

Please read the full criteria before applying.

Applications are open now and can be made online at https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/benefits-support-and-grants/welsh-government-fuel-support-scheme-202223 until 5pm on Tuesday 28th February, 2023.

If you have problems filling in the application form, please call 01437 764551 for assistance.

After application there will be some checks to confirm eligibility.

Payments are likely to start in October 2022 and will continue until the end of March 2023.

Please be patient as payments are made.

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