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Virtual multi-agency meeting discusses concerns about Penally Camp

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A VIRTUAL meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council chaired by Cllr David Simpson JP took place on Wednesday at midday.

Cllr Jonathon Preston opened the meeting by saying there was a common theme was that the facility and location was unsuitable.

Next Dafydd Llywellyn, the Police and Crime Commissioner said: “It’s really important to us at a senior level to understand the decision-making notice.”
“How its suitable is beyond me!”

Mr. Llywellyn added: “For numerous reasons I cannot see how it would be suitable, and I will continue to make that view known. Having said that its also important that from a policing perspective that we support the local community.”
“We will also have mutual aid support from other sources. I am grateful that the Home Office have been able to attend and there has been a significant amount of cooperation from an inter-agency perspective especially in the last few weeks “
“Multi agency work has been outstanding between heath board, police and council,” he added.

NOT POSSIBLE TO CONSULT LOCALS

On behalf of the UK Government, Deborah Chitterden told the meeting that from a Home Office perspective its important to mention that they have a legal obligation to support destitute asylum seekers.
She said: “Because of Covid-19 the system came under pressure which led to a shortage for suitable accommodation. We had to do something fairly urgently.
Offers from MOD came in, one of which of course was Penally.
“It wasn’t possible to consult in the usual way due to the speed in which we had to act. I understand that this must have been hugely frustrating from the community on the ground.
“I am really pleased about the positive focus on meetings. It genuinely seems that everyone is here to find the best possible solutions.
“These asylum seekers are often highly educated and skilled people.
“They are not criminals, and they are not being detained.
“I think that this is understood by most, but I would just like to make that point.”

PENALLY WAS VIABLE AND IMMEDIATELY AVAILABLE

Answering a question from a member of the public about why the camp was chosen, Deborah Chittenden said: “When we looked across government to ask partners for available accommodation to support us in what was an urgent need the only viable (immediately available) options were the two sites offered by the Ministry of Defence we engaged.
“The sites were chosen out of necessity.
“To be very clear they are a temporary arrangement. We have agreed a lease or rental arrangement for up to twelve months.
“We will only use these for only as long as we need them.
“The reason we have an urgent need was that at the beginning of the pandemic we took an active decision not to move asylum seekers out of their accommodation so during the national lockdown numbers kept increasing.
“That than meant we had six months’ worth of blockage in the system when no one was moving out, but we had a steady stream of people coming into the system.
“You can imagine what this did to the system.
“We have continued to see an influx to the system.
We have begun to start ceasing support for those we have decided not to provide asylum for.
“Once we are through the blockage we will remove the temporary measures we have put in place.
“The site will only house single male asylum seekers.
“We made a decision not to house families or single females in these sites.
“We only decided to house those who were healthy and not in any vulnerable categories.
“We took a lot of care to select those to make sure they were not in any vulnerable categories.
“If issues are identified with mental health or any other issues we can deal with these rapidly.
Any person brought to the camp will have spent at least 14 days insolation at on of our other camps to ensure that they are Covid-free when they arrive.
Obviously, we cannot guarantee that they will not get Covid as they interact with members of society.

NOT DESIGNED FOR THE PURPOSE

Dr Phil Kloer from Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “The site wasn’t designed for these circumstances. It makes social distancing difficult. However, we have been working closely with all agencies to support the safety of people at the site but also members of the local population. We undertook a detail comprehensive risk assessment with our professional experts and developed a plan for prevention of all infections including Covid. Plan included advice on isolation, disinfection and hyenine measures and also operation support. We continue to work with Clearsprings and all other agencies involved in the call today and of course the local population as well.

Steve Lakey from Clearsprings, which is the private company working on behalf of the Home Office to provide accommodation to asylum seekers, thanked the health team and partners for all their hard work.
In relation to a question regarding additional funding for local services he said: “In terms of services on site we have a visiting nurse at the site. There is sports equipment, TV, WIFI, various difficult activities. There has been a wonderful raft of offers of help on the site. Migrant Help is coordinating it.
“We are looking for a local coordinator at the moment. Food and all the items needed day-to-day are provided on site. People can go to the shop; they do have a small amount of money to spend.
“There is vehicles on site to take people to shops if required.”

DAILY PROTESTS, VARYING IN VOLATILITY

Police Superintendent Anthony Evans told the meeting that the last two weeks have seen daily protests, varying in volatility.
“Sadly, there has been some incidents of criminality and arrests have been made. Where we are aware of criminal offences, we have recorded those and they have been investigated,” he said.

Anthony Evans added: “Throughout this period we have brought in additional police resources.
“On occasion protests have become disorderly and we have used resources to ensure visitors to the site have been able to enter and exit freely.
“We know the community have been concerned by both the service users and the protestors.
“In the short term in many cases the protestors have been the greater short-term concern.
“We have ensured we have clear lines of communication between police and residents.”

“Of course, community safety is not just a policing matter. We have been working with other agencies such as the council and health board to ensure that we respond to the concerns of the community and that this community ad a voice into police and other partner. I hope that gives a flavour of what the police is doing to reassure the community since the inception of the asylum centre.”

LOTS OF OFFERS OF HELP

Juliet Halstead from Migrant Help said: “We help via a telephone service with full translation services. We are issuing SIM cards to people to help them get access to our services for access of help and advice.
“We are working with the accommodation provider to ensure that the centre is as comfortable as it can be for people. We are helping service users access legal support. We are making daily welfare calls to those in the camp who are worried about the situation, especially the protestors.”

Steve Lakey added that those with mental health issues will be screened out and those individuals will be taken back to core accommodation centres where there are health teams which can deal with that.

Juliet Halstead spoke again to the meeting and said there have been so many offers of support.
She told the conference: “I would like to say a huge thank you. We have been asked to coordinate all of those kind offers of help.
“We are working to ensure we can do that.
“We are trying to understand that service users’ issues and priorities are at the moment.
“If you can send offers of help, we will come back to you at penally@migranthelpuk.org”

Cllr David Simpson JP asked Simon Hart MP and Cllr Jonathan Preston, member for Penally, to close the meeting.
Cllr Preston said that the meeting gave more of an idea of “where we are”.
He said: “its good to hear that there are opening for volunteering and getting involved with the camp.”

WE DESERVE PROPER ANSWERS, SAYS MP

Simon Hart MP said: “That has been a useful round up of questions and answers – divided into operation activity and the implementation element on the ground. The other around policy decisions. We have had lots of answers on the former not the latter. Everyone does deserve proper answers around the process that was pursued.”
“Deborah has set up the background, but we have not quite got to the bottom of and the manner and speed in which engagement took place – if it took place at all -is something we absolutely want to understand. Not just for Penally but anyone else who may end up in this situation.”

Councillor Simpson said afterwards that he thought the meeting had been extremely useful in answering some of the concerns raised by Penally residents and many others.
He said: “I understand the webcast was viewed live by around 400 people so hopefully it addressed some of the myths and wild speculation that has surrounded the presence of the asylum seekers in our community.”
A list of questions and the panel’s responses will be published on the Council’s website in due course.
On the panel were:

• Simon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP)
• Deborah Chittenden (Director, Borders, Immigration and Citizenship System, Home Office)
• Superintendent Anthony Evans (Local Commander, Dyfed-Powys Police)
• Dafydd Llewelyn (Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner)
• Steve Lakey (managing director, Clear Springs Ready Homes Ltd)
• Juliet Halstead (Deputy Director of Asylum Services, Migrant Help)
• Dr Phil Kloer (Deputy CEO and Medical Director for Hywel Dda University Health Board)
• Jon Preston (Penally County Councillor)
• Ian Westley (Chief Executive, Pembrokeshire County Council).

The webcast will shortly be available to view at: https://pembrokeshire.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcasts

News

Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms

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A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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Health

Pembrokeshire residents urged to take a virtual GP consultation when offered

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PEMBROKESHIRE residents are being urged to take up the offer of a virtual consultation, over the phone or video call with their GP, to help Keep Wales Safe during the current lockdown ‘stay at home’ restrictions.

The way we access local NHS services is changing, with more ways in which you can consult your doctor or nurse. Most surgeries now offer telephone as well as electronic advice consultations in the first instance. Following your advice call, a face to face appointment may be organised, but video consultations are also available. You can now speak to a doctor or healthcare professional using the video camera in your smartphone, tablet or computer and a connection to the internet. This is often more convenient and can save you time, as you will not need to travel for a face-to-face appointment. The system used is confidential and secure.

In a recent YouGov survey carried out for the Welsh Government’s Keep Wales Safe campaign only 27% of residents in Mid and West Wales had made use of the GP virtual service over the past 12 months with just 57% having heard of the service. However, 88% believed it was important to have access to a remote GP consultation once they had learnt of its existence.

Jill Paterson, Director of Primary Care, Community and Long Term Care at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “If you are offered a video consultation appointment this is because your Health Care Professional has indicated that is it safe and appropriate to do so. Your video appointment will be confidential and will not be recorded. If you require support please contact your GP surgery using the number provided in the appointment confirmation.”

She continued: “By putting off small problems or regular appointments you could potentially be putting more strain on NHS emergency services so please, help us to help you, do not put anything off. Local GP surgeries are open and are there to offer medical advice and consult patients.”

After being offered a video consultation you will be sent a letter, email or text with details of your appointment. This communication will contain details of the service that has requested to see you by video and have provided a web address link. You can type or copy the web address link into a web browser via an internet enabled device and this will take you to the video clinic waiting area.

  • In order to access your virtual appointment, you will need:
  • Access to a device that will allow you to access the internet. You should use Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge web browser on a desktop or laptop, or on an Android tablet or smartphone or Safari web browser on an Apple iMac, MacBook, iPad, or iPhone.
  • Your device will need a webcam (camera), speakers and microphone.
  • A good internet connection (if you can watch a YouTube video, this is good indication that you have a good connection).
  • An internet usage plan that is sufficient to cover the data consumption of a video call – ideally use a Wi-Fi connection if you have this available.

Sixty two percent of those surveyed by YouGov in Mid and West Wales said they will continue to access NHS services using the new ways that have been introduced as a result of the pandemic. The new methods include making more use of pharmacists; virtual GP consultations and using the NHS 111 online and telephone services.

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News

‘Cautious optimism’ for county’s tourism sector – but clarity still needed

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‘GIVE us clarity’ is the overriding message from the County’s tourism and hospitality businesses as the sector looks forward with cautious optimism to another busy season.

In a meeting hosted by Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb, thirty key local businesses were able to share their views with Paul Davies MS, Pembrokeshire County Council, the National Park and Visit Pembrokeshire.

The meeting focussed on the need for business support measures so long as uncertainty remains over the timetable for re-opening the economy in Wales.

Stephen Crabb said: “There is a lot of belief around that this summer will see another ‘staycation’ boom so long as the vaccination programme continues to make good progress and infection rates fall. Pembrokeshire has had a lot of national media coverage in recent months and could experience a bumper season but it’s crucial we get the re-opening right. There is a clear need for some kind of timetable to help businesses prepare appropriately and for clear rules to avoid confusion and contradictory messages.”

Paul Davies said: “It was a pleasure to hear from tourism businesses across Pembrokeshire about some of the challenges that they’re currently facing. The message was pretty clear – they want clarity from the Welsh Government and some timescales by which they can start to plan for reopening. I’ll certainly be taking back the concerns highlighted during the meeting and raising them with Welsh Government Ministers at the Senedd.”

Emma Thornton from Visit Pembrokeshire added: “Great to attend the Hospitality and Tourism Round table event today and to have the opportunity to discuss the ongoing challenges our industry faces over the coming months but also to share a collective optimism for what we believe will be a really strong year for tourism in Pembrokeshire when we are able to reopen and welcome our visitors back.

“Visit Pembrokeshire as the new Destination Management (DMO) for Pembrokeshire will be working closely with local stakeholders and businesses to help realise this opportunity in a sustainable and responsible way mindful of protecting what makes our beautiful county so special”

Stephen Crabb: Wants clarity for tourism businesses

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