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Charity warns older people to be wary during digital switchover   

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AS the telephone industry upgrades from analogue to digital landlines, Age Cymru is warning older people to be wary of rogue traders trying to take advantage of the switchover.  

The change will see calls made over a broadband line instead of the old analogue network, which is becoming increasingly unreliable. 

The charity says for most customers, all aspects of the switchover will be free of charge with no home installation work required. If customers require additional support with set up, they will be contacted by their telephone provider. 

Age Cymru therefore warns that if somebody offers to carry out work relating to the switchover, in return for some form of payment, it’s likely to be a scam that should be reported to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.   

People can also check with their telephone provider about what work is or isn’t taking place in their area. However, if anyone feels threatened or in any danger from a rogue trader they should call the police as soon as possible.  

Age Cymru’s chief executive Victoria Lloyd says “It’s such a shame that we must warn older people to be on their guard in relation to the digital switchover as this is something that should improve people’s experiences of phone services.   

“We’ve been told that lines will be clearer, which will help those who are hard of hearing.  There’ll be a facility to enable three party lines which will help people to have mini group chats with friends and family and thereby help reduce loneliness.  And there’ll be increased protection against unwanted marketing or nuisance calls.  

“However, given our experience of how rogue traders work we want to forearm older people so they can avoid potentially expensive and emotionally damaging scams and instead take full advantage of the new phone services without any unnecessary fears.”  

Understanding the digital switchover process  

BT, the biggest supplier of landlines in Wales, is holding dozens of events across the country to advise customers face-to-face about the switch. Other phone providers may also be organising similar events.  

Age Cymru understands that for most customers, digital switchover will simply involve connecting your home phone handset to a router rather than the phone socket on the wall. And for BT customers, if you don’t have the correct router, they will send you one completely free of charge.

At this stage, BT will be writing to all their customers to make them aware of the changes, and following up with those who are ready and eligible to make the switch. BT will not be switching customers who may have difficulty making the change just yet and will give these customers additional support when the time comes.  

If you think you’ll have a problem with the transition, think you are vulnerable, or use a healthcare alarm connected to your landline, please contact your phone provider and tell them.  

And if anyone uses a personal healthcare alarm, they should also check with their suppliers that they have everything they need prior to the switchover.   

BT customers who are ready and eligible to make the switch will be contacted four weeks before making the move to ensure they have everything they need. 

While BT are by far the biggest provider of telephone services in Wales, this is an industry-wide change and other telephone providers are managing their own switchover process so contact your provider to understand how the change will affect you. 

How big is the issue of scamming in Wales?  

According to the Wales Against Scams Partnership (WASP) older victims of scams in the UK lose an average of £1,200 over their lifetimes.    

WASP also cites Action Fraud data showing that they receive around 15,000 cases of fraud from Wales each year. However, Action Fraud believes that the reported figure is just the tip of the iceberg and that the actual number of scams undertaken, or attempted, is seven times bigger.  

And according to recent BBC research it is estimated that the UK is losing £2,300 per minute to scam activity. 

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Cheesy names for Folly Farm’s five Humboldt Penguin Chicks

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FOLLY FARM has announced the arrival of five new baby Humboldt penguin chicks—the first penguin chicks to hatch at the zoo since 2021!

Keepers have resumed breeding Humboldt penguins as part of a managed European Breeding Programme for the species, facilitated by their membership with the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). These chicks are the first to arrive at the zoo in three years!

Humboldt penguins are classified as a vulnerable species, facing numerous threats in the wild. Breeding had been on hold at Folly Farm, and the keepers are thrilled to be able to breed again.

The delightful new penguin chicks are growing rapidly and are snug in their nest boxes, cared for by both parents who alternate feeding duties while the other enjoys a swim in the pool. Chicks can double or even triple in weight every couple of days! In a few weeks, they will leave their nests and be taken by experienced keepers to their Penguin Nursery facility, where they will spend a few weeks learning to feed on whole fish and swim in their small ‘baby pool’, before graduating to the main pool with the rest of the colony.

The naming theme for this season is cheese, with the chicks being named Mozzarella, Camembert, Cheddar, Halloumi, and Gorgonzola. Who doesn’t love cheese?

Penguin Keeper and Assistant Zoo Manager Caz Davies shared her excitement: “We’re so excited to have chicks again. Each breeding season, keepers choose a catchy naming theme to easily identify the birds. Penguin chicks can’t be sexed until they’re a bit older and feather samples can be taken, so we’ll just have to wait for a gender reveal for now!”

‘Mozzarella’ was the first to hatch on 30 March to parents, ‘Magnum’ and ‘Feast’, followed by ‘Camembert’ on 2 April, whose parents are ‘Perci’ and ‘Puffy’. ‘Cheddar’ arrived soon after on 5 May to ‘Whippy’ and ‘Pippy’, and ‘Halloumi’ hatched on 10 May to first-time parents ‘Einstein’ and ‘Darwin’. ‘Gorgonzola’ is the youngest chick and hatched on 14 May to ‘Popple’ and ‘Pudding’.

Penguin Coast is currently home to 22 Humboldt and 14 Macaroni penguins. Guests won’t be able to see the newest arrivals quite yet—but keep watching Folly Farm’s website and social platforms for updates!

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Tafarn Sinc community pub’s call to keep disabled access granted

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A PEMBROKESHIRE community pub, which earned the support of a Hollywood star, has been allowed to keep a disabled access walkway and restored platform used for performances by local choirs.

In a retrospective application submitted to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Cymdeithas Tafarn Sinc sought permission to retain works at the Tafarn Sinc community pub in Rosebush.

In its submission, the community group said: “An existing platform adjacent to the pub has been restored and slightly expanded; with a new access walkway installed.

“The walkway was added for Health and Safety reasons and allows both able bodied and disabled people to safely access the platform. The platform is used for a variety of activities, such as performances by local choirs.

“The platform was formerly railway platform on a small branch line, and has been restored to look as it did when it was operational.”

The works were undertaken in 2022, the application said.

Tafarn Sinc had been in danger of closing when the old landlord and landlady retired back in 2017 but a huge fund-raising effort that attracted worldwide interest – including support from Hollywood star Rhys Ifans – meant it is now owned and run by the local community.

Campaigners raised a staggering £325,000 in little more than three months to buy the pub and keep it open and at the heart of community life.

Other public figures like Huw Edwards, Jamie Owen, Dewi Pws, Dafydd Hywel and ‘Heno’ presenter Mari Grug gave their support, with £200 shares bought by people from all over the world.

An officer report for the scheme proposed said: “The pub itself is constructed from corrugated metal and has an historical, industrial appearance. Historically, Rosebush Railway Station was adjacent and to the west of the pub building, built as part of the same development in the latter 19th century.

“A section of the Maenclochog Railway and platform still exist and form part of the pub and village’s visitor attraction. An inaccessible platform mock-up of a family of passengers had existed prior to this current development.”

Recommending approval it said: “The scale of proposal is proportionate to the existing ‘railway’ features and will create little impact on the special qualities of the National Park.

“There is concern however that the proposal could create an amenity impact for which this proposal has not been assessed for. An appropriate condition restricting the use of the development to prevent harmful noise pollution is therefore included.”

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Broad Haven surfers to join national protest against sewage

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BROAD HAVEN Beach will be one of over 30 locations across the UK hosting protesters today, as thousands take to coasts and rivers to demand an end to sewage pollution. The nationwide protests are organised by Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), who are calling for immediate action to stop the sewage discharges that are contaminating the UK’s waterways and harming both ecological and human health.

From Cornwall to Edinburgh, local beaches and rivers will see demonstrations, with flagship protests at West Pier in Brighton and Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth. Notably, double Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes will join protesters on the south coast, highlighting the widespread support for the cause.

Giles Bristow, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage, commented: “Once again, the public face a grim choice this summer – risk swallowing sewage or forgo a dip in the water. This year offers an opportunity to turn our collective anger into action and end the sewage scandal. Politicians must now listen, with a general election imminent and public sentiment clear. All parties need to show genuine and quantifiable commitments to eliminate sewage pollution, or they will face the consequences.”

The issue of water quality is expected to be a significant factor influencing voters in the next general election, which must occur before January 2025. In June, regulator Ofwat will deliver recommendations on water companies’ investment plans for the next five years. Water companies have proposed £11 billion in investment to reduce sewage discharges, with corresponding increases in customer bills, a move that has sparked public outrage, especially considering the profits paid out to water company executives and shareholders.

According to the Financial Times, water companies in England and Wales paid out £2.5 billion in dividends over the past two financial years, and over £78 billion since privatisation 33 years ago.

Bristow added: “Thousands are protesting this weekend to demand clean seas and rivers. We need ambitious plans to end sewage pollution in high-priority nature sites and the waters we swim, surf, and paddle in by 2030. The public will not tolerate this broken system any longer.”

Dame Kelly Holmes, set to paddle out with protesters in Brighton, emphasised the importance of clean waterways: “I love nothing more than getting out into the open water on my paddle-board – it does wonders for my mental health, and there’s a strong sense of community among those who use our wild waterways. But this special pastime is tainted by the persistent risk of pollution. It’s shocking and infuriating that whole generations are deprived of safely enjoying our blue spaces. Our waterways are crucial for our health and wellbeing, and it’s scandalous how they are treated.”

In 2023, there were 584,001 recorded sewage discharges across England, Scotland, and Wales—a 51% increase from the previous year—totaling 12,966,322 hours of sewage released into waterways. United Utilities was the worst offender, with 97,537 discharges, followed by Yorkshire Water and Severn Trent Water. Welsh Water reported 108,860 discharges, although these figures are not directly comparable due to different reporting methods.

This weekend, paddle-outs will occur in most water company catchments, including Scottish Water, which recorded 15,289 spills last year, and Northern Ireland Water, which lacks discharge data due to insufficient monitoring.

The Environment Agency claims that 100% of storm overflows in England are now fitted with monitoring devices. However, SAS analysis reveals that monitors at 1,930 storm overflows, representing 13.3% of the total, are operating below 90% capacity, suggesting that the reported figures for England in 2023 are underestimated.

Local protest organiser and SAS supporter Sally McGee highlighted the impact on Tynemouth’s beaches: “Every surfer across the UK knows the risk of getting sick if they surf. Many beaches around Tynemouth are subjected to raw sewage discharge during storms. It’s upsetting and feels like we are going backwards in time. We demand an end to sewage discharges in our bathing waters by 2030.”

Surfers Against Sewage is calling for the end of sewage discharges into all bathing waters and high-priority nature sites by 2030, urging water companies, regulators, and politicians to prioritise people and nature over profit.

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