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‘Terrible piece of legislation’ says councillor

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Outspoken: Cllr Reg Owens

Outspoken: Cllr Reg Owens

AT THURSDAY’S children and families overview and scrutiny meeting, members discussed issuing penalty notices for unauthorised school absences. 

A number of councillors had questions on the subject. Cllr Reg Owens was the most outspoken of the committee on the subject and raised a number of questions. He said: “This system would have been completely unnecessary if, a few years ago, parents of particularly bad attending children were prosecuted. To pile on a £60 fine is just going to add to the misery to some of these families. The decision on issuing a notice should be made by a three-person committee from this committee but we should have a say as members on whether or not that fine should be issued.”

Council officer Jake Morgan added: “That may require a constitutional change. We would be better off in providing detailing scrutiny on fines that have been issued. We are not envisaging vast numbers of fines being issued. This is part of a whole range of issues that are designed to improve attendance. This system is relatively untested and how we implement it is all-important. We encourage people to have dialogue with us before-hand. If a child has two weeks away in every school year, that’s six months they will have missed, that is quite significant.”

Cllr Owens responded: “We’re presuming that the biggest reason for low attendance is kids being taken out of school. Some parents aren’t strong enough to enforce their child to go to school. This is a terrible piece of legislation and to treat it as a doubleyellow line fine is ridiculous.” Discussions then turned to military personnel with Cllr Owens asking: “Why is it an exception for military personnel, why can’t the mother take the child out on holiday?” Jake Morgan replied: “It wouldn’t be appropriate to draw a list of circumstances. This could be one of the scenarios and it would be up to us to decide”.

Cllr Guy Woodham said: “Schools may receive complaints about penalties being issued; is there any guidance on how schools can cope with this?” The committee also discussed discretions that may be given in some cases. Cllr Steve Yelland added: “I’m glad we’re going to show a little bit of discretion in various circumstances”. Cllr Rhys Sinnett added: “Discretion can be good but we have to have some consistency. We are entering in to a mine field and I hope the document gives fairly robust advice.”

Lastly, Cllr Owens asked: “If a parent says that their child is ill, how can you verify that? Something like this will knock down attendance.” Assistant leader for behaviour and attendance, Cara Huggins, said: “There may be some exceptional circumstances, we cannot always verify an illness. We can ask for GP appointment cards and for parents to ring in or provide medical evidence.” Speaking after the meeting Cllr Pat Davies said: “It’s going to be quite a controversial thing and Reg was quite right really, there are some families who have behaviour issues with their children and they try their best to do things with their children.

When I was in school, you called it truant then, they didn’t go to school and there will always be those types of children and that’s for the authority to work with those families and try and help and support to encourage and engage those young people to come to school. I think that’s where the issue may be, not so much middle class families taking their children out on holiday to Spain for a fortnight, that’s one issue but families that are struggling and struggling with young people trying to get them into to school that’s another issue.”

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New Information Centre opens at Withybush Hospital for those affected by Cancer

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A NEW Macmillan Information and Support Centre has opened at the entrance to Hywel Dda University Health Board’s Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest to help those looking for advice and support about cancer.

The Centre has been officially opened by 10-year-old Ethan Llewelyn-Dimon, from Whitland. He recently raised a staggering £3,600 for Macmillan Cancer Support Wales by growing his hair to make a wig for the Little Princess Trust. Ethan’s family has been affected by cancer twice. His aunty Jo and mamgu had cancer. Sadly he never got to meet his aunty, as she passed away before he was born. Thankfully his Mamgu survived although she had three operations and lost her hair during the treatment. Ethan decided to grow his hair long enough to be made into a wig for children going through cancer and wanted to raise money as well to give something back to those who helped his family.

The new Information and Support Centre is open 9am – 5pm, from Monday to Friday. Helen Wood and Rachel Kersey, Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Coordinators, will be in the Centre to offer information and support.

Helen Wood said, “Being told that you have cancer is one of the hardest things that you hear, and it can be a scary time where sometimes you just need someone who you can ask for support and information about what is out there that might help. This is why we developed the Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Service and have been supporting people in Pembrokeshire for the past six years. We are there for anyone affected by cancer in many different ways from emotional support and someone to talk to, help to access psychological support from specialist Cancer Counsellors or a referral to the Macmillan Benefits Advice Team. We can provide both electronic and hard copies of the various Macmillan resources or signpost to other local and national organisations or support networks.” 

The pandemic meant support was only available over the phone but the opening of the Centre means face to face meetings are once again possible, but for the time being it must be a booked appointment to help keep everyone as safe as possible. 

Official opening of new cancer information and support centre in Withybush hospital

Rachel Kersey said, “It is always a privilege to be able to help, no question is too small and if you are unsure of what you need, just give us a call on 01437 773859.”

Anna Tee, Partnership Manager for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, said, “Macmillan is delighted to have designed and funded this fantastic new space for people who need cancer information in collaboration with Hywel Dda.”  

Gina Beard, Lead Cancer Nurse for Hywel Dda University Health Board said, “This is a service that is provided throughout Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire and when circumstances allow, we will reach out to local businesses and attend events. The support service is here for people with concerns around a cancer diagnosis whether that’s the individual, friends or family. We are urging patients to come forward for diagnostic tests as we are concerned that many are still not seeking the care they need due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We want people who suspect they have cancer to know we are very much open for business.”

The way the public access NHS services has changed and the Welsh Government is encouraging people to get to know the breadth of NHS services and options available to them as part of its Help Us, Help You campaign. The Macmillan support service can help with support and advice. The Health Board are also urging people to phone their local GP surgery if they think they might have symptoms of cancer, such as a new lump, pain, bleeding or sudden weight loss.

The Macmillan Information and Support Centre can be contacted by telephoning: 01437 773 859 or email: MacmillanCISSPembrokeshire.HDD@wales.nhs.uk

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Four charged with conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine in west Wales

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FOUR people have been arrested and charged as part of an investigation into an organised crime gang supplying class A drugs from London to various locations in west Wales.

Dyfed-Powys Police, with support from The Met Police, carried out warrants at four addresses on July 21, resulting in four arrests.

Mohammed Osman, aged 23, Yonis Mohammed, aged 20, Salman Mohamoud, aged 23 – all from Islington – and Amy Simmons, aged 21, from Dulwich were charged with a total of 12 offences:

  • Mohammed Osman: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine,
  • Yonis Mohammed: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.
  • Salman Mohamoud: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine
  • Amy Simmons: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.

All four appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Friday, July 23, where they were remanded in custody.

They are due to appear at Swansea Crown Court for their next hearing on August 20.

The investigation is being carried out by the Ceredigion Serious and Organised Crime Team, Aberystwyth CID and the Operation Orochi command of the Met Police.

Detective Sergeant Steve Jones said: “These four arrests and charges are the result of a coordinated approach to target an organised crime gang we believe is running a county lines operation into the Dyfed-Powys Police force area.

“We will continue to work diligently to disrupt gangs of this kind, to prevent the supply of illegal substances into our community.

“I would like to thank all officers involved, as well as the Met Police for their part in the operation.”

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Fishguard RNLI rescues drifting pleasure boat and crew

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ON SATURDAY evening  (Jul 24) a member of the public walking the coastal path near Carregwastad Point saw, in the fading light, a pleasure boat with people aboard apparently in difficulty. The member of the public then called 999.

This resulted in Fishguard RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat launching at 8.50pm with a full volunteer crew and speeding to the scene in calm sea conditions. Upon arrival at the location the lifeboat found a 7 foot pleasure boat drifting with four young men onboard.

Location of incident at Carregwastad Point, North Pembrokeshire (Image ONS)

The boat’s outboard engine had broken down and they had no auxiliary engine or any safety equipment, no lights, and no form of communication.

A tow line was attached to the boat and the men were transferred to the lifeboat.

One of the lifeboat crew went aboard the pleasure boat for the return journey to Goodwick public slipway where UK Coastguard personnel were waiting to speak with the four men.

The lifeboat returned to its station, arriving at 9.50pm.

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