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RSPCA apologise for ‘making mistakes’

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Brian Thomas, FUW: Charity Commission ‘brushed concerns under carpet’

Brian Thomas, FUW: Charity
Commission ‘brushed concerns
under carpet’

THE FARMERS’ Union of Wales has welcomed Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) chief executive Jeremy Cooper’s apology for the charity’s adversarial and highly politicised campaigns – but says many ques­tions remain regarding the organisa­tion’s conduct and that of the Charity Commission, which is responsible for monitoring charities.

Mr Cooper told The Telegraph: “Of course we have made mistakes in the past, and we are very sorry about that. We have to be honest and admit the mistakes and acknowledge them.”

The apology comes after years of criticism and negative publicity led to a parliamentary inquiry and an independ­ent report recommending sweeping changes to the charity’s involvement with prosecutions.

Responding to the apology, FUW Deputy President Brian Thomas said: “For more than a decade the FUW repeatedly raised concerns about the conduct of the RSPCA in relation to its overtly political campaigns, and pur­sued a number of complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority and the Charity Commission, amongst oth­ers.”

Mr Thomas said that while the ASA had upheld complaints against the RSP­CA by the FUW, the Charity Commis­sion had, over a prolonged period, ap­peared to take a passive approach to the charity: “In response to serious com­plaints against the RSPCA the Charity Commission was generally dismissive and at times appeared to try and brush concerns under the carpet.

“Their passive approach to the RSPCA effectively gave the charity a green light to become more militant and more political, and we would argue that Mr Cooper’s public apology is at least in part a direct consequence of this fail­ure by the Charity Commission,” added Mr Thomas.

In 2012, the then Chief Executive of the RSPCA, Gavin Grant, described the charity as ‘the oldest law enforce­ment agency still in existence in this country’, and threatened to campaign to ‘stop consumers drinking milk’, if supermarkets were unable to differenti­ate between ‘badger friendly milk’ and milk from English badger cull areas.

Similar, more ominous threats were made during a 2012 BBC Panorama documentary on the English badger cull, during which Mr Grant said that: “The spotlight of attention will be turned on those marksmen [employed to cull badgers] and on those who give permission for this cull to take place. They will be named and we will decide as citizens of this country whether they will be shamed.”

In 2012, the FUW wrote to the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers expressing major con­cerns that ten police forces in the UK, including the North Wales and South Wales Forces, had agreements with the RSPCA which allowed the charity to access confidential and sensitive infor­mation about individuals contained in police records.

Concerns have also been expressed after the RSPCA tried to claim thou­sands of pounds for stabling and caring for horses which had been put down by the charity.

“A sinister shadow has been cast over the honourable roots of the RSP­CA and the important work done by its employees.

“The only way in which to redeem its reputation is through full transpar­ency, and a full investigation of the role played by the Charity Commission in allowing the organisation to fall into such disrepute,” said Mr Thomas.

A statement from the RSPCA struck a slightly more bullish tone than Mr Cooper’s interview: ‘We can assure you the RSPCA remains as committed as ever to speaking out for vulnerable animals.

‘We make no apologies for our campaigning work which has resulted in the introduction and amendment of many laws to protect our pets, wildlife, farm animals and animals used in re­search, but we accept we got the tone wrong sometimes. Likewise, we make no apologies for prosecuting people in instances where there is clear evidence of animal cruelty.

‘Following an independent review of our prosecution activity and in line with one of the recommendations of that review, RSPCA trustees agreed to change its policy and to pass suitable cases involving traditional hunts and suitable farm cases to the police for investigation enabling the Crown Pros­ecution Service to prosecute if appro­priate. However, we reserve the right to proceed with such investigations, if the authorities fail to act.

‘We are pleased that the number of prosecutions have dropped over recent years, highlighting that welfare is im­proving and educational messages are more available. We hope this is a trend that will continue.

‘We do however apologise for the specific incidents where we have got it wrong. As a charity we have limited resources and we are dealing with huge numbers of calls. We apologise for past mistakes where an investigation wasn’t carried out to the standard we would hope, both for the animal involved and their owners. The RSPCA has and al­ways will be committed to tackling cru­elty to animals’.

The Chief Executive of the Coun­tryside Alliance, Tim Bonner, said: “The Countryside Alliance welcomes the RSPCA’s commitment to focus on animal welfare, rather than pursuing an animal rights agenda.

“The Society’s decision not to pur­sue prosecutions against farmers and hunts is a sensible one, and provides further support for the argument that it should not prosecute criminal cases as a first resort at all.

“We believe that it would be bet­ter for the RSPCA and for animals if it concentrated on protecting welfare and investigating allegations of cruelty whilst allowing the police, CPS and other statutory bodies to make deci­sions about whether criminal charges should be brought.”

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Adjustment to Safe Zones

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In August, temporary traffic orders were introduced so that Safe Zones for four Ceredigion towns could remain for up to 18 months subject to regular reviews so minor adjustments can be made.

In line with the evidence collected on the use of the towns, Ceredigion County Council feel the need to keep the safe zones in place for the time being. Aberaeron and New Quay will continue as they are.

In Cardigan the closures will change to 11am until 4:30pm Monday to Saturday. The safe zones will not be in place on a Sunday in Cardigan. These adjustments will come in to force on Sunday morning, 04 October.

In Aberystwyth, additional parking has been implemented for the disabled and blue badge holders in Chalybeate Street close to the Care Society Mobility Centre.

Further enhancements to provide better access for the disabled and blue badge holders will also continue to be explored.

Safe zones were introduced in Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Cardigan and New Quay on 13 July to create safe and spacious areas for the public to visit and provide the confidence that social distancing can be maintained in these areas.

Safe zones will be in place until at least 01 November 2020 and reviewed fortnightly in line with the infection rate and available evidence.

More information can be seen on the safe zones web page: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/SafeZones

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Our responsibility to follow the new Wales coronavirus measures in order to Keep Ceredigion Safe

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The Welsh Government is bringing in new coronavirus measures to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus.

To help further prevent the spread of coronavirus, new measures were announced by the First Minister which will come into force at 6pm on Thursday, September 24, 2020:

· Hospitality businesses in Wales will have to close at 10pm and provide table service only.

· All off-licences, including supermarkets, will have to stop selling alcohol at 10pm.

We are also being asked to think carefully about making journeys: only travel where it is essential to do so. The fewer people we meet and the fewer journeys we make, the safer we all are.

The Welsh Government have also introduced the following measures:

· A new £500 payment to support people on low incomes who are asked to self-isolate if they have coronavirus;

· Strengthened regulations to ensure employers support people who need to self-isolate.

The new measures are part of a package of co-ordinated actions to control the spread of coronavirus and it is essential that we all play our part in order to keep Ceredigion safe.

These new measures are to be introduced alongside those that are already in place:

· Keep a 2m social distance from each other when out and about.

· Wash your hands regularly.

· Wear a mask in indoor public places, shops and on public transport

· Only meet 6 people indoors from your extended household (not including children 11 and under).

· Do not meet with more than 30 people outdoors.

· Work from home, wherever possible.

· Think carefully about making journeys: only travel where you need to do so. The fewer people we meet and the fewer journeys we make, the safer we all are.

We need everyone to follow the rules and guidance and to take the steps to protect them and their loved ones.

Together, we can keep Ceredigion safe.

All the latest information and advice regarding the coronavirus can be found on Ceredigion County Council’s website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/Coronavirus. The Council’s Corporate Contact Centre number is 01545 570881.

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NHS COVID-19 app launches across Wales

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People are being urged to download the NHS COVID-19 app to help stop the spread of coronavirus and protect themselves and their loved ones as case numbers rise.

The app launches today [Thursday 24] after positive trials and will be a useful tool when used alongside Wales’ successful manual contact tracing system.

It will be available to those aged 16 and over, and forms a central part of the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme identifying contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus.

The roll-out of the app in Wales coincides with a national campaign around how people in Wales can best support the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme, including only getting a test if they are showing symptoms; self-isolating when required; and working with local contact tracers if they are contacted.

Wales’ contact tracing system – which is a publicly-run service and locally delivered – is working well and has seen a very high contract and trace rate. Latest stats show 94% of cases are being successfully contacted.

The app works by logging the amount of time you spend near other app users, and the distance between you, so it can alert you if someone you have been close to later tests positive for COVID-19 – even if you don’t know each other.

The app will advise you to self-isolate if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case. It will also enable you to check symptoms, book a test if needed and get your test results.

Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:

“The launch of the NHS COVID-19 app is an important part of Wales’ coronavirus response, supporting the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme. The more people who download and use this app, the more it will help us to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We have worked closely with the app development team to ensure it works seamlessly across Wales and England, providing people with the right advice based on where they live. In Wales, the app will complement our existing contact tracing and testing services and will further support our co-ordinated response to COVID-19 at both a local and national level.

“I strongly encourage everyone in Wales to download and use the app to keep Wales safe.”

The app has been designed with user privacy in mind, so it tracks the virus, not people and uses the latest in data security technology to protect privacy. The system generates a random ID for an individual’s device, which can be exchanged between devices via Bluetooth. These unique random IDs regenerate frequently to add an extra layer of security and preserve anonymity.

The app does not hold personal information such as your name, address or date of birth, and only requires the first half of your postcode to ensure local outbreaks can be managed.

Today the UK’s major mobile network operators, including Vodafone, Three, EE and O2, Sky and Virgin, have confirmed that all in-app activity will not come out of customers’ data allowance.

In a joint statement Apple and Google said:

“We built the exposure notifications system to enable public health authorities in their efforts to develop apps to help reduce the spread of the virus while ensuring people can trust in the privacy-preserving design. We are committed to supporting the government’s effort to launch an app based on this technology.”

Whilst the app will be a major support for the contact tracing system, Welsh residents are being reminded to continue to keep Wales safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by:

• Always keeping a distance
• Washing hands regularly
• Working from home wherever possible
• Following local restrictions
• Following the rules about meeting people
• Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms.

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