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Syrian family settling well in Cardigan

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A LOCAL charity, Croeso Teifi, welcomed one Syrian family to Cardigan in November last year and it seems they are settling in well.

The family met them at the airport along with two other community groups meeting a family each. The families shed tears of relief.

It was quickly found out that the Syrian family spoke no English. This did not inhibit communication or joy. The two children danced when they stopped in a cafe on the way home.

The parents started learning English straight away and are improving fast. This term the young children started full time school and are learning Welsh. The parents are also volunteering every week.

Croeso Teifi works with the Home Office and local authority on settling a small number of Syrian refugee families in or near Cardigan – wherever there is a welcome.

The team are aware of the importance of not competing with local needs for jobs, and minimising use of scarce public services.

The family were chosen by the United Nations organisation working with the Home Office with guidance from the Local Authority. Croeso Teifi let the Home Office know the skills that this area is short of before the selection.

The family say they love Wales, love Cardigan and love their home. The children go to school with a smile and come back practicing their Welsh. Their father is looking forward to getting into full time work, and both parents are doing a lot of homework to learn English quickly. They want to learn Welsh after learning English.

Croeso Teifi feel that the first family have been a success so far, They welcome new people to work to befriend and integrate a second family.

Community sponsored settlement is different to government supported settlement. The community provide all the money and gifts to ensure a successful integration. We find and equip a home, provide translation and English lessons, friendship and work and training and opportunities.

The generosity of people in and around Cardigan has been breath-taking. The hard working team of Croeso Teifi volunteers are regularly moved and surprised at the generous spirit of the town. We do our best to ensure that the area benefits as well as us benefitting the refugee family.

Wales is actually leading the UK in community sponsorship. Aberystwyth has its own community scheme with a first family due, and there are several families already in Pembrokeshire. The scheme was inspired by Canada where community sponsorship has been running for over 40 years. It enables refugee newcomers to belong to a local community from the word go, to quickly adapt and contribute their energy and skills.

The team look forward to the next phase of this journey of discovery.

However, a new report published by a coalition of organisations working to support refugees and asylum seekers in Wales shows that families separated from close relatives are experiencing significant trauma and long-lasting harm to their well-being.

At a time when 65 million people worldwide – half of them children – have been forced from their homes because of conflict, violence and persecution, the report also finds that barriers to reuniting family members can seriously impact on their ability to integrate into new communities and rebuild their lives in Wales.

Rihana, a woman from Syria, whose extended family are separated with different family members in Damascus and Lebanon, said: “Being apart from loved ones has brought about a lot of anxiety and distress. We are mentally affected as we always think of our extended family and the difficulties they must face.”

Published by the British Red Cross, Welsh Refugee Council, Displaced People in Action and Asylum Justice, the report calls on politicians in Wales to offer more support for refugees seeking to reunite with family members.

It also recommends that Welsh MPs support a Private Members Bill for Refugee Families that has its second reading in Parliament on Friday, March 16.

That Bill calls for changes to UK immigration rules that would expand the criteria for who qualifies as a “family member” for the purposes of refugee family reunion to include: young relatives, adult sons and daughters, adult siblings, parents, any dependent relatives and any person granted refugee leave.

It also calls for family members of children to be brought to the UK under the refugee reunion policy and for the reintroduction of legal aid for refugee family reunion cases.

The report also calls on the Welsh Government to offer additional support to refugees in Wales by looking at ways to mitigate the adverse impacts of UK policy in Wales by enabling refugees to access the free accredited legal advice required for complex family reunion cases and supporting Welsh local authorities and local health boards to implement protocols for successful family reunion applications.

Red Cross refugee services operations manager for Wales Ruth Gwilym Rasool said: “For many of us, family is the most important thing in our lives and refugees, just like the rest us in Wales, desperately want to remain close to their loved ones.

“Worldwide, we see conflict, violence and persecution driving families apart, with close relatives often separated by continents and loved ones left behind to face danger on a daily basis.

“Refugees now living in Wales have already been through barely imaginable pain and trauma and they deserve to be able to rebuild their lives and reunite their families in safety.

“Present family reunion rules prolong that suffering – causing untold stress and anxiety – and prevent refugees from beginning their new lives in their new communities in Wales.”

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Council tax reduction supports people on low incomes

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A COUNCIL Tax Reduction Scheme is in place to help people who are on a low income. The council administers the scheme on behalf of the Welsh Government for people who are liable to pay Council Tax and who live in Ceredigion. With the recent decision to raise Council Tax by 7%, residents on low incomes are being urged to find out if they are entitled to some help towards paying their Council Tax.

People can be eligible for the reduction if they are on a low income, working or unemployed, cannot work because of illness, retired or are caring for someone. The amount of the reduction depends on a person’s circumstances and how much Council Tax they need to pay.

Councillor Gareth Lloyd is the Cabinet member responsible for Financial Services. He said, “We made the difficult decision to raise Council Tax by 7% to reduce the amount of cuts we have to make to council services. The reality is that the council is getting less money from the Welsh Government at a time when costs and demand for services are rising.”

“We want to urge anyone who is on a low income to consider if they are eligible for Council Tax Reduction. Tax increases can add pressure onto people’s budgets, and although this increase is vital to keep quality services in Ceredigion, we want to make sure that anyone who is eligible for help gets it.”

For more information on eligibility and how to claim council tax reduction, email revenues@ceredigion.gov.uk or call 01970 633 252.

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7% council tax increase to protect education funding

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THE COUNCIL TAX in Ceredigion for 2019-2020 will increase by 7%. The increase was agreed by councillors to reduce the impact of cuts to the Council’s budget and, in particular, to protect education spending. The decision was made in a Council meeting on 21 February 2019.

2% of the 7% increase will be used to protect education spending. Schools budgets have been under severe stress after years of needing to make savings. Costs have increased yet again following the agreement of new teachers’ salary increases together with increased pension contributions. This extra 2% uplift will enable school budgets to be kept flat.

The council tax rate increase is set by three key components, the County Council’s tax, the precept of Town and Community Councils and the Police precept. Increases set by the Police and Town and Community Councils result in a combined increase of 7.56%.

Councillor Ellen ap Leader of the Council, said, “We had no option but to ask Council to increase Council Tax by 7% in order to reduce the impact of the cuts we have had to make across council budgets. A successful Ceredigion in the future needs well-funded and well run schools. We want to invest in the future of our children and our county.”

“The reality is that the council is getting less money from the Welsh Government at a time when costs and demand for services are rising. The uplift of teachers’ salaries and pensions has not been fully funded by Welsh Government to date. If council tax had not increased, we would have to make deeper cuts.”

In 2018-2019, the average Council Tax Band D property was £1,226.48. The increase means that the same property will pay £1,312.33 in 2019-2020. The council’s budget has been cut by £39m or 25% in the last seven years. The Council will still need to save another £6m in the coming financial year.

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Information management policies updated to improve security

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THREE key information management policies have been updated by Ceredigion County Council. The policies were updated because of new laws and the need make sure that they are effective in a changing technological environment.

The updated policies were approved by the council’s Cabinet in a meeting on 19 February 2019.

The three policies that have been reviewed are:

· Data Protection/GDPR Policy
· Information Security Policy
· Information and Records Management Policy

The Deputy Leader of Ceredigion County Council and Cabinet member responsible for Governance, Councillor Ray Quant MBE said, “The council needs to keep information and data to carry out the many service we provide. Because of this we have to make sure we’re up to date on data and information protections laws. This decision means that we have approved the hard work done to update the policies and make sure that they are fit for use.”

The policies are essential to manage digital and paper records of the council.

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