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“Inherently unfair” social care funding needs total overhaul

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Moves to top up the pay of self-isolating social care staff in Cardiganshire should be part of a complete overhaul of the “inherently unfair” way the sector is funded.

According to Care Forum Wales, the dysfunctional system had led to chronic underfunding for a quarter of a century with many care homes facing the prospect of financial ruin and the threat of closure while having to deal with the enormous challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The chair, Mario Kreft MBE, spoke out after Health Minister Vaughan Gething announced he is planning to top up the wages of social-care workers forced to self-isolate because of coronavirus.

At the moment they are only eligible for statutory sick pay – currently £95.85 per week – if they have to self-isolate or take sick leave due to the virus.

Mr Gething said an announcement would be made “soon”, adding that “my expectation is that we will top-up the wages of those taking time off because of coronavirus to 100% of their normal wages”.

The Health Minister also acknowledged there were “broader long term questions about the terms of social care workers”.

Mr Kreft said: “We welcome anything that is going to improve the terms and conditions of care workers.

“Providers did have concerns that there were incentives for people not to self-isolate when perhaps they ought to.

“The funding care homes receive from local authorities and health boards enables providers to do no more than pay statutory sick pay and nothing over and above that.

“If we’ve got to incentivise people to self-isolate then that money has to come from somewhere – either the local authorities and health boards or the Welsh Government.

“We have invited to a meeting next week to look at the detail of how it can work and this is among the issues we will be raising.

“What this does not address is the inherent unfairness that has been built into the system over a generation when social care has been largely commissioned by local authorities which has effectively set pay levels at such a low rate.

“We have had 25 years of failure and inadequate resources. This is a golden opportunity to right some fundamental flaws that have pushed the social care sector to the brink of financial ruin.

“Even before Covid, we have suffered regular care home closures across Wales because of the postcode lottery of fees.

“That’s why we devised the Cheapskate Awards to highlight the gross unfairness of a system that ensures that a care home in Cardiff receives £12,000 a year more for providing the same level of service for an individual resident in a care home in Powys. That equates to a staggering £500,000 a year for a care home with 40 beds.

“Fundamentally, this is about the traditional Welsh values of fairness and equality.

“The league table of fees across Wales was a clear illustration that the current system is unfair and unsustainable.

“Even the fees paid in Cardiff are inadequate – they are merely the best of a bad bunch.

“Five of the six local authorities in North Wales are in the bottom 10 of the worst payers so we also have a North-South divide adding to the inequity of the post code lottery.

“Working in social care is already a career to be proud of but we now need to make sure that it also a career in which our wonderful staff are also properly paid, one that they can afford to go into.

“The only way to achieve that is have root and branch reforms to the way social care is funded with an urgent national action plan which recognises that the sector is a pillar of Wales’ foundation economy as designated by the Welsh Government.

“It would be sheer folly to carry on doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. We need a totally new approach, fit for the 21st century to enable us to pay social care workers what they deserve.”

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Ysgol Gynradd Ciliau Parc to close temporarily due to a further COVID-19 case

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YSGOL GYNRADD CILIAU PARC, Ciliau Aeron will be closed temporarily as a further COVID-19 case is confirmed. Two Contact Groups out of three have now been affected by positive cases and therefore, due to lack of staffing, the whole school will close for a period of time.

Pupils in the affected Contact Groups has been asked to self-isolate for 14 days due to being close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case at the school. These pupils and staff must remain at home for 14 days to reduce the possible spread of the virus to family, friends and the wider community. All parents have been contacted by the School.

The Council urges all parents to refer their children for a test if they develop any of the symptoms, which are:

  •         a high temperature
  •         a new continuous cough
  •         a loss or change to sense of smell or taste.

Parents should also be aware of other symptoms early on, such as headaches, tiredness and general aches and pains usually associated with the flu.

You can apply for a test online https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test or by phoning 119.

No further details will be provided regarding this matter.

 

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Hundreds sign petition against Ceredigion parking charges

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HUNDREDS of local residents have signed a petition against plans to reintroduce charges at some Ceredigion Council car parks.

Ceredigion Liberal Democrats started the campaign on Friday, which attracted over 400 signatures in less than 24 hours, in response to an outcry from businesses and residents across the county.

Ceredigion County Council announced plans this week to move immediately to a cashless charge system from 1st December at 13 car parks in Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Cardigan and Lampeter. Cashless charging will follow in March for another 3 car parks, including at New Quay.

The petition can be signed at www.ceredigionlibdems.org.uk/parking.

Cllr Elaine Evans, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Cardigan Rhyd-y-fuwch, said:
“I am absolutely gutted that the charges are being reinstated in Cardigan, especially so close to Christmas.

“This year more than any other, times have been extremely difficult for traders and residents in Cardigan. So many of us are worried about the detrimental effect parking charges will have on a town that already has a safe zone implemented.

“We need to keep parking free throughout the pandemic. If we don’t, I worry how much of our town will survive.”

Cadan ap Tomos, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd candidate for Ceredigion, added:
“So many local businesses are struggling to keep afloat during this pandemic, and need all the help they can get. That’s what makes this decision by the Plaid Cymru/Independent Council so baffling.

“I’m particularly worried that by going cashless, a great many people who have no bank card to pay with will be shut out of visiting our town centres.

“The fact that hundreds of people have backed our campaign in less than a day should show just what a bad decision this is for our communities.”

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Vaccine roll-out ‘within days’

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Vaccination will start in a matter of days: Says Dr Frank Atherton, Wales' Chief Medical Officer

THE FIRST COVID-19 vaccine has been given the go-ahead and the roll-out across Wales will start within a matter of days, the Chief Medical Officer announced on Tuesday, December 2.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has now authorised the first vaccine as safe and effective on the basis of detailed independent expert review of evidence from large scale clinical trials.

The Pfizer Biontech vaccine has become the first to receive MHRA clearance in the UK and 40 million doses of the vaccine will shortly be available for delivery across the UK, with Wales getting its allocation based on population.

The effects of the vaccine may not be seen nationally for many months and the advice on keeping Wales safe remains the same for everyone; keep contacts with other people to a minimum, keep a 2 metre distance from others, wash hands regularly, wear a face covering where required and avoid touching surfaces others have touched, wherever possible.

Approval from the MHRA is the first step of Wales’ roll-out plan, which has seen preparations on-going since May. There are still a number of stages which need to happen before the vaccine reaches those in highest need and is ready for use, but this process is expected to happen over the next week.

These stages include:

  • The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) finalising and publishing their guidance for the whole of the UK
  • Finalising training materials for staff and patient information leaflets
  • Training of experienced immunisers for this particular vaccine
  • Final legal frameworks to allow registered health professionals to administer the vaccine to patients need to be authorised by each Health Board in Wales.
  • The vaccine – which needs to be administered in 2 doses – will initially be prioritised and available for those aged 80 and over, care home staff and residents and those working within health and social care.

Pfizer Biontech vaccine needs to be stored at ultra-low temperatures. These centres have already been decided by Health Boards and are in the process of being stood-up.

As further supplies become available and additional vaccines receive MHRA approval, a staged approach will see other groups be offered the vaccine, based on risk of serious complications and deaths.

Individuals in the priority groups for a COVID-19 vaccine will receive an invitation from their employer or health board providing information about the COVID-19 vaccines, telling them where to go and what to do on the day of their appointment.

People are urged to wait to be invited, which will happen through NHS systems. Please do not ask your pharmacist or GP.

There are plans in place for people who are housebound and for care homes to be vaccinated as soon as safely possible, with the approved vaccine being safely taken to them using a mobile service, once cleared for this purpose.

The development process for coronavirus vaccines has been as stringent as any other but the process in the face of the pandemic has been sped up by prompt, world-wide funding and a reduction in paperwork. The length of the trials have not been shortened, and the usual safety measures remain in place.

Mark Drakeford: Vaccine is ‘a glimmer of light’

The vaccine will not be mandatory and people will be able to choose whether they take up the vaccine or not. Information will be provided to people before vaccination to reassure them about patient safety and robust consent processes will be in place.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, said: “It is fantastic to finally say that the first COVID-19 vaccine has been given the green light. We know now that we have a safe and effective vaccine for use across the UK – this is the positive news I and so many across the country have been waiting for.

“All our NHS organisations across Wales have embraced the challenge presented to them and are at the advanced stages of planning for the arrival of a vaccine. We have tested distribution and storage arrangements to ensure we can get vaccine safely to every part of Wales.

“There’s still a few stages we need to work through but once all these safeguards are in place, vaccination can begin. There will only be relatively small amounts of the vaccine at first, those who have been advised as most needing the vaccine first, through approved delivery mechanisms. A full announcement around the timetable for roll-out in Wales will follow in the next few days.”

The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said: “Today’s news is a small glimmer of light at the end of what has been a long and dark tunnel.

“We know some people within our communities are much more at risk than others from the serious complications of COVID-19, which is why the new vaccine is being prioritised to protect them first.

“Whilst these first doses are given at fixed sites and occupational settings, and to protect our NHS and social care services, we must all continue to do our bit to prevent the spread of coronavirus: regular hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a face covering where required to protect yourself and others.”

Andrew RT Davies MS – the Shadow Minister for Health said: “This is positive news in the battle against Covid but, as ever, the devil is in the detail of delivery.

“And so, today the Health Minister must today address a number of vital issues including:

  • The ability of NHS Wales to start the vaccination process and when this will happen
  • How many doses will be available to Wales in the first tranche and how they will be distributed
  • Who the first recipients will be
  • How, when other vaccines become available, NHS Wales will cope with the different procedures

“It will also require a strong public health campaign around take up of the vaccine.

“The people of Wales need this information to give them some confidence in how the programme will be handled here.”

Mr Davies’ remarks allude to one substantial issue regarding the vaccine’s distribution.

Both Wales and Scotland have a higher proportion of their respective populations in vulnerable groups. However, thus far, the UK Government has targeted Covid support on a per-head basis and not by need.

Vice-chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Programme Board, Richard Roberts from Public Health Wales, said: “It is a significant achievement that only 9 months after WHO announced the global pandemic that we now have the first safe and effective vaccine available for use in Wales, and other vaccines to follow.

“Everyone has been preparing for months to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine programme, and it is very exciting that we will be able to begin, once the final steps have been put in place so that the programme can be delivered safely.”

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