A COUNCIL increased its care home fees on the day it was named and shamed as one of the worst payers in Wales, it’s been revealed.
Carmarthenshire County Council was originally second from bottom in the league of shame compiled by social care champions Care Forum Wales (CFW) after they announced rises of less than two per cent.
The authority has now improved its offer with increases of up to 4.81 per cent.
As a result the average fee has gone up from #624.81 a week per resident to #642.27 a week and moved up one place in the standings to third from bottom.
It’s still among the worst 10 payers in Wales who will be presented with Cheapskate Awards by CFW.
According to industry champions Care Forum Wales (CFW), care homes are the victims of an untenable post code lottery which means they’re paid wildly differing fees depending on which county they are in.
CFW chair Mario Kreft MBE is calling for an urgent shake-up of the system once the new Welsh Government is place after the election on May 6, with a new national fee structure that is fair to all.
The organisation, which represents nearly 500 independent social care providers across Wales, is awarding wooden spoons to the ten worst payers as part of the second annual Cheapskate Awards.
They have illustrated the point by publishing a “league of shame” highlighting the massive chasm between the top and bottom local authorities.
Right at the foot of the table is Swansea where a 40-bed care home receives £230,000 less than a home in league leaders Torfaen in Gwent – or just over £5,700 per resident.
The gulf is likely to be even wider in July when Cardiff Council publish their new rates because last year’s fees were higher than the increased payments announced in Gwent for 2021/22.
Last year’s fees in Cardiff would still put them at the top of the table – the old rate in the capital is £1,600 a year more per resident than the new increased fee in Torfaen.
Newport negotiate separately with individual providers so it was not possible to include them in the table but they are in line with the generally higher rates paid in the South East of Wales while Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council had not yet revealed their fees for the coming year.
Mr Kreft said: “We welcome the fact that Carmarthenshire County Council have increased their offer to the rates they had originally announced.
“The council sent the letter to providers on the day Care Forum Wales unveiled the recipients of the second annual Cheapskates Awards.
“In truth Carmarthenshire were starting from a very low base so they still have a very long way to go until they pay adequate fees, so they will still be given a Cheapskate Award.
“This is all about prioritising the care of the most vulnerable people in Wales and how we treat them speaks volumes about out society and our values.
“If there was ever any doubt, the way the front line social care workforce has risen magnificently to the unprecedented challenges cause by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The pay received by social care staff in the independent sector is set by the local authorities who factor in what they should be paid when calculating the fee rates.
“Invariably, they all pay staff in council-owned homes a lot more – often in excess of £2,000 a year more – than they enable us to pay our wonderful care workers in the independent sector. How about that for hypocrisy?”
The First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS, had admitted the sector was fragile even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck and Mr Kreft is concerned that many care homes across Wales will not survive.
Care Forum Wales say the root of the problem is that for more than 20 years the social care sector has been managed and funded separately by the 22 local councils and the seven health boards in Wales which was a recipe for disaster.
Mr Kreft said: “The current system is broken and not fit for purpose. The aim of the Cheapskate Awards is to highlight the really serious problems created by an iniquitous fee structure here in Wales.
“The statutory responsibilities the local authorities have are discharged in such a way that we have this post code lottery which has led to an unstable system.
“Some of these figures really amount to a kick in the teeth to dedicated people who have been showing tremendous courage as well as skill and kindness in the face of a frightening disease during this deadly global pandemic.
“Are vulnerable people in Torfaen really worth ££5,700 a year more than equally fragile people in Swansea?
“The evidence uncovered by the Cheapskate Awards and previous surveys proves that social care is too important to be left to the vagaries of local political decision-making.
“Even in a global pandemic where budgets are tight. Powys implemented an increase of more than 20 per cent while another council had an increase of less than two per cent.
“For those who argue that it’s an issue for the national Government, the past 25 years have shown than when money has been available, local authorities have taken political decisions not to spend it on social care. As a result, they have unhinged social care sector provision, whether that’s care homes or domiciliary care.
“In contrast, the Welsh Government’s Covid funding for social care has been fantastic. It has ensured that care homes, even with drastically reduced occupancy, have not been forced to close.
“Last year Care Forum Wales launched our 2020 campaign to ensure qualified staff who work in care homes and domiciliary care in Wales are paid a minimum of £20,000 a year and we are delighted that all the main political parties are backing our call.
“There is clearly a major North/South divide while the Swansea area is also suffering because the further North or West you go, the fees appear to fall off a cliff.
“Twenty years ago in North Wales four of the local authorities were in the top quartile and the other two were just behind. Things have changed dramatically and the people of North Wales have lost out in a big way.
“These are political decisions made by local politicians who broadly get the same funding.
”Those commentators who derided the Cheapskate Awards last year should reassess the importance of bringing to the public’s attention the way that vulnerable people are valued differently across Wales.
“It’s a small country. We all have to work to the same national standards of quality and surely now is the time we have minimum standards of funding.”
|Region||LA||Res||Res EMI||Nursing||Nursing EMI||Average for LA||Percentage Increase|
|Gwent||Monmouthshire||670.00||747.00||708.00||734.00||714.75||5.99 – 6.11|
|W Wales||Pembrokeshire||658.71||717.45||679.12||735.90||697.80||1.09 – 2.12|
|C&V||Vale of Glam||659.98||730.12||659.98||730.12||695.05||4.00|
|N Wales||Conwy||611.00||665.00||693.00||733.00||675.50||4.30 – 4.50|
|W Wales||Ceredigion||644.00||686.00||658.00||700.00||672.00||6.36 – 6.65|
|Powys||Powys||659.00||669.00||660.00||698.00||671.50||19.68 – 22.26|
|N Wales||Gwynedd||586.32||650.79||676.48||714.91||657.13||3.41 – 3.62|
|CTM||Merthyr||592.00||657.00||660.91||708.71||654.66||1.08 – 1.72|
|N Wales||Wrexham||608.72||634.81||660.88||699.97||651.10||3.93 – 4.34|
|N Wales||Anglesey||596.01||631.40||657.04||714.92||649.84||3.47 – 3.62|
|N Wales||Flintshire||607.00||632.79||651.28||689.92||645.25||4.03 – 4.40|
|W Wales||Carmarthenshire||622.73||650.37||601.47||694.49||642.27||4.50 – 4.81|
|Swansea Bay||Neath PT||619.96||619.96||627.57||660.23||631.93||4.00|
|All Wales Average||£625.37||£670.16||£661.58||£706.73||£665.96||4.29 – 4.62%|
|Cardiff not yet declared – 2020 fees.||£737.89||£793.48||£730.08||£786.99||£762.11||N/A|
Omicron ‘challenging all parts of healthcare provision’
THE INCREASING challenge on healthcare from the Omicron variant is currently affecting all parts of healthcare, including GP, dental, pharmacy and optometry provision, Hywel Dda health board has said in its latest press release.
GP Practices across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire remain under considerable pressure and as a result, more appointments may be offered over the telephone or online.
The board is giving the following advice to service users: “If you are asked to attend the surgery in person, please do so alone unless you need assistance, and remember to wear a face mask.
“Most Practices have online systems, such as E-Consult or Ask My GP, to allow patients to ask a non-urgent question about their health. Please see your Practice’s website for more information.
“My Health Online remains an online 24/7 option for ordering repeat medication; designed for patient convenience and especially useful for those who are self-isolating or shielding. Patients can register for this through their GP practice. Please allow extra time when ordering prescriptions.
“Telephone triage systems are in place in the majority of surgeries to ensure that a patient speaks to a clinical member of staff about their health.
“If a patient needs to be seen in person, the surgery will make an appointment with the most appropriate healthcare professional for their needs.
“Due to staffing issues we have also seen in recent weeks an impact on service pressures in community pharmacies, dentists and optometrists. We continue to work with all of our Primary Care services to make sure that we are able to provide timely and appropriate care but ask that patience and kindness is shown to staff as they are working very hard to try to deliver the services that patients can normally expect to receive from them.
“Services may vary depending on individual dental practice circumstances, please ensure that you contact your practice who will be able to advise appropriately.
“You may find that you have to wait a little longer than normal to receive your prescribed medication and we would ask that you allow seven days for any repeat medication.”
Jill Paterson, Director of Primary Care, Community and Long Term Care for Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “We wish to reassure patients that GP services are still available to you. When you contact your practice, you will speak to the most appropriate person for your condition and if you need to be seen in person, you will be given an appointment at the practice.
“It may take longer than normal to get through on the phone and you may wish to contact your doctor’s surgery online, if possible.
“We have had reports of verbal abuse targeted at Primary Care staff and this will not be tolerated; please remember they are working very hard to help their patients and we thank you for your patience at this time.
“Many conditions can be treated over the phone with advice and if required, a prescription can be issued to your nominated pharmacy. Please do not put off seeking treatment.
“Pharmacies offer a wide range of services including treatment for minor ailments. Please be aware that pharmacies are also operating at capacity and you may have to wait longer than usual.”
Review to be held on the post-16 education provision in Ceredigion
A REVIEW will be held in the near future to gather information and facts about the post-16 education provision in Ceredigion.
The review will coincide with the reforms made through the establishment of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research (CTER), which is responsible for overseeing the post-16 sector in Wales, along with the recommendations made by Estyn Thematic Review on post-16 partnerships.
The last review on post-16 provision in Ceredigion took place in 2007-2008, therefore it was agreed during a Cabinet meeting held virtually on 11 January 2022 that it would be timely to undertake a further review.
Councillor Catrin Miles, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, Support and Intervention, said: “It is timely to conduct a review of post-16 provision to gather facts and views on what works and what can be developed.”
It was noted that there were 701 pupils in years 12 and 13 in all Ceredigion schools in January 2020. It was also added that less than 5 pupils were following 51 of the 199 A Level courses provided in Ceredigion schools during the academic year 2021-2022.
Boris Johnson apologises over latest No.10 party revelations saying it was ‘work event’
THE PRIME MINISTER says he thought party in March was a ‘work event’ but concedes he should have stopped the gathering on May 20, 2020.
In Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday (Jan 12), he apologised to the public and said that “I wish that things had been done differently on that night.”
But Boris Johnson said that Labour will have to wait for the outcome of an inquiry to know the exact details of what happened that night.
Labour Leader, Keir Starmer said Matt Hancock resigned when he broke the rules, and Allegra Stratton resigned for laughing about rule breaking. Why does the PM think the rules don’t apply to him. Boris Johnson says that is not what he said.
Starmer said the PM originally said he had been assured there were no parties. Then the video landed, and he pretended he was sickened by the parties. Now it turns out he was at the parties. Starmer added that it was his opinion that the public think he is “lying through his teeth”.
Tory MPs objected, on the grounds that MPs should not accuse each other of lying. Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, defended Starmer, saying he is talking about what the public think.
Johnson said he does not accept that. He added a laywer should wait for the facts.
Keir Starmer said that he spoke last night to a woman, Hannah, whose father died last May. She met Johnson last year, and Johnson told her that he had done everything possible to protect her dad. Hannah now knows her father’s death certificate was signed on the day of the party. Does the PM understand how she feels?
Johnson said he understands how she feels. He wanted to apologise. But the government has been doing what it can to protect people. It has the most tested population in Europe. And it has had the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, and one of the fastest in the world. Apologising again, the PM said: “Whatever mistakes have been made on my watch, for which I apologise, that is the work that has been going on in Dowing Street.”
Simon Hart, the Welsh Secretary, and MP for South Pembrokeshire and West Carmarthenshire, has become the first cabinet minister to publicly express concerns about the latest partygate revelations. Simon Hart said this morning: “We’re in the middle of an investigation, that was set up by the PM to get to the bottom and to get to the truth about what was reasonable at the time and what wasn’t. It’s frustrating to have to rely on the investigation and we must be careful to not pre-judge that or what the PM will say in a few minutes’ time.
“The one thing I’m not going to do is make light of something that is unquestionably something of a significant public concern.
“I don’t live on a different planet. The frustration and the hurt and indignation and the incredulity that emerging stories like this produce. I’ve got, like everyone, family and friends asking me these questions. We have to get to the bottom of this.
“Judgment will need to be made about what happens next.”
There is some excellent detail about the No 10 party on 20 May 2020 in the Times today. The paper reports that Martin Reynolds, who sent out the email invitation to around 100 staff as the PM’s principal private secretary, became “panicky” in advance of the event, because staff were concerned it was against the rules, but decided cancelling the event would make things worse. The paper reports: “That afternoon, staff began preparations. A row of tables was set up on one side of the garden to act as a bar. In the garden itself more tables were set up in a layout to encourage people to observe social-distancing rules.
“Officials and advisers began arriving shortly after 6pm. While many stayed away, about 40 came. Many took up Reynolds’ suggestion in his email that they should “BYOB” — bring your own booze — taking a trip to the Tesco Express next to Westminster station. The drinks table was well stocked with gin, rosé, red wine and white wine, and guests began to arrive and mingle.
“Two sources said that the prime minister attended, with one saying he was “wandering round gladhanding people”. His fiancée Carrie Symonds, whom he married last year, also attended and was said to have been drinking with Henry Newman, then an adviser to Michael Gove and now a senior figure in No 10.
“The Times has been told that one senior official at the event joked about the risk of surveillance by drones, which was viewed as a tacit admission that the rules were being breached.”
Police in England issued 118,419 fines for breaking lockdown rules between 27 March 2020 and 17 October last year. That included 800 fines in the week when the No 10 party was held on 20 May 2020.
In London 17,745 fines were issued between March 2020 and October last year, including 113 for holding illegal gatherings of more than 30 people.
Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, said: “Thousands of Londoners have been fined for flouting lockdown rules during the pandemic. It would be double standards of the worst kind for the police to turn a blind eye when those in No 10 have done the same.”
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP, Jonathan Edwards, questioned the British Government on the floor of the House of Commons this week with regard to the ongoing allegations facing the Prime Minister and his Cabinet.
Allegations of a party held by government members and officials during May 2020 continue to plague the Conservative administration, with pressure mounting on the British Government over the past few days.
With an investigation into these claims commissioned, Jonathan Edwards MP questioned the government on what they believed would be an appropriate political sanction should the investigation conclude that a party was held and that the Prime Minister, or other Ministers attended.
The response came that it was not appropriate to comment on this hypothetical situation, and that they would await the results of the independent investigation.
Speaking outside the Chamber, Mr Edwards said: “I have been contacted my several constituents in the past few days outlining their shock, their disappointment, and their anger at the current allegations that this Government faces.
The stories they have shared with me of enormous personal sacrifice, of funerals held over video calls, and of elderly family members unable to see their loved ones in the flesh, have been emotionally powerful, and I thank them for sharing those experiences with me.
Should the allegations of Government Ministers attending a party at this very same period prove to be true, it will fly in the face of the collective struggle that everyday people have endured for almost 2 years now, and it will finally confirm what many of us here in Wales have already theorised: that the political ruling class in Westminster do not care about the citizens that they represent.”
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