Friday, 9 November 2018

Welsh veterans let down by two governments

Plaid Cymru calls for improved veterans’ care on Armistice Day centenary


Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts MP has said that Welsh veterans are being let down by both the Welsh and Westminster governments.  

In September Plaid Cymru uncovered statistics that showed that across the UK 66,000 veterans* are either homeless, in the justice system or suffering with mental health conditions. The information obtained through a combination of parliamentary questions and research from military charities and academic research shows that former armed forces personnel are being let down by the Westminster Government, and are disproportionately represented compared to the general public, in homelessness, mental health and justice system statistics.

Ms Saville Roberts has also campaigned for residential veterans’ care to be made available in Wales. There is currently no residential treatment facilities for veterans in Wales. The only easily accessible facility, Audley Court in Shropshire announced at the end of 2017 that it would stop offering residential treatments.

The Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP has called on the Welsh Government to “put its money where its mouth is” and fund residential treatment facilities for veterans, which are shown to have profound benefits for treating mental health issues and helping veterans live fruitful lives following military service.

Liz Saville Roberts, who will be representing Plaid Cymru at the Cenotaph in London today, said:
“Today we remember the sacrifices made by so many in order for us to be here today. Their legacy will never be lost to history and their sacrifice should never be underestimated. “It is not just words that best honours their memory – we need actions too. Action so that their fellow servicemen and women are today treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. “It is shocking that in the UK today 66,000 veterans are either homeless, in the justice system or suffering with mental health conditions. We may not forget those that gave their lives, but for today’s suffering veterans it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind.   “With no residential care facilities for veterans in Wales, and the last facility within reasonable distance across the border closing, the Welsh Government needs to put its money where its mouth is and invest in the services that make a difference to veterans lives.   “Fundamentally, Welsh veterans are being let down by governments in Cardiff and London.”
* The information provided by Plaid Cymru suggests that some 10,000 veterans are either in prison, on parole or under the supervision of the probation service; around 50,000 are suffering with mental health conditions and a further 6,000 are homeless. 

Monday, 5 November 2018

28% of Wrexham pupil respondants missed days off school due to lack of access to sanitary products

The report from Wrexham council's Task and Finish group looking at period poverty in Wrexham has been published today and will be discussed at the Lifelong Learning commitee on Thursday 8th November, the meeting will be webcast and starts at 11.00am. The report can be viewed here.

Part of the groups work involved a survey of pupils and staff which had almost 500 responses. One of the key findings from the survey was that 28% of secondary age pupils who responded had missed days off school because they couldn't access suitable sanitary products, with 39% saying they'd missed 6 days or more. 38% of year 7 pupils who responded said they'd had to miss days in primary school.

The group are recommending that limited funding announced by Welsh Government recently be used to install shelves in as many toilet cubicles as possible to distribute free sanitary products.

The survey also highlighted that there is some sanitary provision in all local schools but that often pupils don't know how to access it, with 74% of respondants saying they either didn't know or that their school didn't provide sanitary products. It also highlights a need for more sanitary disposal bins in line with Welsh Government guidance. Other issues, such as access to toilets during the school day were also highlighted, with 50% of respondants saying they could not go to the toilet when they needed to during lessons in secondary school.

Cllr Carrie Harper who chaired the task and finish group and who will be chairing the Lifelong Learning committee on Thursday said:

" I'm very grateful to fellow councillors who took part in this work and particularly to council officers who put a huge amount of time into getting the survey up and running and analysing the results. It's the first of its kind in Wrexham and the level of response has made it very worthwhile, this is an issue people have really engaged with. We also had very honest feedback from pupils, staff, Wings Wrexham, the Nappy Library and the Senedd Yr Ifanc focus group, which has helped to inform our recommendations."

" This work clearly shows that period poverty is a serious issue for female learners in Wrexham and that we must do all we can to help tackle it. I hope the work of the group contributes to improving provision locally. The survey shows clearly that lack of access to sanitary products is impacting on school attendance and ultimately the performance of our female learners locally."

" We also heard some hearbreaking stories as part of our work, with some pupils telling us they had to use their dinner money to buy products and others having to use items of clothing because they couldn't access adequate sanitary wear. I'm glad we've been able to put this issue on the agenda and help to raise awarenss about it, with potentially hundreds of young women across Wrexham affected by this, it's vital the discussion continues."

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Betsi backs Bounty hunters

Betsi Cadwaladr health board has backed controversial firm Bounty, which has been criticised for harrassing new mothers on maternity wards.

 This is the response to a complaint by Wrexham Plaid Cymru that listed 20 separate incidents where mothers felt uneasy or unhappy about the behaviour of Bounty staff in Wrexham Maelor or Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.

 Our exposé earlier this month prompted widespread anger and comment. 

 The health board gets £1922 a year from Bounty to permit full access to the maternity wards, where they give away packs of goods, take photos and collect data that's subsequently sold on to other firms.

This is the health board's response:

Re: BountyThank you for your email of 3rd October 2018, outlining the concerns raised by a number of constituents regarding the activities of the Bounty company on the maternity wards at Wrexham Maelor Hospital. Please convey my sincere apologies to your constituents for any upset or anxiety that has been caused.The Health Board does have a contract with Bounty for the distribution of its information packs across the Health Board and for photography services in both Wrexham Maelor Hospital and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, for which it receives a small remuneration.  This income is received into the service and spent on patient care in these areas. These arrangements pre-date the creation of the Health Board.Bounty has been providing services to pregnant women and new mothers throughout the UK for the past 60 years and their research shows a high level of satisfaction with their services. I would like to confirm that the Health Board has never received any complaints or had any concerns raised with the service from patients in respect of Bounty. Our Director of Midwifery and Women's Services, Mrs Fiona Giraud, has also confirmed that she has never received any negative feedback from staff in relation to Bounty's activities.This does make it difficult for the Health Board to investigate the claims that have been made or to establish how representative they are. If any of your constituents would like us to investigate their specific case they are welcome to contact either the Health Board or Bounty directly.

  If you'd like to send a complaint to Director of Midwifery at BCUHB Fiona Giraud contact her on and please copy in

Plaid Cymru Councillor Carrie Harper, who raised concerns about the company, said:
"The health board has ignored the many concerns raised by new mothers and health professionals about this company.
"I'm worried that mothers are being hassled at a time when they should be able to bond with their new-born babies. Being told to hurry up with their breastfeeding or ignored because their baby was on Special Care is upsetting to say the least. 
"I'm urging anyone who has had a poor experience with Bounty to contact the health board to take the matter further."

Wednesday, 24 October 2018


Plaid Cymru have requested an urgent meeting with the Welsh Government’s Finance Minister Mark Drakeford over ‘serious concerns’ about cuts to local government following the budget announcement.

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Finance, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said:
“I am writing to Finance Minister Mark Drakeford to request a meeting to discuss the recent Welsh Government budget.
“We have serious concerns regarding the cuts to Local Government and the devastating impact it could have on Education and Social Services. These cuts are severe and substantial and worse than anyone could reasonably have expected.
“The WLGA and council leaders have all expressed deep concerns at the cuts and Labour members, including minister Hannah Blythyn, have slammed the Labour budget. Another Minister Alun Davies chose to attack councillors, telling them to stop complaining.
“This is a Labour austerity budget. Councils are facing a situation where they will simply not be able to provide essential services to the public. This is not acceptable. I want a rethink, and for an assurance that increasing council funding will be a priority for Welsh Government should new finances become available in the forthcoming UK budget.”
Plaid Cymru and the Labour-led Welsh government entered into a budget agreement in October last year.

Don't put all our economic eggs in one very expensive nuclear basket

Plaid Wrecsam's view on the North Wales Growth Bid

Wrexham Council is part of the North Wales Growth Bid, along with other councils, universities and colleges. If it happens, it will see funding amounting to £334 million from both UK and Welsh Governments for various infrastructure projects over the next decade or so.

Nobody in north Wales is going to turn down millions of pounds worth of investment, especially when it's needed for digital infrastructure for example. However there are concerned about the thrust of the growth, which is over-reliant on one scheme – namely Wylfa Newydd.

To be clear, Wylfa sits outside of this Bid. However the concern is that nuclear power is the golden thread that is intertwined throughout the Bid, with other projects bolted on to take advantage of the opportunity. Some of those projects are already happening and therefore are not reliant on the Bid itself.

The Proposition Document lists 16 projects totalling £334m. The nuclear linked Trawsfynydd, Holyhead port and Bangor University schemes account for £200m of that.
So even though Wylfa officially sits outside of this Bid, much of this Bid would not be there if it were not for Wylfa. And, as Wylfa is a colossal £15bn project dependent on a Japanese multinational and a very favourable strike price, if it doesn't happen then there is a very real risk that this Bid will fail. If Wylfa goes ahead, why can't these other projects could not be funded through Horizon. 

Of the £3.1 billion headline figure for private and public investment, £2 billion is earmarked for the Trawsfynydd Small Modular Reactor project. A further £637m is for housing developments.

So although these are large sums, we must remember these are spread over 10-15 years and over six counties.
A North Wales Growth Bid and an over-arching regional vision is desperately needed. We need a grand vision for the region and we need better funding from both UK and Welsh Governments - so this is a welcomed development but the emphasis on nuclear-related projects suggests that too many economic eggs are being placed in one very expensive nuclear basket.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

One Council or a Gang of 10?

Secrecy, paranoia and the stifling of dissidents are the hallmarks of any autocratic regime.

It’s also becoming a commonplace theme here’s in Wrexham where the council’s nine man, one woman Executive Board routinely excludes the other 42 councillors from any meaningful debate or decision making.

Autocratic regimes also monitor and seek to close down alternative views, unable to deal with robust debate without shouting it down.

At last week's Executive Board, Plaid Cymru councillors raised concerns that £344,000 of savings in adult work opportunities (including the cafe at Alyn Waters, Le Cafe in the Cunliffe Centre, Coverall laundry services and others) would mean compulsory redundancies. An Executive Board member denounced this as a “typical Plaid Cymru trick” when in fact the report before them talked of, yes, comp redundancies. You don’t save that much money in councils unless you cut jobs but, rather than be honest, some councillors opt to play the man not the ball.

Promises on the day were made regarding the alternatives on offer but the report laid bare the fact there were no guarantees that adults with learning difficulties would have work opportunities when a new provider takes over the running of the Alyn Waters cafe.

Secrecy comes in many ways. Part 2 items on council agendas exclude the Press and public and are often justified, e.g. if discussing personnel issues or commercial confidentiality. Yet all too often this is used as cover because the Executive Board does not want to debate awkward issues in public.
That must end.

So when Plaid Cymru brought forward a motion in July to end the contract with Kingdom, the Executive Board insisted on holding it behind closed doors. No confidential commercially sensitive issues were discussed. Yet two months later the same matter was discussed openly by a scrutiny committee. 

The published proposals for next year's budget now allow us to discuss the reality of iTec's closure more fully.

The closure of this department, which had been employing 20 people and providing training inside and outside the council, will mean a £142,000 loss on the balance sheet. This is not what councillors were told in the Part 2 debate about its closure last month.

When I made a comment about this on Facebook, I was asked to meet the chief executive for a friendly chat about the councillors' Code of Conduct. Clearly the Gang of 10 are monitoring every dissident comment and want to stifle genuine debate. Why?

Another example is the dire warnings issued about confidentiality before budget workshops. These workshop discuss likely scenarios and possible cuts and, to my knowledge, details have not been leaked.

Any half-decent autocracy needs a slogan to rally the troops and the rallying cry is now One Council. This would be more accurately the Gang of 10 as the other 42 councillors are treated like mushrooms ... kept in the dark and fed manure.

One small example. On Wednesday the media was briefed about the Executive Board's budget plans and proposals for 2019-20. These are going out to consultation with the public. The proposals have a suggested Council Tax rise of either 5 or 6%. Yet the day before, at a confidential budget briefing, the 42 mushrooms were told nothing about this. I don’t believe I’m breaking any confidentiality in saying that arguments for and against a significant rise were made from the floor and yet councillors were given no indication from the leadership that a 5 or 6% was being put out to consultation the very next day.

We’re clearly not One council when the majority are excluded from meaningful and honest debate.

One final point.

When leading councillors talk of Difficult Decisions, the Gang of 10 always miraculously avoid making those difficult decisions their own positions. This has to change. 

Plaid councillors are voluntarily refusing to take any pay rise and are paying for their council iPads. As a gesture towards recognising the Difficult Decisions to be made, we believe all councillors should do the same. It's a small gesture but it would save more than £90,000 over the five-year term of this council. A written commitment by councillors to take a hit would show a willingness to share in the pain of those difficult decisions.

More immediately we could cut the current Executive Board to seven members, saving more than £40,000 a year.

The proposals now made public already reflect suggestions made by Plaid Cymru last year to reduce the senior management. The proposed savings there are estimated at £130,000 a year.

These are drops in the ocean when put alongside the cuts we face from a Tory UK government that keeps promising austerity is about to end but never stops hacking away at public services. The Welsh Government's decision to increase funding for health by 7% without addressing the underlying problems facing our health boards is perverse, especially while starving local councils. It smacks of political opportunism rather than good planning. 

The truth is that the Welsh Government is already anticipating some Welsh councils struggling and even “doing a Northampton”... effectively becoming bankrupt.

One united council is achieved through honest and open debate not secrecy and stifling debate.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Feed our school children first, tackle dinner debts later

That was the stark message from Plaid Cymru councillor Carrie Harper, who also chairs Wrexham Council's Lifelong Learning scrutiny committee. The statement follows a letter being sent to parents of primary-school children from the council's Economy department stating that "we will not serve any meals to pupils whose accounts are in debt" when a new policy is implemented on the 5th November 2018.

Cllr Harper said: "This major policy change, as it's being described by the council, means that children as young as five could now be left hungry in our schools due to dinner account debts. It's appalling, particularly so given that the school meals service makes the council an annual profit of almost half a million pounds. I'm not aware of this issue being discussed by Councillors and it hasn't come to the committee I chair for any debate. 

"There are a wide variety of reasons as to why a parent might have a debt on their account but there certainly aren't many parents who wouldn't prioritise making sure their child has a hot meal. A growing number of local families, many of whom are working, are now struggling financially thanks to low wages, benefit cuts, Tory austerity and reducing entitlements to free school meals, making balancing all budgets more and more difficult for them.

"It may also be as simple as the parents not knowing their child's account is in deficit as the councils online system doesn't allow them to check the balance, or account credits not registering for several days". 

"I'm aware this policy is emerging in other councils too but that doesn't justify it. Of course we need to address the issue of debts on accounts but the underlying causes will vary on a case-by-case basis and it's immoral to do it by refusing a child their dinner.

"Let's think about the implications of this policy for a second. Could any of us honestly look a hungry child in the eye and refuse to give them dinner whilst their friends sit around them eating? I know I couldn't do it and we shouldn't be asking our school staff to implement this either. What sort of society do we want to live in when the wellbeing of our children is dictated by a few pounds on a dinner account? This new policy takes us in a very dark direction, the letter issued was also very blunt and has caused distress to parents who have contacted me. I was also surprised to learn the policy has already been implemented in our secondary schools and have queried what the impact has been.

"Yes we need to address the issue of debt on these accounts but children going without food should not be the solution. Feed children first, tackle the issue of debt later".

Cllr Harper has written to the Children's Commissioner seeking advice on the new policy in terms of wellbeing and its potential conflict with the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, she has also written to the Head of the council's Housing and Economy department who manage the shcool meals service to set out concerns.

Monday, 15 October 2018

25% surge in Plaid Cymru membership

Over 2,000 new members have joined the party since Adam Price was elected leader

Plaid Cymru membership has increased by over a quarter since the party’s leadership election two weeks ago.

This surge in membership, thought to be the largest weekly increase in the history of Plaid Cymru, has seen the number of party members storm past the 10,000 mark.

Membership continues to grow as Plaid Cymru’s message for a hopeful, independent future for a New Wales resonates.

Commenting on the membership surge, party leader Adam Price said:
“I extend a warm welcome to the thousands of people who have joined our cause in the last few days. Together we are going to work to win a New Wales.
“The dramatic surge in our membership shows that people are tired of the politics of the past and want a Plaid Cymru government to lead the building of the self-confident nation we know we must be.
“Our message is a simple one: Yes Wales Can. We can be confident, we can be prosperous, we can be Welsh and European, we can be independent.
“There is something happening in Welsh politics and you can be a part of it. By joining Plaid Cymru you will be able to shape the future of our nation.
“We’re on our way and we know that together, we can win a New Wales.”
The leader of Plaid Cymru announced in his speech at the party’s autumn conference that the membership fee would be waived for anyone joining Plaid Cymru for the remainder of 2018.

Join Plaid Cymru here free.

Friday, 12 October 2018

LDP = Labour's Development Plan

The Labour Welsh Government is insisting that Welsh councils use flawed population projections to plan for future housing growth in Wrexham. The controversial policy will mean the council’s Local Development Plan (LDP) allocating land for an extra 12,000 houses across the borough by 2028. The two biggest sites are proposed off the Cefn Road (1580 houses) and Ruthin Road near Ysgol Clywedog (1500 houses).

The figures, mainly driven by migration into the county, are prompting growing concerns about the impact on local services and infrastructure.

Plaid Cymru Councillor Carrie Harper has campaigned against over-development in Wrexham for the last decade. She said:
“There is no need locally to build houses on the scale being proposed. We’ve had over-development in Wrexham for many years as it is and we’re seeing the impact of that on key services such as the Maelor Hospital.

“These large-scale developments will cause yet more problems for the town in terms of health, education, roads and other infrastructure. Add to this the savage cuts to other frontline services, such as policing and council budgets thanks to Tory austerity measures and it’s difficult to see this being anything other than a disaster.”
“It’s all based on a false premise that Wrexham’s population will rise by 20% by 2035. It’s a ludicrous over-estimate by the Labour Welsh Government when in fact latest annual figures show a static population with the likelihood of falls due to Brexit and EU nationals going home. These figures were based on previous growth in the 2000s linked to the expansion of Glyndwr, the EU accession states and Cheshire limiting housebuilding around Chester. That was a unique combination of events. That’s not the case now, so there’s no need for these thousands of extra houses.

“It’s a scandal that Labour refuses to listen to reason on this, particularly when the Minister responsible for planning is Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths. Local people have repeatedly said they do not want this level of development but Welsh Government is insisting on it. It’s undemocratic for them to be enabling this free for all for developers.”
Plaid Cymru is committed to challenging Labour’s position and the upcoming Local Development Plan (LDP), which is set to be discussed by Wrexham council in November.

Want to read more about Labour's Development Plan? 

Click here for Plaid Cymru AMs challenge to Lesley Griffiths on population estimates 

Click here for Welsh Government should pay £200,000 extra cost caused by the delayed LDP.

Click here to read about the campaign to halt the large-scale sites on Cefn Road and Ruthin Road.

Click here to read about Labour's hypocrisy on the matter going back six years.

Tempers flare over Venture funding bid and corruption claim

Tonight’s Caia Park community council meeting saw a fiery exchange between community councillors over discussions about a funding application from the Venture for £14,000. The council, which is usually chaired by Venture Manager Cllr Malcolm King, had received the grant application following a previous bid for £30,000 for play sessions being rejected recently due to a lack of detail.

Cllr Malcolm Kings Labour colleague Cllr Brian Cameron stepped in to Chair the discussion following Cllr King declaring a conflict of interest due to being employed by the organisation applying, along with another Cllr declaring an interest for the same reason.

A discussion ensued with queries about Councillors conflicts of interest over the item given there were several members employed by or linked to the organisation applying for funding.

Plaid Cllr Carrie Harper addressed the meeting and said:

“I’ll start for the record by saying that every member of this council has been a supporter of the Venture, numerous funding applications have received support over the years that have likely amounted to hundreds of thousands of pounds. We’ve approved a separate one just tonight for the annual bonfire event and everyone was happy to support that.We all voice support for the services provided and the contribution made by the staff there to our community."

"However, I have several issues with this application. We have all agreed to set a grant budget of £10,000 for this financial year, about half of that has already been spent and we have a policy to cap grants for each organisation to £2,500 per year. It’s therefore completely inappropriate for the Chair of this council to submit a grant bid for £14,000 being well aware of those rules. In fact he was advised that this was not an appropriate route to take by our clerk but chose to disregard that advice."

"I also have to put on record my concerns that members of this council have been put in an awful situation by this behaviour. If another organisation had put this application in, it wouldn’t have even made the agenda, we’d have written back to them to explain that it exceeded the maximum amount available."

"As community councillors we are responsible for an annual budget of just under a quarter of a million pounds. People in Caia Park quite rightly have an expectation that we will ensure that funding is managed properly and that all the relevant policies and procedures will be applied fairly, to ensure that every local organisation has the same opportunity to apply for funding. By putting this application in, we’re being asked to breach our agreed policies, for an organisation that is run by the Chair. It looks awful."

"We also know that to continue funding the Venture on the same basis next year will cost £30,000 and that the community council is already overspent. The only feasible way to fund this next year is to put people’s council tax up in Caia Park significantly, I will not support that."

"I also want to put my concerns on the record that certain members of this council have been pressured to vote a certain way tonight. I don’t make that claim lightly but that is corrupt. This has got to stop. You can’t just throw the rule book out when it suits and I won’t have Plaid Cymru Councillors tarnished by this behaviour if you decide to vote this through tonight."

"I propose we don’t support this bid as it is because it breaches our grant allocation policy."

The discussion then escalated with an accusation made by Cllr Steve Jones of ‘game playing’ to pass tax payers money to the Chair Cllr Malcolm King. It escalated further following this into an even more heated exchange between Cllr Jones and the temprary Chair Cllr  Brian Cameron. His frustration at the complete disregard for due process was physicly visible. Due to the escalating tension a time out break was called.

When Councillors returned, Labour Cllr Colin Powell, proposed that £14,000 was taken from the dwindling council reserves to fund the Venture. This was passed with a vote of  5- 4.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Kingdom binned by Wrexham Council

Late this afternoon WCBC issued a statement saying:

Wrexham Council has binned Kingdom. In a statement late this afternoon it said:

“Officers have written to Kingdom advising that the contract should be terminated in line with the provisions of the contract with three months’ notice. Kingdom have acknowledged receipt and the necessary arrangements are now commencing to arrange closedown of the systems and processes and new enforcement activity has ceased. The contract cessation date is 28 December 2018.”

It has also been admitted that Kingdom have issued no tickets in August and September, confirming our suspicions that the company has effectively pulled out of North Wales completely.

Councillor Marc Jones, leader of the Plaid Cymru group on Wrexham Council, said: “This is long overdue. Kingdom did not ensure our streets were cleaner, they did not tackle dog fouling or flytipping.

“Since July the company has all but vanished - raising questions about how this contract was managed. Plaid Cymru pushed for the Executive Board to get rid of this company in July so we’re glad they finally listened to sense.

“The challenge now is to create an in-house service or work with other councils to make sure our streets are cleaner. Today’s Executive Board agreed to set up a new bailiff service in house and a separate litter enforcement team would be no different in terms of risk and potential income generation.”

Cllr Jones thanked everyone for their work to bin Kingdom in Wrexham, the last Council in north Wales still employing the firm.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Mums' anger over Bounty hunters on maternity wards

Plaid Cymru has urged Betsi Cadwaladr health board to take action after many mothers got in touch complaining about  the way a private company has access to maternity wards in Wrexham Maelor Hospital.

Bounty provides information packs and takes photos of new-born babies, which they then try to sell to new mothers at a very vulnerable and tiring time of their lives. Since we broke the story here, mums have been in touch to express their views and thank Councillor Carrie Harper for raising the problem:

LH said: "It ruined what should have been a special time. I was made to feel weird for not wanting their photos and threatened by their constant 'popping in' as if they’re staff. If I hadn’t been warned by friends, I would have assumed they were members of staff. Thank you for highlighting this Carrie."
CW: "Yes, huge thank you! I felt this was really intrusive. Good on you Carrie Harper!"
GH: "Hugely intrusive. Due to complications my baby was rushed to SCBU whilst I was still on the ward. I heard the bounty lady tell her colleague not to bother with me as I 'didn't even have a baby'. This was so insensitive. Privacy was also an issue as they walked in and out whenever they liked." 
NG: "I've had 3 babies in Wrecsam Maelor and each time they have tried to sell the photos and each time I have declined as they are incredibly expensive and I know my husband can take as good if not better photos! The woman who works for Bounty seems pleasant and was very helpful with me and didn't react negatively when I refused to buy the photos. Having said that I totally disagree they should be allowed to encourage people to buy these extremely expensive photos when they are so vunerable and emotionally drained - new mums are at their most vulnerable for sure. Like others note, people have only just given birth and they shouldn't feel pressurised into paying s huge amount for photos. Thank you Carrie Harper for looking out for those who are vulnerable and this debate hopefully will make new mums aware that they can say no like so many others have done before and that there is nothing wrong with saying no thank you!"
RW: "It's disgusting and they look at you like you're mad if you say no."
MG: "No def not new, my youngest is now 12 and remember different issues with them on all 3, no shame, no sensitivity or empathy to what we were going through with premature babies on two occasions."
SC: "Ddigwyddodd o i mi yn Sbyty Glan Clwyd ar ôl geni fy mab yn 1996 a fy merch fenga yn 1998. Oedd y ffotograffydd yn barod i dynnu llun fy mabi cyn i mi ddeud, 'No thank you' a nath hi edrych yn flin arnaf. Maen nhw’n byhafio efo awdurdod ar y wardiau ac hawdd bydde i fam meddwl eu bod nhw’n bobl iechyd swyddogol yn hytrach na gwerthwyr."
CBS: I had one say to me "but how else will you get your child benefit form?" the cheek of it. It's online, and I told her so (and to bugger off)." 
AD: "My daughter had only been back on the ward for 20 minutes before the photographer turned up. She refused a photo, the photographer said I will take one anyway in case you change your mind. Luckily she is strong willed and refused again. She didn't want a stranger having a photo of her new born baby." 
JE: "I had it almost 6 years ago with my first. We nicknamed them the vultures! They used to pop their head around the curtains even if they were drawn! I remember hearing them selling a package to a young girl in the bed next to me. She ended up paying around £80 for pictures... but hey you got a free Christmas bauble with the picture!
 "I was in for 10 days so I had plenty of time to see them at it. When new parents are feeling pretty vulnerable. That is how they distribute the child allowance forms. They are in the pack!! I even heard some offering "support" which was bang out of order. They were acting like Health staff". 
RC: "Shouldn't be allowed on the ward at all. I remember C getting harassed when C was born. They got her email address after and spammed it full of crap." 
ER: "They got irate with me because I had been breastfeeding for ages and they wanted her in the cot so that they could take the photo and kept asking me 'have you finished feeding yet??!' I told them that I wasn't interested in buying the merchandise but they said they had to take a picture of every baby. I was too tired/vulnerable/uncertain of my facts to argue... "
 NH: "Hate them. And midwives give you a ‘Bounty pack’ at your booking in. Mine went straight in the bin. I don’t know about here in Wales now, but when I had my first (in England), I missed out on the Child Benefit form because they were given out by the reps as standard, and obviously when I declined their offer of photos and Bounty spiel, I didn’t get the paperwork. With my second (in Wrexham), I caved because it happened so quickly and she barged in with such confidence and familiarity. Anyway, she said it was free, which is totally misleading. When I looked at the prices on their website I couldn’t believe what a rip off it actually was. Maternity wards are meant to be secure, yet they let this unscrupulous company and their callous reps in. There’s much I take issue with in our maternity wards, and Bounty is certainly a major one. Makes me so angry that hospitals are taking money for women in their trust and care to be harassed at such a special/ vulnerable/ emotional/ heartbreaking/ life changing time. Kick them out once and for all. A total disgrace." 
LD: "I had my babies in England and you have to get the child benefit form from the bounty Lady so can’t avoid her. I was on a ward for mums that had just had various surgeries and were quite vulnerable, the woman insisted on taking the picture even though I said I wouldn’t be buying it then proceeded to bend my babies into various unnatural positions, it really upset me but I was too ill to protest, I’m glad something is being done about it in Wrexham."
 NB: "It's disgusting. I was on the ward at both the Maelor and Glan Clwyd, both times in a private room because I was so unwell, the Bounty people came into both rooms unannounced asking me about my baby (who was in SCBU and unwell at the time) they asked me loads of questions, if they could come back to take his picture. I signed up to make her go away, they came in everyday until I signed up. It goes in the spam folder."
VB: "Definitely should be banned. You’re so vulnerable after giving birth. First time around, I was in hospital a few days as was struggling to feed my baby. The hormones kicked in and I was a blubbering mess thinking I was already failing at parenting; the last thing I needed was the Bounty sales person in my face making me feel even more of a failure for not wanting to smile. I managed to send her on her way but I’m an otherwise outspoken person and I think younger, less confident mums would be even more vulnerable to high pressure sales."
EF: "It is completely wrong and intrusive and wouldn't happen to men who had had a vasectomy: 'Would you like a photo of how you look now your nuts don't work...'
A health worker contacted us:
"Many years ago when I worked as a midwife (and later as a health visitor) the health authority I worked for didn't allow the Bounty people to have any contact with the new mothers, they just allowed them to deliver large cardboard boxes filled with the bags of free samples to the hospital wards.
"They were stored by the entrance to the ward and when the mum was leaving she could take a pack from the box if she wanted one - or not, if she didn't want one. I used to have my reservations about some of the stuff that was in the bags but some of it was marginally useful. I seem to remember there may have been a leaflet in there about photos, but because of the way the bags were distributed, the woman who had just given birth had full control over whether or not she made contact with the people offering the photos.
"I'm horrified to hear that Betsi Cadwaladr have entered into a contract allowing these people onto the wards - completely inappropriate in my opinion and there are other options provided the NHS management is firm about it.
 "I think it's absolutely inappropriate for these people to be given licence to go onto the wards and speak to patients, for all the reasons already discussed and also because if they are seen as being 'approved' in some way then whatever inappropriate advice they might (possibly unintentionally, thinking they are just chatting) give out may be heard as having some authority by someone who doesn't understand the system."
This dossier has been sent to Betsi Cadwaladr's chief executive and Plaid Cymru's Wrexham branch have called for the heath board to stop allowing Bounty and other private firms access to sensitive wards and vulnerable patients without their consent. 

Cllr Carrie Harper said: "Another question to be asked is why Bounty are being used by the HMRC to give new mothers their Child Benefit forms. This company is data farming on a huge scale and this means young families are being targetted with child-related spam for years upon years."

Friday, 28 September 2018

A solution on the horizon for the Groves?

The on-going saga to determine the future of the Groves building and site has been well documented on this blog since the debate began several years ago.

Originally the council owned site was due to be taken over by Coleg Cambria but this fell through in 2015 with Wrexham councils leadership deciding to withdraw from negotiations to sell it, a situation described at the time by Coleg Cambria’s Principle David Jones as ‘hugely disappointing and disillusioning’.

Since then Wrexham council have come under fire for trying to rush through a bid to demolish the building, ultimately leading to a campaign to save it and the Groves eventually being listed by Cadw in 2016.

Sitting within the portfolio of the Education department, it has since been declared surplus to requirements, then not surplus to requirement and most recently, surplus to requirements for Primary education but still with no clear direction outlined for it’s use.

Almost a year ago I requested that the issue be looked at by one of the council scrutiny committees in an attempt to get some clarity about the future of the building and site. That meeting eventually happened last week and came with a long overdue options appraisal to look at the potential re use of the building for a primary school and also the use of the adjacent land for a new build primary school to meet demand within the town centre for school places.

The meeting saw frustration vented from most councillors present at the seeming lack of ability of the council leadership to get to grips with the issue and find a solution, or at least outline a way forward after so much time. Kicking this issue into the long grass yet again was simply not going to be an acceptable option. Ultimately the committee decided to recommend the building was surplus to requirements for primary education but chose not to endorse the original request from the Education department to declare it surplus to requirements altogether. They also went a step further, establishing a new task and finish group to explore all the options to finally bring the building back in to use.

The situation is clear enough, we’ve arrived at this point through a series of misjudgements, missed opportunities and to be blunt political personality clashes, that have ultimately meant that nothing got done. It’s time now to draw a line under past mistakes and make sure this building does not sit empty for another decade and is brought back into use to benefit local people .That will require the council’s leadership to take on board views outside its own bubble which I very much hope its capable of, we’ll see.

There are as always solutions on the table, if the political will is there to make them a reality. This new group, not weighted down with the complications and war wounds of previous spats, may well hold the key to finally getting the right result. 

The sales reps on our maternity wards - “I said no and they still took the photos”

Betsi cadwaldr Health Board received £1922 from data marketing firm Bounty in 2016/17 to gain access to north Wales maternity wards according to an FOI published on the Health Boards website.

The firm which distributes bounty goody bags and tries to sell new parents photo’s of their newborns has received wide spread criticism from Mums and families across the UK due to its hard sell tactics at the bedside. The details of newborn babies and their mothers are harvested on the post natal ward and then resold repeatedly to a wide variety of companies.

Plaid Cymru Councillor Carrie Harper said: “ Calls to end this cash for access practise have so far been ignored and the contract between Betsi cadwaldr Health Board and Bounty is in place unitil 2020. Allowing high pressure selling on a maternity ward is completely unethical. There aren’t many people more vulnerable than women after they’ve just given birth, they should be free to recover from childbirth and to bond with their babies in peace.”

“Many parents reluctantly consent as they don’t distinguish these reps from the many medical professionals who visit them on the ward. These tactics are bad enough on the High Street but we certainly shouldn’t be allowing them on our maternity wards.”

Wrexham mother Jenny Millar recalled her experience of Bounty following the birth of her second child, she said: “A rep asked to take photo’s and I said no straight away, I turned over and tried to go back to sleep, then I heard the camera going. She came around the other side of the bed to show me the pictures and to try and persuade me to buy them, I said no again and had to repeat myself 3 times before she finally went.”

Another local mother also relayed her experience: "Three times I had to tell the Bounty rep I didn't want a picture on the maternity ward. I was struggling to establish breast feeding after a caesarean section and I really did not want to be bothered but even with the curtains closed she kept intruding. They should not be allowed near women at such a vulnerable time. They dress it up as taking a nice picture and giving free samples but in reality they are using one of the most precious times in a woman's life to dreg for data to hawk to the highest bidder. They're utterly shameless."

Carrie Harper added: “I’ll be writing to Betsi cadwaldr Heath Board for more information about this contract and to urge them to put the interests of mothers and their newborns first, the contract should not be renewed when it ends in April 2020”.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Life expectancy falling faster in Wales than anywhere in Europe

Hywel Williams MP

UK austerity to blame for Welsh life expectancy fall - Oxford Prof

Life expectancy in Wales is going backwards quicker than anywhere else in Europe, according to new data from the Office of National Statistics.

Official statistics from the ONS show that life expectancy fell by 5.72 weeks for men in Wales between 2014-2016 and 2015-2017, and by 4.16 weeks for women. The comparative figures for the other UK countries were:

  • Scotland
    • Men: -2.6 weeks
    • Women: -3.12 weeks
  • Northern Ireland
    • Men: -4.16 weeks
    • Women: +0.52 weeks
  • England
    • Men: +1.56 weeks
    • Women: +0.52 weeks
  • Wales
    • Men: -5.72 weeks
    • Women: -4.16 weeks
Oxford University Professor Danny Dorling told the BBC's World at One programme that Westminster policy was to blame, highlighting cuts to public sector services and a drop in immigration.

Speaking to the World at One, Professor Dorling said:
"We know that we have had no harsh winters since 2010 so it's not cold winters; we know it's not an influenza epidemic because we haven't had one of those. We're beginning to narrow it down to two things: The big thing is austerity and the cuts affecting the frail and the elderly in many, many ways, and the second thing is that we're no longer getting the young, healthy migrants that we were getting in the past which were actually helping boost our statistics."
Plaid Cymru MP, Hywel Williams has called the figures "scandalous", saying they reflect how Westminster austerity has disproportionately affected Wales.

Mr Williams said:
"These scandalous figures show the real impact of Westminster's policies on people's lives. This is not just people earning less, or paying more for their mortgages and groceries, it is people dying earlier than they should be.  
"For Wales - a country that is bound to one of the richest states in the world - to see life expectancy not only falling when it is rising elsewhere, but for it to be falling faster than anywhere else in Europe should send shivers down the spines of those who have forced through these savage cuts to public services. 
"It is the first time since the Second World War that the infant mortality rate has risen two years in a row across the UK and we've seen a substantial increase in the number of elderly and frail people dying two or three years earlier than normal.  
"And what have we got to show for it? Austerity continues to be driven by those who claim it is necessary to eliminate the budget deficit but the reality is that austerity has depressed economic growth, leading to less money coming in, pushing the apparent goal of a balanced budget further and further away. So we should look at who has gained, and look no further than the pampered lives of the fat cats who win on the way up - and win on the way down too. 
"It is a self-defeating prophecy and Wales cannot afford to be subjected to more of it. Those responsible in Westminster should hang their heads in shame and recognise the damage they continue to cause."


Full transcript of Professor Dorling's comments on the World at One:

"The immediate reasons are that more people have died - more babies have died. Last year more babies died than the year before, and the year before more died than the year before that, so the infant mortality rate has risen two years in a row in the UK. Nowhere else in Europe has that happened and the last time that happened in the UK was during the Second World War. 
"But the main increase in deaths has been elderly frail people dying two or three years earlier than normal. We know that we have had no harsh winters since 2010 so it's not cold winters; we know it's not an influenza epidemic because we haven't had one of those. We're beginning to narrow it down to two things: The big thing is austerity and the cuts affecting the frail and the elderly in many, many ways, and the second thing is that we're no longer getting the young, healthy migrants that we were getting in the past which were actually helping boost our statistics."