Latest News from Bridgend County Borough – 30 January 2022

Council offices lit up to mark Holocaust Memorial Day

Bridgend County Borough Council marked this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day by lighting the main council building this evening and encouraged residents to join the Mayor in lighting a memorial candle at home.

Mayor, Councillor Martyn Jones lit the candle on January 27 as the nation paused to pay tribute to those persecuted and killed during the Holocaust and subsequent genocides across the world.

Households across the county borough were encouraged to join the Mayor and the rest of the UK in lighting a candle and safely placing it in their window to remember those who were murdered for who they were and to also stand against prejudice and hatred today.

This year’s theme, set by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) is ‘Ordinary People’. The trust state that ordinary people were involved in all aspects of the Holocaust, Nazi persecution of other groups, and in the genocides that took place in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. Ordinary people were perpetrators, bystanders, rescuers, witnesses – and ordinary people were victims. More information can be found on the Trust’s website

Bridgend County Borough Council Deputy Leader, Councillor Jane Gebbie said: “We are marking Holocaust Memorial Day this year by illuminating our main Civic Offices building as a mark of respect for all the lives lost due to the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.

We also join the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) in encouraging the public to light a candle and place it safely in their windows today, along with looking back at some previous events we have held to mark the day.  It’s vital for us all to reflect, remember and learn from the past and that is why we in Bridgend County Borough commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day in the way that we do each year.

Tragically, anti-Semitism, hatred and genocide has not been confined to the history books but still takes place around the world. So, we all need to unite as human beings and ask ourselves what we can do collectively, to stand up against all forms of prejudice and hate to create a safer world for current and future generations.”

Holocaust Memorial Day was established on 27 January 2000, when representatives from 46 countries around the world met in Stockholm to discuss Holocaust education, remembrance and research. At the end of this meeting, all attendees signed a declaration committing to preserving the memory of those who were murdered in the Holocaust.

For more information on Holocaust Memorial Day, please visit our website.

 

Local schools affected by industrial action plans

The National Education Union (NEU) has announced four days of intended industrial action for its members.  If plans go ahead, schools across the county borough will be affected.

Strike action is proposed on the following dates:

 

  • Wednesday 1 February 2023
  • Tuesday 14 February 2023
  • Wednesday 15 March 2023
  • Thursday 16 March 2023

 

Schools will base their decision to open or close on their individual context, staff supervision levels and risk assessments.

All schools will aim to inform parents about closures, at least three working dates before each of the days listed above.  However, some schools will make the decision to remain open or to close on the day of the proposed strike.

Pupils eligible for free school meals will be given a packed lunch the day before the proposed strike, if the school has decided to close in advance.  If the headteacher decides to close the school prior to lunchtime on the day of the strike, eligible pupils will receive a packed lunch to take home.

Although school transport for eligible pupils will continue to run as normal (unless a school has decided to close prior to the day of planned industrial action), parents, carers or another responsible adult, should be available at short notice to collect children from primary or additional needs schools.  This may be because a school or year group will be forced to close due to staff supervision levels.

 

Councillor Jon-Paul Blundell, Cabinet Member for Education, said: “We are hoping to make suitable provisions for all pupils and their parents or carers, so that we can minimise any potential disruption resulting from the strike action. We will also update parents and carers of developments through the schools’ usual channels of communication.  As always, the priority in the decision-making process will be the welfare of the children at the schools.  They are, and always will be, our primary concern.  Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.”

 

The ‘Time Is Right’ to become a Foster Carer in Bridgend County Borough

A new vlog campaign, the ‘Time is Right’, has been launched by Foster Wales, the national network of 22 Welsh Local Authority fostering services.  It is hoped that the campaign will allow potential foster carers to recognise the valuable life experiences they already possess that would help them to become well-rounded and supportive foster carers in their own communities.  In one episode Cath, a foster carer from Denbighshire discusses her journey through the fostering process. She said: I think people’s perception of being a foster carer is something that they’re not.  Some of these children have had experiences by the age of five that people will never have in their lives and it’s just having that empathy, understanding and non-judgemental attitude really.”

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Social Services and Early Help, Councillor Jane Gebbie said: “I would urge anybody who is considering becoming a foster carer to contact the fostering team in Bridgend.  Being able to place children with foster carers who live within the county borough allows continuity in terms of education, health care, peers and contact, where possible, with birth family.  We have a fantastic community of foster carers across the county borough who along with the local authority’s fostering team will help to support you throughout your journey.”

The six-episode series will be released weekly on the Foster Wales website and its social media channels. The videos are also available on the Foster Wales YouTube channel.

To find out more about fostering in Bridgend, visit https://bridgend.fosterwales.gov.wales/

 

New partnership board chair promises action and accountability

 Cwm Taf Morgannwg Regional Partnership Board has named Councillor Jane Gebbie as its new chair.

Currently the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Social Services and Early Help at Bridgend County Borough Council, Councillor Gebbie will be responsible for ensuring that board members are working together to improve the health, social care and wellbeing of people who live in the Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil county borough areas.  This includes overseeing the delivery of the Cwm Taf Morgannwg Regional Area Plan, which when it is published in Spring 2023 will outline the actions that the board will take to create better health and social care services. Councillor Gebbie will also ensure that partners are working co-productively alongside communities and frontline staff to create, lead and evaluate services.

Councillor Jane Gebbie said: “I am delighted to have been appointed chair of Cwm Taf Morgannwg Regional Partnership Board. As a long-standing trade union member and social activist, I strongly believe in the power of unity to drive forward positive and tangible change.  Health and social care services are going through a seriously difficult time and it affects every single one of us in one way or another. As chair, I pledge to ensure that we are held accountable as a partnership. We know from speaking with our communities how important information and updates are and we will be transparent about how people can get involved with our work and the progress we are making.  I am confident that by working with and listening to our communities, we can improve services throughout the region to create a healthier and happier future for our residents.”

 

Council put plans in place to support unaccompanied child asylum seekers

Plans to provide care and supported accommodation for unaccompanied child asylum seekers in Bridgend County Borough have moved a step forward.  The council’s cabinet have given their approval for the relevant modifications to be made to an existing contract with supported accommodation provider Dewis Ltd.

As part of the mandated National Transfer Scheme, The Home Office operates a rota, which requires local authorities within each region to ‘take it in turns’ to accept children into their care.  The Home Office previously advised that the Cwm Taf Morgannwg region has a maximum allocation of 91 unaccompanied children, which equates to an overall total of 29 children for Bridgend.  To date, the council has successfully placed six children by using our supported accommodation and independent foster agencies. However, placements in these environments are very limited.

Two more children are required to be placed into the care of Bridgend County Borough Council in the coming months. They are expected to arrive between January and March 2023. The duration of the mandatory placements is currently unknown.

A registered social housing landlord has recently offered the council a three-bedroom property, which is deemed to be very suitable for young people. The service requires a support team to be based in the home at appropriate times during the day to support young people in line with their specific needs.  The current supported accommodation contract in place with Dewis only allows a 10% change regarding the value of the contract but to meet the requirements of this mandatory scheme, a change of 36% is needed. The approval from cabinet, will now allow this change to be put into place.

Councillor Jane Gebbie, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Social Services and Early Help said: “It’s really important that we do all we can to make sure unaccompanied child asylum seekers receive all the support that they both need and deserve in Bridgend County Borough.  The contractual modifications will play a vital role in making sure that the children receive support that meets their individual needs.”

 

Policy to address unreasonable behaviour towards staff is approved by Cabinet

Cabinet has approved Bridgend County Borough Council’s revised policy to address unreasonable behaviour, which includes vexatious complainant behaviour, from members of the public.

Although usually positive, some contact with the public can be challenging.  In the last 12 months, only 0.9 per cent of complainants have been deemed as vexatious – one of the complainants, over a three-month period, called the council over 2,500 times, despite the issues raised having already been resolved. The considerable amount of officer and member time used in this situation is detrimental to the service that the council is trying to provide.

Unreasonable behaviour towards council staff is not limited to complaints and can also present as actual or threatened violence or abuse.

A policy dealing with such behaviour offers consistency amongst employees, as well as supporting officers in having a clear understanding of what is expected, what options are available and who can authorise these actions.

Councillor Rhys Goode, Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Future Generations, said: “The council is committed to responding openly and with transparency to all complaints. However, local authority staff have the right to feel safe and appreciated in their work and we have a clear set of values that do not tolerate unreasonable or abusive behaviour.  99.1 per cent of complaints are reasonable but unfortunately, there are a small number of complainants who treat our staff unreasonably.  Dealing with such vexatious complainant behaviour consumes resources and detracts support from other issues. This policy will enable these complainants to be managed more effectively.”

 

Cabinet approves of the council’s Play Sufficiency Action Plan

The cabinet of Bridgend County Borough Council has approved the Play Sufficiency Action Plan for 2022-2024.  The plan aims to secure optimum play opportunities for children and young people in a broad range of activities across the county borough.

As part of Welsh Government’s anti-poverty agenda, the council has a Play Sufficiency Duty.  This recognises the importance of play to wellbeing and how children and young people can be negatively affected by a ‘poverty of experience’, which includes a lack of play.  In this context, ‘play’ refers to a variety of activities including sport, recreation, culture, as well as youth work.

Following an in-depth assessment, the collated data has informed the action plan for 2022-2024.  The plan focuses on identifying challenges and reducing any disadvantages that children or young people may experience in accessing quality play opportunities.

Whilst there is a need to ensure equality in play provision for those living with disabilities, diverse or additional needs, the assessment has highlighted how the wellbeing of many young people has been adversely affected by the pandemic.  A challenge which the Play Sufficiency Action Plan aims to assist in addressing.

To become more accessible and inclusive, play opportunities may have to be reconsidered or designed differently, as well as shaped by the contribution of young people, partner organisations and communities – a ‘one council’ approach engaging with everyone, to rebuild local opportunities for play.

Councillor Rhys Goode, Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Future Generations, said “After the limitations that the pandemic placed on all our children and young people, opportunities for play are vital to rebuilding wellbeing and confidence.  Having access to quality places and spaces, as well as a diverse range of activities and opportunities, is paramount to the physical, mental and emotional health of our young people.  The council has a crucial role in highlighting the value of play opportunities to its partners and communities, so that we can continue to work together in improving the lives and wellbeing of our future generations.”