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Consultation - modernising care for older people in Rhondda Cynon Taf

Local residents will be able to have their say on proposals to modernise care for older people in Rhondda Cynon Taf – through a 12-week consultation on future options for both residential and day care services.

In November 2018, Cabinet Members agreed to consult on transformational options for the Local Authority’s care provision – and proposals put forward outlined options to substantially invest in and modernise residential and day care services to better meet the needs of the County Borough’s older residents. The consultation period will begin on Monday, January 14, and run for 12 weeks, ending on April 8.

During this period, the Council will provide information about the proposals to people living in its 11 residential care homes, along with advocacy support where required. The Council will also write to relatives and key stakeholders.

Engagement sessions will take place with staff and residents of each care home, along with staff and users of the Council’s day care centres at Tonyrefail, Trecynon, Riverside, Ferndale and Bronllwyn.

Members of the public will have access to information about the proposals from January 14, through a dedicated consultation webpage on the Council’s website. The Council will also use its social media accounts to promote the consultation, directing users to the homepage. Here, views and opinions can be conveyed in an online survey, while public ‘drop-in’ events will be held at:

Rhondda Sports Centre, Ystrad – March 13, 2019 (2pm to 8pm).
Sobell Leisure Centre, Aberdare – March 21, 2019 (2pm to 8pm).
Llantrisant Leisure Centre – March 28, 2019 (2pm to 8pm).

At the heart of the proposals is a planned £50m investment in Extra Care across Rhondda Cynon Taf – to build five brand new facilities and increase the total number of Extra Care places to 300 across the County Borough.

Extra Care delivers modern accommodation to allow residents to live as independently as possible in their own homes. They are modern, built-for-purpose buildings, where residents have 24/7 access to targeted support for their assessed needs.

Following an independent review, the following options are being consulted upon:

Residential Care

OPTION 1 – Continue existing arrangements.

OPTION 2 – Phased decommissioning of all Council care homes.

OPTION 3 – The Council retains some of its residential care homes, to focus on complex care. This is the Council’s preferred option.

Day Care

OPTION 1 – Continue existing arrangements.

OPTION 2 – Phased decommissioning of all five day care centres, introducing a new service model offering universal services and opportunities for older people in Community Hubs, along with day services for assessed care needs and specialist dementia care. This is the Council’s preferred option.

Councillor Geraint Hopkins, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Community Services and Welsh Language, said: “We understand that residential care and day care are very important Council services – and the Council truly believes that modernising care for older people now is the right thing to do, and at the right time.

“Local people will be able to have their say through a number of avenues within the 12-week consultation. Residential and day care users, along with relatives and key stakeholders, will be engaged by the Council internally – while members of the general public will have access to important information, and have the ability to contribute to the process online or in person.

“Our current residential care service has excellent staff and has served the County Borough well for decades, but the current offer is based on a more traditional model of care. Much of the estate is showing its age – not only in the condition of the buildings, but in its fundamental design and purpose.

“The Council has a duty to reflect on this model to meet the changing needs of older generations – and the proposals are based on high aspirations and tangible results from the one Extra Care facility currently available in Rhondda Cynon Taf, at Ty Heulog in Talbot Green. The Council believes Extra Care should be available to more people and the five new facilities, previously agreed by Cabinet, are at the heart of the future options put forward – along with the retention of complex care in the Council’s service delivery.

“With regard to day care, we have seen a large decrease in the number of users at our five centres. In September 2018 an average of just 200 people per day used the service – and this is predicted to further decline. The proposals again seek to utilise Extra Care, and also the Council’s Community Hubs programme, in a new model where the Council’s internal provision focuses on complex care.

“I would urge residents to take part in this extensive 12-week consultation, by finding more information on the consultation webpage, completing the survey and attending one of our community ‘drop in’ events.”

The consultation material will be published on January 14, and will be available to view on the following link: www.rctcbc.gov.uk/consultations.

 

 

Additional train services have been added between Cardiff and the Valleys

Additional train services are now in operation between Cardiff and the Valleys, including several services that have been added on Sundays.

Transport for Wales issued its new timetable changes this month and they are now in operation.

It brings some good news to train commuters who, in some places, have seen much travel disruption since the franchise took over.

But now services have been added between Cardiff and Aberdare and Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil.

Other services have also been altered slightly so you are advised to check your journeys.

What services have been added?

Monday to Friday
5.51am Aberdare to Cardiff Central
6.08am Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff Central

Sunday

9.22am Aberdare to Cardiff Central
11.53am Aberdare to Cardiff Central
5.53pm Aberdare to Cardiff Central
7.53pm Aberdare to Cardiff Central

10.41am Cardiff Central to Aberdare
4.41pm Cardiff Central to Aberdare
6.41pm Cardiff Central to Aberdare

 

Several council-run care homes in Rhondda Cynon Taf are set to close

Several care homes in Rhondda Cynon Taf will close under a council proposal to shake up care for the elderly.

The local authority has not said how many of the 11 council-run care homes in the borough would stay closed or open under its proposal, which it is putting out to consultation.

A recommendation put forward by consultants Practice Solutions in an independent review had suggested closing all 11.

However the council’s preferred option is to keep some open of the homes open. It said this would provide choice, protect against market failure and allow it to provide more specialist care.

The council said the amount of homes that remain open would be based on the capacity it thinks it needs in each of the Rhondda, Cynon and Taf areas.

The council currently provides 322 beds across 11 care homes including approximately 145 beds for people with dementia.

In place of the care homes, the council is in the process of developing 300 places in “extra care” facilities across RCT which were agreed in a £50m plan in 2017.

The first of six so called “extra care” schemes is already underway in Aberaman and will provide 40 apartments.

In “extra care” schemes, elderly people live in their own apartments in blocks where they can receive the level of care and domestic support that they need.

If this plan is agreed, a further period of consultation would be needed with residents and staff before a final decision is made after which a planned relocation of all residents would take place, with support and assessments put in place to assist them with change and to accommodate their choice of home

The council says there a is shift towards more community-based options when it comes to care but that there is still an over reliance on care homes with Rhondda Cynon Taf still placing a greater proportion of people aged 65 or over in residential care than other Welsh authorities.

The current average occupancy of the council homes is 88% and the council says it is unlikely that demand for its care homes will increase substantially in the near future.

Councillor Geraint Hopkins is the council’s cabinet member for adult community services and the Welsh language said he believes as a matter of principle that the council should keep a presence in the RCT care market.

He said: “It is right that we are looking at this now because the council doesn’t just have a duty to the citizens of RCT now but a duty to prepare the way for future generations as well.

“There is a requirement that we retain a presence within the care market in RCT.

“We have a very talented staff workforce that we need to work with as well.”

Councillor Pauline Jarman, the leader of the opposition, said she expects the process for engaging is “robust, impartial and non-judgemental.

“That the people are not only heard but listened to.

“Troedyrhiw home is in my ward and has served the community well. It has an excellent reputation as have all our homes.”

Five care workers slept on the job and used care facilities to bake and do their own laundry

Peter Crews, the branch secretary for Unison in the Cwm Taf area, said that their priority is their members and that they would not accept any compulsory redundancies.

“We do support the investment being brought in to develop new residential facilities called extra care.

“No services can stand still. We are willing to work with the council but we are looking for a commitment.

“There is going to be an impact on certain homes and staffing. We will do everything we possibly can to protect their (care home staff) jobs.

“They now there needs to be change but change for the right reason.”

Councillor Andrew Morgan, the leader of the council, said he knows there are members of staff who have indicated already that they would like to leave.

He said: “We can give a commitment that whatever comes at the end of this we think we can accommodate staff so we won’t be facing compulsory redundancies. This is a process. There would be managed change.

“I am confident we can give some assurances to staff.”

 


Pupils build their own bridges with Cross Valley Link contractor

The Council’s contractor for the Mountain Ash Cross Valley Link scheme has been building even more bridges in the community – with the help of local primary school pupils.

Joint venture contractor Walters-Sisk has teamed up with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Wales to carry out Bridge to Schools sessions with pupils from Miskin Primary School and Pengeulan Primary School. The sessions include hands-on activities for Year 5 and Year 6 pupils, who helped construct a 15-metre long cable-stayed bridge in the comfort of their schools.

The Cross Valley Link has long been an aspiration for the Mountain Ash community and the Council. It will see a 60-metre bridge built over the railway line and river, creating a new link between Miskin Road and Cwm Cynon Industrial Estate. The scheme, set for completion in winter 2019, will improve traffic flow in Mountain Ash and the wider A4059 corridor in the Cynon Valley.

The project has now reached its main construction phase, after significant road improvements were delivered at Cardiff Road and the A4059/Cwm Cynon Industrial Estate junction. More than £12.2m has been allocated to the project, including £4.894m from the Welsh Government – which has also confirmed a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) required for the project.

Walters-Sisk carried out the Bridge to Schools sessions at Miskin Primary on Monday and Tuesday (December 3-4), and with Pengeulan Primary pupils at Miskin Baptist Church on Wednesday and Thursday (December 5-6). Having built their bridges pupils then tested their structure – by walking across it!

The pupils learned about construction using simple methods, along with important health and safety information. They also developed team-building skills and confidence, as the sessions also brought together a number of Curriculum subjects – including Maths, Design & Technology and Science.

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Highways, said: “The Council’s contractor for the Cross Valley Link has taken the time to visit two of our local primary schools in Mountain Ash, to help pupils build their very own bridges. It was great to see so many enthusiastic pupils working as a team to build the model structures, and taking part in the sessions with smiles on their faces.

“We are entering exciting times for the Cross Valley Link, with the main construction phase now underway and plenty of activity on site. The bridge itself will be installed next year, as we look to complete the project by the winter of 2019. The new road will have a huge impact locally, improving traffic flow – especially at peak times – in and around Mountain Ash.

“I’d like to thank our joint venture contractor Walters-Sisk for carrying out the Bridge to Schools sessions, along with staff and pupils at Miskin Primary and Pengeulan Primary for hosting the sessions and taking part so well.”

 

Swimming Pool Reopens At Abercynon Leisure Centre

The public swimming pool at Abercynon Leisure Centre has re-opened after substantial Council investment funded through its on-going #RCTinvest programme.

A total of £450,000 has been spent on improvements at Abercynon Leisure Centre over the past few months - including the complete refurbishment of the swimming pool area.

Works include the relining of the main pool and refurbishment of the pool tank, along with an upgrade of the pool hall ventilation system and improved ceiling and lighting.

Abercynon Leisure Centre Swimming Pool is now open

The works also includes a full refurbishment of both Male and Female pool changing rooms – including showers, toilets, lockers, benches and new changing cubicles and refurbished facilities for customers with disabilities.

This forms part of the Council’s continued commitment to create modern, attractive Leisure Centres throughout the County Borough that encourages residents to enjoy a healthier lifestyle through its Leisure for Life initiative.

Councillor Ann Crimmings, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services, said: “The completion of the major refurbishment at Abercynon Leisure Centre is fantastic news for all users.

“The newly-relined public pool is a key facility at the centre, adding to all the other classes and facilities that are on offer for existing users and new users as part of the Council’s successful Leisure for Life initiative.

“Meanwhile, the improvement of the changing rooms will ensure that this popular facility provides users with a positive experience from the moment they walk through the door.

“Following user feedback, the Council also took the decision to invest in improving changing room facilities at our leisure centres, and the completion of the works means that Abercynon Leisure Centre is the latest indoor centre to benefit, after Bronwydd Pool and Rhondda Sports Centre.

“The Sobell Leisure Centre in Aberdare will be the next leisure centre to benefit from the changing room improvement programme and the Council will communicate further details in due course.

“This Council’s on-going investment in our indoor and outdoor leisure facilities highlights our continued commitment to create modern leisure facilities suitable for all ages across our County Borough.”

Are you a Leisure for Life member? If not, register online today

Leisure for Life is an easy, affordable leisure membership which was introduced in line with the Council’s investment to encourage more people to get involved in leisure activities in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Members can enjoy unlimited access to Abercynon Leisure Centre as well as swimming, gym, fitness classes and indoor sport at other Leisure Centres across the County Borough.

For more details of all that is on offer at Abercynon Leisure Centre visit www.rctcbc.gov.uk or call 01443 740141. Keep up to date with the latest leisure and fitness news around Rhondda Cynon Taf by searching for and liking your local/preferred Council leisure centre on Facebook.

Booking classes and sessions has also never been easier - you can now do this via the Leisure for Life APP. Download the new Leisure for Life APP for more information about its benefits.

 


Your Neighbours Need You – looking out for one another during snow

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is launching its Your Neighbours Need You campaign, to encourage residents to be ‘good neighbours’ and look out for one another during periods of severe winter weather.

This campaign was recommended by the Council’s Public Service Delivery Scrutiny Committee, to support the wider work of the Council to prepare for the potential of severe weather during the winter period.

Last winter, the County Borough experienced two periods of snow with freezing temperatures – in December 2017 and March 2018. While the Council’s proactive approach and comprehensive response was praised, there’s always more that can be done in preparation for severe weather.

Your Neighbours Need You

The Council has since bought three 4x4 vehicles fitted with snow ploughs, which can access side roads that its larger lorries cannot. Also, in October 2018, Cabinet agreed that the Council should encourage communities to come together, with neighbours helping each other during extreme weather.

The Your Neighbours Need You campaign encourages residents to help each other – and in particular vulnerable people – during periods of heavy snowfall. It promotes a number of small actions that ‘good neighbours’ can undertake during severe winter weather – which could bring freezing temperatures, an inaccessible road network and a halt to services.

A new campaign website has been published on the Council’s website, to provide detailed information and advice on how to be a ‘good neighbour’ when the snow strikes. Here is a broad summary of the advice being provided:

Checking in on your neighbours – especially elderly or vulnerable people, who may be reliant on important services or help which cannot be delivered during periods of severe winter weather. From offering to do their shopping to ensuring their heating is working, small acts could make a big difference.
Spreading salt from grit bins – when temperatures fall, the Council will spread salt on priority roads and ensure grit bins are topped up. But residents can do their bit too, by spreading ordinary salt on footways and ensuring their own driveways, and those of neighbours, are covered – when safe to do so.
Clearing snow safely – the Council will target key roads and town centres to clear snow, bringing in contractors where possible. However, it is inevitable the Council can’t reach every street in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Individuals can do their bit, clearing snow when it is safe to do so.
Keep up to date with news – and pass it on! – keep an eye on Council social media during periods of severe weather. The accounts will provide up-to-date information including important advice on travel, road closures, weather updates and services. Elected Members will also provide vital local information, so look out for messages from your Local Councillor. Share any important messages with neighbours.
Servicing your vehicles – motorists should consider whether it is safe to drive, and whether their journey is absolutely necessary. If it is safe to drive, a number of checks and actions should be taken by motorists. For example, check tyre pressures and pack an emergency kit, including blankets, just in case. Sources such as the RAC and AA will provide more information about this.

Councillor Steve Bradwick, Chair of the Public Service Delivery, Communities and Prosperity Scrutiny Committee, said: “This important campaign has resulted from our scrutiny working group, established to consider how communities can support the Council’s response to severe winter weather.

“The Your Neighbours Need You campaign is promoting the small actions which can be undertaken by residents, which will make a big difference to an individual or community when bad weather strikes. It is especially important that neighbours do their bit to support elderly or vulnerable residents.

“The two periods of inclement weather experienced last year brought significant disruption across the County and, whilst the Council had taken a number of steps to prepare for the onset of the weather, the volume of the snowfall presented major issues to many of our communities.

“The Council only has limited resources in tackling the disruption and must always prioritise the condition on our main routes, so we are asking the public to help us – particularly in our side streets.

“Severe episodes of winter weather often prompt us to stay inside in the warm, although I would urge residents to think whether ‘Your Neighbours Need You’ – especially if they are elderly, as they may not have access to the services they may rely on.”

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Highways, added: “In response to the work of scrutiny, Cabinet Members made a commitment for the Council to promote community self-help during times of extreme winter weather, with residents looking after one another when snow could – in the very worst circumstances – result in services being stopped, roads being impassable and communities being isolated.

“This campaign has come about following the valuable work undertaken by the Public Service Delivery, Communities and Prosperity Scrutiny Working Group. A report by the Group was put before Cabinet in October 2018, and it has informed these changes.

“The Council’s proactive approach to the severe weather in December 2017 and March 2018 was widely praised, and the Your Neighbours Need You campaign, along with the purchase of brand new 4x4 snow ploughs, will ensure that we are even better prepared when the snow next hits.

“This campaign is another valuable piece of work undertaken by the Council’s scrutiny functions.”

The Your Neighbours Need You Campaign was one of a number recommendations made by the Public Services Scrutiny Committee to the Council’s Cabinet, to support the Local Authority in preparing for winter weather. The consideration of this matter by scrutiny followed a Notice of Motion to establish a voluntary snow warden scheme in Rhondda Cynon Taf, tabled in the names of Cllr Pauline Jarman and Cllr Shelley Rees-Owen.
Follow the campaign on social media through #NeighboursNeedYouRCT, and visit our new Your Neighbours Need You homepage on our website: www.rctcbc.gov.uk/NeighboursNeedYou.

 


Turning Empty Properties Into Affordable Homes

Cabinet has agreed a three-year plan to build upon its successful approaches to date in tackling to reduce the number of empty properties in the County Borough.

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is continuing its work in partnership with local housing providers and private sector landlords in order to bring vacant homes across the County Borough back onto the housing market.

Cabinet has agreed to implement its Empty Homes Strategy to the increase further, the pace of progress, to tackle the issue of vacant properties in Rhondda Cynon Taf and address the impact they can have upon communities.

Councillor Robert Bevan, Cabinet Member for Enterprise, Development and Housing, said: "Housing continues to be a priority for the Council as we work in close partnership with local housing providers and private sector landlords to tackle issues such as empty properties and to increase the supply of affordable housing.

“The Council’s Empty Property Strategy for 2018-21 reinforces the work we have already done and sets out how we are going to continue to deliver improvements to our housing stock in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

"Many people live near an empty property, some of which have been neglected for some time. This can result in anything from an overgrown garden encroaching on neighbouring properties, an environmental eyesore, fears of crime and anti-social behaviour, and health and safety impacts on neighbouring properties.

"Over the years we have delivered advice and, where necessary, enforcement to force the owners of empty homes to take responsibility. This has included us delivering essential work and then recovering the cost from the owner.

"Apart from the fact empty homes can be a blight we will not tolerate- and will take action against - they are also a waste of valuable housing stock that local people are relying upon and a missed opportunity for economic gain.

“While it is acknowledged that good progress has already been made in bringing empty homes back into use across our County Borough, back by significant investment over the last few years, the scale of the problem still persists and continues to present problems in many of our communities.

“As such, a strong strategic approach is now required which will make a difference to both the scale of empty homes that are brought back into use as well as having a more fundamental impact; as we move forward with this plan there may be a need to for more radical and bold action to tackling this issue.

“This plan seeks to ensure that we continue our solid progress on this matter using all the necessary mechanism available to us as a local authority.

"We recognise there is more to be done and the Empty Homes Strategy sets out, over the next year, how we will strengthen partnerships with the community and social/private landlords, harness our legal powers and draw in as much funding as we can to continue to deal with this issue."

The most recent annual assessment of empty homes identified 3,500 properties that have stood empty for at least six months and, most challenging, 684 that have been empty for at least four years. It is these 684 properties that will be focussed on the most in the coming years.

With an estimate 738 affordable homes predicted to be needed every year in the coming years, it makes sense for the Council and its partners in the housing sector to step up their application of both proactive and preventative tactics, which include:

Information and advice for landlords and owners of empty homes on the loans available to them to enable properties to be renovated.
Promotion of grant funding available to property owners and landlords, as well as would-be homebuyers, to renovate an empty property to a high standard.
Partnerships with housing associations to purchase vacant homes, renovate them to a professional specification and then sell or let them.
Enforcement action against those who refuse to take the steps that are required to be undertaken by law.

Applying a range of these tactics in recent years has seen 600 empty properties in Rhondda Cynon Taf returned to the open market, with over 1,400 interventions delivered by Empty Property Officers working to raise the standard of properties.

However, it is a frustration that in some communities, as soon as one empty property is dealt with, another becomes vacant and neglected.

 


Valleys Taskforce Investment for Dare Valley Country Park

The Dare Valley Country Park in Aberdare has been identified as one of the first six Valleys parks and heritage sites, after the Valleys Taskforce announced that the Discovery Gateways are to share a combined £7m of investment.

On Tuesday, November 27, Alun Davies AM, the Chair of the Ministerial Taskforce for the South Wales Valleys, announced that the Dare Valley Country Park would join Caerphilly Castle, Cwmcarn Forest, Blaenavon World Heritage Visitor Centre, Cyfarthfa Park and Bryngarw Country Park as the first sites to form the Valleys Regional Park, which will aim to exploit the area’s rich natural beauty and strong cultural heritage.

It is envisaged that the Valleys Regional Park will deliver exciting social, economic and environmental benefits in encouraging more tourism into the area and more active lifestyles for residents, by utilising the £7m of investment to create high-quality Active Travel routes across the wider Valleys area.

Councillor Ann Crimmings, RCT Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services, said: “I am delighted that the Dare Valley Country Park has been identified by the Valleys Taskforce as one of the six Discovery Gateways that will form a key part of the Valleys Regional Park.

“There is something on offer for everyone here at the Dare Valley Country Park - our network of countryside walks and trails offers beautiful scenery to those looking to explore the landscapes in the area, whilst the 'Y Cwtch' cafe provides a warm and friendly meeting place with lovely views to accompany a well-deserved hot drink!

“The Council recognises the potential that Aberdare and the upper Cynon Valley has in drawing tourism into our County Borough, with the popular Penderyn Distillery located a short distance away and the lovely Aberdare Park situated just a few minutes away from the town centre, and I’m sure that the decision of the Valleys Taskforce to identify the Dare Valley Country Park as a key Valleys location will provide a further long-term boost for the local area.”

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