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Comment: Looking Out for the Elderly and Vulnerable

February 16, 2016 11:46 AM

One of the core values of the Welsh Liberal Party, that has always been central to the Welsh Liberal Democrats since our establishment, following the merger with the SDP, has been looking out for the elderly and the vulnerable - the vital importance of advocacy, on behalf of those whose voice would otherwise not be heard.

Autism Diagnosis Delays

It is this that motivated me as Chair of the National Assembly's Petitions Committee, when the Pembrokeshire Branch of the National Autistic Society presented us with a mass petition. Their concern was the shocking waiting time experienced by parents of children and young people on the autistic spectrum ahead of a confirmed diagnosis. The Deputy Minister shared our concern about the state of affairs in Pembrokeshire - and set in train an improvement plan, not just in the County, but in the wider Hywel Dda Health Board area

Dementia Home Petition

It was the same instinct that informed my approach to the petition from Brooklands Nursing Home at Saundersfoot, when Pembrokeshire Council thought it was acceptable to site a civic amenity facility next door to their specialist dementia care centre. Mercifully the local authority had cause to think again, but only after considerable distress had been caused to the residents and their families. I am proud to have stood by them at that time.

Concerns for the Avenue Centre

Just last Thursday, I joined over 100 people at a public meeting in the de Valence Pavillion in Tenby to send a clear message to Pembrokeshire Council over our concerns on the future of the Avenue Centre. Since Pembrokeshire Council first launched its ''consultation,'' fears have been expressed about the closure of the much-loved centre for adults with learning disabilities. More than 2,500 people have now signed petitions opposing the centre's closure and Pembrokeshire County Council Chairman, Councillor Wynne Evans, was presented with the petition to take to County Hall.

Clear steer to retain the Centre

I am particularly grateful to Tenby Town Council for heeding the call from Avenue Centre campaigner Kate Schofield, whose twin sister, Maggie, has been attending the centre since she was a teenager. I agree strongly with Tenby Town Clerk, Andrew Davies, who commented after the meeting that his Council now had ''a very clear steer that the Town wants to retain not only the provision of the Avenue Centre's services but the Centre itself.''

100% solidarity

It was humbling to see the residents of Tenby, but also of adjacent communities come together to support the Avenue Centre. The parents, family, carers and excellent staff of the Centre - and the vulnerable adults who use the Centre themselves - clearly form an integral part of the Tenby community. It is crystal clear to me that, whilst Pembrokeshire Council may seek to treat the Avenue Centre clients at the Avenue as a small and isolated group, the people of Tenby and district are showing 100% solidarity with them.

Social Services & Wellbeing Act

In its handling of the matter to date, I do not believe that the County Council has met either the spirit or the letter of the Social Services and Wellbeing Act Wales. In doing so, it risks exposing the most vulnerable people in our community to uncertainty and fear."