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A Branch Publication for Caerphilly UNISON Members UNISON Branch Office: 01443 863279 Issue 16 – December 2016

Mental Health Mental health services across the UK are struggling as a result of chronic underfunding and increased demand. This is having a negative effect on people who use these services and on the health and wellbeing of the staff that provide them.

Christmas can be a wonderful time and it can also for many people a time of additional strain and sadness, so if you have any emerging panic or anxiety, think about doing the following count down from 5,4,3,2,1 below :

5: Say / acknowledge 5 things you see around you. Maybe a pencil, window, car, spot on the ceiling, however big or small, state 5 things you see. 4: Say / acknowledge 4 things you can touch around you. Maybe this is your hair, the table, ground, cat, pillow, etc, whatever it may be, list out the 4 things you can feel. 3: Say / acknowledge 3 things you hear. This needs to be external, do not focus on your thoughts; maybe you can hear a clock, a car, a dog park. or maybe you hear your tummy rumbling, internal noises that make external sounds can count, what is audible in the moment is what you list. 2: Say / acknowledge 2 things you can smell: This one might be hard if you are not in a stimulating environment, if you cannot automatically sniff something out, walk nearby to find a scent. Maybe you walk to your bathroom to smell soap or outside to smell anything in nature, or even could be as simple as leaning over and smelling a pillow on the couch, or a pencil. Whatever it may be, take in the smells around you. 1. Say / acknowledge 1 thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like, gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch? Focus on your mouth as the last step and take in what you can taste. The point of the above is that we often don’t know why the anxiety has emerged or what’s causing it putting us in an ‘emotional state’… we feel something but don’t know why? Doing the count down from 5 to 1 moves our brain out of the ‘emotional’ state and into a ‘thinking state. Moving into the logical part of our brains can provide a temporary breather from the ‘feeling state’ and make us feel a little more in control. has some useful advice as to how to reduce stress at Christmas “10 commandments to Reduce Stress”- It may help. What is mental health?

read the advices that: “Mental health is the mental and emotional state in which we feel able to cope with the normal stresses of everyday life. If we are feeling good about ourselves we often work productively, interact well with colleagues and make a valuable contribution to our team or workplace. Positive mental health is rarely an absolute state. One may feel in good mental health generally but also suffer stress or anxiety from time to time. Mental ill-health can range from feeling 'a bit down' to common disorders such as anxiety and depression and, in limited cases, to severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Mental health problems cost employers in the UK ÂŁ30 billion a year through lost production, recruitment and absence - so why aren't we doing more about it? The answer is straightforward. Despite the fact that it is very common - one in four of us will suffer mental health problems during our lives - we find it very difficult to talk about. It often seems too personal, too deep and too complex. You might feel very happy to tell a colleague about a physical injury you've sustained, but when it comes to your mental health, where do you start? If you can't talk about it, it may prove equally difficult to listen. Care First is an anonymous service provided by the Council and is available 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Useful helplines: MINDFUL EMPLOYER is a UK-wide initiative run by Workways, a service of Devon Partnership NHS Trust. Developed, led and supported by employers, the MINDFUL EMPLOYER initiative is aimed at increasing awareness of mental health at work and providing support for businesses in recruiting and retaining staff. Tel: 01392 677064 • Mind Mind is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. It campaigns to create a better life for everyone with experience of mental distress. Tel: 0300 123 3393

• Rethink Mental Illness Rethink is the largest national voluntary sector provider of mental health services with 340 services and more than 130 support groups. It helps over 48,000 people every year through its services, support groups and by providing information on mental health problems. Helpline: 0300 5000 927 Mind and Rethink are running an anti-stigma campaign to end the discrimination that surrounds mental health. The campaign is called ‘Time to change’ and more information is available at • NHS Choices The NHS website has a wide range of advice and practical tools for raising awareness of mental health issues, self-management of symptoms and sources of further specialist help. • Centre for Mental Health The Centre for Mental Health works to improve the quality of life for people with mental health problems by influencing policy and practice in mental health and related services. It focuses on criminal justice and employment. Tel: 020 7827 8300 • Shaw Trust Shaw Trust is a national charity that provides training and work opportunities for people who are disadvantaged in the labour market due to disability, ill health or other social circumstances. Tel: 01225 716300 • Employers’ Forum on Disability The Employers’ Forum on Disability is the world’s leading employers’ organisation focused on disability as it affects business. Funded and managed by over 400 members, it aims to make it easier to recruit and retain disabled employees and to serve disabled customers. Tel: 020 7403 3020 Your union representative has other support numbers that may not be listed here, please contact us if there you need support in areas that may not be covered above.

Mental Health Awareness Week This year we held an informal session on world mental health week bringing together a range of partners from 3rd sector, such as charities like Mind, social care (our own), to raise awareness and start a conversation on good mental health. Members supported the event and all the cakes were eaten! We received good feedback for the event and so will consider running it again at the next Mental Health awareness week.

Menopause and the workplace survey Why? Women aged 16-64 comprise approximately half (48%) of the Welsh workforce (ONS Employment stats March 2016). When looking specifically at over 50s in the Welsh workforce, 44% are Women (ONS stats March 2016). They represent over 213,000 workers (ONS Employment stats). Consequently, many women in today’s Welsh workplaces are, or will be working through a little discussed stage of life, the menopause. Menopause is part of the natural ageing process for women, which refers to the point in time when menstruation has ceased for 12 consecutive months. This occurs naturally, usually between the ages of 45-55. In UK, the average age is 52. Symptoms associated with the menopause can include hot flushes, palpitations, night sweats, sleep disturbances, fatigue, poor concentration, irritability, mood disturbances, skin irritation and dryness. The period of hormonal change and associated symptoms (peri-menopause) can last from four to eight years with women suffering varying degrees of symptoms during that time. The Wales TUC is interested in investigating how Welsh employers are responding to this issue and what the experiences of women in the workplace are. We would like you to complete this survey as honestly as you can. Your personal data will always be kept 100% confidential, but we may use the broad trends gathered from this data to influence and create guidance for workplaces, in order to enhance the experience of hundreds of thousands of women at work during this time in their lives. This survey is open to men and women, union member and nonunion member. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission This website is wonderful resource and allows you to choose between an individual or business or employer to make it easy to find the information you need, it can be accessed at Most recent additions include ‘free discrimination in the workplace courses (starting in October 2016) and a new report on how to create faith friendly workplaces. Additionally you can call on 0808 800 0082

Upcoming UNISON Conferences   

2017 Black members conference - 20-22nd January 2017 2017 Women’s Conference 16-18 February 2017. 2017 Health Conference for unisons health care service group. 24-26 April – Liverpool

If you are interested in attending any of the above conferences please contact the branch.

Local Government Reform Local Government Secretary Mark Drakeford has set out a clear timetable for talks on local government reform and called on councils to use the next eighteen months to prepare for the challenges ahead. Local government will see an increase in its funding for 2017-18 of £3.8 million compared to 201617. This is the first increase in the settlement for local government since 2013-14. The settlement includes £25 million to support the delivery of services throughout Wales. Mark Drakeford called on councils to keep working with the Welsh Government and keep up the momentum for a new Local Government Bill.

Mark Drakeford said: “I have listened carefully about the corrosive impact that uncertainty has had on our councils and I’m mindful of the fact that we’ve not been able to agree a way forward in the past. “I’ve now set out a new set of proposals based on an enhanced level of systematic and mandatory regional working. I think we’re all aware that there is a real reputational risk to local government if we can’t move forwards on these proposals. We simply can’t afford to step back. That’s why I will be meeting with you all over the coming weeks so we can reach a consensus by the end of the calendar year. “This will be followed by formal consultation in January, concluding before the local government elections next year. If we get the process right, then we’ll be able to move quickly towards a new Local Government Bill that provides Local Government with the means to address the significant challenges of continuing austerity, rising demand for certain services, higher public expectations and Brexit which lie ahead. “Looking at the bigger picture, we need to remember why reform is so important and the reason is this: local government makes a real difference. Councils provide the services which touch everybody’s lives, every day; whether it’s educating our children, looking after our elderly, disposing of our waste or lighting our streets. That is why we need to create a new relationship between the public and their local councils.

Pensions State pension changes The basic state pension and the second state pension ended on 6 April and were replaced by a new combined state pension. Members with a workplace pension (ie local government or NHS pension scheme) or private sector pensions, stopped paying the reduced National Insurance contributions rate of 10.6%, which reflects the fact that they were not contributing to the second state pension. Instead, they will pay the standard rate of NI contributions – 12% on earnings between £8,060 a year and £43,004 a year – and earn a higher state pension. Anyone earning more than £43,004 a year, or £827 a week, will continue to pay 2% on earnings above that figure. From 6 April, the full state pension for anyone who has 35 years of qualifying NI payments, is £155.65 a week, which will increase each year by either average earnings, consumer price index (CPI) inflation or 2.5% - whichever is higher. But anyone in a workplace pension scheme and not in the second state pension would have qualified just for the basic state pension before April. So their minimum new state pension will be the basic state pension. With 30 qualifying years it is £119.30 a week at April. But any work, and NI payments, after April will go toward building a higher pension, up to the maximum of £155.65 a week (subject to yearly increases). For each year a member pays the new higher NI rates, they will earn an extra £4.45 a week, up to the maximum. So most members in workplace pension schemes will be paying more national insurance, but earning extra state pension at a very reasonable price. As the new full state pension is still below the poverty line, members should not leave their workplace pension scheme. In the LGPS, where the opt-out rates are highest among low-paid staff, members who feel they cannot afford the higher NI and LGPS contributions should consider paying half their normal contributions for a lower benefit until they can afford to pay at the full rate again. And everyone should apply for an up-to-date state pension statement. There is a danger that a number of people who reach pension age after April will be worse off as spouse’s pensions attached to the basic state pension are being withdrawn. They will not be able to increase their state pension using their spouse’s or civil partner’s – or late or former spouse’s or civil partner’s – NI contributions. However, people who are widowed may still be able to inherit some additional state pension under transitional rules.

Pensions increase This April the cost of living increase on pensions in payment (and deferred pensions for those who have left) for public service schemes was zero. This is because the measure to determine cost of living increases over the 12 month period at September was the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) and at September it was minus 0.1 %. Only the State Pension increased in April. State Pension continues to be increased by the ‘triple lock’. That is by the higher of: 1. The CPI 2. 2.5% 3. National Average Earnings For the first time since the link to average earnings was introduced in 2011 the average earnings were higher than both prices and 2.5% so the state pension increased by 2.9% The chart below shows how state pension and public service pensions have increased since 2011 and how they would have increased if the Retail Prices Index (RPI) had not been changed to CPI in 2011.

The effect of negative inflation on members contributing to the LGPS and NHSPS. As the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) and Principle Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS) revalue Career Average Revalued Earnings CARE accounts in line with CPI the accounts for 2015/16 were slightly reduced (no more than a couple of pounds in most cases). The government was called to account as UNISON persuaded the shadow treasury team to force a debate and division in parliament. We continued to point out the flaws in CPI. The NHS Pension Scheme builds up pension at a slower rate than the LGPS or PCSPS in return for a higher revaluation rate so CARE accounts will go up by 1.4%

Lifetime ISA (LISA) from April 2017 In this year’s budget George Osborne announced his wish to introduce a Lifetime ISA for 18-40 year olds from 6 April next year. The seeming intention is to offer a more flexible savings vehicle that attracts government bonuses for an age cohort that typically lags behind others in saving. In the UNISON submission to the Work and Pensions Committee on auto enrolment we concluded that we could not see how a LISA can be a realistic alternative to a pension arrangement for the vast majority of our members. We are very concerned that the introduction of a LISA is a pretext for reducing tax relief on member and employer contributions to pension schemes. In our view the money the government is spending on LISA bonuses is likely to be of most benefit to those on higher incomes and with disposable cash to put in a LISA and get the bonus to put towards buying a first property. So what are the key points? 

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The government will give savers a 25% bonus on savings up to £4,000 every year, that’s £1 extra for each £4 you save so if you contribute the maximum yearly amount of £4,000 you will receive an additional £1,000 as a bonus. You will only be able to receive bonuses up to age 50. So for example, if you started at 18 this would be £32,000 or if you started at 40, this would be £10,000. You can withdraw the money at any time before you turn 60 but you will lose the government bonus (and any interest or growth on this) and will also have to pay a 5% charge. If you draw your money out before 60 for the specific purpose of buying a home you will get the full value of your savings plus the government bonus. If you leave the money to age 60 you can withdraw all of the funds tax-free. Savings are made from taxed income (or other savings pots you may have) but once invested the money will grow free of tax and can be withdrawn tax-free (subject to being 60 or over at the point of withdrawal).

We all know money can be tight but we would warn against saving in this at the expense of your workplace pension scheme which is still likely to present the best method of saving for your retirement. Don’t forget that you get full tax-relief on your pension contributions plus a contribution from your employer that can be very significant in many cases. Pension schemes commonly offer protection in the event of death, ill-health and redundancy as well.

Stars In Our Schools UNISON organises this nationwide celebration of the hard work by dedicated staff tucked away behind the scenes of our schools – from cleaners to catering staff, teaching and classroom assistants to technicians, admin workers to maintenance staff and many more. Today we celebrated Stars in our Schools with the wonderful support staff of Trinity Fields school and resource centre. It’s a busy, forward-looking school that provides education and specialist facilities for pupils aged 3 to 19 with a wide range of learning difficulties. The support staff are the backbone of the operation and today was a chance to say ‘thank you for all that you do’.

TAs Jane, Patricia, Annette and Moe – having a much needed tea break with UNISON cake and goodies. The work is non-stop so even the morning break must be tightly timed to ensure ratios of staff to pupils are always in place.

School UNISON rep Angela Macaulay pictured with Assistant Branch Secretary Juan Garcia. Angela is a TA 4 – Catering and Hospitality. Angela runs the schools cafe ‘Caffi Oren’ along with a group of 14-19 year olds. Through supporting the pupils to cook and work in the cafe serving staff, Angela is giving them vital work experience, teaching social skills and building confidence. She is a star!

We chatted with Terri, Gary and Amy work about the work they do as TAs. They are stars!

Head teacher of Upper Rhymney Primary Samantha King was fully supportive of the Stars In Our Schools Event.

Head teacher of Trinity Fields Ian Elliot was fully supportive of Stars tea break. He said “Our TAs and support staff are absolute stars in our school. They enable our pupils to learn every single day and support the teachers to do their work”

Head teacher of Upper Rhymney Primary Samantha King supporting the Stars In Our Schools event.

Branch Support Officer Jordan Marsden delivering goodie bags and cakes to the school staff.

Teaching Assistants – The stars of the school. Celebrating the wonderful work they do every day and to make sure the world knows just how vital they are to children’s education.

Annual General Meetings Invites for Unison's aggregated Annual General Meetings have been posted to all members. This year six meetings have been arranged to give every member a choice of day and time. Tuesday 21st February 2017 12.30 p.m. – 1.30 p.m. in The Rhymney Room, Ty Penallta 5.30 p.m. – 6.30 p.m. in The Rhymney Room, Ty Penallta Thursday 23rd February 2017 12.30 p.m. – 1.30 p.m. in The Rhymney Room, Ty Penallta 5.30 p.m. – 6.30 p.m. in The Rhymney Room, Ty Penallta Tuesday 28th February 2017 12.30 p.m. – 1.30 p.m. in The Rhymney Room, Ty Penallta 5.30 p.m. – 6.30 p.m. in The Rhymney Room, Ty Penallta Nomination forms for Officer and Steward positions are attached to the invites. If you wish to stand for any of these positions, or know of a colleague who shows an interest, please complete the nomination form and return it to the branch.

Are your details up to date? To help us support you and provide you with the most up to date information, the branch office needs to keep accurate membership records. Keeping your UNISON membership details up to date ensures that you are kept up to date with the latest communications and activities of the branch. In this time of large organisational change it is likely you will have moved job or location, your post title has changed or maybe your personal circumstances have changed in relation to name or address.

If you navigate to and log in with your membership number (if you don't have that to hand you can contact UNISON direct on 0800 0 857 857) and check over your details and provide us with any amendments that need made.

Caerphilly Unison Branch Officers list: 2016 Gary Enright (Branch Secretary)

LGBT Officer - Vacant Post

Juan Garcia (Assistant Branch Secretary, Labour Link & H&S Officer)

Education & Training Officer - Vacant Post Nicola Roberts (Branch Auditor)

Bob Campbell (Chair, Pensions Officer, Joint Sports & Social Officer)

Dave Roberts (Branch Auditor)

Lianne Dallimore (Vice Chair)

International Officer – Vacant Post

Gwyn James (Treasurer)

Black Members' Officer – Vacant Post

Gareth Williams (Deputy Treasurer, Joint Sports & Social Officer)

Ciaran Owen (Disabled Members' Officer)

Sharon Babur (Welfare & Women's Officer) Steve Gardiner (Membership Services & Communications Officer)

Margaret Bullock (Retired Members' Secretary) Jack Humphreys (Retired Members' Chair) Ros Roberts (Equalities Officer)

Young Members' Officer – Vacant Post

If you are interested in fulfilling one of the vacant posts please contact the Caerphilly Branch on 01443 863279

Who are our activists and reps?


Stewards: elected representative whose role includes organising, recruiting and representing members. 

The more of us there are, the louder our voice and the stronger we are in defence of each other. It’s that simple. 

Our reps and activists The UNISON workplace rep or steward is the most important link between the union and our members. Workplace reps play a number of roles. 

They are organisers who talk to, recruit and organise members around workplace issues, hold meetings, undertake surveys and help run ballots. They give members information about union issues by publicising campaigns, distributing leaflets and keeping members informed about and involved in - local negotiations. They are advisers and sounding boards, talking to members about workplace problems and - if they feel confident - giving advice on how to deal with these. They may arrange for a member to get advice or assistance from elsewhere in the union, or work with them to obtain the information they need. They are representatives for members in their workplace.

Health and safety reps: we aim to have at least one health and safety representative in every workplace to raise issues which affect the health and safety of members. Workplace contacts: not a recognised steward but someone who helps distribute information and supports a steward, they play an important role in helping groups of members to organise effectively. Branch officers: elected by members at a branch AGM, these are members whose role is to help run a branch bringing together members who may work for a number of employers.

There are vacancies at all levels of the branch so please call Caerphilly Unison on 01443 863279 for further information on how you can get involved and help the Branch. Full training is provided and you can do as much or as little as your time will allow and full training and support by the branch is provided.

The more of us there are, the louder our voice and the stronger we are in defence of each other. It's that simple.


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Caermunicator December 2016  
Caermunicator December 2016  

UNISON's Caerphilly Branch Newsletter Caermunicator December 2016