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Welsh Government

Youth homelessness campaign targets those struggling due to COVID

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The Welsh Government has launched a campaign urging young people who are at risk of homelessness or already homeless to call a free Housing Advice Helpline run by Shelter Cymru and Llamau.

Now in its second year, the youth homelessness campaign highlights the problem of hidden homelessness amongst young people – raising awareness of the fact that homelessness doesn’t always live on the streets.

Hidden homelessness most commonly takes the form of ‘sofa surfing’ at the house of friends or family, but can also include staying somewhere temporarily like a hostel or bed & breakfast, or somewhere that’s unsafe or unsuitable. 

This phase of the campaign also focuses on people who may now be at risk of homelessness because of the pandemic; these people may have recently lost their jobs or are on furlough and, as a result, may be struggling to hold onto their homes.

As well as helping these people to recognise that they might be at risk of homelessness or already homeless, the campaign also advises their friends, family and work colleagues on how to spot the signs of hidden homelessness.

Anyone experiencing these issues is being asked to call the free Housing Advice Helpline, which is funded by the Welsh Government and run by Shelter Cymru, with out of hours support from Llamau.

The Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James said: “Coronavirus has forced many people to the brink of homelessness. Many young people will be struggling with these kind of issues for the first time; others may have been struggling before the pandemic hit.

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“We have to also recognise that homelessness doesn’t always live on the streets and there will be young people who have been sofa surfing with friends or family throughout this pandemic.

“Our message to these young people and those around them is to call the Housing Advice Helpline now. Expert trained advisors from Shelter Cymru and, out of hours, Llamau are on hand to talk you through these issues and advise you on what you can do – it’s never too late or too early to get help.”

Ruth Power, CEO, Shelter Cymru said: “Shelter Cymru welcomes this renewed commitment by the Welsh Government to tackle youth homelessness.

“All young people need a home where they can build a life, be safe and thrive, which is why it is so important that anyone who is currently homeless or at risk of homelessness is aware of their rights, and aware that they can come to us for help.”

Frances Beecher, CEO, Llamau said: “I would urge any young person who doesn’t know where they’ll be spending the night tonight, tomorrow, next week, to call us and get the advice and support they need. The pandemic has exacerbated many of the issues that were already leaving so many young people at the brink of homelessness and we are now seeing so many more young people without a safe place to call home. Homelessness isn’t just sleeping on the streets. Not knowing where you’ll be sleeping or staying with a friend or a friend of a friend is where homelessness begins.

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We know that many people’s first experiences of homelessness happens when they are young, so it is vital that we work to end youth homelessness in order to end homelessness as a whole. It’s so important that young people, and those who know them, seek support as soon as they need it.”

Preventing youth homelessness is a long-standing priority for the Welsh Government. This is why, in addition to funding this helpline, £3.7m has been provided for earlier intervention and prevention of homelessness via the Youth Support Grant. – The Welsh Government is working with partners in the youth service to help identify young people at risk of homelessness and put suitable support in place.

For advice and support call the Housing Advice Helpline on 08000 495 495 or visit the Shelter Cymru website by going to www.sheltercymru.org.uk/hiddenhomelessness


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Swansea

Swansea to benefit from new grant scheme to tackle sticky situation caused by chewing gum staining

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The Welsh Government has announced a new £1.85m scheme to help five local authorities to tackle chewing gum staining.

Swansea Council, along with other authorities in Blaenau Gwent, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Newport will receive funding from the Chewing Gum Taskforce Grant Scheme to help them clean gum off pavements in their local area this summer and to invest in long-term behaviour change to help prevent the issue in future.

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Chewing gum litter wastes millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money every year; the annual clean-up cost across the UK is estimated at £7 million.

Created last year by the UK Government and working together with Welsh Government, Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive, the Chewing Gum Taskforce brings together the country’s major chewing gum producers, including Mars Wrigley, GlaxoSmithKline and Perfetti Van Melle, in a new partnership to remove gum litter from UK high streets.

Under the scheme, administered by independent environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, the chewing gum firms will invest up to £10m over five years.

More than 45 grants will be awarded this year across the UK and six of these will be used to fund innovative projects that encourage long-term behaviour change.

Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters said: “The need to get rid of chewing gum immediately after use means it is an item commonly disposed of irresponsibly, with gum staining present on more than two thirds of Wales’ streets.

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“Cleaning streets of gum is expensive and labour intensive. I’m really pleased this new fund has been established to support Councils across Wales and encourage people to think about the issues caused by chewing gum litter”

Allison Ogden-Newton OBE, Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: “This is an exciting new opportunity for councils to tackle the ongoing problem of gum pollution.

“The grants will allow councils to clean up historic gum litter staining in our towns and cities, as well as taking action to prevent people littering in the first place.”

The fund will be opened to councils across the UK, with larger grants available for two or more councils working together to achieve greater impact.

The grants will consist of a cash award to fund street cleansing as well as access to a gum litter prevention package. Previous pilots have reduced gum littering by up to 64%.

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Littering is a criminal offence and Welsh local authorities can issue penalties of up to £150, rising up to £2,500 if convicted in court.

Through the UK Environment Act 2022, the Welsh Government will be able to ensure that enforcement powers are used with a high degree of professionalism, whether by council staff or private contractors and introduce new enforcement guidance.

The Chewing Gum Task Force forms part of wider Welsh Government action to tackle litter and protect our environment. This includes developing a new Litter & Fly-tipping Prevention Plan, introducing a new Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers and an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme for packaging.

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Education

Social work students to receive more financial support from September

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photography of people graduating

Social work students will be eligible for greater financial support from September as part of an extra £3.5 million package of support, the Deputy Minister for Social Services has announced.

The enhanced financial support will be available for both undergraduate and postgraduate students in Wales via the Social Work Bursary, which will provide almost £10 million over the next three years to assist future social workers.

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Eligible undergraduates studying for the social work degree will be able to access up to £3,750 per year over the three-year course in addition to the funding available to them through Student Finance Wales.

Postgraduate students will be able to access £12,715 per year of their two year course. This will reduce the loan element students will need to repay after their studies.

This represents a more than 50% increase on the current bursary for both undergraduates and postgraduates.

Social work is changing; people’s needs are changing, and cases are becoming more complex. The pandemic has added pressures to social work and recruitment and retention challenges are increasing.

The Social Work Bursary incentivises people to take up social work training with the aim of building a sustainable social work workforce in Wales. The increase to the bursary is just the first step in plans to increase recruitment to the social work sector, with Social Care Wales due to publish a social work workforce plan this summer.

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The Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan said: “This announcement will provide much needed additional financial support for social work students. It will help more people train as social workers, help them remain on and complete their course and build capacity within the system. By supporting our future social workers as they take their first steps into the sector, we can better recruit and retain staff in the sector.

“Our overall ambition for the health and social care workforce is for parity of esteem between the professions. Social workers carry out a vital role within our communities, supporting people to take charge of their own lives. They are at the core of our social care system and key to the delivery of effective care, which makes a real difference to individuals and to the communities in which they live.”

Chief Social Care Officer for Wales, Albert Heaney said: “I am pleased that we have secured Welsh Ministerial agreement for an extra £3.5 million package of financial support for new social work students towards their courses from September.

“This funding, provided through the Social Work Bursary, will provide an extra boost to support both undergraduate and postgraduate students in Wales to undertake and complete their courses and increase the ranks of our invaluable social workers.”

The Chief Executive of Social Care Wales, Sue Evans, said: “I am delighted to see further support from Welsh Government for the social care sector and specifically for social workers in Wales. Social Care Wales provided the evidence to enable Welsh Government to increase the bursary for social work students.

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“We recognise and appreciate the invaluable work carried out by social workers across Wales and look forward to seeing more students joining the profession.

“We will shortly be publishing a workforce plan for social work that identifies the range of actions we need to take with partners to support the development and support for social workers in Wales who are working in every community of our country. Improving the bursary offer is a key element of this plan.”

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Bridgend

Construction work underway at new active travel route for Bridgend employment site

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Construction work on a new active travel route for the strategic employment site at Brocastle in Bridgend has started, thanks to a £2m investment by the Welsh Government.

The route, which is about 3km south-east of Bridgend town centre and runs parallel with the A48, will link the 116-acre site at Brocastle with the Waterton roundabout, 2km to the north-west.

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A 2km cycleway, kerbing and surfacing works, new signalised road crossings, replacement traffic signals and street lighting will be built. The £2m funding for the route, which is being provided by the Welsh Government, is the final package of the wider infrastructure works on the Brocastle site.

The active travel route is expected to be completed by the autumn. The work will be undertaken by Wales-based civil engineering contractor Alun Griffiths (Contractors) Limited.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “As part of our plans to create a more prosperous Welsh economy, the Welsh Government is working hard to help create new job opportunities in the communities people live.

“The strategic employment site we have developed at Brocastle provides a great location for us to attract new businesses to Bridgend. I am pleased to confirm parts of the Brocastle site are already under offer. We have a strong pipeline of further enquiries from a range of owner-occupiers and developers.

“The completion of the active travel route will further enhance the accessibility and attractiveness of the site to potential new tenants.”

Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said: “We need to take bold action to tackle climate change, so I’m pleased we’ve been able to invest £2m in this new active travel scheme, which will help reduce car use and encourage more people to walk or cycle to work.”

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