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Welsh Government

New jobs programme to create life changing opportunities for 16-18 year olds in Wales

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A new flexible programme focused on helping young people aged 16-18 reach their full potential and take their first steps into the world of work is being launched by the Welsh Government.

The innovative Jobs Growth Wales+ programme aims to create life changing opportunities for those who are not in education, employment or training.

The Welsh Government say that it will also become a fundamental element of their ‘Young Person’s Guarantee’, to ensure there will be no lost generation in Wales as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jobs Growth Wales+ will provide an individualised package of support, and incorporates elements of existing legacy Jobs Growth Wales and Traineeships programmes which have proved successful.

The programme, which will launch in 2022, will support those aged 16-18 by offering impartial and in-depth careers advice and guidance following a robust assessment of their individual needs via the Working Wales service.

Young people will have access to mentoring, advice, training and education so that they are empowered to make informed choices to find and secure training, fair work or start a business. This includes tailored job opportunities which will be subsidised at 50% of national minimum wage.

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Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said: “We want to give young people the skills and confidence to overcome barriers and fulfil their potential. Jobs Growth Wales+ is designed to deliver opportunities for young people in a fast changing world, irrespective of ability, background, gender, or ethnicity.

“The foundation of Jobs Growth Wales+ builds on our Traineeships and Jobs Growth Wales programmes, taking forward the strongest elements of both. Young people, employers and contractors have helped us shape this new package of support with changes that ensure young people receive the best possible service.

“Jobs Growth Wales+ is an important step in the development of our ambitious Young Person’s Guarantee, giving young people the support they need for a brighter future.”

The procurement process for Jobs Growth Wales+ has now been completed and award letters have been issued to the successful contractors.

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Coronavirus

Calls intensify for First Minister to announce Wales specific Covid-19 enquiry

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Welsh Conservatives have repeated the call for a Wales-specific Covid-19 inquiry.

On behalf of the Senedd Conservatives, Paul Davies MS challenged the First Minister over his refusal to hold a Welsh specific inquiry and denying victims’ families the answers they deserve.

The questioning from the Welsh Conservatives follows a tweet from Mark Drakeford which provoked an emotive response from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice-Cymru group.

Following a summit yesterday between the British Prime Minister and leaders of the devolved administrations, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford tweeted:

Later, the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice-Cymru tweeted:

Taking up the issue on behalf of the families in the Senedd, Mr Davies said: “There is no reason why the Welsh Government can’t take part in a UK-wide inquiry and a Welsh inquiry. An open and transparent Government must be accountable to the people it serves, and the people of Wales deserve answers.

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 “An open and transparent Government must be accountable to the people it serves, and the people of Wales deserve answers. ‘Responsible, but not held responsible’ seems to be the mantra of this Welsh Labour Government. Now, organisations like the bereaved families group, Medics 4 Mask Up Wales and the British Lung Foundation have all joined calls for a Welsh inquiry.

 “It’s time for your government to do the right thing and commit to that inquiry. A Welsh inquiry is a necessary part in helping the country understand how decisions were made and whether lessons have indeed been learnt.”

Speaking outside the chamber, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Economy, Paul Davies MS said:“Welsh Conservatives have always said a Wales-specific inquiry, alongside a UK investigation, is essential in delivering justice for those affected by coronavirus and lockdowns.

“Throughout the pandemic we were told that different decisions would be taken in Wales to meet our specific circumstances, and now we need a specific public inquiry to scrutinise these decisions.

“Sadly, Wales has the highest Covid death rate in the UK and over 8,000 people have tragically died during the pandemic, a quarter of whom acquired the infection in hospital.

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“The grieving families deserve answers, and full, independent scrutiny of the decisions taken by Labour ministers and Wales should get the transparency, accountability, and scrutiny that every democracy needs to thrive.

“Regrettably, responsible but not held responsible seems to be the mantra of this Labour administration.”

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Health

Health chief vows to keep services running through ‘one of the harshest winters we have ever faced’

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NHS Wales chief executive Andrew Goodall has warned the dual challenge of the Covid pandemic and other respiratory viruses will make this winter ‘one of the hardest we have ever faced’, as the NHS Wales Health and Social Care Winter Plan is published.

The Welsh Government have announced that there will be an extra £42m funding for social care, some of which will be used to help ease the pressure on hospital beds. This comes on top of £248m already announced for the NHS Covid recovery fund.

The social care investment will be used to improve hospital patient discharges, expand community services and reduce hospital re-admissions among the frail and vulnerable in an effort to ease pressures on bed capacity.

The Winter Plan will aim to help ensure emergency care is able to cope and minimise disruption to planned care.

Ahead of the winter pressures, Andrew Goodall said services needed to remain ready to respond to rapidly changing circumstances, as well as minimising time spent in hospital for those receiving care and supporting people to return home to continue their recovery.

Key priorities in the Winter Plan:

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  • protecting people from Covid-19 through the vaccination programme,
  • keeping people well during higher levels of influenza and seasonal respiratory viruses,
  • maintaining the resilience of health and social care services,
  • responding to the mental health impact of the pandemic,
  • ensuring vulnerable groups have access to the treatment they require,
  • supporting the health and wellbeing of staff who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic
  • working with health and social care organisations to manage pressures across the system.

It comes after months of planning and significant investment in health and social care to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

More than £248million has already been invested through the NHS recovery fund to help Health Boards tackle waiting times and transform the way they deliver services.

Much of the funding will help services this winter, like non-urgent patient transport, which will help ease pressure on ambulance services and ensure patients can access the care they need

Other investments across Wales include:

  • £14.4m for planned care for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board
  • £8.2m for endoscopy at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
  • £2.5m for diagnostics endoscopy and £1.4m for diagnostics radiology at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
  • £2.9m for ophthalmology at Hywel Dda University Health Board
  • £1.3m for radiology and £2m for endoscopy at Swansea Bay University Health Board

To support patients with urgent clinical needs, central recovery funds for cancer, ophthalmology and dermatology have also been established. This will ensure a focus on these key areas.

A further £25million is being invested in supporting the transformation of urgent and emergency care services to deliver the right care in the right place, first time. The Urgent Primary Care Centre at Royal Gwent Hospital demonstrates how services can work differently, allowing people to access out of hours advice, assessment and care closer to home. This centre will help reduce pressure on emergency departments during winter.

NHS Wales Chief Executive Andrew Goodall said: “We know this winter will be one of the hardest periods we have ever faced, as we face the twin challenges of the pandemic and respiratory viruses, but our Winter Plan will ensure essential services keep running

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“Our services need to be agile and able to respond to those who need hospital care when their condition worsens, as well as providing support as close to home as possible to reduce their need to attend hospital to receive care.”

Eluned Morgan MS

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “Winter is always a challenging period and the demands on our health and social care system have never been greater than this pandemic period. Our NHS will continue to deliver essential services and is doing everything it can to ensure planned care continues through this busy period. Everyone can play their part too by getting their Covid and flu jabs and thinking about the different options for getting the care they need.

“I am also announcing £42m of social care funding today. The pandemic has put the social care system under great strain and we believe investing in allowing people to access the right care at home will prevent unnecessary hospital admissions, speed up patient discharges and create much-needed additional bed capacity in our hospitals.

“With this plan and additional funding we can reduce disruption to planned care. However with the pressures on the system I don’t expect us to make real inroads into waiting times until the spring.

“But I am determined to tackle this issue and am very aware of what a difficult time it has been for those who have been waiting a long time for treatment.  Health Boards will continue to support those who are waiting for treatment.”

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Carmarthenshire

New maps show Welsh Government plans for rail and bus improvements

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Electrification of the railway to Swansea and beyond, new rail stations and improvements to bus services are all part of the plans.

“Delivering the £1bn Welsh Metro project will be one of the most ambitious and complex programmes we’ve ever undertaken.”

Those were the words of Deputy Minister for Climate Change, with a responsibility for transport, Lee Waters as he unveiled new maps showing the enormous scale of the project.

The new maps included proposals for the Swansea Bay area in addition to the South Wales Metro already under construction in Cardiff and the valleys, and a North Wales Metro to better link border communities.

The Welsh Government say that the Metro proposals will make it the easier choice for people to use their cars less and public transport and active travel more, to significantly reduce our environmental impact and help Wales reach its Net Zero carbon target by 2050.

The new maps, made available for the first time today, illustrate the short and longer term plans that the programme will deliver.

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In Swansea Bay this includes new train stations at Cockett and Landore in Swansea as well as St Clears in Carmarthenshire which has already received backing from the UK Government.

New stations are also proposed for Winch Wen, Llandarcy, Morriston, Felindre and Penllergaer along with rail frequency enhancements.

Improvements to the South Wales mainline include extending electrification as far as Swansea and improving the line speed west of Llanelli and west of Carmarthen.

Bus corridor improvements and integration projects are also proposed.

Longer term aspirations include reopening the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth rail line, and new rail links between Swansea, Neath and Onllwyn and Cwmgrach. Links are also planned between Ammanford and Gwaun Cae Gurwen.

Plans for further electrifying the rail network as far as Milford Haven are also proposed for the longer term.

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Deputy Minister Lee Waters said: “The Metro is not simply a transport project, it’s about changing the lives of people across Wales and is an excellent example of how investment in tackling climate change has far broader community benefits.

“Improving our public transport and active travel network routes is the right and responsible thing to do for the environment – making low carbon transport options more attractive, affordable, and easier to use – enabling people to leave their car at home particularly in the more densely populated parts of Wales linking up with active travel routes to provide door-to-door journeys in an integrated, sustainable transport network.

“Next month we will be attending COP26 – the most important COP since Paris in 2015 – and we will take a clear message to Glasgow that Wales is a globally responsible nation – ambitious projects like this prove that and show how everyone here is willing to play a part to combat global warming.”

Funding for the schemes are not yet agreed however, with agreement needed by the UK Government to the Welsh Government’s proposals.

In a statement, a spokesperson said: “It is critical that the Welsh Government is urgently offered a positive outcome to the two Union Connectivity Fund bids by Transport for Wales in order to progress and complete this important work this financial year. Transport for Wales and Network Rail have developed a positive delivery partnership and this will be further strengthened through this funding to deliver on the priorities for improving rail infrastructure across Wales.

“If the UK Government wishes to state a positive case for the Union it is important that the cross border transport priorities of Wales are recognised, respected and delivered, particularly with the recent changes to the proposed allocation of the levelling up fund for the Devolved Administrations straying into areas of devolved competency.”

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The Welsh Government has announced an additional £2m cash injection to expand existing plans for South East and South West Wales metros, to include new bus and rail stations and services as well more active travel routes making public transport more attractive and accessible and connecting communities.

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