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Welsh Government

New package of support for unpaid carers

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On Carers’ Rights Day Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan has outlined how £7m Welsh Government funding will support unpaid carers in recognition of the vital support they provide to the people they care for.

The support package will allocate £5.5 million to local authorities to provide targeted support to unpaid carers; £1.25m for the Carers Support Fund – last year, this fund successfully helped almost 6500 unpaid carers to cope with the financial impact of Covid 19; £20,000 to fund online mental wellbeing support sessions; and £230,000 for the Family Fund to support over 600 further low-income families with seriously ill or disabled children.

Welsh Government previously committed £3 million in 2021-22 to allow more carers to take a break from their caring role, bringing the total additional funding support for unpaid carers this year to £10 million.

Examples of how this money has been spent to date include;

  • £5,000 to fund the creation of a Respitality scheme in Gwynedd to work with the holiday sector to offer cheaper holidays to unpaid carers;
  • £10,000 to fund the remodelling of day care for older people in Gwynedd which includes paying for flexible short care packages for carers and the individuals they support;
  • £20,000 to fund a 6 week programme of wellbeing counselling to help support carers with personal stresses and anxieties in Conwy;
  • £40,000 to fund Carers’ Outreach in Conwy to provide breaks, days out, weekends away in Conwy for carers over 18 and;
  • £32,000 to run a pilot scheme for parent carers to choose practical support which meets their needs in Swansea.

The Deputy Minister for Social Services said: “The physical and emotional impact of caring can be overwhelming. We share concerns that many are at breaking point due to the additional pressures put upon them from the pandemic. Thousands of unpaid carers have been supported since the start of the pandemic but it its vital we continue to help unpaid carers cope with the emotional and financial impact of COVID-19.”

“The funding announced today shows how much we appreciate the army of unpaid carers in Wales who have gone above and beyond to care for family or friends and our commitment to support carers to have a life beyond their caring role.”

“Unpaid carers play a vital role in our society, helping reduce pressures on the health service by ensuring people can return from and stay out of hospital. Their extraordinary work and contribution to social care is part of a £42m package to support the NHS winter plan.”

An unpaid carer attending a dementia support group in Gwynedd commented: “The Dementia Carers Group has provided me with companionship, moral support when feeling a bit lost whilst looking after my husband who has mixed dementia.  I have made friends through the meetings, have improved my qualities as a carer, with practical advice received, not only from other carers, but the amazing guest speakers who have guided us all with their knowledgeable advice on all practical matters relevant to being a carer.  Tuesday mornings are a lot less lonely since I joined the group.”

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Coronavirus

Covid measure-avoiding cinema threatens to disobey latest closure notice – branding First Minister a ‘grinch’

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The Welsh Government issued Swansea independent cinema and food outlet Cinema & Co with an order to close on public health grounds on Friday.

Swansea Council originally issued a closure notice for the business on Thursday 18 November saying the business had not completed a COVID risk assessment, staff had no training on how to prevent transmission of COVID-19 and there was no implementation of the COVID pass scheme.

It was also noted that there was no signage advising customers to wear face coverings and there was inadequate cleaning products to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Business owner, Anna Redfern described the Welsh Government COVID pass law as “nonsensical” and “unnecessary”.  She also refused to comply with the council’s closure notice saying

The Council took Redfern to court to enforce the closure. Ms Redfern failed to attend court, while the judge asked for an adjournment to proceedings to query the act of law that the council was using to bring the closure notice.

Prior to the new court date, the Welsh Government has decided to act itself using enforcement parts of the Coronavirus legislation for the first time.

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, the Welsh Minsters have powers to take action against specific premises where they consider the premises to present a risk to public health.

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In a statement, the Welsh Government said: “To support Swansea Council and to protect public health, Welsh Ministers have issued a direction under the Act for the closure of Cinema & Co in Swansea.

“Recently the Local Authority identified a series of breaches of the Coronavirus Regulations at the premises.

“The premises was previously served with a notice requiring it to close due to the risk to public health.

“As the owner has chosen not to comply with this legal requirement, Welsh Ministers have taken further enforcement action.

“The Welsh Government will not be commenting further on ongoing legal proceedings.”

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Council officers attended the cinema on Friday evening to close the Castle Street business once again, with the order prohibiting anyone from entering the building unless given approval from the court, the council or the Welsh Government.

There was a strong police presence to enforce the closure, although media reports indicate a small number of protestors remained inside the building, with some of those reportedly wearing Voice of Wales branded clothing.

The controversial organisation has been supportive of Ms Redfern’s anti-COVID pass stance, but while describing itself as a media organisation it has been dogged by allegations of being a far right, racist group – something that it strongly denies.

Ms Redfern herself also denies any link to racism or extremism, saying that her “life had become totally surreal” and that she was “being acted on by so many forces out of [her] control. Some very dark.”

In a statement on social media she said: “I absolutely reject any claims that I am in any way connected to far-right groups, far-left groups or any form of racism”

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Following the most recent closure notice, signed by Welsh Government First Minister Mark Drakeford himself, Cinema & Co described the First Minister as a “grinch” and vowed to disobey the order, organising a showing of the film The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” at the cinema on Sunday 28 November at 4pm.

The sold-out event was promoted on Cinema and Co’s social media showing the face of Mark Drakeford photoshopped into the grinch, accompanied by further anti-COVID pass slogans.

It is unclear as to what, if any further action the Police, Council or Welsh Government will take should the cinema breach the latest closure notice and reopen as promised.

A crowd-funder set up by former Brexit Party & Abolish the Welsh Assembly candidate Richard Taylor, has raised over £60,000 so far.

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Plaid Cymru

Labour and Plaid Cymru confirm Welsh Government co-operation agreement

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Welsh Labour’s First Minister Mark Drakeford and Leader of Plaid Cymru Adam Price have unveiled their long-trailed co-operation agreement

The agreement is a joint policy programme covering 46 areas, ranging from the delivery of free school meals to all primary school pupils; a commitment to take immediate and radical action to address the second homes crisis, to long-term reform of the Senedd.

They say that this is a new form of political working arrangement. The two partners – the ruling Labour party’s Welsh Government and the Plaid Cymru Senedd Group – will work together to jointly develop and oversee the delivery of the policies covered by the agreement over the coming three years.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The Welsh Government has an ambitious Programme for Government, which it will deliver over this Senedd term. But we do not have a monopoly on good ideas and we will work with progressive parties where we have shared and common interests to benefit people in Wales.

“This Co-operation Agreement brings the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru together to respond to some of the most pressing issues facing Wales today, such as climate change and the energy and cost-of-living crisis.

“We can achieve more for people in Wales by working together and the Co-operation Agreement is both a response to the external challenges we face and a chance to build on the opportunities in our future. It will also help us secure a stable Senedd over the next three years, capable of delivering radical change and reform.

“These commitments build on our shared values of social solidarity, a sustainable planet and a vibrant democracy.” 

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Adam Price, Leader of Plaid Cymru said: “Almost a quarter of a century ago, people in Wales voted for self-government for Wales, with a promise of a new type of politics.

“They placed their trust in a new democracy with an instruction to work differently – inclusively and co-operatively. 

“The challenges we face require real ambition to deliver radical ideas. The fallout from leaving the European Union, the legacy of the pandemic, and the UK Government’s determination to erode the Senedd’s powers all increase the need for transformational change.

“Taken together, the bold policy pledges will unite Wales and benefit every generation, from all primary school pupils receiving free school meals to a national care service, free at the point of need.

“I am pleased this pioneering Co-operation Agreement is founded on common ground on a range of issues that will make a long-lasting difference to people’s lives.”

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As part of the agreement, a publicly-owned energy company for Wales could be created to encourage community-owned renewable energy generation; there will be further investment in flood defences and new measures to strengthen the Welsh language and support for young people’s mental health.

The groups are keen to stress that this is a bespoke agreement – it is not a coalition; Plaid Cymru Members will not be joining the Welsh Government as Ministers or Deputy Ministers. Plaid Cymru will appoint a designated lead member for the agreement and committees made up of Welsh Ministers and Plaid Cymru designated members will be established to reach agreement on issues covered by the Co-operation Agreement.

Funding has been put in place as part of the Co-operation Agreement and will be reflected in the draft Budget, when it is published in December.

Both parties reiterated that all issues outside the Co-operation Agreement will be handled in the normal course of political engagement.

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, and the party’s sole Senedd member Jane Dodds MS responded to the deal saying: “Now more than ever it is important that parties are able to work together to confront the big issues affecting Wales. I look forward to seeing the detail but be assured that as leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats I will continue to demand better people across Wales and hold both Labour and Plaid Cymru to account.

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“On the surface, there are a number of issues which have been covered in the announcement that were part of our manifesto, including work to tackle Wales’ high child poverty levels through the expansion of free school meals and greater childcare provision. The Welsh Liberal Democrats will work constructively with the Government on issues such as the above and in improving our democracy and fighting for increased powers for Wales.

“But, the Welsh Liberal Democrats will remain an independent opposition party ready to hold Labour and Plaid Cymru to account, particularly in how they intend to reach their goals of net-zero by 2035.

“I will continue to fight to make the Welsh Liberal Democrat’s budget priorities heard. This includes our desire to see a Children’s and Young People’s Budget, a ringfenced budget for mental health, more action on the cost of living crisis and support for small businesses.

“I am also concerned the agreement does include measures to tackle long NHS and ambulance waiting times. It is absolutely vital that all parties and stakeholders work together to tackle the crisis in healthcare provision in Wales as we continue to recover from COVID-19.

“Unlike the Welsh Conservatives who take their instructions from Westminster, the Welsh Liberal Democrats will remain an independent opposition voice for Wales.

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“Against a backdrop of job insecurity, the rising cost of living, and coronavirus, people across Wales need to see practical solutions to their problems and that is what I and the Welsh Liberal Democrats will continue to work towards.”

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Environment

Wales’ bathing waters deliver 100% compliance record for fourth year running

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Beaches across Wales have achieved 100% compliance with high quality bathing water standards for the fourth consecutive year.

Of the 105 bathing waters sampled by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), 85 achieved the highest classification of excellent, 14 good and six sufficient ensuring that Wales’ coastlines continue to meet some of the most stringent water quality standards in Europe.

A classification of excellent water quality is one of the main requirements for applying for a Blue Flag award for 2021.

As part of its Programme for Government the Welsh Government will be looking to replicate this level of success when it starts to designate more inland waters, for example lakes and rivers, as bathing waters in Wales.

Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said: “I am delighted that for the fourth consecutive year Wales, which is internationally known for its stunning coastlines, continues to have some of the best bathing waters in Europe.

“I am extremely grateful to all those who have helped us achieve this continued success, in particular Natural Resources Wales, who, despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic have continued to deliver their testing programme to help maintain the highest of standards in our waters.”

Vaughan Gething, Minister for Economy said:  “We know that many people decided to stay in Wales for their holidays this year – and as a result discovered what our amazing coastline has to offer.   These results are an excellent sign of confidence in the quality of our bathing water, and in the team effort made by communities, regulators and other partners to safeguard our natural assets.”

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One of the biggest success stories coming out of this year’s results is Cemaes Bay in the Isle of Anglesey. In 2017, water quality at Cemaes was classified as ‘poor’. However, following a significant joint effort between the Council, Natural Resources Wales and the local community to improve bathing water quality, Cemaes Bay has seen year-on-year improvements and this year has reached the highest bathing water quality standard of ‘excellent’.

Derek Owen, Chair of Llanbadrig Community Council, has been heavily involved in the work to improve bathing quality at Cemaes.

He said: “This improvement in bathing water quality is excellent news for the local economy as well as the obvious public health benefits of having a high quality environment.

“Coastal communities like ours rely heavily on tourism, and people come here to enjoy clean beaches and good bathing water. So, this year’s rating of excellent will be very much welcomed by local businesses and people who live in Cemaes and the surrounding area.”

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