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Welsh Government

New Children’s Commissioner for Wales announced

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The First Minister has announced the appointment of Rocio Cifuentes as the new Children’s Commissioner for Wales.

Ms Cifuentes will take up the position in April 2022 when Sally Holland’s tenure as Commissioner ends.

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The Commissioner promotes and protects children’s rights and ensures that the Welsh Government’s policies and legislation benefit children and young people.

Rocio Cifuentes is the chief executive of the Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team. EYST is Wales’ leading organisation supporting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The role of Children’s Commissioner for Wales is an extremely important one – the pandemic has caused huge disruption to the lives of children. This role will help to shape the future for a generation of children, whose lives have been shaped by coronavirus. That’s why it’s so important to continue to have a strong voice to speak up for them and to inform our decision making.

“I want to pay tribute to Sally Holland for all her work during her time as Children’s Commissioner. Sally has been a strong advocate for the children and young people in Wales – from embedding children’s rights in key pieces of legislation, to providing an insight into children’s experiences of the pandemic via the large-scale, internationally renowned ‘Coronavirus and me’ surveys. Sally Holland has made an impressive and long-lasting contribution to a generation of children in Wales.

“Now, more than ever, the decisions we take as a Welsh Government must have the voice of children and young people at its very core and I’m proud that Rocio Cifuentes as our new Commissioner, will carry out this very important role.”

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The First Minister accepted a recommendation from a cross-party panel of Members of the Senedd, to appoint Ms Cifuentes as the next Children’s Commissioner for Wales.

Ms Cifuentes was born in Chile, arriving in Wales as a one-year-old with her parents as political refugees. She attended Cambridge University, where she read Social and Political Science, before undertaking a Masters in Social Research, at Swansea University.

She has led the Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team (EYST) since its inception in 2005. She previously worked for the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations, Swansea Young Single Homelessness Project, Gower College and Swansea University.

Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt, who chaired the cross-party selection panel said: “It is imperative our next Children’s Commissioner has the knowledge, understanding and the lived experience to ensure all views and values shape the brighter future our children so desperately need.

“I’m delighted Rocio Cifuentes has been appointed as our next Children’s Commissioner. She brings a wealth of expertise and understanding to the role and I look forward to working closely with her in the coming years.”

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Rocio Cifuentes said: “It’s an immense honour and privilege to be appointed as the Children’s Commissioner for Wales. As the First Minister says, the role of Commissioner will be more important now than it ever has been, delivering for the generation of children that have lived through Coronavirus.

To all the children and young people of Wales, I make the commitment today to ensure your voice, your views and your future is at the heart of everything we do.”

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Coronavirus

First Minister says phased easing of Covid restrictions in Wales to continue

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Wales will complete the move to alert level zero on 28 January, First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed today, unless the public health situation changes for the worse.

He said the phased plan to gradually relax the alert level two measures and move back to alert level zero will continue.

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The latest public health data suggests Wales has passed the peak of the omicron wave and coronavirus cases are falling back to levels similar to those seen earlier in the autumn. There have also been reductions in the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital.

From Friday 21 January, Wales will move to alert level zero for all outdoor activities.

This means:

  • Crowds will be able to return to outdoor sporting events.
  • There will be no limits on the number of people who can take part in outdoor activities and events.
  • Outdoor hospitality will be able to operate without the additional measures required introduced in December, such as the rule of six and 2m social distancing
  • The Covid Pass will continue to be required for entry to larger outdoor events attended by more than 4,000 people, if unseated, or 10,000 people when seated.
  • The Covid Pass is required in all cinemas, theatres and concert halls which are currently open.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The latest figures show we have passed the omicron peak and we can continue to lift the alert level two protections as part of our careful and phased plan.

“We will lift the limits on the number of people who can gather for outdoor events. We remain cautiously confident the public health situation is heading in the right direction and next week we will be able to complete the move to alert level zero, unless the situation changes for the worse.

“We are in this position thanks to the efforts of everyone in Wales and our fantastic vaccination programme. It is important that everyone continues to follow the rules and the guidance to help keep themselves and their loved ones safe, including taking up the offer of a booster vaccine if they haven’t already done so.”

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On Friday 28 January, Wales will complete the move to alert level zero.

This means:

  • Nightclubs will re-open.
  • Businesses, employers and other organisations must continue to undertake a specific coronavirus risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise the spread of coronavirus.
  • The general requirement of 2m social distancing in all premises open to the public and workplaces will be removed.
  • The rule of six will no longer apply to gatherings in regulated premises, such as hospitality, cinemas and theatres.
  • Licensed premises will no longer need to only provide table service and collect contact details.
  • Working from home will remain part of advice from the Welsh Government but it will no longer be a legal requirement.

The Covid Pass will continue to be required to enter larger indoor events, nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and concert halls.

The self-isolation rules for everyone who tests positive for Covid and the face-covering rules, which apply in most public indoor places will remain in force after 28 January.

The next three-weekly review of the coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 10 February, when the Welsh Government will review all the measures at alert level zero.

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Welsh Government

£1m for new projects to promote the use of Welsh

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The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, has announced over £1 million for projects to encourage more widespread use of Welsh.

As part of the funding, £600,000 will be provided to the National Eisteddfod towards hosting the 2022 event in Tregaron. The funding will support the organisation’s preparations for this year’s event, due to take place between 30th July and 6th August, and help achieve its aims of opening the Eisteddfod to a wider audience.

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Funding will also be provided to the National Centre for Learning Welsh, for projects which include creating on-line taster courses for refugees and asylum seekers to learn Welsh, without needing to be fluent in English.  The Centre, in partnership with Say Something in Welsh, will also create courses provided in the most commonly-spoken languages among refugees and asylum seekers in Wales.

The funding will also be used to provide tutor support for a self-study entry-level course for teachers. There have been 2,700 enrolments on the taster course for teachers since its launch in February 2020. The new course, suitable for both primary and secondary teachers, aims to provide a pathway for teaching professionals into more advanced and intensive courses. 

Funding will also be provided to Rhieni dros Addysg Gymraeg to develop information about Welsh-medium education in minority languages.  The aim is to support families whose children attend Welsh-medium education, but neither Welsh nor English are the main languages spoken at home, as well as promoting Welsh medium education among minority ethnic communities.

There will be changes to our Helo Blod service, which supports businesses to use more Welsh. Helo Blod will continue to operate its ‘one stop shop’ in Business Wales, while Helo Blod Lleol will come to an end.

Jeremy Miles said: “Today’s announcement is about making our language and culture easier to access than ever. We’re investing in opportunities for more people to learn, use and teach Welsh, wherever they are in Wales and whatever their background.

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“Welsh belongs to us all, whether we speak it or not. We’re delighted to work with our partners on such wide-ranging projects, which all support our aim of reaching a million Welsh speakers and doubling the daily use of our language by 2050.”

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Welsh Government

£1 million made available to support Wales’ fishing industry

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Wales’ fishing community is being invited to submit applications to a £1m fund to primarily help mitigate the ongoing impact Covid is having on the industry and adapt to the rapidly changing market conditions for seafood products.

The European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) is co-financed by the Welsh Government and the European Commission and has supported many projects in Wales since being introduced in 2014.

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The funding will support investments in the small scale coastal fleet and aquaculture, together with improvements to the marketing and processing of fishery and aquaculture products. However, any project selected and supported under the programme will have to be completed within a 12 month period starting from July this year.

The EMFF application window opens today. Guidance is available for those interesting in applying and a Project Outline Form should be submitted to Rural Payments Wales as soon as possible. A full application will then be issued and will need to be completed and returned by the closing date of 25 March.

All project proposals received will be assessed on the information provided in the application and will only be considered once the application window has closed.

Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths said: “I’m pleased to be able to make £1 million available to support the fishing industry in what remains an incredibly challenging time.

“More than £15 million in approved grant awards has already been made for projects across Wales through the European Maritime Fisheries Fund, and a further £1 million of projects are under consideration.

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“As the European Commission funding is only available until 2023, this £1m will primarily focus on providing support to help the industry mitigate the ongoing impact of Covid and adapt to the changes in the market for seafood products.

“I encourage all with an interest to submit a Project Outline Form to Rural Payments Wales as soon as possible, before completing a full application by 25 March.”

Details of the EMFF programme and scheme guidance can be found on the Welsh Government website: European Maritime and Fisheries Fund | Sub-topic | GOV.WALES

For any additional help and support, applicants should contact the RPW Customer Contact Centre on 0300 062 5004.

The long term EMFF replacement scheme is currently being developed and is expected to be available later this year.

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