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Welsh Government

Independent review of floods announced to help Wales adapt to climate change

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An independent review of flooding events across Wales during the winter of 2020-21 has been launched, the Welsh Government has announced.

Led by one of the UK’s leading barristers, the review will help ensure Wales learns from previous flooding events and embeds good practice for the future.

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The review, which is part of the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, will consider evidence from investigations carried out by local authorities and Natural Resources Wales, as well as other relevant reports.

Since Storm Dennis wreaked havoc across the country in February 2020, Wales has experienced a rapid increase in the frequency of storm and flood events than at any other time in recorded history.

Heavy rainfall and storms are likely to become more frequent as a result of climate change.

The Minister for Climate Change has appointed Professor Elwen Evans QC, one of the UK’s leading barristers, to lead the review.

Professor Evans will be tasked with establishing key findings, shared concerns, lessons learned, successes and good practice, as well as identifying areas for improvement.

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Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said: “The terrible flooding we have witnessed in Wales in recent years is a stark reminder of the challenges we face from climate change. These increasingly frequent, powerful weather events create widespread trauma, disruption and financial loss for families and businesses.

“We have put a thorough flood strategy in place and recently announced the largest ever package of investment to reduce flood risk across Wales, with more than £214m over the next three years to help protect at least 45,000 homes from flood risk.

“It is vital we learn from previous events to prepare us for the future, and I am delighted Professor Evans, who brings substantial experience and authority, has agreed to lead the independent review.”

Designated Member, Sian Gwenllian said: “We have seen the devastating impact flooding can have on our communities and businesses. Alongside taking action on climate change and ensuring Wales plays its part to tackle it, addressing flood prevention and learning from the devastating 2020-21 floods will make a difference to people’s safety and peace of mind across Wales.

“I have been working closely to develop the scope and approach to delivery of this important review as part of the Co-operation Agreement, and I look forward to the findings.”

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The announcement of the independent review follows the record £214m investment in flood risk as part of the Co-operation Agreement between Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, which will protect at least 45,000 homes.

This will support Flood Risk Management Authorities, accelerate the delivery of prevention schemes, and build resilience in the system as climate change intensifies.

(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Armed Forces

Free swimming in Wales to continue for the Armed Forces

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On Armed Forces Day, the Welsh Government has announced the continuation of the Armed Forces Free Swimming scheme.

The scheme enables serving members of the Armed Forces and Veterans to swim for free at participating leisure centres and pools, using their Defence Privilege Card.

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The Armed Forces Free Swimming Scheme (AFFS) was first introduced in 2016 and represents the continued commitment to provide the Armed Forces community with access to services which meet their specific needs and recognise the service they have given to their country.

Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden, said: “I’m very pleased that we are able to continue to support this scheme which is designed to ensure members of the Armed Forces past and present are able to benefit from the physical, and mental, health benefits swimming can offer.”

Deputy Minister for Social Partnerships, Hannah Blythyn, said: “We are committed to supporting our Armed Forces personnel and recognise how initiatives like this can boost their mental and physical wellbeing. I hope they can enjoy the benefits from this scheme over the next three years.”

Chris Llewelyn, WLGA Chief Executive said: “Local government is proud to deliver free swimming for our Armed Forces personnel and Veterans. We hope that even more people take part in the scheme in the coming year, taking advantage of the significant recuperative and social benefits physical activity offers. There are participating pools in each of Wales’ local authorities; to find out where your closet facility is, visit your local authority website.”

Throughout the 2021-22 financial year the scheme was taken up on average each quarter by 569 serving military personnel and veterans across Wales. The trend shows an increase in uptake as restrictions have been lifted, with the last quarter recording a peak of 879 people benefitting from 2641 visits to their local community swimming pools.

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To support the scheme, £45,000 to be issued every year over a three-year period; in 2022-23, 2023-24 and 2024-25.

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Coronavirus

Wales extends COVID-19 testing throughout July

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Welsh Health Minister, Eluned Morgan has confirmed that access to free LFD tests will be extended in Wales until July 31st 2022.

Tests will be available to the public that are showing symptoms of coronavirus (high temperature a new, continuous cough, a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste), alongside free access for people visiting someone eligible for new COVID-19 treatments.

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The announcement comes following a rise in cases, with The Office for National Statistics recent survey reporting an increase in cases across the UK. An estimated 1 in 45 people in Wales currently have COVID-19.

The emergence of the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants are also contributing to this increase as they become more dominant across the UK.

The health minister has also announced the following testing will continue to be in place –

  • LFD and PCR testing for those eligible for COVID-19 treatments.
  • PCR testing for COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses for symptomatic care home residents and prisoners.
  • PCR and LFD testing under the patient testing framework and when clinically advised including pre-operative hospital patients and care home residents returning from inpatient hospital stays
  • LFD testing for symptomatic health and social care staff.
  • Twice weekly LFD tests for asymptomatic testing for health and social care staff
  • Those visiting people in care homes should continue to test using tests provided by the care home they are visiting.

Self-isolation payments of £500 will end on 30th June 2022, whilst the COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Enhancement scheme will be extended until 31st August 2022 to support social care staff to stay away from work due to testing positive.

Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, said: “Testing has been an effective tool in breaking the chain of transmission and with an increase in cases its vital that we keep testing in place to protect the most vulnerable in our society. As we have seen before, Covid can quickly change, I am announcing this extension in response to the changing picture and new variants of concern.

“I would also ask people to take protective measures to protect the more vulnerable in the community, wear masks in health and care settings, stay at home if you test positive, and take up the offer for the vaccine. We know that the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, I would urge those eligible to have their spring booster if they have not already had it, the booster is available until June 30.

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“Covid has not gone away, whilst we are learning to live safely with it, we will continue to monitor the situation and as we have done for the last two years, we will work together to Keep Wales Safe.”

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Welsh Government

‘We are here to help you rebuild your lives and settle into Wales’ – vows Social Justice Minister after meeting Ukraine nationals

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Ukraine nationals who fled their country after the Russian invasion have been welcomed to Wales by the First Minister and Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt.

The Ministers met the Ukrainian nationals seeking sanctuary in Wales on World Refugee Day (20 June).

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They visited a Welcome Centre where more than 200 people have been sponsored under the Welsh Government Super Sponsor scheme.

Thousands more people from Ukraine have already claimed sanctuary in Wales, thanks to many people who have kindly volunteered to be a sponsor, after fleeing the country following the Russian invasion.

More than 6,500 people have been welcomed to Wales after having their visa applications confirmed, with 3,600 of these with the Welsh Government as a super sponsor.

A further 5,500 visas have been issued to those with a sponsor in Wales, of which 2,965 have Welsh Government as a super sponsor.

The true figures are likelier to be higher as the total number of confirmed applications is an undercount of around 1,300, with the super-sponsor scheme making up the majority of the undercount.

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During their time at the Welcome Centre, guests have been given support in terms of schoolwork for children and young people, finding work for adults and keeping in touch with other Ukrainian families in Wales.

As well as English and Maths lessons for the children, adults have also been taught English to help them settle into Wales and boost their chances of finding work.

Every effort is also being made to enrol children in local schools once their families have found suitable communities to settle into.

Welcome Centres across Wales are working closely with local government, health boards, charities and others in an effort to find suitable places for Ukraine nationals to settle.

They are being given advice to help find their way in a new country, including help with money, welfare benefits and advice about finding work.

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Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt has met with Ukraine nationals

Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt: “We are proud to have been able to welcome thousands of people to Wales from Ukraine and it has been truly humbling to meet them today and hear their stories.

“We are determined to be a Nation of Sanctuary and will do everything in our powers to help them rebuild their lives and settle into Wales.

“It has been heartening to see the efforts being made at the Welcome Centre to make them feel at home and I would like to thank them for all they have done.”

First Minister with a Welsh dragon crocheted by a person from Ukraine

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We are working very hard with local authorities across Wales to find placements for people after their time in the Welcome Centre.

“Thousands of Welsh households said they wanted to take part in the Homes for Ukraine scheme and many of those are already hosting Ukrainians.

“We would like to thank them for their efforts as, combined with our incredible Welcome Centres across Wales, it has helped provide those in need with sanctuary at their darkest hour.”

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