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Welsh Government

Welsh Government announces new farm support proposals

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Actions to support the sustainable production of food, improve biodiversity, and strengthen the rural economy are part of proposals published by the Welsh Government.

The government say that the Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals signify a major change and will be key in supporting Welsh farmers to play a leading role in delivering a more resilient environment and a more resilient rural economy.

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Financial support will be provided for the work farmers do to meet the challenges of the climate and nature emergencies alongside the sustainable production of food.

The actions in the Scheme are set out under five characteristics which show the variety of ways the Welsh Government wants to support farmers to help them deliver a wide range of outcomes alongside the sustainable production of food.

These include working with farmers to help them adapt to changes in the environment or market, helping make the best use of their resources and supporting them to become more efficient, lower their greenhouse gas emissions and enhance existing carbon stocks through sequestration.

A baseline payment will be made to farmers for undertaking a set of Universal Actions which can be delivered by farms across Wales and go above and beyond what is required by legislation. Additional payment will be available for farmers who choose to undertake extra Optional and Collaborative Actions.

The proposed actions include support to:

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  • Manage and enhance habitats across at least 10% of the farm, or creating new habitat features where existing habitat does not exist (Universal)
  • Ensure necessary biosecurity measures are in place to reduce risks of spreading disease, including the provision of wash stations and ensuring farm boundaries are secure to prevent straying stock (Universal)
  • Complete an annual benchmarking self-assessment to improve business performance (Universal)
  • Restore damaged peatlands through ditch blocking, or re-establishing vegetation (Optional)
  • Grow crops to reduce the amount of feed they buy in (Optional)
  • Establish new horticultural enterprises within existing farm businesses (Optional)
  • Support for farmers to work together across catchments to improve water quality (Collaborative)

The Welsh Government say they want to engage with farmers from across Wales to understand how the proposed actions could work on their farms as part of the next phase of co-design. 

To help farmers carry out the actions, support will be offered through an advisory service, as well as training and farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing.

Payment rates are being informed by Welsh Government modelling and economic analysis which is still being undertaken.

A decision on how the final Scheme will look will not be made until further consultation on the detailed proposals and the economic analysis has been presented in 2023. This will include modelling the actions in the Scheme and assessing how the actions support farmers to produce food sustainably.

As part of the co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru, a transition period will be introduced so stability payments will continue to be a feature of the Sustainable Farming Scheme throughout and beyond this Senedd term.

Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths has thanked the industry for working with the Welsh Government to design the Scheme and has encouraged farmers to continue to engage. Feedback has been key in helping adapt the Scheme proposals so they work for all Welsh farmers.

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The Minister said: “The Sustainable Farming Scheme has been designed to support what our farmers do best which is sustainable farming and producing food in harmony with the environment. I want to see this Scheme drastically improve our biodiversity and strengthen the Welsh farming sector.

“We will rely on the commitment and expertise of the Welsh farming sector to deliver Net Zero and to halt and reverse the decline in biodiversity. The Scheme is designed to support farmers with this important role whilst at the same time helping them to continue producing high quality food to high production standards.

“The Scheme’s sustainability credentials are the basis for a prosperous future for agriculture in Wales and we want to see this help the industry to capture more of domestic and international markets.

“Today’s announcement presents these proposals in significantly more detail than has been shared previously. This includes outlining the structure of the Scheme, details on proposed actions, and the process through which farmers can apply.

“The climate and nature emergencies threaten the sustainability of agriculture and present the most serious risk to food security both globally and locally. We must respond to this if we are to ensure we have a sustainable and resilient agriculture sector for generations to come and one of my intentions for publishing the outline of the Scheme now is to help the industry plan for the future.

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“The sustainable production of food and actions to deliver environmental outcomes are complementary, not competing, agendas.

“Farming is vital for Wales and plays a key role in supporting our economy and rural communities. I firmly believe the Sustainable Farming Scheme offers a real opportunity for positive change, and with the support it will provide we can help the sector prosper.

“We will be engaging with the sector during the next stage of co-design before consulting on the final proposals next year. I have always said I want to work with our farmers to ensure this Scheme works for them and our nation.”

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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