News in brief: Calls for well-being of children to be at the heart of Wales’ Covid recovery
The Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee is today outlining the key steps that need to be taken to support children and young people in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Committee found the impact on children and young people in Wales “has been significant” and says every opportunity should be taken to support children and young people as Wales emerges from the Covid crisis
Key recommendations in the Committee’s report include:
- Ensuring that children and young people’s well-being and education is at the centre of all recovery planning.
- Supporting progress among both vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people, including those eligible for free school meals, children from other low-income households, those with Additional Learning Needs, young carers, care experienced children, and learners educated other than at school.
- Increasing opportunities for physical activity for children and young people, in communities and within schools, to maximise physical and mental health benefits.
- Preparing for, and funding, the response to any further disruption to education (including HE and FE) from COVID-19, including any future need for remote teaching, learning lessons from the past twelve months.
“Covid-19 has disrupted us all more than anything else we’ve seen in our lifetimes, but the impact on our children and young people has been particularly significant,” Lynne Neagle MS, Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee said.
“We want to make sure that every opportunity is taken to support our children and young people as we all emerge from this pandemic, and to ensure that their well-being is at the heart of all recovery planning.”
The committee’s report comes as a leading charity called on the next Welsh Government do more to reduce child poverty and “put our youngest children and particularly those in low-income families at the heart of every decision during the next Senedd.”
Before the Covid crisis struck, nearly one in three (180,000) children in Wales were growing up in poverty and Save the Children believes this figure could rise significantly because of the pandemic.
The charity says reducing poverty is key to tackling the attainment gap and improving children’s outcomes in the early years, giving all children the best start in life.
Save the Children is urging the next Welsh Government to:
- Appoint a Minister for Children and establish a Cabinet Sub-committee on Children to ensure coordination and better scrutiny of children’s issues. Also publish a renewed Child Poverty Strategywith a Delivery Plan.
- Support parents to engage in their children’s learning and development at home and work with schools and other early years’ service providers to promote the importance of family support and parental engagement.
- Extend the eligibility for free school meals to all children, including over the school holidays, where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefits.
- Ensure that all children living in poverty, regardless of age and parental work status, have access to a high quality coherent and integrated childcare system.
“The early years are a crucial time in a child’s life. Even before the pandemic, there was a significant gap in development between children in poverty and their peers in the early years, “Melanie Simmonds, Head of Save the Children in Wales said.
“Over the past year we’ve repeatedly heard from families living on low incomes how they have had to cut back on essentials such as food, heating and clothing for children and are sinking deeper into debt. Many parents also didn’t have the tools, resources and skills to adequately support their child’s learning and development at home which led to a lot of stress and anxiety.
“The role of Welsh Government and local authorities in the next five years will be crucial to make sure we are going in the right direction in reducing child poverty.”
Three further Covid deaths confirmed in Wales
Public Health Wales has confirmed three more deaths due to coronavirus and 159 new positive tests for the virus.
Two of the latest deaths were in the Cardiff and Vale health board area and one was reported in Hywel Dda.
Anglesey and Merthyr Tydfil remain the only two areas in Wales to have weekly case rates in three figures.
There were 11 new cases in Merthyr since yesterday’s report, with the weekly case rate increasing from 111.1 per 100,000 people to 112.7.
Anglesey reported 12 new positive tests since yesterday but the case rate has fallen to 101.4 from 107.1.
Flintshire currently has the highest positive test proportion in the country at 6.9% down from 7.2% per 100,000 tests yesterday.
The weekly national case rate has to fallen 40.5 from 41.5 and the positive test proportion dropped from 3.4% to 3.3%.
1,302,974 people have now received a first dose of Covid vaccine and 366,000 people in Wales have had both doses.
NHS Wales’ decarbonisation plans published
A decarbonisation plan for the Welsh NHS has been published as part of the government’s proposals to tackle climate change.
The Decarbonisation Strategic Delivery Plan for NHS Wales outlines nearly 50 initiatives and targets which will be assessed and reviewed in 2025 and 2030.
£16m is being provided by the government to support the decarbonisation plans for 2021-22, with capital funding allocated for a range of schemes including a solar farm, air source heat pumps and electric vehicle charging points.
A further £21m of capital funding is also being provided in 2021-22 for infrastructure, fire safety and mental health projects – based on priorities identified by partner organisations.
“Every single person in Wales has a part to play to challenge climate change however this is especially true for the decarbonisation of our health service, “Health Minister Vaughan Gething said.
“The choices we all make – as individuals, as patients and as staff – undoubtedly play a role in helping to reduce our combined contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
“Wales’ NHS must act now to reduce its environmental impact, play its part, and be an exemplar in the way forward in taking steps to reduce emissions. With the pandemic demonstrating that rapid and significant societal change is achievable, the goal now must be to stir similar urgency and commitment to tackle the climate emergency.”
Senedd passes new law restricting pet sales
New legislation has been passed in the Senedd introducing tighter regulations for pet sales.
The new law will also ban third party sales of puppies and kittens in Wales.
From 10 September it will be an offence to sell a puppy or kitten which the seller has not bred themselves. The new Regulations also requires the seller to have bred the puppy or kitten “at the premises” – which puts a stop to lengthy and multiple transportations for the young animals, which can cause distress.
This applies to travel in and around Wales, as well as banning puppies and kittens from being brought in to Wales to sell.
“Our much-loved pets fill us with joy, complete our families, and have helped us get through tough lockdowns during the pandemic,” Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said.
“We hope a ban will encourage respectful and responsible attitudes towards all animals, provide greater transparency for people who wish to welcome puppies or kittens into their homes as to how they have been bred, and empower Local Authorities to take action if they have concerns about how puppies and kittens are being bred and sold.”
Consultation launched on Cardiff’s next cycleway
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
A public consultation has launched on five options for Cardiff’s next cycleway: from Western Avenue to Llandaff Village.
‘Cycleway 4.2’ would join the recently built route through Sophia Gardens and Pontcanna Fields, and would end on Llantrisant Road. Eventually a future phase will link to Plasdŵr.
The six-week public consultation runs from Tuesday, March 23 until May 4. Cardiff council wants to know which of the five options would be best to build.
Full details of the plan can be found on the website cardiff.gov.uk/cycleways, as well as how to respond to the consultation.
Option A would use the path to the north of Cardiff Metropolitan University, then parallel to the footpath by the river Taff, before going south through Llandaff Meadow and onto Cathedral Green. It would then go onto Bridge Road and end on Llantrisant Road.
Option B would be built on the footpath by the river, exiting by the rowing club onto Bridge Road, then through the old BBC site and ending on Llantrisant Road.
Option C would run along Western Avenue, then up the path to the south of Llandaff Cemetery to Cathedral Close. It would then go onto Cathedral Green, then Bridge Road and ending on Llantrisant Road.
Option D would also go on the path to the north of the university campus, then join the path by the river, before exiting by the rowing club onto Bridge Road, through the old BBC site, and onto Llantrisant Road.
Option E would also go through the university campus, but then through Llandaff Meadow, before going past the rowing club onto Bridge Road, and again through the old BBC site onto Llantrisant Road.
Each route has various advantages and disadvantages: including some trees might need to be felled, some routes are seen as safer, and others more direct.
The network of five ‘cycle superhighways’ across Cardiff are a huge investment in making it easier for cyclists to get around the city safely. They form a big part of the council’s plans to get drivers out of their cars and to use more sustainable methods of transport instead.
The latest available government data shows that 40 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions in Cardiff come from transport, of which the vast majority is private car journeys. Reducing carbon emissions is critical for mitigating catastrophic increases in global temperatures.
Consultation on Holyhead Border Control Post opens
The planning consultation opens today on the location of the border control post for the port of Holyhead, which is planned to be on Plot 9, Parc Cybi.
A total of 30 BCPs are being built across the UK to enable physical checks to be carried out on certain goods entering the UK from the EU as required under the trade deal the UK Government agreed with the EU at the end of last year.
Further controls on imports are due to be introduced in phases by the UK Government.
At Holyhead inspections will be carried out on goods such as animals, plants and products of animal origin entering Wales from the Republic of Ireland.
All BCPs must be biosecure so that inspections of live animals, meat and plants can take place without risk of contamination and must also have vets on site to carry out inspections. They must also offer large parking areas for HGVs.
Exports into the EU from the UK have been subject to controls since 1 January under the terms of the post-Brexit trade agreement, but the British government had delayed putting import controls in place until 1 July to give businesses time to prepare for the new measures.
It was confirmed two weeks ago that the UK Government had delayed the introduction of checks on imports from the EU by six months, because the network of border posts being built to inspect incoming goods will not be ready in time.
These checks are the responsibility of the Welsh Government and will be in place in order to ensure goods entering the UK do not pose a risk to public health, or to the spread of animal or plant diseases.
Residents within 1km of Parc Cybi have been sent information about the proposed BCP as part of the consultation.
“While the timetable has been amended by the UK Government for the introduction of checks, we remain in discussion with them to ensure enough time is provided to adapt to the new circumstances in an effective manner, minimising disruption for our Welsh businesses,” Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said.
The government is also working to identify a site for the second BCP in South West Wales.