News in brief: Census to take place in March despite Covid concerns
The 2021 census is set to go ahead in March despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the potential risk posed to census workers and the people whose homes they visit.
The census, which is due to be carried out on 21 March, is conducted in Wales and England by the Office for National Statistics, which says postponing the survey could cost an estimated £360m.
The agency also claims the impacts of coronavirus and Brexit mean it is more important than ever to conduct the census as planned.
National Records of Scotland announced last year that it was postponing the census in Scotland until 2022 due to the pandemic.
The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency intends to carry out the census there on 21 March.
The ONS is hoping that at least 75% of household will complete the survey online but has also recruited thousands of fieldworkers, who will visit homes across Wales to remind people to complete the survey. The fieldworkers will be tested twice a week to ensure they don’t have the virus and will also be issued with PPE.
The head of the census, Pete Benton, told the Guardian: “There’s never been a more important time to have a census. We’ve been living with coronavirus for a year, which has had all kinds of impacts, and we’ve just left the European Union. Understanding where we are now as a nation really is fundamental to how we plan our way forward and how we monitor progress. And so it’s critical to understand who we are, and the census will paint that picture now.”
“Our paramount consideration is: can we keep the public safe? Can we keep our field staff safe? And can we produce good statistics? And the answer to all of those questions as we reviewed it with experts is: yes, we can.”
Full censuses have taken place across the UK every ten years since 1801. The most recent took place in 2011.
1 in 70 had Covid in Wales last week says latest research
New figures from the Office for National Statistics estimate 44,000 people in Wales had Covid-19 in the week ending 16 January, equating to around 1 in 70 people, the same proportion as recorded for the previous week’s study.
Across the UK, England has the highest level of infections at 1 in 55, followed by Northern Ireland where the rate is 1 in 60. Scotland is estimated to have the lowest proportion of the population with the virus for the week at 1 in 100.
The ONS is also tracking the progress of the new variant of the virus that originated in southeast England over the summer. For the week ending 17 January 36% of new positive tests in Wales were estimated to be the new variant, the lowest number in the UK.
However, the number of cases is likely to be higher than that due to the small number of samples in Wales. Last week Public Health Wales calculated over half of all new case across the country were the Kent variant.
Overall, Northern Ireland had the highest proportion at 68%, followed by England, 60% and Scotland 41%.
First Minister Mark Drakeford highlighted fears over the Kent variant and a new strain from South Africa, which has been detected in a small number of cases in Wales, at his press briefing yesterday, before Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned at a press conference that the English variant could increase the mortality rate of the original “wild strain” by up to 40%.
This morning, Dr Chris Williams, Incident Director for the Covid outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: “Public Health Wales is working with Public Health England and other UK partners to monitor the impact and spread of the UK variant, and to detect and monitor other virus variants. As reported yesterday, there is evidence which suggests that the UK variant of concern may lead to a higher risk of death than the non-variant.
“We continue to investigate and respond to the spread of the variant and its impact in Wales. Evidence is still emerging, and more work is underway to fully understand how it behaves.
“It is important to remember that all current variants of COVID-19 are still spreading and can cause severe illness and death. Therefore, it is important to stay at home, and to reduce opportunities for spread by keeping your distance, washing hands regularly, and covering your face.
Meanwhile, a further 27 people have died due to coronavirus and 1,079 new cases of the virus have been confirmed in today’s update from PHW.
Of the newly reported deaths, nine were in Cwn Taf Morgannwg health board area. Swansea Bay reported six and Anneurin Bevan five. Both Cardiff Bay and Betsi Cadwaladr recorded three deaths and one person died in Powys.
Wrexham (126) recorded the highest number of new cases, followed by Cardiff (105) and Carmarthenshire (85).
Wrexham has the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 609.8 per 100,000 people, down from 660.5 yesterday. The local authority also has the highest weekly positive test proportion at 25% per 100,000 tests down from 26.5% yesterday.
The seven-day rolling case rate for Wales has dropped from 271 cases per 100,000 people to 260.9 and the positive test proportion is currently 16.3%, down from 16.5% in Friday’s report.
Recommendations put in place following police probe at Ceredigion residential home
Katy Jenkins, local democracy reporter
Recommendations made following an investigation into allegations of abuse at a residential care home for people with learning disabilities are being put in place, Ceredigion’s director of social services has said.
Local operational safeguarding reports for quarter one, April to June 2020 were presented to the council’s overview and scrutiny coordinating committee on January 20.
The report includes reference to an “on-going large scale police investigations relating to allegations made against staff in a residential care home caring for people with learning disabilities.”
Sian Howys, director of social services and corporate lead officer for Porth Cynnal told the committee that recommendations had arisen as a result of the investigation and it was a “positive end to that.”
She added that the department would continue to look at any concerns raised about that particular -unnamed – home.
The committee report states that staff whistleblowers reported allegations of neglect, financial, physical and emotional abuse during quarters two and three last year which were investigated by police.
The investigation ended in July 2020 and there are “no cases proceeding to prosecution but there are a number of Safeguarding issues concerning the staff members, which are being managed through Safeguarding Procedures under the Professional Concerns process,” it adds.
A council spokesman said: “Ceredigion County Council is unable to confirm the identity of the home due to the confidential and sensitive nature of the information referred to in the safeguarding report and the need to protect the identity of the residents concerned.”
New study highlights lack of understanding of workplace rights
One in ten workers in Wales don’t have a good understanding of their workplace rights, according to recent research conducted by YouGov.
The survey, commissioned by the Wales TUC, has highlighted key areas where workers either did not understand, or were concerned about, their rights at work. 41 percent of the workers surveyed revealed concerns about fair pay, 30 percent about health and safety in the workplace and 27 per cent about flexibility offered in the workplace.
The survey also found that 12 per cent of workers would not be comfortable raising a work-related issue with a manager, while 18 per cent didn’t believe, or didn’t know, whether they were treated fairly at work.
Workers from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds were more likely to feel they were unfairly treated at work – 19 per cent compared to 12 per cent of white respondents – and to disagree that their employer understands and respects their employment rights – 20 per cent compared to 14 per cent of white respondents.
To help combat this lack of knowledge the Welsh Government has teamed up with social partners, the Wales TUC, FSB, CBI, Chambers Wales and other key partners, ACAS and Citizens Advice, to deliver a campaign to increase awareness of the workforce support available for both workers and businesses.
Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn, said: “The data revealed in this survey only serves to highlight the need for workers in Wales to have a better understanding of their workplace rights.
“As someone who comes from the trade union movement, I know first-hand that being part of a trade union, is the best way for workers to understand and secure their rights at work. Likewise, business representative organisations are there to support employers, helping them to access advice, representation and peer learning to not just get by but to get on.
“Workers are being encouraged to join a trade union as the best way to understand and protect their rights at work.”
Employers are also being encouraged to seek support and advice by becoming members of a business representative organisation.