Senedd roundup: 1,435 job losses at Broughton ‘gut-wrenching news’

Airbus A380-800(F-WWDD). Photo by Kentaro IEMOTO is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Owen Donovan, Senedd Home

Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language Eluned Morgan described confirmation that 1,435 workers are to lose their jobs at Airbus in Broughton as “devastating” and said the figure was “larger than feared”.

On Tuesday Airbus, the world’s largest airliner manufacturer, announced that it planned to shed 15,000 jobs worldwide as it deals with the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

The Broughton site, which currently employs 6,000 people, has borne the brunt of the 1,700 job losses in the UK.

“This is clearly devastating news, not just for Airbus and people who are employed there, but for the entire economy of Wales,” the minister said at Thursday’s government press briefing.

“Clearly this is a larger number of jobs than we feared may happen and of course this will underline our determination to ensure that we work with the people in that factory, that we work with Airbus, that we work with the unions, and we make sure that we put those support mechanisms in place.

“Crucially also, we will be working with the UK government to make sure that we keep on pressing to see if we can get more specific support for the sector.”

Plaid Cymru North Wales MS Llyr Gruffydd described the job losses as “utterly gut-wrenching news”.

“My thoughts are with the workers, their families and the community at Broughton. I stand with them and will do everything I can to support them in the wake of this devastating blow.

“Both Welsh and UK Governments must now step up to the plate and do everything possible to retain these jobs and others throughout the supply chain.” He added.

For the Welsh Conservatives Russell George MS, the Shadow Minister for Business, Economy, and Infrastructure, pledged to work with the Welsh Government to help deal with the fallout from the redundancies.

“This is a devastating blow for not just Broughton, but also North Wales and across the border in England where some of these employees will live”, he said.

“There will also be significant impact upon those in the supply chain for the Broughton operation of Airbus.

“I echo what my colleague Paul Davies MS – the Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament – yesterday pledged, that he and the Welsh Conservatives will do all we can to deal with the impact of this and a number of recent major job losses in Wales, including working cross-party with the Labour-led Welsh Government.”

There have been eight more deaths from coronavirus according to the latest figures released by Public Health Wales. The total number of fatalities is now 1,524.

In the last 24-hours there 41 new cases reported, meaning 15,815 people have tested positive for Covid-19 since March.

PHW also reported 2,239 tests were carried out on Wednesday.

Photo by RitaE from Pixabay

Health of pub and restaurant staff ‘must come first’ as hospitality sector starts phased reopening

Government minister Eluned Morgan said the health of customers and employees must come first when pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants reopen from 13 July.

Initially only outdoor spaces owned by the business and subject to existing licenses can welcome back customers, and businesses will have to introduce measures including pre-booking and table service to reduce the risk of coronavirus.

Ministers are “working closely” with Public Health Wales “to make sure that we can trace people who have attended different hospitality areas,” Eluned Morgan said.

“There will be an expectation that people will need to pre-book, and that those names will be taken so all of those measures will be put in place.”

Speaking at Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing the minister also stressed It will be the responsibility of individual businesses to ensure social distancing guidance is followed.

“We’re working with the sector to develop the guidelines, and one of the suggestions is that there will be a person responsible within each hospitality facility to be responsible for making sure that they comply with the mitigation rules that we’ll be putting in place”, she said

“That will be the responsibility then of that person to make sure that compliance is managed and contained according to the guidelines that we’ll be setting out.

“So, the owner of the pub will have the responsibility of making sure that compliance is adhered to.”

“Obviously, we’ll be speaking in the next few weeks with the police and local authorities.

“Those conversations are already underway, and there will be obviously rules in place that they undertake at the moment in terms of compliance, so that will be an extension to what they do at the moment.”

The minister added the reopening of indoor services would be considered later, depending on the success of outdoor opening.

Minister seeks to address concerns ahead of introduction of curriculum law

The Motion

The Senedd:

  • Declares its general support for the purpose of the proposed new curriculum and agrees that introducing the new curriculum offers a historic opportunity to right many structural injustices in Wales.
  • Welcomes the Welsh Government’s recognition that government has a responsibility to take specific steps to ensure that the curriculum guarantees a baseline of provision for young people across Wales and welcomes that some elements of the new curriculum will be mandatory as a result.
  • Agrees that the mandatory elements of the curriculum should include BAME history and the history of Wales.
  • Agrees that the new curriculum should support all learners to be fluent in Welsh and English, but that English does not need to be included in the list of mandatory elements in order to achieve this aim.

The state should intervene when the status quo is failing

Sian Gwenllian MS (Plaid, Arfon) described the forthcoming Curriculum Bill (set to be tabled next week) as one of the most important pieces of legislation in the Senedd’s history.

The Welsh Government has accepted that parts of the curriculum should be mandatory, but the absence of Welsh history (including BAME history) in the mandatory elements reduces opportunities to help eradicate racism and ensure children have a full understanding of their own history. Additionally, the inclusion of English as a mandatory element will mean all students will learn English until age 7, but this would have a knock-on impact on Welsh-medium immersion.

The Conservatives supported part of the motion, but Shadow Education Minister, Suzy Davies MS (Con, South Wales West), argument that the implementation of the new curriculum should be delayed.

“….just under half of schools said they were doing no (curriculum) development work at all, with the remainder only doing some. 76% cent of teachers told us that this period was having a negative effect on their preparation, with all planned work for the summer cancelled, and when asked the open question, ‘What support could Welsh Government offer at this time to support your curriculum development?’, by far the majority response was, ‘Delay its implementation’ – not its introduction, but its implementation.”
– Shadow Education Minister, Suzy Davies MS

Former teacher Neil McEvoy MS (Ind, South Wales Central) argued that language immersion courses should be freely available to students and teachers and also argued that modern foreign languages should be taught from the first year of school and that BAME history was a part of Welsh history, not separate from it.

Inconsistency & Provocation

Leanne Wood MS (Plaid, Rhondda) noted an inconsistency in how history was being taught, particularly Wales’ involvement in slavery. If making sex and relationship education mandatory was about protecting minorities, then surely it extended to history as well?

Jenny Rathbone MS (Lab, Cardiff Central) made a similar case for religious education as nationality and religion are the basis for discrimination in addition to race. Rhianon Passmore MS (Lab, Islwyn), however, thought it was provocative for Plaid to demand that English isn’t a mandatory element when there’s a clear aim for all students to eventually be fluent in English and Welsh.

Delyth Jewell MS (Plaid, South Wales East), however, argued that poor or absent teaching of Welsh history could rob children of their own sense of identity. Also, placing English-medium education as a pre-requisite for all children contradicts the Welsh Government’s aim of 1 million Welsh-speakers by 2050.

Estyn to lead review of BAME history in the curriculum

Education Minister, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor) ran through what MSs could expect when the Curriculum Bill is introduced.

There won’t be a prescribed list of topics to teach, but Estyn (school inspectorate) will ensure their review of Welsh history takes into full account BAME history and culture. Under-representation of BAMEs in the education workforce was another area the Minister hopes to address.

“The humanities area of learning and experience will also provide opportunities for learners to learn about their heritage and sense of place through a study of Wales and their cynefin (“habitat”). Crucially, as has been mentioned a number of times this afternoon, it will allow learners to develop an inquiring and questioning mind, and will explore and investigate the world – past, present and future – for themselves.”
– Education Minister, Kirsty Williams

The Minister said Welsh-language immersion will be allowed to continue and to be given a legal footing – though she didn’t explain this further, although adding that she was open to further discussion on the matter with members.

Vote

A version of the motion amended by the Welsh Government, which included support for Estyn to review the history curriculum and support for all learners to learn Welsh and English, was passed by 30 votes to 12 with 14 abstentions.

Shadow Minister echoes Commissioner’s call for a care-home action plan

Janet Finch-Saunders MS, the Shadow Minister for Older People and Social Care has backed calls made by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales for the government to publish an action plan to protect and support older people living in care homes in Wales.

Their calls follow the publication of a new report – Care Home Voices: A snapshot of life in care homes in Wales during Covid-19 – which highlighted the challenges faced by care home residents and staff have during the pandemic. The report is based on the experiences of older people living in care homes, their families and friends, and care home managers and staff.

“The way the Labour-led Welsh Government has managed the pandemic in care homes has been nothing short of scandalous. Seemingly every week during the pandemic, those in the care home sector – whether staff or residents – have been beset by unique, enormous, and disproportionate challenges including a lack of testing and care homes being hounded to accept residents discharged from hospital,” Mrs Finch-Saunders said.

“The Labour-led administration must announce as a matter of urgency what steps it is already underway or planned to provide reassurance to people living and working in care homes, and their families.”

Test swab. Photo by Vesna Harni from Pixabay

Call for strategy to maximise use Covid-19 testing capacity

Plaid Cymru is pressing the government to ramp up Covid-19 testing in Wales.

Currently there is capacity for 12,374 tests a day. Public Health Wales recorded 2,239 tests were carried out yesterday.

Plaid’s Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth says that routine asymptomatic testing could be extended to more health and care workers, as well as workers in other key or vulnerable areas such as food processing.

“Testing is such a core part of any successful battle against covid-19, surely we need a strategy to make the greatest use possible of the testing capacity we have. That capacity was too slow being built up, but now that we have it, it should be used,” he said

“What I’d like to see is a clear strategy on using that capacity in the best possible way. It needs to have a clear objective, but with flexibility build in, so capacity can be shifted to respond to new outbreaks.”

Picture: Brad Flickinger (CC BY 2.0)

S4C archives “could be adapted for use in the new curriculum”

A summary of questions to Minister for International Relations & Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan (Lab, Mid West Wales)

Pandemic “an opportunity to develop online Welsh-learning”

Shadow Education & Welsh Language Minister, Suzy Davies MS (Con, South Wales West), asked about the impact of the recently-approved supplementary budget on the Welsh language in the community. This includes Mudiad Meithrin, Welsh language immersion centres and support for non-Welsh-speaking parents of children who attend Welsh-medium schools.

The Minister noted that her department had to make some cuts like most parts of the Welsh Government, but in the case of online Welsh language classes, it may have inadvertently produced some benefits.

“One of the areas where we had to make those cuts was in the National Centre for Learning Welsh. Of course, it wasn’t possible for the Centre to provide lessons in the way that it usually would….But what we have seen is that people are undertaking those lessons online. And, to tell the truth, more people are likely to turn up to their classes online than they were to turn up to the physical classes, which is interesting to see that there is change afoot.”
– Minister for International Relations & Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan

The Minister added that work was ongoing to ensure Welsh-medium childcare activities can take place over the summer.

The importance of Welsh-language public service broadcasting during lockdown

Calling back to recent reports and debates on the impact of the pandemic on the creative industries, Sian Gwenllian MS (Plaid, Arfon) noted the importance of public broadcasting during the lockdown.

“Public service broadcasting has also been very important during this lockdown period, with large numbers turning to S4C for Welsh-medium output? It has a particular role in supporting and conveying Welsh language culture to children. A large percentage of children in Welsh-medium education come from homes where the Welsh language isn’t spoken and they are turning in their thousands to Cyw and Ysgol Cyw on S4C. Since lockdown, viewership of television among children has increased by 182%.”
– Sian Gwenllian MS

The Minister hoped that future announcements by the UK Government will include support for the creative industries. On public broadcasting, the Minister said S4C has demonstrated its importance not only on TV or to Welsh language culture generally but digitally too. Talks are ongoing to see how S4C can use its archive programming to support Hwb and the new national curriculum.

Photo by Edar from Pixabay

Funding to support Welsh-language advice line for parents

A parenting and family advice charity has been awarded funding to extend its helpline service to Welsh speakers as part of the Welsh Government’s commitment to support parents during the Covid-19 pandemic

The charity Family Lives currently provides emotional support, information, advice and guidance on any aspect of parenting and family life across England and Wales.

They have delivered an emotional support helpline for over 40 years, and last year took around 800 calls from families in Wales. This funding will enable them to provide a Welsh-speaking adviser as part of their helpline team.

Today’s funding announcement complements the Welsh Government’s ‘Stay Safe, Stay Positive’ parenting campaign, running in response to the current pandemic.

Family Lives are also looking to recruit volunteer bilingual advisers and provide training on Welsh policy to their staff and volunteers to enable a more tailored service for families in Wales.

Deputy Minister for Health and Social Care, Julie Morgan, said:”The impact of Covid-19 restrictions on some families has been immense; some parents are facing challenges such as managing their children’s behaviour, co-parenting in lockdown, wellbeing and financial worries.

Family Lives have long provided an advice and information service in Wales and this funding is an important step in making this support available and accessible for parents who feel more comfortable speaking in Welsh.”

Photo by David Mark from Pixabay

Paralympian calls for clarity on leisure centre reopening

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson has called for the Welsh Government to clarify when leisure centres can reopen, stating in a letter than extended closure could have a social cost of £97million through decreased exercise.

She questioned why it was deemed to be safer to go to a beer garden – which could reopen in Wales from July 13th – that leisure centres, telling BBC Radio Wales : “Leisure facilities know the names and addresses of everyone who comes through the door, they can limit the numbers, move equipment, have sanitation at every station and there are already very strict rules on ventilation.”

The Welsh Government said, “Given the higher risk of transmission of Covid-19 within leisure centres, they could only be reopened safely when we are in the green phase of our traffic light system for lifting restrictions.”

HIV drug to be made routinely available in Wales

PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) – a drug used to suppress HIV – will be routinely available in Wales following the conclusion of a three-year trial period. During that time, over 1,200 people have been prescribed PrEP and, resultingly, there have been no new cases of HIV amongst people taking it.

With a generic version of the drug now available, Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), was advised that it’s now a cost-effective treatment that can be part of routine NHS care.

He said: “The provision of PrEP is an important measure in our aim to eliminate HIV and I am proud of what we have achieved to date in Wales. We have made huge progress in developing more modern and effective sexual health services over the last few years.”

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