Senedd roundup: No contact with PM for several weeks says First Minister

Boris Johnson. Picture by World Economic Forum (CC BY-SA 2.0)

First Minister Mark Drakeford revealed he has not spoken to Prime Minister Boris Johnson “for several weeks” at Fridays Welsh Government press briefing.

Their last conversation was before the prime minister was admitted to hospital with coronavirus on 5 April. Mr Johnson returned to work last Monday.

Earlier this week Mr Drakeford complained of a lack of engagement from UK ministers and called for the UK Government to do more to keep in contact with the leaders of the devolved nations. He also asked for No 10 to invite them to a Cobra meeting before the weekend.

He said: “I last spoke directly to the prime minister before he fell ill. That was several weeks ago now.

“He has had a very busy week since he returned to work and I wouldn’t have necessarily expected to be at the top of his contact list this week.

“We have had lots of contact with other UK government ministers in the meantime.

“What I think we haven’t had, and I would have preferred to have seen, is a systematic pattern of contact with the devolved administrations where we could have shared ideas, made sure we understood each other’s perspectives, contributed together to work which is going on in all parts of the UK as we move towards making decisions as to whether it’s the right time to come out of lockdown and how to do it.”

The first minister said he had received a letter from Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove outlining a suggestion for more regular contact in future.

Public Health Wales announced 17 further coronavirus deaths in Wales on Frday, bringing the total to 925. There were 160 confirmed new cases raising the overall number of people infected to 9972. 1090 tests were carried out yesterday.

Photo by RoseBox on Unsplash

Concern over disparity of food box take up

Figures obtained by the Welsh Conservatives have revealed that just over 10% of those eligible have taken advantage of the Welsh Government funded free food box

Early last month the government wrote to 80,000 people to encourage them to shield from Covid19 and offered access to the food boxes if they were unable to get support for food from family, friends or supermarket deliveries.

The figures also reveal a big difference in the numbers taking advantage of the scheme across Wales, with just 46 people requesting support in the Gwynedd council area to more than 1,600 in Merthyr Tydfil.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Rural Affairs, Andrew RT Davies AM, welcomed the number of people talking advantage of the programme but questioned if the disparity could be a consequence of over 13,000 letters being originally sent to incorrect addresses: “Initially it is great to see that together, within our communities, we are seeming to help the most vulnerable in our society ensuring that they have supplies during their shielding and that they don’t have to rely on Welsh Government support.

“However, the differences are astonishing and with the issues that Welsh Government have had, these figures could be highlighting the impact of the 13,000 letters sent to the wrong individuals incorrectly telling them to shield, and those who were missed.

“We also need to know if people in the areas where the take up is slow, is if the system has worked and everyone is correctly on the shielding list.”

Image by Mabel Amber, still incognito… from Pixabay

£500 extra payment for care staff

First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that the Welsh Government will fund a £500 extra payment for all social care workers in Wales at Friday’s press conference.

Mr Drakeford said the payment provides further recognition for an often “under-valued and overlooked” workforce.

The payment will be available to some 64,600 care home workers and domiciliary care workers throughout Wales.

The government recently provided an initial £40m extra funding for adult social care services to help meet the extra costs associated with responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

The First Minister said: “I want our social care workforce know their hard work is both appreciated and recognised. This payment is designed to provide some further recognition of the value we attach to everything they are doing to – it recognises this group of people are providing the invisible scaffolding of services, which support both our NHS and our wider society.”

Further details about the extra payment will be announced shortly. The Welsh Government is working with local authorities, who commission social care services in Wales, and with trade unions and Care Forum Wales, to finalise details.

Picture by Welsh Youth Parliament

Welsh Youth Parliament in special Coronavirus meeting with First Minister

Mental health support, overuse of screen time and too much schoolwork were among the main issues raised in a special meeting of the Welsh Youth Parliament with the First Minister.

The virtual session on Thursday, chaired by the Llywydd of the National Assembly for Wales, Elin Jones AM, was also attended by the Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams AM, and was an opportunity for members to share concerns directly with the Welsh Government.

The First Minister and Minister for Education talked about protecting mental health services as much as possible, standardising what schools offered across Wales so everyone knew what was expected of them, and how some plans for the Welsh economy may need to be modified to support younger people more.

Summing up the session, Newport East’s Charley Oliver-Holland said: “I’ve had a lot of young people say they are unsure of what the Welsh Government is actually doing, but from this conversation it seems like they are actually doing quite a lot.

“I just wanted to say thank you on behalf of all the young people, especially in my area, who have been really down about what is actually being done.

“There is a lot being done, we are being listened to, especially to have this meeting means that we are being listened to, so thank you.”

Elin Jones AM said: “We are living through an unprecedented time in our history. This crisis is having an impact on all of us, of all generations, and that’s why it is so important that young people’s voices are heard during this time, to understand the thoughts and concerns of people across the country.”

The Welsh Youth Parliament is made up of 60 members from across Wales who represent either constituencies or partner organisations. This ensures minority groups such as LGBTQ and BAME communities are included, as well as children with disabilities or from social care backgrounds.

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William Glyn THOMAS
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William Glyn THOMAS

All Political parties in Cymru need to be completely separate from the English parties. They can support other parties but need to be in charge of their own policies. Without independence, they will continue to be the lapdogs of Westminster parties.