Senedd roundup: Thousands of care staff to receive £500 award this month

Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash

The Welsh Government has extended the one-off £500 payment for social care workers in Wales announced last month to include ancillary and agency staff.

Speaking at Friday’s coronavirus press briefing First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed the award, in recognition of the work social care staff have done at the frontline of the pandemic, was now also being paid to kitchen and domestic staff working in care homes along with agency staff and nursing staff.

In addition, personal assistants and domiciliary care workers providing care to people in their own homes are now eligible for the money.

Tens of thousands of social care staff across Wales will receive the additional payment later this month.

Mr Drakeford said: “I am pleased to be able to say that in recognition of the extended role that they have played and all the detailed work which has gone on over the next few weeks, we are now able to extend this payment to ancillary staff.”

The First Minister also revealed that the Welsh Government is continuing discussions with the UK Treasury after it refused to waive tax or national insurance payments on the money.

Janet Finch-Saunders, the Welsh Conservatives Shadow Social Care Minister criticised  the government over the issue of the deductions and called for them to make up the difference to health care workers: “The Welsh Government – and its Health Minister – really should have checked the tax status of these payments before making such a quick announcement, because the decision to tax these payments was made by HMRC – not the UK Government.

“The Welsh Government still has hundreds of millions in unallocated funds provided to Wales as a result of the UK Government’s response to the pandemic, it should use these to cover the cost of any deductions from care workers’ pay packets as a result of this foul-up.”

Mr Drakeford also revealed at the briefing that a decision on advice from the government on the wearing of face coverings will be made early next week.

The UK Government confirmed yesterday that wearing face masks was being made compulsory on public transport in England from 15 June. In Scotland First Minister Nicola Nicola Sturgeon has said face coverings could become mandatory on public transport and in shops in the near future.

Mr Drakeford told journalists on Friday: “We will continue conversations over the weekend and make a definitive statement in the first part of next week.”

Figures released by Public Health Wales have confirmed four more people with coronavirus have died, taking the total number of deaths to 1,383.

There were 76 new cases reported, raising the total number of confirmed cases in Wales to 14,314 people. There were 3,006 tests carried out yesterday.

Photo by rafzin p on Unsplash

Minister welcomes innovation in healthcare as result of coronavirus crisis

Health Minister Vaughan Gething says new technology has a key role to play in the return to a more routine level of activity in the NHS in Wales over the coming months.

Most non-urgent operations and appointments were cancelled from March to help the NHS deal with the coronavirus outbreak but as the initial impact of the pandemic begins to decline plans are being put in place to restart routine operations and cancer services in the coming weeks.

In an oral statement to the Senedd Mr Gething said he recognised the need “to move slowly and cautiously” in making changes and highlighted the importance of flexibility to enable the sector to easily and quickly “adjust to balance the demand between both COVID-19 and non-COVID essential service areas.”

The minister told the Senedd: “… out of this crisis we have also been able to embrace innovation. There’s much greater use of technology that has been deployed over the past 10 weeks.

“In the two-week period from 19 to 26 May there were 977 more remote consultations across the NHS using the new NHS Wales video consultation service. Using these new ways of working to the NHS, we can still do much more, with a growing proportion of consultations being able to be conducted virtually.

“Equally importantly, 97 per cent of patients and 85 per cent of clinicians rated this new way of working as ‘excellent’, ‘really good’, or ‘good’. We’ve also seen a rise in the number of out-patient follow-ups that have been able to be conducted by telephone.

“That shows how, in our response to the pandemic, we’re using existing tools and services to deliver care in more efficient ways. So, we’re changing the way in which we’re delivering services, and using our resources differently.”

In the near future Mr Gething said other changes will see the acceleration of video consultation across the whole of Wales, infrastructure, and devices to enable remote working, and a new digital system for contact tracing.

He also plans to bring forward a new digital system for use in intensive care units, a new digital platform for eye care, and accelerating an upgrade to digital pathology services in Wales.

Entrance to Keogh Barracks and Army Medical Services Museum. Photo by Bikeboy and licensed under CC-ShareAlike 2.0

Cardiff museum plans an “insult”

Plaid Cymru has described plans for a military museum to relocate to Cardiff Bay as an “insult” to the local community.

The Museum of Military Medicine is looking to move to a site close to the Norwegian Church from Keogh Barracks in Aldershot.

Community activist and curator of Welsh Black History Nasir Adam criticised the plans and complained of the lack of consultation with the local community. He said: “A successful museum provides a clear link to the lived experience of local residents. Cardiff does not have a military history, and so we have to ask whose history and culture is being told in the Museum of Military Medicine?

“This latest move comes against a backdrop of things being imposed upon the local community, with no consultation with residents.”

Cardiff Bay used to be home to the Butetown History and Arts Centre, a museum that reflected the lives of the multicultural community that lived in the area. The centre closed in 2016 due to lack of funding – the same year the Museum of Military Medicine started searching for a new location away from the garrison town of Aldershot.

Leanne Wood MS, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Justice and Equalities said: “For Cardiff Council to watch the Butetown History & Arts Centre close due to lack of funds in 2016, only to welcome the Museum of Military Medicine to the area, is an insult to the people who belong there.

“Cardiff is not a military town, and it just does not make sense to have a museum glorifying warfare there. What it does have is a rich history, but this is rapidly being pushed aside in the seemingly frantic gentrification of the Cardiff Bay area.”

The museum says a public consultation about the move is currently underway. Local residents have started a petition to stop the relocation.

Neil McEvoy AM by National Assembly For Wales

MS calls for Welsh Constitution and Bill of Rights

WNP Leader Neil McEvoy has called on the Welsh Government to support the writing of a Welsh Constitution and Bill of Rights.

In comments made after he had asked a topical question in the Senedd about community cohesion in the light of the murder of George Floyd in the US, Mr McEvoy reflected on his own experiences as a person of colour.

He described the “common experiences” of racism for many people in Wales, including “violent attacks, wrongful arrest, racial slurs and negative stereotyping.”

Mr McEvoy, MS for South Wales Central, who announced the launch of the Welsh National Party in February, said:  “The Welsh National Party believes that Wales should have a constitution, with a bill of rights, where we can all sign up to being Welsh, defining what unites us. We can all choose to be Welsh.

“Our forefathers and mothers in Tiger Bay, where my mother grew up, led the way in showing how we can all live together in harmony.

“Will you [the Welsh Government] support defining in law what it is to be Welsh through a constitution?”

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