Death of the Queen on 8th September
Normal Senedd business was suspended and the Senedd was recalled on September 8th to pay tribute to the Queen’s long life and reign. I spoke about her role as a conciliator, helping Britain discard its Empire whilst retaining relations through the Commonwealth of Nations. Whilst she could not intervene directly in British politics the Queen was very influential in hardening the Labour Government’s resolve to take action against the white Rhodesians who declared UDI in 1965 and pushing Thatcher to implement sanctions against apartheid South Africa. I wished the King good luck in helping to maintain the Commonwealth as a vehicle for a just green transition for southern hemisphere countries threatened by the reckless consumption of carbon by the wealthy north and its legacy of climate emergency. See: https://record.senedd.wales/Plenary/12973#C444525
The Cost of Living Crisis
In late September I organised an Energy Summit at the Powerhouse Llanedeyrn with a range of frontline organisations to share knowledge and ideas to help people get through this unprecedented winter crisis.
Jane Hutt, Minister of Social Justice emphasised the importance of everyone supporting the Welsh Government’s “Claim What’s Yours” campaign, in line with the NHS policy of making sure ‘Every Contact Count’. Jane also spoke about a further £1 million to help community food organisations buy food, baby products, period products and cleaning materials. See: gov.wales/written-statement-funding-tackling-food-poverty
Sam Gane, Cardiff Council Advice Manager summarised the advice and support provided by the Council’s Hubs. See: www.cardiffmoneyadvice.co.uk/
Amy Kordiak of Localgiving explained how to apply to a Community Matters Fuel Poverty Fund and Magic Little Grants, funded by the National Grid. LocalGiving also gives free help with crowdfunding community initiatives to provide warm spaces this winter.
Statutory and community organisations present agreed to coordinate on providing Warm Welcome Spaces and signposting to other services.
Warm Hubs in Community Focussed Schools
I asked the First Minister on 20th September how community-focused schools could be extended to offer family learning, sport and other after school activities in warm spaces.
The First Minister agreed we need to create warm banks in schools, rugby clubs, and centres operating by faith groups or other community organisations. He expects both the Arts Council and Sports Wales to increase support for community sport & arts.
Scrutinising the WG Warm Homes Programme
On 21st September I led a debate on the Equality & Social Justice Committee’s enquiry into the Warm Homes programme. See: www.senedd.tv/Meeting/Clip/cbde0969-3817-4226-9a9f-7f319348eb8e?inPoint=02:01:27&outPoint=02:11:24 and the full report here: www.senedd.wales/media/occhlkio/cr-ld15117-e.pdf
UK Government response to Energy price hikes
I asked the First Minister what Welsh Government can do to protect citizens from having to pay for the mountain of debt accrued by Liz Truss’ proposals to keep some sort of lid on heating bills without any strategy for shifting from gas to renewables.
The First Minister highlighted that the way the energy market is organised does not reflect the new realities of energy generation and that Wales remains determined to deliver our net-zero commitments, with the development of renewable energy at the forefront of our efforts, despite the refusal of the UK Government to impose a windfall tax on oil and gas companies.
On October 19th the Senedd was asked to consent to the UK Energy Prices Bill which allows the UK Government to give immediate relief to household energy bills but offers no sustainable solutions to encourage fossil fuel generators to switch to renewables. I note the House of Lords concern that it gave the UK Government powers to over-rule OFGEM without any parliamentary scrutiny of hat is proposed. It remains to be seen whether Rishi Sunak is prepared to take action for a just transition.
Solidarity with Iran
I organised a demonstration on the steps of the Senedd on October 11th in memory of Mahsa Amini, 22, and Nika Shakarami, 16, just two of the women killed for asserting their right not to wear the hijab.
Sahar Saki is a Cardiff-based artist, whose mural on Millennium Walk was defaced by someone who may know nothing about Iran’s struggle for freedom.
If you would like to support Sahar’s aim to create new artwork in solidarity with Iran, you can donate here: www.paypal.com/pools/c/8NR8XyQLde
Improving Health and Social Care
Nurse Staffing levels
I used a debate on a petition on nurse staffing levels to raise concerns over the 1,800 nursing job vacancies across Wales; the £133 million spent on agency nursing last year could pay for the salaries of nearly 5000 newly qualified nurses. The petition asked for the mandatory staffing levels to be extended to mental health, but I argued we first have to resolve why we are either not recruiting or retaining enough nurses. The major obstacle is that nurses can work flexible hours for an agency and get better pay.
In her response, the Minister said that the NHS is currently meeting its targets for recruiting nurses, however the retention of nurses is the issue and Health Education and Improvement Wales is investigating solutions to resolve the problem.
I met frontline RCN Nurses in the Senedd on September 28th for their launch of their report, Nursing in Numbers. See: www.rcn.org.uk/Professional-Development/publications/wales-nursing-numbers-english-pub-010-524
Delays in Hospital Discharges
On October 12th, the Senedd debated a report on the impact of hospital discharges on patient flow. I highlighted the work being done to strengthen the number of community nursing teams to people stop being sent to hospital unnecessarily and get patients home as soon as they are fit to leave hospital. I praised the Welsh Government’s work on digital solutions to managing caseloads which can give us a detailed understanding of the level of care needed in each community. I look forward to hearing about the work Cllr Norma Mackie is doing to strengthen care teams. Ultimately, we need seamless community health and care teams who manage their own caseload.
Leading the way on Women’s Healthcare
In a Conservative debate on Women’s Health on September 28th I praised the Welsh Government’s leadership in making telemedical abortions, pioneered during Covid, a permanent part of the service. I also praised the advancements pioneered by Hywel Dda Health Board on improving menopause care, particularly giving every woman over 40 attending cervical screening a questionnaire to alert them to symptoms of menopause.
On 8th October I spoke at a packed Menopause Conference about the Women’s Health Cross Party Group. The Conference heard some powerful testimonies from women who had struggled to get the care they needed. With 150 people attending the ICE in Newport, mainly clinicians mixed with FTWW, trade union and other health campaigners, I came away feeling we have turned the corner on improving menopause care as long as we listen to what women say about their symptoms. It will form a key part of the Welsh Government’s commitments to a Women’s Health Plan for Wales.
On October 26th, the Equality and Social Justice Committee published our report on Gender based Violence: the Needs of Migrant Women. See: www.senedd.wales/media/zh5helfw/cr-ld15422-e.pdf
In a debate on October 26th, I expressed disappointment that the Stroke Association could not explain why the Stroke Unit at Llandough Hospital is designated an overall D for effectiveness (though physio and occupational therapy services are deemed good), but I will raise this with the C&VUHB. Stroke is the 4th biggest cause of early death and speedy treatment is key to full recovery.
Children and Young People
On October 26th, the Senedd debated an excellent report by the Children, Young People and Education Committee on Peer on peer sexual harassment among learners. This is a complex and multi-faceted challenge; I used the opportunity to praise the serious response I received from Cardiff Bus about the extent of harassment pupils report taking place on public transport.
I asked the First Minister on October 4th what plans the Welsh Government has to clamp down on the epidemic of young people vaping, particularly in schools and colleges as tobacco companies use this as a way to get people to take up smoking.
The First Minister said that the government must do everything they can to protect young people from e-cigarettes becoming an addictive tool with damaging consequences.
In a later intervention, I highlighted the impact vaping has on brain development of under 25s and the need for combined action from health, education and regulatory services.
The Trefnydd said 7% of 11-17 year olds are now using e-cigarettes which needs to be addressed in the government’s new ‘Smoke-free Wales ’ strategy.
Universal Free School meals: the challenges
I led a debate on September 21st following the introduction of universal free school meals in Reception classes at the beginning of this term. This will be extended to Year 1 and 2 pupils in Cardiff after Easter. I praised the work done by Cardiff Council to get 18 school kitchens refurbished over the summer holidays and ensure all schools have the catering staff they need.
Encouraging all parents to take-up the offer that they are entitled to is still a challenge, as is overcoming the eating habits that children bring with them from home. I questioned what impact health visitors have in their interactions with parents to ensure that infants and toddlers do not inherit the health problems so many adults have. Obesity is the 2nd biggest cause of an early death after smoking. Encouraging all children to eat a healthy, balanced diet is essential for transforming the health of our nation. See the debate here: www.senedd.tv/Meeting/Clip/cbde0969-3817-4226-9a9f-7f319348eb8e?inPoint=04:05:52&outPoint=04:34:55
I recently visited Albany Primary school and Tredegarville Primary school, where I was delighted to see the healthy food available to learners.
Local Food Procurement
The ambition to use the expansion of school meals to stimulate local food procurement is complex and will take time to get right. We are blessed with good Welsh suppliers like Castell Howell who are keen to support expanding the local food economies. Two pieces of current legislation will assist this process.
I am scrutinising the Agriculture Bill in the Economy Trade and Rural Affairs Committee. This will replace the EU basic payment scheme with paying farmers for public goods such as clean air, restored nature as well as sustainable food production. I am also scrutinising the Social Partnership and Public Procurement Bill in the Equality and Social Justice Committee, which will encourage public bodies to spend more of Welsh taxpayers’ money in Wales.
Cardiff Salad Garden, Bute Park
I visited Cardiff Salad Garden in early October. It’s a thriving Community Interest Company based in Bute Park. With a £95k award from The National Lottery Community Fund, they are expanding their production and band of volunteers. Sales to local restaurants cross subsidise education events to grow the supply of fresh veg.
Banning most Single use Plastics
On September 20th. I asked the Counsel General why the Bill makes it a criminal offence to supply single-use plastics, but only a civil offence for somebody to leave their plastic rubbish on the beach. I also asked why the proposals hesitate to ban all single use plastic straws as paper and bamboo alternatives already exist.
The Counsel General said that the discrepancy ensures the objectives of the legislation are enforceable. On plastic straws, the consultation responses highlighted concerns from disability advocates with particular needs where a different type of straw might not be appropriate; so the exemptions were considered justified.
Following Stage 1 scrutiny by the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee, the legislation was debated on October11th. I highlighted the urgent action required with plastic in so much of our food, including breast milk. I welcome a proposed ban on so-called “biodegradable” bags which are completely unregulated. I want to see future progress on banning plastic in wet wipes and sanitary products.
Women’s Archive Wales: 25th Annual Conference
was held in Carmarthen on October1st. Courtney E Smith won a bursary for her work on the leading role Welsh women played in the Women’s Suffrage campaign. Gemma Harris presented her research on what Welsh women support groups have achieved since the 1984-84 strikes against pit closures. Lowri Jenkins researched the impact of women archivists on our museums, Dr Asda Khanon captured on how the NHS treats asylum seekers; and Megan Rees recorded the pioneering work of St David’s Cathedral incorporating female choristers since 1966.
Remembering Val Feld
An upgraded Purple Plaque for Val Feld has been installed at the Senedd. Val was Director of the Equal Opportunities Commission before being elected to represent Swansea East in 1999. There are now ten Purple Plaques all over Wales, celebrating the remarkable women of Wales.
I attended the launch of Minty’s Gig Guide at the Cardiff School of Journalism on October 19th, it is already proving the best way of keeping in touch with all the wonderful live music being produced and performed in Wales. See: www.mintysgigguide.wales/
Show Racism the Red Card
Members of the Senedd showed their support for Show Racism the Red Card’s ’Wear Red Day’ on October 21st.
Stay in Touch
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any comment about my work in the Senedd or the community you live in.
October 31st 2022