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Haverfordwest: Protesters want Stephen Crabb MP to resign as Mencap patron



Protesters outside Stephen Crabb MP's office (Pic: M Hillen/Herald)

Protesters outside Stephen Crabb MP’s office (Pic: M Hillen/Herald)

PLAID CYMRU, labour and The Green Party were amongst those represented at a demonstration outside Stephen Crabb MP’s office in Haverfordwest on Saturday.
The protest, organised by Pembrokeshire People’s Assembly Against Austerity was over Mr Crabb’s voting record on welfare, and included a call for him to step down as patron of Mencap.
Just over forty people attended the protest, which took place during heavy rain.
Adam Smith, Spokesman for Welsh Green Pride said that Stephen Crabb needed to know that “gay people cannot be cured, it’s not an illness it’s a way of life”.
Romayne Phoenix, National Co-Chair of The People’s Assembly said: “With Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation and the government forced to backtrack on Osborne’s disastrous budget, there are many more British people now recognising the hypocrisy of having Tory patrons of these disability charities which focus on care. The pressure is on, and Crabb’s appointment looks to have been a mistake made in a hurry that the Tories will regret for a long time.”
A petition calling for Mr Crabb to resign from his patron post has had more than 12,000 signatures.
Jim Scott, who started the petition told The Herald: “There is now overwhelming pressure from all quarters for Crabb to resign this post. The Mencap Facebook page has been inundated with comments requesting that Crabb be removed as their patron.
“A great many people have written and emailed Mencap locally as well as nationally.
“Many people have even said that they will be withholding their donations until this matter is resolved.
“The petition continues to grow.
“Public pressure as well as the efforts of DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) has already forced four MP’s to resign their patronages of other disability charities.
“It is just a matter of time now. Mr Crabb simply cannot and will-not get away with voting in Westminster for cuts such as the ESA cut which is a ‘done-deal’ now for Mr Crabb and cannot be ‘undone’ .
“Yet then masquerade as some kind of champion for disabled people while back in Pembrokshire, his game is up! These cuts have already caused widespread poverty, destitution, homelessness and many suicides among our most vulnerable and deserving members of society. Crabb, and all other ESA voting MP’s simply have to go.”
Romayne Phoenix, National Co-Chair of The People’s Assembly said: “With Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation and the government forced to backtrack on Osborne’s disastrous budget, there are many more British people now recognising the hypocrisy of having Tory patrons of these disability charities & charities which focus on care.
“The pressure is on – and Crabb’s appointment looks to have been a mistake made in a hurry that the `Tories will regret for a long time.”
Mr Crabb remains an unabashed apologist for benefits cuts, and even his assurance that no further benefit cuts will take place before 2020 is potentially moot. If benefits are frozen, for example, their value will reduce in real terms.
Organisers say the reason for the demo is that as there has been no statement from Stephen Crabb’s office, nor Mencap Pembrokeshire indicating that Crabb is to resign as Mencap patron. They say that they had no other option but to press ahead with the demonstration.


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Protestors lay empty plates outside local MPs’ offices following school meals vote



THE PEMBROKESHIRE PEOPLE’S ASSEMBLY has staged an ‘Empty Plates’ protest outside the constituency offices of both Stephen Crabb MP and Simon Hart MP following what The People’s Assembly describes as “The scandal of their free School Meals votes”

Due to current Covid restrictions, the protests were carried out by just two protestors at each location “who lived locally enough to each office to enable them to carry out the demonstrations whilst on their daily exercise round or while out purchasing essential items”, organisers said

The messages written on each of the plates were all sent in by local ‘would be’ protestors following a call out on social media.

Pembrokeshire People’s Assembly told us: “We have had a huge amount of support for this demonstration and under normal circumstances would have called for a conventional style demo on the streets to go along with the ’empty plates’ stunt. With the level of support that we have received and the visceral anger that is out there following Crabb and Hart’s votes, we know that this would have been very well attended, however, these are not normal times so this called for a more creative Covid-appropriate response.

The protest comes following a flurry of announcements from pubs and restaurants around Britain stating that they have barred Tory MP’s following their votes against protecting free school meals during School holidays, including two pubs in Fishguard who have now banned both Crabb and Hart for life.

A spokesperson at PPA told us: “The Tories, as ever, are determined to make the poorest and most vulnerable in society pay for the crisis. This latest move shows the utter contempt that the Conservatives hold for those people who work all hours to keep our society afloat in times of crisis. The vast majority of those who claim free school meals are those families who are working yet on low incomes, this is an issue of poverty pay, not benefits.”

“Simon Hart voted against the amendment which would have protected free School meals during holidays for children in England.”
Stephen Crabb, who was himself brought up on benefits, and who has almost never voted against his Party whip and certainly never voted against austerity ‘abstained’ from the vote -he says “in protest”, however, a true ‘protest vote’ would have been to vote against the government not just sit on the fence and pretend to have a backbone. In our eyes, Crabb’s abstention is actually a worse indictment of his character as it shows he will not stand by any political convictions he claims to hold!”

“Fortunately for the children living in Crabb and Hart’s own constituencies, the Labour led Welsh Government has ensured that children will get free School meals over the holidays.”

“Empty plates protests have taken place outside the offices of Tory MPs all around Britain and we expect to see many more, there is also a growing movement of Pub owners barring Tory MP’s from their premises’ which we think sends a clear message of disapproval to the Government and a clear warning to the MP’s who voted to keep children hungry over the School holidays.”

Máiréad Canavan, NEU National Executive member for Wales, added: “As an educator, I know first-hand how poverty limits the life chances of children and significantly affects their educational experience and outcomes in school. As coronavirus continues to impact families across the UK, It is reprehensible for any MP to vote against or abstain from a vote to allow children in need to access free school meals.

Empty plates outside Stephen Crabb’s office in Haverfordwest on Saturday (Oct 31)

Marc Tierney – former Labour Party parliamentary candidate for CWSP said: “Time and again both local MPs have voted to cut the help available to those who need it most. Consistently, Simon Hart fails to recognise the extent of poverty in our communities. He has put his Party and now his government job ahead of those who may have voted for him.

Thanks to the Welsh Labour no child will go hungry in Hart’s constituency because our Welsh government has already extended free school meals during the holidays. But poverty blights the lives of millions across Britain. If our MPs are blind to this, we must remind them that it is their duty to do more to help the 31% of children in Pembrokeshire and 29% of children in Carmarthenshire living in poverty today.”

Philippa Thompson, Labour Police and Crime Commissioner candidate for Dyfed-Powys, and former Parliamentary candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire said: “No child should go hungry at any time, and it’s essential we help especially during this crisis. Over a million people have signed Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford’s petition, which shows the strength of public opinion. Ensuring the continuation of free school meal provision has been a key priority for the Welsh Labour Government, in stark contrast to the Tory vote against struggling families in England”.

Alistair Cameron – former Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for CWSP said: “Simon Hart has shown a callous neglect for struggling families. Whilst Kirsty Williams in the Senedd has been ensuring that poverty should not mean hunger for our most disadvantaged children, our MP has chosen to deny children across the border the funding that could stop them from going hungry.”

Cris Tomos former Plaid Cymru parliamentary candidate for Preseli said: “The issues associated with increasing levels of child poverty in the 21st century is a sad and worrying reflection on our society and the lack of priority that the current Conservative government is placing on children’s wellbeing. Children should not have to go hungry in any of the 4 nations of the UK, but as we see increasing levels of rents and mortgage repayments hitting household budgets form one month to the other the amount remaining for the weekly food shopping is falling to worrying low levels. The levels of working families that are now experiencing food shortages is totally unacceptable and there needs to be a complete rethink of how wealth is distributed within the UK. The cost of living will only become notably tougher as we see the onslaught of Brexit increasing the costs of our groceries and food supply chain increases. Action needs to be taken now to protect our most vulnerable children from experiencing the devastating effects of hunger.”

Simon Hart said on his Facebook page: “Free school meals, a debate that impacts only England. The “opposition motion” last Wednesday was seeking an extension to the free school meal programme into the holidays was non-binding and even if passed would not have changed anything.

“The frustrating thing about these motions is that they are nothing more than political theatre.

“For what it’s worth, it was the this Government that extended FSM’s in Easter and Summer holidays in the first place but which has now decided that families in greater need are best served through increasing benefits over a whole year, not just via food vouchers in the holidays. I do understand how this looks in the media though (which is exasperating for all of us) but it’s not as straightforward as just removing something without trying to offset the consequences.”

Stephen Crabb MP, abstained from voting on the bill – a decision he says was done in protest to let his government know he did not agree with their views.

Mr Crabb has spoken previously of his background. He came from a single parent family, was raised in a council house and receivws free school meals.

Many social media users took Crabb’s decision not to vote as a decision that was just as bad as voting with the government with some branding him a hypocrite.

Taking to his Facebook page, Crabb defended his decision.

He told his constituents: “I took a decision to abstain on the vote, which is a well-recognised form of protest. I have made it very clear to the Government that I do not agree with them on this issue.”

Even though Crabb abstained, he told his followers that the free school meal provision wasn’t the way to tackle the problem of child poverty.

He added: “I am supportive of the holiday provision of free school meals but I think we also need to be looking at solutions that go beyond just vouchers. The main poverty charities I speak to have different views about whether vouchers are effective or not.
“I did not like the nature of the Labour Party’s debate in the Commons last Wednesday and I think some of the abuse being thrown around is appalling. The vote last week would have had no material impact on provision even if it had passed.”

Mr Crabb added: “More widely, whilst the issue of free school meals is important, ultimately we should be aiming to lift people out of poverty so that they no longer need this support. I have spent much of the last few months working hard on the campaign to keep the temporary £20 uplift to Universal Credit.
“The UK Government introduced a much welcome per-week increase in UC at the start of the crisis but this measure will expire in April, unless the Government commits to an extension.”

Mr Crabb assured his Pembrokeshire constituents he will continue to try and tackle child poverty.

He added: “I have spent a large proportion of my time in Westminster over the last few months campaigning on the issues of child poverty and pushing for more support for families on low incomes. I will continue to make this a priority.”

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Two schemes to help people self-isolate to be introduced in Wales



PEOPLE told to self-isolate for up to 14 days will be eligible for financial support from the Welsh Government as two new schemes are unveiled on Friday (Oct 30).

People on low incomes can apply to receive a £500 payment if they have tested positive for coronavirus or they are asked to self-isolate by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

And a new top-up payment is being introduced for the social care workforce in Wales, to increase statutory sick pay to their normal wages if they have to take time off because they have coronavirus or are self-isolating.

Up to £32m is being made available by the Welsh Government for the two schemes to support people and remove the financial barriers faced by people needing to self-isolate.

First Minister, Mark Drakeford said:

“The pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone and we have asked people to sacrifice so much this year, including during this latest firebreak. We are committed to doing everything we can to support people and protect people’s health and wellbeing.

“Asking people to self-isolate is an important way to break the transmission of the virus but for many people it can mean the loss of income.

“We all have a responsibility to protect our own health and our loved ones’ too but we know just how difficult that can be when faced with a choice between staying at home and not being able being able to feed your family or going to work.

“These new support schemes are targeted towards people on low incomes and are designed to relieve some of the financial pressures people face if they are asked to self-isolate.”

A £500 fixed payment will be available to people who are asked to self-isolate because they have tested positive for coronavirus or because they have been identified as a close contact by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

The payment is available to people on a low income who are unable to work from home and would lose income as a result of self-isolating. To be eligible, people must be self-isolating and in receipt of Universal Credit or another specified benefit.

The final arrangements are being made for the scheme to go live. People will be able to apply for the payments via their local authority website and they will be backdated to October 23.

The Statutory Sick Pay Enhancement scheme for social care staff working in care homes, domiciliary care and as personal assistants will start on 1 November and will run until 31 March 2021.

The scheme will top up statutory sick pay to eligible care workers’ full pay if they need to take time off with suspected or confirmed coronavirus or if they are self-isolating because someone in their household has coronavirus or they have been told to by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

Julie James, Minister for Housing and Local Government said: “If you are told to self-isolate, working from home is not an option for everyone, making this an even more stressful period for people. Some people can feel under pressure to go to work, just to pay the bills.

“The £500 self-isolation payment and the SSP enhancement scheme will help us protect the vulnerable and give people the financial security they need to stay-at-home and break the cycle of transmission.

“There will be some people who do not meet the criteria for the £500 payment but who will suffer financial hardship as a result of being asked to self-isolate. This is why we have introduced a discretionary element to the self-isolation payment, which will be available to a wider group of people.

“Financial support is already available to people through the Emergency Assistance Payment coronavirus hardship element of the Discretionary Assistance Fund.”

Alongside the two schemes, the Welsh Government intends to strengthen coronavirus regulations by imposing a legal requirement for people to self-isolate if told to do so by NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

The regulations will also be strengthened to make it an offence to knowingly provide false information to the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

And a duty will be introduced to ensure employers cannot prevent an employee from following NHS Wales Test Trace Protect advice to self-isolate.

These two schemes will form an important part of the national support and measures which will be introduced after the firebreak.

The First Minister will today start to set out what will happen when the firebreak ends on November 9 at the Welsh Government press briefing, which is held at 12.15pm.

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The current lockdown in Wales will end on November 9, despite the expected measures for England



THE 17-DAY Fire-break lockdown in Wales will still end on November 9, regardless of a potential lockdown in England, the Welsh Government is insisting.

The confirmation comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering new national lockdown measures for England, after scientists warned that half a million people were being infected with coronavirus each week.

Mr Johnson is expected to announce the measures for England, some national newspapers, including The Time, have said.

In England, everything except essential shops and education settings could be closed under the new measures but no final decisions are believed to have been made.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said: “We’ve been clear that we’re acting at this point, we’re acting to have a definitive fire-break. We’ll see the benefit of that come after the fire break ends.

“We’ve also been very clear with the new national set of rules we’ll have, we all need to do our bit and we as a government have a continuing responsibility to look at what’s happening and act on the basis of the evidence.”

“We won’t hesitate to act further if the situation demands it, but the plan is to reach 2021 without further intervention.

“We want to get to the end of the year, but if we need to act further before the end of the year then, of course, we’ll be prepared to do so.
Gething could not completely rule out another lockdown in Wales before January – he said: “None of us can know where exactly we’ll be in six weeks’ time let alone three months’ time.

“It would be foolish and just not honest to tell the public that we can rule out measures at some point in the future.”
He added: “In the future, we may have to act but this is what we think we can do if we all buy into a new way of living, to think of what we can do, to allow us all to get to the end of the year.

“And then, of course, we’ll have to reassess the position that we’re in.”

As we reported last week, another fire-break lockdown is likely in Wales in early January or February.

That is according to Deputy Economy and Transport Minister, Lee Waters, said the current firebreak was unlikely to be the last in Wales – with England “expected” to follow.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales Sunday Supplement programme last week he said people should be prepared to come in and out of lockdowns until a Covid-19 vaccine is found.

He said: “This is not the last lockdown we are going to see the projections we published in a worst case scenario show it’s likely we are going to need another firebreak in January or

He added that Wales is now witnessing a second peak, with critical care admissions increasing by 57% this week alone, and that was why the Welsh Government has introduced this “short, sharp” intervention.”

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