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Crabb defies government over free school meals

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STEPHEN CRABB, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, says his abstention in a vote on extending free school meals during school holidays to English students eligible for them was a protest against the UK Government.

Although the Welsh Government decided to retian provision for children who qualify for free school meals to cover half terms until Easter 2021, Pembrokeshire’s two MPs have endured a huge social media backlash for their voting record on a similar scheme for England.

Simon Hart MP has been ‘named and shamed’ by The Daily Mirror for voting with his Government to remove the free school meals the holiday for 1.4 million of the most vulnerable children in England.

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 from voting, 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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North Pembrokeshire school closures explained

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PEMBROKESHIRE’S education chief has explained the decision to keep six North Pembrokeshire schools closed today (Tuesday, 24th November).

The schools – which were also closed on Monday following the increased spread of coronavirus in South Ceredigion – are:

• Ysgol Preseli
• Ysgol y Frenni
• Ysgol Llandudoch
• Ysgol Eglwyswrw
• Ysgol Cilgerran
• Ysgol Clydau.

The Pembrokeshire schools are closed as a precaution as they share services – such as transport – with the Ceredigion schools.
Pembrokeshire County Council’s Director of Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said the decision to keep the schools closed was
based around a series of meetings yesterday involving the Authority, Ceredigion County Council and Public Health Wales.

He explained: “Due to the sheer volume of contact tracing work the Cardigan situation has resulted in – and the widespread nature of the cases now across the town – many contacts remain to be spoken to.

“The view of the Incident Management Team in Pembrokeshire was to keep the schools closed to allow the contact tracing teams time to get hold of everyone they needed to and then review the decision later today.

“Everyone can be assured that it is our intention to re-open the schools at the earliest opportunity once we are satisfied that there will be no individuals within school setting who should be self-isolating.

“There will be an announcement this afternoon about the status of the schools currently closed and teaching staff will be in touch with families to arrange blended and distant learning.

“Officers are working hard dealing with this situation and we do appreciate the inconvenience caused. However, our priority has always been tackling this pandemic and ensuring that we stop the spread of the virus.”

Mr Richards-Downes added that he was grateful to teaching staff, parents and pupils for their co-operation in what had been a challenging few days.

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Masks now advised in all secondary schools

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PUPILS across Wales are now being advised to wear facemasks in all communal areas of secondary schools (including playgrounds), colleges and on transport to and from places of learning by the Welsh Government.

Although not compulsory, the new recommendations have been made by ministers to ensure a consistent approach in tackling COVID-19 across Wales.

People picking up and dropping off children are also advised to wear face coverings too to minimise the risk of catching or passing on COVID-19.

The new guidance, aimed mainly at secondary schools, which the Education Minister has described as ‘easy to follow’ was announced today and now means that the only spaces where staff and pupils can safely remove their facemasks is in the classroom.

The majority of councils already require secondary pupils and staff to wear masks in corridors and on most school transport with those rules extended to primary pupils too in some areas.

Education minister Kirsty Williams said: “It is vital that young people, parents, adults and the workforce feel confident that all measures are being taken to ensure the educational environments are as safe as possible.

“We have been clear that we will keep every policy under review and will continue to follow scientific advice. The policy we are announcing today does just that”.

The new advice has been recommended by the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Group (Tag), which has been looking at the “possibility of wearing face coverings for older age groups in more circumstances, including on public and dedicated transport” and could “even include in the classroom on a risk assessed basis…. balancing benefits with harms to overall wellbeing of students.”

Tag is also looking at how feasible a mass asymptomatic testing programme in schools and colleges could be, the Welsh Government has said it is considering that approach.

Debbie Thomas, Head of Policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru, said: “Face masks and coverings in communal areas could have serious consequences for Wales’ 2,500 deaf children, almost all of whom rely on lip reading and facial expressions to communicate.
“Socialising in corridors, break time chats and playground games are all rites of passage, but deaf young people now risk missing out because they can’t understand what others are saying. They’re also more likely to experience loneliness, isolation and bullying.
“Public health is the priority, but schools and colleges must move quickly to introduce reasonable adjustments to help deaf young people during this difficult time.”

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Two day centres to close temporarily as a precaution

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TWO north Pembrokeshire Day facilities for older people and people with learning disabilities are to close temporarily as a precaution following the rise in coronavirus cases in Ceredigion.

Bro Preseli Day Centre in Crymych and Wintern Day Centre, Goodwick, are to close temporarily from tomorrow (Tuesday, November 24).

The decision to close each site will be reviewed regularly.

It is emphasised that there have been no positive cases of Covid-19 detected at either site and the temporary closures have been put in place as a precaution.

 

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