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First Minister highlights importance of childcare

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First Minister Carwyn Jones: Chatting with some of the children at the centre

First Minister Carwyn Jones: Chatting with some of the children at the centre

WELSH LABOUR LEADER Carwyn Jones today visited a Flying Start centre in Pembrokeshire to highlight Labour’s pledge to introduce 10 extra hours of free childcare for working parents of three and four year olds if Labour wins May’s General Election.
Labour investment contrasts with the Tories who have slashed funding for Sure Start provision in England resulting in the loss of 40,000 childcare places and the closure of 720 Sure Start centres.
Welsh Labour leader and First Minister, Carwyn Jones AM, said: “These are difficult times for many families in Wales, with parents working hard in order to make ends meet. Labour’s plans to introduce 10 extra hours of free childcare for working parents of three and four year olds will be a huge relief to those struggling to balance family time and work. We know too that the lack of affordable childcare can be a barrier to mums returning to work. In Wales we have recognised this and have invested in Foundation Phase scheme which will help transform the futures of children across Wales. The number of children benefitting from Flying Start provision under Labour has increased from 18,000 to 33,000 in this Assembly. Contrasting with harsh cuts by the Tories to Sure Start in England which has seen 720 centres close and the loss of 40,000 childcare places. This election is a choice between a Labour government that boost childcare provision and help parents back to work, or a Tory government with extreme spending plans and a commitment to slash education funding.”
He added: “I’m here to emphasise the importance of childcare, we’re in a childcare setting, and also the benefits from Flying Start, the Welsh Government scheme. We know that one of the major obstacles people will have to overcome to get back to work is what they do with children and being able to provide affordable childcare is really important to help people earn money and get back to work. We’ve already doubled the number of children who are entitled to Flying Start which is one of the schemes we run. It has been extremely successful and I have heard today how successful that has been where children development mentally a way ahead of where they should be which is great news and the pleasure to be made in terms of increasing access to childcare. When our children were young, having childcare was a really important issue and it’s that way for many people. What we want to do is make sure that where people have the opportunity to work, we know that work is the best way out of poverty, and people have that opportunity to work and that we do as much as we can for them to remove any barriers that prevent them from working. We want to make sure that we (Wales) have the same offer as is in place in England. We don’t want our children to be in a different position. We are already ahead of England in that sense. One of the things we did of course was to introduce Flying Start. In England they did it the other way, getting rid of sure start, and that meant that many families didn’t have the extra help that children needed. We take the view we want to give the best start in life to our kids.”
Labour candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Delyth Evans, said: “Families across the constituency tell me that the cost of childcare is a huge issue for them. Labour’s plan to double free childcare will be a real help to families who are working hard and still struggling to make ends meet. It shows that Labour is listening to families and taking action to tackle the issues that matter to them.”

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Pembrokeshire Bluetit Chill Swimmers successfully swim the English Channel

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Seven swimmers from Pembrokeshire have successfully completed their first cross-channel swim as a team representing the Bluetit Chill Swimmers.

“We are feeling amazing, elated, epic, achy, and exhausted,” expressed the team.

Setting off from Dover at 2:31 am last Wednesday morning, the women arrived in France at 7:54 pm that evening, after 17 hours and 24 minutes in the water. They swam in shifts of one hour, navigating through pitch-black early hours and encountering choppy seas during the journey. Despite seasickness and exhaustion, they supported each other throughout.

“For me, what was amazing was the constant support,” remarked team member Laura Voller. “Whether it was keeping warm with a blanket, or ensuring someone had food and drink when needed, there was always someone looking out for the team.”

The journey was far from straightforward. At one point, the safety boat’s pilot called swimmer Makala into the wheelhouse, expressing doubts about reaching France given the conditions and progress.

“I had a quick chat with the team and urged us to dig deep,” Makala recalled. “And we did just that.”

Reflecting on the challenging nature of channel swimming, Bluetits founder Sian Richardson noted, “It’s not glamorous; it’s about getting things done. We pushed ourselves to the limit. Despite fatigue, seasickness, and hunger, spirits lifted towards the end.”

Eva Rees, who made landfall in France, described the moment as a profound privilege. “To be the one landing the team was incredible,” she said. “I felt their support every step of the way.”

The Bluetits hope their achievement will inspire other cold-water swimmers worldwide to take on similar challenges. “Even if you think swimming isn’t for you, it’s achievable,” they affirmed. “We’re just ordinary people, but together, we’ve shown our endurance.”

Beyond their feat, the team aims to raise funds for water safety training across the global Bluetit community of 150,000 members and to equip the team with a portable defibrillator for events. They have already raised over £2,500.

To sponsor them, visit bluetit-channel-relay-swim.raiselysite.com/donate or click the link above.

Additionally, Jess is fundraising for Kidney Wales, while other team members are supporting Paul Sartori.

The team expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support and positive feedback on their videos during the swim, which bolstered their spirits throughout the challenging journey.

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‘A long way to go’ to eradicate racism in Wales

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WALES still has a long way to go to eradicate racism, a Senedd committee warned.

Jenny Rathbone led a debate on an equality committee’s report, entitled “Action, not words” following an inquiry on the Welsh Government’s anti-racist Wales action plan.

Ms Rathbone, who chairs the committee, said racism remains an all-too-familiar part of the day-to-day experience of far too many Welsh citizens.

She warned governance arrangements set up under the plan, which aims to make Wales an anti-racist nation by 2030, are far too complicated and risk being overengineered.

Ms Rathbone raised concerns about access to language interpretation in the health service, with family members, including children, too often being relied on as translators.

“It really is a breach of a person’s human rights not to have proper interpretation,” she said.

Ms Rathbone raised a Royal College of Nursing survey which found nearly half of Asian and black respondents had been bullied by colleagues, compared with 38% for white staff.

Turning to education, the Cardiff Central MS warned that many schools and colleges do not have anti-racism policies nor escalation mechanisms.

She said: “Race Council Cymru told us that many people from ethnic minority backgrounds don’t have confidence that education settings have effective policies to prevent racist bullying or micro-aggressions, and that these are dealt with effectively when they do occur.”

Ms Rathbone called for a consistent, pan-Wales approach to reporting anti-racist incidents in education similar to the Datix Cymru reporting system in the NHS.

Altaf Hussain, for the Conservatives, told the chamber Wales is among the most tolerant nations but, sadly, racism still exists.

“It is not the overt kind that is prevalent in our nation; it is the more covert structural racism,” he said, adding that the hidden nature of structural racism makes it difficult to tackle.

Mr Hussain, who represents South Wales West, warned that only a tiny percentage of teachers are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

“Last year, only 0.2% of the newly-qualified teachers were black,” he said. “Just 44 out of the nearly 1,500 newly-qualified teachers had a BAME background.

“How can we possibly hope to put an end to racism, discrimination and, ultimately, hate crime via education and celebrations of diversity if our teachers are not representative?”

Sioned Williams, Plaid Cymru’s shadow social justice secretary, warned of an “action gap”, saying progress on race-based prejudice and inequality has been too slow.

She said witnesses flagged funding as a barrier, quoting Ceri Harris, Betsi Cadwaladr health board’s head of equality, as saying she has had to beg, steal and borrow for initiatives.

Turning to criminal justice, Ms Williams said people from ethnic minority backgrounds are over-represented at all levels of the system.

She said: “In 2021, 51 out of every 10,000 black people in Wales were in prison, compared to 14 white people, and more black people were also under the care of probation services.

“The length of sentences is also longer for black people than white defendants. In the same way, the limited data available confirm high levels of disproportionality in the use of stop and search by Welsh police forces.”

Jane Dodds warned people from ethnic minority backgrounds continue to face disparities in housing, education, employment, health and justice despite pockets of progress.

The Mid and West Wales MS welcomed the ambition of the anti-racist action plan, stressing that it needs to “dismantle Wales’ racist framework”.

Ms Dodds said: “Complacency remains the enemy of progress and the committee’s report highlights the formidable challenges that the Welsh Government needs to surmount.”

The Lib Dems’ leader in Wales criticised ministers’ response to recommendations, accusing the Welsh Government of appearing to abdicate its role in improving strategic equality plans.

She added: “By rejecting the need for concrete timelines and binding commitments, the government further undermines confidence and risks allowing this blight to fester.”

John Griffiths focused his contribution on the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma community.

Warning their voices too often go unheard, the Labour backbencher stressed the need to combat discrimination against all sections of society in Wales.

Mr Griffiths, who represents Newport East, raised the children’s commissioner’s concerns about an unacceptable level of bullying faced by Gypsy and Traveller children.

He told the Senedd: “The level of exclusions is way beyond what we see for the rest of the population. That community is not represented amongst teaching staff

Mr Griffiths raised concerns about a lack of any spending from a Welsh Government pot specifically for sites for the Gypsy, Traveller community in the last financial year.

Responding to the debate on June 12, Lesley Griffiths said significant structural foundations have been laid for long-term change and tangible progress has been made.

The social justice secretary told the chamber a refreshed anti-racist Wales plan will be published this year, with goals and actions spanning the whole of government.

Ms Griffiths pointed out that Wales was the first UK nation to make the teaching of black, Asian and minority ethnic histories mandatory.

She added that the Welsh Government is also considering the recommendations of the children’s commissioner’s report which put a spotlight on racism in secondary schools.

In closing, Ms Griffiths said: “I’m committed to tackling systemic and cultural racism in all forms as a priority. What we need to do is absolutely use every lever available. We all need to take a leading role in eradicating racism here in Wales.”

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Stunning mural by local artist graces Tenby’s oldest pub

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THE WELL-LOVED Coach and Horses pub, Tenby’s oldest establishment, now boasts a stunning new mural by renowned local artist Lloyd the Graffiti.

The artwork, completed on June 12, has quickly become a beloved fixture in the heart of the town, capturing the admiration and praise of residents and visitors alike.

The mural, which features a vivid depiction of the iconic Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, pays homage to his legendary visit to the pub in 1953. According to local lore, Thomas became so inebriated during his visit that he left his manuscript for “Under Milk Wood” on a stool. Lloyd’s artwork brilliantly captures this slice of literary history, merging it with a vibrant portrayal of Tenby’s charming streetscape.

The mural’s unveiling has sparked an outpouring of positive reactions on social media, highlighting the community’s appreciation for Lloyd’s exceptional talent and the mural’s contribution to the town’s cultural landscape. Guy Manning commented, “Love it, absolutely wonderful!” JenksArt added, “Well done buddy! You smashed that about time Tenby had something like this in the heart of the town.” Amanda Absalom-Lowe expressed her admiration, “Lloyd you are such an amazing artist honest to go how do you just do it!? What a talent you have in this world and show it to the world!! Amazing.” Local residents have also been sharing their joy at seeing the mural come to life over the past few days: Sarah Bolwell shared, “So amazing! We’ve loved watching this progress over the last few days, what a brilliant addition to the street.” Kath Brown humorously recounted, “Whoop whoop you finished it! Well done, it’s been a real treat to watch the progress and heckle you as we’ve gone in and out!”

Anna Davies, a top fan, declared, “Wow that’s amazing it’s absolutely awesome such talent Lloyd the Graffiti Dylan Thomas lives on in Tenby for everyone to admire and talk about.” Other reactions included Nicola Newell: “Amazing,” Danielle Coles: “Brilliant,” Cheryl Hunt: “Stupendous,” Theresa Evans: “Shouldn’t they have a Welsh flag out the front?” Hazel Phillips: “Amazing,” and Penny Rossiter: “This looks amazing.”

Lloyd the Graffiti’s mural has not only enhanced the aesthetic appeal of the Coach and Horses pub but has also reignited the town’s enthusiasm for public art. Many residents hope this will be the first of many such projects, bringing more color and creativity to Tenby’s streets. As the mural continues to draw attention, it stands as a testament to the vibrant artistic talent within the community and the timeless allure of Dylan Thomas’s legacy. Visitors to Tenby are encouraged to stop by the Coach and Horses pub to experience this remarkable piece of art firsthand.

For those interested in seeing more of Lloyd’s work or commissioning a piece, he can be contacted through his social media platforms, where he regularly shares his latest projects and artistic endeavors.

These stunning pictures were taken by Gareth Davies Photography, Tenby.

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