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Politics

Poverty and complex needs

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DeprivationTHE JOSEPH ROWNTREE FOUNDATION is working with the Bevan Foundation and others on a major programme to identify ‘what works’ to reduce poverty and to develop an anti-poverty strategy for Wales and other UK nations based on that evidence.

The term ‘complex needs’ refers to the ways in which poverty is complicated by some people’s additional requirements for support with, for example, substance misuse, or the trauma associated with experiences of violence, abuse or neglect. It also includes people whose additional disadvantages are associated with legal status (for example, immigration status restricting employment or welfare rights).

It is very important to understand that poverty amongst these groups of people and their specific needs are two separate things.

Work undertaken to date suggests it is unlikely that poverty amongst people with complex needs will be reduced in the short term. Instead, the focus should be on reducing the additional disadvantages they face so that they are closer to the same position as other income groups, enabling them to access mainstream services and support.

Adults with complex needs

Some key findings have emerged so far:

  • Adults often have overlapping complex needs (e.g. homelessness, substance misuse and a history of offending) which should be addressed in a holistic way rather than separately. This suggests that the Welsh Government should bring together these functions, currently located in three different portfolios, under a single Minister and be addressed in a single, ‘complex needs’ strategy.
  • Approaches based on people’s assets are more effective than those based on their deficits – so approaches such as Housing First or recovery models of substance misuse are typically most effective. This suggests that the Welsh Government may wish to review and refresh its approaches.
  • Community-based support is typically more effective than institutionally-based services. This suggests that the Welsh Government may wish to review its approaches and focus on community-based interventions.
  • For a minority of people, intensive, personalised and open-ended support is required.

In the longer term, the close association between persistent family poverty and many complex needs such as substance misuse, living in a disadvantaged area and offending needs to be broken. The most effective ‘primary’ prevention measure is to reduce poverty itself, especially amongst unemployed young men living in disadvantaged areas. This suggests that the Welsh Government should target some future anti-poverty actions on young unemployed men.

Refugees and Asylum-seekers

Emerging proposals to reduce poverty amongst refugees and asylum-seekers include non-devolved issues such as changes to the asylum process and benefits eligibility.

Areas of relevance to the Welsh Government include:

  • Improved access to the labour market, so that refugees and asylum seekers can reduce the risk of poverty by working.
  • Improved access to housing, particularly on transition from Home Office accommodation to the private rented sector.
  • Access to ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) provision.
  • Better access to health care services especially for pregnant women and access to rehabilitation and psychological support.

Work remains ongoing on effective approaches for families with complex needs and domestic violence.

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News

Labour and Plaid agree on Senedd carve-up

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LABOUR and Plaid Cymru this week pre-empted the results of a Senedd Committee’s enquiry and announced a huge increase in the number of Wales’s Senedd Members.
While the Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform continues to hear evidence ahead of its final report, Labour and Plaid announced they had agreed that Wales would elect 96 Senedd members instead of the current sixty at the next election.
Securing electoral reform and expanding the Senedd were Plaid Cymru manifesto commitments while expanding the Senedd was a Labour policy pledge.
However, the arrangements announced on Tuesday (May 10) are likely to increase questions about how accountable Senedd members are to their electorate.

FIXING THE SYSTEM

One of the key gripes of those in favour of Senedd reform is the abolition of regional members selected using Wales’s complex PR system.

The new arrangements will see 32 constituencies based on the new Westminster constituency boundaries electing three members each but grouped with six other constituencies to ensure seats are allocated (theoretically) more proportionately.

If that sounds complicated, the system will have one simple result.

It will sever the link between elected and electors.

Voters will vote for parties and not individuals. The party-list will decide who gets elected to represent you.

You will no longer have a say in the identity of your representatives.

Instead, the parties have all the power to decide who gets elected.

You’re made for life if you get in via the system proposed.

And if that sounds like modern Welsh democracy, it’s a very peculiar form of it.

The arrangement suits Labour as its voters won’t have any chance to vote for anyone else. In a properly proportional single transferrable vote system (STV), votes get the chance to rank their preferences.

Under the proposals, voters will vote for one party and whoever else gets elected depends on the system churning out results and favoured and otherwise unelectable party hacks.

Like most current regional members, Senedd Members elected under the proposed system will become

invisible in their communities.

MPs will have far greater local profiles.

Suppose the proposals want to encourage nation-building and create a stronger and more democratic Welsh Parliament. In that case, the results are likely to entrench Labour and Plaid in a permanently symbiotic relationship with very little chance for other parties to breakthrough.

It’s a system ripe for abuse by party managers and rooked to exclude small parties from any national say.

From Labour and Plaid’s perspectives, it will ensure the Conservatives are permanently excluded from power in Wales.

THE WIND OF CHANGE

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The case for Senedd reform has been made.

“We now need to get on with the hard work to create a modern Senedd, which reflects the Wales we live in today. A Parliament that truly works for Wales.

“The joint position statement we are publishing today will help support the important work of the cross-party Special Purpose Committee to move Senedd reform forwards.”
Adam Price, leader of Plaid Cymru, said: “These reforms will lay the foundations for a stronger Welsh democracy and a fairer, more representative Senedd that will look entirely different to the outdated political system at Westminster.

“A stronger, more diverse, more representative Senedd will have a greater capacity to perform its primary purpose of making a positive difference to the lives of the people of Wales.”
Ensuring that the Senedd is more diverse is an interesting step forward.
The statement detailing the proposals says that electoral law in Wales will include “integrated statutory gender quotas and mandatory zipping.”
The first part of that phrase indicates an aim to ensure equal representation between the genders in the Senedd.

The second part, “mandatory zipping”, requires parties to put forward equal numbers of male and female candidates and alternate between men and women when preparing their candidate lists.
If number one on the internal party list is male, the second is female, the third male, the fourth female &c.
It is unclear whether the Welsh Government has the legal power to force those measures.
Mark Drakeford and Ada Price wrote to the Reform Committee’s Chair, Huw Irranca-Davies, saying their proposals are “most likely to achieve the two-thirds Senedd majority required by law to deliver reform.
“We are confident that the statement below will enable you to make recommendations on these fundamental issues.”

DRAKEFORD AND PRICE “TRYING
TO STRONGARM COMMITTEE”

The Welsh Conservative response was swift.

Andrew RT Davies said: “Wales does not need more politicians in Cardiff Bay – we need more teachers, doctors, dentists, and nurses.

“While we have consistently objected to more politicians, we recognise Labour and Plaid have enough votes to push ahead.

“That’s why we have engaged constructively with the Senedd Reform Committee.

“Sadly, both parties have completely undermined the committee’s work with this announcement.”

Darren Millar, the Conservative Member of the Senedd Reform Committee, was even more scathing.

Announcing his decision to quit the Committee, he said: “It was extremely disappointing to see the Committee undermined by the publication of a joint position statement on Senedd reform by the First Minister and the Leader of Plaid Cymru.

“Issuing the position statement to the media in the absence of any written or oral statement to the Senedd was extremely discourteous to the Welsh Parliament.

“The publication of such a prescriptive statement before the Committee completes its work. However, this announcement effectively terminates its ability to draw independent conclusions.

“It is with regret that I have resigned from the Committee, but after the stunt pulled by the First Minister and Plaid’s leader, it has become futile.

“It is unacceptable that they have tried to strongarm the Committee by imposing their position in this way. Senedd committees should not be fettered in this way.

“We joined this committee and process in good faith as there was a mandate for change, but it looks like that was misplaced.”

The Reform Committee will report on May 31, but it looks like its decisions have been made for it.

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Crime

Former County Councillor with £80 per week ‘speed’ habit fined in court

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FORMER County Councillor Paul Dowson – who says he has an £80 per week ‘speed’ habit – has admitted possession of 12g of amphetamine.

Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court heard on Tuesday (May 17) that police attended his home in July last year, gaining entry with a warrant.

Dowson, then a serving councillor admitted there were drugs in his home, with the offending powder being found in his kitchen.

He was fined £80 and ordered to pay costs of £85 and a surcharge of £34.

The drugs were placed under a destruction order. Dowson has 28 days to pay the outstanding fine to the court.

Dowson stood to represent the Bush Ward in the recent local elections held on May 5, despite having committed the offence. He lost his seat after coming last in the poll. His electoral chances would not have been helped by leaflets sent to every home saying that Dowson was a racist.

Dowson told the Herald he is considering legal action over the leaflets saying they broke electoral law.

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News

Milford Haven could bid for Freeport status as UK and Welsh governments make agreement

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has reached agreement with the UK Government on the establishment of Freeports in Wales, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, has confirmed.

Welsh Ministers have agreed to support Freeport policies in Wales following the UK Government’s agreement to meet the Welsh Government’s demands that UK Ministers provide at least £26m of non-repayable starter funding for any Freeport established in Wales, which represents a parity with the deals offered to English Freeports.

Tom Sawyer, CEO at the Port of Milford Haven, said: “I welcome today’s news that the benefits of the freeports policy are set to come to Wales.

We look forward to collaborating with public, private and academic partners to create a compelling bid to ensure Wales maximises this opportunity to deliver accelerated green economic growth and well-paid career opportunities for future generations.”

The UK Government have agreed to meet a number of other demands – including that both Governments will act on the basis of a ‘partnership of equals’ to deliver any Freeports in Wales.

In addition, both Governments have agreed a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated clearly it will operate in a manner that aligns with the Welsh Government’s policies on fair work and environmental sustainability, including the commitment to Wales becoming a net-zero carbon nation.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Following considerable engagement between our Governments, I’m pleased we have been able to reach agreement with UK Ministers to establish Freeports in Wales. The agreement we have reached is fair to Wales, and respects the Welsh Government’s responsibilities in devolved policy areas.

“However, we have made it clear to the UK Government that a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated, using robust evidence and analysis, that it will support our fair work agenda and deliver long-term, sustainable benefits for Wales, and value for money for Welsh taxpayers.

“I very much hope that the UK Government’s willingness to work with the Welsh Government as equals on Freeports can provide a positive model for future co-operation between our governments on other initiatives.”

The UK Government’s Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said: “I am delighted that Wales is the latest area in the UK set to benefit from a new Freeport.

“The UK Government’s ambitious Freeports agenda will help to level up our coastal communities and create new opportunities for people right across the country.

“Together with the Welsh Government, I look forward to seeing innovative proposals come forward that demonstrate tangible benefits for the people of Wales.”

In addition, Welsh and UK Ministers have agreed:

  1. The UK Government will provide tax incentives for Freeports in Wales in parity with Freeports in other parts of the United Kingdom for the reserved taxes that have been designated to advance the policy aims. The Welsh Government will design tax reliefs from local and devolved taxes (Non-Domestic Rates and Land Transaction Tax) to support the policy aims.
  2. Both Governments will remain open to the possibility of a multi-site Freeport in Wales. In recognition of Wales’ unique economic geography and the Welsh Government’s aspirations for economic development in Wales, the UK Government is willing to relax the 45 km boundary limit for a multi-site Freeport solution, should there be a sufficiently compelling case for doing so.
  3. Both Governments will remain open to the possibility of allowing more than one Freeport in Wales, should they be presented with a sufficiently compelling business case.
  4. As with English Freeports, a fair and open competitive process will be used to determine where the policy should be implemented in Wales. Both Governments will work together to co-design the process for Freeport site selection, and both will have an equal say in all decisions throughout the implementation process. This includes the final decision on site selection.

Both Governments have begun the process of designing the bid prospectus for the competition and further details about the timing of next steps will be released in due course.

News that the UK Government has struck a £26 million deal with Labour ministers to establish a freeport in Wales has been welcomed by the Welsh Conservatives.

The freeport, backed by millions in UK Government funding, will create high-quality jobs, attract new businesses and investment and help regenerate communities.

Both governments have also agreed that they would be prepared to consider creating another freeport in Wales if a truly exceptional proposal was presented at the bidding stage.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Economy, Paul Davies MS, said: “Creating a freeport in Wales will be a real shot in the arm for our economy and the country as a whole with more high-quality jobs and investment as a result.

“Freeports bring a vast array of opportunities and benefits, and this exciting project highlights just how serious the UK Government is about levelling up Wales.

“It is incredibly positive to hear a second freeport could be on the cards, and I sincerely hope lots of innovative bids are submitted.

“This landmark milestone just goes to show what can be achieved when Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay stop picking fights with the UK Conservative Government and work with them instead.”

SEE MORE IN THE HERALD ON FRIDAY

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