Penarth Times – View from the Senedd 09/02/21

Last Friday the Education Minister announced that schools would begin a phased reopening starting with our youngest learners. From the 22nd February all children aged between 3 and 7 as well as some older learners on vocational courses would return to school provided that it remains safe to do so. The Welsh Government has been clear that our children’s education is a priority throughout the pandemic. That is why it is using the headroom we have created as a nation to ensure that some of our teachers, school staff and pupils are able to return to school.

It is vitally important that schools are a safe space where staff feel comfortable going to work and where families are confident that they and their children will be safe from the spread of the virus. The Welsh Government is committed to doing all they can to ensure that schools continue to be safe spaces, both for school staff and pupils, and I share that commitment. We will be introducing a number of additional measures to provide staff with an added level of assurance for their safe return to face to face teaching. This includes the introduction of twice weekly testing for staff members as well as an additional £5million to support schools, colleges and local authorities to invest further in items they need to keep their premises safe.

If any parent, child or young person, has queries or concerns about the return to school then I would encourage them to get in touch with me and I will do all I can to support them and help them find the answers to their questions. I want to thank staff who are key to ensuring that our schools can operate as safe, positive environments for our future generations. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for all that you have done and continue to do.

The vaccine rollout continues to accelerate and we are now vaccinating more people faster than any other UK nation. At the time of writing this, over 600,000 people across Wales have received their first dose of the vaccine. We remain on course to offer vaccinations to everyone in the first four of the priority groups by the middle of the month. Cardiff and Vale Health Board are asking anyone over 70 and those shielding who has not received a vaccination appointment to get in touch. Those who are 75 and over; 75 and over and shielding please contact your GP surgery if you have not received an appointment for the first dose of the vaccine. Those who are 70-74; 74 or under and shielding; 70 or over and housebound please ring 02921 841234. I want to pay tribute to the fantastic efforts of our vaccination teams across the Cardiff and Vale Health Board area and the length and breadth of Wales.

In my last column I mentioned that there was due to be an announcement of additional funding for businesses. At the last 3 weekly review the Welsh Government confirmed a £200million package of support to help support businesses – non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses- who continue to be impacted by the pandemic. This latest funding is linked to the non-domestic rates system and will operate as a top-up to the Restrictions Business Fund which was put in place in early December. It is part of the £2billion-plus overall package of support from the Welsh Government, which has already seen more than £1.7bn reach our businesses since the start of the pandemic.

As ever, if you need  help or information please email [email protected] or ring 0300 200 7150. I am here to help.