- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
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For lots of families, thoughts are turning to the school holidays – planning the six-week break. But should it be that long? Welsh Government is considering whether reforming the school year could improve pupils’ and teachers’ wellbeing and help tackle disadvantage. Last week it announced a public consultation will be held next school year. As a border county, any divergence between term dates in England and Wales is likely to have greatest impact here, so I would encourage you to have your say.
One of the pressures of the long break is childcare costs. Some relief, then, that children eligible for free school meals in Wales will continue to get provision throughout the coming holiday. Powys Council is offering payments via BACS or supermarket vouchers. Don’t miss out if you’re eligible.
Nearly one in four children in Wales are eligible for free school meals. That number is rising as the cost-of-living crisis deepens. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, we’re facing the biggest fall in living standards in the UK since records began, fuelled by soaring energy, fuel and food prices.
Governments should help. Powys is leading the way with its own financial support scheme, spearheaded by deputy council leader and cabinet member for a Fairer Powys, Cllr Mathew Dorrance. His proposals complement the Welsh Government’s Cost of Living Support Scheme, which, as well as winter fuel support and the £150 council tax rebate, includes £500 for unpaid carers. If you haven’t already applied for yours, you must register with Powys Council by 15 July.
But the main levers – tax and benefits – are held by Westminster. The Prime Minister has warned against workers demanding inflation-level pay rises, saying the country cannot afford it. But after 12 years of Conservative mismanagement people can’t afford to be poorer. And with chief executive pay soaring and UK dividend payments far outstripping wage increases, why should workers suffer but not those making big profits? To be fair, Boris Johnson did eventually adopt Labour’s windfall tax on oil and gas profits. He announced the U-turn a day after the publication of the Sue Gray report into Party-gate.
And then there’s Brexit. Six years on and the UK economy is around 5% – £31 billion – smaller than it would have been if we had stayed in the EU. When the Senedd debated it this week, I backed Welsh Labour’s position that our ambition should be to have the closest possible frictionless trade with the EU. Or as Keir Starmer put it this week: Make Brexit Work.
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