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Education must be at the heart of the Violence Against Women bill

The Violence Against Women bill still does not go far enough with regards to educating young people about behaviour and relationships.

Amendments on the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill are being voted on today in the National Assembly.

I have put forward amendments to strengthen the bill calling for:

• One fully-trained ‘go-to’ staff member in each school with expertise in Violence against Women and Girls and the knowledge and confidence to assist pupils in seeking assistance and information;
• A ‘Violence Against Women and Girls Champion’ amongst school governors and the student council (not in primary schools);
• Schools to regularly collect data on all forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual harassment and bullying;
• Five years after the Act receives Royal Assent, a report on the implementation of healthy relationships education must be produced by Welsh Ministers for the Assembly.

This bill is vitally important which is why we must get it right. I wholeheartedly support its aims, however warm words aren’t enough. Further changes must be made so that it can really make a difference.

We need to ensure that there are ‘Champions’ in place on school governing bodies and amongst teaching staff to drive forward teaching about healthy relationships and respect.

I also expect the Welsh Government to accept that we must have a better monitoring system in place to access whether we are making progress. We need regular reports on this issue and a system that ensures Estyn inspects on school responses to violence against women and girls.

It’s appalling that one woman is killed every 2.5 days in England and Wales through suspected male violence. We must do all that we can to put an end to this.

The Welsh Lib Dems want future generations to be educated about healthy relationships, so they know that violence is completely unacceptable. As a society, we need to be doing all we can to support people to improve their behaviour and relationships, therefore breaking the vicious cycle of domestic abuse.

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Welsh Lib Dem MP claims she was vilified on social media for being a working mother

The Western Mail reports on comments by Cardiff Central Welsh Liberal Democrats MP. Jenny Willett to Welsh Conference yesterday in which she said that she had been ‘vilified’ on social media for “daring to be a woman who wants to both work and have children” after appearing in a documentary about the House of Commons.

Jenny told representatives that she had been told that her children should be taken into the care of social services and was accused of letting down her constituents:

The Liberal Democrat MP jokingly described herself to party activists as “the one with the child who screamed the place down when I left him in the whips office and went to vote”.

She said: “I’m also the one who got completely vilified on social media for daring to be a woman who wants to both work and have children. It’s absolutely amazing how many people thought it was okay to tell me my children would turn into delinquents, that I wasn’t up to the task of being an MP if I was also thinking about my children, that my children should be taken into social services care… that I was letting down my children and my constituents etc.”

She continued: “It’s extraordinary to think that even in 2015 there are plenty of people out there who think that women can’t be both MPs and have children successfully – I don’t hear any of them suggesting that men can’t be both MPs and have children.”

Ms Willott said her experiences made her “even more determined to show them how wrong they are,” adding: “It also proves to me that we need to get more women elected overall to change attitudes.”

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Liberal Democrats have been the positive story of this coalition

Speaking yesterday at her party’s spring conference in Cardiff, Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats argued that the Liberal Democrats have been the positive story that has come out of the coalition.

She said Labour can’t be trusted with the economy, while the Tories can’t be trust to fight for fairness. Only the Liberal Democrats can combine economic responsibility and social justice: a stronger economy, a fairer society.

Kirsty Williams said:

We have been the good news story, the positive story, the shining light that has come from this Coalition

It is Liberal Democrat policies that are making the difference. Whether it is raising the tax threshold, revolutionising the pensions system, or introducing equal marriage, we have a strong record we will take to the doorsteps

We are now just 67 days from the General Election

Then the people of Wales will have a decision to make

Labour can’t be trusted with our economy,

The Tories can’t be trusted to fight for fairness

Neither party has the answer

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are the only party to combine economic responsibility and social justice

‘A stronger economy, a fairer society’

They are two sides of the same coin

Wales needs a party that can stand up when the Tories and Labour go too far

One that reflects all of society, not just unions and millionaires

We remain the only way to ensure there’s a Liberal voice right at the heart of Government

The only way to ensure Wales has a stronger economy and a fairer society

The only way to ensure opportunity for everyone

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Report highlights lack of transparency in funding support for low-income pupils

Yesterday’s Assembly report on educational outcomes for pupils from low-income families, is very welcome.

Most teachers surveyed let it be known that that the Pupil Premium, also known as the Pupil Deprivation Grant, is having a positive effect on pupils. This extra support for our poorest pupils is a key Welsh Liberal Democrat achievement. While the Committee acknowledges that it is a good policy, there is room for improvement on the Welsh Government’s implementation of it.

The Children, Young People and Education Committee’s investigation has highlighted a number of issues where the Welsh Government needs to provide much more clarity in the funding and outcomes for pupils from low-income families.

The Committee has made twelve recommendations to the Minister and the Welsh Labour Government, half of which concern the way funding is allocated and spent.

One of our main concerns is the fact that despite Welsh Government guidance being issued to schools on how they should publicise the way the Pupil Deprivation Grant is being spent, there is still significant evidence to show that this is not happening.

Additionally, £7.9 million of the £20 million Schools Challenge Cymru funding announced last year has been taken from the existing education and skills budget, but we are still waiting to find out which parts of the sector will be cut. How are schools supposed to budget effectively if they don’t know whether a particular amount of money will still be available.

The regional consortia have also been allocated significant sums of money from Schools Challenge Cymru, yet we need to understand who be driving the improved outcomes.

Clarification and transparency of funding are essential if we want to make sure that the right money is reaching the right children to produce the right outcomes. Anything else just isn’t good enough and the Committee now expects a comprehensive report from the Minister on how he will address our concerns.

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Tories couldn’t care less about patients

I am astonished that the Conservatives are once more putting politics before patients after they announced they will not take part in the proposed cross-party NHS commission on the Welsh health service.

I have continuously made calls for there to be a Commission established to ensure Wales has an NHS that is clinically and financially sustainable. This Commission would comprise of representatives from the medical profession as well as representatives from all of the main political parties.

The Health Minister agreed to look at my proposals and we have since undertaken discussions on what the terms of reference of the Commission would be.

The Tories are expected to rule out their participation later on today.

As always with the Tories: it is politics first, not patients. They choose opportunist political point scoring, rather than actually working on behalf of the people of Wales.

They can talk crudely about Offa’s Dyke being the difference between life and death all they like, but people recognise that the Tories couldn’t care less about our NHS.

This commission offers Wales a chance to secure a historic and long-term plan for health and social care in Wales. We can’t let this chance slip away. The Tories need to feed back their concerns to the Health Minister, rather than simply ruling themselves out for political convenience.

There is no doubt the Welsh Labour Government has mismanaged our NHS. It is up to all of us to work together to put that right.

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Tourism VAT cut would give an economic boost of £5.3m for Ceredigion

On Tuesday I joined leading figures in the UK tourism industry in the Houses of Parliament in calling for an £4 billion boost to the UK economy.

I met with leading figures in the UK tourism industry including representatives of Merlin Entertainments, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and the British Hospitality Association for a roundtable discussion on the future of the tourism industry should the sector receive the VAT cut it is calling for.

Cut Tourism VAT is a coalition of hotels and visitor attractions calling for VAT on tourism to be cut from 20% to 5% in the upcoming Budget. This will bring the UK in line with competitor destinations within the European Union, increase the competitiveness of regional tourism hotspots, generate more investment for regional businesses and support wider regeneration in these areas, and in the UK as a whole.

Independent research shows that this reduction would mean an extra 166 jobs and a £5.3m economic boost for Ceredigion. Nationally, cutting VAT would mean a £4billion boost to the UK economy, the creation of 120,000 jobs and delivering £3.9bn to the Treasury.

A reduction of VAT on travel and tourism from 20% to 5% would make a huge difference to Ceredigion, resulting in an extra 166 jobs directly in the tourism sector, as well as the beneficially knock on effects on employment indirectly in the rest of the area – providing an additional £5.3m to the local economy. That’s why I’m backing the campaign to Cut Tourism VAT and am asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer give tourism in Ceredigion a well-deserved boost.

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