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Put mental health on equal footing

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling for mental health to be given parity of emphasis with physical health in the Welsh NHS.

In our Welsh Assembly debate tomorrow, the party will outline simple steps to improve the quality of mental health services in Wales, particularly for young people.

As a first step, Welsh Liberal Democrats in government would enshrine parity of esteem between mental and physical health on the face of future legislation. The Minister for Health would then report annually to the Assembly on progress towards the goal of parity between mental and physical health.

In Wales, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and all mental health hospital services aren’t subject to the same rigorous ‘referral to treatment’ time targets as other NHS services.

Mental health is something we don’t talk about often enough. There’s so much stigma attached to mental health problems, and that’s why it’s important we do all we can to get these services right.

It’s been over 10 years since the Children’s Commissioner described Welsh youth mental health services as being in ‘crisis’, yet we’ve seen little improvement since then. Children are being put on adult mental health wards, shoved on medication when all they need is a talking therapy, and in some cases having to wait over 40 weeks just to start treatment.

Liberal Democrats in Government have made mental health a priority, by investing record amounts in mental health services and legislating to ensure parity of esteem with physical health. We want to bring some of this ambition to Wales during our debate this week.

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Animal protection campaign welcomes stance of Mark Williams MP

Animal protection campaigners have welcomed the support of Ceredigion’s local Welsh Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams for important advances in the effort to reduce the use of animals in laboratories.

Twin campaigns by the BUAV, Britain’s leading organisation campaigning to end animal experiments, call for lifting the secrecy surrounding the licensing of animal experiments and an end to the use of animal testing for household products such as washing-up liquid.

Both campaigns have been accepted in principle by the Government, who promised last year to implement the changes before the election, but with time running out Williams has joined with 76 colleagues across all parties to support a motion calling for immediate action.

Commenting Mark Williams said:

“I am pleased the Government expressed support for these campaigns which will allow animal experiment licenses to be obtained under Freedom of Information Act rules and will end the use of animal experiments to test household product ingredients. I would urge the Government, following the previous commitment given, to pursue these matters with haste in order that these measures can be introduced as soon as possible.”

BUAV Chief Executive, Michelle Thew said:

“We welcome Mark Williams’ support for this motion. When a consensus on progress has finally been reached, it would be very frustrating if it failed to materialise due to Government inaction in the last two months of this Parliament. We hope that Mr. Williams’ backing will help secure these important steps in making a difference for animals in laboratories.”

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Welsh Government must work to secure future of Wales YFC

Following the news that Wales YFC has been unsuccessful in its recent bid for a renewal of its core funding, Kirsty Williams and Roger Williams, AM and MP for Brecon and Radnorshire have called on the First Minister to ensure that the impact that this loss of funding will have on the future of the Young Farmer’s Movement in Wales is fully assessed.

Wales YFC is the largest rural youth organisation in Wales with current membership standing at just under 6000 10 – 26 year olds, operating across 157 YFC Clubs throughout rural Wales. The programme enables young people to develop new skills and gain invaluable training in a range of different areas.

Despite its longstanding success and support over a number of years through a Welsh Government administered grant from the National Voluntary Youth Organisations (NVYO), Wales YFC were recently informed that their latest bid for continued funding was unsuccessful and that funding would cease from April 2015, with the next window for applications not opening until 2018.

Kirsty Williams said: “The YFC is a huge part of rural life. The financial challenges will have a large impact on the YFC’s ability to continue to offer the vast array of services and events it currently does. The Welsh Government say they are supportive of what the YFC do, but it is clear that statutory provision of local government cannot reach rural communities like the YFC can.

“The YFC is largely run by volunteers, it only requires a relatively small amount of central support. I hope the Welsh Labour Government have since realised how important this issue is for rural communities and will look at it more closely than they have previously. I will continue to work closely with the YFC to see how they can secure the funding for their future through other means.”

Roger Williams added: “The contribution of Young Farmers Clubs to nurturing both leadership and self-confidence is second to none and the Welsh Government needs to make a full assessment of the impact that this dramatic loss of funding will have on the Young Farmer’s Movement in Wales.”

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Cardiff Council £9m overspend “cause for concern”

Papers due to be presented to Cardiff’s Cabinet on Thursday 19th February reported a projected £8.797million overspend for the 2014/15 financial year, including significant amounts in Health & Social Care (£5.595 million), Children’s Services (£1.6 million) and Education & Lifelong Learning (£1.410 million).

The report, prepared by Corporate Director Christine Salter, describes the current budget situation as representing “a significant cause for concern”.

An embarrassing U-turn on libraries, Labour politicians fighting against their own party’s Council, and now this. It’s yet another episode of Cardiff Labour’s budget shambles.

If Labour can’t manage to put forward a credible budget and stick to it without massive overspends, they should really start reconsidering if they’re up to the job of running our city.

Nearly £700,000 of Cardiff taxpayers’ cash has been spent by Labour councillors on recruiting corporate directors that we were told would save us money, but in fact ended up costing us more. Cardiff Labour needs to get on top of our books, or get out of our County Hall.

Of course, it’s not just in Cardiff where Labour’s record with our finances is embarrassing. In the Assembly, Labour spend millions on projects like buying Cardiff Airport without even a plan of what to do with it; and we all remember the mess that Ed Milliband’s Labour left our economy in when they left Government.

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Safe standing at football grounds

In August last year, the Liberal Democrats announced that a plan to allow football clubs to work with their supporters to introduce safe standing areas would appear in their 2015 general election manifesto.

Safe standing already operates in domestic leagues across Europe, including Germany, Austria and Sweden.

70% of UK football clubs support safe standing and fans say standing provides a better atmosphere.

Watching football is expensive. Safe standing areas allow clubs to accommodate a higher density of supporters safely which can mean cheaper ticket prices for all.

Ticket prices for standing areas abroad are typically lower than in seated areas making it likely that people from every walk of life can attend – not just those who can afford it. For example, standing season tickets at Bayern Munich start from £150.

Here in Wrexham it means that we could bring the Kop back into use which would create a better atmosphere for everyone in the ground. For clubs in the lower leagues it would allow their grounds to be more widely used.

Supporter surveys regularly show that upwards of eight out of every ten fans back the choice to sit or stand at football. Choice is a key word here as no one is suggesting all fans should have to stand rather that those who would like to so should be able to do so in safety.

There is quite clearly a call for safe standing in Wales and across the UK more generally.

It is important that we get this right, and what we are definitely not calling for is a return to the terraces of the 1980s. What we have seen in top-tier football across Europe is ‘rail seating’ stands – this works very well.

Safe standing would offer supporters in Wrexham more choice, a better atmosphere in the stadium and even cheaper tickets. When so many clubs and their fans are in favour of this, the Government shouldn’t get in the way of it happening. That’s why we want to change the law to allow safe standing to become a reality.

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Improvement desperately needed in our A&E departments

A&E waiting targets continue to be severely missed, figures published yesterday have shown.

For the month of January, just 82.3% of patients spent less than four hours in Wales’ Accident & Emergency departments from arrival, until admission, transfer or discharge. This is despite a target of 95%. The figures also show that 3,051 spent more than 12 hours in A&E.

The Welsh Labour Government will no doubt rejoice in the 1% improvement compared to last month, but the fact remains that these figures are appalling.

The hardworking A&E staff are doing all they can, but unfortunately they are being held back by the poverty of ambition from the Welsh Labour Government.

Our A&E departments are in desperate need of improvement. It is truly shocking that over 3,000 people spent longer than 12 hours in A&E.

What is clear to me is that the NHS is too big an issue to be left to one party. What we need is a commission to look into the issues facing our NHS, a commission that works with health professionals and patients, to look into the future of our NHS and how it can meet the severe challenges it faces in the future.

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