“Regressive Childcare Offer”
Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda) focused on two child-related subjects – the future of free school meals and the proposed free childcare scheme. She believes the Welsh Government are slashing provision of free school meals and repeated concerns that the childcare scheme was going to be “a large subsidy for some of Wales’ highest-earning families that is likely to reinforce inequalities.”
Those who were struggling the most were set to lose out; an accusation the First Minister rejected:
“There are 3,000 more children who will receive free school meals as a result of what we’re doing as a Government. An extra £10 million has been put into the budget….So, this idea that, somehow, school meal provision is being slashed is simply untrue….
We put forward a radical and innovative plan to help working parents. That’s what the offer is for—for working parents because we know how difficult it can be for people to go back into work with the costs of childcare….”
First Minister, Carwyn Jones (Lab, Bridgend)
Ashamed, First Minister?
Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), demanded an apology on behalf of the people of north Wales following the publication of figures which showed A&E waiting times at Glan Clwyd and Wrexham Maelor hospitals were the worst on record over the summer.
“First Minister, the people of north Wales are in this position as a result of consistent underfunding, downgrading and neglect on behalf of your Welsh Government. Your sheer incompetence to lead this health board to an improved state is having huge consequences….Clearly, you have failed. So, here’s your chance, First Minister. Before you leave, will you now take this opportunity to apologise to the people of north Wales whom you have so badly let down?”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM
The First Minister accepted there were issues at the two hospitals that needed to be dealt with and additional money has been provided to deal with it.
However, UK Government austerity – which hasn’t been applied to the Conservative’s DUP partners due to a £1billion deal for Northern Ireland – caused the problems. North Wales hasn’t been neglected, proven by the opening of a new neonatal care centre at Glan Clwyd last week.
Blip or Trend?
Julie Morgan AM (Lab, Cardiff North) raised the issue of foreign students and university preparations for Brexit.
“Welsh universities saw the biggest drop in the UK in the number of EU applicants between 2017 and 2018. So, what help can the Welsh Government offer to the universities, which are obviously a crucial part of our economy in Wales, to halt or try to reverse this downward trend of EU students coming to Welsh universities?”
-Julie Morgan AM
The First Minister said HEFCW have been given £6million to deal with Brexit, while the Global Wales initiative has been given £3.5million to boost international marketing of Welsh universities.
Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central) didn’t think this was enough and mentioned that the other UK nations saw increases in foreign students.
The First Minister claimed students might feel unwelcome (based on conversations he’s had with Indian students), but in a response to Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales), added that recent changes to student support might’ve had an impact – though it’ll take a few years to determine whether this year was simply a blip or part of a trend.
See also: Most of the exchange between Paul Davies and the First Minister – link.