Welsh support package for business most generous in UK, Welsh government claims
The Welsh government has insisted that its short, sharp circuit breaker will give businesses the best chance of a buoyant Christmas and suggested that England could be heading for a longer lockdown if its tier system does not work.
Welsh economy minister Ken Skates also said that it had managed to bring the support of the country’s businesses, local authorities and trade unions along with it, rather than becoming embroiled in the sort of stand-off the UK government faces with Manchester.
Skates said £300m would be made available to help businesses through the firebreak – the most generous package in the UK, he claimed.
The minister said this amounted to £100 per person in Wales and contrasted this with the £8 per head for local authorities heading into tier three in England. Skates said:
Elsewhere restrictions are being imposed for four weeks, for six weeks and potentially longer. If the tier system in England doesn’t operate correctly they may have to revisit that entire scheme - who knows how long businesses may be affected? Here in Wales we are taking the responsible course of action, which is a short, sharp firebreak.
We haven’t had a 10-day stand-off with any part of Wales. We have brought businesses, local authorities, trade unions with us.
NHS England has today announced £15m for the “rapid assessment and treatment” of staff with mental health problems this winter, in recognition of the toll exacted on them by battling the coronavirus pandemic.
Revealing the investment, while giving evidence to the Commons health committee, Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national director for mental health, said priority would be given to Covid hotspots such as Merseyside and Lancashire. She said:
We’ll be looking at those high pressured hotspot areas first to make sure that, in a sense, although this rollout will be rapid, we’ll start where we think it’s needed most.
In addition, we will be setting up a highly specialist national service for a small number of staff, who perhaps have very complex trauma, perhaps some of my critical care colleagues.
Responding to the announcement, Dame Donna Kinnair, the Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary, said:
We welcome this further support that recognises what healthcare staff have had to put up with, and hope this is the only the start of a sustained focus on the wellbeing of nursing staff. Many of the factors that worsen the wellbeing of the workforce existed before Covid-19 such as unhealthy working patterns and a severe shortage of staff.
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Scottish government to provide more funding for meals for children over school holidays
Scottish councils are being given another £10m to provide free meals over the holidays to children eligible for free school meals, after pressure from Scottish Labour and calls from campaigners including the footballer Marcus Rashford.
Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Scottish social security secretary, said the money would allow the country’s 32 councils to continue offering free meal vouchers, cash sums or food parcels over the Christmas, February and Easter holidays.
It would also reimburse those councils which provided free meals during the October holidays, and would help around 156,000 children, she said.
The previous scheme, introduced earlier this year, was criticised by anti-poverty campaigners because of significant differences in the way councils provide the meals. Some gave out vouchers for specific stores, others provided cash cards or meal packs, while the sums provided varied across the country.
Councils would also be given another £18m to help councils tackle financial crises for the worst off, to meet housing, fuel and food costs, through the Scottish welfare fund set by the Scottish government.
Last week Richard Leonard, the Scottish Labour leader, had urged the Scottish government to reinstate the free meals funding, which had lapsed after the summer holidays, echoing similar calls from Rashford.
“There is no time for reviews or prevarication. Hard pressed and poverty-stricken families need this support over free school holiday meals now,” he told the Daily Record.
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Covid hospital numbers in Scotland up by almost 10% in 24 hours, Sturgeon confirms
Another 15 people have died in Scottish hospitals after contracting Covid-19, with the numbers in hospital with positive tests increasing by 70 to 824 during the last 24 hours, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
Yesterday the figure for coronavirus patients in hospital was 754, so the numbers have risen almost 10% in 24 hours, the figures show.
The first minister also said 1,456 new cases had been reported overnight, including results from some tests delayed over the weekend, with the total number of positive tests reaching 11.4%. The number of people in intensive care also increased by eight, up to 69.
These figures are amongst the highest reported since late May and Sturgeon urged people to immediately seek Covid tests as soon as they showed suspicious symptoms, and not to delay for a day or two to see whether those symptoms continued.
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