State of Child Health Report 2017

26 January 2017

Article by Sarah Hatherley, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

blog-engThe Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has today (26 January 2017), published its first report on the ‘State of Child Health in the UK’  (PDF, 2,250KB). The report provides an insight into the state of child health in the UK. A separate document Recommendations for Wales’ (PDF,162KB) has been published alongside the main report.

The RCPCH’s Wales report  is divided into 12 sections and makes 39 recommendations for improving children and young people’s health and well-being in Wales.

Whilst the report welcomes some initiatives by the Welsh Government such as the Healthy Child Wales programme, ongoing action to reduce smoking rates and increases in funding for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), it delivers a stark warning to the UK Government and its devolved administrations – “that while many children and young people will lead happy and healthy lives, the future health and happiness of a significant and growing number is in jeopardy” (p.4).

The Wales report states that more action is needed to address the particular challenges in Wales, with worrying figures on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, concerns about the number of children who are overweight or obese and child poverty. The report delivers a strong message about the inequalities in child health and shows the impact of ongoing associations between socio-economic inequalities and poor health outcomes, most notably in terms of child deaths.

The bottom line is that the RCPCH believe that the UK Government, and its devolved administrations, could do far more to improve child health and wellbeing.

On Wednesday 1 February 2017, the Children, Young People and Education Committee will consider the report and the implications of its findings for Wales.

 

What will be the new fees for registering with the Education Workforce Council?

25 January 2017

Article by Joseph Champion, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

Image from flickr by Ilmicrofono Oggiono. Licenced under creative commons.

Image from flickr by Ilmicrofono Oggiono. Licenced under creative commons.

The National Assembly for Wales is due to vote on the draft Education Workforce Council (Registration Fees) Regulations 2017 during the plenary session on 31 January 2017. This blog covers the background to the Education Workforce Council and what the regulations contain.

Background to the Education Workforce Council (EWC)

The Education Workforce Council (EWC) is the independent regulatory body for school teachers, further education (FE) teachers and learning support workers (LSW) in both school and FE settings. All of these have to register with the EWC if they wish to work in maintained schools or FE institutions in Wales. This includes peripatetic teachers and those in agency, substitute or temporary positions. From 1 April 2017 youth workers, youth support workers and work based learning practitioners will also be required to register.

The Welsh Government estimates there will be approximately 73,100 eligible registrants (35,000 school teachers, 5,000 FE teachers, 30,000 LSW [both school and FE], 1,100 youth workers [including youth support workers] and 2,000 work based learning practitioners) with the EWC on 1 April 2017.

The EWC was created through the Education (Wales) Act 2014, following two consultations. The first of these concluded in March 2012, whilst the second closed in October 2012. The EWC’s core registration functions are self-financing, funded by practitioner registration fees (totalling £1.76 million in 2015-16).

It also receives grant funding from the Welsh Government (totalling £6.59 million in 2015-16), on whose behalf it carries out functions such as administering the award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and arrangements for teacher induction. Page 5 of the EWC’s 2016 Annual Report and Accounts contains more information on its use of the Welsh Government grant.

The principal aims of the EWC are to:

  • contribute to improving the standards of teaching and the quality of learning in Wales;
  • maintain and improve standards of professional conduct amongst teachers and persons who support teaching and learning in Wales; and
  • safeguard the interests of learners, parents and the public and maintain public trust and confidence in the education workforce.

Its main functions include:

  • establishing and maintaining a Register of Education Practitioners;
  • maintaining a Code of Professional Conduct and Practice for the education workforce;
  • investigating and hearing allegations of unacceptable professional conduct, serious professional incompetence or relevant criminal offences that might call into question a registered practitioner’s fitness to practise.

The Draft Regulations

The draft Education Workforce Council (Registration Fees) Regulations 2017 (the Regulations) set the fee payable for registering with the EWC. The new fees will take effect from 1 April 2017. They also revoke the Education Workforce Council (Registration Fees) (Wales) Regulations 2016. This revocation would take effect on 1 April 2017.

The Regulations also establishes the method by which the fee will be paid. As the Regulations’ Explanatory Memorandum (EM) explains

For school teachers, FE teachers and both school and FE LSW the existing process for collecting the registration fee will continue. For the vast majority of these this will mean that the fee will continue to be paid through the ‘Deducted at Source’ (DAS) process – meaning that the fee is deducted by the employer directly from their salary. For most youth workers, youth support workers and work based learning practitioners the (DAS) process will also be implemented by the [Education Workforce] Council, with procedures employed to collect the annual registration fee starting in April 2017; and in March for each subsequent year.

Proposed fees

Regulation 4 sets out the annual fee payable, for all categories of registrants, for registration with the EWC. The registration fee proposed for all practitioner groups for 2017-18 is £46. The Regulations allows for the registration fee to be subject to a subsidy, the level of which is set by the Welsh Government.

Teachers have long received a subsidy towards their registration fees which is reimbursed to them from local authorities through their pay. This has been provided for by the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), which is issued by the UK Government as it currently a non-devolved function.

When the Welsh Government consulted last year on the Registration fees for the education workforce in Wales, it explained that it had asked the UK Government to change the STPCD in time for the 2017-18 fee arrangements. Instead of directing the funding for the subsidy to local authorities to pass on to teachers, the Welsh Government wanted to give that money to the EWC to enable the fees of all registrants to be reduced, rather than just providing a subsidy for teachers.

The Welsh Government succeeded in having the STPCD amended in August 2016. Consequently teachers will no longer receive a subsidy directly as part of their pay. However, there will be no change from 2016-17 in the net annual cost to teachers registering with the EWC; the cost to teachers will remain at £45. (Their contribution rose from £12 per year in 2015-16.)

From 2017-18 onwards, the Welsh Government will transfer £1 million from the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) to its allocation to the EWC to implement the new way of providing the registration subsidy for all practitioners. If the £1 million proves to be insufficient, due to significantly higher than expected registration numbers for example, the Welsh Government says it will top up any shortfall in funding to meet the actual subsidy cost.

The EM highlights the proposed fee and subsidy levels for 2017-18 in a table which is reproduced below.

Proposed Council’s registration fee payments 2017-18

1

The EM goes on to state that

The Welsh Government has considered what impact the overall operating cost will have on the education workforce and is satisfied that the benefits of registration to learner outcomes, outweighs the cost to practitioners. At the individual level (£46), the annual registration fee is not considered likely to affect recruitment or retention in the education workforce in Wales.

Going forward

Subsection 12(2) of the Education (Wales) Act 2014 allows the Welsh Ministers to grant the EWC the power to set the registration fees in future. However, in the draft Regulations’ EM, the Welsh Government notes that

it is anticipated that this will not take place until such time as the Welsh Government believes it is right and appropriate to do so. Any future transfer of the power to set registration fees to the Council will be subject to a full consultation at that time.

Meeting the healthcare needs of children and young people in school. Does the law need changing in Wales?

24 January 2017

Article by Sarah Hatherley, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

There is a concern that the rights of Welsh children and young people with healthcare needs during the school day are not protected in law to the same level as children in England, putting them at risk of an academic and health disadvantage in comparison.

Providing children with the support they need to participate in all aspects of school life

Image from flickr by alishavargas. Licenced under Creative Commons.

Image from flickr by alishavargas. Licenced under Creative Commons.

Most pupils will at some time have a medical condition that may affect their participation in school activities. For many this will be short-term; perhaps finishing a course of medication. Other pupils have long term chronic medical conditions that, if not properly managed, could limit their access to education. Such pupils are regarded as having healthcare needs. Most children with healthcare needs are able to attend school regularly and with some support from the school, can take part in the normal school day. However, evidence suggests that support for children and young people with healthcare needs in school is inconsistent across Wales.

The Welsh Government published draft guidance ‘Supporting learners with healthcare needs’ in February 2016 which replaces the previous 2010 guidance: ‘Access to Education and Support for Children and Young People with Medical needs. The Welsh Government published its Consultation document alongside the draft guidance and sought views between February and April 2016. The revised version is due for publication early in 2017, but will it go far enough to make sure children with health conditions get the care and support they need in school?

The 2010 guidance document provides advice on meeting the educational needs of children and young people with healthcare needs in the education setting. The guidance offers advice on how schools formulate policies to support children and young people with healthcare needs. Whilst stakeholders have welcomed the updating of the guidance document, it is not part of a legislative framework and many argue that the new guidance will not be adequate.

There are over 15 health and children organisations (including the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and Diabetes UK) working together to collate evidence of issues faced by families and to influence legislative change in Wales. There is a strong feeling amongst these stakeholders and their supporters that there is a need for a change in the legislation in Wales to introduce a statutory duty of care for children and young people with healthcare needs. The group believes that updating the guidance does not address or resolve common issues regularly experienced by families in Wales and that increasingly variable results for this most vulnerable group of children will continue.

The current guidance frameworks for the management of children’s healthcare needs in a school setting differ in Wales and England. In England, the Children and Families Act 2014 came into force on 1 September 2014. Section 100 contains a statutory duty to support pupils with medical conditions, meaning that in practice schools must make additional arrangements for supporting children and young people at schools with healthcare needs. This legislation does not apply to schools in Wales.

Schools in England are required by law to have a medical conditions policy in place, as well as an Individual Health Plan (IHP) for each child with medical needs. The policy should recognise that some health conditions can be life threatening and that they can also affect how a child learns. Schools must regularly review and audit their policy and IHPs to make sure the arrangements for children with healthcare needs are working. Together, the documents detail how the school will care for any children with medical conditions, the procedures for getting the right care and training in place and who is responsible for making sure the policy is carried out.

There are concerns in Wales that many schools do not have a healthcare/ medical conditions policy, with many children with healthcare needs being excluded from the school day and in some cases for up to several weeks at a time. Stakeholders want to see all children and young people with healthcare needs in Wales – in terms of both physical and mental health, properly supported in school so that they can play a full and active role in school life. It is also important that parents feel their children are safe.

There has been some debate about whether the Welsh Government’s Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill should be extended to include the healthcare needs of children and young people in school, or other educational setting. However, the definition currently used for Special Educational Needs (SEN), which the Bill retains for the replacement term Additional Learning Needs (ALN), does not explicitly include learners with healthcare needs. 4% of children in Wales have a medical need, whilst 22% of children have additional learning needs.

Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Bill

The Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, Alun Davies AM introduced the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill, with its explanatory memorandum, to the National Assembly on 12 December 2016. In his plenary statement on the Bill on 13 December 2016, the Minister explained that the current legislative framework for supporting learners with additional learning needs is based on a model introduced more than 30 years ago.  The Minister explained that the Bill creates a single legislative system to support learners with additional learning needs aged between 0-25 years.

During the debate, the Minister was asked specifically about learners with healthcare needs. Darren Millar AM highlighted that some children and young people may not have additional learning needs, but they may have healthcare needs that require some interventions in the classroom or their place of learning to ensure that they can sustain their learning in the classroom.

In response to concerns highlighted by Assembly Members that “too often guidance is implemented in a patchy way, and sometimes ignored” (Plenary Record), the Minister set out his position on this:

We believe that local authorities and governing bodies already have responsibilities to support children and young people who do have healthcare needs. We are delivering and revising specific guidance on these matters, which will be published in the new year. If Members, having read through those guidelines, believe that they need to be improved or strengthened, then we’ll have an opportunity to do that in the new year.

He went on to say:

Let me say this: the Bill is silent on those issues, but our minds are open to conversations on those matters. If the guidance that will be published does not deliver the sort of certainty that people wish to see, then we will consider that at Stage 2.

It is clear that stakeholders, such as Diabetes UK and the RCPCH believe that children and young people, and their parents do not feel confident at the moment that schools have arrangements in place to provide effective support for the healthcare needs of these learners. They highlight that having asthma, epilepsy, diabetes and a range of other medical conditions should not prevent children and young people having full access to education. These organisations want to see children with potentially life-threatening medical conditions better protected at school and are calling for the same protection for this group as children with additional learning needs. The Welsh Government will publish revised guidance soon which it believes will strengthen the current arrangements and alleviate such concerns.

Managing marine microplastics: The proposed UK ban on microbeads

23 January 2017

Article by Jeni Spragg, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

What are microbeads and why ban them?

Image of the sun shining over Lindsway Bay, Wales.Microbeads are a type of microplastic – plastic particles which are just a few millimetres in size. Given their abrasive properties they are used as exfoliants in cosmetics and household products such as toothpastes, shower gels, body scrubs, shaving products and washing detergents.

Once microbeads are washed down the drain, they find their way into ecosystems. The tiny beads are difficult to completely filter out of the water, so some remain in the marine environment where they accumulate and contribute to the growing problem of marine pollution. Recent research suggests microbeads also end up in sludge from waste water treatment plants used as fertiliser in agriculture, which transfers them into the soil.

What is the scale of the problem?

Marine pollution is recognised as a global issue. One estimate suggests that 12.2 million of tonnes of plastic enters the marine environment each year. Of this, around 0.95 million tonnes is microplastics.

The extent and effects of microplastic pollution are not fully understood. However, a growing body of research suggests that it has the potential to affect marine ecosystems in a number of way (PDF 1896KB). The particles can contribute to the dispersal of toxic chemicals and pathogens, and, when ingested, may have harmful effects on wildlife.

Microbeads contribute just a small proportion of microplastic pollution – between 0.01 and 4% of the total quantity. Other sources include the degradation of plastic products, paints, synthetic textiles and fragmentation of marine litter. While a microbead ban alone will not solve the problem, they have nonetheless been highlighted as a preventable source on which action can be taken.

A review by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee concluded that, while there is still uncertainty in the research, there is “scope for significant harm to the marine environment”. In August 2016 it recommended a worldwide ban on microbeads.

Is anything being done already?

Microbeads have come under the spotlight in recent years thanks to public awareness campaigns, such as Beat the Microbead and the work of environmental NGOs such as the Marine Conservation Society and Greenpeace.

In 2015, the USA brought in a ban on rinse-off cosmetics and over-the-counter drugs containing microbeads. Governments in Canada, Italy and France have announced their own plans for similar bans. Other countries considering a ban include Ireland, South Korea, Taiwan and China.

The EU carried out a consultation on plastic waste in 2013. The following year, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and Austria issued a joint statement (PDF 197KB) which called on the EU to take regulatory measures to control microbeads. However, at present, the EU has not announced any plans for an EU-wide ban.

While there is not currently a ban in place in the UK, industry has taken voluntary steps to reduce microbead use. In 2014, a number of companies, including Tesco, Procter & Gamble, Superdrug, Sainsbury’s and Unilever pledged to phase them out. In 2015, Cosmetics Europe recommended that its members should discontinue the use of microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics by 2020. A 2016 survey of members of the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA), found that the number of cosmetic products containing microbeads had halved since 2015. All of the surveyed companies had plans to phase out microbeads by 2018.

However, removing the microbeads from products presents challenges for manufacturers, as suitable alternatives must be found and implemented, which requires investment, resources and time.

What is being proposed?

Given the transboundary nature of the issue, the UK government is proposing a UK-wide ban on the manufacture and sale of all rinse-off cosmetics and personal care products which contain microbeads.

It will affect those products containing solid microplastic ingredients measuring less than 5mm in every dimension. The legislation is to be developed collaboratively by the UK Government and the devolved administrations.

The UK Government hopes that the action will not only reduce the quantity of microbeads entering the environment, but also create a level playing field for industry, tackle inconsistency within the market and provide confidence for consumers.

Have your say on the microbeads ban

Defra’s Marine Division on behalf of the UK Government and the devolved administrations is leading a UK-wide consultation. As well as comments on the proposed ban, the consultation is also seeking evidence on the impacts of microbeads in other products, in order to inform potential future UK actions.

Full details on the consultation can be found on the Welsh Government website here: Proposals to ban the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products.

The deadline for responses is 28 February 2017.

Have your say on Marine Protected Areas in Wales

The Assembly’s Committee on Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs is welcoming contributions to an inquiry into the management of marine protected areas in Wales. More details on how to get involved can be found here: Inquiry into the management of marine protected areas in Wales.

Avian Influenza: the latest developments

09 January 2017

Article by Elfyn Henderson National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

Photograph of a cockerel in a fieldThe Welsh Government has introduced restrictions in response to Avian Influenza outbreaks in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Since the restrictions were first announced on 6 December 2016, cases have been confirmed in the UK, including in Carmarthenshire.

In south-west France, where significantly more cases have been recorded, a large-scale cull of free range ducks and geese is currently underway.

Avian Influenza – sometimes referred to as bird flu – is a highly contagious viral disease affecting the respiratory, digestive and/or nervous system of many species of birds. The strain in question is called ‘Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N8)’.

The Welsh Government has stressed that Avian Influenza is a bird disease and that it is rare for humans to become infected.

Public Health Wales has said the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said Avian Influenza does not pose a food safety risk.

However, given the potential risk to the global human population posed by a new influenza virus that differs significantly from recent or existing strains of human influenza viruses, it is Welsh Government policy to control any Avian Influenza outbreak as quickly as possible.

Timeline of events

6 December – Avian Influenza Prevention Zone

Lesley Griffiths, the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs, declared the whole of Wales as an ‘Avian Influenza Prevention Zone’, as a precautionary measure. The zone is currently due to be in place until 28 February.

The zone requires the immediate and compulsory housing of domestic chickens, hens, turkeys and ducks, or where this is not practical, their complete separation from contact with wild birds. For farmed geese, gamebirds and other captive birds, keepers should take practical steps to keep these birds separate from wild birds.

Avian Influenza Prevention Zones have also been declared in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, ensuring a consistent approach covering the whole of the UK.

16 December – Case confirmed in Lincolnshire

H5N8 was confirmed in turkeys on a poultry farm near Louth in Lincolnshire.

20 December – Gatherings of poultry suspended

In response to the Lincolnshire case, the Cabinet Secretary introduced a temporary suspension on gatherings (for example shows or events) of some species of birds to further protect poultry and captive birds.

22 December – Case confirmed in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire

H5N8 was confirmed in a wild duck in Llanelli. Further H5N8 cases have been confirmed in dead wild birds in England and Scotland.

3 January – Case confirmed in Pontyberem, Carmarthenshire

H5N8 was confirmed in a back yard flock of chickens and ducks in Pontyberem. In response to this the Welsh Government has put in place a 3 km Protection Zone and 10 km Surveillance Zone around the infected premises, to limit the risk of the disease spreading and as part of the wider surveillance and disease control measures.

4 January – Cull announced in south-west France

In response to 89 reported cases of H5N8, the French Government announced a cull of free range ducks and geese in the Gers, Landes and Hautes-Pyrenees areas of south-west France. Some 800,000 birds, out of a total population of around 18 million in the region, are due to be culled between 5 and 20 January.

7 January – Case confirmed in Yorkshire

H5N8 was confirmed in a back yard flock of chickens and ducks in Settle in North Yorkshire.

Reporting suspected and potential cases

Keepers of poultry and/or other captive birds are encouraged to seek advice from a veterinary surgeon if they are concerned about the health of their birds. They are also encouraged to report any suspected signs of Avian Influenza to their local Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office immediately.

Poultry keepers are encouraged to provide details of their flocks to the Poultry Register. This will ensure they can be contacted immediately in the event of an avian disease outbreak so that they can take action to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity.

Members of the public are encouraged to report dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or gulls, or five or more dead wild birds of other species in the same location, to the Defra helpline on 03459 335577.

Further information

Further information, including a detailed questions and answers booklet (287KB), can be found on the Welsh Government website.

There is also information on the UK Government website.