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Young women in Ceredigion make their voices heard

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PERIOD poverty, access to mental health services and equal pay were among the issues raised by young women on International Women’s Day 2019.

On 8 March, in collaboration with the Young Women’s Trust, Ben Lake MP hosted a ‘Real Talk’ workshop aimed at young women aged 16 to 30 years old. Young women from all walks of life came together at the Coliseum Coffee House to voice their concerns and share their hopes for the future with the local MP.

Ben Lake said: “It was great to hear new ideas for change and to discuss ways in which we can improve the lives of young people in Ceredigion. The experiences of women and girls must be heard, both locally and nationally. After all, it is impossible for policies to be truly effective if they do not reflect the wishes, and address the challenges faced by all in society.”

(Credited to Lauren Garside, Year 1 Coleg Ceredigion Media Production student) The ‘Real Talk’ workshop held on International Women’s Day at Ceredigion Museum.

The young women set out three priorities for Ben Lake to campaign for on their behalf at Westminster:

1. Education: ensure that equality issues and mental health awareness training is included on all PGCE courses
2. Increase the national minimum wage for apprentices and roll out National Living Wage for under-25s
3. Period poverty: campaign, raise awareness and look to introduce policies to mitigate the effects of period poverty

Period poverty in particular, was an issue that the young women felt needed tackling as a matter of urgency. A recent report from FreedomforGirls* found that period poverty has a direct impact on education, with pupils in the UK missing class every month due to their periods. A RightsInfo investigation** discovered thousands of women were relying on food banks to get through their monthly periods.

In an attempt to tackle period poverty, the UK Chancellor confirmed in his Spring Statement that secondary schools in England will start providing menstrual products free of charge to girls from September onwards. Ben Lake MP has encouraged the Welsh Government to follow suit.

Ben Lake said: “All women, regardless of age, social status or background, should be able to easily access the menstrual products they need.

“Too many girls miss out on vital education each month as a lack of access to menstrual products forces them to miss school. Even those pupils who do not suffer period poverty will benefit from free access to sanitary products, ensuring no child is without protection during what can be a very stressful and vulnerable time.”

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Engagement events lead to several applications for new Cozy Caron scheme

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SEVERAL households have applied for the new Cozy Caron scheme following several engagement events which were recently held in Tregaron, Bontrhydfendigaid, Ysbyty Ystwyth and Pontrhydygroes, Llanfair Clydogau, Llanddewi Brefi and Llangeitho.

The scheme is available for eligible households living in Tregaron and the rural villages surrounding the town to have a new central heating system installed. Eligible households are ones that do not have an existing central heating system installed in their homes, live in energy inefficient properties and are on a low income.

Tregaron is a deeply rural community with several of the neighbouring villages reliant on the town for resources. Due to its rurality, the gas network does not reach this community. Residents living in this area have to rely on more expensive types of fuel, e.g. solid fuel, oil, or LPG gas, to heat their homes. Coupled with this, the vast majority of the properties have been built with little or no insulation resulting in heat escaping through the roof, walls and windows, resulting in high fuel costs.

This scheme is funded through the £150m Warm Homes Fund; a national fund established by National Grid and administered by Community Interest Company, Affordable Warmth Solutions. The funding was secured by Ceredigion County Council’s Housing section through a competitive bidding process. City Energy will be working closely with Ceredigion County Council to deliver this scheme on their behalf.

Councillor Dafydd Edwards, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Housing said, “With fuel costs rising, this scheme is aimed at households who are finding it difficult to meet their fuel costs in order to heat their homes adequately. Adequately heating the home is beneficial to the health and wellbeing of all members of the family.”

The council have teamed up with Ceredigion Citizens Advice so that experienced benefits and energy advisers from Citizens Advice can give one-to-one support to householders and help to access funding or income maximisation alongside practical help with energy use and achieving a warmer home. Citizens Advice launched a new project in November 2018, which is also funded through the Warm Homes Fund. The project, ‘Warm Homes Ceredigion’, delivers advice and support to local people who may be at risk of not being able to heat their homes.

Jeremy Nesbitt, Managing Director of Affordable Warmth Solutions, said “We are excited about this investment from National Grid and are delighted to support Ceredigion County Council to fund the scheme to address fuel poverty across the area. Solving the issues associated with Fuel Poverty continues to challenge many of our stakeholders and the feedback we’ve already received provides evidence of how the Warm Homes Fund will make a positive difference to thousands of homes throughout Great Britain.”

Anyone interested in the new central heating system, or to find out more about the scheme, feel free to call the Housing Section on 01545 572 185 or e-mail Housing@ceredigion.gov.uk.

For more information on the Energy Efficiency and Maximising Income Advice or booking an appointment for the Warm Homes Ceredigion for one-to-one advice call Ceredigion Citizens Advice on 01239 621974 and ask for William or Bronwen.

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Ben Lake MP joins push to encourage more accessible rail journeys in Ceredigion

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Ben Lake MP has joined forces with the rail industry to encourage more disabled people in Ceredigion to travel by train using the Disabled Persons Railcard, which offers a third off journeys.

Ben Lake attended a parliamentary event on accessibility and inclusion in rail, hosted by the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail. The event showcased the work the rail industry is doing to change and improve the network to make it more accessible. This includes enabling disabled people to make more discounted journeys with the Disabled Persons Railcard.

Last year 2969 journeys starting from Ceredigion were made using the Railcard, up from 2401 in 2015. This compares to a 43% increase across the country as a whole, with Disabled Persons Railcard journeys rising from 5 million in 2015 to 7 million in 2019.

The Disabled Persons Railcard offers a third off adult rail fares at any time on the National Rail network for people with a disability, plus a companion. On average, passengers with the Disabled Persons Railcard save £108 a year, even after the £20 cost of the card is factored in.

The rise in accessible journeys reflects the work rail companies are doing to make services more accessible. The industry recently launched a new interactive ‘Access Map’ to make it easier for passengers to find out at a glance how accessible their local station is. The industry is also working together to improve passenger assistance bookings, with new technology currently being rolled out for staff and a customer app launching next summer to make bookings easier.

Since 2006, the rail industry has delivered £500million of improvements at stations including making them more accessible, with £300 million of additional funding from government to make 73 more stations accessible by 2024.

Ben Lake MP said: “Everyone in Ceredigion should have the opportunity to travel by train and today’s event shows the rail industry is working hard to improve accessibility across the country and make the railway easier for everyone to use. I’m pleased to work with the rail companies to raise awareness of the discounts offered by the Disabled Persons Railcard and hope more people will benefit from big savings that can be made.”

Jac Starr, chief operating officer at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies and Network Rail, said:

“We’re working hard to improve the railway, making more stations step-free and adding thousands of new and refurbished carriages which are more accessible. While record numbers of people are saving money with the Disabled Persons Railcard, we want everyone to benefit from the improvements we’re making which is why we’re encouraging eligible disabled people to sign up for a card and save on their journeys.”

Transport Accessibility Minster Nusrat Ghani said: “We are absolutely committed to improving the experience of disabled passengers across our network.

“Working alongside the Rail Delivery Group and Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, we are currently reviewing the eligibility criteria of the Disabled Persons Railcard, looking at how we can improve provisions for carers or companions.

“We also recently announced the 73 stations receiving a share of £300m of Access for All funding, as we work towards an entirely accessible transport network by 2030 with assistance if physical infrastructure remains a barrier.”

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Ceredigion County Council commits to be a net zero carbon council by 2030

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CEREDIGION councillors have supported a motion to make Ceredigion County Council a net zero carbon local authority by 2030. The councillors supported the motion in a meeting on 20 June 2019.

The agreed motion was based on Councillor Mark Strong’s initial motion which raised concerns about a Climate Crisis. An amendment was made to commit the council to an ambitious and specific target. Councillors also agreed that a clear plan should be developed within 12 months to achieve the net zero carbon status.

Councillors also called on Welsh and UK Governments to provide the support needed to achieve effective carbon reductions.

The motion was proposed by Councillor Mark Strong. He said, “Faced with a Climate Crisis, I am pleased that my fellow councillors have agreed that we need to take drastic action to reduce our emissions. The council has already reduced carbon emissions a great deal, but we must go much further.”

Earlier in the month, the council’s Cabinet approved its third Carbon Management Plan. The ambitious new plan is targeting a 15% reduction in emissions by 2023. The previous plans have achieved a 45% reduction of CO2 since 2007/8, a reduction of over 7,000 tons of CO2.

The new Carbon Management Plan includes a number of projects to achieve the emissions reduction target. They include investing in a new more energy efficient fleet of council vehicles and improving heating systems in Ceredigion schools.

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