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Schools clamp down on second helpings

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clamp downMANY schools in Wales have clamped down on lunch second helpings for pupils in the fight against child obesity.

A BBC Wales survey has found a number of councils now leave the decision on extra servings to schools or caterers.

Powys bans pudding as seconds, Cardiff schools are urged to offer only extra bread, and Ceredigion extras are small, bringing complaints from hungry pupils.

But the Welsh government says it would never want children left hungry, and it will issue new guidance next year.School meal policy varies in many areas of Wales, and here are some examples.

Several areas, such as Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Torfaen, Vale of Glamorgan and Wrexham have no set policy on seconds, and leave the decision up to schools.

Most counties say all primary pupils get the same size portions, but some, Anglesey, Denbighshire and Ceredigion vary servings.

But Powys says primary pupils all pay the same and cooks cannot give “significantly bigger portions” to older ones. But they do get slightly more potatoes and vegetables.

BBC Wales asked education authorities about school meals, and 17 of the 22 responded. But while all said children are still allowed to ask for seconds, they may get a different response depending on where they live.

Powys Council says its cooks must use their “discretion” when offering extra food, and while its schools are allowed to serve any leftover vegetables and bread, puddings as seconds are off the menu. Powys also says catering managers advise cooks and rely on their “discretion and understanding.”

But some pupils and parents have complained about these restrictions, which follow the adoption of the Welsh government’s Appetite for Life programme, which aims to raise nutritional standards and help tackle childhood obesity.

There have also been complaints about the size of portions for primary school pupils. They have protested that 10-11-year-olds will need more food than a four-year-old.

Figures from earlier this year show more than 28% of five-year-olds in Wales are overweight, with 12.5% of children classed as obese. Wales has a bigger problem than either England or Scotland.

The standards have been in force in primary schools since September 2012, and were introduced across secondary schools at the start of this term.

When the Appetite for Life plan was launched in 2008 then Education Minister Jane Hutt said a balanced diet was essential for the young to become healthy adults.

It stipulates, for instance, that at least two portions of fruit and vegetables must be available each day, and that chips cannot be served more than twice a week.

Oily fish must be served at least twice a month, but food cooked in fat or oil cannot be given to pupils more than twice a week.

Schools are told that bread should be on offer, but best eaten without spread, salt must not be available, and any sauces like tomato ketchup, salad cream and mayonnaise must only be in 10ml portions.

Cakes and biscuits can only be served as part of lunch, and cannot be served at other times in the school day.

Any meals made from mechanically recovered meat cannot be served and fresh drinking water should be freely available.

Primary pupils should receive 530 calories per two-course meal, while children in secondary schools get 646 calories.

Education Minister Huw Lewis has echoed those words and wants “a large dose of common sense” to be used in interpreting the guidelines.

He told AMs last month the guidelines are flexible and “offer a proper nutritional balance for our young people, and that is something that we have been working towards for a long time, and now we have it. So, the guidelines matter but so does common sense”.

In response to BBC Wales’ findings, a Welsh government spokesperson said:

“We would never want to see children having school meals going hungry.

“We have provided schools with suggested portion sizes which cater for changing nutritional requirements as children get older. So, for example, a child in year 6 would have a larger portion than a child in reception.”

“Local authorities and many schools have worked hard over the years to improve the quality of food and drink provided in schools, in line with the Appetite for Life recommended standards.

“However, in the absence of legislation, there has been a variable rollout across schools. As a consequence, not all schools were achieving the recommended standards. The Healthy Eating in Schools Regulations now require compliance by schools; giving children and young people a healthy balance of food and drink throughout the entire school day.

“Statutory guidance on the Healthy Eating in Schools Regulations is currently being prepared and will be issued in the new year.”

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RNLI in Wales urges people to stay safe as Storm Brendan hits

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The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is urging people to stay safe near the Welsh coast as severe weather could make our seas and coastlines particularly dangerous.

Lifesaving charity, the RNLI, is encouraging people to exercise extreme caution if visiting the shoreline, especially along exposed cliffs, seafronts and piers.

The expected strong winds and severe gales pose a severe safety risk to those visiting the coast.

Named Storm Brendan by Met Eireann, it swept eastwards across Ireland before making its way through the rest of the UK this morning with yellow wind warning in place for most of the Welsh coast.

Chris Cousens, RNLI Regional Water Safety Lead for Wales said:

‘This rough weather could make visiting parts of the Welsh coastline treacherous and bring very dangerous sea conditions.

‘Sadly, around 150 people lose their lives on British and Irish coasts each year and over half of these people didn’t plan on ever entering the water. Slips, trips and falls can be a major factor in these kinds of incidents.’

If you see someone else in danger in the water, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. If you have something that floats that they can hold on to, throw it to them. Don’t go in the water yourself – too many people drown trying to save others.

The charity, which provides a search and rescue service around the UK and Ireland, is facing its own Perfect Storm as demand for its services has increased but it is facing a shortfall in funds. This past year, the RNLI has been busier than ever, and stormy conditions can mean additional call outs for the already extremely busy volunteer crews. Whatever the weather, RNLI volunteers will still be on call to rescue those at difficulty at sea.

The RNLI’s major new fundraising appeal, The Perfect Storm, which aims to help the charity get back to living within its means, is running throughout November and December. To find out more or to donate visit RNLI.org/ThePerfect Storm.

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Are you missing out on a Council Tax reduction?

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IF YOU’RE struggling to pay your Council Tax bill, then help could be available for you through the Welsh Government’s flagship Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS).

The scheme, which will continue to support vulnerable households in 2020-21, currently benefits one in five of all households in Wales. In the last year almost 280,000 low-income households have received help from the scheme, with 220,000 paying no council tax at all. Many more receive other discounts or exemptions.

You may be entitled to pay less council tax if:

• you believe you live on a low income
• you live alone, or with people/children who do not pay council tax
• you are a student
• you are disabled
• you are severely mentally impaired

Understanding why there are still vulnerable households not benefitting from the help they are entitled to is a priority for the Welsh Government. Last year we commissioned research to understand the circumstances of households in Wales and the effects of the UK Government’s Universal Credit on the CTRS.

The interim report out today shows that for many households, the move to Universal Credit can have a significant impact on council tax reduction awards. Whilst many households currently receiving a 100% reduction will continue to do so, for others, the move to Universal Credit is shown to have an adverse impact, particularly for employed households, self-employed households, and working households in receipt of a Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

Full findings of the interim report are available on the Welsh Government website. These findings will now be considered in more detail to inform the next stages of the research and policy development in this area.

Encouraging people to make sure they are not missing out on help they could be entitled to, Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said:

“Ensuring every household in Wales receives the council tax support they are entitled to is an important part of our commitment to making council tax fairer.

“Our scheme is already helping hundreds of thousands of households across Wales, but we know that there are still many missing out on the discounts, reductions and exemptions they are entitled to. I encourage everyone to check the Welsh Government website to find out if they could be paying less.”

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Success for Dyfed-Powys Police in targeting drugs suppliers in Ceredigion

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A drugs supplier in the Ceredigion area has been sentenced to 2 years and 2 months in prison.

Kylie Mason, 34, from Aberaeron, was arrested on the 28th October 2019, and later charged with 2 offences of possession with intent to supply a controlled drug and two offences of supply a controlled drug of Class A. She pleaded guilty at court and received a total sentence of two years and two months in prison on the 8th January.

Detective Sergeant Steven Jones said: “This is an excellent result for the Aberaeron community, who had raised concerns about this individual supplying drugs in the area. I hope this will serve as a warning to others who wish to bring drugs into the Ceredigion area that it will not be tolerated. This result will go a long way towards keeping our communities safe. If anyone is worried about drugs in their community I would urge them to contact police as we will take the appropriate action.”

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