On Monday 4th February, several students from The Bishop of Llandaff Church-in-Wales High School attended an assembly by Citizens Cymru at Cardiff University Students’ Union. During this event the new First Minister, Mark Drakeford, was introduced; and when asked what he wanted to improve in Wales, one of his comments was ‘we need to make the simple business of voting more accessible’.
After this introduction, Citizens Cymru asked him to comment on some of the following matters: The Real Living Wage, banning letting agency fees and dignity in social care.
Citizens Cymru stated that 1 in 4 Welsh workers earn less than the real living wage and a quarter of them do not earn enough to support themselves and their families. Rowan Hughes, of Unison, stated that ‘there is still a long way to go’ so that every worker gets paid fairly. Principality stadium worker Ahmed Awed told the assembly that under 20’s only had to be paid 5 pounds an hour! He also said that ‘when you are paid the minimum wage, organisations are saying that they wish that they could pay you less, but the law will not let them’. The First Minister answered that he agreed that this was a problem, but the government ‘recognises that it is not easy for all workers to get paid the real living wage immediately’ and this may be true, since it would be hard to change how organisations do business; however some believe that this may be an excuse.
After being presented with the issue of letting agent fees and hearing several emotional stories from people that this issue had affected, along with the comment that letting agencies must be told that ‘they cannot charge these fees’, Mr Drakeford told the assembly that there was currently a bill being prepared which would effectively ban letting agent fees and that he hoped that it would be looked at quickly and approved.
The assembly then moved on to the issue of dignity in social care, and a woman came up on-stage to talk about her mother,who had been under duress whilst in social care due to the flaws in the system – ‘she deserved better, and so did the care workers who looked after her’ she stated. Several speakers also stated that ‘many people are leaving care work because they are not respected’ and ‘care workers and the person cared for need to be given dignity’. Mark Drakeford said that ‘the answer to respect in social care does not rely on the government alone’ but that the government had made progress by banning zero-hour contracts in Wales. He said that ‘we all have a responsibility to act together for the common good’.
The First Minister finished by saying that ‘we need to have courage’, and I think that this is a message that we should all live by.
Oliver (Year 9)