Assembly Voice: 5 April 2017

I wrote in my previous column about the ‘foundational economy’, which includes activities like retail, but also important public services such as domiciliary care. However, there are challenges in making sure we value the people who are carrying out this important social function, and it is worrying that the sector faces issues relating to low pay and insecure working conditions. After speaking to a constituent working in this sector, and her trade union the GMB, I wrote to Welsh Government Social Services Minister Rebecca Evans with my concerns. The Minister responded to outline the extra money Welsh Government has provided to meet social care needs, and her actions to strengthen the sector and improve employment conditions. I have also met with RCT Council officers to discuss what is one of the most pressing challenges we face as a society.

With my colleague Hefin David, I wrote a well-received article for the Western Mail calling for a rethink of how we approach our Valleys communities. In our piece we argued that a fresh appraisal of the Northern Valleys as connected and interdependent communities will deliver a better understanding of how we can best generate economic prosperity and tackle infrastructural challenges. Transport is key. The South Wales Metro in particular offers an opportunity to build strong links between Valley communities, and I was glad that the First Minister confirmed to me this would be a principle objective when I questioned him in the Senedd. The new funding model announced for the dualling of the A465 Heads of the Valleys road to Hirwaun also offers us a chance to make sure this vital communications link is fit for purpose.

It was good to be able to support the recent cake and coffee morning in the Adref Charity Shop in Aberdare, held to celebrate the shop’s fourth birthday. Adref does excellent work supporting homeless people and those in housing need in RCT and Merthyr. I would like to congratulate Megan, a student at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun, who arranged the day as part of her Duke of Edinburgh award.