23/10/2013 The Wales Report


23/10/2013

Tenants in Wales say they can't cope with changes to the benefits system. With Welsh waistlines expanding - should the Government tell us what we can and can't eat?


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Tonight on The Wales Report, is Wales heading for a housing debt

:00:00.:00:09.

crisis? A Welsh trial of the Westminster benefit changes raises

:00:10.:00:12.

serious questions. Half the population of Wales is

:00:13.:00:16.

either overweight or obese and it is getting worse. Isn't it time for a

:00:17.:00:22.

mainly national initiative? With cases of human trafficking on

:00:23.:00:25.

the rise, we have the stories of those affected, and they are a lot

:00:26.:00:31.

closer than many realise. Stay with us for The Wales Report.

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Good evening. Welcome to The Wales Report. We examine the issues that

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matter to you, your job, your health, your communities, your

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schools, and where we question the decision makers. Tonight we look at

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the drastic changes to the housing benefit system instigated by the

:00:51.:00:54.

coalition Government in Westminster. Changes that some are warn willing

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have a devastating effect on Welsh communities. The UK Government's

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trial of the new universal credit in Torfaen is said to be creating

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serious financial problems for some vulnerable claimants. The area's

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biggest housing association is reporting a significant increase in

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rent arrears and some experts are warning that when the reforms are

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applied across Wales, the number of people in financial trouble will

:01:20.:01:23.

soar. Helen Callaghan has been examining the likely impact of the

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welfare reforms across the country. Torfaen in South Wales is a place

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that's seen the future. It has been one of the pilot areas for universal

:01:34.:01:38.

credit, the UK Government's new benefit scheme. The trial is meant

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to show the system can work, but that's not what we've discovered.

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Take Colin Bic, who lives in Cwmbran. She proud of his house and

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he's had help from the local housing association to make it his home.

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They did a refurb last year, on the kitchen. I love it here, so I don't

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want to lose it. But Colin, who has disabilities, was worried that that

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could happen. Until last year, his housing benefit was paid directly to

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his landlord. Now under the universal credit pilot scheme, it is

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given to him. The aim is to get people to take responsibility for

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their own money. For Colin, it was a daunting prospect. I find, I would

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have thought extra money, there forgot it was to do with that and

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with my disability and everything I would have thought it is extra

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money. I forgot it is for the landlord and I would have spent it.

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Col sin lucky, he volunteers with a credit union, and they've been

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helping them with his finances. He wouldn't be able to do it on his

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own. He isn't the only person in the area having difficulty. People here

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have struggled. A fifth of the tenants who started the pilot

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project have ended up going back to the old system, where rents is paid

:02:58.:03:01.

directly to their London Lords. They simply couldn't cope with doing it

:03:02.:03:05.

all themselves. But there was a cost to doing that. At the largest

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housing association, they believe charging those in debt extra is a

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serious flaw in the universal credit scheme. Some pretty hefty, I would

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almost describe them as punitive claw-backs that people will have

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deducted from their benefit to repay arrears to the point that they'll be

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sucking a lot of money out of the household. That's going to cause

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extreme poverty. Do you buy your child a pair of shoes they need or

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pay your rent? Those are the dilemmas people are facing. In

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Torfaen many on the pilot project simply failed to pay their rent.

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Arrears rose to more than 5%. What will happen when the scheme is

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rolled out across the country? The Wales Report asked a leading

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economist to look at the figures and analyse the potential impact for

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Wales. He believes substantial Government investment will be needed

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to make the scheme work. If lessons are not learned from the pilot

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project, then inevitably arrears will become a serious issue for

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housing associations. There should be enough support in the system to

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keep arrears below 5%. There must be a lot of monitoring and there must

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be a lot of support for tenants to move back on to direct payments and

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to landlord payment. You are going to need a lot of support for that. I

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would imagine in terms of budgets, it is difficult to put a ?1 million

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figure on it but you would need to put about 5 periods of the total

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budget into that resource pot. And as well as costing the UK Government

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more money in administration, this scheme could also cost housing

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associations. This housing association in Cardiff, which

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provides houses for 2,000 families in the city, has seen our figures.

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Its finance director told me there may be serious consequences when

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universal credit goes live. If it is rolled out across the UK, they're

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going to have problems. I think arrears for a housing association is

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concerning. Because we can't then build the new homes that people

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desperately need. It is money we can't use on other services. But

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there are growing concerns that the Government is ignoring those

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problems that have been thrown up by the pilot project. Next week

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universal credit will be rolled out to more locations across the UK. It

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is claimants like Colin who will be living with the day-to-day

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consequences. That was Helen Callaghan reporting.

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Joining us from our Westminster studio is the Wales Office Minister

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Stephen Crabb. Thank you for joining us. No problem. Are you concerned by

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the arrears figures? Do they tell us that this scheme is fraught with

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risk? The figures don't tell us what the final scheme will look like.

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This wasn't a pilot project as such, but demonstration project. What we

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saw in Torfaen was one of six projects around the country that

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tested different ways of supporting tenants as we make this big change

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from paying their housing benefit direct to landlords rather than

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paying the benefit to them, so that they manage their own finances. In

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each of these six areas we've been looking at different ways of

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supporting tenants and learning the lessons from them. We are looking

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closely at the figures that arose from the Torfaen project and seeing

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exactly what safeguards need to get put in place to protect the tenants,

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to protect the housing associations, and the landlords themselves from

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the risk to their revenue, which was highlighted in your piece there. We

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are coming up with a package which I believe will make universal credit

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robust as it is rolled out across Wales. When you talk about

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protecting tenants, like our cais study, who has learning

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disabilities, someone many would consider is in a vulnerable

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position, would the lessons learned be that someone like him shouldn't

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be involved in the project? Partly from the evidence from Torfaen and

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other projects, people with severe challenges in life, people

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struggling be alcohol dependency, drug abuse, people with learning

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disabilities as well, for those people payment of their benefit will

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still go direct to their London Lord to protect them in that way. But the

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starting point for universal credit, this is the huge change, will be

:07:30.:07:32.

that the vast majority of people are able to manage their own finances.

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We should expect them to manage their own finances. And actually

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when you look at the Torfaen figures, the results from the

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project there, the vast majority of people were able to manage their own

:07:43.:07:48.

finances. Part of the way we tackle entrenched welfare dependency in

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Wales is by changing the mind-set, encouraging people to be responsible

:07:53.:07:56.

with finances and giving them the support to help them to do so. But

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our case study was someone with clear learning dibble pis who has

:08:03.:08:04.

been sucked into this scheme. It was that a mistake? No, it is part of

:08:05.:08:08.

the learning from the demonstration project. If a tenant falls into two

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consecutive months arrears there'll be an automatic switch-back to

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paying the benefit direct to the landlord, and providing the support

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to the tenant to help them get out of arrears. There'll be that

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safeguard in place. Why is this claw-back business that we heard in

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the film such a punishing one? Why are the measures being taken in

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terms of arrears so punitive, and some people argue multiply the scale

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of the problem for the individuals involved? I don't recognise the

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figures that were used in the piece, Huw, but we'll look at that. Clearly

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if a tenant falls into arrears, haven't kept up with their rent

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payments, there has to ba way for them to pay back what's owed.

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Clearly that needs to be a moderate and a sustainable way, or they will

:08:57.:09:00.

fall into greater difficulty. This claw-back is not seen to be a

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moderate way is it? It is seen to be by those people in the system, the

:09:05.:09:08.

claw-back terms your Government is putting into position are extremely

:09:09.:09:13.

harsh, do you not see that? I make the point this was a demonstration

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project, one of six looking at different ways of tacking the

:09:17.:09:21.

problem. We shouldn't see the Torfaen results and some of the

:09:22.:09:23.

challenges you highlight from that as the final outcome. It is all

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going into the mix of things we need to look careful at to make sure we

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get the right outcome so that universal credit achieves positive

:09:32.:09:36.

fruit that we intend it to in Wales. And viewers draw the conclusion that

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the claw-back terms would be revised works they be right? We monitor

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these constantly to make sure problems aren't been exacerbated and

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we'll see what lessons are to be learned from Torfaen to ensure that

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the final outcome when we roll out universal credit in Wales is fair

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and it delivers benefits that we intend it to. Let's not forget that

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200,000 families in Wales will see their average benefit entitlement

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under universal credit incareers by ?160 per month. There's lot to be

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gained for Wales in the roll-out of universal credit. It is important

:10:16.:10:20.

that we tackle the teething problems but let's look at the bigger picture

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that welfare reform will deliver for our economy and society. What is

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your message to the housing associations will face increase

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costs if they are looking to chase areerksds they have administrative

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costs attached to. That will you put your hand in your pocket and give

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them a bit of help or not? The Government is making available

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substantial resources to ease the transition to the roll-out of

:10:43.:10:45.

universal credit. Part of that is working with the housing

:10:46.:10:50.

associations. But clearly from the demonstration projects, one of the

:10:51.:10:53.

things we need to be doing is talking closely with the housing

:10:54.:10:56.

association, finding out what works and what doesn't. Finding out ways

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they can better support their tenants of the one of the challenges

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here is encouraging housing associations and other landlords to

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understand their tenants' needs better, to help support them and to

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be part of the solution in this. Minister, thank you for joining us.

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The latest health research confirms that more than half the people in

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Wales are classed as overweight or even obese and the nation's

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waistlines are expanding year on year. Over the past few weeks BBC

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Wales has a special season of programmes, Live Longer Wales, has

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been looking at what people can do and what Government agencies can do

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to tackle what is called the modern Welsh epidemic. With me is one of

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the world's leading experts on beerfcts head of the Sandford school

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of policy in North Carolina. He's investigated the Welsh weight

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problem and says people can't be relied upon to make the right

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choices. We can count on personal responsibility that reveal with

:11:57.:12:00.

problems of obesity but it is contrary to the way we address

:12:01.:12:04.

problems of health in general. We have a very unhealthy food

:12:05.:12:08.

environmentment some people have the willpower and restraint to prevail

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over it. But obesity is stampeding out of control. So, in an exclusive

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poll for BBC Wales we asked you what you think. Do politicians and public

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authorities need to do more? Firstly a strong majority of those asked

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believe that TV adverts for junk food should be banned before 9.

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00pm. 65% of you think that the

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Government's robust antismoking measure shoes be the template for

:12:36.:12:38.

action against obesity. But there is a limit to the appeal

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of state intervention. 73% of those questioned did not want Government

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telling them what they should and shouldn't eat.

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Our health correspondent has been treating himself to some cake and

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some pop at the Senedd to see what politician are planning.

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What's the healthiest cake you've got? It is probably the carrot cake.

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You've convinced me, can I have a clies of that and a bottle of pop,

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please? Yes, no problem. That looks fantastic Thank you. When the slices

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are this big and the cake looks so good it is easy to succumb to

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temptation. But in an effort to get the grips with our expanding

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waistlines is it time for the Welsh Government to say enough is enough,

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you've had your fill? Over the years millions of pounds have been spent

:13:35.:13:38.

on initiatives to try and make us healthier, to eat better and to

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exercise. But is just getting us to eat more carrots instead of carrot

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cake enough? Or is it time the Welsh Government starts wielding a very

:13:48.:13:51.

big stick? I can tell you they've been thinking about it.

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Around this time last year, the Welsh Government asked for views on

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whether or not there should be a new law on pillow health. The response,

:14:00.:14:04.

they say, has been encouraging. They've been cooking up ideas about

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what it could involve. Banning supersides portions in restaurants

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perhaps or prohibiting fast food places being located close to

:14:14.:14:20.

schools. And it is not just the Government. Plaid Cymru recently

:14:21.:14:24.

announced if they came to power they would put a levy on sugary drinks.

:14:25.:14:28.

Cheers. So will the new public health law

:14:29.:14:35.

become a reality? The answer the Welsh Government's Chief Medical

:14:36.:14:38.

Officer gave me was, wait and see. Could it be a key ingredient in the

:14:39.:14:43.

effort to make us healthier or are Ministers slowly losing their

:14:44.:14:46.

appetite amid concerns of a nanny state?

:14:47.:14:50.

As you can see there's plenty to chew over.

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Is that the biggest piece of carrot cake I've ever seen? I don't think

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I've ever been served a portion like that in my life.

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Chris has been involved in consultations with the Welsh

:15:07.:15:10.

Government on beerfcts and Andrew is leader of the Welsh Conservatives.

:15:11.:15:13.

Thank you both for coming in. Chris, what is the case for public health

:15:14.:15:17.

law which takes some of the measures that Owain was mentioning there? I

:15:18.:15:22.

think there is a case. We certainly are finding that lots of people are

:15:23.:15:26.

overeating. Unless we legislate and perhaps help them to eat healthily,

:15:27.:15:31.

this situation is just going to get worse and worse. Where is the

:15:32.:15:34.

evidence that legislating will encourage people? There is some

:15:35.:15:38.

evidence. But I think perhaps Wales needs now to be the leader here,

:15:39.:15:43.

because we've got the opportunity to do something. Certainly as

:15:44.:15:48.

dieticians, we think that public health Wales needs to take the lead

:15:49.:15:53.

in terms of legislating or perhaps educating people in a way that they

:15:54.:15:58.

can understand. And certainly some projects that I've worked on over

:15:59.:16:04.

the years I've seen that happy. Andrew, the problem is that being

:16:05.:16:08.

nice and offering polite advice, clearly it hasn't worked. Getting

:16:09.:16:12.

people to take responsibility for themselves or their families in far

:16:13.:16:17.

too many cases hasn't worked, so we are on to the legislative option. Do

:16:18.:16:22.

you think that's reasonable? I struggle on the legislative option,

:16:23.:16:26.

because actually it is an objective opinion as to what is bad for you

:16:27.:16:30.

and what's good for you. We need to be looking at lifestyle in its

:16:31.:16:34.

entirety, whether it is exercise, what we eat, the environment we live

:16:35.:16:37.

in and indeed the planning system we use to create eur cities, towns and

:16:38.:16:42.

villages and the way that food is put before us. From your tape there

:16:43.:16:45.

there was a sizeable piece of cake there. What size is a reasonable

:16:46.:16:50.

portion? What might be reasonable to you is most probably a small portion

:16:51.:16:54.

to me, with the greatest. Are it is about accepting the individual

:16:55.:16:59.

ultimately has to be at the centre of the debate. Understood. But that

:17:00.:17:03.

is a familiar argument that you put clearly there. Again, the problem's

:17:04.:17:08.

getting worse, so clearly that argument so far hasn't been an

:17:09.:17:12.

effective one. At what point due begin to think that legislating is

:17:13.:17:18.

going to help in some instances? The point I would put back to you is

:17:19.:17:21.

public health Wales came out recently and highlighted many of

:17:22.:17:25.

their campaigns which haven't succeeded, because the messaging

:17:26.:17:28.

either hasn't been strong enough or they haven't been hitting their

:17:29.:17:31.

target audience. It is an objective opinion here. If you are going to

:17:32.:17:34.

shape legislation, who is the person who is going to say what is an

:17:35.:17:38.

unhealthy meal and what is a healthy meal? What weather is a good-sized

:17:39.:17:44.

portion and what is bad? Is it common sense? It's not as simple as

:17:45.:17:49.

that. The entire system, is it goes from planning, what we make

:17:50.:17:51.

available for people to consider size and the food we consume and the

:17:52.:17:56.

lifestyle we lead in the 21st century. Chris, give me an example

:17:57.:18:00.

of a measure that could be legislated on which you think would

:18:01.:18:06.

have a measurable impact on this problem. I think making sure we've

:18:07.:18:11.

got good public health messages and certainly making sure the advice

:18:12.:18:15.

that we give people is connect. I would say that that advice is there

:18:16.:18:18.

already. It is but the problem is there are lots of other people

:18:19.:18:23.

chipping in on this. What we are finding in practice is that people

:18:24.:18:25.

are confused about what they should be eating. To whack that -- to back

:18:26.:18:31.

that up we need more money invested. There are so few dieticians in

:18:32.:18:37.

Wales, the total number is less than 300. There is not a lot we can do

:18:38.:18:41.

with those small numbers. I think we need to look at certainly

:18:42.:18:47.

legislating in terms of not allowing them to put fast food restaurants

:18:48.:18:52.

near schools. That's quite important. That's one. And I think

:18:53.:18:56.

also, perhaps we ought to look at legislating on things like fizzy

:18:57.:19:00.

drinks. You would have to put a lot of tax on a fizzy drink to prevent

:19:01.:19:04.

people from buying them. I think that is an issue. What about TV

:19:05.:19:08.

adverts? TV adverts definitely I think need to change, because they

:19:09.:19:15.

are being, I think they are flouting the rules, particularly on

:19:16.:19:18.

terrestrial TV. I think we need to look at that as well. Fizzy drinks,

:19:19.:19:24.

a big levy on fizzy drinks works that make sense to you? I think it

:19:25.:19:28.

was a conference speech. As a measure. A tax which they were

:19:29.:19:34.

talking about, which relice on people drinking more fizzy drinks so

:19:35.:19:37.

you can create more medical positions. I think the argument is

:19:38.:19:40.

more nuanced than that. I was involved in a campaign to promote

:19:41.:19:44.

school milk. I found out that schools were offered inducements to

:19:45.:19:49.

stop vending MPs with fizzy and sugary drinks in them. Those

:19:50.:19:53.

messages and inducements need to be stopped. That doesn't need

:19:54.:19:57.

legislation. We don't need Government involving themselves in

:19:58.:20:00.

every facet of lives. We need stronger public health messages.

:20:01.:20:05.

Look at the way the fast food industry operates. They have mentals

:20:06.:20:07.

that are resentive to people. We in the public sector and public health

:20:08.:20:15.

have to get sharper and more critical in our messaging, because

:20:16.:20:19.

this is killing people prematurely. And it is killing people younger and

:20:20.:20:23.

younger each year that passes. Is legislation the way to do it? I

:20:24.:20:27.

suggest to you I don't think at the moment that argument's been made and

:20:28.:20:31.

I would be very concerned about interfering as a politician in the

:20:32.:20:35.

choices that people have to make as individuals. Good to talk to you

:20:36.:20:39.

both. Thank you for coming in. There's been no shortage of stories

:20:40.:20:42.

in recent years about human trafficking. The UK is especially

:20:43.:20:46.

vulnerable because of its thousands of miles of coastline and Wales

:20:47.:20:51.

shares some of that vulnerability. Cases of human trafficking have

:20:52.:20:55.

risen bay quarter in the past year. And victims are often targeted to

:20:56.:20:59.

provide cheap labour, to join gangs of beggars or even for sexual

:21:00.:21:04.

exploitation. The writer and director Jennifer Hartley has been

:21:05.:21:11.

collecting the stories of people in Wales for a tour. He hit me on the

:21:12.:21:24.

face. He pulled me by hair into a room and hit me. I do, I do not

:21:25.:21:35.

understand. I hear a girl screaming. Then I he rape me Human trafficking

:21:36.:21:45.

is a problem that's happening on our doorstep. It is not somebody else's

:21:46.:21:51.

problems, it is ours and it is a growing problem and it will become

:21:52.:21:53.

more and more our problem if we don't do something about it. This

:21:54.:21:59.

man, he tell me he has friend who bring me to the UK, where I will get

:22:00.:22:08.

help. I am happy. I am very happy. I think I start new life.

:22:09.:22:15.

You've got people who are coming over from abroad with promises that

:22:16.:22:20.

they can be models or offers of work. And a lot of them are with

:22:21.:22:25.

recruiting agencies that are set up by the traffickers in various

:22:26.:22:36.

countries, Eastern Europe, wherever. He said this is modelling. We must

:22:37.:22:46.

do this model for anyone, he say, and if I say no, they give me drug.

:22:47.:22:54.

I started to hear the stories and work with these people I couldn't

:22:55.:22:58.

believe not just that it was in the UK, as big as it was, and that it

:22:59.:23:06.

involved British people, not just foreigners coming in from outside.

:23:07.:23:12.

But also that it was literally on my doorstep, being in Wales. Sometimes

:23:13.:23:18.

when you take the pills you think you've got it, like you don't know

:23:19.:23:21.

what's real no more, but it don't matter. Then you don't care what you

:23:22.:23:29.

do to you. Education of the public and education of the youth I think

:23:30.:23:37.

would be mainly steps towards help not eradicate the problem, I can't

:23:38.:23:42.

see it ever been eradicate casmtd it's a multimillion dollar business.

:23:43.:23:45.

Which is a horrific thing to see, but it is true. The and within that

:23:46.:23:54.

life is very cheap. You can see and you can hear, but you stopped to

:23:55.:24:03.

feel. Joining me to discuss some of the issues raised by that dramatic

:24:04.:24:11.

representation is Steven Chapman, the anti- man trafficking

:24:12.:24:14.

co-ordinator for Wales. Thank you for coming in. Thank you. The fact

:24:15.:24:19.

that your job exists tells us there is a problem. What's the scale of

:24:20.:24:22.

the problem in Wales? We don't really know. Most people say what we

:24:23.:24:25.

are dealing with is the tip of the iceberg. Last year there was only 34

:24:26.:24:31.

cases referred to the national referral mechanism but we know

:24:32.:24:34.

there's a lot more people out there who need rescuing. When we talk

:24:35.:24:41.

about trafficking the perception is it is often Eastern European people

:24:42.:24:50.

being taken advantage of, being shipped into this country by

:24:51.:24:56.

unscrupulous people. First of all can we say let's dispel that myth

:24:57.:25:01.

about people coming to the UK. Yes people are being trafficked here but

:25:02.:25:05.

we've got people being taken from the UK and being trafficked abroad.

:25:06.:25:11.

We've seen cases of people being trafficked internally within the

:25:12.:25:14.

United Kingdom. I don't think we want to stereotype there is any

:25:15.:25:19.

particular type of person being trafficked. In a Welsh context,

:25:20.:25:24.

given that you have this role, what can you tell us about the nature of

:25:25.:25:27.

the problem in Wales that is maybe different to other parts of the UK.

:25:28.:25:31.

Are we more vulnerable? I wouldn't say we are more vulnerable, but the

:25:32.:25:34.

Welsh Government is really leading on this. What we've said is we want

:25:35.:25:39.

to make Wales hostile to human trafficking but we also want to

:25:40.:25:43.

provide the best possible support to people who've been trafficked. If we

:25:44.:25:47.

get that right we'll make our communities safer. When you talk

:25:48.:25:50.

about the problem in a specific Welsh context, that's to say we are

:25:51.:25:55.

not talking about people coming from abroad but problems which are at

:25:56.:25:59.

home, how do they manifest themselves? What are some of the

:26:00.:26:02.

cases you've come across that would make you think that actually there's

:26:03.:26:07.

a problem here, that we are not really dealing with properly? A lot

:26:08.:26:10.

of people say that human trafficking is hidden. It is not. We need to

:26:11.:26:16.

shine a light on it. Yes, we've got people in the sex trade. We've got

:26:17.:26:20.

people working in labour who've being exploited. We've got children

:26:21.:26:24.

being exploited. What we've got to do is an awareness of the public.

:26:25.:26:27.

They need to be switched on to this. Just as we are switched on now to

:26:28.:26:32.

domestic abuse, which was seen a decade or so ago as being a hidden

:26:33.:26:36.

crime, we've got to make the public aware of it, because it is happening

:26:37.:26:40.

here. It is happening in Wales in our back yard. Are you saying that

:26:41.:26:45.

there are people who will know of instances of what you deem to be

:26:46.:26:49.

human trafficking but maybe don't characterise it as that? Yes, and

:26:50.:26:55.

what I say is, if you do suspect human trafficking, if it is urgent

:26:56.:27:01.

it is 999 to the police or if it is not urgent, 111. If you want to

:27:02.:27:06.

remain anonymous, we've got Crimestoppers. There are many ways

:27:07.:27:10.

of reporting it. Some people don't feel confident to report. They

:27:11.:27:15.

think, I might be a bit silly. That person I saw, is I don't really

:27:16.:27:19.

know. What I'm trying to say, if you are in doubt, make the call to the

:27:20.:27:22.

experts, who will send someone to deal. A final point about your role.

:27:23.:27:27.

There is a view in some quarters that although you are doing the best

:27:28.:27:31.

that you can, you are too close to the Government, you are part of the

:27:32.:27:34.

Government and maybe it should be a more independent person with more

:27:35.:27:38.

resources and more ability to act in a more robust way. What is your

:27:39.:27:42.

answer to that? The issue is of course I'm close to the Government,

:27:43.:27:45.

I'm a civil servant employed by the Welsh Government. But what we've

:27:46.:27:49.

heard recently is that the UK Government is going to introduce a

:27:50.:27:56.

modern savoury Act. As part of that there'll be the role of an

:27:57.:28:00.

independent UK Commissioner. Until that happens, people are still

:28:01.:28:03.

suffering. Traffickers are getting away with it who need to be brought

:28:04.:28:08.

to justice. And not only brought to justice but we need to take their

:28:09.:28:11.

assets off them. I think what we've done in Wales we are leading the

:28:12.:28:15.

way. Steven Chapman. Thank you. That's it for this week's programme.

:28:16.:28:19.

If you have any comments on the issues discussed tonight, you are

:28:20.:28:21.

welcome to get in touch. We'll be back next Wednesday. Until

:28:22.:28:33.

then, thank you for watching, goodnight.

:28:34.:28:39.

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