20/01/2016 The Wales Report


The Wales Report with Huw Edwards returns for 2016. The opening episode explores the impact of the sanctions regime on vulnerable people in Wales.

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Tonight, sanctions on benefits. We report on concerns that the biggest


impact is being felt by the most vulnerable in society. Is there any


long-term future for steel-making in Wales? We consider the implications


of the latest job losses. And our school children being taught enough


about the history of Wales? My grandfather used to say you can't


beat history and he is right. Tonight we will be looking at the


future of the steel industry in Wales, if there is a long-term


future that is, following news of big job losses this week mostly in


Port Talbot. A major talking point and you can join the conversation on


social media. Let's talk about the effect of benefits sanctions imposed


by Westminster. This is where people get some benefits stopped for a time


if they do not meet conditions such as attending appointments are going


on courses. The rate of sanctions on people with mental health problems


has doubled in four years and has risen at a higher rate in Wales than


the British average. Felicity Wills as spoken to one woman who has


struggled with their sanctions system.


Jane claims employment and support allowance, a benefit that recognises


your ability to work is limited because of ill health or disability.


Jane is not her real name. Jane has depression and anxiety. Last January


she was told she was being sanctioned but said she could not


understand why. After deductions, she had ?12 per week to live on. How


did you manage? I didn't, if you know what I mean. Whatever it took


for me to live, I did. Are you in debt? Massively. Finds, warrants, TV


licence. I could not bargain with anyone because I had no money to do


so. What impact did it have on your mental health? It made that anxiety


worse. I could not get up, sometimes I couldn't even wash my face, open


the curtains, and that's how I became. Every week without and one


week worse than the other, then one week goes to a month and so on. It


has been that long it becomes normal in the end, I suppose. It is


inhumane. Nobody can live on those amounts of money. This case is not


unusual. The rate of people with mental health problems being


sanctioned has risen in Wales and many of those people find it


difficult to make sense of the system. What often happens is that


there is confusion about why the person has been sanctioned or just


why their benefit has stopped and sometimes sanctions can run for a


very long time without the situation being sorted out. I came across a


case last year were somebody had been sanctioned for five months


although according to the book she should only have been sanctioned for


one month. We are talking about a system which is not only very severe


but also very badly administered, so lots of things go wrong which result


in people suffering more severe penalties than are laid down in the


law. Charities supporting people with mental health conditions said


they are worried the pressure of the sanctions regime is having a


counter-productive thing on the welfare of claimants and their


ability to find work. We have seen many cases where people have made


progress with support, improving their mental health, and then they


have been hit by a sanction or work capability assessment and they have


gone back to use in terms of progress and they have to go back on


support just to get them on the place they were two years ago. It is


worrying because it is having a tremendous and packed on lives. The


fact the number of people with mental health problems in sanctioned


as rising is no surprise to those who help them navigate the benefit


system. Organisations like Citizens Advice Bureau provide advice for


people. They say the people they help with mental health problems


often struggle with the demands it places on them. Any time of squeezed


public finances there is a limit to help they can give. A large


proportion of sanctions seem to fall on mental health claimants.


Basically because of the understanding of the system and what


they have to do to fulfil their commitment and the action plan


agreed by the job centre. Maybe there is also a case that job centre


staff could be more sympathetic perhaps and perhaps undergo training


so they fully understand what mental health claimants go through. Some


people say that mental health claimants should not be subject to


sanctions at all because the benefit is supposed to recognise people who


are ill. There is no evidence to support the British systems of


sanctions for employment and support allowance claimants. These are


people who are officially acknowledged to be too ill to work


and there is no research evidence at all to indicate that a sanctions


system for them does anything whatsoever to get them into jobs.


Jane says she was close to giving up hope of ever getting her benefits


reinstated but her support worker eventually managed to solve the


problem. It emerged that she had been unfairly sanctioned. In


November last year, her payments arrears dated -- were reinstated and


she had backdated payments but she says she has additional costs in


fines and court fees and her financial problems continue. The


back payments to not matter because things have gone too far. In an out


of court, bailiffs, everything. Though bills are so high now. What


reason did they have for making my head go a bit funny? It is fighting


a losing battle, banging your head on a brick wall, it makes you


mentally unstable. It is constant and no one has answers. It feels


personal, like they have something against you. That was Jane talking


to my colleague Felicity Evans. The Minister of State for Employment was


unavailable for interview today but a spokesperson told us that


significant improvements have been made to the assessment process and


the percentage of people with mental health conditions who get the


highest level of support, they say, has more than tripled since 2010.


And less than 1% of yes a claimants are sanctioned for a month and the


number of sanctions has fallen by 20% from last year. Let's go to


Westminster and speak to the Conservative MP Craig Williams who


is on the work and pensions select committee. The case study points out


clear weaknesses in the system. Would you acknowledge that? Yes and


I think the committee has done some work into this but what I will say


for the department is they have allocated an extra ?40 million to


help particularly people with mental health, to help with the training,


and I think a point about people with experience within the NHS and


having seen a consultant or doctor or someone with medical


qualifications about how that links in with works and pensions so when


you go to the job centre and you see someone for your assessment, we


should trust what comes from the NHS, and hopefully that would make


the process simpler and protect more vulnerable people. Quite a few


strong statements in the piece. I'm thinking of the words of the expert


from the University of Glasgow, that there is no academic research to


suggest these kinds of sanctions work with people with these


conditions, that they actually make things worse and increasing their


mental health -- ill-health. I think there is evidence out there about


the sanctions mentality and I think the report I had access to before


this report from the churches, there is a danger of chucking the baby out


with the bath water. We have to look at sanctions, and it clearly is


working. 100,000 people in Wales are on yes a -- ESA and mental health is


a small part of it. But every case we have heard there shouldn't be


happening. We must look at how we can proactively help. Sitting on the


committee after the Oakley review, it set some real recommendations.


The system is changing and the one thing with universal credit coming


around is you will be allocated a work coach. It is not a panacea but


it means people will have individual people looking after them throughout


the whole process and you get to know the client, the customer,


whatever you call it in terms of the job centre, and you can help them


through and protect them. I will come back to the fundamental point


which lots of people make, if you have dental health issues, this


approach of putting sanctions, adding financial pressure, giving


you more worries and financial anxiety, is counter-productive. It


doesn't solve anything and it makes the problem worse. It is a flawed


approach. You do not seem to recognise you are dealing with


extremely vulnerable people. I do accept it. ESA is in two categories.


When you are work capable it is sanctions. But there is the other


category that people with severe mental health issues or even with


anxiety which is important with all this paperwork and pressure, they


should not be in that category. You can work within the current system


and that is my comment about chucking the baby out with the bath


water. The investment that work and pensions is making and the reviews


that the committee are making are going to the heart of this. I don't


accept we should instantly say nobody and just categorise because


the whole point about mental health and other disabilities and


challenges within this sector is it is an individual case and the case


study we just heard was incredibly emotive and I am sorry and we should


be doing more to help people but you cannot generalise and that is my


dispute with the academic. What one change to the sanctions process


would you make? What I touched on at the beginning, getting people that


have health qualifications, consultants, if someone comes in, in


terms of my work as an MP, helping people with tribunal 's and


challenging sanctions when they have clear medical evidence and it is


getting it to the job centre and work and pensions, and it is all


about data-sharing and making sure we protect the most vulnerable when


there is clear evidence there. What is the most important thing, in your


view, is to save money or actually to get people back into work? What


is driving this change? Getting people back to work. The work and


pensions spent is about ?4 billion but it is not just about saving


money it is about --, it is about breaking a generational thing.


Getting in and helping people to have opportunities to get into work.


If you look at the people in ESA alone, the Oakley review found 83%


of those surveyed said the sanctions system was right and it encouraged


them to get opportunities. The DWP statistics were around 60%. 83%


saying the sanctions helped and motivated them is great. Thanks very


much for talking to us. Today has seen the first meeting of a Welsh


government task force set up to support people affected by the Tata


Steel announcements, the bulk of it in Wales. 750 jobs to go in Port


Talbot while 200 support staff elsewhere will also lose their jobs.


Since last summer, almost 5000 steel jobs have been lost in Britain. Just


to remind you, at its peak, 18,000 people were employed in Port Talbot,


earning the town the famous nickname the city of steel. The UK Government


say they are working with Tata Steel and local communities to get people


the training and assistance they need to find work but the Welsh


government believes there is more that can be done.


We will do everything we can but the fundamental questions go far beyond


the devolved responsibilities. I now call on the UK Government to step up


and play its part. Now is the time for swift and decisive action. So


let's talk a little more. I'm joined by Professor Kent Matthews from the


Cardiff business School. There's a sense in some quarters we are


frankly helpless and powerless to do anything in the face of these big


global economic forces, but first of all, are these forces so powerful


that we are helpless in the face of them. We are just small players in


the face of global supply and demand and there is very little we can do.


In the long term, not much things we can do. If this was oil we wouldn't


be saying we have to do something to shore up the price of oil, or if it


was call, so there are long-term forces which we have to learn to


deal with. What could be done in a Welsh context? I think first of all


infrastructure projects. We need to be making sure that Welsh steel is


used in such projects. We don't agree with the that the Welsh


government want to take but Welsh steel was being used and utilised in


cases like the M4. We have also said we want to setup a not-for-profit


energy companies to reinvest in the Welsh energy sector. Sweden and


Norway and other countries do that well. We need to be looking at


business rates in Wales. We recently got the power to vary business rates


but the Welsh government are still sitting on that and that a year


level we need to be much more robust in terms of the tariffs that could


be put on other countries such as China and limiting how they are


bumping the steel and also measures when they put those tariffs on


countries like China. Just on these practical things when


you look at trying to do something this is one of the big elements, the


fact that British industry and certainly steel-making says we are


paying because of our support for renewable energy, a much higher


premium. Would that make a difference? If that premium wasn't


clear wouldn't make a big difference to steel-making? Would make it a


much easier business to start a factor in support? The thing is that


in the long term we are talking about global forces and prices. Many


of the things that have been mentioned just now and short-term


effect and I think that is valid, and valuable. But you are in breach


of European competition law most of the time and that is the problem


that we face. If you were to have an infrastructure project, you can only


insist that the public sector by Welsh and British Steel. You can't


ask the private sector to do that and putting tariffs on Chinese steel


doesn't make any difference in a single country context, because this


is again a world problem. It is the world price. Chinese steel will go


elsewhere if you put it harder for net and it is not as if we are just


buying Chinese steel and that will still have a depressing effect on


the world price of steel elsewhere, so whatever happens the price of


steel has fallen. If you look at the charts there has been a dramatic


fall and there is nothing we can do about this because there is a fallen


world demand and a huge excess capacity in Chinese production.


There are various inventive ways to do that but it is a short-term


effect. Unless you keep building more and more infrastructure forever


and keep on insisting on paying a premium above that of work prices at


some point of time this has to come to an end. What you're doing is


actually taking away the pain and making it easier to get to that


point were eventually some adjustment has to be taken.


Some viewers are listening and saying that this guy is discussing


these forces are so great you can take some measures which might


alleviate things but you are saying there is no real future as things


stand for steel-making in Britain. I am not saying that but there is a


depression in world demand under that carries on down there is no


problem here but there is a problem that we can do much about it. There


is domestic demand and you can increase demand for domestic


production and there is a limit to that. You can't carry on doing that


forever. Thank you both for coming in and we'll look forward to seeing


what the working party does. Schoolchildren in Wales are not


being taught enough about their own history according to a report


written for the Welsh government more than 2.5 years ago. And now


there are concerns about the lack of progress. The actor Johnny Owen


returned home to Merthyr Tydfil to explain why the town's passed is


worth learning about. This is the town where I was born


and grew up. My friends are still here and it has been called one of


the most important towns in German history. If you had told me when I


was a school kid, I would probably have choked on my toast, but this is


one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution. So where to


start? How about the last bearded man to lead the Labour Party. He


hasn't thought this thing through very carefully. No, not him. Keir


Hardie, Labour's first ever MP made many a rousing speech from this very


balcony. Not only that, the red flag of revolution was raised for the


first time during the Merthyr rising when workers demanded better pay and


conditions. We need more than a pub sign to remind us of that. Merthyr


is the love stories like this that can inspire land reform and


ultimately build you but you have to learn about them first. I want to


find out if that is happening, whether kids really get the


importance of their own history and what has really shaped the


communities they live in. I have come back to where I went to school.


I am going to talk to some of the GCSE students about what they learn


in history class. You look very smart! That was my uniform, that


was! I am from Merthyr, born and bred. I would be interested to find


out, if you travel anywhere in the country or abroad, and you say you


are from Merthyr, how do people react? A lot of people think drugs


and alcohol and benefits, but the culture and history is brilliant.


Merthyr was nothing before the Industrial Revolution and now it has


got this reputation. It has still got that proud heritage we now have.


I think if Merthyr can get a proud heritage like that then so can I.


People need to learn more about what have people have done in the past in


Merthyr and Wales and think to themselves, I do not have to move


away to make a difference to the world. Their view goal. You just


have to listen to that and you can see how the kids are. You just don't


see that on other programmes, intelligent and bright and they have


got all of their lives in front of them. They should have been inspired


by what can happen in Merthyr before because they can achieve great


things. They should know they can achieve anything. Really important.


Merthyr is my patch but every part of Wales has its own part to play in


our history. Surely our kids have the right to know it isn't just


about kings and queens. It is about what happened on their doorsteps,


the generations that went before them. The unions used to teach


people there has to be at know it has to be about the education


system. My grandfather used to say to me you


cannot beat her stay and he is right. The sense of community forged


by our forefathers can never be beaten. As long as we don't forget


that. I believe it is the job of our schools to ensure that never


happens. That was a very clear message and


with me in the studio is Doctor Sian Williams from Cardiff Metropolitan


University. Thank you for coming in. Those children in Merthyr made some


interesting points. What are they learning in terms of Welsh history


and are in the right place? I think it varies from school to school. The


curriculum as it has been since 2008 emphasises on paper that it is


supposed to be from the perspective of Wales and Britain within the


wider world. But that doesn't happen across the board from my experience


and also from the evidence we had when we had the finishing grip


responding to the government back in 2013. I think it is variable. That


is a bit depressing and if I think about my time in school all those


years ago, Welsh history was seen as a bit of an eccentric ad on. Things


are changing and what is important is a recognition now that we have


got communities that were forged as part of key historical events, and


we have got to in some ways relearn what those events world and make


sure that pupils in those communities and the schools actually


understand it and take pride in their communities but understand how


those events have actually shaped their lives today. The new


curriculum, I think there's a new confidence that partly comes from


the devolution process as well, that we have actually got to have Welsh


history not in isolation, as part of Britain and the world, but if we


don't know our own local has if we don't know what we have contributed


to the world... I think everyone would be understanding that and the


point I would make is FB progress has been not satisfactory so far,


what are the reasons for that? What is blocking that progress. There are


several reasons and I think they are quite complex but I agree with you


that local history is sometimes well-known locally and that is


important but what is not as well taught as the links that are made


between the local, the National, the entire relationship with other


nations and the wider world. Is that going to a lack of expertise? The


subject knowledge among teachers is one of the barriers and I think if


you have really good subject knowledge and something you can be


confident, you can bring in anecdotes, you can see which


resources to select and make it interesting. I look through my


constituency and see the history of William Price. Sometimes what is not


understood as the importance of those events and the way the impact


of the laws and society at the time. Some fantastically important


political decisions made to legislation and the formation of the


Labour Party. We can know very little about it. Our schools


themselves should cover not just what happened that those events but


what they actually meant and how those events have changed their


lives today, and it is bring about that knowledge which is important


and our schools. What could make a big difference in terms of not just


the way the subject is taught in schools but the leadership given.


You have been an influential position, what is going on in terms


of encouraging teachers and schools to pursue this area more


enthusiastically? I have been involved in teacher education and


one of the things is to help teachers themselves", perhaps


linking with other schools and having not so much advisers but


people perhaps it can lead on which resources to use and how they might


refocus some of their schemes of work to teach from a more Welsh


perspective. There's another point you have raised in the past which is


to do with the nature of the teaching, the flavour of the


teaching to put it that way. What was your concern? My concern is


history is really about people's lives, things that have shaped lives


and society, and what we have done is romanticised history around kings


and queens and princes and big battles and so on, and I think we


have got to get history back into reality and what has Wales


contributed. At the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, even sending


people to different parts of the world, America and Australia.


There's a whole history that I don't think we fully appreciate and


understand, but we have got to get back in classrooms, because I think


it gives young people pride in their communities, or pride about our


place in the world. And they are fantastic stories as well and hugely


enjoyable so nice to talk pupils. Thank you. If you'd like to get in


touch with us e-mail us. Or you can follow us on social media. We will


be back next week but until then, thanks for watching. Nos da, good




The Wales Report with Huw Edwards returns for 2016. On this programme: as stats show the rate of sanctions on people with mental health problems has risen faster in Wales than the UK average, Huw explores the impact of the sanctions regime on vulnerable people. And is enough history from a Welsh perspective being taught in schools in Wales?

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