Tag Archives: kirsty williams

Liberal Democrats mark World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day.

For me it’s a day to reflect on how far we have come since I started to suffer from mental ill health as a child. Forty years ago, nobody understood the desperate, isolating, all-engulfing Depression that I couldn’t shake off, that took every ounce of my energy just to get through the day. I remember trying to talk about it to a friend once, and she scared the living daylights out of me, telling me I’d be locked up in a hospital if anyone found out.

There was the exhausting anxiety which punctuated every day – not helped by the fact that round every corner there might be another bully lurking to shout “Yak” at me. That’s what they called me at school. I just wish I’d had Google then to reassure me that, whatever my tormentors meant, these beasts were actually kind of cute.

My teens were a struggle and because I didn’t get the help I needed, I either didn’t cope very well or developed some fairly unhelpful strategies to deal with it. Comfort eating for one.

We can perhaps be a little bit proud of ourselves as a society that four decades on, we are at least attempting to tackle the stigma around mental health, so that no young person need fear that they are going to be locked up.

However, we should also be ashamed that this new openness has not been accompanied by the provision of sufficient support services for people with mental ill health.

There is one area I want to focus on – the transition from child to adult mental health services. Once you get into the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, you can actually get some pretty reasonable support. It’s arranged in a fairly logical way with consultants, psychologists and nurses working together to support young people. Unfortunately not every young person who needs help can get it at all, and most have to wait far too long.  It is not uncommon to wait for more than a year to even see a specialist.

Mental health issues generally aren’t resolved overnight, so you have a year of turmoil while you are waiting to be seen and, maybe another couple of years of reasonably intensive support – and then you turn 18. All the effort put into helping you is now at risk as you are put into the virtually non-existent twilight world of adult mental health services which are disparate, insufficient and as suitable for the scale of the problem as  trying to surf the Atlantic on a My Little Pony lilo.

This country is being robbed of the talents of some wonderful individuals simply because it does not invest in the services they need to stay well.

Even the most cruel and heartless government should surely recognise that the cost of not supporting these people is enormous to both our economy and our society.

I’m incredibly proud that Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb have done so much to improve mental health services and tackle the stigma around mental health. One of the most horrible things about the run-up to the 2015 election was the almost certain knowledge that Norman wouldn’t be mental health minister any more.

Today, Liberal Democrats have been marking Mental Health Day in a variety of ways:

Kirsty Williams made this video highlighting mental ill health in the workplace:

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LibLink: Kirsty William: It’s not about whether we charge tuition fees. In Wales, we’ve found a third way

The one Liberal Democrat left in national government, Kirsty Williams, has written an article for the Guardian in which she sets out what she is introducing in Wales – a plan to help students with living costs which will support part time and postgraduate students too:

The new support package in Wales will cover those who start their course in 2018/19, wherever in the UK they choose to study. Every student will be entitled to support equivalent to the national living wage. This means that eligible full-time students will receive maintenance support of £11,250 if they study in London and £9,000 per year elsewhere if they live away from home.

This will be delivered through a mix of loans and grants, unlike in England where zero maintenance grants are available. Very small, limited grants are available in Scotland, but they too are currently reviewing the system.

Welsh students from the lowest household income will receive the highest grant – £8,100 in their pocket, and more in London. Our estimates suggest that a third of full-time students will be eligible for that full grant.

Furthermore, our data shows that the average household income for a student in our current system is around £25,000. Under the new system such a student will receive around £7,000 a year in their pocket.

However, potentially the most radical element of our reforms is to provide equivalent support for part-time and postgraduate students. Wales will be the first in Europe to achieve this. For the first time, part-time undergraduates will receive similar support for maintenance, pro-rata to their full-time counterparts.

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Kirsty Williams on the “divisive” political atmosphere

Former Welsh Lib Dem Leader Kirsty Williams has spoken out about the unpleasant divisiveness of our political atmosphere after one of her team was racially abused and she had the unsettling experience of a man making a shooting gesture and telling her Liberals should be shot.

From Wales Online:

Describing the change she has seen since the EU referendum, she said: “I think ever since the Brexit vote I think politics has become very divisive in a way I haven’t witnessed in all these years and I think in some ways that has unleashed something where the country is very, very, very divided and that’s to be regretted and unfortunately I don’t see how that divide is going to be healed.”

Acknowledging the responsibility of politicians to take care in the language they use, she said: “I think all politicians at all times need to be mindful about how they express their arguments.

“There are legitimate arguments to be expressed but words are powerful and the influence politicians have is powerful and therefore there is a responsibility on all of us to be very mindful about how we conduct ourselves and the language we use.

She described what had happened to her volunteer and the effect that has on people:

“Unfortunately it just seems that this kind of discourse is becoming the norm. We’ve had a volunteer racially abused this week.

“She feels that she can’t go and deliver any leaflets because she was racially abused while just out delivering leaflets.”

The volunteer was someone who wanted to “do her bit in support of the values she believed in and unfortunately feels she won’t be able to do that again”.

The AM fears such experiences will stop people from getting involved in politics.

“That’s the issue, isn’t it,” she said. “Why would people want to put themselves and potentially their families through this?

Read on to find out how she reacted to a Conservative sign being planted in her hedge.

I do agree with Kirsty that politics can be pretty vicious at the moment. I am not sure it’s any worse than when I started out back in the 80s, though. It did calm down for a while in the late 90s. It used to be Labour who were the worst. Power came too easy to them and they responded with an aggressive arrogance to anyone who tried to take it from them. 

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Today at Welsh Conference

Welsh Liberal Democrats gather in Swansea this weekend for their first Spring Conference since the disastrous election last year which saw them lose four of their five AMs. The party has had to pick itself up from that heartbreaking and thoroughly undeserved defeat. It has re-organised its resources and is ready to fight the Council elections in May. They also have the only Liberal Democrat Minister standing, in Kirsty Williams, who is doing a great job as Wales’ Education Secretary. Below is their agenda for the day.

They are having discussion sessions with their party spokespeople, motions on students and the community, ending the right to buy and community banking and  a long debate on their council elections manifesto. The details are below.

Morning session

09:15 Opening of Conference
9:40 Party Spokespeople: Cllr Peter Black: Finance, Local Government, Heritage, & Housing Jane Dodds: Communities & Social Justice

10:00 Topical/Emergency Motion

10:20 PM1: Students and the Local Community

Conference notes:

  1. The positive impact of students and universities on the local economy
  2. The transient nature of student communities
  3. The tensions that can arise between long-term residents and the changing studentpopulation

Conference believes:

  1. Collaboration between groups leads to the most effective and sustainable solutions to the issues and challenges transient communities face
  2. That it is the responsibility of students, landlords, and local authorities to keep the local areas tidy
  3. More can and should be done to improve community relations between long-term and student residents

Conference calls for:

7. Local authorities to work with students unions and universities on a variety of projects including:

  1. Creating an information pack for students and landlords detailing what resources are available to them within the community. This can include material and adverts from local businesses and groups, guidance on contacting the council, guidance around bin collection and local events.
  2. Informing students of their rights as renters through online materials and workshops
  3. Run community building projects such as Cardiff Digs and Love Bangor
  4. Promote and work with Communities 1st and similar groups
  5. To recognise work done by students in the local community through the useof Higher Education Achievement Report or other award schemes

10:50 PM2: Standing up for our Local Communities

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Kirsty Williams on building last year’s elections and building an education system that inspires pride and confidence

Kirsty Williams has been speaking to the South Wales Argus about her role as Education Secretary in the Welsh Government. She has great ambitions for the role.

I want to have an education system that the profession are proud of and parents and learners have confidence in.

That is quite a high bar, and she wants to work in partnership with those groups, unlike a certain former English education secretary whose tenure in office seemed to alienate everyone.

I am confident that by working together we can achieve my ultimate goal, which is to have a first-class education system for Wales and one which people around the world will want to come and look at, what were the changes we undertook and what were the reforms we put through that led to that system.

But I can’t do it on my own. I can only do it in partnership with parents, learners and educators.

What was it, though, that inspired Kirsty to get involved in politics as a young woman?

Growing up in Llanelli, Ms Williams cited watching family members working in the steel industry lose their jobs and seeing a lecture by Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Roy Jenkins, later a Lib Dem peer, as one of the biggest influences on her political development.

“I just remember listening to the lecture and thinking ‘I can’t say it in the same words he can but that’s the kind of community and society I want to live in’,” she said.

Being brought up in a family where politics was discussed and debated sparked her interest:

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What do you do when you want to distract from your party driving the country off a cliff?

Well, if you’re Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew R T Davies, you point out to anyone who will listen that Liberal Democrat Welsh Education Secretary voted in accordance with Liberal Democrat policy in the Article 50 debate in the Senedd as if this should be some sort of issue.

Labour AMs were whipped to vote for Article 50 to be invoked.

Davies argues that this broke cabinet responsibility. The BBC has the story:

The Liberal Democrat AM voted with Plaid Cymru against Article 50 despite the Labour group opposing the motion.

Mr Davies suggested some Labour AMs were “sore” over the Senedd vote.

Mr Jones’s spokesman said it was recognised the Lib Dems were in a different position on the matter.

Article 50 of the European Union Lisbon treaty is the trigger that would allow UK ministers to start the process to leave the EU.

The UK government wants to set Article 50 in motion by the end of March.

Mr Davies himself campaigned for Vote Leave at the referendum last year – his group joined Labour and UKIP in voting against the Plaid Cymru proposal in the Senedd on Tuesday.

Only 10 AMs supported the motion to oppose Article 50 being triggered without assurances over the single market, versus 46 against.

The vote if passed would have been advisory and would not have affected the process.

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Conference Countdown 2016: Looking forward to Lib Dem Disco?

For those of you heading to Conference in Brighton this weekend, I hope word has reached you by now that Cambridge Lib Dems are once again hosting the hugely enjoyable Lib Dem Disco in association with UK Music.

It was such fun last year that even Buzzfeed was astounded.

This year will see defending champion DJ Jo Swinson taking on the challenge from Kirsty Williams, Simon Hughes and the ALDC’s own Abi Bell. As before, your MC for the evening is one Julian “J Huppz” Huppert.

Things kick off at 10:30pm in the Balmoral & Buckingham Room, Hilton Metropole, Brighton on Saturday 17th September.

Please note that in previous years a special online discount was offered. This year tickets are all £10 each. We would like to apologise if this was incorrectly stated elsewhere. Naturally you can trust this now that you’ve read it on Lib Dem Voice!

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