Confusion over Wales incoming smacking ban

There is a degree of misunderstanding over new smacking legislation, research for the Welsh Government has found.

A law banning people in Wales from smacking their children will come into force in 2022. Wales is the second part of the UK to do so, after Scotland.

In a survey of 1,002 people, 23% were aware of the changes and 26% said they were aware but unsure of the details.

The Welsh Government said TV, radio and online adverts would launch later this year.

In the latest Beaufort Wales Omnibus survey, carried out in November 2019, a higher percentage of people reported being in favour of removing the defence of reasonable punishment than those asked in a November 2018 survey.

In 2019, all respondents were asked the degree to which they agreed or disagreed that it is sometimes necessary to smack a child.

More disagreed with this statement (55%) than agreed with it (31%). The difference between the proportions disagreeing and agreeing with the statement was greater than in the 2018 survey when 49% disagreed and 35% agreed.

Those who have caring responsibilities for children aged seven or under – 179 of the 1,002 asked – were more likely to disagree that it was sometimes necessary to smack a child – 70% – compared with 53% among those who did not have caring responsibilities for those aged seven and under.

In 2018, when asked if they were aware of proposed changes in legislation, 17% said yes. In the 2019 survey that rose to 23%.

In the previous survey 64% said they were not aware and that went down to 50% in the most recent survey.

In 2018, 17% they were aware but not sure of the details, this rose to 26% in 2019.

Dr Ashley Frawley, senior lecturer in social policy at Swansea University is a vocal campaigner for the Be Reasonable campaign, which seeks to stop any ban and continue to give parents a choice.

She said her stance meant she was repeatedly trolled on Twitter and said the issue had become distorted.

Dr Frawley said: “Campaigners have had a lot of success turning this into a debate about how people should parent… that’s not what this debate is about, it’s about whether one form of parenting should be illegal.

“It’s not whether people should smack, it’s whether you should be charged and recorded as a child abuser if you do.”

She added: “The whole policy itself is built on distrust – you can’t trust people to control themselves, you can’t convince people democratically to adopt this style of parenting – that’s why they look to the law in the first place.”

Responding to the results of the latest survey, she said: “The changes between the two surveys are really, really small…

“You’d think you could produce more impressive changes with such a small sample size….

“Proponents will probably want to foreground that carers of children under seven appear to be in favour of the ban. I wonder how many will mention that they only surveyed 179 of them to produce this result?”

Vivienne Laing, policy and public affairs manager at NSPCC Cymru, welcomed the findings.

She said: “It’s positive that there has been a further shift in public attitudes ahead of this important change in the law, which puts the protection of children first.

“The new legislation will give children in Wales the same legal protection from assault as adults and we are continuing to work closely with the Welsh Government to support with its successful implementation.”

She said a change in public attitudes often followed legislative change: “We’ve seen with the introduction of the smoking ban and compulsory seatbelts in cars. It is encouraging to see that this shift is already happening.”

She said she was confident a public awareness campaign would lead to a further reduction in the use of the physical punishment on children.

The charity encourages parents to praise the good things children do and set clear and consistent boundaries and remain calm in difficult situations.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “An awareness-raising campaign to inform the public of the change in law will go live later in the year – including TV, radio and digital advertising.

“We are also ensuring that professionals who work with parents and children know about the change in the law and have established an expert stakeholder group to oversee this vital work.”

Census 2021: Veterans need more help for civilian life

Improving the lives of armed forces veterans will take more than simply identifying them through the census, some in Wales have said.

The 2021 UK Census will ask recipients if they are armed forces leavers for the first time, following a campaign by forces’ charities.

Three veterans told BBC Wales News they were offered no support to transition from military to civilian life.

The UK Government said the vast majority made a successful transition.

A request for an armed forces leaver who had a positive experience of transitioning to civilian life and accessing support was made to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) but it said it could not be arranged in time for publication.

The new question on the census, which will be run by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 21 March, will read: “Have you previously served in the UK Armed Forces?”

The ONS said the information would help councils and government carry out the commitments they made under the Armed Forces Covenant – a promise to ensure those who serve or have served in the UK armed forces, and their families, are not disadvantaged.

Andrew Inwood suffered a broken back, crushed hand and shrapnel wounds in Afghanistan in 2010 when the patrol vehicle he was travelling in went over an improvised explosive device (IED).

He was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was eventually medically discharged from the Royal Welsh Fusiliers 1st Battalion.

“I didn’t really have much notice when I got my discharge date – two months,” he said.

With a wife and child to support, his welfare office advised him to look for a council house, he said, but the council told him there was a four-year waiting list.

He said his personnel recovery officer (PRO) was based hundreds of miles away and offered no support.

He eventually found a private bungalow to rent which he said was “constantly freezing”.

With no job, dealing with his own mental health issues and physical injuries, he said he tried to harm himself.

Just over a year ago he made contact with Dave Price, co-ordinator of Welsh Veterans Partnership based in Caerphilly, and said the charity helped him access better accommodation, a referral for help with his PTSD and a disability car.

“When I first signed up to join the Army in 2006 I remember being told that if I was ever hurt and I couldn’t serve my country any more that I be given a house, I’d be given courses,” he said.

“It breaks my heart – I feel like I was lied to the entire time. It has crushed me. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

He said he was unsure if the new census question would improve things for veterans.

“I think it does run very deep and I think it’s going to take a lot more than getting the numbers together,” he said.

“People need to be physically doing things.”

Nigel Harvey says his life spiralled out of control after completing 10 years’ service with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in 2000.

The 48-year-old from North Cornelly, Bridgend county, said after serving in Bosnia he was struggling with mental health issues.

“First of all I went through a marriage breakup… went through a thing of drinking… doing silly things for money, debt collecting just trying to make ends meet, calling in people’s houses and threatening them,” he said.

“I wasn’t dealing with things like rent, gas, electric, cars – everything in the Army is done for you.”

He said the trauma he experienced in service made it hard to return to civilian life.

“I had a gun held to my head, there were bodies, my mate got shot,” he said.

“When we landed on the ground in Brize Norton they said ta-ra to me… I still had bullets in my magazines, I didn’t have a pre-release course, I didn’t have nothing, they didn’t look after me at all.”

He said with nowhere to live he, his wife and two children lived in a car for two months before he “kicked up a fuss” in a council office and was given a council property.

His relationship then broke down and he became homeless, “sofa surfing when I could”.

Eighteen months ago he said he considered taking his own life and a friend gave him a number for Mr Price, which led to him being housed, getting mental health support and medical help.

He said when things got desperate he sold his medals.

“[They were] my pride and joy but I needed to put food on the plate and clothing and presents for Christmas… I had nothing,” he said.

“I can’t stand there with my comrades on the service parade because I feel embarrassed, standing there with nothing on my chest but I know I’ve been there.”

Naomi Anderson, 29, from Cardiff, said she was medically discharged from the RAF in 2012 because of blood clots and mental health issues.

She moved into her parents’ home but it was crowded.

“I got pregnant, my sister was pregnant and there were four of us sharing one bedroom,” she said.

“I was kind of reaching out to services and I was like, ‘I need somewhere to live’, and I was just kind of getting nowhere.

“They told me that I’d get so much help and the day they discharged me they gave me 24 hours to get off my unit and clear out, and I had no help at all in that process or in that time or ever since.”

She said she eventually got a home of her own after Mr Price worked with her council.

She said the charity also helped her apply for a paramedic degree, which she started in January.

She said: “I think [my experience] shows the true colours of forces… they promise you all this, that when you leave you’ll get money for enhanced learning, you’ll get this, you’ll get that – you don’t get anything.”

Regarding the new question on the census, she said: “There’re too many false promises and so, I wouldn’t be the type of person that would be jumping up and down right now and saying, ‘oh my god we’re going to get more recognition’… I don’t think that’ll ever happen.

“I think you’re a name, you’re a number.”

Mr Price, himself a veteran, said the charity had campaigned for the new question and hoped it would help tackle “profound” problems faced by armed forces leavers.

He said: “We’re always told [when applying for funding] ‘we’ve got a lack of data’ – it’s a persistent problem and it constantly leads to people slipping through the net – so I really commend the government for putting the question on the census.

“I think nationally it’s important because government will be able to set aside money.”

An ONS spokesman said: “One of the greatest challenges in addressing need is knowing where it is in the first place.

“This new question will give a better understanding of the numbers, locations and age ranges of our armed forces veterans and will help the government, NHS and service charity sectors target resources and expertise where they are needed most.

“Census data is anonymised and no individuals can be identified. Personal records will be locked away for 100 years, kept safe for future generations.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “The vast majority of service leavers make a successful transition to civilian life, but we are committed to doing more than ever to ensure even more undergo positive transitions. Census data supplied by veterans will help us better understand the needs of the ex-military community and provide them with more efficient support.”

She said for more than 20 years it had offered employment support through the Career Transition Partnership as well as tailored support to people with challenges such as housing and finance through Defence Transition Services.

“In addition, the Armed Forces Bill will embed the Armed Forces Covenant into law by introducing a legal duty for relevant UK public bodies, including those in Wales, to have due regard to the principles of the Covenant. This will help ensure fair treatment and improved public services for the military community,” she added.

Transition and resettlement services for the armed forces are the responsibility of the MoD but the Welsh Government said it worked worked closely with the UK ministers.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said it delivered a “wide range of services and support” including Veterans NHS Wales and armed forces liaison officers.

She said it also supported charities to tackle loneliness and social isolation and supported employers to hire veterans.

Parents alerted to NurseryCam security breach

A webcam system that lets parents drop in and watch their children while at nursery school has written to families to tell them of a data breach.

NurseryCam said it did not believe the incident had involved any youngsters or staff being watched without their permission, but had shut down its server as a precautionary measure.

The Guildford-based company told the BBC its service was used by about 40 nurseries across the UK.

It said it had also notified the ICO.

Under UK rules, the Information Commissioner’s Office must be told of a breach if it has “significant impact” within 24 hours.

NurseryCam said it first became aware of the incident shortly after 17:00GMT on Friday.

It added the service would remain suspended until a security fix was in place.

The firm said that a “loophole” in its systems had been used to obtain data from parents’ viewing accounts including:

“The person who identified the loophole has so far acted responsibly,” said NurseryCam’s director Dr Melissa Kao.

“He stated he has no intention to use this to do any harm [and] wants to see NurseryCam raise the overall standards of our security measures.”

The company had earlier been involved in a public spat with a cyber-security consultant who had claimed to have found problems in its systems, which the company had played down.

The consultant, Andrew Tierney, told the BBC he had also been contacted by the hacker, who had passed on a redacted copy of the stolen data.

Mr Tierney said he had made follow-up checks with some of the parents involved to check the details were real, and had contacted NurseryCam to offer his help.

“I don’t know who this guy is,” he said.

“But what I’ve done is send NurseryCam the weak points in its system that I had spotted over the last couple of weeks.”

He added that ex-users of the system had not been included on the list he had seen.

Ms Kao told the BBC she did not believe the breach had been related to the previous alleged flaws that Mr Tierney had sought to bring to her attention.

“NurseryCam sincerely apologises to all our parent users and nurseries for the incident. We are very sorry,” she added.

Wales flooding: Roads blocked and homes evacuated

Roads have been flooded and homes evacuated as heavy rain swept across Wales.

Some areas of south Wales have seen a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours, according to the Met Office.

Dyfed-Powys Police said several homes in Newcastle Emlyn were evacuated because of the flooding risk but many residents chose to stay.

A landslide shut the B4459 at Capel Dewi, Ceredigion, and flooding blocked the A483 in Builth Wells, Powys.

The Met Office has put an amber warning in place until 22:00 GMT on Saturday for 13 of Wales’ 22 counties.

The forecaster has also issued yellow warnings for rain in western areas of Scotland as well as Cumbria and south-west England.

In Newcastle Emlyn residents were advised to move from their homes on Saturday afternoon although many chose to remain.

Ch Insp Jacqui Lovatt, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “Those who decided not to leave were given appropriate safety advice – to move to the upper floor and that any valuables, essentials and food are taken upstairs.”

An emergency rest centre in Llandysul was stood down but may reopen if needed.

Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) flood warnings cover several rivers, including the Usk in Crickhowell and Brecon.

The nearby Glanusk Estate said its livestock was being moved from fields to drier and higher land across the A40.

The worst of the weather could affect rivers in south and mid Wales, NRW warned.

At one point on Saturday, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency issued 35 flood warnings with 12 in England, according to the Environment Agency.

In Wales, 27 flood warnings were issued at one point, including on the River Wye at Builth Wells, the River Cynon at Mountain Ash and Abercynon, and River Loughor at Ammanford and Llandybie.

There were also warnings issued on the River Towy at Carmarthen Quay and between Llandeilo and Abergwili.

Other flood warnings covered the River Teifi at Newcastle Emlyn, Cenarth, Llechryd and Llandysul.

On Saturday afternoon, NRW also added a flood warning covering the Lower Dee Valley from Llangollen to Trevalyn Meadows.

Senior meteorologist Marco Petagna said 5in (127.6mm) of rain fell at Llyn-y-Fan, Carmarthenshire, between 06:00 on Friday and 08:00 on Saturday, and 4.5in (115mm) at Treherbert in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

That compares to an average rainfall of 3.9in (98mm) for the whole of February in south Wales, which he said was more than a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours.

The Met Office warning said up to 2.7in (70mm) of rain was widely expected across the area covered by the amber warning, but the south and south west could expect to see 5.9in (15cm) “quite widely”.

It had warned 8in (20cm) of rain could fall on the highest ground of south Wales.

Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Merthyr Tydfil, Monmouthshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Powys, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Swansea and Torfaen are all covered by the amber warning.

A yellow warning – which means the weather is likely to have some impact – is in place for almost all of the country, apart from Anglesey and Flintshire, until 22:00 GMT on Saturday.

In Powys, the A4077 Crickhowell Bridge has been closed due to floods along with the A40 Brecon Road.

In Carmarthenshire, roads are shut on the A4242 at Carmarthen, A4069 at Llandovery and Llangadog,

In Ceredigion, Church Street in Llandysul has also closed due to flooding near the cricket club. The B4459 at Capel Dewi has had to close due to a landslide.

And there have been closures on the A4061 Rhigos Road in Rhondda Cynon Taf, and the A4042 Llanellen Bridge in Monmouthshire.

Rail services have been affected by flooding on the line between Hereford and Newport in south Wales, according to the National Rail website.

Transport for Wales services have also been hit between Abercynon and Aberdare, Merthyr Vale and Merthyr Tydfil, and Ebbw Vale Parkway and Ebbw Vale.

Wales has been under a national lockdown since 20 December with all but essential travel banned.

Four in hospital after car crashes during police chase

Four people have been taken to hospital after their car crashed following a police chase in Perthshire.

The crash happened on the A90 near St Madoes at about 13:55.

Police said the car was being pursued after it failed to stop for officers on Edinburgh Road in Perth. Its four occupants were taken to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

A spokeswoman for the force said no police vehicles were involved in the crash.

“The road is currently closed and inquiries are ongoing,” she added.

Summerseat house blast: Compassionate counsellor named as victim

A hospice counsellor who died when an explosion caused a house to collapse was “always compassionate and always focused”, the charity has said.

Hazel Wilcock, 61, was found dead by police after the blast in Summerseat, Bury, on Wednesday.

Her death had left her colleagues at Stockport’s St Ann’s Hospice “extremely shocked and saddened”, chief executive Rachel McMillan said.

An investigation into the cause of the explosion is continuing.

Ms McMillan said Ms Wilcock was a “much-loved member of the hospice family”, who had worked for the Cheadle-based charity for the past four years and had been “always compassionate and always focused on ensuring the very best care for our patients”.

“She had recently been working on a project to further develop our psychological support services to reach even more people during the pandemic, especially helping to support people experiencing grief in these exceptional times,” she said.

“It was extremely important to her that she was still able to help despite all of the restrictions… and our patients and those closest to them were always at the heart of everything she did.

“She cared for so many local people and she will be hugely missed by all of us.”

Following the blast, a woman and child were taken to hospital with minor injuries and have since been discharged. Three other people were treated at the scene by paramedics.

About 30 neighbouring houses on East View were evacuated as a precaution but many residents have since returned to their homes.

Wretton dog walkers suspicions lead police to hedge mannequin

Police investigating a dog walker’s call about something “suspicious” in a hedgerow have said they are “pleased” it turned out to be “not as reported”.

Norfolk Police were sent to a field in Wretton, near Downham Market, earlier after a figure in jeans and trainers was spotted kneeling in a hedge.

However, officers discovered it was actually the abandoned bottom half of a mannequin.

The force said whoever left the dummy may have been trying to be “creative”.

“If you’re missing a set of mannequin legs… they are with us,” a spokesman added in a tweet.

Thirsk teacher, 21, becomes youngest solo female to row Atlantic

A 21-year-old swimming teacher has become the youngest woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Jasmine Harrison, from Thirsk in North Yorkshire, set off on her 3,000-mile (4,828km) journey from La Gomera in the Canary Islands in December.

She docked in Antigua earlier, completing the journey in 70 days, three hours and 48 minutes.

After arriving in the Caribbean she said the experience had been “amazing” and “everything I wanted it to be”.

Ms Harrison, a part-time swimming teacher and bartender, decided to sign up for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge three years ago after watching the finale of the 2017 event.

Asked about her epic challenge, she said it had been a mix of “good and bad memories”, but said she had relished the chance to escape from day-to-day life.

“There’s nothing like it, actually getting away from everything – social media, bad news, from literally everything,” she said.

During the crossing, Ms Harrison would row for two hours and sleep for two hours on rotation.

Despite being cut off from the world, she was still able to speak to her mother every day via satellite phone.

Asked what she was most looking forward to after stepping on to dry land, she replied: “Food, definitely food.”

As well as rowing into the record books, Ms Harrison has also raised more than £10,000 for charity.

The previous youngest female solo ocean rower was 22-year-old Katie Spotz from the USA who rowed the Atlantic east-to-west between 3 January and 14 March 2010.

The youngest person to have made the crossing solo is student Lukas Haitzmann, who completed it in 2019 at the age of 18.

Harrogate woman with 34HH breasts fundraises for reduction

A woman who has endured “years of back pain” and sores due to her breast size says she is fundraising for a reduction after being refused one on the NHS.

Kelly Michaud, 26, has 34HH breasts, which she says causes her huge physical discomfort as well as mental distress.

She is unable to breastfeed her newborn due to the pain, but reduction surgery is not “routinely commissioned” by her local Clinical Commissioning Group.

Mrs Michaud said: “I feel like I can’t live the rest of my life like this.”

Mrs Michaud, from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, said her breasts, were completely out of proportion with her 5ft 2in, size eight frame and she had “struggled to live with them for years”.

She said: “There’s this assumption that if you have big boobs then you should be happy, that people pay to have big breasts so I should count myself lucky.

“But the reality is very different. Since being a teenager, I’ve had horrendous back pain, bras digging into my shoulders, sores under my boobs and constant unwanted attention about the size of them.”

The mother-of-two sought help from her GP in 2018 and was told that before she would be considered for surgery she needed to try other measures.

She spent £240 on bras and lost two stone in weight, but nothing helped so her doctor applied for reduction surgery – an application which was rejected by North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group (NYCCG).

Desperate for help, Mrs Michaud then wrote to NYCCG “pleading for them to remove the weight”, but she said her case was refused.

Mrs Michaud said she had been left with no other choice but to try to raise the money privately.

“I just long to be able to move around freely, to not have neck and back pain and to be able to buy clothes that fit me properly and not feel like I have to constantly keep my breasts covered up.

“I’ve come across so many other women experiencing the same as me and who have been made to feel like they’re making an issue out of nothing so I’m hoping what I’m doing helps them too.”

NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group said like many CCGs, breast reduction surgery was not routinely commissioned unless it related to breast cancer treatment or surgery.

“However, where an Individual Funding Request for a particular treatment or procedure that isn’t routinely commissioned has been turned down, patients have the option – with the support of their doctor or consultant – to appeal the decision, should they wish.”

The group added it was not appropriate to comment on the circumstances of individual patients.