Posted: Sun 25th Feb 2024

Welsh Government criticised for cutting funding to Wales Police Schools Programme

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

A North Wales Member of the Senedd has hit out at the Welsh Government for withdrawing funding for the Wales Police Schools Programme.

The School Beat Cymru scheme sees officers deliver lessons in schools on safety, substance abuse, safeguarding and behaviour.

But earlier this month the Welsh Government announced that it would be axing its contribution to the programme.

According to the BBC Local Democracy Reporting scheme the decision “would result in an annual saving of £2m from April and allow it to prioritise frontline services.”

The North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin has pledged to keep funding the scheme within the region until July.

However beyond that there is is uncertainty about the continuation of the scheme in the region.

North Wales MS and Shadow Minister for Social Justice, Mark Isherwood, has hit out at the Welsh Government for withdrawing funding.

Speaking in a Debate on ‘The Police Settlement 2024-25’ during a meeting of the Welsh Parliament, Mr Isherwood noted that funding for the four Welsh police forces is delivered through a three-way arrangement involving the Home Office, the Welsh Government and Council Tax.

He added that the Council Tax Police Precept will rise by 4.69% in North Wales, 6.2% in Dyfed Powys, 6.7% in Gwent and 8.69% in South Wales.

He said:“SchoolBeat delivers a nationally-reviewed bilingual curriculum of teacher-developed lessons for ages 5 – 16.

“They engage with all schools, including mainstream education, independent schools in Wales, schools supporting additional learning needs and alternative provision including pupil referral units and education other than at school.

“It has an agreed policy of the four Police Forces of Wales for responding to reports of incidents in schools and supporting and advising schools in a safeguarding capacity – basically early intervention and prevention.

“However, it was confirmed to me in Written Questions that ‘the Welsh Government will be withdrawing its match funding for the Wales Police Schools Programme, which includes the SchoolBeat’– thereby removing a key early intervention and prevention programme and thereby stoking up costs for Statutory Services, including those the Welsh Government is responsible for.

“This is therefore another shortsighted decision by the Welsh Government, cutting a programme that is designed to prevent, rather than cure, saving the Public Purse further down the line.”

“Unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, Wales has a heavily populated cross border area, with almost half the population in Wales living within 25 miles of the border with England, and 90% within 50 miles.

“Given these operational and population realities, the Welsh Government must explain why it is devoting so much time and resource to devolution of Policing to Wales, when it is cutting key budgets elsewhere – especially when both the UK Conservative Government and the most senior Welsh Labour MP in Westminster, Shadow Welsh Secretary Jo Stephens, have rejected fresh calls for the Welsh Government to be given control of policing and adult criminal justice.”

Speaking earlier this month a Welsh Government spokesperson said the decision to remove funding for the scheme had been taken in light of the NHS and other frontline services facing “the toughest financial pressures in recent history”.

They said: “We have had to take very difficult decisions about the Welsh Government’s commitments and priorities, with a focus on protecting front-line services and saving lives.

“In spite of the challenging budget, we have continued to protect our front-line substance misuse funding at £67m.

“That includes increased ring-fenced allocations for children and young people to £6.25m.

“As a result, we have decided to end the Welsh Government’s contribution to the Wales Police Schools Programme, which currently comes from the substance misuse budget.”

They added: “The landscape around wellbeing for learners on a range of important issues has changed significantly since the introduction of the programme; particularly with the introduction of the new curriculum.

“We have worked, and are continuing to work, closely with the police on the impact of the funding changes.”

(Top pic – trial of OpenAI api image interpretation of article)

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