My latest column for SA4 magazine:
I often hear on the doorstep that 'politicians are the same.' But we are not.
I write this in the week that the Tories announced huge cuts to the winter fuel allowance, reduced the amount of pension that older people can expect, and unveiled hugely unpopular plans for paying for social care in England. They are so confident of older people’s votes, that they will take them for granted.
At the very same time, in my role as Minister for Social Services and Public Health, I was announcing further investment in social care. I announced that the Welsh Labour Government will invest an extra £20million a year in the crucial areas of the social care workforce, looked after children, and respite provision. This is on top of an extra £35million I have announced for this financial year.
And it is not just in social care that the differences are stark.
In England, the Tories have scrapped the Education Maintenance Allowance. In Wales, Welsh Labour has kept it because we want all young people to achieve.
In Wales, Welsh Labour has put in place a planning moratorium on fracking. The Tories in Westminster have voted to allow fracking - even underneath Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Tories have scrapped Nursing Bursaries across the border. In Wales, Welsh Labour has kept them - and they come with the guarantee of a job.
Across the border, the Tories scrapped the Agricultural Wages Board, removing protections for low-paid farm workers. We kept it in Wales, and expanded its role.
Welsh Labour is committed to the Tidal Lagoon. We see its huge potential for green energy and skilled jobs. The Tories have quietly dropped it from their manifesto, hoping that the people of Swansea won’t notice. You will find it in the fifth paragraph of ours.
And in England, child burial fees apply. In Wales, the Welsh Labour Government has scrapped them.
We are not all the same.
As half term gets into swing, Rebecca Evans AM, Assembly Member for Gower has visited Gower Holiday Village to discuss the value of tourism to the constituency.
Rebecca met with the site owners and staff, and the Chair of Tourism Swansea Bay, to talk about the importance of tourism to the local economy in Gower.
Rebecca Evans said: "Wales is a magnificent country. Tourists spend more than £5 billion a year here, showing the importance of the sector to our local and wider economy.
"In Gower, the UKs first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we can be proud that we have mile upon mile of spectacular coastline and beautiful beaches to explore, with some of the cleanest bathing waters in Europe.
"We also have a great many innovative small businesses offering accommodation, food, sporting activities, and entertainment which together mean that Gower's tourism offering attracts visitors from across the world, and is also a firm favourite with domestic tourists."
Rebecca Evans AM, Assembly Member for Gower, is encouraging young people in the constituency to get involved and add their voices to the National Assembly for Wales’ Youth Parliament consultation.
Rebecca Evans said: “A consultation on a National Assembly for Wales Youth Parliament has been launched, and will be running until the 30th June 2017. The consultation will ask children and young people in Wales about their thoughts on the proposal to establish a new youth parliament.
“Wales has had a long tradition of upholding the rights of children and young people, and this is something we will continue to do in conjunction with the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.
“This is the time for young people of Gower to let their voice be heard.
“Is a youth parliament something you would welcome? What would you like to name the youth parliament? What would be its aim? And what should it do? These are just some of the questions raised in the consultation.”
The Assembly’s education and youth engagement team will be visiting schools and youth groups across Wales to deliver youth parliament consultation sessions, and the youth parliament steering group will be delivering sessions within their networks as well.
There will be an engagement event for young people on Wednesday 31st May, at Swansea YMCA, at 2pm-4pm.
Rebecca Evans added: “It is important to remember that the National Assembly for Wales is for all people across Wales, both young and old. I want young people in Gower to take this chance to have their voices heard.”
More information is available online at www.youthparliment.wales
Just over a year ago we stood for election to the Welsh Assembly on a hugely ambitious Welsh Labour manifesto.
We are extraordinarily proud that the people of Swansea put their trust in us, 12 months ago, to champion the area and to stand up and deliver for our local communities by returning us to represent them at the Senedd.
A few weeks later and a year ago this week, the Welsh Labour Government was formed.
Since then, the Welsh Labour Government have hit the ground running and we continue to deliver on our pledges and commitments we made to the people of Swansea and the people of Wales.
We promised to invest in the future of our children and we’ve delivered - continuing investment in new schools and existing school buildings – with Morriston Comprehensive benefiting from a £22 million revamp, while Gowerton Primary’s new build benefited from £6.8 million of funding.
Nearly 6,000 pupils in Swansea receive free school breakfasts, thanks to our Welsh Labour Government while we are investing more than £90 million in the Pupil Deprivation Grant, including doubling the support provided to disadvantaged pupils aged three and four across Wales, so every child has the same opportunity to develop and succeed.
And this approach is paying dividends, with GCSE students in Swansea having outstripped their peers across Wales in 2016 with more of them than ever celebrating the top A* and A results.
Our NHS has also seen considerable additional investment and Wales has the best performing ambulance service anywhere in the UK. The Welsh Labour Government has continued to invest in social care and Wales has not seen the same crisis that has been so well publicised over the border in England. The Welsh Labour Government have acted to raise the capital limit – increasing the amount of money people can keep when they go into care. This year the limit rises to 30,000 as a first step to meeting our election pledge of doubling the capital limit to £50,000 by the end of this Assembly term.
Locally, there are a series of innovative healthcare plans in the pipeline. The world-leading ARCH scheme would see Singleton Hospital develop into a centre of excellence for diagnostic and same-day care, and Morriston Hospital double in size and become a regional centre for specialist treatments. This transformation of hospital services will revolutionise the treatment patients in Swansea and the South West receive.
The Welsh Labour Government are delivering on the environment with Wales now established as the third best recycling nation in the world and we continue to improve.
Significant amounts of funding has been announced to meet the ambitious target of 20,000 new affordable homes and Wales leads the way once again when it comes to building council houses. Here in Swansea, our Labour led Council administration are committed to building the first council houses in a generation.
We also welcome Welsh Labour Government proposed legislation to end the Right to Buy in Swansea and across Wales.
The Bill aims to protect the Welsh stock of social housing from further reduction, ensuring it is available to provide safe, secure and affordable housing for people who are unable to take advantage of the housing market to buy or rent a home.
The Right to Buy and Right to Acquire initiatives, which were introduced by the Tories, have resulted in the loss of over 138,000 homes from the social housing sector.
Over the last year, Wales has seen the third largest increase in the employment rate of all UK countries and regions with high quality new jobs coming to Wales through major investments by Aston Martin and General Dynamics. In Swansea, BT has expanded its customer service contact centre by creating 100 new jobs, with support from the Welsh Labour Government.
The Welsh Labour Government continues to make Wales a better place to live and work, where prosperity is shared, where public services are protected and where the next generation are given the best start in life.
Thank you once again for placing your trust in us 12 months ago and we pledge to continue to serve the people of Swansea with integrity, passion and commitment.
Julie James, Rebecca Evans and Mike Hedges your Swansea Labour AMs
Paying tribute to former First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, Rebecca said:
"Rhodri will be remembered with fondness for his intellect, his wit, and his passion for our country.
"Rhodri was genuinely interested in people, and he always had time for everyone, no matter who you were. He was always ready with a word of encouragement, or a story to inspire. The generation of politicians who followed him, including myself, owe him a great deal.
"My thoughts are with Julie and the family."
Speaking at an event in the Senedd today to commemorate 70 years since the SS Samtampa and Edward, Prince of Wales disaster, Rebecca said:
This is a part of our history that we should not allow to be forgotten.
It is important that seventy years on, we pause and reflect on this tragedy, and remember those who lost their lives - including the eight crew of the lifeboat RNLI Edward, Prince of Wales from the Mumbles Lifeboat Station.
The crew selflessly took to the water that night, knowing the dangers they faced, to put themselves in harms way to try and save the lives of strangers. When you pause and really think about it, it's quite amazing.
Reflecting on the disaster reminds us that the bravery, and the selflessness, of the men and women who serve in our rescue services is as important today as it was seventy years ago.
Every day, men and women in our rescue services - a great many of them volunteers - stand ready, just like the crew of the Edward, Prince of Wales did - to help people in dire situations. We owe them an incredible debt of gratitude, and it is a comfort to us all to know that they are there if we need them.
About twelve months ago, the First Minister and I visited the Mumbles Lifeboat Station and talked with the crew. The welcome was warm, their commitment to one another was palpable, and their modesty was humbling.
Lifeboat crews from Mumbles have been saving lives at sea for more than a hundred and eighty years, and this anniversary will be very poignant for them. Today is an opportunity to remember the eight crew who died that night, and a further ten who have died in the history of the station. It is also a chance to say a heartfelt 'thank you.'
The bravery and sacrifice of all those who lost their lives will not be forgotten.
That is why I am so pleased to see so many pupils, including from my own constituency of Gower, here today - and I would like to extend a particularly warm welcome to Oystermouth Primary School, Whitestone Primary, and Ysgol Llwynderw. Croeso mawr.
In marking this anniversary the next generation are keeping this important part of our community's history alive, and they will - I'm sure - be inspired and proud.
Rebecca Evans AM, Assembly Member for Gower, is encouraging people across the constituency to nominate their village for a new programme being made by Channel 4, ‘Village of the Year 2017’.
Rebecca Evans said: “Across Gower constituency we have a wealth of villages each boasting their own unique character and a rich community life.
"I would love to see Gower villages featured and celebrated on the show, and for one of them to be crowned Village of the Year 2017."
The winning village will receive £10,000 prize to be used for a worthwhile community project.