Issue 1147 - Monday 9 December

Page 4

4 NEWS Draft options for 2021 census face criticism Tomos Evans Editor-in-Chief


here have been several calls for black Welsh and Asian Welsh to be included as options in the next census in 2021. In the upcoming national survey, which takes place every ten years, there will be several options for people to choose their identity. However, there will not be a black Welsh or an Asian Welsh option. Instead, participants will be able to complete a write-in option if their ethnicity is not included as an option. Several people have said that there is no option on the census that represents their identities. Gair Rhydd spoke to Yasmin Begum, a writer and activist from Cardiff, who said, “I am a Taffistani. I can’t tick Welsh Asian on a box: neither could my father, or his father before him. “This racism row has come 30 years too late, with the effects of a racist census being acutely felt in Wales. We need a devolved Office for National Statistics like Scotland, and only then will things change.” Manon Edwards Ahir Tweeted after the publication of the draft Census options. She said, “Apparently I will be the only Welsh person at home because I am white. My family will have to choose ethnicity or nationality - they are fiercely proud of both. So unfair.” Welsh singer, Kizzy Crawford, spoke to S4C’s evening news programme Newyddion 9 about the lack of an option for people who identify as black Welsh. In the interview, Kizzy said, “I haven’t seen anything that represents me. I’ve always put down mixed or mixed British but that’s not accurate. I consider myself to be Welsh.” Gwynedd Council has called for the ONS to reconsider the categories on offer in the Census, with Councillor Nia Jeffreys saying: “How it is worded, with only the choice of black British or Asian British, it’s like forcing people to choose between being Welsh or being black or Asian. It’s not acceptable.” In light of the response to the Census options, the Welsh Government has announced it will change the options for its annual National Survey for Wales. It is expected that the change will be in place by the 2020-21 National Survey. In response to the criticism, a spokesperson for the ONS said, “Everyone who wants to identify as Welsh can do so through their national identity and their ethnicity.” “The census questionnaires are designed to ensure people have the options to do this.” “We’ve engaged widely with users in Wales and are proposing that anyone wishing to identify as Welsh and another category (including Asian or Asian British and black, black British, Carribean or African) will be able to do so by completing one of the write-in options.”

PBSAs in the Cardiff housing market Purpose-built student accommodation remains divisive

Zoe Kramer News Editor


he continuous building of new student flats has been a longstanding issue in Cardiff ’s housing market. PBSAs — “Purposebuilt student accommodation” — are housing complexes built with the stated intention of housing students, but a lack of demand often means that the companies which own them will apply to be able to lease to nonstudents. The reason for this is because building student accommodation is cheaper than building regular accommodation, and standards for lighting and space are much lower. According to Cardiff Council guidance, “In respect of light and outlook, all habitable rooms should have natural light, a means of outlook, and ventilation.” Additionally, the guidance calls for community facilities and a functional open space. These standards, however, are not required by law. “It’s clear that some developers opt for PBSAs to cut corners and escape the costs and regulations faced by other developments,” Jo Stevens, Labour MP for Cardiff Central told Vice. “Last year, one PBSA development in my constituency permanently changed to a residential hotel

after it was unable to fill a quarter of its rooms. We are now seeing developers apply for change of use before buildings are even completed.” In the past five years, plans have been approved to create approximately 7,400 new student rooms in Cardiff, reports the BBC. When faced with vacancies, these accommodation buildings have been converted into hotels but in some cases may need to eventually be demolished. Others argue that high rise student accommodation helps to alleviate

Zenith Building: One of Cardiff’s PBSAs. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Improving student mental health support: 2020 conference announced Charlotte King Head of News


n January 2020, it has been announced that the Westminster Higher Education Forum will be hosting a policy conference to discuss their priorities for supporting student mental health. Initial plans include discussing the government-backed University Mental Health Charter, developed by charity Student Minds, innovative approaches to mental health support for those in higher education, and the development of a university framework for mental health in collaboration with “outside bodies”. The conference will also see discussion concerning facilitating communication between universities and students; policy priorities for supporting student mental health; supporting the transition to university through accommodating the needs of non-traditional students specifically; ensuring vulnerable students can engage with mental health provisions; and what innovative approaches can be taken to prevent mental health issues. Specific strategies for preventing mental health issues include considering how schools, colleges and universities can “better support students transitioning to university, with a particular focus on students from disadvantaged or non-traditional back-

pressure on the private housing market and decrease the “studentification” of traditional Victorian houses around Cathays. The accommodation, sometimes billed as “luxury flats,” is often aimed at attracting international students. The high rent prices often require students to take on additional debt beyond their tuition. Meanwhile, as rent prices increase, the number of students in Wales is falling. According to official government statistics, the number of undergraduate students in Wales has decreased from

grounds.” This comes in light of research published by the Office for Students which reported that black students are significantly less likely to remain in study and are more likely to receive lower health grades with declared mental health conditions. Moreover, at the start of the 2019/20 academic year, the Guardian reported that British universities have seen a rise in student anxiety, depression and mental breakdowns, accompanied by a sudden rise in the number of students dropping out of university. Attention will also be put toward how the higher education sector can identify students at risk and support them more. One speaker, Ben Jordan, is expected to discuss how universities can use data better to identify characteristics which may signal an increased risk of mental illness amongst students. It’s thought that the pressures of living and learning independently alongside the challenges of forming healthy relationships are key risk areas for mental health. Moreover, the conference will see delegates discussing how universities can encourage more students to access help, for example by working to destigmatise mental illness and boost the visibility and awareness of their support services. The conference is due to take place on January 21, 2020.

108,490 in 2008-09 to 102,720 in 2017-18. Additionally, while PBSAs are finding it difficult to find tenants, Cardiff is still facing a significant homelessness crisis. In 2018-19, 86.8 per 10,000 households in Wales were assessed as homeless, up from 81.9 in 2016-17. Cardiff had the highest rate of homelessness, with 141.8 per 10,000 households. “It’s a concern not just about student flats but just about the type of housing that’s built generally and what we can do with it if it’s not utilised for the purpose it was originally intended” said Housing Secretary Julie James at a press conference in September, reported on WalesOnline. “I’m very keen – we’ll be consulting shortly – about changing the space standards in Wales so that everything is built to social housing standards.” In other words, blocks of unoccupied flats could potentially be taken over and used as social housing. While there are no definite policies in place to achieve newer space standards in Wales, this statement comes as an affirmation that there is a potential for action in the next few years to address the problem and allocate housing to those who need it the most.

Speculation mounts for snow on election day as weather grows colder

Olly Davies News Editor


t is beginning to look like a white Christmas, according to claims made in some national media outlets. Amidst reports that the UK is set to face 40 days of snow and ice, fears have been raised as to how the country will cope with the Arctic conditions. Emerging reports claim that northern regions, as well as much of Wales, will suffer the brunt of the incoming snow with some areas supposedly facing a deluge of 11 inches. However, the Met Office have tried to downplay concerns. They have claimed that conditions will be unsettled, but not extreme for this time of year. A spokesperson for the agency has said that 40 days of snow and ice is “not something that we recognise in our forecast.” This coming week is expected to start mild with temperatures set to drop on Thursday 12. There is “a low risk of more widespread snow on [the] northern edge of rain bands”, it has been reported, however widespread frost is expected. Marco Petagna, a forecaster from the Met Office, said: “It is not unusual for [this] time of year but temperatures will be colder, probably no higher than 5C in the north and 7C in the south and colder at night.

“There’ll be a slight covering in places, a few centimetres at most”, perhaps not the 25cm of snow predicted in western areas of London. “There will be frost overnight. It will then become more wintry from Wednesday with a cold wind to begin with”, Petagna continued. Welsh forecaster Derek Brockway also warned that people living in the north of the country should “keep an eye on” conditions as they are most likely to be affected if snow does fall. UK Snow Updates, who monitors the risk of snow, feels that “[This] week remains very interesting for cold weather and snow risk; again for now only a risk but charts do have a large snow event for the south and south-east by next Friday.” In the event of snow on election day it is unlikely that the vote will be delayed because the election is written into law and would require a law to change it. Although, this could make it more difficult to reach polling stations. However, there is little evidence to suggest the adverse weather conditions influence voter turnout. As for students heading home for Christmas, whilst snowfall could cause disruption, there does not appear to be any reason to worry presently. Whilst the weather outside might not be frightful, the fire inside will be so delightful.