The National Assembly For Wales


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Chair’s blog: Health and Social Care Committee – looking back at the last five years

David Rees AM

I’m David Rees, and I’m the Chair of the Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee.

The Health and Social Care Committee is a group of ten Assembly Members from across Wales, who represent the four political parties who make up the Assembly. Since 2011 our role has been to hold the Welsh Government to account on health and social care in Wales.

As the Committee’s work will come to an end before the Assembly elections next year (when people in Wales will get to choose who represents them for the next five years), we’re looking back over the past five years, and we want to know what you think.

We would like to hear views from everyone who would like to comment: those who have worked closely with us, those who have never engaged with us, and everyone inbetween.

We are gathering views from people across Wales on the past five years, including our way of working, the work we have done, and the impact it has had. We also want to hear about what the key challenges are going to be for health and social care in the next five years.

On that basis, thinking about the past five years:

  • How have we had an impact on health and social care in Wales?
  • What has been our biggest achievement?
  • If we could have done one thing differently, what would it be?
  • Have we struck the right balance between scrutiny of policy, finance and legislation?

And thinking ahead to the next five years:

  • What do you think will be the three biggest challenges for health and social care in Wales?

So if you have a view on these questions, please download a consultation response form or write to us at SeneddHealth@assembly.wales.

Please make sure that your response is with us before 25 September 2015.

What happens then?

We will consider all of the responses we receive when we’re looking at our legacy, and will publish our conclusions before the end of the Assembly.

Where can you find out more information?


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Employment opportunities for people over 50

Back in November 2014 the National Assembly for Wales’ Enterprise and Business Committee decided it would undertake an inquiry into employment opportunities for people over 50 in Wales.

It can be difficult for people who are over 50 to find a job, especially one which uses all their skills. The Committee decided to look into what can be done about this because people are living longer and pensions are getting smaller. The majority of people are working longer and by now it is not required for people to retire when they are 60 or 65 years old.

As well as asking outside organisations, academics and the public what they think by asking them to respond in writing the Committee also visited representative organisations to discuss the inquiry with them.

The Committee visited staff members from John Lewis in Cardiff, NIACE Cymru, Working Links, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Wales TUC and Pembrokeshire County Council on 12 February 2015. Discussions were held around barriers that people over 50 face when looking for a new job. Are there any stereotypes about the employment of people over 50, how can they can be tackled and whether there is anything the Welsh Government need to do to support and promote employment for people over 50.

Some of the barriers discussed during these visits were the lack of funding for training opportunities and the lack of things like IT skills. You can see read more about these discussions on the Committee’s webpage here.

Here, Rhun Ap Iorwerth AM tells us about his discussion with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board Human Resources staff.

As well as visiting representative organisations the Committee also spoke to individuals during their meetings at the Senedd, including the office of the older people’s commissioner for Wales and representatives from Age Cymru and Prime Cymru.

The Committee have published their report which includes recommendations on things the Committee thinks the Welsh Government should do to make it easier for people over 50 to find employment. One of the things the Committee have recommended that the Welsh Government do is to hold an ‘Age Positive’ campaign to encourage employers to employ people over 50. With the older people’s commissioner the Welsh Government should also have a campaign which will increase the number of work placements and apprenticeships for people over 50. The Committee also recommend that the Welsh Government should write a skills strategy for people over 50 which says how they will help those people get the skills they need to get a job.

You can see a copy of the full report or a summary report here and you can view press coverage from the report launch below by clicking on the images.

BBC NEWS#

ITV NEWS

GUARDIAN

The Committee will be speaking to the Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology during the autumn term to ask what she will do about their recommendations.

For updates please follow @SeneddEcon.


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Co-investment and mobilising a productive and skilled workforce in Wales

April 2015 saw the Welsh Government begin to implement its framework for co-investment in skills. This framework changes the way in which training, skills and apprenticeships are funded in Wales.

The new approach to investing in skills means that the total cost of training, in cash terms, is shared between two or more people. For businesses or individuals who employ apprentices or offer work-based training, the change means that they must increase their financial contributions to meet the cost of skills training in their workforce.

William Graham AM, Chair of the Enterprise and Business Committee

Expecting to be fully implemented by 2017, the Enterprise and Business Committee wanted to find out how this would impact Welsh businesses and training providers. Would the new framework help meet the Welsh Government’s aim of “ensuring that Wales develops a competitive edge in mobilising a productive and skilled workforce”?

The Committee held business breakfasts, in both North and South Wales to explore these issues further. The first meeting took place in Brains Brewery, Cardiff with a variety of representatives from the academic, business and training sectors.

Gwawr Thomas, Creative Skillset Cymru talks about taking part in the event and explains the importance of co-investment in skills within the creative industries:

Participants discussed the need to consider the different levels of financial support available to a variety of businesses who may be operating on different scales. Increased investment from employers may mean that those businesses then select candidates who have experience – which could see them neglect young candidates which would see the policy work against the Welsh Government’s aim.

Dylan's, Menai Bridge - Anglesey

Dylan’s, Menai Bridge – Anglesey

The second breakfast meeting took place in Dylan’s Restaurant, Anglesey with local training providers and business representatives. Iwan Thomas, the Regional Skills and Employment Lead for the North Wales Economic Ambition Board was one of the invited guests.

One of the key messages he wanted to get across was for the Welsh Government to consider a regional approach to co-investment, and how they should be taking the change forward:

Having held both business breakfasts, the Enterprise and Business Committee sent a letter of recommendations to the Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Julie James AM to consider in relation to the policy change. You can read the letter of recommendations here: http://bit.ly/1fzxrp1


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Assembly hosts the first Welsh Public Sector BME Staff Networks event

Selina Moyo speaking to delegates at the BME staff event.

Selina Moyo speaking to delegates at the BME staff event.

By Selina Moyo, Black Minority Ethnic Action Plan Coordinator

On 24 June representatives from different Black Minority Ethnic Staff Networks (BMESNs) gathered in Cardiff Bay to set up a forum where BMESNs from Welsh Public Sector organisations could:

  • share ideas, resources and good practice;
  • learn about different initiatives to support BME development, and
  • explore and address issues applicable to BME staff and BME Networks.

The event was opened by the Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler AM, who congratulated the staff networks for coming together and urged them to continue working together in order to bring about changes in their workplace and communities.

“We cannot progress as a nation unless all members of our society are fully supported and reflected in our public services … such networking opportunities give us an opportunity to see how best we can better engage with each other and support the communities that we work for.”

The Presiding Officer addresses delegates at the BME staff event

The Presiding Officer addresses delegates at the BME staff event

The event was well attended, and speakers included: the Deputy Minister for Health, Vaughan Gething AM; Director of Resources for the National Assembly for Wales and BME Champion, Dave Tosh; the Assistant Director, Head of Complaints Unit at Welsh Government, Sanjiv Vedi; Yangi Vundamina, from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and Tola Munro from Gwent Police Ethnic Minority Association (GEMA).

Discussions focused on the role of BME Networks, in supporting staff development, in the workplace.

Participants agreed to set up a forum and meet regularly, to enable a deeper discussion of the themes that came up during the event. Already support for future meetings has come from the ONS, the Welsh Government and Diverse Cymru and Race Council Cymru.

The event was the start of an engagement process that will establish relationships to allow the support of BME staff development in the Welsh Public Sector, thus ensuring that organisations are representative of all the people they serve.

The event was initiated as part of the Assembly’s on-going BME Action Plan project which is aimed at addressing BME representation among the organisation’s workforce and to raise awareness of and promote the National Assembly for Wales as a diverse employer. To find out more about the BME action Plan contact selina.moyo@assembly.wales.


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Chair’s Blog: Renting Homes (Wales) Bill

Some keys

Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee: Stage 1 Committee Report

On 26 June 2015, we published our Stage 1 Report on the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill (PDF 1.39MB). It contains 37 recommendations to the Minister that we believe are needed to strengthen the Bill.

Generally, the evidence we heard showed that there was support for the overall aims of the Bill, particularly in terms of simplifying the existing law about renting. But, we did hear specific concerns about a number of areas in the Bill, and our recommendations to the Minister reflect these.

Amongst other things, our recommendations relate to:

  • the condition of rental properties – i.e. the requirement on a landlord to ensure that the property they are offering for rent is ‘fit for human habitation’ and in a good state of repair;
  • the proposals for 16 or 17 year olds to be able to hold an ‘occupation contract’ (the new term for a tenancy);
  • the proposals allowing landlords to exclude someone with a supported standard contract from their home for up to 48 hours without a court order.

Full details about all our recommendations, including the ones I have referred to above, can be found in our report.

The next step in the Bill’s progress is the Stage 1 debate. This is due to take place on 7 July in the Assembly’s debating chamber, and will involve Members discussing and agreeing whether the Bill proceeds to the next stage of the legislative process.

Keep an eye on #RentingHomesBill for more updates.

How to get involved and keep up-to date with the Committee’s work

View a short video of the Chair discussing the Committee’s report:


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How well is the Welsh Government doing its job?

This is a question Assembly Members at the National Assembly ask every day, in committee meetings, or in Plenary meetings, in the main debating chamber of the Senedd, in Cardiff Bay.

If the Welsh Government’s job is to “help improve the lives of people in Wales and make our nation a better place in which to live and work”, then it’s important that the Assembly hears from the wide range of people affected by the decisions that the Welsh Government makes. The National Assembly for Wales is the body tasked with analysing how well the Welsh Government is doing so, after all.

How the Assembly does this has changed significantly over the last few years, particularly when it comes to the work of Assembly committees. People still reply to invitations to write to the Assembly to give evidence. Individuals, organisations and charities still visit the Senedd to be quizzed by AMs in formal meetings, though different approaches are needed to hear from different audiences.

These are pictures of Julie Morgan AM and Jocelyn Davies AM taking part in a web-chat with students on Google Hangouts for the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Higher Education Funding: 

Julie Morgan AM and Jocelyn Davies AM taking part in a web-chat with students on Google Hangout for the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Higher Education Funding Julie Morgan AM and Jocelyn Davies AM taking part in a web-chat with students on Google Hangout for the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Higher Education Funding Screen shot of a web-chat with students on Google Hangout for the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Higher Education Funding

People everywhere lead increasingly busy lives, so making participation in the Assembly’s work as easy and accessible as possible is vital for engaging with the wide variety of people that make up the population of Wales. Increasingly at the Assembly, committees have been using digital channels to encourage people to share their views with us.

We’ve used Google Hangouts to speak with students about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Skills and Higher Education Funding, filmed members of the public on an iPad and shown it as evidence at formal committee meetings, and used Twitter to source questions to ask the leader of the Welsh Government, First Minister Carwyn Jones AM.

The following video is a video of Rhun ap Iorwerth AM and Julie James AM being interviewed after taking part in their first web-chat on Google Hangout for the STEM Skills inquiry:

In the last few months we used Loomio for the first time, as part of the Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry looking into alcohol and substance misuse in Wales. Loomio is a web-application to assist groups with collaborative decision-making processes.

A key part of the inquiry was talking directly with the people affected by these issues, but some people find attending official committee meetings intimidating. Also not all those affected have the capacity to put their thoughts and feelings to the Committee in writing. Loomio allowed the Committee to talk to people, without everyone needing to be in the same room.

Service providers and clients used the online forum to tell us what issues they had experienced, and what they wanted the Welsh Government to should do about it. This is a screenshot showing some of the contributions we had to the discussion:

loomio screenshot

Loomio discussion screen shot

At the end of the evidence-gathering process, once a Committee has considered everything that people have told them, they will usually write to the Welsh Government. This is to explain what steps the Committee would like to see the Welsh Government take to improve people’s lives in Wales, based on the evidence the Committee have heard.

This tends to be in official reports, which can be quite lengthy, but we are looking at different ways of presenting committee reports to make them shorter and easier to understand, at-a-glance.

One of the summary versions is this video, made for people who were filmed for an inquiry looking at youth entrepreneurship:

More recently we have used Adobe Slate to summarise a report on Poverty in Wales: https://slate.adobe.com/a/EN6np

Using digital channels and platforms has allowed us to engage with people more effectively and easily than before.

It’s also meant that more people can help the Assembly scrutinise the Welsh Government’s performance, so the Assembly’s recommendations to the Welsh Government are based on the issues people experience in their everyday lives.


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Equality and Diversity week – The Magna Carta is 800 years old!

Monday 15 June marks the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta, a document that is viewed by many as part of the foundation of the rights, representations, liberties, and very democracy that we enjoy today.

The Magna Carta can be understood as an important, early human rights document that was key to the development of rights as we understand them, such as a right to justice and a fair trial.

To explore further what human rights mean in the context of everyday life, how they affect people and why they are so important take a walk down dignity drive, a simple interactive guide to the Human Right Act from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

More information on the anniversary of the Magna Carta can be found on the official website marking the occasion.

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