Not all Disabilities are Visible

Blog by Ann Jones MS

Once again this year we celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities to the theme of ‘Not all Disabilities are Visible’. 2020 has been a challenging year for us all, and whilst we endeavour to adapt the way in which we live and work, we must ensure that, whatever the future holds, it is a future inclusive for all.

Those whose disabilities may not be immediately apparent face additional barriers and we must, as a society, seek to improve awareness and understanding of such disabilities and their impact. Some of you may have noticed the use of Sunflower lanyards in shops and public transport during the pandemic. This is a means of indicating that you have a hidden disability and have a good reason not to wear a face covering or require a level of support or understanding . This kind of initiative, will, I hope, have a positive effect and one I hope we can promote for the future

During my time as an elected politician I have always sought to champion equality, strongly believing that our representatives should reflect our diverse society. As a parliamentarian with a disability, I have always been ready to speak out on issues that affect those who have different needs and I will continue to work towards a society that is truly equal for all.

I have often found that pointing out the need for simple (but too frequently overlooked) adjustments can make such a difference; things such as ensuring that there are handrails on both sides of a ramp and/or stairs that can give a person with a disability independence and confidence. I am also keen to emphasise the need for us all to consider using our increasingly technological parliaments for the benefit of all. The Senedd is indeed an examplar, but there is always more to be done and we must not be complacent. 

In 2017, I had the honour of attending the inaugural conference for  ‘Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities’ (CPwD).  Our aim is to support Parliamentarians with disabilities to be more effective in their roles and to help improve awareness of disability issues amongst all Parliamentarians and parliamentary staff. Further to this we hope to help break down the barriers that discourage people with disabilities from participating in politics.

In September I was thrilled to have been elected as one of nine Regional Champions to help lead the work of the CPwD. During my term, I will endeavour to be a leading voice for persons with disabilities both within the CPA and in Parliaments across the world . The first meeting was held virtually on 26 November.

To mark IDPD this year, the Senedd will be hosting a virtual panel discussion which I’ll be chairing on 3 December. Please do come along and get involved. More information on the event can be found here.

Thank you for reading and happy IDPD to all!

Delivering for future generations: the story so far

The Senedd’s Public Accounts Committee is running an inquiry into the wellbeing of the Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. The Committee is gathering views on how well the Act has been implemented since it was passed in 2015, and how it can be implemented better in the future.

We want to hear about young people’s:

  • awareness of the Act.
  • experiences of how the Act has been implemented.
  • views about what the barriers to implementing the Act are.
  • how it can be better implemented in the future.

We have prepared resources for schools and youth groups to deliver an activity to gather young people’s views.

Download the activity resource pack.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 7 December 2020.

Find out more about the inquiry.

Please contact us if you have any questions about the inquiry or the resource pack.

National Coming Out Day

Blog by Charley Oliver-Holland, Welsh Youth Parliament Member

Being 13 years old and unsure about the world around me was hard. On national coming out day 2016, I decided to come out. In my head, it was a big deal. I felt like I was different to everyone around me and that no one would accept me for loving those the same gender as myself. You hear growing up, the endless male and female stereotypical fairy tales, which makes the choice of coming out massively harder. But for me personally, coming out let me be myself, and I now live being 100% authentically me, regardless of what anyone else thinks.  

National coming out day can be a great opportunity for those who aren’t out, to express who they are. But don’t let that force you into telling people information that may make you feel unsafe. Coming out is a personal choice, which should be done in your own time. Don’t feel like a specific day of the year is an obligation for you to tell everyone something that you’re not ready to disclose. There are many counselling services available for those who struggle with these issues, and don’t be afraid to access them, however big or small your problem. Coming out is hard, facing discrimination is hard, being LBGT+ in a world that doesn’t always accept you, is hard. I’m here to tell my personal story, but don’t ever let another person’s story define yours. We are all unique, and our stories are valid.  

Charley Oliver-Holland, Welsh Youth Parliament Member

Falling in love is a strange thing. As a teenager, you start to explore yourself and find your individual path in life. I knew from a young age I liked girls, but living in a small conservative village, I also knew this wasn’t okay. As a child bullying came my way, as it often does to those who are stereotypically deemed abnormal. I was shy, overweight and a lesbian. I first came out to a small group of friends, who were absolutely fine with my sexuality. Then came my parents. I wrote an extremely heartfelt letter scurried down the stairs and hid it in my Mams handbag. The reply I received was a short but sweet ‘I know, I love you’, which was a huge weight off my shoulders. I am massively lucky and grateful to have supportive friends and family who let me be me.

School was a different story, I faced hardships for my sexuality, but was lucky to have people there for me. Despite this, there was no specific support network within my school. This often made me feel lonely and isolated. But those feelings didn’t have a negative effect on me, they instead pushed me to make change. I decided to create an LGBT+ support club in my school, so the next generation of young people in my area would feel better about themselves. Seeing the joy this brought to just a small group of people, I was pushed to do more.

Since, I have chaired my youth council, spoken in both welsh and UK parliament, represented Wales on a UK wide level fighting for knife crime laws to be changed, won awards for volunteering and recently have been shortlisted for the National diversity awards as an LGBT+ role model. Creating change for other people, makes me feel like maybe there will be less hardships faced by the next generation of young people.

Charley speaking in the Senedd

I hope that one day, no one will feel like I did as a lost and lonely 13-year-old. I hope that together we can create support, spread love, and give education. Discrimination will always be an issue, but I hope that my work will inspire you to send your time creating positive change. I am no longer shy and afraid. I am confident and spend every day spreading love and positivity to others. Sometimes mean comments will haunt me, but I always remember that there is nothing wrong with who I am and that my sexuality doesn’t define me, it is just a part of me.  

The main message I would like to send to you all is that it’s okay to be different. It’s also great if you feel like you can come out, but if you can’t it doesn’t make you any less amazing! If you face discrimination for being yourself, this doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. You can realise that maybe that person is feeling insecure about themselves and that you are not the problem. Instead of being angry at them, try and fight for what you believe in and help make a difference. Whether it be on a school level, or an international level, you can create change. You are valid, you are worthy, and don’t let anyone ever tell you that your sexuality or gender identity makes you anything less than brilliant! 

Leave No-One Behind

Guest blog from the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales

Each year on October 1, the world takes a moment to celebrate older people and the many ways they contribute to our lives as part of the UN International Day of Older Persons. This year, with the world around us having changed so much, things are a little different, of course.

But today is a good opportunity to not only pause and reflect on the ways that Covid-19 is affecting older people throughout the world, but also to consider what we need to do to ensure that older people are not left behind as we begin to move forward, a concern that has been raised with me by many older people.

Throughout the pandemic, my team and I have engaged with older people across Wales, to hear from them about the issues and challenges they’ve faced, as well as the things that have made a positive difference to their lives during the past few months.

These voices and experiences are at the heart of my ‘Leave No-one Behind’ report, which I published in August. The report examines the impact that the pandemic has had on many aspects of older people’s lives and calls for action across a number of key areas – including social care and health, the economy, and our communities  – to ensure that older people can access the help and support they may need and can participate fully when Wales begins its recovery from Covid-19.

Within the report, I have identified practical action that must be delivered immediately to tackle issues created by the pandemic, as well as longer-term action designed to tackle the wider structural issues that affect older people which have been exacerbated by Covid-19. This includes:

  • Repealing sections of the Coronavirus Act that risk limiting older people’s rights to care and support.
  • Establishing a rehabilitation programme for older people who have been affected physically and/or mentally by Covid-19.
  • Establishing a dedicated programme to support older workers to remain in work or retrain if they are facing redundancy.
  • Investing in a targeted campaign and assistance to increase the take-up of Pension Credit.
  • Providing older people with tailored support to get them online, including providing user-friendly devices with access to the internet.

I have begun working with the Welsh Government, key public bodies and other organisations to ensure that older people’s experiences and needs shape their plans as they move forward, and I will use the report as a powerful evidence base to drive change for older people.

The pandemic has shone a light on many of the issues faced by older people throughout Wales, and we have seen the disproportionate impact that Covid-19 has had on many groups within society, reflecting long-standing systemic inequalities and discrimination.

But throughout the pandemic, we have also seen many examples of positive community action throughout Wales that has provided crucial support to those who have needed it, including many older people.

It’s crucial that we build upon this positive action, which has delivered so much for so many, alongside recognising the significant contribution that older people make to our communities and our economy and promoting intergenerational solidarity.

Together we can ensure that no-one is left behind.

Fiscal Framework / Welsh Government’s draft Budget 2021-22 – An Update from the Chair of the Finance Committee

I’m Llyr Gruffydd, a Member of the Senedd and the Chair of the Finance Committee.

The Finance Committee has a very important remit and is responsible for considering and reporting on proposals laid before the Senedd by Welsh Ministers containing the use of resources.

The Committee can also consider and report on any other matter related to or affecting financing, or expenditure from the Welsh Consolidated Fund.

One of the Committee’s functions is to scrutinise the Welsh Government’s budget which is approximately £18 billion a year. Wales receives its budget allocation from the UK Government which is determined by the Spending Review and any subsequent adjustments through the Barnett formula.

Whilst the Welsh Government is primarily funded by a block grant from the UK Government, in the past four years the devolution of tax powers, including Welsh Rates of Income Tax, Land Transaction Tax and Landfill Disposals Tax has meant that approximately 20 per cent of the Welsh Government’s spending is now funded from tax revenue.

Devolution of tax and borrowing powers to Wales

The Wales Act 2014 provided the legislative framework to devolve tax and borrowing powers to the Senedd and the Welsh Government. Part 2 of the 2014 Act deals with the devolution of financial powers. In order to enable the powers in the 2014 Act to be implemented an agreement was reached between the Welsh Government and the UK Government in the form of the Fiscal Framework.

This allowed the devolution of stamp duty land tax – now Land Transaction Tax in Wales, Landfill Tax – now Landfill Disposals Tax and the implementation of Welsh Rates of Income Tax.

Rows of terrace houses in the UK city of Cardiff

The Fiscal Framework also covers the Welsh Government’s borrowing limits, budget management tools, treatment of policy spill-over effects and implementation arrangements.

Given the Act has been in operation since 2014, it seems a pertinent time for the Committee to consider the Act and the operation and effectiveness of the Fiscal Framework. We have launched our consultation and further information is available on our website. We intend to start taking oral evidence in the autumn term.

Welsh Government’s Budget and the Welsh Economy

The last few years have seen significant uncertainty for the Welsh economy. The 2014 Act has provided the Welsh Government with the powers to vary tax and spending in Wales, which has increased its accountability to the people of Wales. In our report on the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget 2018-19, the Committee highlighted its intention to undertake a piece of work on the financial preparedness for leaving the EU.

At that time Brexit remained the biggest uncertainty on Wales’s economy. In September 2018 we published our report. Last year the Welsh Government’s draft Budget 2020-21 was impacted by the UK General Election and Brexit. The budget was delivered under “exceptional” circumstances, which impacted the ability of both the Welsh Government and other stakeholders to plan how to fund public services in Wales.

The upcoming Welsh Government draft budget will also be delayed as the Welsh Government does not have an indication of the total funding available until the UK Government publishes its Budget or Spending Review. We have not had any indication from the UK Government on when this will be.

I along with my counterparts in the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly have written to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, stressing the importance of the timing of the UK budget on the devolved governments’ budgets given that a delay at the UK level impacts the scrutiny process.

The Committee finds itself in a similar situation to last year where there is less time available for scrutiny. The Welsh Government’s draft Budget 2021-22, will inevitably be affected by the outbreak of Covid-19 and the end of the Brexit transition period, therefore the opportunity for robust scrutiny is even more pressing.

Earlier this year we undertook an online engagement exercise to seek views on where the Welsh Government should prioritise its spending, this provided an interesting snap shot of views. With participants highlighting health, education and climate change as being key areas of priority.

The Committee will be consulting on the Welsh Government’s draft Budget 2021-22 in the autumn term. Details will be available on our website and I would encourage you to share your views and fully engage with the scrutiny process to enable us to report in a robust, transparent and effective way.

An agile democracy working for the people of Wales during the Coronavirus pandemic

Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, the Senedd has led the way in innovation to ensure the people of Wales continue to be represented by their elected members, and that government is still subject to robust scrutiny.

First online meeting of the Senedd in April 2020.

From developing its own voting app for Members, to being the first UK legislature to hold virtual Plenary meetings, it has sought new solutions to the unprecedented challenges facing the Welsh Parliament.

When lockdown hit, the Senedd adapted quickly. It was the first UK parliament to hold a virtual Plenary meeting on 1 April with its first live-streamed session a week later.

Linking Members from all corners of the country was the first hurdle. Careful thought was needed to ensure seamless running of proceedings which would allow each Member the opportunity to speak in whichever language they chose.

Thorough testing was carried out of various platforms and applications to develop a system to support a bilingual audio feed in English or Welsh, allowing Members to contribute, and for viewers to watch, in which ever language they choose, and which allows the contributors to move smoothly from one language to the other without impacting on the flow of proceedings.

This has prompted many public and private organisations to approach the Senedd Commission for advice and guidance on conducting their own bilingual meetings.

The same technology was applied to Senedd committee meetings, with the Welsh Youth Parliament also using the system to meet with the First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS, and Welsh Government ministers.

Welsh Youth Parliament meeting with the First Minister of Wales and Minister for Health and Social Care

With the easing of lockdown restrictions came the move to a hybrid Plenary model, allowing 20 Members to meet safely in the Siambr in the Senedd building and the remaining 40 to join online.

While block voting for Members had been used initially, new technology was introduced to allow each Member to vote individually on important legislation and regulations.

A voting app was developed uniquely by the Senedd’s expert IT staff with software designed by the in-house app development team. After an extensive trial period involving thousands of simulated votes, it was used for the first-time during Plenary on 8 July.

Since adopting these new developments, the Senedd has been sharing its experience and knowledge with other legislatures, including the UK Parliament, Scottish Parliament and as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Llywydd of the Senedd, Elin Jones MS, said:

The Senedd has always developed and adopted new technology to match the expectations of a modern society, and to ensure people understand and can help to shape the work being carried out on their behalf.

I am proud of what our in-house ICT team and partners have achieved under very difficult circumstances, enabling the Senedd to continue holding the Welsh Government to account by scrutinising the decisions ministers have taken during this pandemic

The new challenge of combining virtual and the physical presence of Members under strict social distancing rules during the hybrid Plenary required developing new approaches which integrated two separate technology systems to maintain the order of proceedings.

Manon Antoniazzi, Chief Executive and Clerk of the Senedd said:

At each stage we have worked hard to ensure the integrity of Senedd proceedings so that both Members and the people of Wales can be sure every step taken conforms to our high standards and the values and principles which guide the institution.

We needed a system Members could easily access, which was reliable and secure, and which allowed proceedings to flow as smoothly as possible.

The feedback we have had from Members and the public has been overwhelmingly positive and there is much we can take from these experiences to help shape how the Senedd, and other parliaments, can work in the future.

Developing an app to allows MSs’ to vote individually on important issues including legislation, changes to regulations and debates from wherever they are, electronically, has been an important step.

Mark Neilson, Head of ICT and Broadcasting said:

Like many organisations around the world, the Coronavirus lockdown has presented a number of challenges to overcome. But it has also accelerated testing and experimenting of systems and tools which, under normal circumstances, may have taken years to come to fruition.

Developing the right services to enable the Senedd to meet, first virtually, and then in a hybrid way, and ensuring they attain our high standards for reliability and security has been a challenge.

In developing the voting app, of paramount importance was reliability and security, which is why we worked with the UK National Cyber Security Centre early on to mitigate the possibility of outside interference with Senedd proceedings.

The Senedd will continue to meet in a hybrid format while continually assessing the potential for relaxing restrictions in accordance with advice from the Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and other partner organisations.

Exiting the European Union – An Update from the Chair of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee

Following the declaration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, Senedd committees, like so many other organisations, moved the emphasis of their work to focus on responding to the crisis.

For the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee, this meant pausing some of our planned work while we found new ways of working.

External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee meeting via Zoom

The past ten weeks have given us the chance to adjust our working practices in line with Welsh Government guidelines and revise our work programme to reflect the wider situation.

While responding to the pandemic remains the Government’s number one priority, we must not forget that the UK is in a period of transition in exiting the European Union, and that as things currently stand we will have exited with or without a trade deal on 1 January 2021. For this reason, the Committee remains focussed on its remit to examine the implications for Wales of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

In order to achieve this, the Committee met remotely and informally in April to agree a way forward, and since then has held two remote formal meetings to discuss on-going work streams such as the UK Trade Bill, the UK-EU future relationship negotiations, and the trade continuity programme.

The Trade Bill 2019-21 is progressing though UK Parliament, and the Committee is preparing to report on the associated legislative consent memorandum in early July, building on its work on the previous iteration of the Trade Bill in March 2018 and March 2019.

We held our first virtual broadcast meeting on 2 June 2020 where we questioned the Counsel General and Minister for European Transition on the role that Welsh Government is able to play in the future relationship negotiations, and how the Welsh Government is preparing for the end of the transition period (if you missed it, you can watch a recording on or read the transcript).

On 16 June 2020, the Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language will appear before the Committee to discuss the Welsh Government’s involvement in the UK Government’s proposed programme of free trade agreements, in particular those with the USA and with Japan.

This meeting will be held via video conference and will be available to watch on both live and after the event.

As well as our role in scrutinising the Welsh Government, we cannot forget the impact of these negotiations on Wales more broadly.

To fully understand the implications for Wales of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, we must understand how Welsh businesses and organisations are preparing for the end of the transition period, particularly in the light of the impact of coronavirus.

Social distancing and travel restrictions mean that we can no longer hold the conference-style meeting that we had planned with stakeholders, but we hope to explore other ways to engage in the weeks ahead.

More information about this and all our work streams will be given on our website.

Championing equality at the Assembly

Assembly Members celebrating International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

This year’s theme is #EachforEqual. The campaign is raising awareness of how all our actions, conversations, behaviours and mindsets can have an impact on society. Together, each one of us can help create a gender-equal world.

Equality at our core

The Senedd

We’re proud champions of equality at the National Assembly for Wales. Established in 1999, the Assembly had the principle of equal opportunities at its core.

The laws and rules that govern the Assembly have specific requirements that our work should be conducted “with due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people.”

Leading the way

As a legislature, we’ve led the way with equality. In 2003, we became the first legislature in the world to achieve a gender balance with 30 women and 30 men. Currently, 47% of AMs are female. The proportion has never fallen below 40%.

Globally the average percentage of women in national parliaments is 24%. The Assembly has always held a higher proportion of women Members than the House of Commons, Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Women hold some of the most senior roles at the Assembly. Our Presiding Officer is Elin Jones AM. The role is similar to Speakers and Presiding Officers in parliaments across the world, although responsibilities vary from country to country. Ann Jones AM is the Deputy Presiding Officer.

Manon Antoniazzi is the Chief Executive and Clerk of the Assembly. 60% of senior managers in the Assembly are women.

Giving a platform to young people

The Welsh Youth Parliament gives a platform to young people to have their voices heard and debate issues of importance. Equality and inclusivity, are at its core. Young people aged 11-18 make up the 60 Members of the Welsh Youth Parliament, 58% are young women.

Welsh Youth Parliament with the Llywydd

Our work

We investigate issues relating to gender equality including parenting and work; violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence and ensuring diverse representation in local government.

You can keep up-to-date with the work of the Assembly by following us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. You can also visit us.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Guest blog by Ann Jones AM.

Ann Jones AM and the panel

The National Assembly for Wales holds an annual event each March to celebrate International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is #EachforEqual, and I feel really proud that we’ve committed to taking equality seriously at the Assembly since it was established 20 years ago.

I’m one of the original Assembly Members voted in for the first time in 1999. This has provided me with a good overview of the Assembly and the way it works. I can truly say that it is committed to the principles of #EachforEqual. We have a legal duty to promote equality and it’s become ingrained in our culture to do so, not because we have to, but because we want to.

International recognition

In 2003, the Assembly achieved international recognition for becoming the first legislature worldwide to achieve gender parity, and in being the first to have more women than men in 2006. We currently have 47 percent women Members and continue to strive for an equal balance.

When I was voted in by my peers for the role of Deputy Presiding Officer in 2016, I saw an opportunity to showcase the work of women. Hosting events like our International Women’s Day celebrations and hearing from such inspiring women always reminds me of why I’m so passionate about promoting and supporting women in politics. It’s not always easy, and this year’s theme #EachforEqual emphasises the importance of equality throughout our society.

Inspirational talks

It was a pleasure to listen to such inspirational women at our event. Our speakers were Charlie Morgan, co-founder Warrior Women Events; Angel Ezeadum, Member of the Welsh Youth Parliament and Sophie Rae, founder of Ripple Living.

Charlie Morgan, co-founder Warrior Women Events
Angel Ezeadum, Member of the Welsh Youth Parliament
Sophie Rae, founder of Ripple Living

Their talks were incredibly empowering and thought-provoking, and I’m grateful to them for sharing their stories with us. I was also pleased to welcome Betsan Powys to chair the event.

Betsan Powys and event speakers

We welcomed a mix of people to the Pierhead and it was a good opportunity to speak to people who might not have engaged with us before. I encourage you to stay in touch. Speak to your Assembly Members about the topics that are important to you. Visit us at the Senedd and you can keep up-to-date on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

What’s next?

As we celebrate 20 years of devolution in Wales, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. With the next Assembly elections being held in 2021, we’ll see for the first time votes extended to 16 an 17 year olds as part of the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill. I’m so excited about allowing even more of Wales’ population to have their voices heard. We’ll also be changing our name from the National Assembly for Wales to Senedd Cymru, Welsh Parliament as we reflect its ever evolving responsibilities.

Celebrating Dydd Miwsig Cymru 2020

It’s Dydd Miwsig Cymru (or Welsh Language Music Day!), an annual event celebrated across Wales to raise awareness of Welsh language music.

This year, members of staff at the National Assembly for Wales are taking the opportunity to join in with Welsh Language Music Day, as part of our continued commitment to promoting the use of the Welsh language across the organisation.

We’ve been snapping selfies, making playlists and blasting Welsh language music across the Estate.

Here’s a little bit of what we’ve been up to:

Dydd Miwsig Cymru Selfies

Thank you to staff and Members who’ve taken the time to tell us their favourite Welsh songs and pose for a photo – there’s a lot of love for Welsh music here!

Playlists – what’s your favourite?

Thanks to the Welsh Youth Parliament, our learners and Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, Bethan Sayed AM, for submitting their playlists of their favourite Welsh music.

We’ve also included the Llywydd’s playlist from 2018 which features some of her favourite tracks!

Welsh Youth Parliament

Bethan Sayed AM, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee

Songs for Learners

Y Llwydd