The National Assembly For 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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Equality and Diversity Week – promoting transgender equality

To raise awareness we need to consider what we mean by gender identity, transgender equality and how we can better support transgender people.

Gender identity is what it means to identify as a boy or girl, man or woman. It is related to the attributes and characteristics that our culture expects to go along with belonging to one or the other gender. However, some people may not identify with either gender description, may identify with the gender that is different to that which they were assigned at birth, or may identify with parts of both.

Gender roles are often expressed in terms of a binary, black and white approach – male and female, man and woman, masculine and feminine – but this does not acknowledge the breadth of variety of gender identity and gender expression. Many people use the phrase Trans Umbrella to refer to the diversity of gender variance.

Transgender (often abbreviated to ‘trans’ or ‘trans*’) is used as an inclusive umbrella term to describe anyone who feels that the sex that was assigned to them at birth incompletely describes or fails to describe them. This term includes people who:

  • are transsexual (identify as members of the opposite binary gender than the sex they were assigned to at birth)
  • are intersex (whose anatomy does not fit the typical definition of male or female in some way)
  • identify outside the female / male binary.
  • have a gender expression which differs from that typically associated with their sex assigned at birth.

It is worth remembering that terminology is still evolving so definitions may change in the future.

Some transsexual people may choose to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.  Known as gender reassignment or transition this is usually a complex process that takes place over a long period of time. Being transsexual is not dependent on medical procedures, and a person’s gender identity should be recognised whether they have undergone legal gender reassignment or not.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has made the following videos telling of the experiences of transgender people: Jenny-Anne Bishop explains what her life is like as a transgender woman in Wales and talks about the experiences she has had as a result of her transition, and Stephen Whittle talks about his transition and his experiences.

Further information:

The National Assembly for Wales is fully supporting of transgender equality. We include gender identity in our Equality Plan and workplace policies, such as Dignity at Work. We do not tolerate transphobia, defined as harassment of and discrimination against transgender people.

We have worked with transgender advocates to develop a Gender Reassignment Policy to support transsexual staff who have undergone, are undergoing or plan to under gender reassignment.

OUT-NAW, our LGBT staff support network is open to LGBT staff within the Assembly. They support LGBT staff and promote LGBT equality by attending Pride and marking LGBT History Month, International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.


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National Assembly pledges to become a dementia-friendly organisation

What is dementia?

The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. It is not a disease in its own right and it is not a natural part of ageing. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes. Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse.

Find out more about dementia by visiting the Alzheimer’s Society website or watching their short video ‘What is Dementia?’.

Dementia affects over 750,000 people in the UK and there are 45,000 people living with dementia in Wales.

What does the Assembly becoming a dementia-friendly organisation mean?

A dementia-friendly Assembly is committed to helping to raise awareness and understanding of dementia amongst Assembly Members, and the wider Assembly community.

“By extending its equality of access to people living with dementia, the National Assembly for Wales will be demonstrating that people with dementia are both welcome and able to participate in civic life,” said Sandy Mewies AM, the Assembly Commissioner with responsibility for equalities issues.

The Assembly will:

  • Champion the rights of the 45,000 people living with dementia in Wales, and those who care for them.
  • Ensure Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends information sessions are delivered to public facing staff so they are equipped to respond to external visitors living with dementia.
  • Ensure staff who have caring responsibilities for people living with dementia are directed to support available through the Alzheimer’s Society.
  • Provide Dementia Friends information sessions for Assembly Members, their staff, Assembly Commission staff, and contractors working on the estate so that they are equipped to assist constituents and people they come into contact with who are living with dementia. In fact, to date almost half of Assembly Members have already become Dementia Friends.

Sue Phelps, Director of Alzheimer’s Society in Wales said:

“We are delighted that the National Assembly for Wales has made this commitment. Their pledge supports Alzheimer’s Society’s drive to encourage communities, businesses and other organisations to work towards becoming more dementia-friendly and help to create better environments for people to live well with dementia for as long as possible. We need everyone to act now to make changes to empower people with dementia and help them live well in their communities.”

Two women in front of a stand holding awards


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Equality and Diversity Week – Advancing the representation of BME people in our workforce

My name is Selina Moyo, I have been working on the Black Minority Ethnic (BME) Action Plan project to increase our recruitment, retention and advancement of black minority ethnic members of staff within the Assembly, for the past year.

One of the challenges that we have as an organisation is making sure that our staff are representative of the communities that we serve so we can provide a better service to all. Through our annual equalities analysis we identified that we needed to work at increasing numbers of BME people working in the organisation.

Although we are not quite there yet I think we can pride ourselves in having taken the first step to ensure that we are a representative organisation that represents all the people we serve in Wales.

What have we done so far?

We have made ourselves more visible to the communities that we serve. I have gone out and engaged with BME communities in Cardiff ensuring that they have a better understanding of our role as the Assembly but more importantly who we are as an employer and the opportunities that we have to offer.  The last 12 months have seen us take part in job fairs and other events hosted by external partners, which we have not done before.

We have worked with partners to make our application process more accessible, through provision of basic training on the application process as well as one to one support to individuals.

We piloted a ‘Train the Trainer’ programme for partner organisations so that we could develop ‘job ambassadors’ for our organisation. We hope that this can continue and more people become aware of how to use our application process.

We have established more diverse ways of advertising for our posts and work with partners providing specialist employment advice to ensure that more organisations and individuals engage with the Assembly and advertise our posts through ‘BME friendly networks’.

I sit on a number of steering group committees working at BME empowerment, to ensure that we have a better understanding of issues affecting BME people and can help support processes to engage BME people.

We have listened to our partners and as a result of their contributions we have clarified the process of filling in the Equality Monitoring form through providing Q&A factsheet on the monitoring form for all applicants.

We realise that development of our existing staff is crucial in any efforts to develop our BME workforce. To this end we are working on programmes to ensure that our BME staff are supported through their personal development and can advance in the organisation if they wish.

To support relations among our staff we have developed a number of supporting fact sheets for use by all staff. For example our cultural diversity factsheet is available to all our staff for use in supporting internal and external engagement with diverse groups across Wales.

Our BME staff Network last year participated in the Black History Month events and the MELA event in September, so that we are better known in the community.

We hope we can continue to build these external relations and this year we will again participate in community events and showcase our work even further.

What still needs to be done?

We need to cement our relationships with external partners so that we can become the employer of choice for more BME people.

We want to see young people join us through work experience so that they better understand what we have to offer, we want to see increased applicants from BME members of the community and we will continue with our engagement efforts.

We still want to hear from the various BME communities that we may not have reached so far and work with them to make our application process accessible and transparent. If you want to find out more about our project contact selina.moyo@assembly.wales.

Selina and Abi at WMC for BHM2014


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Equality and Diversity Week 2015

This week, we will be sharing a series of blog articles as part of our Equality and Diversity Week., an initiative that we undertake each year to promote a range of equality-related topics. In this first article we outline what it’s like to work at the Assembly.

We strive to be an inclusive employer that supports the needs of everyone that works here. We have a number of teams, policies and procedures in place to ensure that our staff are supported, can be themselves and fulfil their potential. We think a good way to tell you more about what we do, is to let some of our staff tell you themselves.

Being supported, being themselves and fulfilling their potential.

“It took me 3 years to come ‘out’ in my previous job; it took me less than 3 weeks to feel comfortable enough to do the same here. It was clear straight away that everyone accepts everyone else for who they are. I was able to be the new guy, not the new gay.”

“I do not feel disabled when I come to work, as I am treated with respect and my skills are appreciated.”

Our Domestic Abuse Policy

“I didn’t understand why domestic abuse was a workplace issue. Hearing from a survivor of domestic abuse was important as it brought our policy to life.”

Our Flexible working arrangements

“Since becoming a parent, several adjustments have been made to my work pattern in order to achieve a work-life balance that is appropriate for me, including a working week of 32 hours over four days, no late-night working, and term-time working. This work pattern means that I am available every evening and during all school holidays. All of these adjustments have proven to be extremely valuable.”

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to work flexibly. I live quite a distance from Cardiff and have condensed my hours to enable me to work in Cardiff for four long days a week. Also, because of the distance I can occasionally work from home.”

“I am a single parent with caring responsibilities and feel very fortunate to be able to work reduced hours. This enables me to have a healthy work life balance.”

Reasonable adjustments that have been made

“As a deaf member of staff I am well supported in my role. Colleagues in the office have adjusted their working practices and I have been provided with the necessary equipment to enable me to make the most of my skills. This has allowed me to make a full contribution to the team.”

“The continued support of the Health and Safety Team has made it easier for me to come to work”.

“I am now using the ergonomic chair, which I find is having an amazing impact on my back and spine…the whole of my back feels ‘stronger’ since using the chair”.

Our engagement with the Staff networks

“The willingness with which the Assembly engages with Embrace, our disability staff network, really makes me feel that it values my opinions and experiences as a disabled member of staff.  I am proud to be a member of the network and feel that I am helping to make a real difference to the organisation and its staff.”

Case Study – Stonewall Work Experience placement

“I had a fantastic week at the National Assembly. The atmosphere and ethos of the institution is a credit to each member of staff. I don’t think Stonewall Cymru could have found a better example of a workplace where people can be who they are, celebrate difference, and achieve brilliant results: the impression emanates from the moment you walk into Tŷ Hywel, where you see the Stonewall Cymru Diversity Champions certificate proudly hung on the wall.”

Christian Webb who came to the Assembly as part of Stonewall Cymru’s Work Placement Scheme. The scheme seeks to give young people the experience of working in LGBT friendly workplaces. Read his full blog here.

We are proud to have received the following benchmarks and accreditations that celebrate our inclusive workplace:

  • Ranked 4 in the UK in Stonewall’s Top Employers for LGB people and named Top Public Sector Employer in Wales for the second year running. In addition, our network group was highly commended;
  • Listed as a Working Families Top 30 Employer during 2014;
  • Listed in The Times Top 50 Employer for Women in 2014;
  • Retained our commitment to the Positive About Disabled People and Age Champion campaigns;
  • Retained Action on Hearing Loss Louder than Words charter mark;
  • Achieved the National Autism Society Access Award; and
  • We retained our Investors in People Gold Standard.

To find out more about working for the Assembly visit our webpage.

equality week

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