Hearing the Voices of Care Experienced Young People

On #Careday18, we thought we would reflect on the recent evidence sessions from our inquiry into Care Experienced Children and Young People. The Public Accounts Committee wanted to hear directly from young people with  experience of care and we were delighted that two groups agreed to talk to us, and share their experiences.

We were particularly keen to hear about:

  • the help and support they received in care;
  • how many Social Workers and placements they had had, and how much, if any, choice they had in these decisions;
  • Whether being in care impacted on their education;
  • Whether they were prepared when it was time to leave care; and
  • What they might change to make going into care better for others

The young people were really open and frank with us about their experiences and gave us plenty of food for thought. The key messages coming out of the sessions were that children need to be at the heart of the system, and that it is essential that care is not something done to young people, but is undertaken with young people.

The need for a constant in the lives of young people

All those that came to talk to the Committee have had a number of placements, some of them too many to recall.  They had also had a number of Social Workers.  We heard that often the decision to change social workers or even placements (their actual homes) for the young people were not discussed with them. One young person told us she found out on the Friday that she was to be moved on the Monday, but that the fosterers had known that she was coming for over a month.  Another told us how she’d  had five changes to her support team in the last month – which meant she’d  had to recount her story on a number of occasions, which was upsetting and traumatic for her.  The need for a constant in the lives of those who are in care is essential, and the right to consultation and communication about their lives should be considered a basic right.

The Impact of being in Care on Education

We heard about the negative impact changing placements had on one young person’s education resulting in her missing around two and a half years of Secondary school. We were also told of the stigmatisation of pupils in care such as one occasion when one of the young people had been caught misbehaving in school with another pupil, and found that the other pupil was punished, and she wasn’t because she was in care.  However, we also heard how one of the young people’s good memories was getting 14 GCSEs A* to C despite suggestions that this would not be possible. The Committee was inspired by what this young person had achieved, but was disheartened that this was beyond what was expected of him. We must ensure as a society that the aspirations we place on young people are the same regardless of who they are. The ambitions of care experienced children are as valid as any other child’s and as such we need to make sure that they are achieved.

Support for those about to leave care

We heard a lot about how there was little in the way of support for those about to leave care – we were told:

“They are quick enough to take us off our parents but not quick enough to help us stand on our own two feet”.

We heard that many young people did not know how to use a washing machine, or budget a food shop when leaving care.

Evidence shows that the transition into adulthood can be more difficult for care leavers than many of their peers of a similar age. In a system where we are expecting this group of young people to go out on their own at 18 (although this is starting to change with the ‘when I am ready’ scheme) such a milestone needs to be a supported process.

Next Steps for the Public Accounts Committee Inquiry

These evidence sessions were a key part of the inquiry to make sure that all the relevant voices were heard. We want to embed the culture of young people being at the heart of making decisions that affect them, and we would not have been able to achieve this without the willingness of these individuals to take time to talk to us, and help our understanding of the issues they face.

The Committee’s inquiry is ongoing and will be spanning the course of the entire fifth assembly, as we are determined to keep this group of children and young people high on the political agenda, until outcomes they deserve are achieved.

As a member of a minority – does your history matter?

 As part of our work to commemorate LGBT History Month, our guest blog comes from Norena Shopland (@NorenaShopland), the author of Forbidden Lives: LGBT Stories from Wales.

When my book Forbidden Lives: LGBT stories from Wales was published at the end of last year, one of the questions I was asked was, why did I write it?

The question wasn’t asked out of prejudice, but a genuine concern about the usefulness of a work that concentrated on a ‘minority within a minority’ with, they believed, a limited audience.

At first glance, they seemed to have a point – Wales is a small country, with just 4.8% of the UK population; and when it comes to history, is it even necessary to define every person or event as specifically English or Welsh? After all, the laws of the UK affect everyone, and everyone has more-or-less the same experiences under those laws.

The same question can be asked of other, larger minorities, who rarely exceed 20% of the population, such as black and Asian, at around 13%. Although we can relate diverse histories in themselves, is it necessary to talk about, for example, Welsh and English black and Asian people as separate entities?

Before answering, perhaps it is helpful to contemplate how you might go about finding individuals in the written record, which in itself can be a daunting task, and something I came across when writing Forbidden Lives. One of the reasons I became interested in my country’s history of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – about 6-10% of the population depending on whose statistics you accept) was because Welsh people were being used in UK history without any reference to their country of origin. This was particularly noticeable when celebrating LGBT History Month in February, when people like Ivor Novello, the Ladies of Llangollen, Leo Abse, and many others, were being included but within a UK, or more often, English concept.

LGBT history books rarely include an individual’s country of origin, or an index references to Wales or the Welsh – something that is also true of other countries. For example, many LGBT histories will include references to, say, work on sexology done in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, but Germany per se will not appear in an index. If you wanted to construct a German history from general histories it could not be done.

The Welsh LGBT history conundrum

All this means is that to construct a Welsh LGBT history, it was necessary to search far and wide through many mediums. An added difficulty with regard to Wales, unlike other countries such as Germany, is that Welsh people for much of the nineteenth century and beyond, are often referred to as English.

Anyway, having surmounted various hurdles to put together the lives and events which appear in Forbidden Lives, what about the original question of ‘why go to all this trouble’? After all, some of the people I include already appear in UK histories and, whilst a number of my stories either highlight little known accounts, or are completely new, why can’t they simply be added to a UK history?

Well, they can. But there are far more reaching questions. The book has shown people from Wales have been very influential in shaping LGBT history, such as Wolfenden and the Sexual Offences Act – both of which changed society as a whole. What was it about these Welsh people that caused them to be so influential? In fact, the book has raised a whole series of questions that cannot be covered in detail here, but which concerns different types of experiences than that of England.

We also need to engage more museums, archives, schools and people in LGBT history and to do that we need to have local individuals – the more Welsh LGBT people we can identify the more engagement there will be. More engagement means more understanding of diversity and less discrimination.

So, in the end what was my answer?

Because history and politics aside, they’re rattling good stories – and after all, everyone loves a good story!

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The National Assembly for Wales is committed to promoting LGBT equality. We have been named by Stonewall as the Top Employer in the UK for LGBT people, a Top Trans Employer, and our workplace network has been Highly Commended for their work. If you would like to find out more about our work promoting LGBT equality, please contact our Diversity and Inclusion Team.

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‘Failure as a nation’ to celebrate the contribution of our women – Y Llywydd, Elin Jones AM

This post was originally published on BBC Cymru Fyw on 6 February 2018. View the original post here

I have mixed feelings today.

Mixed in the sense that I still cannot believe that it’s only a century since women had any voice in our democratic process – and even then, we shouldn’t forget that it was only a few women who won the vote in 1918.

It also continues to amaze me that so many women continue to have to protest and fight for equality in politics across the world today.


There have been positive developments of course, and many here in Wales. The principle of ensuring equal opportunities was at the heart of the founding principles of the National Assembly in 1999 and incorporated into the laws and rules of our new democracy.

In 2003, our Assembly was the first legislature in the world to elect the same number of women and men, and although the number of elected women has decreased somewhat since then, the Assembly has consistently included a higher proportion of female members than the House of Commons, the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly over the years.

I’m pretty certain that the first woman parliamentary candidate in Wales, Millicent Mackenzie, would be very proud of us.

Millicent established the Suffragettes Branch in Cardiff, and was a candidate for the University of Wales parliamentary seat in 1918.

Much to my embarrassment I only learned about her life recently, which may in some ways reflect our failure as a nation to celebrate the contribution of our women throughout the ages.

Even now, in the era of devolution, are we sure that the contribution of women to the governance of our nation is recorded appropriately?
Yes, we have reasons to celebrate and we must do that more often.

So why do I feel so downbeat about some elements of our political culture today, how it has evolved and the effect that it has on women who work in politics in 2018?

There has certainly been a change in the international political climate, and increasingly, a public narrative is being pushed by some with the specific intention of undermining efforts for equality. I can not, and we should not, forget what happened to Labor MP, Jo Cox, who was murdered in 2016, nor should we ignore the threats of violence against other female politicians – here in Wales and elsewhere.

It is a job which is far from being done, as demonstrated by the other big issue that has dominated our public discourse recently – the cases of harassment, bullying and inappropriate behavior.

Significant work is underway in the National Assembly and in Westminster to ensure that there are appropriate procedures and policies in place to deal with such complaints. Our aim will be to seek and promote respect and dignity in our parliaments, but it is deeply disappointing and frustrating that we have to continue to fight the fight for women today in the twenty first century.

We need to call time on inequality and intimidation.

Enough is enough was the message of the “me too” campaign – a powerful statement of mutual support and resistance from women. The spirit of that campaign and the enthusiasm for securing an equal place for women in our parliament was present in the Senedd some weeks ago during a debate on equality in Welsh politics.

This was an opportunity for both female and male Members to raise their heads and raise awareness of the importance of women’s voice in our national politics.

And that’s what I want to celebrate today – the women who acted positively to counter injustice and prejudice.

In doing so, I want to take the opportunity to thank women of all parties and no party – those who were elected and the candidates who did not succeed – for putting their names on the ballot papers, running for public office and for making a difference in the face of many obstacles.

We need more women on our local and national public platforms, following the example Millicent Mackenzie set a century ago, and realising her aspiration of challenging prejudice with courage to change our political culture and ensure real equality for future generations.

Elin Jones AM, Llywydd of the National Assembly for Wales.

Celebrating Dydd Miwsig Cymru (Welsh Language Music Day)

Today is 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. All week, Welsh learners at the Assembly have been learning the words to the national anthem, Hen Wlad fy Nhadau.

Exclusive playlist from Elin Jones AM, Llywydd of the National Assembly for Wales

As part of our Welsh Language Music Celebrations, the Llywydd of the National Assembly for Wales, Elin Jones AM has created a playlist of her favourite Welsh language songs to give a flavour of the rich offering that exists in the industry.


1. Ethiopia Newydd – Geraint Jarman a’r Cynganeddwyr
2. Tyrd Olau Gwyn – Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog
3. Sebona Fi – Yws Gwynedd
4. Cymru, Lloegr a Llanrwst – Y Cyrff
5. Cwcwll – Beganifs
6. Rhedeg i Paris – Yr Anhrefn
7. Harbwr Diogel – Elin Fflur
8. Julia Gitar – Jess
9. Cân i Gymru – Datblygu
10. Coffi Du – Gwibdaith Hen Frân

Talking about her selections, the Llywydd said:

“I’m really pleased to support this effort so that people in Wales can hear the variety of music that’s available both in Welsh and in English. Having grown up listening to Welsh Language pop bands, I’ve put together a selection of my favourite music in Welsh that includes some of the songs I was listening to when I was very young, and some of the songs recently released in what is a vibrant Welsh language pop industry.”

The Senedd gears up to host a special St David’s Day gig on 1 March


Continuing on the theme of Welsh Language Music Day, we’re counting down to March the 1st when the Senedd will be the stage for a very special gig for St David’s Day. GDSD provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate the best of Wales’ musical talent with performances from:

Adwaith
Hannah Grace
Mellt
Reuel Elijah and Mace
Roughion (DJ Set)

The event is being held in partnership with the BBC Horizons project and Y Selar.

For more information about the gig, click here.

Admission to the gig is FREE and tickets can be accessed here.

 

 

 

Sharing The Challenges and Opportunities of Working in a Smaller Legislature with the Parliament of Bermuda

On 29th January 2018, a delegation of Members of the Parliament of Bermuda’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and their Clerk, visited the National Assembly for Wales.  This visit was organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) as part of their three year programme aimed at Strengthening Financial Scrutiny across the UK’s Overseas Territories.  CPA UK has formed a consortium with the UK National Audit Office (NAO) and the Government Internal Audit Agency (GIAA) to deliver a three year project of activities to bring together parliamentarians and audit officials from the territories and UK to discuss frameworks for good practice and priorities in public financial management.

Learning from one of the world’s oldest parliaments

The delegation were keen to visit the National Assembly to discuss the shared challenges and opportunities of working in a smaller legislature.  The Parliament of Bermuda, is one of the oldest in the world, established in 1620, and is made up of 36 Members.

We discussed the role of those tasked with supporting PACs in their work.  We were pleased to welcome the Assistant Auditor General, Anthony Barrett, to talk about the relationship between the Wales Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee.

The delegation were also interested in how the Committee’s work programme is determined, planned and prioritised and how Committee inquiries are undertaken.  On both sides it was interesting, as well as reassuring, to hear about the shared challenges of holding the Government to account with limited numbers of elected Members to do so.

Discussions also focused on what makes for an effective Public Accounts Committee and the need for Committee consensus, independence and to produce constructive outcomes.

National Assembly for Wales Public Accounts Committee Chair, Nick Ramsay AM, commented:

“We were delighted to welcome the delegation from Bermuda as we recognise the value of exploring international good practice in the parliamentary oversight of public finance.  It has been most insightful to explore the differences and similarities between the approaches of Bermuda and Wales and discussing approaches to maintaining the Public Accounts Committee’s effectiveness while working within a small legislature”.

The visit was very informative for all those attending and contributed to the deepening of the understanding of international good practice in the oversight of public finance.  The visit also contributed to building capacity and confidence of the Bermudan PAC to work more effectively, and it was a privilege for the National Assembly to be part of that.

We hope to have established a long term relationship with the Bermudan PAC and that we will continue to share support and good practice for many years to follow.

 

Celebrating 100 Years of the Representation of the People Act 1918

To commemorate 100 years since the Representation of the People Act 1918 received Royal Assent, Deputy Presiding Officer Ann Jones AM (@ann_jonesAM), discusses the importance of the  women’s suffrage movement in Wales.

February 6 2018 marks one hundred years since the Representation of the People Act 1918 received Royal Assent. This Act gave women the right to vote, provided that they were over 30 and that either they or their husband met a property qualification. The Act, which increased the electorate by over 8 million people, hardly represented equality, but it was a major step forward in the journey towards full suffrage for women, which was ultimately achieved in 1928. To mark the anniversary, there will be a programme of events, exhibitions and other activity taking place in Wales and across the United Kingdom.

Women, Wales and Politics

Championing the role of women in society is something that I am incredibly passionate about.  I have therefore established a Wales, Women and Politics working group of women Assembly Members. By working with key stakeholders in the sector, we will work towards delivering a programme of events and activities to explore the history of the women’s suffrage movement in Wales, and ensure that the role women play in civic society in Wales is under the spotlight.

The National Assembly for Wales has already achieved international recognition for promoting gender equality. In 2003, it was the first parliament worldwide to achieve gender parity.  Unfortunately, the Assembly has seen a gradual decline in the number of women Assembly Members, with currently only 26 of the chamber’s 60 seats being occupied by women. While the Assembly is still an international leader in gender representation, the decline in the number of women representing the people of Wales is a concern. I was, therefore, interested to hear that Prof Laura McAllister and her colleagues recommended integrating a gender quota into the electoral system in their recent “A Parliament that Works for Wales” report.

Celebrating the achievements of women this International Women’s Day

The focus of our activity in the short term will be around International Women’s Day (8 March), a global day which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The Senedd will host an exhibition that tells the story of the suffrage movement in Wales and a lecture by Dr Ryland Wallace, the leading authority on the suffrage movement in Wales. We will also be working in partnership with the Welsh National Opera to launch of ‘Rhondda Rips it Up!’, a newly commissioned opera which profiles the life of Margaret Haig Thomas, one of Wales’s most prominent suffragettes.

Ann Jones AM

Deputy Presiding Officer, National Assembly for Wales

We’re number one on Stonewall’s UK Workplace Equality Index 2018

The National Assembly for Wales has been recognised as the 2018 UK leading employer for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the latest Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.

It’s the first time that we have topped the list and comes ten years since we first entered the index. Since then we have steadily worked our way up and have featured in the top ten for the past four years.

stonewall logo employer of the yearstonewall logo top trans employer

Stonewall logo highly commended network group     stonewall logo star performer organisation

A leader for workplace equality

Stonewall has also highly commended our work in promoting, recognising and supporting transgender equality, citing us as one of only 11 exemplar organisations in the UK.

In addition, our LGBT workplace network, OUT-NAW, has been recognised as a Highly Commended Network Group and we have achieved the status of a Star Performer organisation because of our consistently excellent performance in the Index.

We are proud to be leading the way not only in Wales but across the UK.

Working towards more progressive ways of working

We first entered the index in 2008, where we were ranked 208 in the UK. Since then we have we have made incremental changes to our policies and engagement activities that has resulted in our continuous improvement and approach to LGBT inclusiveness and therefore, our rise within the Index.

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
208 73 47 42 20 26 11 4 3 5 1

We are a modern parliament and we embrace creative thinking. We have always been proactive and progressive in our approach to LGBT equality, creating an inclusive environment and culture by making small meaningful changes.

We have used an incremental approach to LGBT inclusion, using feedback from Stonewall and best practice to be a progressive organisation. Being inclusive is in our very DNA. The Government of Wales Act 2006 that established the Assembly Commission as a corporate body stated that the Assembly must ‘make appropriate arrangements with a view to securing that their functions are exercised with due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people’. So it’s part of everything that we do.

Leading change through strong leadership

We are proud to have dedicated and strong leadership, across the organisation and at different levels within the organisation, from the Llywydd, the Chief Executive and Directors, to our Diversity and Inclusion team and network members and allies across the Assembly.

Our inclusive approach is visible to staff and visitors. We fly the rainbow flag at certain points throughout the year, we have our Stonewall Workplace Index certificate and awards on display in our reception area, we have network members and allies wearing rainbow lanyards and our allies have a sign on their desk proclaiming their support of LGBT colleagues.

When one colleague joined the organisation he was delighted by our approach to LGBT inclusion, stating “it took me three years to come out in my old job; it took me less than three weeks to do the same here. It was clear straight away that everyone is accepted for who they are.”

photo of LGBT staff and allies with the rainbow flag

Elin Jones AM, Llywydd of the National Assembly for Wales, said:

“We are truly honoured to be recognised by Stonewall as the leading employer in the UK for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“The National Assembly has diversity and inclusion at the very heart of its role representing the people of Wales.

“We are proud to support our LGBT staff network and continue to work to create an inclusive culture – not only for the people who work here but for the people we represent across all Wales’ diverse communities.

“As Wales’ parliament, it is right that we should lead by example to demonstrate what can be achieved with the right attitudes, leadership and determination.

“This is not only a great day for the Assembly, it’s also good news for staff in the many other Welsh organisations represented in the top 100 employers. This demonstrates that Wales clearly understands the value of inclusive policy and service delivery and I congratulate them all.”

Joyce Watson AM, Assembly Commissioner with responsibility for diversity and inclusion, said:

“This is a wonderful achievement which comes on the tenth anniversary of the Assembly first being recognised in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.

“It is a testament to the dedication of our staff, in particular our diversity and inclusion team, for embracing and ingraining LGBT equality in all aspects of our work representing the people of Wales.

“Our success shows that incremental changes in policy and a willing approach to changing attitudes can achieve so much and serve as an example to others.”

For more information about working for the National Assembly for Wales, please visit our recruitment pages.