Children’s Mental Health Week

Guest blog by Lynne Neagle AM. This article first appeared in the Western Mail.

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

In April it will be a year since the National Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee published its Mind over Matter report, which called for a step change in the support available to children experiencing emotional and mental health issues in Wales.

The findings were stark.

Half of all mental health problems begin by the age of fourteen.

Three quarters of all mental health problems set in by a young person’s mid-twenties.

One in ten of our young people will experience a mental health problem.

Based on these figures, and the wealth of expert evidence we received, we concluded that if we failed to put our young people at the very centre of our strategy, mental ill health would continue to snowball.

To stem the flow, we concluded that a step change is needed in how we approach emotional and mental health in Wales. We need to equip our children and young people with the skills, confidence and tools to be emotionally resilient. We need a strategy that sees us intervene much earlier, addressing the seeds of distress before they take root.

We were deeply disappointed with the Welsh Government’s initial response to our recommendations. As a Committee we took the unprecedented step of rejecting the response, and called on the Ministers to reconsider their position.

The Welsh Government reacted by setting up a Ministerial Task and Finish Group – chaired jointly by the Ministers for Health and Education – to reconsider the robust and comprehensive evidence we presented and the recommendations to which we gave considerable and serious thought.

I sit on that Group as an independent observer with full rights of participation. I intend to hold a mirror up to the Group’s work, and to seek progress that meets the Committee’s ambitions and expectations in this area.

More recently the Welsh Government announced an additional £7.1 million to specifically address the issues raised in our Mind over Matter report.

The additional funding is of course welcome and we look forward to seeing how exactly it will be invested. As we approach the first anniversary of the report’s publication, I believe the time has come to inject pace into putting the resource and support needed in place to support us all to implement and deliver this change.

I also believe we need to guard against the ever-present danger of seeking to re-invent the wheel. What is clear is that the current approach isn’t effective enough. So to recommit and reinforce the services already in place isn’t the answer. We need a new approach.

So it will come as no surprise in Children’s Mental Health week to reaffirm that the Committee doesn’t intend to stop here. If young people are to be placed at the heart of our overall strategy for mental health, we need to continue our drive to ensure that best practice is shared, change and innovation are delivered, and our focus is shifted from the reactive to the preventative.

On that basis, we have requested a new response to each of our recommendations from the Welsh Government by next month. We do not intend to take our foot off the pedal on this and we are committed to following up on the place our children and young people are given in future emotional and mental health strategies, approaches and investments with a close and forensic eye.

During the course of our inquiry last year we spoke to many children and young people about their experiences. Some of them were deeply upsetting. Some of them also demonstrated to us that, when the proper services are effective and in place, they can be of immense help to people struggling with their emotional or mental health. Thomas was one of the young people we spoke with.

As young people so often manage to do, he summed up our inquiry in one sentence.

“If I’d got these issues addressed a lot earlier, it wouldn’t have boiled over.”

We all have a responsibility – and an ability – to implement the changes that will enable young people like Thomas get the help they need earlier and avoid issues boiling over wherever possible. And those changes aren’t only for our children and young people, but for the adults they become, and the children they go on to have. It is incumbent on us to invest to save, to prevent rather than react, and to make the step change that is so urgently needed to build a population of emotionally resilient and mentally healthy people in Wales.

If we want sustainable services, a healthy population, and – most importantly of all – fewer individuals and families experiencing longer term challenges and hardships caused by mental ill health, young people must be at the heart of the strategy. Let’s remember Thomas’s words – if we get these issues addressed earlier, they need not always boil over.

Get the report

Holocaust Memorial Day 2019 – Torn from Home

logo for holocaust memorial day
Holocaust Memorial Day logo

This week, the National Assembly for Wales will be marking Holocaust Memorial Day, which takes place on the 27th of January each year. It is coordinated by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the charity established and funded by the UK Government to promote and support Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) in the UK.

Marking Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day is a time to remember the millions of people whose lives were taken as a part of the Holocaust during World War II, and further genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The 27th of January was the day that Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, the largest of the concentration camps operated by the Nazi party, was liberated.

This year, Holocaust Memorial Day also marks the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, and the 40th anniversary of the end of the Cambodian Genocide.

Holocaust Memorial Day offers the chance to honour the survivors of these events, learning lessons from their experiences to influence our society today. With roots that begin in hatred, discrimination and racism, these are events can be prevented, with much work still to do to ensure a safer future for all. Holocaust Memorial Day provides the chance to begin this work.

Torn From Home

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘Torn From Home’. Home has many meanings for those affected by these events, and losing a place to call ‘home’ is one of the ways devastating effects that genocide and persecution can have on individuals, communities and families.

This year’s theme calls on people to reflect on the consequences that being ‘torn from home’ can have on those affected, as well as the struggles faced when trying to return home, or build new lives and homes, after the events are over.

“We should never forget the horrors of Holocaust”

This week, Assembly Members and staff gathered on the steps of the Senedd to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. Dawn Bowden AM’s 90 Second Statement highlighted the efforts of those from a Merthyr Tydfil community, who this week gathered to mark the completion of a Holocaust memorial garden, with help from the Holocaust Memorial Trust, explaining that what started as an initiative by a community and volunteers is a part of the international effort of remembrance, research and education around Holocaust. She stated that “we should never forget the horrors of Holocaust, and we should use this time to reflect on conditions that allowed such barbaric acts to incur.”  

90 Second Statement – Dawn Bowden

Assembly Members, staff and the general public gathered for a vigil on the Senedd Steps
Julie Morgan at a Holocaust Memorial Event in the Senedd

The National Assembly for Wales is an inclusive organisation, where our employment opportunities are open to all and where the people of Wales can actively engage in our work. By marking days like Holocaust Memorial Day, we are inspired to continue to build diversity and inclusion into everything we do. Find out more about our work on our website.

You can find out more about the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust at www.hmd.org.uk.

Perinatal mental health: one year on

Citizen Engagement Team, January 2019

What progress has been made?

This week, the Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee will hear from the Welsh Government’s Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething AM, about what work has been done in response to its inquiry last year into perinatal mental health services.

Perinatal mental health refers to the period from the start of pregnancy to the end of the first year after a baby is born. Perinatal mental health is about the emotional well-being of pregnant women and their children, their partners and families.

The Committee launched its report on the findings of the inquiry during Autumn last year, and promised to follow up on the progress the Welsh Government was making with the proposed changes, one year on.

As part of the Committee’s inquiry, the views of those with first-hand experience of the services offered for perinatal mental health in Wales were sought. Their honest, sometimes difficult, stories contributed to shaping the Committee’s recommendations to the Welsh Government.

What we heard

“We all live in different areas and the ways we had to try and get help were all different..”

In order for the Committee to hear a range of experiences of perinatal mental health issues, 30 people from across Wales participated in an event in Cardiff Bay. Those attending were a mixture of mothers, family members and staff working with those affected. They talked about their experiences – what they felt had worked, what they felt could be improved, and what changes they would like to see made to the support available.

“Consistency of care – a midwife with mental health training. A friendly face.”

The main issues identified included:

  • The lack of a Mother and Baby Unit in Wales
  • Importance of training for healthcare professionals
  • Inconsistencies in community perinatal mental health service provision
  • The need to ensure continuity of care
  • The need to de-stigmatise and normalise the mother’s experience of perinatal mental health conditions

A short video summarising the issues raised during the event can be seen here:

 

“The video is beautiful and emotional. Thank you. I’m glad I was able to share my experiences to make a difference.” 

The timing of the event, taking place early in the inquiry’s process, meant that Committee members could use the experiences and opinions of attendees to shape the inquiry, and to direct the questions towards issues raised by those with first-hand experience.

“Feeling that you were really listened to by the Assembly Members. It made you feel that what you have been through is important to others, but ultimately it makes you feel that something will change for the good. Exciting to know other people are passionate about the same things.”

The issues raised during the event were used during formal meetings with relevant representative bodies and the Welsh Government, and the experiences of a number of the attendees contributed to the Committee’s report:
Perinatal mental health in Wales (PDF, 4.7 MB)

What did the Committee recommend?

The Committee made a number of recommendations including more investment in specialist community services, the establishment of Mother and Baby Unit provision closer to home for people across Wales, and ensuring timely access to psychological support for pregnant and postnatal women and their partners.

This blog, published by the Assembly’s Research Service, summarises the Committee’s 27 recommendations, 23 of which were accepted, or accepted in principle, by the Welsh Government: Perinatal Mental Health

“This output makes the anxiety of talking out about my experiences worth it.  Even if not all recommendations were accepted, this is still more than we had last year or when I was ill.”

Assembly Members also referenced the issues raised by those with first-hand experience during the debate in Plenary on 31 January 2018 which you can watch here:
Plenary debate on Perinatal Mental Health report

What happens now?

In its report, the Committee asked the Welsh Government to provide an update on progress by the end of October 2018. You can see the full update from Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services here.

Those who had been part of the original inquiry were asked to comment on the update to inform the Committee’s meeting with the Minister for Health and Social Services this week (10 January 2019), where he will answer questions on the progress the Government has made.

You can watch this session live on Senedd TV, or catch up later.

 

Your opinions shape our work

We are your Assembly and we represent you. 

If you would like to know more about getting involved in the work of the Assembly, visit our website.

 

 

Aberystwyth: Community, Food, and a Vision

Senedd@ Aber Logo

We’re bring the Assembly to you

As part of our Senedd@ programme we’ve been meeting with community groups and activists across Aberystwyth to find out more about their visions for the future of the town and surrounding communities. From health to education, the environment and food, the Assembly is responsible for making decisions that affect our day to day lives. We think it’s important that, regardless of where you live in Wales, you can find out about how these are made and most importantly – how you can have your say.

On 28 November, we joined forces with Aber Food Surplus to create a community platform where people can eat, meet and tell us about the things that are important to them.

Aber Food Surplus – Who They Are and What They Do 

Aber Food Surplus
Aber Food Surplus

Aber Food Surplus is taking action to reduce food waste in Aberystwyth. They collect food local businesses are throwing away and redistribute it among the community. Through Pay As You Feel meals, co-founders Chris Woodfield, Chris Byrne and Heather McClure bring local people together and show them “waste” good can be tasty and nutritious. Their vision is for Aberystwyth to be a pioneering example of food sustainability. A place where food is grown, distributed and consumed in a fair and environmentally sustainable way. Where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to enjoy.

People attending the event with Aber Food Surplus

We talked to Chris Woodfield to find out more.

What inspired you to start Aber Food Surplus?

 To take action locally on environmental change with like-minded people. We are all passionate about the environmental impact of food waste and were keen to try our best to deliver grassroots change to this global problem and at the same time share this with our community and see how we can all work together to contribute positively to our local environment.

What impact has Aber Food Surplus had on the local community?

 We believe Aber Food Surplus has had a positive impact on the local community through providing wholesome and healthy Pay As You Feel meals on a regular basis as well as redistributing approximately 300kg of food waste every week. We continue to inspire and empower volunteers to take action locally and offer meaningful and rewarding volunteering opportunities.

What are your ambitions for the future?

 Our future plans are focused on facilitating the creation of a creative community and environmental hub in the centre of Aberystwyth. We are passionate about supporting our local economy, providing meaningful graduate level employment and supporting our community to thrive.  Ultimately, we believe Aberystwyth can become an exemplar case-study and pioneering town with regards to being a zero-food waste community and flourishing place to live, learn and grow.

Aber Food Surplus Logo

If you want to get involved and register for our Senedd@ events, visit www.assembly.wales/seneddaber

If you want to find out more about the work of the Assembly, who represents you and getting your voice heard, visit www.assembly.wales or find find us on Facebook @NationalAssemblyforWales Twitter @AssemblyWales

 

Removing the barriers to encourage a diverse and representative audience into public life

Our guest post comes from Deputy Presiding Officer, Ann Jones AM as we mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December. 

Having been a politician for many years, I’ve been faced with numerous obstacles. Some of these have been due to my disability and I’ve worked hard to overcome these barriers. I’ve been lucky enough to have received a great deal of support from my family, colleagues and in the workplace which has had a big impact on my life.

I know first-hand that the barriers facing disabled people can be very off-putting and can discourage people from taking part in public life and politics. These are barriers that we need to remove in order to encourage a diverse and representative audience into public life.

Barriers which disabled people encounter may include:

  • Perceptual – based upon their views of accessibility or other people’s views of disabled people;
  • Environmental – based upon the accessibility of a physical space; or
  • Procedural – based upon the policies and procedures in place.

My mother was an inspiration to me and she made sure I was given all the opportunities that those without a disability had. This is what we need to do for the wider public, by breaking down these barriers.

A commitment to promoting diversity

I feel very privileged to be the Deputy Presiding Officer at the National Assembly for Wales. I’ve been keen to use my role to highlight issues of importance. The two themes which I’ve focused on to date include ‘Women in Politics’ and ‘Promoting an accessible Assembly’. Over the years, the Assembly has been awarded numerous prestigious awards for its commitment to inclusion and diversity.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index, where the Assembly is recognised as the Top Employer in the UK in 2018 and as one of the Top UK Employers for LGBT people each year since 2009
  • National Autism Society Autism Friendly Award
  • Ranked in the top ten UK employers, accredited by the Top Employers for Working Families organisation
  • Age Employer Champion Status
  • Action on Hearing Loss Louder Than Words charter mark, and Service Excellence Awards.

The Assembly is committed to promoting diversity, inclusion and equality of opportunity for staff and the people of Wales. There’s a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion team within the Assembly Commission along with an Assembly Committee (Equality, Local Government and Communities) that tackle these issues daily. Further to this, a report has been commissioned by the Assembly’s Remuneration Board to identify barriers and incentives for disabled people standing for election.

We are proud to have an accessible building and the policies, procedures and training in place to ensure that disabled people can fully participate in our democracy. Whether this be as an Assembly Member, a member of staff or a visitor.

But this has certainly been a journey. We have worked hard over a number of years to continue to improve the accessibility of our buildings and the support that we have in place for disabled people.

Designing an inclusive home from the inside out

When the architect of the Senedd was putting plans in place, I noticed that some of the design features weren’t taking disabilities into consideration. The big glass walls were completely transparent, making it very difficult for a person with a visual impairment to see. I put forth my idea to include visual aids such as large dots on the glass surfaces. I had to push the idea numerous times before it was agreed. After all, if it’s right for a person with a disability, it’s right for everyone. These are the small changes which make a big difference.

In 2017 I was fortunate enough to attend the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s inaugural conference for parliamentarians with disabilities in Nova Scotia, Canada. It was inspiring to hear the struggles and successes that people from all over the Commonwealth have experienced. I was very pleased to showcase Wales and our exemplar Parliament building. This has now been established as a standalone network by the name of Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities (CPwD). I hope that this will drive positive change throughout the Commonwealth and indeed the world, in politics and across public life.

Ann Jones at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’sAnn Jones with Kevin Murphy, speaker of the Nova Scotia Assembly in Canada inaugural conference for parliamentarians with disabilities in Nova Scotia, Canada
Ann Jones AM with Kevin Murphy MLA, Speaker of the Nova Scotia Legislative  Assembly in Canada

I would encourage all disabled people reading this blog to consider what role you can play in public life, whether through volunteering in your community, applying for a public role or by standing as an Assembly Member.

It’s important that on this International Day of Persons with a Disability we remember that disabled people have a voice that needs to be heard and that any barriers to participation should be challenged and removed. We all have a role to play in helping to identify and remove barriers for disabled people.

Elected Members have an important role to play, whether disabled or not, to give a voice to the needs of disabled people.  Having campaigners and advocates are also very important but the value of having elected representatives who have experienced difficulties and tackled them is invaluable. This is why more needs to be done, to strive for equality and inclusion in all aspects of life.

“Walk the prom and always kick the bar!” – Why you #LoveAber

From 3 – 7 December 2018, the National Assembly for Wales will be bringing a week full of its regular activities, special exhibitions and public engagement events to Aberystwyth as part of our Senedd@ campaign.

We’re been asking you to share your #loveaber stories, memories and insights to form part of our exhibition, “Aberystwyth: Past, Present, Future”.

Award-winning author Jenny Sullivan was born and raised in Cardiff, but like so many others across the length and breadth of Wales (and indeed the World!), Aberystwyth holds a unique place in her heart.

Having lived in Brittany since 2004 she shares her favourite #loveaber memories and poem entitled “Aberystwyth”.

What is your favourite Aberystwyth memory?

Many damp days haunting the bookshops with the children when they were small. Aberystwyth was our “go-to” place when it was too wet for the beach!  (My worst memory is the sea-front hotel with a shower that had no water!)

What makes Aberystwyth unique?

The comfort and ease with which “Town and Gown” fit together.  And there’s something restful about Aberystwyth.  When I’ve been visiting local libraries and schools I used to try to stay on the sea-front.  I loved waking up in the morning to the sound of the waves.

How has Aberystwyth changed over the years?

Different shops:  some new buildings – but on the whole, not a lot!

Mind, I haven’t visited for a couple of years – I need some schools and libraries to invite me, please!

 ABERYSTWYTH

Sea rattles pebbles

claws at shale

worries the filigree pier

 

Front lines are the expendables:

Window-boxed brecwast-a-gwelies,

Three-flights-down for a bath;

Student halls, window-sills full

of bare feet and beer cans;

and “Llys y Brenin”

balconied apartments

(Expensive) for the crachach.

 

Sea makes sorties

chewing at the roots of

Constitution Hill.

 

Hippie shops and cafes creep

backwards, towards respectability.

Charity shops flare and die, and

The mighty rearguard Banks

(Barclays, Lloyds) oppress the odd posh shop and Woolworths, where

anoraked and steaming tourists flee the unrelenting rain.

 

The sea attacks

retreats, attacks,

hurls pebbles

 

Only Waunfawr observes

the town, sneaking out

the back way, regrouping

somewhere in the

mountains, while offshore,

Momentarily confused by groyns

the sea fires missile dolphins,

Gulps the crimson sun

and waits for booming night.

 

Jenny Sullivan

Credit: Pont, “Say That Again”

 

Visit www.assembly.wales/seneddaber to register and take part in our exhibitions and events. You can also send us your own #loveAber stories on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister set to hold its final meeting with Carwyn Jones AM

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | Read this post in Welsh

The Assembly Committee will meet on 16 November to question Carwyn Jones AM on his time in charge of the Welsh Government.

sfm-tw-senedd

What will the Committee be discussing?

The First Minister has announced his intention to step down in December 2018 and the Committee will be taking the opportunity to question him about his time in the role and the work of the Welsh Government since his appointment in 2009.

In particular the Committee will explore the outcomes of the Welsh Government’s main objectives over the last 9 years, key policies and legislative programme during this period, as well as the First Minister’s views on his achievements and any lessons learnt.

Committee Members will also have an opportunity to question the First Minister on topical issues during the meeting.

How can I watch?

You are welcome to come and watch the Committee proceedings in person. Space is limited so please book a place via our booking line.

If you can’t make it in person, the meeting will be available to watch live on Senedd.tv or you can catch-up after the event.

What does the committee do?

The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First of the Minister meets once during each Assembly term to explore specifically what the First Minister is doing in his role of overseeing the functions and performance of the Welsh Government. The chair of the Committee is the Deputy Presiding Officer Ann Jones AM. The membership of the Committee consists of the chairs of the other Assembly committees. See more on the Committee here.

What does the First Minister do?

The First Minister of Wales is the leader of the Welsh Government and is appointed by HM The Queen following nomination by Assembly Members in the Senedd.

The First Minister’s responsibilities include:

  • appointing the Cabinet of Welsh Ministers, Deputy Ministers and the Counsel General who comprise the Welsh Government;
  • chairing Cabinet meetings;
  • leading policy development and delivery;
  • managing relationships with the rest of the UK and internationally;
  • representing the people of Wales on official business, and staffing of the Welsh Government.