Author: Blog

World Autism Awareness Day, 2 April 2019

Sarah Morgan

Our guest blog comes from Sarah A Morgan, Senior Branch Engagement Officer at the National Autistic Society – Wales, as we mark World Autism Awareness Week.

 

National Autistic Society Picture of fundraisers with caption World Autism Awareness Week is back

 

NAS Autism Friendly logo

As an Autism Friendly Award holder we are proud to mark World Autism Awareness Week. The Autism Friendly Award demonstrates our commitment to being an accessible venue for visitors who are on the autism spectrum.

 

 

Below are some of the things the Assembly does in order to achieve the accreditation, we have:

• a section on our website dedicated to visitors with autism. The section provides information links to specifically designed resources in different formats;

• designated quiet areas for people with autism to rest and de-stress;

• ensured relevant staff received disability confidence training, which includes a section on autism;

• identified Autism Champions from across the organisation, and

• established links with National Autistic Society and work closely with them to ensure we are an organisation that engages with everyone in Wales, including people with autism.

We like to think that we are a modern, accessible parliamentary body with which people from a diverse range of backgrounds can easily and meaningfully interact, because our facilities, services and information are accessible to all. However, don’t take our word for it, here is what Sarah from the NAS had to say about visiting the Senedd with a group of their volunteers and service users.

“I have been to the Senedd for many different occasions, on the last visit I attend a guided tour with a group of our clients. This tour was during Disability Access day and it was specifically designed to caterer for individuals who are autistic.

Knowing that the Senedd had achieved their NAS autism Friendly Award it was a chance to see if they were applying their best practice work in practice.

The tour was very easy to book and the website was very clear and descriptive of what may happen on the day. Soon arrival we knew we would have to go through security, but they were very helpful. Then going to reception, we found the staff were once again very helpful and friendly. Our experience was all very good and it was not long before the tour guide was there to assist.

The guide was so informative and had a knowledge of the specific requirements of the group. He tailored the tour to the needs of the individuals and made it very fun and Interactive. He was always checking on the group and adjusted things accordingly.

Everyone enjoyed the tour and it was a great success, I think we all took a lot away from the visit.

The Senedd really is doing a good job of helping everyone enjoy their experience. The staff seemed very aware of Autism and how they could help make the group enjoy their visit. It is always very pleasing to know that a business is autism Friendly, but it was great to experience this first hand.”

Picture of World Autism Day logo

Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill

Guest blog by Llyr Gruffydd, Chair of Finance Committee, National Assembly for Wales . This article first appeared in the Western Mail.

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

Llyr Gruffydd AC/ AM
Llyr Gruffydd AC/ AM

This afternoon, 20 March 2019, the National Assembly will vote to approve the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill. If the Bill is approved, it will go forward for Royal Assent and the provisions will become law in Wales.

The Ombudsman in Wales has a vital role in ensuring any member of the public who believes they have suffered injustice, hardship or service failure by a public body is able to make a complaint. The Ombudsman’s service is free, impartial and independent of the Welsh Government.  

The types of complaints the Ombudsman can receive include ambulances taking too long to arrive; failing to find the right education for children with additional needs; social housing not being repaired properly, amongst many other issues.

The Finance Committee introduced this Bill because we believe the Ombudsman’s role should be strengthened to improve social justice and protect the most vulnerable in society. This is particularly pertinent in a society where the most vulnerable people are often most reliant on public services.

The Bill will achieve this by making it easier for people to complain, removing the barrier that a complaint must be in writing. People should not be discriminated against or put off from complaining. People will be able to complain orally or through British Sign Language and maybe, in future through other digital technologies. This will help vulnerable and deprived members of society.

The Bill will also allow the Ombudsman to start his own investigations without receiving a formal complaint where there is evidence to suggest there could be a wider public interest issue. People are often reluctant or scared to come forward so they can complain anonymously and if the strict criteria is satisfied the Ombudsman can investigate.

Currently, a person has to make separate complaints to different organisations for public and private health treatment. The Bill allows the Ombudsman to consider both the private and public elements, if without doing so, the Ombudsman is unable to completely investigate the relevant action by the public service provider. This will be a fairer process giving answers to whether a person received appropriate medical treatment throughout the whole of their health care pathway.

The other main change is the Ombudsman can develop a model complaints handling process for public service bodies. This aims to drive improvements and help achieve consistency across the public sector.

This Bill represents a significant amount of hard work undertaken over a number of years and a rigorous scrutiny process by Assembly committees.

I hope the Assembly approves the Bill today; we need a Wales that provides excellent public services. Should a service fall short of an individual’s expectations, they will have confidence in the Ombudsman to investigate and make things right.

Jocelyn Davies, former Chair of the Finance Committee of the Fourth Assembly:

“I started work on extending the powers of the Ombudsman back in the Fourth Assembly. I hope the Bill is passed today as I’m looking forward to a future where we have excellent public services but when things do go wrong, the Ombudsman is able to investigate, bring redress for individuals and make improvements to public services that we can all benefit from.”


If you’d like further information about the Finance Committee, or would like to keep up to date with their work, you can visit the Committee’s webpage.

You can also follow the Committee on twitter @SeneddFinance

National Apprenticeship Week 2019

Three young people outside the Senedd
Three of the Assembly’s former apprentices outside the Senedd

Emily Morgan, who now works for our Estates and Facilities Management team, talks about her experience at the Assembly…

After completing an art foundation diploma in Glamorgan University I took a gap year to hopefully pave a career for myself.  I was considering going to university to study art when I became aware of the opportunity to become an Apprentice in the National Assembly for Wales.  I automatically knew I should apply as I knew that the Assembly was an exemplary employer.

I completed an application form using the STAR technique and sent it off with the hope of being successful. To my delight I was invited to attend an assessment centre where I was required to undergo a number of assessments specific to the post. The moment I arrived I was made to feel very welcome by the HR team. I was initially very nervous, but my nerves were soon put to rest by the friendly staff around me. After the assessment centre I was invited to interview. I attended my first panel interview and was made to feel at ease by the interview panel straight away. I received a letter a week later informing me that I had been successful, and that I had become an Apprentice! Needless to say I was overwhelmed and very excited!

During my induction, I was welcomed by my head of service, my team and my line manager. I was placed in the Resources group which consists of Human Resources, Governance and Audit and Financial Services. I have worked mainly within Human Resources; where I was based predominantly in the learning and development team and the recruitment team.

Throughout my Apprenticeship I have gained Essential Skills, an NVQ qualification, valuable work experience and some fantastic memories. The Apprenticeship scheme was the best decision I have ever made. I have gained a wealth of administrative experience and have made friends for life. After passing my NVQ and my team support interview, I gained employment in Commission and Member Support as a team support. I have since received further promotion and am now settling into my role as an Executive Officer in Estates and Facilities Management.  

For the first time I have realised that University is not necessarily the only path into employment. The Apprenticeship scheme has taken me down a different path, but it has definitely been the right one for me.

Find out more: Apprenticeships at the National Assembly for Wales​​​

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.