Author: Blog

A Landscape of Creative Talent

Steve Knapik MBE tells us all about his exhibition, ‘A Postcard from Wales’ which is opening at the Senedd on the 27th of July 2019.

I am an artist, but I am also passionate about my work with the Blue Balloon Children’s Charity. Through this charity, many people work hard to improve children’s lives in Wales.  A few years ago, I wanted to help Blue Balloon by organising a huge art project to create a very, very big landscape artwork; so big in fact, that I hoped to break the Guinness World Record for the Longest Continuing Landscape artwork. I knew that this would be a lot of work, so I asked for help from many different people, including primary school pupils, groups supporting people living with dementia, and pupils from schools for those with additional needs. It was important to me to get a range of people involved so that we could make sure that the project was inclusive and welcoming to all.

We worked hard for five years. It took a lot of work to organise everything, but it was worth it when I could see the excitement and enjoyment on everyone’s face. If we were to break the Guinness World Record  we needed at least 30,000 drawings, so there was a lot of work to be done! Each drawing had lines showing where the mountains and sky were, and this meant that the drawings could be joined together to create one large joined artwork. I saw a lot of creative talent and imaginative ways of thinking about our landscapes. For example, some primary school children used blocks of coloured stripes to represent fields.

Everyone was excited about our World Record attempt. Even the Liberty Stadium in Swansea was ready for us to display over 5 miles of original, joined up drawings…

And then, bad news! We discovered that our project couldn’t be registered as a World Record. I felt very sad and disappointed. What was I going to do with all these fantastic drawings? But I was determined not to be defeated. These amazing artworks deserved to be on display. I needed an iconic, important building to show the talent and creativity that I had seen in children all over Wales.

I got in touch with the National Assembly for Wales and I met Alice, who is a curator there. She works with artists to organise exhibitions. Where better for these brilliant artworks than the Senedd, the home of democracy in Wales, where people make important decisions about what happens in our country? Alice and I met a few times to come up with the best solution to display the artwork in the Senedd, and finally we were ready to put the exhibition together for everyone to enjoy.

I feel that the Senedd will be the perfect place to show our artwork, and I am looking forward to getting even more people involved, by encouraging visitors to the Senedd to make postcards to send, and to celebrate a lot of exciting things that are happening at the Assembly this year…

The 20th Anniversary of the National Assembly for Wales.

It was such an honour to be chosen to be part of this important celebration. The National Assembly for Wales was created twenty years ago, and the Senedd is the perfect place for a big celebration. The building is open to the public, and I’m very pleased to ask YOU the public to come in and take part in creating your own, unique landscape to continue the project. I hope you have as much fun as over 30,000 children and adults had before you, taking part in our project.

The Welsh Youth Parliament

In February this year the Welsh Youth Parliament, made of 60 young people aged 11 – 18, met for the first time. We want to help celebrate this wonderful event and stand alongside the 60 members who represent every part of Wales. Each member has a big interest in a part of life that affects young people today. It is so important for our young people to have a voice, and the Youth Parliament work hard to make sure that that voice is heard. Some members of the Youth Parliament even took part in my project when they were at school!

In many ways the motto of the Blue Balloon Children’s charity, ‘Today’s hope for a better tomorrow’ can also be applied to these young people who represent the voices of all young people in Wales –helping to make a difference.

The Arts as part of our Welsh identity.

Wales as a nation has a strong sense of belonging and identity. This is shown in so many ways, especially through the arts. We celebrate Wales as the Land of Song, so music is a strong part of our heritage; but so are poetry, drama and the visual arts. Inspiration comes from many sources. Artists have for many centuries been fascinated by the landscapes of Wales: the mountains, sea and sky.

It is important that we take a close look at our immediate environment, and whilst talking to people young and less young throughout the project, we talked about many issues that are having an effect on where we live. The environment around us can help to start discussion, and we showed our feelings about our environment through our landscape artworks. We must never lose sight of the importance the arts plays in society and how it can be very positive for our wellbeing and sense of who we are.

Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Diversity and Inclusion

Neurodiversity is about recognising that people think about things differently. Most people’s brains work and interpret information similarly, however, others interpret information in different ways. This is just another way of accessing your environment.

Why it’s important that organisations embrace and support neurodiversity in the workplace

Organisations are realising that a diverse set of skills, experiences, perspectives and background fosters innovation. In turn, this can  increase productivity, customers’ needs are better catered for, along with shaping products and services offered.

The National Autistic Society reports that only 16% of adults with autism are in full time work. Many people with autism can work and are enthusiastic to find jobs which reflects their talent and interests. With a little understanding and small adjustments to the workplace, they can be a real asset to businesses across the UK.

What we are doing to attract and retain neurodivergent people

  • We have raised awareness of neurodivergent conditions, such as autism, among colleagues and managers, so that they are best placed to support neurodivergent colleagues in the workplace.
  • We have provided training for line managers on supporting and managing colleagues with autism.
  • We are constantly refining our job descriptions to give candidates a clearer sense of what’s involved in the job role.
  • We have taken steps to update our candidate packs. We are in the process of redesigning our recruitment webpages to ensure we are accessible to all.
  • We are currently reviewing our recruitment processes to maximise inclusion by ensuring our values are aligned with our recruitment.
  • We work with candidates to understand what support, if any, they will need if appointed. This can involve  adjustments to the sensory environment, such as providing quiet spaces to work, assistive software, noise-cancelling headphones, buddying and sensory aids.

 The Assembly Commission is a signatory of the Government’s Disability Confident Campaign – we are a Disability Confident Employer and have also been awarded the National Autism Society Autism Friendly Award.

As an employee at the Assembly Commission with a diagnosis of Autism and ADHD, I feel accepted for who I am, as a person living with these disabilities. The organisation has been very supportive towards my wish to work part-time as this is so suitable for my needs.

It was a great honour to deliver a presentation at a staff training session about autism where I had the chance to talk about my personal experiences in this area. This specialised staff training session greatly helped me and my line manager understand my needs and reasonable adjustments have been carried out as a result.

I look forward to continuing to gain more skills and experience during my employment here and continue to avidly contribute to the day-to-day running of the organisation.”

Assembly Commission employee

 

Promoting a Family Friendly Workplace

Diversity and Inclusion Week

This week, we are celebrating Diversity and Inclusion. Here at the Assembly, we work tirelessly  towards developing policies and procedures that support our goal of being an inclusive employer, helping us develop an organisational culture where people can be themselves, but also thrive and achieve their potential.

We work with our Workplace Equality Networks (WENs) to ensure that our employees can talk to and be supported by like-minded people. Staff who identify as a protected characteristic can come together and support each other, as well as offer advice on how we can become a more inclusive employer.

We recognise that it is increasingly becoming harder to juggle our day to day lives with our work, and so we are proud to have a range of flexible working arrangements which include flexi-time, part-time working, working from home, job share opportunities and career breaks. Our flexible working arrangements have consistently  earnt us a spot on the Top 30 Family Friendly Employer list.

Our TEULU Network is our working parents and carers WEN and its purpose is to:

  • raise awareness and understanding of needs and barriers to inclusion within the workplace;
  • influence and develop a range of policies, services and training around issues that could affect working parents and carers;
  • promote the rights and participation of working parents and carers in all aspects of the policies, practices and procedures within the Assembly Parliamentary Services;
  • actively contribute to the development and review of relevant policies via equality impact assessments; and
  • gather and promote information on a range of issues pertinent to working parents and carers

My Work Experience Week: Iwan Kellett

My name is Iwan Kellett and I am a sixth form student at Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones, Amlwch. Over the week from the 17th to the 21st of June I had the opportunity to go on work experience to Rhun ap Iorwerth AM’s Constituency Office on Anglesey, and I was here for 3 days a week. For the other two days I went to Rhun ap Iorwerth’s Office in Tŷ Hywel, Cardiff.

On my first day I was in the Constituency Office in Llangefni. Immediately I was surprised to see the variety of work taking place. In the morning we visited a fantastic exhibition at MENCAP Hub showing portraits of users of the Hub. Then back in the office I learned how the office provides support and help constituents. In the afternoon we went to Gors Goch in Llanbedrgoch to learn more about the work of the North Wales Wildlife Trust there. It was amazing to learn that I lived so close to an area that is so important in nature, and never been there before!


For the next two days, I flew down to Cardiff from Valley to go to the office in Tŷ Hywel, Cardiff Bay. There was another man on mentorship called Mo so on arrival we went for a tour of the site and found out more about how the Senedd and Tŷ Hywel work. After arriving back to the office I translated a document for release to the press then immediately we went to visit the BBC which was running an event to discuss broadcasting issues in Wales. Then after lunch I sat and listened to FMQ’s. It has to be said, that I was a little bit starstruck walking around seeing the different Assembly Members. I even got my book signed by Adam Price! Down in Cardiff I also helped to write a speech and go to a note-taking meeting.


For the rest of the week I was back in Llangefni responding to the pains of constituents and trying to help them and writing e-mails to try and help them with a wide range of issues.


The week has been amazing! I’ve learned so many things and the experience really has been great! It has been an eye-opener for all the work that the office does and of course the Assembly Member. Listening to national issues in the chamber and to hear local problems in the constituency office. For anyone thinking of going on work experience to the office, do it! It has been an amazing experience, thanks to Rhun ap Iorwerth and Non ap Gwyn (Office Manager) for a great week.

Look for the sunshine in the rain

Guest post from Bleddyn Harris, Organisational Development and Training Officer  – National Assembly for Wales. Diversity and Inclusion Week.

Rainbow

Noun

An arch of colours visible in the sky, caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun’s light by rain or other water droplets in the atmosphere.

When Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag, I wonder if he ever truly understood how – alongside becoming an unapologetically fabulous and auspicious protest against the undue discrimination of love and identity – it perfectly encapsulated the experience of the many LGBTQ individuals who have used it as a shield in a world that doesn’t appear to want them: sunshine and rain, all at once.

When I think about being gay, I often come to the conclusion that it has been the single most painful and healing experience I have endured. Not that being gay is a painful experience, more that it has been the excuse so many have used when they have left me raw and exposed, often, and paradoxically, in the name of ‘love’. It has been a catalyst for people who do not know me, who will never meet me, who will never accept me, who will never love me, to call for me to be made illegal, to erase my history, to want me in jail, to think to beat me up, to stop me from getting married, to want me dead. See, it’s not all unicorns and drag queens, is it?

I don’t quite like to say that being my authentic self is in spite of the kinds of people I have named above because I feel it attributes all of the battles I have had to win with my self-esteem and self-acceptance to a bunch of people who will never care… but, yes, being myself is totally in spite of those people because I want them to know that I won’t let their bigotry get in the way of me living my life full of colour and with a love they seek to deny me.

I know, I know, I’m harping on about the negative aspects of this experience, but it’s only because I think the struggle is often overlooked by the idea that the community, specifically gay men, are a collective group of audacious and colourful people who are happy to be bold and bright and beautiful in their own way, no matter what. There’s never really a discussion about the internal monologues, the struggles, the fear we have when we walk down the street because ‘do I look too gay? Am I walking funny? People are looking: I should stop holding my partner’s hand’.

I feel this struggle, as well as everyone’s entirely personal and different experience of being a part of the LGBTQ community, was summed up in a conversation I had with a friend over dinner: we were talking about an LGBT talk we saw at the Hay Festival that centred on the Stonewall Uprising and the struggles we’ve endured and the successes the community has been given – please note that we have to be given the same right as our heterosexual and cis-gendered counterparts which means they can just as easily be given away. The conversation led to a question of whether we would take a pill to make us straight. I immediately said no without much thought. My friend said yes. He asked me why I would choose to live a life of living on the outskirts of being ‘normal’, a life of constantly looking over your shoulder because you walk/talk a certain way, a life of feeling like you’re only ever tolerated and not truly accepted. I gently reminded him that sometimes you need to look for the sunshine in the rain and know that we are able to live the life so many people before our time died dreaming of: their prayers, strength, and rebellion still protect us.

If you’ve managed to stay with me, I’d like to pay homage to those who came before me that I’ll never be able to meet, that I’ll never be able to thank. Too many of their names and stories have been forgotten. Why? I don’t know. Is it society trying to erase our history? Maybe. Is it society attempting to avoid their guilt by not bringing it up? Possibly. Is this absence of heroes still affecting the lives of millions of LGBTQ individuals who still feel like they don’t belong? Absolutely. Whatever it is, I mourn it. I mourn the history, the pride, the art, and the wisdom that has died with the gay men, the lesbians, the trans and non-binary individuals, people who are bi, the activists, the lovers, the thinkers, the queers, the ones who loved too much, the ones who trusted too much, the ones who made a silly mistake on a night out because they were trying to escape the cruel reality of their world filled with an unfiltered and unneeded hatred. I’m angry at how the lives, loves, and loss of these people are constantly being undermined in countries around the world. I’m angry that I’m still illegal in over 70 countries. I’m angry that there are protests against teaching children about different family dynamics. I’m angry that people are ignoring the fact that LGBTQ individuals are more likely to be affected by mental health issues. I’m angry that people think that our struggle is over because some laws have been changed to protect us.

But would I take a pill to make me straight? Absolutely not.

If I had to do it all over again, I would. I’d go through all the bullying, the rejection, the being told I have a demon inside of me that must be prayed away, being told I should die, being told I’m not worthy, being told that God doesn’t love me, being told I shouldn’t have been born, being told I’ll burn in hell, being asked to leave the church, being spat on nights out, being told I’m not a real man, being told I’d never be happy, because accepting myself and learning, each and every day, to love myself in the face of adversity has been worth it.

I don’t know where I’d be today if I didn’t have the courage to accept myself and allow myself the love to find out who I am: a proud gay man.

It’s for these reasons that I work at the Assembly and pursue an active role within the OutNAW network: with such an openly inclusive and diverse staff, it was important to me to work in a place central to the development of Wales who exhibits the culture we need to make sure no bi voice goes unheard, no trans individual is told they can’t be who they are, that no lesbian teenager is bullied for being herself, that no gay has to think about whether they would take a pill to be straight.

rainbow flag

Organisational Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

Guest post from Manon Antoniazzi, Chief Executive and Clerk  – National Assembly for Wales.

Today is the first day of our Diversity and Inclusion week.

The senior team and I are wholly committed to ensuring that as an employer and parliamentary organisation, we are an exemplar in our promotion of diversity, inclusion, equality and provision of accessible services.

In order to deliver this, we have developed our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and accompanying action plan which will help us deliver our diversity and inclusion vision and values.

The Strategy sets out how our staff deliver and promote inclusive, accessible services and achieve positive outcomes for people.

It will also help us plan how we comply with the duties placed on the Assembly Commission by the Government of Wales Act 2006 and also by the Equality Act 2010, covering each of the protected characteristics and other issues such as caring responsibilities, social mobility and other inequalities.

As an employer and service provider, our organisation is committed to ensuring that no-one is disadvantaged or discriminated against on these grounds: discriminatory behaviour will be dealt with via our disciplinary procedures. Also, as an employer, we encourage flexible working practices whilst accommodating our business needs.

In line with the Assembly Commission’s strategic goals, it is important to us that the Assembly continues to be accessible to the people of Wales and beyond: making it relevant, easy and meaningful for people to interact with it and contribute to its work.

It is also important to us that we behave as an inclusive employer, attracting and retaining talent, enabling everyone we employ to realise their full potential.

 


Manon Antoniazzi  – Chief Executive and Clerk


RESPECT

We are inclusive, kind, and value each other’s contributions in delivering excellent services.

PASSION

We are purposeful in our support of democracy and pull together to make a difference for the people of Wales.

PRIDE

We embrace innovation and celebrate our achievements together as a team.

WE ARE ONE TEAM

 

Scam HMRC Calls At The Assembly – What You Need To Know

You may have seen news reports about fraudulent callers posing as the HMRC, using National Assembly for Wales contact numbers. We wanted to explain a little bit about what’s going on and what you can do if you receive one of these calls.

About spoof calls

Callers are left a message saying they are being threatened with legal action, and are asked to call the number back. The number then leads to one of us here at the Assembly. Unfortunately, this is completely unconnected to any of our systems and we cannot stop this happening.

This type of scam is known as ‘spoofing’ – where a fraudster is able to fool the telephone network to give the person receiving the call a false caller ID.

It’s an issue that is also being experienced by other organisations with similar phone numbers. We have informed the National Crime Agency and Action Fraud of the issue and are also working with HMRC.

What to do if you receive a spoof call

If you’ve received one of these calls, please don’t call the number back. If you’re concerned, you can follow HMRC’s advice below.

Getting in Touch with the National Assembly for Wales If you need to get in touch with the National Assembly for Wales, you can contact us via:

Telephone: 0300 200 6565 – we welcome calls from people using Next Generation Text (NGT)

SMS: 07970 493958

Email: contact@assembly.wales

Access and complete our online enquiry form

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