Category: Assembly People

Wales needs a step-change in emotional and mental health support for Children and Young People.

An interview with Lynne Neagle, Chair of the Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee.

The Committee is launching its report on the step-change needed in emotional and mental health support for children and young people in Wales. Why did the Committee choose to look at this issue at this time?

We know that mental health is a huge issue for young people, that 1 in 10 young people will have mental health problems and that most of those mental health problems start at a relatively young age in their teenage years.

It’s the biggest area of concern raised with the Children’s Commissioner, it’s also a big area of concern that’s raised with services like the ChildLine helpline and it was also an issue that featured very strongly when we asked stakeholders to share their priorities with us.

What were the Committee’s main aims for the inquiry?

They were twofold: We wanted to revisit the work of our predecessor committee which did a major piece of work on Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services back in 2014.

That led to the Welsh Government investing a significant amount of extra money in these specialist services, so we wanted to see whether progress had been made.

We also then wanted to look specifically at what work is being done around the need to build emotional resilience in our young people with a particular focus on early intervention and prevention – a lot of our inquiry has looked at whether that work is underway and how effective it has been.

What are the Committee’s main findings from this report?

It’s a big report with some 27 recommendations, but we’ve made one key recommendation that we think is the most important – that much more needs to be done in terms of early intervention and building our children and young people’s emotional resilience.

We believe that schools and education are absolutely key to that.

Due to the reform of the new curriculum we’ve got a once in a generation opportunity to actually embed learning about emotional resilience into our schools. But it’s not just about the curriculum – it’s also about making sure that everyone who comes into contact with young people understands the importance of emotional resilience and feels comfortable and able to talk to young people about it.

We think it’s crucial that health services work closely with schools to help support this step-change – teachers cannot be expected to shoulder this on their own,

Were any of the findings a surprise?

Personally, I expected the need for early intervention to be a key theme but what was notable was how strongly that came across, and from how many different stakeholders.

These varied from third sector organisations like the Samaritans to the police who, during the course of the inquiry, called for the curriculum to include mental health.

I think that has been the standout issue and unless we get that aspect right, a lot of the other pieces aren’t going to work.


Children and adolescent mental health services

Tackling emotional and mental health issues among children
and young people must now be a national priority.

Read more >


In 2014, a predecessor Committee was told that too many children and young people were being incorrectly referred to specialist mental health services and that they needed to be helped in other parts of the system. 4 years on has that situation changed?

There have been some improvements but I think it is still the case that too many young people are being referred inappropriately.

That is a symptom of the fact that we haven’t got early intervention services right.

If the earlier services aren’t there then people will still fight for a referral to specialist CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health services). So although there’s been progress I don’t think that progress has been strong enough.

Whilst the education system is key to making improvements in this area, we are also very concerned about primary mental health care – we came to the conclusion that the improvements in that area that we should have seen by now have simply not emerged.

We don’t think this is acceptable.

In terms of the Welsh Government, in 2015 they established the ‘Together for Children and Young People Programme’ to improve emotional and mental health services for children and young people in Wales. Is the Committee confident that the Welsh Government is doing everything it can in this area?

Obviously the programme is very welcome. It’s introduced a focus on specialist CAMHS and extra resources, which are very welcome.

But I don’t think the focus on early intervention and universal resilience has been sufficient at all. It was meant to be a clear workstream within the programme and I don’t think we’ve seen the progress that we should have seen in that area.

The other area where I would have liked to have seen more progress is primary mental health care services for children and young people.

We were told that it’s going to be a focus for the programme in the next few months – my question then would be, why hasn’t it been in there as a key feature for the last three years?

What is the Committee hoping to see following the publication of this report?

We’ve made one key recommendation and 27 other detailed recommendations. Given the evidence that underpins them, we expect the Government to give them very serious consideration and we’re obviously hoping that it will accept all of them.

As important as the early intervention work is, it is also vital that young people who need a specialist service get that specialist service in a timely way.

As such, our intention is to follow up on every one of those recommendations very vigorously.

We are going to be returning to this issue on an ongoing basis and continuing to scrutinise the Welsh Government‘s progress in this area because it’s something that we absolutely have to get right. The report says we’ve got to see a step change.

I don’t want to be sitting in committees five years from now hearing yet again that mental health services for children and young people aren’t good enough – we have got to get this right this time.

Get the report

Read the full report and find out more about the work of the Children, Young People and Education Committee via the National Assembly for Wales’ website. You can also follow the committee on Twitter @SeneddCYPE.


If you want to talk to someone about your emotional well-being and mental health, you can contact:
Meic Cymru on 080880 23456 or text on 84001 or through their online messaging service

Or C.A.L.L Helpline on 0800 132 737 or text ‘help’ to 81066

‘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.

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.

Towards a Parliament that Works for Wales

Elin Jones AM, Llywydd of the National Assembly for Wales, delivered the Annual Lecture of the Wales Governance Centre (Cardiff University) on Wednesday 6 December 2017 at the Pierhead  in Cardiff Bay.

A full video of the lecture is available on YouTube or you can read the transcript below….

It gives me great pleasure to be with you this evening and I’m grateful to you, the Wales Governance Centre, for the invitation and opportunity to deliver this lecture as another term and indeed another year draws to a close.

Difficult term

The past few months have not been easy, to say the very least. The sadness which struck the Assembly in light of Carl Sargeant’s death has been accompanied by a whole range of emotions, questions and reactions which will no doubt continue for many months to come. And throughout it all, as Llywydd, it has been my duty to ensure that our Assembly treats Carl’s family with the respect they deserve, and that our Members have been able to mark the passing of a close colleague with the dignity expected of our national democratic legislature.

I have no doubt that our small, but perfectly formed circular chamber provides strength to our politicians – both at times of scrutiny when they want to challenge, to confront or to remonstrate, or on those rare occasions, when we want to unite – sometimes in defiance, but also to express grief and pride. It is during these times that I am most proud to be the Llywydd – when our democratic institution becomes a focal point for a collective national expression. And it’s during the difficult times, that the Assembly demonstrates true resilience and endurance.

For me, a member of the Assembly’s class of ’99, old enough to recall the disappointment of ’79, this resilience continues to be a remarkable phenomenon. For some here this evening it is what they have always known and have come to accept and expect of us.

The Brett and Wil Generation

There are some young, first year politics students in the audience this evening who have made quite an impression on me over recent weeks – you may have seen Geneva, Aisha, Brett and Wil on the Sunday Politics Show recently, speaking eloquently about how we can make politics and the political environment in Wales better for the next generation. This is the generation which is ready and waiting to take on the baton into the middle part of this century – if not before.

Brett and Wil had already secured a starring role on television a few weeks earlier when they rushed over, with great excitement, to the Welsh Government’s Office in Cathays Park after hearing there was a reshuffle underway. They declared this on Twitter – I think I may have retweeted one of them – only to be interviewed later by ITV Wales. And it was during a discussion with reporter Rob Osborne, they revealed that remarkably they had no memory of any time at all when Jane Hutt was not a government Minister.
Listening to them speak, I started thinking about their ages, which I have since confirmed, and I worked out that I was campaigning as a candidate in the first ever election to the National Assembly for Wales when each one of these students – or political pundits as I’m sure they’d now like to be known – was born, between July 1998 and February 1999.

As one of those considered to be the ‘young intake’ of that first National Assembly, it is a sobering fact when you realise that you have been an elected Member throughout the lifetime of an entire new generation. To take it a step further, Wil, who is from Aberystwyth, has never ever had another constituency AM apart from Elin Jones. And long may that be the case!

This is the generation that considers Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones as household names. Brett tells a funny story of how he once went on holiday in a caravan on the same site as Rhodri Morgan. To him it was a perfectly natural, ordinary thing to camp in a grassy field next to the leader of your nation’s government.

For Brett, Wil, Aisha and Geneva – this is the Wales they know, this is who we are. The National Assembly is as much a part of this nation’s identity as Calon Lan, Parc y Scarlets or Gareth Bale.

There are now three generations of Welsh devolutionists – the fighters, the founders and the future:

  • The fighters are those who spent most of their lives battling for self-government, only to succeed and then pass it on to the next generation
  • The founders are those of us who have had the duty to enshrine the Assembly’s place and status in the nation’s psyche and to solidify the foundations upon which it has been built
  • And then there’s the future, the next generation – those who want to run with it and make it thrive. And I’m not just talking about our future politicians. This applies to our future leaders in other areas too who contribute to the politics of Wales outside the elected arena: the academics, the economists, the policy makers, the statisticians, the psephologists, and the commentators. For these people – indeed for all the people of Wales, whether they are interested in politics or not – we have a duty to strengthen the core of our democratic institution.

Continue reading “Towards a Parliament that Works for Wales”

The Wales Act 2017 – A new chapter for devolution in Wales

2018 will see new powers being given to Wales, but what difference could it make to you and life in Wales? 

SeneddInk

On 18 September 1997, the people of Wales voted in favour of the creation of the National Assembly for Wales.

Since then, devolution in Wales has been through a number of changes (with as many different settlements as there have been Welsh rugby grand slams—a particularly successful period for Welsh rugby!).

The Assembly and Welsh Government were formally separated, the Assembly took on primary law-making powers, Legislative Competence Orders came and went, the power to pass Measures became a power to pass Acts, and Wales received powers to raise taxes and borrow money.

On 31 January this year, the Wales Act 2017 received Royal Assent, marking the start of the next phase of Welsh devolution. But what does it mean for Wales?

The introductory text to the Act describes it as “An Act to amend the Government of Wales Act 2006 and the Wales Act 2014 and to make provision about the functions of the Welsh Ministers and about Welsh tribunals; and for connected purposes”. What this means in practice is that the Act:

  • Includes for the first time a declaration that the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government are permanent parts of the UK’s constitutional and political landscape;
  • Introduces a new model of devolution: a reserved powers model (similar to that in place in Scotland);
  • Gives the Welsh Ministers new powers in areas such as energy, planning, roads and harbours;
  • Gives the Assembly new powers over its own internal, organisational and electoral arrangements;
  • Establishes the concept of Welsh tribunals and a President of Welsh tribunals.

Clearly the Act will provide the Assembly with greater control over some areas, in particular Assembly elections. However it also reserves control over other policy areas to Westminster including, notably, the legal jurisdiction of Wales.

Most provisions of the Act will come into force on the day to be specified by the Secretary of State for Wales, known as the Principal Appointed Day, which is the 1 April 2018. The tax raising powers provided by the Wales Act 2014 will come on stream on the same day.

So what changes can we expect as a result of the Wales Act 2017?

Naturally the Welsh Government and Assembly will wish to use new powers gained to legislate to improve the lives of people in Wales. One other possibility is that the Assembly itself might change. In November 2016, the Assembly Commission announced that it would take forward work to explore how the new powers in the Act might be used to reform the Assembly. This was followed by an announcement in June 2017 that, following a public consultation, the Commission would seek to change the name of the Assembly to Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru.

In addition, the Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform, tasked with looking at the number of Members the Assembly needs, how they should be elected, and what the minimum voting age should be, reported in December 2017. Read their report here.

Whatever the outcome of the Panel’s work, it is clear the next phase of devolution in Wales is just beginning.

Huw Gapper, Senior Constitutional Change Officer

Future Senedd Consultation

Diwrnod #ShwmaeSumae Day – Our guide to promoting Welsh in the workplace

Once again this year, Assembly Members and staff will mark Shwmae/Su’mae Day with a week of activities. Everyone will be encouraged to start all conversations in Welsh with ‘Shwmae’ or ‘Su’mae’, and leaflets and stickers will be distributed throughout the building to raise awareness of the day.

Dysgu Learn 2

Many of the activities will be aimed at the large number of learners in the organisation. Indeed, the Assembly is at the forefront of providing Welsh lessons in the workplace. There is a team of three internal tutors who provide lessons at all levels to Assembly Members and their staff and to Assembly Commission staff.

Be flexible for your staff and their needs

The team can offer flexibility in its provision: as well as offering formal lessons that follow the usual textbooks, it is also able to offer learners one-to-one sessions. Some of these sessions can focus on specific elements such as pronunciation or improving the skills of fluent Welsh speakers. There are dedicated sessions for entire services within the Assembly such as the security service or ICT service, with the sessions tailored to the specific needs of those services.

Dysgu Learn

Make it fun and natural

The team also occasionally organises more informal events – for example, during Shwmae/Su’mae Day or around St David’s Day, a quiz, treasure hunt etc are arranged. The Assembly Choir has recently been formed, in part to offer learners the opportunity to enjoy using their Welsh.

The team utilises the ability of Welsh speakers in the organisation by appointing mentors for learners. Therefore, instead of having a formal lesson only once or twice a week, learners have the opportunity to practice their spoken Welsh skills in a less formal atmosphere.

In order to ensure that more conversations begin through the medium of Welsh throughout the year, we provide ‘iaith gwaith’ lanyards or special lanyards for learners that the Assembly produced some years ago.

In summary…

Llyfrau Books

The ultimate aim is to increase the capacity of the whole organisation to operate as a naturally bilingual organisation. Increasing the number of Welsh learners who can communicate bilingually is one way of achieving that goal.

Here are some of the things that we have been doing to encourage learners in the Assembly:

  • producing laminated desk resources on different issues: general greetings and sayings; chairing meetings; answering the phone;
  • using other Welsh speakers in the organisation to become mentors for learners;
  • organising informal events such as ‘coffee and chat’;
  • holding taster sessions for beginners on specific topics such as general greetings or the national anthem;
  • awareness raising events such as exhibitions during St David’s Day, Shwmae Day or St Dwynwen’s Day;
  • asking staff to say ‘Shwmae’ to coincide with Shwmae/Su’mae Day.

Twenty quotes to mark twenty years since Wales said yes

Twenty years ago, on 18 September 1997, a referendum was held in Wales on whether there was support for the creation of an assembly for Wales with devolved powers. Here we take a look at that day and the journey it began with twenty quotes…

“Devolution is about harnessing the power of community – the diverse community that is the United Kingdom, and the national communities that through devolution can take their futures in their own hands.”

A quote from Tony Blair who in 1997 led Labour back to power for the first time since 1979 in a landslide victory. The Labour manifesto included a commitment to holding a referendum on the creation of a Welsh Assembly.

Tony Blair Neil Jenkins

“There are some variations across social groups in Wales. Women clearly support a Welsh Assembly – by 37 to 29 – while men oppose one by 43 to 38.

There is strong majority support for devolution among those aged 18 to 34, while a majority of those voters aged over 65 oppose an assembly.”

An extract from the results of a Guardian/ICM poll taken a week before the referendum vote.

Ron Davies

“Good morning, and it is a very good morning in Wales.”

This how Ron Davies, Secretary of State for Wales in 1997 and leader of the Yes campaign started his speech when the result was announced. Watch footage of his speech here. Ron Davies also famously described Welsh devolution as a “process not an event.”

“When you win a national campaign by less than seven thousand votes it makes every last leaflet, every last foot-step, every last door knocked, worthwhile.”

Leighton Andrews, former Assembly Member and Welsh Government Minister, reflects on the Yes Campaign in a recent blog for the IWA. 50.3 per cent of those who voted in the referendum supported devolution – a narrow majority in favour of 6,721 votes.

Following the referendum, the UK Parliament passed the Government of Wales Act 1998. The Act established the National Assembly as a corporate body – with the executive (the Government) and the legislature (the Assembly) operating as one. The first Assembly elections were then held on 6 May, 1999.

Siambr Hywel

“The people of Anglesey in the slate quarries of Caernarfonshire used to be known as Pobol y Medra, because their answer to the question, ‘Can you do this?’ was ‘Medra’—‘I can. That must be our message throughout Wales. Let the whole of Wales become Pobol y Medra.”

Alun Michael, having just become the First Secretary of Wales on 12 May 1999. Read the full Plenary transcript where he made this speech.

Continue reading “Twenty quotes to mark twenty years since Wales said yes”