Category: Digital Assembly

What can Wales do to address loneliness and isolation?

Figures from Age Cymru show that 75,000 older people in Wales feel lonely or isolated. Almost half of those surveyed said the television or a pet was their main companion.

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The National Assembly’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee has begun an inquiry looking how this issue affects older people in Wales. It will look at what support is available for older people and what more can be done to tackle the issue. The Committee will also look at the extent to which initiatives to combat loneliness and isolation experienced by other groups may also help older people.

There is evidence to suggest that loneliness and isolation can have a significant impact on physical and mental health and may be a cause of depression, sleep issues, stress, and even heart problems.

It’s therefore possible that preventing loneliness and isolation could  reduce the demand and pressure on health and social care services.

Loneliness and isolation are not the same thing – each can be experienced without the other. A person may feel lonely in a crowded room, isolated in a rural community or even vice versa.

The problem of loneliness and isolation has already been recognised by the Minister for Social Services and Public Health as an important public health issue, while the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales has made tackling the problem a priority.

The Welsh Government already has a set of indicators to check its progress towards the achieving its ‘well-being goals’ one of which is to monitor the ‘percentage of people who are lonely’.

The Committee will be looking at this complex subject and the  wide range of services which can have an impact on it such as health, social care and community services, transport and even internet access.

Chair of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, Dai Lloyd AM:

“Isolation and loneliness can affect anyone,  employed or retired, living in a town, city or the countryside.

We already know the issues affect a high number of older people. Tackling the problem could  both help individuals feel better and could also  mean less demand on our health and social care services.

If you or someone you know is, or has been, affected by issues of loneliness or isolation, or you are involved in work to support them, then we would like to hear about your experiences and what ideas you think could help.”

If you would like to contribute to the inquiry you can find more information, including how, on the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee pages on the National Assembly’s website.

The Committee will be holding a Facebook Live session on 25/01 at 17.00 to talk more about the inquiry and invite people to take part.

You can also keep up to date with what the Committee are doing via their Twitter account – @SeneddHealth.

Opening up the Assembly….

Opening up the Assembly….

In September, it will be twenty years since the people of Wales voted, by a small majority, to have their own National Assembly. It’s the only political institution the people of Wales have voted to have. Since it came into being in 1999, the Assembly has grown in power and responsibility. Six year ago, the people of Wales voted overwhelmingly to trust the Assembly with the power to make laws in Wales.

But how aware are people of the work done by the National Assembly as an institution, and its individual members as AMs? We know that sometimes people confuse the legislature, the National Assembly, with the executive, the Welsh Government. Late last year the Presiding Officer established a small group to look at how the Assembly can deliver engaging and accessible news and information about its work. That’s a big task, particularly at a time when news organisations are under increasing pressure and are focussing less on coverage of politics.

Our task force includes people with expertise in the media, open democracy projects like My Society, forward-thinking public institutions that have put digital communications at their heart, and specialists in digital learning and political communication. We’ve been asked to look at how best to increase levels of public understanding and engagement with audiences currently disengaged with politics and Welsh affairs.

The taskforce is considering how best to ensure that:

  • users of Assembly services, like the website, or Senedd TV, the live and recorded searchable ‘feed’ of Assembly proceedings, or the printed Record of Proceedings can more easily navigate around them, take and use data from them, adapt video and other content for their own purposes, and generally give a better user experience;
  • online services, including social media, can help the Assembly meet the needs of different audiences and customers;
  • how the Assembly’s committees communicate the work they are doing.

Interest in issues addressed by the Assembly, from health to housing, education to the environment, is high – but the Assembly doesn’t necessarily present itself in way that allows people to find things out simply and accessibly. Too often the Assembly seems institutional in its presentation, rather than being issue-led. People care about issues more these days than they care about institutions.

There may be other things which the Assembly needs to do to ensure it is communicating effectively with the people of Wales. People are now consuming information and news about politics in different and innovative ways, mainly through digital platforms. Most people now get their news online and increasingly from mobile, more and more frequently via news feeds such as Facebook’s. Young people overwhelmingly get their news in mobile form, often through social media such as Snapchat. How can the Assembly serve up its news in more digestible form using these platforms – or allow others to do this?

All media organisations are under pressure, and one of the newspapers previously covering the Assembly with a dedicated reporter has now cut that post. Most people will get their television and radio news from UK channels which rarely cover Wales and often rarely explain where policies in Wales differ from those in England, except in passing. The London newspapers, widely read in Wales, rarely mention Welsh politics or the Assembly. Does the Assembly, therefore, need to provide its own digital news platform with a small team of journalists providing news about the stories that are coming out of the Assembly? Such a platform could also provide material for the scores of local and hyperlocal news publications around Wales. This would not be a ‘government’ mouthpiece – quite the opposite. It would be the platform for what is happening in the place where the Welsh Government is scrutinised – the National Assembly – and headed by an impartial editor.

The Senedd’s physical design was intended to be symbolic of its role as a transparent public space for the people of Wales. It’s one of the most visited buildings in Wales, with more than 80,000 visitors every year. How can that visitor experience be improved, and how can people keep in touch with what is happening in the Assembly after their visit? Thousands of school students visit the Assembly every year: how should the Assembly link up with students, teachers and schools, possibly making use of the Welsh Government’s hugely successful Hwb+ bilingual learning platform hosting 580,000 teachers and learners? That’s something we’re asking the National Digital Learning Council to look at.

There are lots of ways the National Assembly seeks to read the pulse of the people of Wales – crowdsourcing responses to Brexit and other issues, polling people on inquiries and receiving thousands of responses. The taskforce’s work will complement this, seeking to ensure the Assembly behaves as an innovative democratic forum.

At the end of the day – it’s your Assembly. We want to hear your views on how the Assembly can best communicate with the people of Wales. Email us on digisenedd@assembly.wales with your views. We want to hear from you – after all, it’s a big year for the Assembly. In May, the Assembly celebrates its 18th birthday. That’s a milestone in any life.

Leighton Andrews is chairing the Presiding Officer’s Digital News Taskforce.

Culture, Welsh Language and Communications – Public decides on future committee inquiry

Over the last couple of months, the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee at the National Assembly for Wales has asked the people of Wales to decide what issues they should be investigating.

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Although Assembly committees regularly involve the public in its work, and have done so using a variety of techniques (including events, focus groups, web-chats, surveys, video interviews, workshops, and crowdsourcing apps), this is the first time an Assembly committee has asked the people of Wales to decide a future committee inquiry.

How they sourced ideas

The chair of the Committee, Bethan Jenkins AM sat down with James Williams from BBC Wales to talk about the newly formed committee on Facebook live, the first time the National Assembly had ever done so. Bethan encouraged people to get in touch, and make suggestions for priority areas.

The Committee invited people to suggest ideas on Facebook, Twitter and by e-mail, and also held an event at the National Eisteddfod to continue the conversation.

What people said

A number of suggestions were received from a mix of organisations, groups and individuals, which were then grouped and presented to the Committee.  The members then cross referenced this public list with the priority areas they had identified in a planning session they had held.

There was a lot of common ground between the Committee members’ priority areas and the public list, including:

  • how the ambition of achieving a million Welsh speakers can be achieved
  • concern at the continuing decline of local media and local news journalism
  • lack of portrayal of Wales on UK broadcast networks
  • the role of Radio in Wales
  • the remit, funding and accountability of S4C

Continue reading “Culture, Welsh Language and Communications – Public decides on future committee inquiry”

Digital devolution is here – Help us build a digital future for the National Assembly for Wales

Digital devolution is here – Help us build a digital future for the National Assembly for Wales

Claire Scantlebury, who heads up our Digital Communications Team, on why if you’re passionate about digital, the National Assembly for Wales could be the place for you.

I consider myself to be a bit of a digital engagement geek and it’s safe to say that everything about the potential of the online space excites me.

The possibilities around reach, real-time engagement, delivery of personalised content, the ability to hold virtual conversations, stimulate emotions, the speed of developments in technologies, trends, platforms, the ever changing motivations of audiences, big data, open data, user experience …  it’s endless!  I consider myself to be very lucky that every day I get to do what I enjoy.

It’s not only that I get to do what I love, it’s that I get to do it for such a great and important organisation.  Having recently joined the Assembly (coming from a private sector background) I don’t think I could have picked a more exciting time to join British politics. But whilst democratic engagement is high when it comes to certain topics (let’s not mention the B word), political engagement in Wales is something that needs to be addressed.

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The current climate combined with the way that people discover, access and consume content presents an interesting challenge and it’s one that digital can and should play a very important part in.  The role of political institutions is changing… almost daily.  The rules are changing, the lines are changing and the opportunities around e-democracy and the potential for reaching the disengaged are become a more and more important part of everyday society.

Being a part of the digital team at the National Assembly for Wales means that not only do we have the freedom and opportunity to innovate and be creative about how we use channels, platforms and messaging, but it also means we get to do all of that great stuff knowing that we’re positively contributing to the future of Wales.  It is such an exciting and amazing thing to do, but it’s a big task that’s getting bigger… which is why I’m looking for 2 new Digital Media Managers to join the team.

There’s also the question of the Welsh language on digital. We want Welsh speaking digital experts to lead the way on Welsh language digital innovation. That’s why we’ve made one of these posts Welsh essential, we want to tackle this challenge head on and realise it as an opportunity for Wales and the Welsh language.

Finally, if all of that isn’t enough to convince you, we also get to work in and promote our amazing estates; the Senedd and Pierhead in Cardiff Bay.

What is the role?

We’re a new team in the Assembly and our aim is to continuously shape the Assembly’s digital presence to reach, inspire, enable and inform the people of Wales about the work of the Assembly.

I’m looking for digital professionals who are passionate about using online to reach and engage Welsh citizens.  You should be confident in creating and delivering campaigns and content across all (or certainly the majority of) digital platforms and be familiar with best practice approaches – this is perhaps knowledge and skills that you’ve gained through previous experience in a digital marketing or digital content creation role.

If you want to innovate, push boundaries, be proactive and help us position the Assembly as a world leader in digital excellence then I want to hear from you so APPLY NOW!

Concerned about the future of the BBC in Wales? Put your question to Tony Hall, the Director General of the BBC

The Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee wants to hear from you before their meeting with Tony Hall, the Director General of the BBC.  The meeting takes place on 2 November and will be streamed live on Senedd.TV. The deadline for questions is 21 October.

On Twitter you can use #AskBBC or tweet the committee @SeneddCWLC.

You can also leave a comment on the Assembly’s Facebook Page or e-mail your question to SeneddCWLC@assembly.wales.

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Who is Tony Hall and what does he do?

 Tony Hall – the Lord Hall of Birkenhead – is the 16th Director General of the BBC. The Director General is the Chief Executive Officer of the BBC, its Editor-in-Chief.

To find out more about Tony Hall and the role of the Director General you can visit the BBC’s website.

Why is he coming to the Assembly?

The Assembly’s new Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee is currently looking at the impact of the BBC Charter and what the future of BBC programming in Wales will look like.

The Committee will be covering areas including the BBC Charter Review and the recently appointed role of ‘Director of Regions and Nations’.

BBC Wales’s annual budget is in excess of £150 million and produces programming for Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, television and online services. BBC Wales also makes 10 hours a week of TV for S4C.

In recent years the amount of English language content produced specifically for Wales has declined.

A message from Bethan Jenkins AM, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee:

The BBC is a cornerstone of many people’s media consumption and could be about to undergo a number of significant changes under the Charter Review.

 In some ways Wales benefits greatly from the BBC through its drama village in Roath Lock where Sherlock, Doctor Who and Casualty are filmed. All world-class productions which put us firmly on the map.

 But there is a lack of programming and content specific to Wales and recent budget cuts are deeply concerning

 So we will be asking the Director General what he thinks the BBC in Wales will look like in the future.

What is a committee?

 A committee is made up of a small group of Assembly Members from different parties who look at particular issues in more detail. They often seek input from external expert advisors and members of the community before making decisions.

Committees recommend ways in which (for example) government policies could be more robust and its expenditure more effective, efficient and economical. Committees engage proactively and innovatively with individuals and organisations which can articulate the voice and experience of the people of Wales.

Full list of National Assembly for Wales committees

Guest Blog – Opening up committees is a step forward for stronger democracy in Wales

Dr Andy Williamson, October 2016

It’s great to see the fifth National Assembly starting off with a strong intention to increase public participation. The Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee has already started, committee chair Bethan Jenkins asking the public to help shape what they talk about through a range of innovative and original channels.

This is the stamp of a modern legislature, one that is invested in strong democracy and the best interests of the people that it serves.

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Open, transparent and accessible legislatures are the way of the future and we can see this happening around the world:

  • in Westminster the Petitions Committee is drawing in new audiences to watch what their parliament is doing and to get involved in debates;
  • in Brazil and Chile legislation is shared online with the public, who can comment, amend and vote on those changes before they are referred back to members;
  • legislatures as diverse as Georgia, Paraguay and France are implementing strategies to increase public involvement in what they do and to ensure that is transparent and accessible;
  • Scotland, Italy and the Czech Republic are examples of parliaments who are providing real-time, open access to their data, whilst the Dutch and New Zealand parliaments provide online, fully searchable archives of their parliamentary record; and
  • Serbia and Peru are amongst the legislatures around the world actively partnering with civil society organisations, finding new ways to open up, reach out, listen and to share.

This is disruptive practice and even positive disruption brings challenges. Members can feel that increased participation encroaches on, some say threatens, their role in a representative democracy. In reality, experience shows us, it does the opposite. And we have to put innovations like this in context; members still make the decisions, they still decide on the majority of committee business. But in the age of social media and constant news, it quickly becomes obvious that being more engaged and better connected significantly benefits members who want to feel the pulse of their communities. The world over, our representatives have to accept doing their job not only in the full gaze of increased public scrutiny but with greater public involvement. This is a good thing; democracy is not about a vote every five years but having a voice every day.

The world has changed, forcing us to reshape the work of legislatures as more and more varied channels of public participation and interaction open up. To understand why this matters we first have to accept the benefits of greater public engagement, and those benefits are many. There are logistical challenges too, knowing which tools to use and not trying to own or control them (or the discussion). We have to develop a willingness to go where the people are, to use the tools they use, to choose what’s best for the job at hand.

A more informed and engaged public makes for a stronger democracy.

Creating new ways to give people a voice and get more involved in what their representatives are doing starts to break down the barriers of mistrust that have calcified across too many of our public institutions. It’s not a panacea, there is no silver bullet and people are slow to trust, quick to push their own agendas, to express frustration when they don’t get their own way. We can’t expect a system that has been distrusted, has often been perceived as closed and controlling, to change overnight and nor should we expect public attitudes to shift immediately either, that would be naive. This is an ongoing process, we need to be cautious and tolerant but equally to press ahead with the confidence of knowing that being more open is better for all of us in the long run.

Opening up committees can feel hard because it is hard. But it is both the right thing to do and necessary. It’s a reflection on the ongoing societal shift in our attitudes and approach to democracy, which will be easier to embrace if we can talk openly and honestly about what it means, for elected representatives, staff and the public.

Opening up committees is about inclusion. It’s about stronger representation, making democracy more participatory and how this benefits members and the public. Open democracy leads to better legislation, legislation that is thoughtful and appropriate, that is based on a wider set of views, immersed in the experiences of real people. Legislation that better reflects who we are. The world is complex and finding new, reliable ways of solving problems will be easier when we can effectively harness that significant reservoir of talent, knowledge and ideas that has lain untapped for far too long. To get there, we need more education, more information and more partners to promote greater political maturity and effective engagement.

We need more people, different voices, to be heard and heard more often. Inviting people into committees, asking them to help shape the agenda and giving them more space to be heard are positive steps forward. This trajectory towards more effective engagement is what modern democracy is all about.

Dr Andy Williamson is the Founder of Democratise and a Governor of The Democratic Society. He recently wrote the World e-Parliament Report 2016 and is co-author of ‘From Arrogance to Intimacy – A Handbook for Active Democracies’.

Culture, Welsh Language and Communications – Engagement firsts at the National Assembly for Wales

For the first time, the Assembly has established a Committee with specific responsibility for communications, culture, the arts, the historic environment, broadcasting and the media.

These issues are the things that enrich our lives, that fashion and explain our narrative as a nation, that are the soul of our unique culture and heritage, and help define what it is to be Welsh.

The new Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee is a group of eight Assembly Members from across Wales, who represent the five political parties which make up the Assembly. Over the summer, the Committee provided a variety of opportunities for people to get in touch and tell us what they thought the Committee should prioritise.

Committee Members

Back in July, the Assembly used Facebook Live for the very first time. Over 2,700 people watched Chair of the Committee, Bethan Jenkins AM talk about her hopes for the Committee. We had lots of ideas through the Facebook Live feed, on Twitter, and by e-mail.

The Committee also held an event at the Eisteddfod where people in attendance put forward their ideas and prioritise. One of those suggestions was that the Committee should look at Welsh Language usage among young people, considering the announcement the First Minister and the Minister for Life Long Learning and Welsh Language made about the aim of growing the number of Welsh speakers to one million by 2050.

With a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to get in touch, this is what you told us were your priorities…

Welsh language

  • How the WG aim to increase the number of Welsh speakers to one million by 2050, including Welsh language usage among young people
  • Welsh language in secondary education, including a proposal to get rid of the concept of second language education and replace it with one continuum of Welsh learning
  • Encouraging people to carry on using the Welsh language after they leave school
  • Bilingual support for deaf and hard of hearing people

Culture

  • Funding for and access to music education
  • A strategy to develop the music industry in Wales
  • Fees and terms for the visual and applied arts
  • Access to and funding of the arts at a grassroots and local level
  • How Wales supports its traditional and unique cultural arts
  • Progression of Expert Review into Local Museums report
  • The Wales brand

Heritage

  • Preserving local heritage in Wales
  • Cultural and historical education in Wales

Communications

  • What can the Welsh Government do to tackle the democratic deficit in Wales
  • The state of local journalism in Wales
  • Welsh media representation on a UK level
  • Funding for the Welsh media
  • The implications of the BBC Charter on S4C
  • Citizen participation and access to political information

The Committee took these suggestions into consideration whilst planning the big issues they wanted to tackle over the next 5 years. There was a lot of common ground between the suggestions the Committee received and some of the Committees priorities, including:

  • how the ambition of achieving a million Welsh speakers can be achieved
  • concern at the continuing decline of local media and local news journalism
  • lack of portrayal of Wales on UK broadcast networks
  • the role of Radio in Wales
  • the remit, funding and accountability of S4C

We have grouped the remaining ideas together, and want the public to decide which issue you think the Committee should investigate in the next couple of months, once the Committee has completed its work on the Welsh language strategy. This is the first time an Assembly Committee will have given the public the ability to so directly decide what its focus should be.

Get involved by completing and sharing this survey.

This is not to say that we will ignore all but the most popular issue. All of these responses will help us decide our priorities further down the line, and we intend to follow-up all of these areas, be that through a formal inquiry, by asking questions to Ministers or by seeking plenary debates.
The Committee is committed to engaging the range of individuals, groups, businesses and organisations in its work, and hope that by providing opportunities to directly affect the Committees work that it effectively represents the interest of Wales and its people.
More about the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee.