Category: Guest Blogs

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

Children’s Mental Health Week

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

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

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

The findings were stark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get the report

The Soldier’s Own Diary – a painting with a secret

Artists Scarlett Raven and Marc Marot are among the world’s first ‘augmentists’, mixing fine art and technology to tell poignant stories of the Great War through poems, animation and music.

Painting by Scarlett Raven and Marc Marot: A Soldier's Own Diary
Painting by Scarlett Raven and Marc Marot: A Soldier’s Own Diary

Scarlett is passionate about colour, her dynamic approach often sees her use her hands rather than a brush to apply oil paint. Her sweeping arm gestures create movement and direction, with the artist being likened to Anselm Kiefer and Jackson Pollock. Scarlett says:

“The paint is thrown on, splattered and flicked. When it lands, it captures the flowers blowing in the wind. The movement must be in every layer, so when you step back you feel like the landscape is alive. It creates a whole world of magic.”

Marc Marot, who enjoyed a successful career as a record executive before joining forces with oil painter Scarlett, says:

“Our work is highly emotionally-charged, and its power lies in allowing our audience to immerse themselves in very powerful feelings. It takes them out of the here and now. We don’t hold an exhibition, we hold a visual experience.”

Their latest collaboration is ‘The Soldier’s Own Diary’, a unique oil painting which, when viewed through the Blippar app, tells the remarkable story of a Cwmbran prisoner of war named Robert Phillips.

How? Watch artist Scarlett Raven’s video to find out:

Robert Phillips was born in New Tredegar in 1893. He joined The Welsh Regiment in 1914, but following a gas attack he was captured at Ypres and sent to work at a camp 200 miles away in Homburg, Western Germany.

In 1916, after 15 months in German captivity, he managed to escape and began making his way home to Wales on foot. A fellow prisoner was an astrologer, and Phillips was able to navigate his way north to Holland using the stars as a guide. It took him months of walking at night, stealing chickens and eggs to survive the journey, before he finally made it back to Wales during the winter of 1916.

Artists Marc and Scarlett would like to thank Robert’s granddaughter Lynda Osbourne for allowing them into her home to both learn about him and photograph his original artefacts. These included his diary, which he kept in 1917 after returning to Wales and inspired the naming of the painting.

Prior to her death in 2015 Marc’s Wrexham-born mother made him promise to create a painting for Wales, so ‘The soldier’s own diary’ is dedicated to both her and the brave men of Wales who sacrificed so much.

Castle Fine Art Cardiff, which represent the artists, have kindly loaned us the painting in time for Remembrance so that it can be experienced by the people of Wales, many of whom can relate to the story of Private Phillips.

_________________________________________

‘The Soldier’s Own Diary’ forms part of our 2018 Remembrance programme, alongside ‘The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Wales’.

An organised women’s suffrage movement operated continuously in Britain for more than sixty years, with partial enfranchisement won in 1918 and equal voting rights with men finally achieved ten years later.  This exhibition aims to provide a snapshot of Wales’s part in this lengthy and multifaceted campaign, the photographs, images and artefacts seeking to illustrate some of its principal elements.

Exhibitions: ‘The Soldier’s Own Diary’ by Scarlett Raven and Marc Marot / ‘The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Wales’

Date: 1-25 November 2018

Location: Senedd, Cardiff Bay

L-R: Women's Freedom League, Cardiff branch; Suffragette Grand March, London 1918
L-R: Women’s Freedom League, Cardiff branch; Suffragette Grand March, London 1918. Copyright: MediaWales

 

The Senedd is currently open:

Monday – Friday 9:30 – 16:30

Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays (all year) 10:30 – 16:30

Further information for visitors, including information for those with an Autistic Spectrum Condition can be found on our website.

National Assembly for Wales Trip Advisor webpage

Senedd Facebook page

 

 

 

 

 

Kyffin Williams at the Senedd

 

Image of Llanddwyn Beach by Kyffin Williams from the private collection of Eryl Nikopoulos

Our blog post comes from David Meredith, Chair of the Kyffin Williams Trust ahead of the launch of the Kyffin Williams Exhibition at the Senedd. 

The Kyffin exhibition at the Senedd, through paintings and prints, represents Kyffin’s vast artistic output, is a fitting tribute to the genius of Sir John Kyffin Williams.

Painting for over 60 years, Kyffin became an expert in the use of the palette knife for his powerful creations, his landscapes, seascapes and portraits in oil. He was also a glorious and sensitive painter in watercolour as exemplified by his painting of flowers. Kyffin was also a keen exponent of prints.

An artist, a teacher and an influencer 

To Kyffin, the preparation and printing of black and white and colour prints of his oil paintings  – along with his masterly ink wash drawings, remarkably pleasing to the eye – meant that as many people as possible had access to art: the teacher in Kyffin was always to the fore. Before moving home to Anglesey in Wales in 1974 Kyffin had been the senior art master at Highgate School in London for 30 years. As an artist, Kyffin realised early in his career that painting was not just putting images down on paper or canvas, but that love and mood was involved in the act of painting.

Such was Kyffin’s artistic influence, status and appeal that the paintings exhibited at the Senedd are not only from galleries and museums but also from Government offices, from individual homes in different parts of Wales, from broadcasting centres (ITV Cymru Wales and BBC Cymru Wales) and from University Collections (Aberystwyth University). The glory of this exhibition is that most of the paintings featured here are a part of people’s everyday lives, paintings that surround people in the workplace and in the house as well as in academia and art galleries.

Kyffin Williams painting of Dr Huw T Edwards

A national treasure 

Sir Kyffin was truly a national treasure and a great benefactor to Wales, an artist by his own admission who painted in Welsh!

In a television interview in 2004. Sir Kyffin said that he ‘had painted thousands of paintings’. A few years previously, he had been criticised for painting too many paintings, only to reply to his critics with a remarkable limerick:

‘They said that enough was enough,
The output of work by old Kyff,
So they finally put strictures
On his output of pictures
So the output of Kyffin was nothing!’

Kyffin had a wonderful sense of humour!

Luckily for us he continued to paint. As Professor Tony Jones, a fellow Anglesey man and Director of the Kansas City Art Institute said:

‘Kyffin’s way of painting, the look and the style of his work, is distinctive, personal, unique – but is also immediately accessible to a wide audience … he captures the hanfod, the essence perhaps even the DNA of the Welsh landscape and he put it all in the paint.’

Kyffin’s friend and fellow artist Gareth Parry once said of Kyffin’s liberal use of paint that it was good enough to eat! Gareth always encouraged people to practically put their nose in it and revel in Kyffin’s palette knife markings.

You can visit the Kyffin Williams Exhibition at the Senedd from 4 – 31 October 2018.

Find out more about visiting the Senedd here.  

David Meredith

Kyffin Williams painting "Cymglas"

 

Strengthening the quality of our Welsh democracy

Guest blog from Dr Elin Royles, Aberystwyth University.

The Senedd building in Cardiff Bay, Wales

The ‘Creating a Parliament for Wales’ consultation sets the direction for the next stage of Wales’ devolution journey.

It presents an important contrast to the real threat that the UK Government will centralise rather than transfer devolved powers back to the National Assembly for Wales in the EU Withdrawal Bill. Indeed, rising above the lack of respect and undermining of devolution, the consultation builds upon the 2011 referendum result.

It prepares the way for understanding how the people of Wales wish to see powers included in the Wales Act 2017 utilised. And there’s an opportunity for us all to contribute to the discussions.

A strong basis for the consultation was established by the Expert Panel on Electoral Reform established by the Assembly Commission. They took evidence and evaluated a range of matters in order to develop informed and robust recommendations regarding electoral reforms for Wales.

Personally, what’s extremely important about this consultation is that it provides an opportunity for the people of Wales to voice their opinions on proposed to enable the Assembly to work in a more effective way.

It tackles some key issues that have challenged the devolved body since its early years, such as the number of Assembly Members, and also influence how to strengthen the quality of democracy in Wales into the future.

View into the debating chamber in the Senedd

Even back in 1999 when the Assembly was a newly-established body with limited powers, the implications of the limited number of 60 Assembly Members soon became apparent.

From the Richard Commission, to the All-Wales Convention to the Silk Commission, independent reviews have called for increasing the number of elected members. In each case, they knew all too well that proposing more elected politicians is far from popular.

Nevertheless, they recommended increasing the number of members in order to strengthen the Assembly’s capacity to scrutinise the government’s work and legislation. Indeed, the Silk Commission suggested that there were real threats to how Wales is governed without increasing the number of AMs owing to high-level pressures and the constraints on their ability to scrutinise and fulfil their legislative duties effectively.

Given the increasing pressures, it’s no surprise that the Expert Panel has also recommended increasing the Assembly’s size to at least 80 members. A decrease in parallel in the number of elected members at other levels of government would also be a welcome step.

In seeking to strengthen Welsh democracy in the future, the Panel’s recommendations to reduce the minimum voting age in Assembly elections to 16 years old is an important step in order to raise political awareness and participation amongst young people.


Creating a Parliament for Wales

This is the start of a new phase of devolution and now is your chance to tell us how you want your National Assembly to be.

Get started >


In our research into Language, Education and Identity as part of the WISERD ESRC Civil Society Research Centre we have interviewed 16+ year-old students in schools and FE colleges across Wales, including asking them on their views on politics and voting.

A number of them expressed a strong desire to have the right to vote from 16 years old. The extension of the vote to 16 year olds during the Scottish Independence Referendum raised expectations amongst young people.

In our research, a number expressed disappointment (and stronger feelings at times) that they did not have the opportunity to vote in the Referendum on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

At the same time, the research confirms that there are higher levels of interest in politics amongst some young people than would be expected, and that they tend to be unsure and lack confidence regarding their levels of understanding of the political process.

Consequently, alongside establishing 16 as the voting age for Assembly elections, we need to increase and formalise the political and citizenship education that our young people receive.

Whilst there are distinctively Welsh arrangements in place in terms of personal and social education and the Welsh Baccalaureate, the research suggests that reforms are needed to better equip young people.

We need citizenship and democracy education that not only provides young people with more information but is high quality by extending opportunities to discuss and debate political topics.

These are essential steps in order to improve the quality of democracy in Wales in the future.

Do join in the discussions.


Information about the Centre for Welsh Politics and Society – WISERD@Aberystwyth

The Centre for Welsh Politics and Society – WISERD@Aberystwyth is an interdisciplinary research centre at Aberystwyth University, which aims to develop our understanding of politics and modern society in the context of a connected world, supporting and undertaking world-class research in the social sciences and contributing to public understanding and policy development in Wales.

We at the Centre for Welsh Politics and Society are delighted to be collaborating with the Assembly Commission on an event in Aberystwyth on 15 March as part of the ‘Creating a Parliament for Wales’ consultation.

The event is being held at 18.00 on Thursday 15 at the Arad Goch Centre, Bath Street, Aberystwyth.

 

Future Senedd Consultation

Strengthening our democracy: your chance to have your say

Guest post from Helen Mary Jones, Morgan Academy Deputy Director

The Senedd, Cardiff Bay

At a personal level I should declare an interest.

I served as a member of the National Assembly for 12 years between 1999 and 2011, so I have some strong views about how our Assembly works, and how it could be made more effective.

But this is not about my views. March 12 is just one of many opportunities for everyone in Wales to look at the changes proposed and put their views forward.

There has been quite a lot of coverage in the media about some of the Expert Panel’s proposals, including increasing the number of AMs, changing how we elect them and constituency boundaries to improve representation, and reducing the age at which people can vote to 16.

These are really important issues but I would like to draw attention to two other issues the Consultation addresses.

For the first National Assembly election in 1999 the two largest parties elected, Labour and Plaid Cymru, used different affirmative-action procedures to ensure women were selected in winnable seats.

This wasn’t straightforward for either party to achieve.

The result was a large proportion of women elected, then the Western world’s first gender balanced parliament in 2003.

The resulting balanced Parliaments – which were subject to numerous academic studies – went on both to create a different political atmosphere, with more attempt to work by consensus, and to pay due attention to issues that often fall off the radar, such as the promotion of equality and children’s rights.

Since then we have seen the percentage of women elected to the Assembly decline. The Expert Panel suggests measures to halt this decline, including legislating for gender equality quotas and enabling people to stand for election as a job share. I think this is well worth considering. What do you think?

Then there is the question of who should be eligible to vote.

There has been considerable discussion of the proposal to reduce the voting age to 16. Another interesting proposal has received less attention. At present UK citizens, Commonwealth citizens and citizens of other EU member states who live in Wales are able to vote in Assembly elections. We don’t know of course what the status of EU citizens currently living in Wales will be after Brexit.

One simple way to resolve all the complexities that may arise is just to allow everyone who is legally resident in Wales to vote, in line with the Welsh Government’s proposals for local council elections. This seems fair to me. Everyone who lives here, regardless of their technical citizenship status, has a stake in what happens to Wales. So surely they should have a say in who runs Wales? What do you think?

I’d urge everyone to think about the issues this consultation raises.

This sort of constitutional debate can seem as dry as dust. But in fact this is all about how we get the right people in place to make and scrutinise the right decisions about issues that affect us all; our health service, what our children study in schools, our environment.

This is our chance to contribute to the debate around building a Welsh Parliament that really represents us all and will really work for us all.

Come along on March 12, attend one of the other meetings, go online and respond to the consultation there.

Make your voice heard.


The Morgan Academy is a new public affairs unit established by Swansea University.

Our aim is to take world-class research and use it to inform the development of policy to address the most challenging issues facing Wales and the world today.

We are very proud of our developing partnership with the National Assembly for Wales and we are pleased to be hosting this important event on March 12 to enable citizens of Swansea and the region to have their say on the exciting proposals being put forward by the National Assembly’s Expert Panel to grow and strengthen our democracy here in Wales.

 

Future Senedd Consultation