Removing the barriers to encourage a diverse and representative audience into public life

Our guest post comes from Deputy Presiding Officer, Ann Jones AM as we mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December. 

Having been a politician for many years, I’ve been faced with numerous obstacles. Some of these have been due to my disability and I’ve worked hard to overcome these barriers. I’ve been lucky enough to have received a great deal of support from my family, colleagues and in the workplace which has had a big impact on my life.

I know first-hand that the barriers facing disabled people can be very off-putting and can discourage people from taking part in public life and politics. These are barriers that we need to remove in order to encourage a diverse and representative audience into public life.

Barriers which disabled people encounter may include:

  • Perceptual – based upon their views of accessibility or other people’s views of disabled people;
  • Environmental – based upon the accessibility of a physical space; or
  • Procedural – based upon the policies and procedures in place.

My mother was an inspiration to me and she made sure I was given all the opportunities that those without a disability had. This is what we need to do for the wider public, by breaking down these barriers.

A commitment to promoting diversity

I feel very privileged to be the Deputy Presiding Officer at the National Assembly for Wales. I’ve been keen to use my role to highlight issues of importance. The two themes which I’ve focused on to date include ‘Women in Politics’ and ‘Promoting an accessible Assembly’. Over the years, the Assembly has been awarded numerous prestigious awards for its commitment to inclusion and diversity.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index, where the Assembly is recognised as the Top Employer in the UK in 2018 and as one of the Top UK Employers for LGBT people each year since 2009
  • National Autism Society Autism Friendly Award
  • Ranked in the top ten UK employers, accredited by the Top Employers for Working Families organisation
  • Age Employer Champion Status
  • Action on Hearing Loss Louder Than Words charter mark, and Service Excellence Awards.

The Assembly is committed to promoting diversity, inclusion and equality of opportunity for staff and the people of Wales. There’s a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion team within the Assembly Commission along with an Assembly Committee (Equality, Local Government and Communities) that tackle these issues daily. Further to this, a report has been commissioned by the Assembly’s Remuneration Board to identify barriers and incentives for disabled people standing for election.

We are proud to have an accessible building and the policies, procedures and training in place to ensure that disabled people can fully participate in our democracy. Whether this be as an Assembly Member, a member of staff or a visitor.

But this has certainly been a journey. We have worked hard over a number of years to continue to improve the accessibility of our buildings and the support that we have in place for disabled people.

Designing an inclusive home from the inside out

When the architect of the Senedd was putting plans in place, I noticed that some of the design features weren’t taking disabilities into consideration. The big glass walls were completely transparent, making it very difficult for a person with a visual impairment to see. I put forth my idea to include visual aids such as large dots on the glass surfaces. I had to push the idea numerous times before it was agreed. After all, if it’s right for a person with a disability, it’s right for everyone. These are the small changes which make a big difference.

In 2017 I was fortunate enough to attend the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s inaugural conference for parliamentarians with disabilities in Nova Scotia, Canada. It was inspiring to hear the struggles and successes that people from all over the Commonwealth have experienced. I was very pleased to showcase Wales and our exemplar Parliament building. This has now been established as a standalone network by the name of Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities (CPwD). I hope that this will drive positive change throughout the Commonwealth and indeed the world, in politics and across public life.

Ann Jones at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’sAnn Jones with Kevin Murphy, speaker of the Nova Scotia Assembly in Canada inaugural conference for parliamentarians with disabilities in Nova Scotia, Canada
Ann Jones AM with Kevin Murphy MLA, Speaker of the Nova Scotia Legislative  Assembly in Canada

I would encourage all disabled people reading this blog to consider what role you can play in public life, whether through volunteering in your community, applying for a public role or by standing as an Assembly Member.

It’s important that on this International Day of Persons with a Disability we remember that disabled people have a voice that needs to be heard and that any barriers to participation should be challenged and removed. We all have a role to play in helping to identify and remove barriers for disabled people.

Elected Members have an important role to play, whether disabled or not, to give a voice to the needs of disabled people.  Having campaigners and advocates are also very important but the value of having elected representatives who have experienced difficulties and tackled them is invaluable. This is why more needs to be done, to strive for equality and inclusion in all aspects of life.

“Walk the prom and always kick the bar!” – Why you #LoveAber

From 3 – 7 December 2018, the National Assembly for Wales will be bringing a week full of its regular activities, special exhibitions and public engagement events to Aberystwyth as part of our Senedd@ campaign.

We’re been asking you to share your #loveaber stories, memories and insights to form part of our exhibition, “Aberystwyth: Past, Present, Future”.

Award-winning author Jenny Sullivan was born and raised in Cardiff, but like so many others across the length and breadth of Wales (and indeed the World!), Aberystwyth holds a unique place in her heart.

Having lived in Brittany since 2004 she shares her favourite #loveaber memories and poem entitled “Aberystwyth”.

What is your favourite Aberystwyth memory?

Many damp days haunting the bookshops with the children when they were small. Aberystwyth was our “go-to” place when it was too wet for the beach!  (My worst memory is the sea-front hotel with a shower that had no water!)

What makes Aberystwyth unique?

The comfort and ease with which “Town and Gown” fit together.  And there’s something restful about Aberystwyth.  When I’ve been visiting local libraries and schools I used to try to stay on the sea-front.  I loved waking up in the morning to the sound of the waves.

How has Aberystwyth changed over the years?

Different shops:  some new buildings – but on the whole, not a lot!

Mind, I haven’t visited for a couple of years – I need some schools and libraries to invite me, please!

 ABERYSTWYTH

Sea rattles pebbles

claws at shale

worries the filigree pier

 

Front lines are the expendables:

Window-boxed brecwast-a-gwelies,

Three-flights-down for a bath;

Student halls, window-sills full

of bare feet and beer cans;

and “Llys y Brenin”

balconied apartments

(Expensive) for the crachach.

 

Sea makes sorties

chewing at the roots of

Constitution Hill.

 

Hippie shops and cafes creep

backwards, towards respectability.

Charity shops flare and die, and

The mighty rearguard Banks

(Barclays, Lloyds) oppress the odd posh shop and Woolworths, where

anoraked and steaming tourists flee the unrelenting rain.

 

The sea attacks

retreats, attacks,

hurls pebbles

 

Only Waunfawr observes

the town, sneaking out

the back way, regrouping

somewhere in the

mountains, while offshore,

Momentarily confused by groyns

the sea fires missile dolphins,

Gulps the crimson sun

and waits for booming night.

 

Jenny Sullivan

Credit: Pont, “Say That Again”

 

Visit www.assembly.wales/seneddaber to register and take part in our exhibitions and events. You can also send us your own #loveAber stories on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister set to hold its final meeting with Carwyn Jones AM

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | Read this post in Welsh

The Assembly Committee will meet on 16 November to question Carwyn Jones AM on his time in charge of the Welsh Government.

sfm-tw-senedd

What will the Committee be discussing?

The First Minister has announced his intention to step down in December 2018 and the Committee will be taking the opportunity to question him about his time in the role and the work of the Welsh Government since his appointment in 2009.

In particular the Committee will explore the outcomes of the Welsh Government’s main objectives over the last 9 years, key policies and legislative programme during this period, as well as the First Minister’s views on his achievements and any lessons learnt.

Committee Members will also have an opportunity to question the First Minister on topical issues during the meeting.

How can I watch?

You are welcome to come and watch the Committee proceedings in person. Space is limited so please book a place via our booking line.

If you can’t make it in person, the meeting will be available to watch live on Senedd.tv or you can catch-up after the event.

What does the committee do?

The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First of the Minister meets once during each Assembly term to explore specifically what the First Minister is doing in his role of overseeing the functions and performance of the Welsh Government. The chair of the Committee is the Deputy Presiding Officer Ann Jones AM. The membership of the Committee consists of the chairs of the other Assembly committees. See more on the Committee here.

What does the First Minister do?

The First Minister of Wales is the leader of the Welsh Government and is appointed by HM The Queen following nomination by Assembly Members in the Senedd.

The First Minister’s responsibilities include:

  • appointing the Cabinet of Welsh Ministers, Deputy Ministers and the Counsel General who comprise the Welsh Government;
  • chairing Cabinet meetings;
  • leading policy development and delivery;
  • managing relationships with the rest of the UK and internationally;
  • representing the people of Wales on official business, and staffing of the Welsh Government.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Welsh Women and the First World War

Guest blog by Dr Dinah Evans

Dr Dinah Evans
Dr Dinah Evans

This year the Assembly will be welcoming Dr Dinah Evans to deliver our annual Remembrance Lecture on the subject of ‘Welsh Women’s response to the First World War’.

Dr Dinah Evans taught Modern and Contemporary History at Bangor University until 2016. She is a member of the committee of Women’s Archive Wales and has a particular interest in the impact of the two world wars on Wales and Welsh society.

Her research into the impact of the First World War on Welsh women was published in a chapter in the book ‘Creithiau’ in 2016 and at present she is preparing for the publication, early in 2019, of her research into the post-war reconstruction of Swansea.

Here she introduces some of the issues covered in her lecture, looking at the role and contribution of Welsh women during the First World War, marking the centenary of Women’s Suffrage.

It is so very important that we understand the part played by both men and women in the First World War, because only then can we appreciate the totality of their effort and sacrifice.

These last years have brought alive the horrors of the First World War for so many people in this country. Many schools decided to take their pupils across to France and Belgium to visit the vast war cemeteries so that they could appreciate the magnitude of the sacrifices made. The brutal reality of the war has also been shown in graphic detail in exhibitions, documentaries and films. Ceremonies have been held and, across the country, great memorial displays of poppies have been constructed.

Much of the attention has focussed on the wartime experience of the men, many of them little more than boys, but these soldiers, sailors and airmen had mothers, wives, sisters and daughters and their wartime history is very important too. Across the age groups and class barriers of the time, women also played their part in the war effort. Some doing jobs that freed up men to go to fight, others organising auxiliary hospitals or fundraising.  For many women though, their experience of wartime work was very dangerous. Thousands of women and girls worked in armament factories across Wales, risking their health, and lives, as they made and (usually by hand) filled shells with explosives. Other Welsh young women trained as nurses and then travelled out to battlefields across Europe as far afield as Alexandria in Egypt and Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) where they nursed the sick and dying, often in appalling conditions and at considerable personal risk.

Only by understanding the part played both by men, and women, in all aspects of the war effort can we appreciate the enormity of their effort and sacrifice, on the battlefields and on the home front.

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

The Remembrance lecture will be followed by a question and answer session chaired by Dr Elin Royles. Dr Elin Royles is Senior Lecturer at Aberystwyth University’s Department of International Politics. The Department will also be celebrating its centenary in 1919, being founded shortly after Armistice day as a response to the extreme violence of the First World War.

The lecture is free to attend but attendees are required to register. Please visit our Eventbrite page or contact 0300 200 6565.

Afterwards there will be a short reception when there’ll be an opportunity to view the two exhibitions which complement our Remembrance lecture:

‘The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Wales’ exhibition and ‘The Soldier’s Own Diary’ by Scarlet Raven and Marc Marot.

‘The Soldier’s Own Diary’ is an augmented reality painting. Viewers can use a smartphone app to unlock the work, stripping away layers of paint to reveal the story beneath. How? Watch artist Scarlett Raven’s video to find out:

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

Black History Month 2018: This year it will be 50 years since the Race Relations Act 1968 came into force

The Black History Month Wales’s logo

 

This year is significant, as it will mark 50 years since the Race Relations Act 1968 (the RRA 1968) came into force.

A picture of ‘No irish no blacks no dogs’ sign in a house window

The RRA 1968 succeeded the Race Relations Act 1965 (the RRA 1965), the first ever Race Relations legislation, which made it a civil but not a criminal offence to discriminate on the “grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins” in public places such as hotels and restaurants pubs, libraries, public transport, and the like and legislated for the punishment of incitement to racial hatred. The RRA 1965 didn’t apply to discrimination within employment or housing, which were two clear areas where discrimination was prevalent, the infamous “No blacks, no dogs, no Irish” signs were still lawful after the RRA 1965. The RRA 1965 established the Race Relations Board to enforce the Act, however the Board’s only power was to refer the matter to the attorney general who could then do no more than seek a county court injunction to restrain future discrimination. For these reasons the RRA 1965 was criticised as ineffective and too narrow.

The RRA 1968 widened the scope of anti-discrimination legislation to include housing, employment and service provision. It empowered the Race Relations Board itself to seek redress in the county court. Redress could also include awards of damages as well as injunctions to restrain future discrimination.

As an employer we value diversity and inclusion and are committed to developing and maintaining an inclusive organisational culture.

“I believe it is important that the Assembly leads the way in promoting an inclusive organisational culture and that it is a modern, accessible parliamentary body with which people from a diverse range of backgrounds can easily and meaningfully interact. It is incumbent on us as the National Assembly for Wales to lead on this and share our experiences, ensuring that the values of equality, diversity and inclusion are respected and practiced by all,” Elin Jones AM, LLywydd, National Assembly for Wales.

It would therefore seem strange to commemorate Black History Month (BHM) and not reflect on the RRA, a piece of legislation that was a predecessor to the Equality Act 2010, under which we have a general duty to eliminate unlawful discrimination harassment and victimisation based on protected characteristics[1].

We are proud to be an accessible employer, that attracts and retains a broad range of talent, as well as an accessible service provider. We are committed to valuing diversity, promoting inclusion and addressing inequalities, not just because:

  • as a non-devolved public body we have a general duty under the Equality Act 2010 to: eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation; advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;
  • research evidence shows that inclusive organisations, which attract and develop individuals from the widest pool of talent, consistently perform better;

but because it is morally the right thing to do, as Baroness McGregor-Smith CBE, stated in the McGregor-Smith review[2]:

“We should live in a country where every person, regardless of their ethnicity or background, is able to fulfil their potential at work”.

We are consciously ensuring that there is no room for discrimination in the recruitment process and there is a zero tolerance policy to discrimination being experienced by any of our of employees. We have a number of supportive policies for staff, such as our:

  • ‘Dignity and Respect policy’- which is underpinned by the concepts of fairness, dignity and respect,
  • ‘People strategy’ – which recognises that every staff member, irrespective of their background, deserves the ability to realise their full potential and progress in their careers,
  • ‘Recruitment policy’ – which outlines our commitment to recruitment on the basis of merit, fairness and openness.
logo for the Assembly's Race Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage workplace network
The Assembly BAME workplace network’s logo

We have an active Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage workplace equality network named REACH, which works closely with management to develop an inclusive organisational culture. We are very grateful to our staff for the work they do to help us to be an inclusive organisation. We know that our staff are our best asset and we want to make sure that they work in a supportive and safe environment.

We want to continue to be an exemplar organisation in valuing diversity, promoting inclusion and embedding equality, both as an employer and as a parliamentary organisation. Our vision is to be an organisation that is accessible and engages with, and respects the people of Wales. We engage with as diverse a range of groups as possible in the belief that this can only lead to a better democratic institution and legislature that delivers effectively for all the people of Wales.

For more information about working for the National Assembly for Wales, please visit our recruitment pages.

More information on our commitment to Diversity and Inclusion is set out in our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2016-21.

[1] Protected characteristics: Age, Disability, Gender reassignment, Marriage and civil partnership, Pregnancy and maternity, Race, Religion and belief, Sex, Sexual orientation

[2] The Time for Talking is over. Now is the time to act. Race in the workplace’

 

 

Accounts Scrutiny – What’s it all about?

The Public Accounts Committee will spend a significant part of the Autumn term undertaking accounts scrutiny for the Welsh Government, National Assembly for Wales Commission, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, and the National Museums Wales.

What is Account Scrutiny?

The annual scrutiny of accounts by the Public Accounts Committee involves the consideration of the accounts and annual reports of different public funded bodies, to consider see whether there are any unusual or unclear items of expenditure of public money.  In addition to looking at how these organisations spend money, the Committee also considers how they are run and whether their governance arrangements are appropriate and accountable.

Why do it?

Although this approach can appear a little dull, this is an important piece of work because it ensures that there is scrutiny of how public money is being spent. It also provides an opportunity to hold to account those tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the expenditure of public money.

Accounts and Annual reports not only provide an important snapshot of the financial health of these publicly funded organisations they also tell a story about how the organisation is being run and whether there are robust governance structures and working practices in place or not.

By undertaking this scrutiny annually, the Committee has been able to build a deterrence factor into its work, with organisations responsible for spending our money knowing they could be called before the Committee to face public scrutiny.

Does it work?

The Committee has been doing this work for a number of years now, and generally we have seen an improvement in the information available, and in ensuring that it is more accessible. In particular, many organisations have risen to the challenge of presenting this often complex information in a more understandable format.

In addition to the more general improvements, the Committee has also brought to light a number of areas of concern which have been subject to greater scrutiny and ultimately an improvement in practices – and have generated media coverage such as:

Why consider these bodies?

At the beginning of the fifth Assembly, the Committee agreed to consider the accounts and annual report of the Welsh Government and the Assembly Commission annually. It took this decision because the Welsh Government has an annual budget of over £15 billion, which is a significant sum of public money. While the Assembly Commission is the corporate body which provides support for the National Assembly for Wales, and its Members, (so ultimately the Committee) – and so the Committee felt it was important to not sit above scrutiny.

For 2017-18, the Committee will be considering the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Annual Report and Accounts and National Museum Wales.  The Committee has previously considered the Accounts and Annual Report of these two organisations.  Hopefully, the recommendations by the previous Public Accounts Committee will have helped these organisations to make improvements and there will now be a positive story to tell.

Get Involved

Do you have any questions you would like asked about how these organisations have been run over the last year?

Do you have any concerns about how funds have been allocated?

What question would you ask those responsible for spending public money?

Let us know: @seneddpac / @seneddarchwilio
Seneddpac@assembly.wales

Our Accounts Scrutiny starts on Monday 8 October 2018 when we look at the Accounts and Annual Report of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and the Assembly Commission.