Tag: South Wales

Assembly shines at Sparkle

By Kelly Harris, Youth Engagement Officer

On Saturday 7 November, myself and Craig Stephenson, Assembly Director and Chair of our LGBT staff network, took a stall to Swansea Sparkle to talk to the public about the work of the Assembly and how they could become involved.

Swansea Sparkle was organised by Tawe Butterflies and South Wales Police, which provided an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate equality and diversity. The aim was to break down barriers between the public and the Transgender community by bringing organisations from across Wales and the U.K. together to showcase the support, information and advice available to the community.

It was a really interesting day and we had lots of interest about the Assembly. Many people were unaware that they had five Assembly Members whose job it is to represent them in the Assembly, so it was the perfect opportunity to provide them with our Explore the Assembly: Your Assembly Member Guide and chat with them about what issues they might face in their communities. Two Assembly Members came to the stall to say hello and have their picture taken with us – Julie James (Swansea West Constituency) and Peter Black (South West Wales Regional) – it was great to have their support at the event.

Sparkle 2015 Assembly staff with Assembly Member Julie James
Sparkle 2015 Assembly staff with Assembly Member Julie James
Sparkle 2015 Assembly staff with Assembly Member Peter Black
Sparkle 2015 Assembly staff with Assembly Member Peter Black

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk to a young person who is currently transitioning. I felt very honoured that they shared their story with me, and it was interesting to hear their experiences – both the happy and the sad parts. There have been big steps taken to make sure that the voices of the Transgender community are heard, but it is very clear that there is still a lot of work to be done. I took the time to make sure that the young person knew of all the different ways they could become involved in the work of the Assembly, even down to how hard the Assembly works to make sure our workforce is diverse and fully representative of Welsh communities. It was great to get their feedback on what else they thought the Assembly could work on, which will be fed back to our excellent Equality Team.

I also explained about who the Children’s Commissioner for Wales is and what their job is, so that if they felt they needed someone to help them in the future, they have someone else they can contact. It is important for all young people in Wales to know about the Children’s Commissioner.

Overall it was an excellent day – well organised and very welcoming! I can’t wait to go back next year!

Attendees at the Sparkle event with Stonewall's No Bystanders anti-bullying pledge
Attendees at the Sparkle event with Stonewall’s No Bystanders anti-bullying pledge

#SeneddSwansea: Law in Wales

Jane Williams, Associate Professor at Swansea University’s College of Law, attended our lunchtime seminar during #SeneddSwansea last week. Here’s what she thought about the event…

Fascinating seminar at Swansea University’s College of Law and Criminology, with the National Assembly for Wales’ Deputy Presiding Officer, David Melding AM and Director of Legal Services, Elisabeth Jones, during #SeneddSwansea.

Students and researchers in law and politics, legal practitioners and other guests joined in discussions chaired by the College’s Jane Williams and Keith Bush Q.C. Ranging over really important and challenging issues, discussions spanned the legal, constitutional, political and civic  aspects of devolution: access to justice, accessibility of Welsh law, characteristics of law-making for Wales, political participation, civic education, voting and the electoral system, access to information, a separate jurisdiction and ‘what makes good law’.

Reflections on the past and informed imagining of the future – excellent discussion on all this, and lunch, in just two hours! Thanks to our esteemed guests and all who helped make it happen and who joined us today. Determined to do this sort of thing more often!

Deputy Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, David Melding AM, and Elisabeth Jones, Director of legal services, present a seminar on matters relevant to those thinking of practicing law in Wales and broader constitutional and policy themes.

#AskFirstMin – The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister wants to hear from you

#AskFirstMin – Have your question answered by the First Minister, Carwyn Jones

blogheaderfinal

The Committee wants to hear from organisations, businesses and from you – more details on how to take part online below.

The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister is meeting in Swansea on October 16 at 10.30 at the National Waterfront Museum. The main topic will be ‘Wales in the Wider World’. Here’s a flavour of the main drivers for discussion:

What is the Welsh Government’s overall strategy for marketing and promoting Wales to the world? What is the Welsh brand? How well are Welsh attractions promoted to tourists? Does the Welsh Government do enough to draw in investors?
Does the Welsh Government do a good job of making Wales seem appealing to tourists from the UK and abroad?  Is Welsh culture visible enough outside of Wales? What markets or products should be prioritised?

COLLAGE

A full agenda will be posted on the Committee’s web page when confirmed. 

The majority of Committees meet weekly to scrutinise the Welsh Government in detail but The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister focuses on broad topics relating to any central strategic vision of the Welsh Government’s programme.

How do I take part online?

You can submit your question, observation or comment to the Committee on the topic of ‘Wales in the Wider World’ any way you like:

Twitter On Twitter – Follow @AssemblyWales on Twitter and reply to any tweets relating to this topic or use the hashtag #AskFirstMin. Also feel free to Direct Message us if you’d like it to be confidential.
 Facebook On Facebook – Like the Assembly’s Facebook Page and leave a comment on a relevant status. If you can’t see a relevant status then leave a comment on the page with the hashtag #AskFirstMin.
 Email E-Mail – You can send your views by e-mail to: FM.Scrutiny@Assembly.Wales
 Youtube On YouTube – Why not film yourself asking your question and then send us the link through any of the channels above?
 Instagram On Instagram – If you can express your views in a creative visual way we’d love to see it. Tag our Senedd Instagram account within your picture or just use the hashtag #AskFirstMin. Alternatively you can leave a comment on any one of our Instagram posts again with the hashtag #AskFirstMin.
 Wordpress Comments – Leave a comment on this blog post right now!

What happens next?

We will collate the responses and hand them over to the Committee’s Chair – David Melding AM. The Chair will then incorporate them into the line of questioning for the First Minister, Carwyn Jones. You can come and watch the meeting in person, online on Senedd.TV or read the transcript. We’ll let you know if your question was answered. The meeting will take place on 16 October, 10.30 in Swansea at the National Waterfront Museum.

We look forward to hearing your views!

 “You can see the extraordinary beauty, the wonderful people and great hospitality, so I’d encourage everybody in the States to come and visit Wales.”
– President Barack Obama

Explore the topic – ‘Wales in the Wider World’

This may seem like a complex topic but sometimes it’s good to take a step back and look at the big picture. We want to hear out of the box ideas, comments from different perspectives and from different walks of life. Continue reading “#AskFirstMin – The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister wants to hear from you”

Employment opportunities for people over 50

Back in November 2014 the National Assembly for Wales’ Enterprise and Business Committee decided it would undertake an inquiry into employment opportunities for people over 50 in Wales.

It can be difficult for people who are over 50 to find a job, especially one which uses all their skills. The Committee decided to look into what can be done about this because people are living longer and pensions are getting smaller. The majority of people are working longer and by now it is not required for people to retire when they are 60 or 65 years old.

As well as asking outside organisations, academics and the public what they think by asking them to respond in writing the Committee also visited representative organisations to discuss the inquiry with them.

The Committee visited staff members from John Lewis in Cardiff, NIACE Cymru, Working Links, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Wales TUC and Pembrokeshire County Council on 12 February 2015. Discussions were held around barriers that people over 50 face when looking for a new job. Are there any stereotypes about the employment of people over 50, how can they can be tackled and whether there is anything the Welsh Government need to do to support and promote employment for people over 50.

Some of the barriers discussed during these visits were the lack of funding for training opportunities and the lack of things like IT skills. You can see read more about these discussions on the Committee’s webpage here.

Here, Rhun Ap Iorwerth AM tells us about his discussion with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board Human Resources staff.

As well as visiting representative organisations the Committee also spoke to individuals during their meetings at the Senedd, including the office of the older people’s commissioner for Wales and representatives from Age Cymru and Prime Cymru.

The Committee have published their report which includes recommendations on things the Committee thinks the Welsh Government should do to make it easier for people over 50 to find employment. One of the things the Committee have recommended that the Welsh Government do is to hold an ‘Age Positive’ campaign to encourage employers to employ people over 50. With the older people’s commissioner the Welsh Government should also have a campaign which will increase the number of work placements and apprenticeships for people over 50. The Committee also recommend that the Welsh Government should write a skills strategy for people over 50 which says how they will help those people get the skills they need to get a job.

You can see a copy of the full report or a summary report here and you can view press coverage from the report launch below by clicking on the images.

BBC NEWS#

ITV NEWS

GUARDIAN

The Committee will be speaking to the Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology during the autumn term to ask what she will do about their recommendations.

For updates please follow @SeneddEcon.

Co-investment and mobilising a productive and skilled workforce in Wales

April 2015 saw the Welsh Government begin to implement its framework for co-investment in skills. This framework changes the way in which training, skills and apprenticeships are funded in Wales.

The new approach to investing in skills means that the total cost of training, in cash terms, is shared between two or more people. For businesses or individuals who employ apprentices or offer work-based training, the change means that they must increase their financial contributions to meet the cost of skills training in their workforce.

William Graham AM, Chair of the Enterprise and Business Committee

Expecting to be fully implemented by 2017, the Enterprise and Business Committee wanted to find out how this would impact Welsh businesses and training providers. Would the new framework help meet the Welsh Government’s aim of “ensuring that Wales develops a competitive edge in mobilising a productive and skilled workforce”?

The Committee held business breakfasts, in both North and South Wales to explore these issues further. The first meeting took place in Brains Brewery, Cardiff with a variety of representatives from the academic, business and training sectors.

Gwawr Thomas, Creative Skillset Cymru talks about taking part in the event and explains the importance of co-investment in skills within the creative industries:

Participants discussed the need to consider the different levels of financial support available to a variety of businesses who may be operating on different scales. Increased investment from employers may mean that those businesses then select candidates who have experience – which could see them neglect young candidates which would see the policy work against the Welsh Government’s aim.

Dylan's, Menai Bridge - Anglesey
Dylan’s, Menai Bridge – Anglesey

The second breakfast meeting took place in Dylan’s Restaurant, Anglesey with local training providers and business representatives. Iwan Thomas, the Regional Skills and Employment Lead for the North Wales Economic Ambition Board was one of the invited guests.

One of the key messages he wanted to get across was for the Welsh Government to consider a regional approach to co-investment, and how they should be taking the change forward:

Having held both business breakfasts, the Enterprise and Business Committee sent a letter of recommendations to the Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Julie James AM to consider in relation to the policy change. You can read the letter of recommendations here: http://bit.ly/1fzxrp1

Chair’s blog: Inquiry into New Psychoactive Substances

DavidReesAM

I’m David Rees (@DavidReesAM), Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee.

In September 2014 the Committee started looking into the issue of new psychoactive substances (“NPS”). We have now finished our inquiry and have written a report (PDF, 1MB) making 14 recommendations to the Welsh Government. A shorter summary (PDF, 252KB) is also available.

What are New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)?

NPS are commonly marketed as safer and legal alternatives to illegal drugs, often made in laboratories and sold via the internet or in so-called “head shops” that exist on the high street. They are often referred to as “legal highs”. This marketing is misleading – their side effects can be as serious as those caused by illegal drugs, and they can be as addictive too. Often, they also contain traces of substances that are against the law to sell and take.

Why did we hold this inquiry?

We decided to look into this issue because the use of NPS has grown in Wales, and elsewhere, in recent years. In 2013, 60 deaths in England and Wales involved NPS, 15 per cent higher than the previous year. Members were concerned about the health and social harms caused by NPS, and wanted to shine a light on the steps that need to be taken to allow people to make more informed decisions about their use of NPS.

How did we gather people’s views for this inquiry?

We used a number of different ways to ask people what they think about NPS, including:

  • asking the public to fill in a survey, which 1072 people responded to from across Wales;
  • inviting representatives from key organisations to speak with Members in official meetings at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay;
  • holding focus groups in Merthyr Tydfil and Wrexham to hear directly from frontline staff, and Committee members visited the LOTS project, Forsythia Youth Club, DrugAid and the headquarters of DAN 24/7, Wales’ national substance misuse helpline.

We wrote a blogpost about these visits and have also have published pictures from Wrexham and Merthyr alongside some short videos so you can see what the Committee has been doing:

Health and Social Care Committee focus group on NPSHealth and Social Care Committee focus group

The Committee also used  storify to keep people updated on the inquiry’s progress.

What did people tell the Committee and what have we done about it?

What the Committee was told

  • More needs to be done to increase public awareness of the harms caused by using NPS;
  • the term “legal highs” is really unhelpful. It suggests that using these substances is a safe and legal thing to do. In reality, they are often really harmful and contain illegal substances;
  • the UK Government, which is responsible for drugs policy, should ban the supply of NPS, making “head shops” and market stalls that sell NPS illegal;
  • those using NPS should not be given a criminal record – that could make things even worse for users who are trying to get their lives back on track;
  • not enough is known about how many people are taking NPS and what harms they can cause.

What we said in our report

  • The current drugs education programme in schools should be reviewed urgently to make it better and more consistent across Wales, and to make sure it is delivered by people who are suitably trained and qualified;
  • a national training programme on NPS should be developed for all staff providing public services (e.g. doctors, nurses, police, social workers, prison officers etc);
  • the Welsh Government’s 2015 public awareness campaign on NPS should include targeted information for young people and emphasise that legal does not mean safe;
  • those working in this field, including the media, should stop using the term “legal highs” as it is very misleading;
  • the Welsh Government should encourage the UK Government to move as quickly as possible to implement the suggested ban on the supply of NPS.

To read all 14 of our recommendations please see our report (PDF, 1MB) or the shorter summary (PDF, 252KB) document.

What did the UK and Welsh Governments think about our report?

The Welsh Government’s response (PDF, 295KB) to our report accepts fully all of our recommendations. The UK Government Home Office (PDF, 69KB) has also written to the Committee to note that it welcomes our work and supports each of our 14 recommendations.

What happens next?

Our report will be debated by all Assembly Members on 13 May in the Siambr, the Assembly’s main debating chamber. This will be an opportunity to draw attention to this important topic, and to put questions to the Welsh Government’s Health Minister about what the Welsh Government will do to deliver our recommendations.

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to share their experiences of NPS and their views about what needs to be done to raise public awareness of their harms. Although the Committee itself can only recommend changes rather than being able to make the changes itself, we will continue to put pressure on the Welsh Government and others to deliver the actions set out in our report.

How to get involved and keep up-to date with our work

Guest Blog: Consultation Event to Scrutinise the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill

My name is Claire Blakeway and I am the Vice President for the Heath Park Campus at Cardiff University Students’ Union. On Wednesday the 18th of March, I took part in a consultation event to scrutinise the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill. This involved Assembly Members speaking to a wide range of tenants about their experiences of renting properties from the council, housing association and private landlords. Tenants from different rental areas were put into focus groups which were led by Assembly Members. In my focus group, I was representing the tenancy views of students.

On the whole I agreed with ideas of the new Housing Bill but felt that there needed to be more detail around repair agreements. For example, there needs to be a detailed scheduling timeline in the agreement that outlines how quickly landlords should react to acknowledging and working towards resolving a repair that is reported by a tenant. I feel that currently tenants can be waiting a long time before repairs are addressed, and as result of this they are essentially paying to rent a property that isn’t fully to the standard that they originally rented the property out for. By implementing a repair agreement with specific timelines, both landlords and tenants will know exactly what to expect in the case of a repair and landlords can work to complete a repair in a pre-agreed timeline and thus meet the expectations of their tenant.

Here’s Claire being interviewed after the event:

I also fed my ideas into the focus group around how firmer repercussions need to be implemented for landlords and tenants who breach their contracts. The more serious repercussions are, the more likely it is that contracts will be adhered too and respected.

I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the focus groups, and it was great to hear AM so interested in the views of students. I look forward to seeing the Housing Bill being released, and hope that my views will be taken on board. Thank you to the Welsh Assembly for inviting me along!

The next step is for the Committee to hear what other people think about the Bill in formal meetings at the Senedd. The first of these meetings takes place on Wednesday morning, where the Committee will talk to the Welsh Government Minister responsible for the Bill, Lesley Griffiths AM. You can watch this meeting live on Senedd TV.

More information about the meeting is available here.