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Section highlightThe People’s NHS Part of an initiative to engage the public in creating a safe and sustainable health service for the future.
Spreading the word »Action on the ground to increase learning materials in the medium of Welsh.Learn more »
First Minister’s call for action on the Welsh language
People from across Wales with an interest in the Welsh language are being asked to take action on its future in a national online conversation.
- Local Government Democracy Bill approved
- Minister welcomes report which could change shape and structure of education delivery in Wales for the better
- First Minister’s call for action on the Welsh language
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Welsh languageWelsh-language technology and digital media action plan
The action plan sets out our commitment to drive developments in the field of Welsh-language technology and digital media.Learn more »
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Section highlightAccess to information
The Welsh Government has followed the principles of openness in government for many years. Find out how you can make a freedom of information request or see requests that have already been made.
The Strategy for Older People in Wales 2013-2023 »The 3rd phase focuses on ensuring that older people in Wales have the resources to deal with the challenges and opportunities they face.Learn more »
- A new vision for a National Youth Work Strategy
- The future delivery of education services in Wales
- Consultation on Draft Technical Advice Note (TAN) 23 Economic Development
- Draft industrial and commercial sector plan
- Waste Prevention Programme
- Building Control system and Approved Document supporting regulation 7
In this section
Section highlightReview of the Planning Enforcement System
The research covers 18 recommendations for the future Welsh enforcement system.
Legislative programme 2012 - 2013 »
Addressing the Assembly in the Senedd today, the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, detailed the eight bills in the Welsh Government’s 5-year Legislative Programme that will be brought forward during the second year of the Welsh Assembly.Learn more »
Section highlightCommunity Infrastructure Levy
Local authorities can charge a Community Infrastructure Levy on new developments to support the infrastructure needed.
Infrastructure Investment Case Studies »
Examples of infrastructure investment projects funded by the Welsh Government across Wales.Learn more »
British Sign Language
Before I give my statement this afternoon, may I say how pleased I am to see BSL interpretation in our new Chamber for the first time? It is a welcome development on which you, the House Committee and your staff should be congratulated. I would also like to welcome those deaf people who have taken the opportunity to join us in the public gallery this afternoon.
British Sign Language is a visual, spatial language that uses movement of the hands, body, face and head; it has its own grammar, syntax, idioms and regional variations. As the first or preferred language of approximately 3,000 people in Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government recognises BSL as a language in its own right. Citizens who use BSL have varied degrees of access to the majority languages of our wider communities. Reading, writing or lip-reading a second, spoken language, such as Welsh or English, in which they may have limited literacy, often leaves those citizens with poor access to information.
Professional interpreters are essential in facilitating effective interaction and information exchange between those who use only spoken languages and BSL users. The availability of interpreters has a direct impact on social inclusion and access to services for citizens who use BSL. When interpreters are unavailable, serious problems are caused for individuals. There are recorded cases of where BSL users have faced severe difficulties in reporting crimes and have had to communicate with health staff in inappropriate and undignified situations. Lack of availability often means that citizens who use BSL have to wait weeks to secure an interpreter to see their GP, to discuss their child’s education with a teacher or to question a neighbour’s planning application. In these situations, BSL users are often asked to bring a friend to interpret for them, to cope by lip-reading or to use pen and paper to communicate in a second language. Each of these leads to a poorer quality of information and, therefore, has the effect of disempowering the service user.
A Cabinet task and finish group, established by my colleague, the Minister for Social Justice and Regeneration, in June 2004 and chaired by Karen Sinclair AM, investigated BSL interpreter services in Wales. The group found that, compared with other European countries, the number of appropriately qualified BSL-to-spoken-language interpreters in Wales is poor, and it concluded that that has a detrimental effect on access to services and social inclusion for our BSL-using citizens. The group’s report recommended that the Assembly Government take action to increase, from 12 to 64, the number of BSL-to-spoken-language interpreters available in Wales, so that access here would compare favourably with that in other European countries. As initial action to help to achieve that aim, the group recommended that the Assembly Government should establish a British Sign Language apprentice interpreter scheme that would take advantage of interpreter training models developed in Wales with Communities First and European social fund money. It recommended that the Government should issue guidance to promote good practice on the provision of BSL interpreters to public services in Wales and seek to become an exemplar organisation in the provision of BSL interpreter services. We stated in ‘Making the Connections’ that,
‘All public bodies in Wales should…develop the capability to…communicate effectively in English, Welsh and other languages of the communities they serve’.
To ensure that this commitment and our duties under the Government of Wales Act 1998 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 can be met in respect of citizens who use BSL, the Assembly Government has taken positive steps to implement the task and finish group’s recommendations.
In February, I announced an Assembly Government commitment of £1.6 million of funding for BSL Futures—the future British Sign Language apprentice interpreter scheme for Wales. Last year, I asked a wide range of stakeholder organisations to form a partnership to develop and run a scheme to train at least 30 BSL-to-spoken-language interpreters.
That partnership, led by the Association of Sign Language Interpreters, Deaf Association Wales and RNID Cymru, has already secured over £1.1 million of match funding from the European social fund, against the Assembly Government commitment. The first 10 apprentices are already in post and have started their training. BSL Futures is the first scheme of its kind in the UK. It will provide each apprentice interpreter with an individually tailored training programme that will result in their registration as freelance professional interpreters. The scheme will also invest in Wales’s capacity to teach BSL by training more tutors to teach BSL at the highest levels, by developing BSL course provision in colleges across Wales and a postgraduate course in BSL-to-spoken-language interpreting, and by supporting public service providers in Wales to develop the capacity to deliver services in BSL.
On issuing guidance to promote good practice and providing BSL interpreters to public bodies, I can announce that we are publishing for consultation draft advice for public services on delivering services in BSL. This is the first consultation to be fully accessible to those citizens who use BSL, and it will be published in Welsh, English and BSL. The consultation will take place over an extended period, and we will accept responses submitted in BSL to ensure that we have the greatest possible response rate.
On becoming an exemplar in the provision of services through BSL interpreters, I can also announce that the Assembly Government has appointed an agency to supply interpreters. This follows an open tendering process and it will enable staff to make all aspects of interaction with the Assembly Government accessible to BSL users. Information on how to use the services associated with this has been made available to staff. Therefore, this is significant progress in implementing the recommendations of the task and finish group that will have tangible, positive effects on social inclusion and access to services for BSL-using citizens across Wales. My thanks go to my Cabinet colleagues for their recognition of the impact that this initiative has across portfolios and their support for BSL Futures. I also thank the stakeholder organisations and delivery partners for their commitment to making BSL Futures a success. Not least, I thank Karen Sinclair for chairing the group overseeing this work. Social inclusion and accessible services for BSL users are enormously important equality issues. This initiative will make a real difference. It is just one of the innovative ways in which the Welsh Assembly Government is tackling social inequality in Wales.