‘I used to be someone’ – Assembly to debate committee report on refugees and asylum seekers in Wales

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On Wednesday 21 June, the Assembly will debate the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee’s report into refugees and asylum seekers in Wales, and the Welsh Government’s response to its recommendations.

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Is Wales fairer? The state of equality and human rights

4 December 2015

Article by Hannah Johnson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Cover of Equality and Human Rights Commission reportYesterday (3 December) the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a five year progress review of equality and human rights in Wales.

The report found that inequality has widened in some areas. For example, young people are significantly worse off in many ways including income, employment, poverty, housing and access to mental health services, while the suicide rate for adults, particularly men, has increased substantially.

The report also found areas of improvement compared to five years ago, for example:

  • pupils achieving five or more GCSEs at grades A*-C increased from 47% to 53% (including improvements for pupils with special educational needs (SEN), eligible for free school meals and pupils from ethnic monitories);
  • there has been a reduction in hostility towards lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and
  • there have been reductions in the exclusion rate from school amongst all ethnic groups.

The report is specific to Wales, following the publication of Is Britain Fairer? in November. Key findings for Wales are below:

Employment

  • unemployment among 16-24 year olds has increased so that they are now more than four times as likely to be unemployed as those aged 35-54;
  • Muslims had the lowest employment rate of any group in Wales;
  • less than half (42%) of disabled people were in employment in 2013 compared with nearly three-quarters (71%) of non-disabled people. The unemployment rate for disabled people rose to nearly one in eight;
  • the gender pay gap narrowed from 20% to 17%., as men’s average pay declined more than women’s. Average pay in real terms fell for all age groups below age 65;
  • pay gaps widened for young people, ethnic minorities and people from lower socioeconomic groups compared with some other groups. Young people were the lowest paid of all, with average earnings of £6.50 an hour compared with 35-44 year olds average pay of £11.20 an hour.

Health and care

  • the suicide rate for people aged 15 and over has substantially increased between 2008 and 2013, up from 10.7 to 15.6 per 100,000 inhabitants. Male suicide has increased the most. The suicide rate has increased for certain age groups: it doubled for people aged 55 to 64; and increased by around 60% for those aged 35 to 54. It is also particularly high for middle-aged men;
  • difficulties accessing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are reported – in 2014, demand for services is said to have increased by 100% over the previous twelve months. Public spending on CAMHS has remained static over the period;
  • there is evidence of continuing problems of capacity and of some children continuing to be hospitalised on adult wards;
  • in 2013-14, 24% of care and nursing homes for older people did not meet the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales requirements.

Education

  • there are some children whose attainment of five or more GCSEs at grades A*-C, remains low: Gypsy/Roma children (13%), looked-after children (17%), children with SEN (17%) and children eligible for free school meals (FSM) (26%);
  • attainment gaps widened between children without SEN and those with SEN, and substantial gaps have remained between: boys and girls; pupils eligible for FSM and pupils not eligible for FSM; and ethnic minority pupils and White pupils;
  • there has been some reduction in exclusions of boys compared with girls and between pupils eligible for FSM and pupils not eligible, although the gaps between the groups remain large. There have been reductions in the exclusion rate amongst all ethnic groups.

Poverty

  • nearly one in four people (23%) in Wales live in poverty. Particularly high levels of poverty have persisted for children aged 0-4 (42% live in poverty), disabled people (27%), and ethnic minorities (38%);
  • the profile of statutorily homeless households in Wales changed markedly between 2009-10 and 2014-15, with an increase in the number of people fleeing domestic abuse (up 19%) and people with poor mental health or learning disabilities (up 24%).

Crime

  • just over three-quarters of the 1,810 hate crimes reported to Welsh police forces in 2012-13 were racially motivated, with black people being most likely to be the victim;
  • 7% of adults in Wales reported experiencing discrimination, harassment or abuse in the previous 12 months. These experiences were reported by: one in five people from an ethnic minority; one in five people from a religious minority; one in ten young people; one in ten disabled people, and one in ten people who have never worked or who are long-term unemployed;
  • the number of adults, children and young people that were reported to be victims of trafficking almost doubled between 2012 and 2014, up from 34 to 70 reported cases;
  • the number of domestic violence incidents recorded by the police increased during the same period, as did the number of convictions (by 20%).

Democratic participation

  • less than one in four people in Wales feel that they are able to influence decisions affecting their local area. Older people (aged 75 and over), disabled people and women feel less able to influence decisions than some other groups;
  • there is little evidence of improvement in political representation in the last five years, with women, disabled people, young people, ethnic minorities, religious minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people remaining under-represented at all levels of politics in Wales.

 Legislative context

Key UK legislation, such as the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010, applies in Wales. In the last five years, UK legislation has created new crimes of forced marriage, stalking, and female genital mutilation as well as allowing same-sex marriage.

In Wales, human rights and equality are strengthened by the Government of Wales Act 2006, which stipulates that a provision of an Act of the Assembly is outside the Assembly’s legislative competence if it is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and that Welsh Ministers cannot act incompatibly with these rights.

The Assembly introduced several key pieces of devolved legislation relating to equality and human rights in the past five years, which included:

  • The Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 provides a statutory duty for Welsh Ministers to have due regard to Part 1 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.
  • Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 provides a legal basis for the Welsh Government’s commitment to eradicate child poverty and to reform arrangements for childcare.
  • Carers Strategies (Wales) Measure 2010 placed a duty on the Welsh NHS and local authorities to work together to create joint strategies for carers.
  • Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010 extended the provision of mental health advocacy and widened access to mental health services.

More recent legislation with significant equality and human rights elements includes the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, Education (Wales) Act 2014, Housing (Wales) Act 2014 and the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015.

These economic, political and legislative changes are the context in which to consider whether Wales is fairer compared with five years ago.

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Stakeholders’ health and social care priorities for the next Welsh Government (part 3)

4 December 2015

Article by Amy Clifton, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Preventative services, independent advocacy, social care and human rights.

In the run up to the 2016 Assembly elections, stakeholders are producing manifestos and briefings, aiming to influence political party manifestos in Wales.

This is the third and final blog post in a series highlighting the key health and social care issues identified by stakeholders as priority actions for the next Welsh Government to undertake in the fifth Assembly term.

NB: The first blog post covered NHS workforce, Health Impact Assessments, performance targets, and access to health professionals. The second blog post covered mental health, carers, dementia and cancer.Pic 3 English

Preventative services

The Allied Health and Social Care professionals in Wales have produced a joint manifesto (PDF 250KB) calling on political parties to re-state their commitment to community based preventative and early intervention services which enable people to live their lives as independently as possible.

A recent Wales Audit Office (WAO) report concluded that many preventative services are undervalued, and demand for health and social services may continue to rise as a consequence. The Auditor General commented that there insufficient emphasis is being placed on prevention, and he would be keen to see this addressed.

The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales wants to see increased funding for community support and befriending services to tackle loneliness and isolation. The Commissioner states in her manifesto:

Loneliness and isolation must be recognised as a key public health issue, for both older people and the rest of society, so that it can be properly addressed.

Age Alliance Wales also focuses on the need to support the development of social networks and preventative initiatives in its manifesto (PDF, 19KB). The Alliance is calling for the protection of local services which support older people to maintain their independence. It also wants the next Welsh Government to ensure that:

  • Local authorities and local health boards fully consider the impact of cuts to public services on the lives of older people today and on future generations.
  • Older people have access to community based information and advocacy services.

The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales similarly calls for investment in independent advocacy across Wales, ‘to ensure that those older people who are most vulnerable have an effective voice or someone to speak for them’.

Improving social care

Age Cymru is calling for commitments to:

  • Register domiciliary care workers to help professionalise care services and ensure that adequate protection is available for people receiving care at home
  • Ensure that appropriate training is provided to all care workers in Wales, to help guarantee that older people receive dignified and quality social care that meets their needs, irrespective of the setting where care is being delivered

[Contact Age Cymru for further information]

The College of Occupational Therapists (COT) is calling for a Continuing Professional Education and Learning (CPEL) Framework for occupational therapists in social care, as it argues this is currently an area of inequality. The COT states that occupational therapists in social care do not have the same career development and professional learning opportunities as colleagues throughout the NHS and social workers in social care. [Contact the COT for further information].

Leonard Cheshire Disability Wales is calling on political parties to ensure that the introduction of a National Living Wage in Wales does not detrimentally affect the provision of social care. [Contact Leonard Cheshire for more information].

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales’ manifesto (PDF, 120KB) includes calls to:

  • Develop more young person-centred transition arrangements, including some services for young adults up to 25
  • Commit to adequate resources for recruiting and supporting sufficient high quality foster homes
  • Extend the When I am Ready scheme (which currently applies to fostering) to children in residential children’s homes to enable the option of extending their placement until they are 21
  • Commit to implement a national action plan on Child Sexual Exploitation that will ensure consistency of response throughout Wales
  • Commit to introducing legislation which ensures that children under 18 have the same protection from physical punishment as adults, i.e. removing the current legal defence of ‘reasonable punishment’

The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales wants the next Welsh Government to introduce a duty of candour within public services and ensure that people working in public authorities can be held to account for failures of care.

Human rights

A common theme in manifestos is the need for a rights based approach. Both of the Commissioners and Disability Wales stress the need to embed human rights and the respective United Nations Convention/Principles in Welsh policy, legislation and public service delivery.

The Disabled People’s Manifesto published by Disability Wales also includes calls for an Independent Living (Wales) Bill in the Legislative Programme for the Fifth Assembly which would provide a legal right to independent living for disabled people.

Stakeholders will be monitoring political party manifesto pledges in the run up to the election to see how they align with their own manifesto calls. Only time will tell what the next Welsh Government’s health and social care priorities will be in the fifth Assembly.

Violence Against Women Bill: how the education provisions evolved

18 March 2015

Article by Hannah Johnson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

The Violence Against Women Bill was passed by the Assembly last week. Aside from physical punishment, the main debate centred on the Bill’s education provisions.VAW

White Paper

The original White Paper consultation, published in 2012, cited that “better education and awareness [of gender-based violence] from the ‘cradle to the grave’, which includes the public, frontline staff and professionals” was one of the three priorities of the legislation.

The White Paper proposed that the Bill would:

  • ensure that education on ‘healthy relationships’ is delivered in all schools, and
  • introduce a duty on each local authority to identify a regional Ending Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Champion to promote a whole school approach for dealing with this issue in educational settings.

These proposals were hailed as ‘ground-breaking’ by the Welsh Government and welcomed by stakeholders. 

Stage 1 scrutiny

When the draft Bill was introduced to the Assembly in 2014, the education proposals had been dropped.

The Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum claimed that healthy relationships education was instead being considered as part of the curriculum review led by Professor Graham Donaldson, which would include a review of the basic curriculum including Personal and Social Education (PSE).

The EM stated that the review “provides an important opportunity to consider the place of PSE, including healthy relationships, in the new curriculum for Wales as a whole.”

A significant number of respondents to the  Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee’s consultation highlighted education as a major omission from the Bill.

In response, the Committee’s stage 1 report on the Bill recommended that it be amended to include compulsory, whole-school, age-appropriate education programmes on healthy relationships.

The Committee considered that:

  • education is the most crucial part of preventing gender-based violence and without the White Paper proposals the Bill cannot achieve its stated aims;
  • the curriculum review is not enough to ensure change – the recommendations are not mandatory and the review cannot consider wider issues such as school champions and Estyn inspections, and
  • current provision is not mandatory, and is patchy and inconsistent; one-off sessions for secondary school pupils on healthy relationships education are not adequate and the issue needs to be embedded in the curriculum from early years.

Stage 2 amendments

At stage 2, the Minister brought forward an amendment to the Bill, which allows Welsh Ministers to place a duty on local authorities to report on how they are addressing gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence within their education institutions, including through sex education.

Campaigners said that they were “exceptionally disappointed that so little progress has been made on education within this Bill at the end of Stage 2”.

Stage 3 amendments and announcements

At stage 3, the Minister tabled amendments to:

  • provide Welsh Ministers with the power to issue statutory guidance to ensure that local authorities designate a member of staff for the purpose of championing violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence matters in schools and other settings, and
  • provide Welsh Ministers and HEFCW the power to issue guidance to governing bodies of HE and FE institutions and to require those institutions to have regard to such guidance.

The Minister also issued a statement on 26 February 2015 on the education provisions in the Bill. He noted that:

the Minister for Education and Skills has signalled his intention to have a Great Debate on the [Donaldson] report recommendations […] . Subject to the outcome of that, there will be an important role for key stakeholders to be involved in supporting the development of all of the Areas of Learning and Experience, including that of Health and Well-being. This will be very important in taking forward the purpose of the Bill and I have agreed with the Minister for Education and Skills to explore with the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence sector how they can contribute to taking forward this work.

[…]

I have signalled previously my intention to publish a Healthy Relationship Whole School Approach Good Practice Guide ahead of the 2015-16 academic year.

[…]

In January, the Welsh Government published revised statutory guidance, Keeping learners safe, to support all education services in delivering their responsibilities to help safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Chapter 4 of the guidance sets out the key issues associated with gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence to help support school staff in fulfilling their statutory responsibilities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children where those circumstances might be a factor.”

The statement also highlights the professional training elements of the Bill’s statutory guidance, which will be offered in all schools. The Minister also noted that “a thematic review [of Estyn inspections] on the subject of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence is planned for 2016-2017 academic year”.

Stage 4 and beyond

The Assembly unanimously passed the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill plenary on 10 March 2015. The Bill is now in the four-week period of intimation until 7 April 2015.

In a letter to Jocelyn Davies AM dated 9 March, following negotiations on the Bill, the Minister highlighted the actions that will be immediately taken following the passing of the Bill, including a violence against women conference, work with Governors Wales and reporting work with schools on training.

Campaigners welcomed the passing of the Bill, but it is yet to be seen whether the statutory guidance provision on healthy relationships education will be as effective as compulsory education in all schools, as originally proposed.

 

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