On Tuesday (6 June 2017), Assembly Members will debate the general principles of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill and vote whether to allow it to proceed to the second stage of the Assembly’s legislative process.
Stage 2 consideration of the Public Health (Wales) Bill was carried out in the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee on 23 March 2017.
All amendments brought forward by the Welsh Government were agreed. Whilst no opposition amendments were agreed, the Minister for Social Services and Public Health indicated that she would work with Members and consider bringing forward further amendments in a number of areas at Stage 3.
Article by Philippa Watkins, National Assembly for Wales Research Service.
The Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill was introduced on 12 December 2016 by the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, Alun Davies.
The Welsh Government is unequivocal about the need for change. It describes the Bill as a ‘complete overhaul’ of a system ‘no longer fit for purpose’.
23 February 2017
Article by Philippa Watkins, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
The Public Health (Wales) Bill was laid before the Assembly on 7 November 2016, and introduced in plenary by the Minister for Social Services and Public Health on 8 November 2016. The Assembly will debate the general principles of the Bill on 28 February 2017.
The Health, Social Care and Sport Committee reported (PDF, 962KB) on its Stage One consideration of the general principles of the Public Health (Wales) Bill on 10 February 2017.
The Bill sets out a series of specific proposals in discrete areas of public health policy: tobacco and nicotine products; ‘special procedures’ (acupuncture, body piercing, electrolysis and tattooing); intimate piercing; health impact assessments; pharmaceutical services, and; provision of toilets.
Further information on the background to the Bill, an overview of its parts, a summary of financial implications, and a Welsh glossary are provided in the Research Service’s Bill Summary (PDF, 996KB).
The Public Health (Wales) Bill has been broadly welcomed, however a number of stakeholders have described it as a ‘missed opportunity’ to introduce measures to tackle some of the most significant public health issues, including obesity, physical inactivity, and loneliness and isolation. The Welsh Government has emphasised that the Public Health Bill will focus on specific areas where legislation is an appropriate tool, and that it sits alongside a ‘broader suite of actions’ for improving health (including other legislative action, public health services, programmes and campaigns).
The Health, Social Care and Sport Committee’s report calls on the Welsh Government to use all available levers, including opportunities presented by legislation and existing powers, to take action on obesity and other priority public health issues. The specific proposals included in the Bill are generally welcomed by the Committee. The Committee’s report sets out a number of recommendations aimed at strengthening the legislation. For example, the Committee wants to see the provisions about intimate piercing strengthened to protect young people up to the age of 18 (the Bill as introduced sets the age restriction for intimate piercing at 16).
The Assembly’s Finance Committee reported (PDF, 780KB) on the financial implications of the Bill on 10 February 2017. The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee considered the appropriateness of the provisions in the Bill about powers to make subordinate legislation. Its report (PDF, 702KB) was also published on 10 February 2017.
Subject to the Assembly agreeing the general principles of the Public Health (Wales) Bill, the Bill will proceed to Stage Two (detailed Committee consideration of the Bill and any proposed amendments). Stage Two proceedings are expected to be completed by 7 April 2017.
Public Heath (Wales) Bill (PDF, 996KB)
10 February 2017
Article by Hannah Johnson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
On 15 February, the Assembly will debate the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee’s report on its post-legislative scrutiny of the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015.
The Act aims to:
- improve the public sector response to violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence;
- give public authorities (such as councils and health boards) a strategic focus on the issue, and
- ensure the consistent provision of preventative, protective and supportive services.
The main provisions of the legislation, alongside the Committee’s findings and the Welsh Government’s response, are highlighted below.
Pace of implementation
The Committee was concerned that the pace of implementation of the Act has, in some areas, been slow. It is more than 18 months since the Act was passed, and some key parts of the Act are yet to be delivered.
The Committee was particularly concerned that the commissioning of services was taking place without statutory guidance from the Welsh Government, which could lead to inconsistencies that would be at odds with the core aims of the Act. It also highlighted concerns that the rise in demand for services as a result of the Act was not being matched with sufficient and sustainable resources.
The Committee made recommendations including:
- The Welsh Government should set out anticipated delivery dates for the outstanding delivery plan, guidance and regulations, with the priority on commissioning guidance; and
- The Welsh Government should have urgent discussions with the UK Government about the future funding arrangements for independent domestic violence advisers (IDVAs).
The Welsh Government response states that:
- the multi-agency guidance “will be considered in light of the local government White Paper”;
- “the plan for rollout of Ask and Act will be developed from July 2017”;
- statutory commissioning guidance “will be consulted on by July 2017”;
- “guidance will be published in relation to local strategies in July 2017”, and
- national indicators will be published “not before” October 2017.
It also notes that discussions with the UK government have taken place, and the “national rollout of a regional funding approach for the Domestic Abuse Services Grant (DASG) from 01 April 2018. [..]2017-2018 will be a transitional year and [it will be moving] to a regional funding and commissioning model [in the future].”
National and local strategies
Sections 3-4 of the Act require the Welsh Government to prepare and publish a National Strategy to ’contribute to the aims of the Act’ no later than 6 months after the Welsh election (i.e. By 6 November 2016). Sections 5-8 of the Act require local authorities and local health boards to prepare and publish local strategies by May 2018.
The Committee was “disappointed” that while the Act was passed more than 18 months before the Welsh Government was required to publish the National Strategy, it did not begin consulting on a draft strategy until August, leaving only one month before the deadline for amendments and improvements to be made. Many witnesses told the Committee that they were not satisfied with the draft, and in particular that the views of survivors of abuse had not been taken into account.
As a result, the Cabinet Secretary made the decision to publish a high-level strategy in November 2016, which will be followed by a ‘delivery plan’ detailing how the strategy will be achieved. The Committee was concerned that the delivery plan would not be legally enforceable (unlike the National Strategy), and that no timescales for its publication had been provided.
In addition, the Committee heard that local strategies are beginning to be developed before the delivery plan is published, which could lead to inconsistencies in strategic approaches.
The Committee recommended that the Welsh Government should:
- clarify the legal status of the forthcoming delivery plan, which should preferably be issued as statutory guidance to ensure that it can be enforced;
- outline when the delivery plan will be published, and how it will be consulted upon, and
- ensure that the ten survivor recommendations contained in the report, Are you listening, am I being heard?, are fully considered during the development of the national survivor engagement framework.
The Welsh Government response states that “the legal status of the Delivery Framework will be considered with a Task & Finish Group, set up by the Advisory Group to develop the plan, with input from the Cross-Governmental officials Group. The Advisory Group will scrutinise the framework before being published” and “the timescale for the publication of the Framework will be determined by the Task & Finish group”.
Section 9 of the Act places a duty on local authorities to report on how they are addressing violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence within their education institutions. Section 10 gives Welsh Ministers and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) the power to issue guidance to further and higher education institutions.
Education was a contentious issue during the passage of the Act. The initial White Paper on the legislation from 2012 proposed that the Bill would ensure that education on ‘healthy relationships’ was mandatorily delivered in all schools.
This proposal was not included in the draft Bill. According to the then Minister in charge of the Bill, 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 duty in section 9 was introduced as a Government amendment during the passage of the Act.
Both the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children and the Cabinet Secretary for Education told the Committee that the regulations under section 9 would be developed in early 2017. It is not clear when local authorities will be required to start reporting.
The Committee recommended that the Welsh Government should:
- commit to including teaching about healthy relationships in the new curriculum under the ‘Health and Well-being’ Area of Learning and Experience (AoLE);
- expedite the preparation of regulations relating to the publication of information by local authorities on how they are exercising their functions to promote the purpose of the Act. It should also commit to requiring local authorities to begin reporting by the start of the 2017/18 academic year;
- outline how healthy relationships and consent education will be addressed by further and higher education institutions.
The Welsh Government responded to these recommendations by saying “there may be opportunities to obtain information and data on what education settings within local authorities are currently undertaking with regards to Education provision stemming from the Act from external organisations currently enhancing the delivery of Healthy Relationships in schools”. It goes on to say:
Work on the development of the Health and Wellbeing AoLE will include consideration on approaches to the delivery of Healthy relationships and therefore there is potential that this can be considered as part of the overall work being undertaken.
The Welsh Government noted that in relation to the recommendation about further and higher education bodies, “this will be considered with Higher Education colleagues whilst drawing from projects already in place within Further & Higher Education.”
The National Adviser
Section 20 of the Act requires Welsh Ministers to appoint a National Adviser to provide advice, monitor implementation of the Act and undertake research.
The Committee found that the National Adviser’s role is part-time, meaning that her influence and capacity is limited. It also noted that the Adviser’s work plan was not aligned with the National Strategy, again potentially leading to inconsistencies.
The Committee recommended that the Welsh Government should:
- Review of the capacity of the National Adviser role, and consider allocating additional resources to it to support the development of local strategies and undertake research;
- Clarify what sanctions are available to Welsh Ministers if a public authority does not fulfil the requirements of the Act, and
- Make reference to the National Adviser, her responsibilities and work plan in the forthcoming delivery plan and any future strategies.
The Welsh Government has “discussed and considered these recommendations with the National Adviser”, and it has agreed to keep it under review. In terms of powers, the response states that the Welsh Ministers have the power to “direct” an authority to take appropriate action, but does not detail what sanctioning powers are available.