Written Evidence for the Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery Service Provider Consultation

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1 Written Evidence for the Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery Service Provider Consultation

2 Background The principal aim of the Welsh Language Commissioner, an independent body established under the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011, is to promote and facilitate the use of Welsh. This entails raising awareness of the official status of the Welsh language in Wales and imposing standards on organizations. This, in turn, will lead to the establishment of rights for Welsh speakers. Two principles will underpin the work: In Wales, the Welsh language should be treated no less favourably than the English language Persons in Wales should be able to live their lives through the medium of the Welsh language if they choose to do so Contact Details: Tel: Website: welshlanguagecommissioner.org Welsh Language Commissioner Market Chambers 5-7 St Mary Street Cardiff CF10 1AT

3 Contents 1 Context 1 2 Main Comments 1 Standards 1 Welsh Language Services and Collaboration 2 Ability, Skills and Capacity 3 Using the Welsh Language in the Workplace 4 3 Further comments on the Commission's themes 5 Performance 5 Scale and Ability 6 Complexity 6 Governance, Delivery and Scrutiny 7 Culture and Leadership 8 The Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales 9

4 1 Context 1.1 Welsh language services in Wales are currently provided in accordance with statutory language schemes approved under the Welsh Language Act The Commissioner has inherited the powers of the Welsh Language Board (abolished in March 2012) to approve language schemes and resolve complaints about deficiencies in services provided under the schemes. 1.2 In due course, the language schemes will be superseded by Welsh language standards. The Welsh Government will be consulting on these standards in the near future. 1.3 Our comments, in section 2 below, address the final questions in the Commission's paper under the heading "Final Comments". Subsequently, and in the remainder of the document, we provide comments and evidence under the themes identified by the Commission. We do not answer all the questions raised as many of them are more relevant to service providers. 2 Main Comments 2.1 The Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery has a broad remit, but it is noted that this work is somewhat restricted by other developments. For example, the Government does not expect the Commission to consider the reconfiguration of Local Health Boards and, in light of the publication of the recommendations of the Hill Review, the Commission will not be giving particular consideration to the education system. As a result, the Commissioner's comments are general ones regarding the Welsh language in the context of public sector work and services in Wales. They do not give particular consideration to education provision or the health sector. 2.2 The public sector in Wales faces challenging times, and part of the Commission's work will be to consider the sustainability of services in the future. We are therefore pleased that the Commission's remit states that it will aim to propose a model that will ensure that efficient, effective and accessible services are provided to the public and that the new model will support continuous improvement in those services against the background of financial pressures. To that end, we also note the reference in the Commission's documentation to the need to consider the Welsh language when proposing a new model. Standards 2.3 It is already a period of significant change in terms of the way in which Welsh language services are provided and regulated. Following the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 (the Measure), the Government is in the process of developing Welsh language standards (the standards) which will supersede the current language schemes. This change in the legal model for providing Welsh language services is likely to affect all public bodies in Wales in due course. 01/09

5 2.4 The main objective of the Measure and standards is to improve the provision and quality of Welsh language services, leading to greater consistency and assurance for the public. The Commission will need to consider this context as it develops its proposals. Welsh Language Services and Collaboration 2.5 The Commission's remit deals directly with two of the six Strategic Areas in "A Living Language: A Language for Living", the Welsh Government's strategic plan for the Welsh language. Strategic area 4 of the plan involves increasing opportunities for people to use Welsh in the workplace and strategic area 5 involves increasing and improving Welsh language services to citizens. 2.6 In considering the reform of public services in Wales in recent years, the emphasis has been on collaboration. This contrasts with the situation in England where far greater emphasis has been placed on encouraging competition in the public sector. 2.7 Both the Beecham Review 1 and the Simpson Review 2 recommended more collaboration across traditional public body delivery boundaries. Further progress was made with the passing of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011, which gave Welsh Ministers powers to unify local authority areas and publish statutory guidelines on collaboration. 2.8 The Simpson Review included a specific recommendation on Welsh language services. Recommendation 17 of the review stated that local authorities should seek to collaborate when providing and purchasing translation services. The recommendation was also included in the Compact between the Welsh Government and the Welsh Local Government Association which followed the review. Despite efforts to implement the recommendation, feasible progress has been limited. There are examples of collaboration in terms of translation services but, in most cases, this appears to have happened independently of the review. 2.9 Indeed, despite the increased emphasis on collaboration between public authorities in Wales, evidence of proactive efforts to collaborate when providing Welsh language services is both limited and inconsistent It is important to note that there are exceptions, and there is evidence of ongoing work in some areas and regions. For example, Anglesey and Gwynedd councils have collaborated with Betsi Cadwaladr Local Health Board to produce guidelines on the provision of care services through the medium of Welsh as part of their agreements under section 33 of the National Health Service (Wales) Act A number of local authorities in the south-east share translation services through joint-contracts. There are also examples of work being undertaken under the Local Service Board regime, particularly efforts in Gwynedd to promote the Welsh language in the community Despite this, it is perhaps disappointing that there has been a lack of further collaboration on issues relating to the Welsh language, particularly in order to resolve problems or deficiencies in existing services. This is discussed further in sections below. 02/09 1 Beyond Boundaries: Citizen-Centred Local Services for Wales, July Local, Regional, National: What services are best delivered where?, March 2011

6 2.12 Alongside the emphasis on closer collaboration in the public sector, there is also more emphasis on the third sector's role as a public sector partner, and the private sector has become more prominent in terms of provision than before in light of the increasing practice of commissioning work from external organizations. Unless the procurement and contracting regime is effectively managed, arrangements such as these may dilute the influence of statutory language schemes and lead to insufficient Welsh language services. The Welsh Language Commissioner is in the process of publishing advice on this (having already published advice on "Grants, Loans and Sponsorship") and, if the model proposed by the Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery favours the further use of external commissioning, then it will be essential to consider corporate policy issues such as the Welsh language. Ability, Skills and Capacity 2.13 Welsh language service provision has gradually increased and improved with language schemes. However, significant gaps and challenges still exist and individuals are not always able to access services and use the Welsh language as they wish The new standards are expected to address a number of current inconsistencies, but it could be argued that public bodies are missing an opportunity to improve their Welsh language provision in the meantime by failing to collaborate in a more proactive way. For example, ineffective workforce planning over a period of time and insufficient Welsh language skills mean that some public bodies lack the capacity to provide all their services to the public in Welsh. However, there are very few practical examples of bodies collaborating and undertaking joint planning in order to try and overcome such deficiencies Indeed, the workforce's lack of linguistic capacity has a detrimental effect on the ability of a number of public bodies to provide Welsh language services in accordance with their language schemes. The services most affected by this are those that depend on face-to-face contact and that cannot, in actual fact, rely on translation support We need to stop thinking of the Welsh language in terms of translation only and concentrate on developing a workforce that has the appropriate Welsh language skills to be able to offer a comprehensive, high quality service through the medium of Welsh As well as providing services to the public, local authorities play a crucial role in terms of linguistic planning in Wales. Their functions include the provision of Welshmedium education; sport; youth services; social services; housing; planning; and economic development Improving Welsh language services in the health and care sector is a priority because the language, in this context, is very often more than just a matter of choice - it's a matter of necessity. The Welsh Government has published the strategic framework "More Than Just Words" for the sector and the Welsh Language Commissioner is in the process of conducting an Inquiry into Welsh-medium primary care provision. These developments, along with the new standards, will place higher 03/09

7 expectations on public bodies and put extra pressure on them to improve their Welsh language provision. This will pose a significant challenge to some public bodies which have not made sufficient investment in the Welsh language skills of their workforce and where there is a very low percentage of Welsh speakers We believe that the Commission should give careful consideration to this challenge, so that the governance and delivery model proposed can contribute towards facilitating the new legal and strategic requirements to improve Welsh language service provision. Using the Welsh Language in the Workplace 2.20 Another important consideration in planning a model for the future is the use made of the Welsh language in the workplace. The workplace is one of the key areas which decides what language people use and it has a key role to play in terms of giving Welsh speakers the confidence to use the language in other aspects of their lives Despite the increase in the status of the Welsh language and efforts in Welshmedium education, the opportunities for people to work through the medium of Welsh continue to be limited. As a result, it is essential that existing Welsh-medium workplaces are nurtured and protected Gwynedd Council is the most frequently used example of an authority which operates through the medium of Welsh. However, the language is used extensively in other bodies and in a number of departments and teams within organizations As explained above, one of the strategic aims of the Welsh Government's Strategic Plan for the Welsh language, "A Living Language: A Language for Living", is to increase opportunities for people to use the Welsh language in the workplace. This area will also be considered further through the proposed standards which will include an undertaking to promote the use of the Welsh language in the workplace The standards alone will not be sufficient to meet the challenge of increasing the use of the Welsh language in the workplace. Therefore, its use will need to be supported in other ways and it is important to note that many factors influence the use of the Welsh language in the workplace. The most obvious factor, of course, is the number and percentage of the workforce who can speak Welsh but there are also other influencing factors such as organizational support for using the language and the degree to which the organization's culture facilitates the use of the Welsh language Therefore, any proposals made by the Commission in terms of new governance and administrative structures should first consider how existing Welsh-medium workplaces can be nurtured, and secondly, include clear messages on the strategic expectation to support and develop the use of the Welsh language in the workplace. 04/09

8 3 Further comments on the Commission's themes Performance 3.1 Collecting consistent and meaningful data on the performance of Welsh language services poses a significant challenge. Despite the previous efforts of the Welsh Language Board, the only national performance indicator used as part of local authorities' performance framework is: EDU/006ii - The percentage of pupils assessed, in schools maintained by the local authority, receiving a Teacher Assessment in Welsh (first language) at the end of Key Stage 3" 3.2 This led to the Welsh Language Board developing its own set of indicators, with the agreement of local authorities. Those indicators related to the following areas: Welsh language training Language awareness training The workforce's Welsh language skills Complaints about deficiencies in Welsh language services First point of contact services and the Welsh language Contracted services and the Welsh language 3.3 There has been a gradual improvement in the way in which these indicators are reported, but there are still gaps in knowledge with a number of authorities, for example, failing to report on data pertaining to the workforce's Welsh language skills. This data is essential in order to enable the effective planning of the workforce and service provision. Without the appropriate evidence base, it is very difficult for an organization to know for certain the extent to which it can provide a service in Welsh. 3.4 Currently, the main approach to measuring the performance of public bodies' Welsh language services is through monitoring Welsh language schemes. The responsibility for monitoring language schemes was transferred to the Commissioner in 2012, following the abolition of the Welsh Language Board. The monitoring process can be summarised as follows: An annual monitoring report is received from an organization on its performance against the commitments of the language scheme. (Usually, the report refers to performance during the previous financial year and local authorities are expected to submit their reports during the summer. The report is tantamount to a self-assessment but is based on specific requirements which have been agreed beforehand.) The Commissioner's office responds to the reports and asks further questions. There is a period of discussion when information and evidence are submitted. The process concludes with a formal feedback meeting. In the case of local authorities, a summary of performance is provided for the 05/09

9 Wales Audit Office's Improvement Reports. These summaries identify some priorities for the next period. (There has been collaboration between the Commissioner and the Audit Office, mainly as a result of the Local Government Measure 2009, which gives the Welsh Language Commissioner "Relevant Regulator" status.) Scale and Ability 3.5 The capacity to provide Welsh language services is a problem in some areas of Wales and this is often seen in smaller bodies where staffing resources are limited, or where there is a high percentage of specialised posts. 3.6 Having said that, many of these challenges can be overcome through careful long term planning. It can take time to develop a workforce which has sufficient capacity to provide effective Welsh language services but, too often, there is a lack of effort to develop Welsh language skills and ability. 3.7 The two main approaches to increasing Welsh language skills are recruitment and training. The Welsh Language Commissioner has published an advice document for public bodies, "Recruitment: Welsh Language Considerations". The purpose of this document is to assist organizations to develop a bilingual workforce; it deals with the principles and main features relevant to recruitment issues and the Welsh language. It gives advice on adopting effective policies; maximising and developing further the various language skills of employees; and raising awareness of best practice with regard to language and recruitment. In doing so, the document aims to enable organizations to provide improved Welsh language services to the public and communicate successfully with them in Welsh, if Welsh is indeed their chosen language. 3.8 A lack of capacity on the part of smaller bodies can affect the investment and resources available for providing translation services. This often affects face-to-face Welsh language provision. The services that depend on this type of contact are affected by the "critical mass" of officers who have appropriate Welsh language skills. There are very few examples of ongoing collaboration between organizations to resolve capacity issues of this kind. 3.9 Resource and capacity issues affect some sectors more than others and they are an obvious consideration when deciding what is reasonable with very small bodies, such as town and community councils for example. Complexity 3.10 An increasing number of services are being provided by partnerships or through external procurement and commissioning arrangements. There is a risk that this could lead to complications and doubts about accountability and responsibility The regulation of Welsh language services is subject to the implementation of a Welsh language scheme which places firm commitments on an individual organization. In situations where more than one organization is working in partnership or where an external organization has been contracted to provide a 06/09

10 service, this can dilute accountability for providing a Welsh language service unless arrangements and expectations are clearly agreed from the outset This has not been happening regularly and there have been a number of cases where the Welsh language was not given sufficient consideration when procuring external services. As a result, the Welsh Language Commissioner is in the process of publishing an advice document on Contracting Out and the Welsh Language, and information on the practices adopted by public bodies in this area will be collected via the monitoring of language schemes Partnership arrangements can also be very complicated and responsibility for the Welsh language can be lost amongst other discussions on the details of services. There are exceptions to this and examples of public bodies planning Welsh language services beforehand. However, all too often, there is a lack of discussion about the Welsh language and it is therefore unclear at the outset what policy is being followed and what language scheme is relevant to the partnership Over 550 bodies now implement language schemes, which reflects the large number of public bodies operating in Wales. Monitoring and regulating so many organizations and so many schemes is clearly a significant administrative task. The Commissioner prioritises work and responds to issues which arise, but questions must be asked about the effectiveness of a structure which is reliant on so many bodies. One of the aims of the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 is to ensure improved Welsh language services and consistency for those services. A situation whereby so many bodies are operating in one sector - e.g. 22 County Councils, will inevitably lead to significant challenges in terms of trying to ensure a consistent service for users We are aware that reviews of public services in Wales such as the Beecham Review and the Simpson Review have considered other delivery models. There has been greater collaboration in recent years and a tendency towards more joint commissioning. However, up to now, there have been very few examples of cases where this has led to the provision of improved Welsh language services. If anything, the collaboration has led to less certainty in terms of the consideration given to horizontal policy areas such as the Welsh language. Governance, Delivery and Scrutiny 3.16 The Welsh language has been an official language in Wales since the passing of the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure The Measure lays down a clear principle that persons in Wales should be able to live their lives through the medium of the Welsh language if they choose to do so. However, too many public organizations are continuing to consider good service mainly in terms of the English language Scrutiny of language schemes has improved but further improvement is needed in order to ensure the meaningful scrutiny of commitments to develop Welsh language services As with any other policy area, forward planning and a robust internal structure are required in order to provide effective Welsh language services. An officer is needed 07/09

11 to lead the work of implementing the scheme from day to day; a senior officer is needed to take operational responsibility for the scheme; and, where relevant, the promotion of the Welsh language should also form part of an elected member's portfolio. In addition, an internal committee is needed to take responsibility for scrutinising efforts to implement the language scheme and other efforts to promote the use of the Welsh language However, evidence shows that too much responsibility is often placed on one officer who is responsible for the scheme. One officer cannot ensure success in large and complicated public authorities; robust support structures must be put in place. Another relevant consideration is the way in which the Welsh language is considered in service departments and the link between departmental work programmes and corporate policy. All too often, this link is weak or unclear A great deal of time and unnecessary work can often be avoided by considering the Welsh language from the outset when planning services. For example, if a new IT service is commissioned and only the English language is considered, there could be significant costs for considering the Welsh language further down the line. Ensuring that effective arrangements are in place for assessing the effect of new policies or services on the Welsh language before they are launched can avoid complaints or public embarrasment at a later date All too often, a lack of good governance, planning and scrutiny with regard to the Welsh language leads to deficiencies, delays and poor service. This, is turn, affects an organization's credibility and the use made of the Welsh language services provided. Culture and Leadership 3.22 As well as having an effect on service provision, an organization's culture and leadership also affects the use of the Welsh language within that organization Decisions on structures, resources and finance are usually made by leaders and, clearly, a lack of strong leadership with regard to the provision of Welsh language services or the increased use of Welsh in the workplace is likely to have a negative effect Welsh language schemes are corporate action documents based on statute and should be considered by senior managers. There are examples of this but, all too often, the implementation of a language scheme is considered in isolation and is not clearly incorporated in strategic objectives and corporate plans Efforts are afoot to try and change this and there are examples in some local authorities where the Welsh language and the language scheme are considered in strategic plans. In addition, collaboration between the Welsh Language Commissioner's office and the Wales Audit Office means that a summary of an organization's performance with regard to the language scheme appears in local authority Improvement Reports Should the Commission recommend rationalising the number of public bodies, 08/09

12 leading to a restructuring of the public sector in Wales, then it would provide an opportunity to reconsider strategic requirements in order to ensure that the Welsh language is considered at a strategic level in every local authority. The Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales 3.27 One of the Commissioner's strategic objectives is to influence the consideration given to the Welsh language in policy developments. It is essential that the Welsh language is a central consideration in every policy area in order to meet the language needs of citizens in Wales As explained above, the Government has published a strategy for the Welsh language which sets out a vision and clear strategic areas. However, it appears that this vision is not currently being transferred to different policy areas It appears to us, in responding to consultation documents and offering comments on all kinds of policies, that the consideration given to the Welsh language outside of clear policy areas such as education is inconsistent at best. This is also important when considering the strategic direction given by the Government to other public bodies through strategies; guidance; funding and grants Therefore, although the overall vision is clear, more sectoral messages regarding the Welsh language are needed in order to exert a wide-ranging influence and increase the use of, and opportunities to use, the Welsh language In light of the Welsh Language Measure 2011 and the proposed standards, it is important that the Government sets an example to others in terms of providing services and administering through the medium of Welsh. There is evidence that promising steps have been taken by the Government over recent months to improve Welsh language services. This is supported by a challenging operational plan which should ensure improvement in the short term. However, steps to increase the internal use of the Welsh language have been less apparent If the Government is placing expectations on other organizations to improve and be ambitious through the Welsh Language Measure, then this ambition must be embedded first and foremost in the Government itself. 09/09

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