Y Pwyllgor Cydraddoldeb a Chyfiawnder Cymdeithasol
Equality and Social Justice Committee27/06/2022
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Altaf Hussain AS|
|Jane Dodds AS|
|Jenny Rathbone AS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Joel James AS||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Altaf Hussain yn ystod eitemau 6 a 7|
|Substitute for Altaf Hussain during items 6 and 7|
|Ken Skates AS|
|Peredur Owen Griffiths AS||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Sioned Williams yn ystod eitemau 6 a 7|
|Substitute for Sioned Williams during items 6 and 7|
|Sarah Murphy AS|
|Sioned Williams AS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Alison Plant||Tîm Trais yn erbyn Menywod, Cam-drin Domestig a Thrais Rhywiol, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Team, Welsh Government|
|Alistair Davey||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr Galluogi Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director, Social Services Enabling People, Welsh Government|
|Amanda Blakeman||Dirprwy Brif Gwnstabl Heddlu Gwent|
|Gwent Police Deputy Chief Constable|
|Dr Heather Payne||Uwch-swyddog Meddygol ar gyfer Iechyd Mamau a Phlant, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Senior Medical Officer for Maternal and Child Health, Welsh Government|
|Eluned Morgan AS||Y Gweinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol|
|Minister for Health and Social Services|
|Geraint Thomas||Prif Swyddog Cynorthwyol Dros Dro, Gwasanaeth Tân ac Achub De Cymru|
|Temporary Assistant Chief Officer, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service|
|Helen Rees||Pennaeth Caffael, Gwasanaeth Tân ac Achub Canolbarth a Gorllewin Cymru|
|Head of Procurement, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service|
|Jane Hutt AS||Y Gweinidog Cyfiawnder Cymdeithasol|
|Minister for Social Justice|
|Julie Morgan AS||Y Dirprwy Weinidog Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol|
|Deputy Minister for Social Services|
|Richard Tompkins||Cyflogwyr GIG Cymru|
|NHS Wales Employers|
|Shân Morris||Prif Swyddog Cynorthwyol, Gwasanaeth Tân ac Achub Gogledd Cymru|
|Assistant Chief Officer, North Wales Fire and Rescue Service|
|Sue Hill||Bwrdd Iechyd Prifysgol Betsi Cadwaladr|
|Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Angharad Roche||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Rachael Davies||Ail Glerc|
|Sam Mason||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Samiwel Davies||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Stephen Davies||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 12:01.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 12:01.
Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the Equality and Social Justice Committee. We've got a busy session today; we've got four public sessions—two to finish off our inquiry on migrants, the violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence inquiry, and then we've got two sessions on our further scrutiny of the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill.
Before we start with our first scrutiny session, are there any declarations of interest that anybody needs to declare? I can't see any declarations. I've got apologies from Ken Skates, but he will be able to join us later on this afternoon. This is a bilingual meeting, so there is instantaneous translation available, and the meeting is open to the public on Senedd.tv.
I'm very pleased to welcome deputy chief constable Amanda Blakeman, who is the operational lead for policing in Wales for violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence, and the taskforce that she has set up on this important matter. I very much welcome you to the committee's deliberations. Jane Dodds is going to begin the questions.
Good afternoon. It's lovely to have you with us. My questions relate to the support that the police offer to victims of gender-based violence, particularly focusing in on those who are from migrant backgrounds. Could you explain to us what the difference is in terms of the police response to women affected by violence and those who are migrant women, refugees, asylum seekers or with no particular status? Thank you. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Thank you. If I can just start by explaining that there are many third sector support agencies that have specialist workers to help, particularly in relation to migrant women and girls who are victims or survivors of this matter. Where we are able, in Wales, I think, to sit in a very good place is that often the situation comes down to being able to effectively communicate. Fortunately, in Wales, we have BAWSO—Black and Asian women step out—and we also have the Welsh Refugee Council, who are fantastic in terms of helping us to signpost, and also, for those that are in that crisis point, helping them to obtain the help and assistance they need. We also have a significant amount of other support, and that includes our independent domestic violence adviser service, the independent sexual violence adviser service, and then obviously the national asylum support service, the Department of Work and Pensions, and sexual assault referral centres, to name but a few.
For migrant women generally, the support provided is determined by the circumstances in which that particular woman has initial contact with the police. If the situation is around illegal entrants looking to claim asylum, they're debriefed to establish whether or not they are victims of exploitation or crime and whether they require therefore hospital support or clinical support, and we also look at a national referral mechanism situation in relation to them, which will protect them from any ongoing action in relation to their immigration status. Protection of life and well-being comes as an absolute priority in these areas. I don't know whether you want me to pause and you can come back in, but obviously, I've got quite a lengthy list of the things that are in place to be able to look at that first contact.
Thank you very much. I'm really interested in the practical issues here, because the police are often the first on the scene when there is an incident. Could you tell us what difference there is between a police response to a woman who's experienced violence, compared to those who are from a migrant background? I understand all of the issues you've spoken about, but we're really interested—. Unfortunately, we've heard a mixture of reports from those who've experienced the police response initially. Could you tell us what the difference is and what your expectations should be in terms of a response to those migrant women? Thank you.
Absolutely. Obviously, the challenges start off from the point of view of communication, really. The barriers include different languages, meanings applied to different words, how we communicate, and the status of that individual from the very off. We can find a situation where it's really difficult to gain that trust and confidence in the very first instance. Certainly, the victim's perception of policing from their own experience and from their previous lived experience, and the places that they've come from, the different countries, can be one of fear and distrust. So, we've done a lot of work in relation to trying to build that from the very off, because clearly, that first point of contact with policing is absolutely critical in terms of gaining the trust of the individual, getting past the fear of not being believed, and getting to a point where we can make the appropriate debrief, use the national referral mechanism and look at all the great agencies that are in place across Wales to be able to support people as they move their way through what is a horrific experience for them. We've done a lot around trying to concentrate our effort on how we train our staff appropriately and adequately to be able to understand all of those complex issues and how we are able to offer that specialist support once we've made that identification.
Thank you. A very, very quick, brief question, and then I'm going to hand over, because we've got very limited time. I guess I'm really much more interested in what your expectations are of your police officers when they go to a situation where you have a migrant woman who's suffered domestic violence, versus, perhaps, a situation where that isn't the case. Could you just really give us a little snippet of what your expectations are of that situation? Thank you. And then I'll hand over. Thank you, Chair.
An extended awareness of the situation that that person may have found themselves in, so that they've got an appreciation that that may be different, and therefore that active curiosity in terms of what they're seeking to try to identify from that particular victim, and then an awareness of how they can support them by looking at the national referral mechanism and all of the support agencies that are in place, so we can do the very, very best that we should be doing for that particular woman or girl in that particular situation, and we make sure that we access the huge range of services that are out there. So, professional curiosity, understanding the different scenario and making the right choice in relation to supporting that victim.
Thank you very much. I just wanted to ask you a little bit about the awareness and knowledge of front-line staff. What do front-line police officers get in the way of training, in order to help them identify, support and refer victims affected by sexual and gender-based violence who happen to be from the migrant communities?
The training is from day one, really, when a police officer joins us and does their initial recruit training. We start that process of training, of expansion of knowledge in relation to domestic abuse and sexual violence, in all its forms, from the very first day they start their policing career with us. That doesn't just apply to our police officers, but our special constables, our police community support officers and our staff who are involved in contact with the public—our victims hub, for instance. All of our staff get that training and awareness in relation to it. Then we focus in on specific issues during the lifetime that that officer or member of staff is with us. From our initial training, the expectation would be that our staff would be able to identify the needs of that individual in terms of an initial policing response, and to be able to, as I say, provide the right help and support, but also to make sure that the access to services further afield is available.
We have extensively invested in Domestic Abuse Matters training for our staff across Wales, and we've also utilised—[Inaudible.]—slavery police transformation unit. We've got honour-based abuse liaison officers—staff that are trained in all areas of honour-based offending, FGM, forced marriages—who also do training to our staff, and awareness sessions. We here in Gwent, and alongside colleagues in South Wales, have dedicated modern-day slavery teams, so we're able to reach in a far more extensive way in terms of modern-day slavery and all of the elements that sit alongside that. We also do initial honour-based violence training for all of our officers, which is three days long, alongside lots of other multi-agency training that we do along with other services, which include immigration enforcement and so on.
In November last year, in North Wales Police, the local resilience forum conducted a tabletop exercise in order to make sure that they were able to respond effectively to these types of offending, and the wider scale that we see around it. So, there's quite a lot that is happening in terms of policing that happens from day one, and then looks to expand across the lifetime of the officer, the police staff member that is dealing with the public, and also seeks to continuously learn. So, we develop our training as we learn more and we refine our services more.
What tools do you use to ensure that the guidance is being consistently applied across Wales?
From being able to access this consistently, we do a lot in terms of working with partner agencies and seeking to get that feedback. We also do a lot in terms of utilising feedback from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, who inspect us on a regular and ongoing basis in relation to our response. And we also do a lot in terms of those partner agencies, particularly the immigration service, who are also subject to inspection, so we can make sure that we scrutinise how we do things and how we act.
Again, speaking from a Gwent perspective, we go back in and test and check our understanding. We also have quite a lot of external scrutiny in relation to our domestic abuse cases. So, we look at not one particular area, but we look to get that external public scrutiny, we look to get our inspectorate services and we look for work with other multi-agencies to make sure that we are developing our understanding, and also that that training is being delivered and is effective.
How do the different policy landscapes between Wales and the rest of the UK impact on the way that your officers undertake their duties? Is this something that poses a problem in any way?
I'm sorry, I missed the first part of your question because it was a little quiet, so I do apologise.
I wondered if you could tell us if the different legislative landscapes between Wales and other parts of the UK pose any sort of challenge for you in ensuring that people understand that, for example, in Wales, we like to describe ourselves as a nation of sanctuary and that means that we have a particular approach that may or may not be different to what goes on in other parts of the UK.
Absolutely. So, from a policing perspective, we are very alive to the fact that our working on legislation—. So, we're a non-devolved organisation working within a devolved landscape, so we're very aware of that and, as a result, we spend quite a lot of time making sure that we are absolutely joined across the gaps that could occur between agencies if we weren't careful. So, we are very aware of that. If I give a comparison, as we moved our way through COVID, of course, there were different legislative requirements between England and Wales, so we had to work our way through that on an ongoing basis and make sure that we communicated that with our officers and staff on a regular basis, and that we checked and tested understanding. We do exactly the same in relation to the legislative framework that we work within.
But also, with issues such as those we're speaking about today, it's really important—perhaps more critically so—that we're joined up with our partner agencies in being able to make sure that a victim has the opportunity to move through what is a traumatic, life-changing event and make the recovery that they need to. So, we work hard to make sure that we are joined up in that way and we look for identification within legislation that may make a difference in Wales, and we work very closely with partners from Welsh Government to make sure that that has no impact on any victims. And I think a really good example of that would be the work that we've done around violence against women and girls and the blueprint approach that we've worked with Welsh Government on. I've worked very, very closely with DCC Maggie Blyth, who is the national lead in relation to that, to make sure that we are 100 per cent joined up and we haven't got gaps in service that impact on victims, and that we also don't confuse our officers and staff who are there on a day-to-day basis delivering what we want them to deliver in terms of victims and what the victim needs them to deliver in terms of recovery, and what we need to be able to deliver to make sure that those offenders who are committing these offences are brought to justice.
Thank you very much. Now, I'd like to call Sarah Murphy in to ask her questions.
Thank you very much for being here this morning to answer our questions. I just wanted to ask a few about the immigration status and data sharing. In what circumstances would the police share the immigration status of victims of sexual and gender-based violence?
Well, where there's a safeguarding issue, we wouldn't do so. So, just to get to the absolute nub of your question, would you like to be more specific in how you would like me to bring this out in terms of what would help you most?
If somebody comes to you and says that they have been the victim of sexual or gender-based violence, would you then, under any circumstances, share their immigration status with any other agencies outside of the police force?
So, obviously, we are bound by the same data protection regulations and we are very, very mindful of the safeguarding of victims. We're also very mindful of the position that victims can find themselves in in this particularly sensitive and critical area, especially where an immigration status is in itself a form of control. So, we're very clear on our position in relation to sharing information: that's that we don't. Where we might share information, which is in a wider partnership forum, for instance, a multi-agency meeting that is around managing risk or managing that risk for a victim, that has all of the proper governance around it in terms of data protection and data sharing. Does that help?
Yes. So, what you're saying is that, no, you would never share the immigration status of somebody who had come to you who had been a victim.
And even in these multi-agency meetings that you have, you wouldn't discuss their immigration status.
Unless it was critical to the case in terms of safeguarding, and we'd do that with a data-sharing agreement in place, around—
Can you give us an example, then, of that exception?
Well, I'd have to think really hard around a specific example, but I suppose where it comes to mind is where an individual is being controlled by a perpetrator and, actually, part of that control is their immigration status. You know, that becomes, in itself, an inhibitor in terms of reporting to the police and working with us in order for us to be able to put the right assistance in and to be able to bring an offender to justice. So, we know sorts of circumstances, although it's difficult to pinpoint that into an exact example, but we'd be very mindful of the position from a victim's point of view and the amount of control that is being exerted over them. And also, especially where an offender may be working on a multiple basis. So, obviously, a multi-agency risk assessment process that might look at a victim would be slightly different to one that would look at an offender. We wouldn't be discussing the same in both rooms in terms of how we're going to manage those individuals, if you can see what I mean.
Okay. And you mentioned about the rules around GDPR and data sharing, so how is this communicated to victims? Do you get their consent to be able to collect their data when they come to you?
Yes. So, obviously, what we look at is the national referral mechanism being an opportunity to be able to look at putting that first step in around safeguarding, and also put some protective measures around that individual. And we'd be looking at trying to explain the complexities of that, given the context of the individual, but safeguarding comes first. The victim and their needs come first in relation to that.
We do capture metric data, and we do that across all of the different agencies. Our regional organised crime units, our National Crime Agency will capture general information, so we're able to identify that, and, particularly for offenders, utilise flags and markers, et cetera, so we're able to identify them, especially where they're systematic in their behaviour. But in terms of individual victims, there's no legal duty to share information. And, obviously, if immigration services were likely to be a barrier, then, clearly, we would be unlikely to share.
So, just to clarify: what I mean is that, when you or your officers meet with the victims and, obviously, you then make a note of what they told you about the abuse that they've suffered, and this is obviously, then, collected as data, is that explained to the victims, that this will be put onto a system, and how do you get their consent for that?
Yes. So, as much as we possibly can, yes, given the fact that, often, we have barriers to come through, such as language, et cetera. So, obviously, we try to do that in a sensitive way, also looking at the fact that the victim will be coming to us mainly at the point of crisis as well. So, as we move through that, you know, working with that individual victim, yes, we do. Yes.
Just one last question, sorry, Chair. We have heard evidence that a lot of people who work, like you've mentioned, BAWSO and other agencies, don't actually feel that, as you said, because of language barriers, because the person who's come to you is in such a state of distress at this point, and fear, they don't really think that they have the ability to really understand what they're giving consent to, so is it even really consent? Do you have a view on that? What would your view on that be?
It's so difficult, isn't it, because you're absolutely right, we're seeing people at a point of crisis where there is no other option, and they are, in a lot of instances, in a really difficult situation, both physically and emotionally, and very frightened. Our role is to try to make sure that we put the most appropriate support in, that I give my officers the most appropriate training that I can to be able to work their way through the complexity, the myriad of issues that they will come across in that first instance. We do the very best we can for that victim to try to explain everything we can to them and that we don't generate or collect information unfairly or in a way that, actually, we know that victim wouldn't want. So, we work really hard to try and work through what is, often, complex, chaotic, upsetting, difficult and very, very challenging, which is why BAWSO is so effective in terms of being able to be that link in, so that we gain that better understanding and position with that victim.
Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.
Jane Dodds, was there anything you wanted to clarify, or has it passed? Okay, fine. We now move on to Altaf Hussain.
Thank you very much. Thank you, deputy chief constable. My questions are about the repeat offenders. What course of action do the police take if they identify a repeat abuser, for example, those who are bringing women and girls into the country from abroad? In such circumstances, what is the multi-organisational response? Who gets involved and what are their roles?
Thank you very much. Offenders, when they come to police attention, often because of an incident that has been reported to us, and depending upon the circumstances, we put the safeguarding measures in place that include things like markers and flags on national systems. Each of the 43 forces and the British Transport Police have their own recording system, but that is mirrored by a system that we call the police national database. If you are flagging or marking an offender in north Wales, then via the police national database, I would be able to see that in Gwent, if that individual becomes active in my community, and the same for south Wales, the same for Dyfed-Powys, the same for Humberside, if somebody moved from there across to our area. So, that flagging of an individual is really important, as is the collection of intelligence about them and then the work that we do to disrupt their organised criminality. So, that's really important.
Where those individuals move into the criminal justice system, then we can monitor and manage them by recognised routes. I think I touched upon MAPPA, which is the multi-agency public protection arrangements for dangerous offenders, and over the lifetime of my career, I've sat on many of those panel meetings where we have been able to put effective management, as multiple agencies, between probation services, police, housing and other agencies, around those offenders who are serial offenders in relation to their activities, but are operating in our communities.
We also have integrated offender management systems. We work specifically here in Wales on the national framework of integrated offender management, so, again, working not at the most serious level, like MAPPA would be, but at that next tier down in relation to integrated offenders. Across Wales, we run the Wales integrated serious and dangerous offender management programme, which is for repeat domestic abuse offenders, so where we see people moving from one relationship to the next with behaviours that really need that control and that intervention around them. Obviously, we pick up some of those within MARAC, which are the multi-agency risk assessment conferences.
So, comprehensively, we have a number of mechanisms in place that deal with the individual and, comprehensively, across the country, we have intelligence systems that speak to each other in order to be able to make sure that the officers on the ground have that information to their hands when they're talking to that offender.
At a local level we also use our force tasking processes to make sure we pick up those individuals who are, again, problematic in our communities. We can put additional measures in place, working with colleagues on a regional and national basis, where we've got individuals who are taking part in organised trafficking, and we do that in terms of it. So, there are ongoing partnership arrangements and that ongoing monitoring, management, intelligence and tasking has an effective relation to understanding where those individuals are and managing them.
Okay, can I—
Thank you very much—
Altaf, can I bring I just bring in Jane Dodds, and I'll come back to you? Jane.
Thank you. Very quickly, there are two things I want to just really focus in on. We're aware of the issues around women experiencing violence, but we really want to focus in on migrant women and the additional challenges that they face, and I think one of the issues we heard from people in those communities was about repeat offenders who are travelling abroad in order to bring other victims back. You've talked a lot about the UK and how you do it through MAPPA et cetera, but could you tell us about how you manage that? Also, I'm really interested in—the second thing—what can be improved. You've said a lot about the raft of issues you have and resources, but we're really interested in Wales in what we can do differently that would be better. Thanks. Diolch.
So, apologies—the reason why all of those local systems are important is because they feed into the national effective management by the National Crime Agency and immigration services in relation to those individuals that are travelling abroad to commit this type of offending and are systematically understood to be doing that. So, we link into that via national tasking. I specifically have done work with national tasking around the police national database to make sure that we can link all of those flags and mark systems up so that we understand those offenders that are working abroad. Where we are able to identify those and bring them to justice, we specifically do. I myself have been involved in those that have travelled abroad in order to commit offending, specifically in relation to young people. I know that that happens on an ongoing and regular basis with our multi-agency partners.
I think what could be better improved is, I suppose, stronger partnership working in order to make sure that people with a history of violence towards women, who are bringing women into the UK, are flagged more effectively and more quickly. So, that broader partnership working can only ever be improved. We do a lot of it, but it still needs to be an ongoing, evolving process in order to make sure that we understand exactly who those individuals are, and especially where an individual is sponsoring, if you like, females, and there are concerns that also flag up on their side that those are brought to the police as well—so, where somebody's perhaps utilising somebody, exploiting them in order to exploit others, that we are able to really effectively hone in on that, understand it and get to the bottom of that as well.
Thank you, Jane. I was coming to that. Are we seeing an increase in number of these offenders? What is the conviction rate, and does that conviction rate change from one group to another?
I don't have the conviction rate, but I can certainly get that information for you. So, apologies in relation to it. If I look back over my history in policing, my service, are we seeing more? Yes. Are we more equipped and better at identifying it? Yes. So, I would like to think it's because we have now a whole raft of activity, training, understanding, multi-agency working and identification that we probably didn't have in years gone by. But the conviction rate question is one that I would have to come back to you on.
Thank you very much. And do the police take preventative action to target repeat perpetrators of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence?
So, I think some of the arrangements that I spoke about in terms of preventative—. Obviously, a person may not come forward to us on the first instance that something happens. It's around breaking that cycle of abuse to make sure that that particular victim is able to effectively get on with their life, and that abuser is able to confront their behaviour. Where we've got these individuals who are committing this offending in an organised way, are profiting from it and exploiting individuals, then we work with our partner agencies in terms of immigration and the National Crime Agency to really effectively hone down on those dangerous individuals to see what we can proactively do around them, to use the myriad of policing techniques that we may be able to use in order to be able to prevent them from further profiting from others' misery.
Are there other—
I think, Altaf, we need to move on.
There are my last points.
I think we need to move on, because otherwise we won't have time to discuss the areas that Sioned was going to raise.
Okay. Thank you.
Diolch, Cadeirydd, a bore da. Eisiau holi oeddwn i—. Fe wnaethon ni glywed lot o dystiolaeth gan bobl yn dweud nad oedd menywod yn y gymuned fudol yn ymwybodol o'u hawliau nhw—hynny yw, doedden nhw ddim yn ymwybodol bod ymddygiad treisgar tuag atyn nhw yn anghyfreithlon. Felly, roeddwn i eisiau gofyn, yn eich profiad chi ac ym mhrofiad yr heddlu, sut mae menywod mudol yn cael gwybodaeth am hawliau dioddefwyr?
Thank you, Chair, and good morning. I wanted to ask—. We heard a great deal of evidence from individuals saying that women in migrant communities weren't aware of their rights—that is, they weren't aware that violent behaviour towards them was illegal. So, I wanted to ask, in your experience and the police's experience, how are migrant women receiving information on victims' rights?
Thank you very much for the question. It's a really good question. I went to a presentation by BAWSO only last month, actually, and it is a really difficult issue to get through, to make sure that women are 100 per cent clear that it is not the right of another individual to place them at risk, to abuse them, to exploit them, and to place them in the position that they are being placed in. How do we get through that? It is really tricky, because we need that sort of ongoing work around victims' rights being absolutely clearly understood. The support services do a really good job—obviously, the Welsh Refugee Council. There can be a lot done in terms of being able to get that message out there, and I think probably one of the areas that we really need to concentrate our effort on is how we are able to get that very clear message to individuals who are finding themselves in these really difficult situations.
So, the Ukraine scheme followed an information pathway just recently, and used the Welsh Government's Sanctuary website. So, there was information for people arriving. Obviously, there are helplines, and there are ongoing Welsh Government guidance and documents. The difficulty and challenge with that is making sure that people know it's there and they can access it. Putting something on a website when you've got no access to the internet probably isn't going to be a solution for everybody, which is why, again—I've mentioned them a number of times—BAWSO are so effective in terms of being able to provide that one-to-one physical support to an individual, and being able to find that support in place. I do think it's something that we really need to concentrate our efforts on in order that we're able to protect more women, that we're able to safeguard, we're able to better identify offenders who are serial offenders, and we're better able to bring those offenders to justice. So, it's probably one of the areas that I think needs some concentrated effort.
Diolch. Ie, mae nifer o wasanaethau arbenigol wedi codi hyn fel rhywbeth maen nhw'n gweld sydd ar goll o strategaeth trais yn erbyn menywod, cam-drin domestig a thrais rhywiol y Llywodraeth. Fe wnaethon ni glywed tystiolaeth ac rydych chi wedi crybwyll pwysigrwydd yr heddlu yn gweithio gyda chymunedau ar strategaethau codi ymwybyddiaeth ond hefyd strategaethau atal, ac er mwyn iddyn nhw gael dealltwriaeth o'r heddlu a dealltwriaeth o'u hawliau. Felly, ydych chi'n teimlo y byddai angen mwy o bwyslais ar strategaeth gymunedol, a sut y dylai honno edrych, yn eich barn chi?
Thank you. Yes, a number of the specialist services have raised this with us as something that they see as missing from the Government's violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence strategy. We've heard evidence about, and you've mentioned, the importance of the police working with communities on these awareness-raising strategies and prevention strategies so that they have an understanding of the police's work in this field, and an understanding of their rights, too. So, do you feel that there is a need for greater emphasis on community strategy, and how should that look, in your view?
It is really difficult, and I think we need to open our minds in terms of the communication and the languages and the barriers that somebody will be facing when they are in a position where they want to report or are at a crisis point and need to report to us. So, offering a service in Welsh and English is probably not going to hit the mark for somebody who speaks neither of those languages. I think we need to challenge ourselves in terms of the community strategy being one that understands the barriers from the inside out and really does do that piece of consultative work with survivors to understand how we can best, effectively deploy our resources across communities to be those points of contact that somebody goes to because that's the place that they trust, and that place of contact then understands where it can contact in order to be able to provide the service to the victim. But I think we need to look at it from the survivor viewpoint to understand what we need to put in place. As I said, having never been in that situation, it's no good me saying, 'I think you need this service.' I really need that work that we are doing and we're engaged in, but we really need to understand it from the point of view of somebody who is at that point of crisis and what we need that community deployment model to look like.
Diolch. O ran ymgyrch Byw heb Ofn Llywodraeth Cymru, beth yw eich profiad chi a phrofiad yr heddlu o ran effeithiolrwydd yr ymgyrch arbennig yna?
Thank you. In terms of the Welsh Government's Live Fear Free campaign, what's your experience and the police's experience in terms of the effectiveness of that particular campaign?
I think we may have lost—
So, from those who were surveyed, 9 per cent were from ethnic minority backgrounds, which is probably due to something around the point I've already made about language barriers and how we effectively overcome that. From a policing point of view, every month we do a piece around the Live Fear Free campaign, and it is available in 11 different languages and there is access to LanguageLine, but, obviously, what we want to do is to make sure that the officers that we're training absolutely use that service. As police forces across Wales, we've had several meetings now with BAWSO and other support agencies, talking through some of these issues, so we can hopefully continue to improve that particular Live Fear Free campaign and helpline and everything else that goes with it. It's that ongoing message around the use of LanguageLine, the use of the languages that are there, and making sure that we're able to really fully penetrate that.
Diolch. Un cwestiwn bach i orffen. Jest eisiau gofyn oeddwn i, yn gyffredinol, beth yw eich safbwynt chi ar y strategaeth trais yn erbyn menywod, cam-drin domestig a thrais rhywiol newydd. Fe wnaethon ni glywed tystiolaeth gan grwpiau oedd yn teimlo bod yna fwlch yna—nad yw hi'n mynd i'r afael ag anghenion menywod a merched mudol yn benodol. Beth yw eich barn chi ar hyn?
Thank you. One final question from me. I just wanted to ask, in general, what is your stance on the new violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence strategy We heard evidence from groups that felt that there was a gap there—that it wasn't tackling the needs of migrant women and girls specifically. What's your view on that?
To declare an interest, I have had quite a lot to do with that strategy as it has been developed, in terms of feeding in from a policing perspective, where I think we need to concentrate on the gaps. I think, as a strategy and as a blueprint and a framework sitting underneath it, it is certainly going in the right direction, but I think there's probably still work to do, as we've identified in the discussion we've had today, around making sure that we're able to truly overcome those barriers that are in place for women, especially migrant women, who are the subject of horrific offending, to make sure that we can truly get to that point of contact with real confidence, and offering them the support that they need. So, I think it's good, with still some work to do.
Thank you very much. I'm afraid the clock has beaten us. We're very pleased that you've been able to come and give us some information to add to our inquiry. We'll obviously send you a transcript of what you have said, so if there's anything that's incorrect, please make sure that you do take that opportunity. And we'll obviously wish to follow up the offer you gave us of some information about the numbers of convictions. If there's anything else that we want to elaborate on, we'll obviously just add that to it. But thank you very much indeed for your evidence, and we're very pleased that you were able to join us.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak about something that is so important, and I really appreciate it. Diolch.
Thank you very much. We're now going to take a break until the next, ministerial, session at 13:30. So, if we could go into private session now.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 12:46 a 13:32.
The meeting adjourned between 12:46 and 13:32.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 13:32.
The committee reconvened in public at 13:32.
Prynhawn da. Welcome back to the Equality and Social Justice Committee, and we are now going to have our final session, as part of our inquiry into violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence as it relates to migrant women. And I'm very pleased to welcome Jane Hutt and Eluned Morgan to the meeting in person, and I believe Julie Morgan is going to be joining us remotely, shortly. By way of introduction, I wondered if you could just say how this particular subject of migrant women who are affected by gender-based violence is a part of your portfolio. Eluned, would you like to just start off? Just so that we're all clear that this absolutely is about migrant women.
Yes. I think the NHS is there for everybody. We very much see that that is the situation. Obviously, we have to comply with the UK Government position in terms of rules, in terms of finance and things, but, when it comes to violence against women, I think, there is an understanding, certainly in terms of the NHS in Wales, that we do have a responsibility to women, irrespective of where they come from. And we have a responsibility to stand by them and with them, particularly when they're experiencing difficulties, in particular if they are in a situation where they need health—and that's not just physical health but mental health—support as well.
Thank you very much. Minister, would you like to introduce yourself and your official as well?
Thank you very much, Chair. Well, I'm the Minister for Social Justice. So, I have the prime responsibility for the violence against women and domestic abuse and sexual violence strategy, the implementation of the Act. And I really very much welcome your committee inquiry in terms of the impact on migrant women. I have given quite extensive written evidence to the committee before our appearance this afternoon, which I think addresses many of the issues about the specific needs and experiences of migrant women. This, of course, is very much a cross-Government response, so it's really welcome that you've invited the Minister for Health and Social Services and the Deputy Minister for Social Services as well.
But I think the fact is also that we are now in a very important stage with the new strategy, the refreshed strategy, for the next five years, with the national implementation board working very closely with non-devolveds as well as devolveds, the police, but also local government—the specialist services are crucial, and they've all been giving evidence to you, I know—but also health, so public health, and I think Public Health Wales has also given evidence. So, if you like, I'm kind of the lead Minister—well, I am the lead Minister—for this in the Welsh Government, and, as far as migrant women are concerned, this very much interfaces with my responsibilities for the nation of sanctuary and my responsibilities for refugees and asylum seekers anyway, and I think it's very relevant to our other plans and strategies, our anti-racist action plan, as well as all the work that we're doing in terms of ensuring that we have an intersectional approach in terms of our work in the Welsh Government, in the social justice portfolio. So, it's absolutely crucial that we move forward and we learn from your inquiry, as we've done from many of the bits of research that you will have studied, like 'Uncharted Territory' and the SEREDA work as well.
Okay. Julie Morgan, welcome to the meeting remotely. I wondered if you'd just say briefly, by way of introduction, how the care of migrant women comes into your responsibilities in your portfolio.
Yes. Thank you very much, Jenny, and I'm very pleased to be here at this committee. I really welcome the inquiry that you are carrying out. Obviously, the duties under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, which comes under my portfolio, refer to the well-being of citizens in the UK, and obviously migrant women will be in the position of seeking help and support from social services departments, so we need to be clear about how we respond.
Thank you very much. Well, we very much welcome the Minister for Social Justice's paper, which we have all read, and obviously our questions relate to things we want to elaborate on further. So, without further ado, because we've only got an hour and I know that all of you Ministers are very busy people, Ken Skates is going to start us off on the questioning.
Thank you, Chair. Thanks, Ministers, for attending today. I'm really grateful and it's great to see you. I'm going to ask some questions about access to public services, if I may, beginning with, first of all, what Welsh Government might be doing at this moment in time and what it's planning on doing to ensure that language isn't a barrier to accessing services, including, obviously, through access to good-quality interpretation.
Thank you very much, Ken. If I could start, in response to that, but I think I'll bring in not only the Minister for Health and Social Services, but can we introduce Dr Heather Payne as well, who's at the forefront of advising us in the chief medical officer's department? This is crucially important in terms of actually enabling migrant women to have that kind of support at the interface of accessing public services. Can I just make one point, and I'll pass over to Eluned and Heather? So many of the migrant women who come actually are able to access our specialist services that we support, because we fund specialist services, and this is part of the statutory guidance on commissioning of services at a national and regional level, that they have to show that they are providing those specialist services and support and advocacy that is holistic and culturally competent, and of course BAWSO is at the forefront of this, in terms of advice, services and support. But clearly, then, the support, that includes access to language and interpretation. This has to be taken into account in terms of the services that they deliver, but also, actually, the statutory services like health and social services, housing, but they can so often access those services via the specialist services that we support. I don't know if Heather or Eluned want to—. Heather?
Yes, by all means. It's tremendously important that we respond to people in need who require health inputs in a way that allows them to take part in co-production, which is an underpinning principle of our NHS in Wales. Certainly, with emergency services, if you ring 111, you'll get a choice of languages, and that's within minutes. I think it's via LanguageLine, so they can produce translators and dialects within minutes.
Any appointment letter that is sent from health boards and trusts has an offer of interpretation, which can be booked, because obviously having an interpreter in a consultation needs to be organised in advance, because of course, in protecting women and girls and making sure that they can access the same level of confidentiality and confidence in their consultations that we would want everybody to have, then that is available to discourage people from using family members as interpreters for consultations.
So, those things are well planned. It's not to say that there are never any difficulties in actually delivering on that, because of course, getting time slots together can be a difficulty. But certainly, the service is there and the awareness is there. Again, it's very much part of the anti-racism action plan that we've got in place for the health actions, to make sure that all health services reflect on the importance of the consultation and the engagement with health services, that the offer can be taken up in whatever language the person feels most comfortable in.
Thanks for the comprehensive answer; thanks for that. But to what extant are migrant women accessing health support that takes into account cultural norms and practices?
I think it's important for us to emphasise that, actually, there has been a massive amount of training in relation to safeguarding within the NHS, where we've had, I think, about 0.25 million people going through our training. So, it's a requirement if you work for the NHS that you do need to therefore be attuned to the cultural sensitivities, and I think that's something that we constantly need to be updating and making sure that it's keeping up to date with changing situations. It's that cultural sensitivity, I think, that we need to see at every single level of the health provision that we give, and that includes, for example, from pharmacies. And we have a special approach within pharmacies where we have a new programme called 'Ask for ANI', so that if, for example, you go into a pharmacy, you use the code word 'ANI' and that means that the pharmacists—who've all been trained now—will know what to do under those circumstances, and that's kind of a code word. It's quite difficult, because how do you make sure that the people you want to hear that message hear it, and that the people who you don't want to hear that message don't hear it? So, these are quite sensitive and quite difficult issues about how you get those messages through to the people who need to hear them, without sometimes making them too prevalent amongst everybody, so that those code words become meaningless.
I wonder if I could just come in for a moment in response, or do you want, Ken—?
I think Jane Dodds wanted to come in, and then—. Jane.
It's really a question linking the two, if I may, to the Minister for Health and Social Services. The 'Ask for ANI' posters, I've seen, but I'm not aware of them being in different languages—community languages, for example—but maybe they are. I wonder if you could just tell us if people speaking different languages can access that sort of service. Diolch.
Thanks. What I can tell you is that we've got about 714 community pharmacies who've been provided with campaign materials. I think we probably do need to go a bit further in terms of making sure that they are available in different languages. So, I think that is something that we'll take up, partly as a result of you bringing this matter to our attention.
Very good. Okay. Jane Hutt, you wanted to add.
I was just going to refer, following up from Ken Skates's question, to my written evidence, when you talk about cultural differences and needs. I do say in the evidence that this, obviously, affects issues like honour-based abuse and violence, and that's where we share—. Welsh Government, as it says, co-chairs the all-Wales honour-based abuse leadership group, with BAWSO and also the Crown Prosecution Service, and it's actually ensuring that all our public bodies respond to this in terms of that direction of how do we deliver measures, particularly focusing on those cultural issues. I'm hoping that the health and social services Minister will have a question where she can say that we supported our first specialist women's well-being clinic, opened in May 2019, to address those issues.
Thanks, Minister. I'm just going to ask a specific question about mental health services, if I may. What sort of monitoring of access for migrant women and girls takes place, specifically with regard to mental health provision?
Can I ask Heather to take this, if you don't mind?
Yes, by all means. Certainly, the ethnicity is monitored at the moment, but migrant status isn't specifically at present, but that is very much part of the anti-racism action plan, in order to increase the quantity, quality and depth of data that we have around women and girls, but everybody from black, ethnic minorities and other minority groups. So, some of these things are a work in progress at the moment, because, again, over the past two years, since the First Minister's COVID disparities in health working group was set up, we've learned a huge amount, which has translated into the anti-racism action plan, and setting up the observatory nature to collect and collate this data is a key part of moving forward. So, I don't think we can answer that question at the moment, but the plans are to be able to answer that kind of question by collecting the data in the future.
We've done a huge amount of work with SAIL, the Swansea University Secure Anonymised Information Linkage project, to get as much out of our routinely collected data as possible. It's really important that people fill in their ethnicity monitoring questionnaires, but people get fed up with them. Also, because ethnicity is a self-identified function, they will sometimes identify differently at different times, but also what we found when we went to look at the data is there was huge discrepancy, and that some people had either not answered, or had put different answers in, which had to be reconciled. So, the best we could get from them, I think, was about kind of 90 per cent accuracy from about 70 per cent, but that was a lot of work. So, there is data there, but to turn it into information, we still have a good way to go, and also to give people confidence in that identifying their ethnicity is actually going to do anything for them, and again, that's what the anti-racism action plan is there to do. That's all part of the answer to your question.
Perhaps I could also—
Lovely. Thank you. It might be that the committee could offer helpful and constructive recommendations in regard to this particular matter. But I'm going to move on to training on immigration and migrant entitlements for front-line staff. We've already heard from the Minister for health that 0.25 million people have undergone safeguarding training—that's a phenomenal figure. What actions are being taken to ensure that staff across Wales receive training that is relevant, particularly in areas where you have less experience of supporting migrant communities? Is there training that's available and being rolled out, being, indeed, accepted across services on the front line?
Well, perhaps if I could start by responding to that question, because this is very much my responsibility in terms of delivering on the violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence strategy. I mean, just in terms of focusing—. We have our national training framework, and we've already had some feedback of the reach. I mean, e-learning has been crucially important in terms of really reaching out to such a wide spread of professionals.
But also, specifically in relation to this inquiry, I want to refer, as I do in my written evidence, to the training and guidance on no recourse to public funds, because this is where we need to ensure that all those who come into contact with migrant women who have no recourse to public funds understand the guidance for local authorities. That's where we have contracted Swansea Citizens Advice to develop that guidance and training. But also, we've commissioned 18 days of training sessions for local authority staff in terms of—one example is the rights and entitlements of EU citizens, because of the EU settled status work that we're undertaking. But that training package is bespoke as well.
But this is how we have to reach out to all our public authorities, because obviously, health and social services are crucial, as we give evidence today, but also access to housing advice and support—well, access to any kind of public service that our public bodies offer—and those who work for them have to understand what services migrants are entitled to and eligible to receive. There's a strong influence in another part of my portfolio responsibility, the single advice fund, for example, where we fund all Citizens Advice and other providers across Wales, and particularly they have to understand the needs of migrants as well. So, training is a key part of what we can do to ensure that public bodies are fit for purpose, in terms of the needs of migrant women. If I could just also—
I think we need to move on, Minister, because otherwise, we're going to run out of time.
So, if we could go on to the important issue of data sharing. And Sarah Murphy is going to lead us off.
Thank you very much, and thank you, all, for being here today. I'm going to ask some questions about data collection. To begin with, do you think that the data currently provides a robust picture of the needs of migrant women and girls who've experienced or are experiencing sexual and gender-based violence? And the role, as well, of the data equality unit, which I know you've talked about before, Minister.
Thank you very much, Sarah. Yes, the establishment of our equality, race, and disability
evidence units is critically important. That, again, rests in my portfolio, but it's vital for health and social services and the whole of Government to provide that evidence. We've got our knowledge and analytical services already, a corporate unit in the Welsh Government, providing that information, but this came, really, out of the anti-racist action plan and the socioeconomic disparities report on the impact of COVID on black, Asian and minority ethnic people. They said, 'We need a race disparity evidence unit.' So, I believe that we get our data and it's important; we don't always get it disaggregated as well, in terms of UK Government and Office for National Statistics data, so the race disparity evidence unit is now in place. The staff are there and they will give better information, so that we have the data to enable us to respond in terms of our public services.
Thank you very much, Minister. Now onto some questions about data sharing. So, when we heard evidence from BAWSO, they did highlight examples of women with no recourse to public funds being referred to social services, and then they've reported them to the Home Office. And they explained that, obviously, this can have a really negative impact on the trust that migrant women have towards BAWSO, because, of course, BAWSO are just following what they're supposed to follow in terms of encouraging women, maybe, to even go the police, and then a few days later, women get visited by the Home Office and discussions start around deportation.
We've also heard from a lot of other agencies as well that this is very much used as a form of abuse in itself, because often, the abusers will say to the victims, 'Well, if you go to the police about the way I'm treating you, or if you go to social services, then you're going to get deported.' And then, obviously, when there are examples of this happening, it really does stop victims from ever wanting to come forward. So, in what circumstance would statutory services share the immigration status of victims of sexual and gender-based violence with the Home Office?
Well, the answer is: we don't share data with the Home Office, unless there is a very extreme reason for us to do that, and, obviously, we then have to comply with UK law. But it would have to be under those extreme circumstances that that would happen. So, there is no routine sharing of information at all between the NHS and immigration services.
Thank you very much. Did anybody else want to come in on that one as well?
Well, I think this is absolutely clear: it's the practice in Wales that we have not shared our health services with Home Office or immigration. It's always stood out, in terms of our race equality forum, as such a relief that we're not doing that in Wales. But, obviously, this is something where we need to ensure that, and, indeed, perhaps, as we have our doctor here today, Heather, you can give that additional reassurance.
Yes. Well, I was actually very concerned to hear that this is something that has currency, because it is—. And I did check with our head of safeguarding and sexual violence services in Public Health Wales, and she assured me that this, as the Minister has said, is the case, that data is not shared unless there is a—. I mean, it's only shared clinically, and that wouldn't include with the Home Office. Clearly, any request for shared information has to be looked at and responded to with the appropriate information governance restrictions. But, as a matter of practice, that route of sharing that that has been alleged—sharing with the Home Office—absolutely is not part of practice.
Thank you for that clarity. Julie Morgan.
Thank you. I was concerned to hear of this information coming forward, that there had been this sharing of information from social services. We are not aware of that happening, and certainly, we are, as a result of reading it in the evidence given to you, we are going to look at that in more detail. But we're definitely not aware of any sharing of that information.
Okay. Thank you, all, very much. I think it is just worth saying it's come through a number times, and I would argue as well that, in the previous session that we had—we did have a representative of Public Health Wales—it wasn't as clear as that. I believe that—. Well, my next question is, really, your views on whether the obligation placed on statutory services to share this data is proportionate and justified. I think we've certainly got the impression that, sometimes, pressure can be applied to these agencies, so that they feel that they have to do this. And, as I said, we have heard of examples where this absolutely is happening in Wales.
Okay. Do you want to go on to any further questions?
Yes. So, I just wanted to ask—. Because, obviously, there has been suggestion from a number of the groups and organisations that support migrant women to explore suggestions around a firewall, an actual firewall in place that will prevent that data being shared. So, have any of you had a look into the possibility of that being put in place?
Well, I think this is something where, in terms of our powers and responsibilities in the Welsh Government, we can't direct. For example, we can't direct the police. I think you've been taking evidence earlier on, haven't you, from DCC Blakeman about this: we can't direct, particularly in terms of those reserved matters. But we can ensure that this is seen as a crucial issue where we would want even those reserved bodies and authorities, like the police, to be mindful of our policy and position as a nation of sanctuary and our VAWDASV commitments in terms of strategy and delivery of policy. So, again, it's so important that this inquiry can clarify what Welsh Government can do and what our position is on these matters, which is absolutely clear. I, for example, co-chair the national partnership board with the lead police and crime commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn, and not only the results of your inquiries and recommendations but this is something that I would want to discuss with them in terms of the equivalent to a firewall, really, in terms of our powers. But it's wanting to provide reassurance today, in this evidence session, that we want to provide the reassurance to migrant victims of VAWDASV about our commitment to them, that there should not be data sharing at all unless it is, as we said, a safeguarding issue. We want to hear evidence if that's not happening.
Thank you. Chair, can I ask one more question?
Can I just ask then—? When we met with the agencies, we asked—obviously, we have the general data protection regulation, all of us here, we have to give our consent when it comes to GDPR, that's now law. So, we asked the agencies and the people who help these migrant women, 'Do you think that people can actually give consent?' Because to be able to give consent, you have to really understand what data is being collected on you, how it's going to be shared and the possible implications of that, and they all said 'no'. We asked the police the same question this afternoon, and were told that it's true, when they try to explain to women—and they do try to explain—there is often a language barrier, and they are also extremely distressed; they're at a moment of crisis. So, if they are unable to really understand that they're giving consent for this data to be collected on them, do you think that it should be?
We've got to, again, look at this evidence very closely that you're producing today, because this goes back to being culturally appropriate, the point questions had been asked on earlier on by your Members, that we should—. It's about understanding, it's about language, it's about rights and entitlements. It's also about the ability of the specialist services, like BAWSO particularly, and all the public authorities who have got responsibilities, to recognise our position from Welsh Government that no advantage is taken of women in this position.
Thank you, Minister. Thank you, Chair.
Right, we need to move on now, and we're wanting to look at how the social services and well-being Act supports vulnerable adults and children, particularly those with no recourse to public funds. So, Altaf's going to lead on this.
Thank you very much. Thank you, Minister. In examining the social services and well-being Act, are you confident that the statutory provisions to prevent harm to individuals are sufficient as part of the response to tackling domestic abuse, and are there lessons from elsewhere that indicate how, if at all, we could be doing things differently?
Thank you very much for that question. I think we need to look at this more closely. I think we need to look at this in depth, because the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act does establish a consistent approach to prevent and protect people at risk of or experiencing abuse, including where violence or harm is an issue.
Now, in 2020, we developed guidance in partnership—Welsh Government and the Welsh Refugee Coalition—about access to social services and other care and support for destitute asylum seekers with no recourse to public funds. This set out the statutory duties within the social services and well-being Act, and they are specifically to assess and meet the care and support needs of adults and children, and that's in Part 3, sections 19 and 21, and Part 4, sections 35 and 37. But I understand that, whereas local authorities have a duty to assess, they don't have a duty to meet the needs for those subject to the controls of the Immigration Act 2016, because of the exceptions in section 46. These are controls that are non-devolved and they're part of the continuing discussion that the Welsh Government is having with the UK Government.
So, that's why it's very important not to look at just the social services Act in isolation in order to be able to provide as much help as is needed to people, particularly women who are not in receipt of public funds, but to look at it in conjunction with the fact that we are a nation of sanctuary, and to use these things together. So, I think there is legal issue here that I think we do have to look at in more depth. I don't know if Alistair would like to come in—Alistair Davey would like to come in—with more details of this, that we have a duty to assess but not a duty to provide, which, obviously, is not an ideal situation.
We'll hear from Alistair Davey, please.
Thank you. Thank you, Chair. We would expect local authorities, in the guidance that we put out in 2020, to act reasonably in respect of the human rights of all individuals. So, we would expect interim support to be put in place. Likewise, as you will know from our legislation, we've established the National Independent Safeguarding Board, regional safeguarding boards and, in most regions now, we have multi-agency safeguarding hubs or similar arrangements. So, we would be expecting, where safeguarding is everyone's responsibility, for support to be provided.
We're also now putting together single, unified safeguarding review work with repository learning from all incidents relating to child practice and adult practice reviews and domestic homicide so that we can learn the lessons, and we're talking to other countries, including New Zealand, on this. So, we think we're leading the way. Obviously, it is about taking forward that learning as well, and that work should come online—. We're hoping that that will come online later on this year.
Jane Dodds, you wanted to come in.
Thank you very much—
No, Altaf, Jane Dodds just wanted to come in on this.
Oh, right, yes.
Thank you, just a real quick—
Sorry. We heard, in terms of some of the evidence from people affected by violence who had children, that, actually, the response from social services was quite negative and quite punitive, in that many of them were saying that they had heard their children would be removed, for example. I know this is a very difficult balance here, but we're talking about women who are particularly vulnerable. It seems to be about training, awareness and monitoring. Could you just say a little bit about that in relation to the Welsh practice? Thank you. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Yes, and I read some of your evidence, and I'm very concerned that women may be reluctant to go to ask for help because they fear what might happen. It is a general feeling that social services may take your children, amongst many people, and I think that's something we have to get over in a much wider sense. But the training and awareness raising is absolutely crucial, and I think the Minister for Social Justice mentioned that we've contracted Citizens Advice Swansea to develop guidance for public authorities to ensure that they properly understand eligibility for services and support for those with no recourse to public funds. And this guidance will clarify what's meant by public funds, what support can be legally provided.
Obviously, whatever we do has to be compliant with UK Government legislation, but we want to have opportunities to ensure that people with no recourse to public funds have the opportunity to have sustainable outcomes that will help them. So, we're waiting for this guidance now to be published, and it's going to be published in July, next month. So, that'll be very important, and it has been written in consultation with the Wales Strategic Migration Partnership, with the Welsh Refugee Coalition and other stakeholders in local authorities and with third sector organisations. So, that will be very clear. So, we certainly need that, because social care is absolutely crucial for all of us, and we must be clear. I am also dismayed if women have gone away feeling that the attitude displayed to them wasn't what they wished. I'm sure the majority would not be displaying that sort of attitude, but it’s really important that we carry out the training that the Minister for Social Justice has already mentioned, and we’re totally committed to that.
Altaf, did you have a final question before we move on?
Yes, Chair, thank you very much. Yes, I want to ask you about this front-line training for the staff. Let’s explore your view on this, whether the commitments set out in the 'Nation of Sanctuary' are being met, and how effective these measures are. And how are you going to measure the success of these commitments that you have set?
In terms of social services, I think we have a lot of work to do. I think your inquiry will help us to re-examine the practice that is going on. I don’t think there could probably be a more important group to help, because this must be one of the most vulnerable groups that exists, so we’re absolutely committed to providing that service. I think that’s why it’s really good we’ve got the three Ministers here together today, because it’s got to be done in a cross-departmental way, because obviously the Minister for Social Justice has been responsible for promoting the sanctuary, the country of sanctuary, and the provisions in that must reach over to all the different departments, and obviously the social services department is somewhere where we are very committed to carrying out what is in the sanctuary commitments. But I do think that your investigation is making us go back and look at all this again, and I know in every sphere we can always do more, so I will certainly be looking to do more in social services and social care.
Thank you. Whilst we still have the Minister for health with us, I wonder if I can call in Jane Dodds to ask the questions about the impact of no recourse to public funds when we’re supporting people from the migrant community. Jane.
Thank you. It’s an issue concerning women who are due to give birth or require maternity services, and it’s just being clear about whether there is a charging regime, or any kind of sense that people are needing to consider funding when they don’t have that access to public funds. Thank you.
Thanks. First of all, people who don’t normally live here do not automatically get care free of charge, and the decision, when it comes to primary care, is made by the primary care provider, who will know the patient, who will know the circumstances and make a call. But there is a legal obligation when it comes to secondary care to establish if the person is resident. Now, maternity services, therefore, are not exempt from charges, but if there is, for example, a situation where there are severe health risks relating, for example, to eclampsia and pre-eclampsia, then obviously that would be an exemption. There are exemptions: asylum seekers, refugees and people who’ve made formal applications are able to access maternity care free of charge, provided that the reason they've come here was not specifically to give birth. So, nobody’s going to—. That would be obvious.
Now, if you’re from an EU country, then you need to be referred using, I think, an S2 maternity form, but if you’re non-EU, there is a bilateral agreement. If you need immediate help, then obviously that is available, but if it’s beyond that, then it’s not an automatic right.
Thank you. Jane.
May I just really double-check here? We took a lot of evidence from organisations and from individuals around the category of no recourse to public funds. So, just to be really, really clear, if I may, Minister, that the Welsh NHS will charge where those individuals need specialist help and support. Is my understanding correct from what you’ve said? Thank you.
If there’s a severe health risk, then, no, we won't. And obviously these are decisions that are not all undertaken by us, they're UK Government-based decisions and obviously we have to comply with those as well.
I don't know if you've got anything to add, Heather.
As you've said, Minister, emergency care will always be provided according to need. And, when a baby is about to be born, that's an emergency. So, we don't do anything that wouldn't be in the best interests of the mother and baby. But, of course, the charging regime is something different, which is often quite separate from the clinicians giving the care on the front line, I will say.
So, for somebody who came here on a spouse's visa, then the person who had the job or some other family member would be expected to pay the costs of non-emergency services.
Bills would be issued, but the clinicians would give care.
Yes. Thank you. Jane, do you want to now go back to the points you were going to ask about specialist services?
Yes. Thank you very much. As you've heard, we took a lot of evidence from organisations and from individuals around those individuals who did not have any access to public funds. That was volunteered by them, we didn't ask, but they raised it continuously in our evidence sessions. So, we're really pleased, Minister, that, I think on page 37 of your response to us, you do refer to individuals who are in the category of NRPF. But, one of the pieces of evidence we heard was that—. We wondered whether the Welsh Government would consider a crisis fund, a fund of last resort, in order to support those individuals, particularly once they trigger the six weeks after refuge, or indeed in any other circumstances. So, my final sentence is: we did hear from the Scottish Government that they have a specialist fund, it's called Safe in Scotland, which is a crisis, a last-resort fund, and I wondered whether you would be able to tell us if the Welsh Government might consider the same sort of arrangement. Thank you.
Well, thank you very much, Jane, and I did touch on this in my written evidence. I think it's very interesting in terms of the work that we've been doing. We've set up a steering group to look at no recourse to public funds, which is working now, looking at not just the services we want to provide, but our legal responsibilities and room for manoeuvre there, but also to know that, during the pandemic—. I think it's very important, and I'm sure you've heard, that during the pandemic, we were able to use the public health case. In fact, our colleague, again, Julie James, in her ministerial role, was able to put in support for people with no recourse to public funds, and particularly in relation to housing and support. And this is additional funding; it's non-statutory guidance to local authorities to ensure the provision of accommodation, for example. Actually, that's still ongoing as part of the public health response. It provides accommodation and support for people with no recourse to public funds.
So, we're now looking at whether we can continue. As I said, we're looking at our competence. We've got legal and policy advice on this to support this group of people beyond the pandemic situation, and not just in terms of housing. So, yes, I'm very much aware of the last-resort fund, as I think it's been called as well, and the possibilities of accessing that kind of funding. And I'm aware of the advice that's coming through partly from our steering group that I've just mentioned, and looking at it actively now to see what we can do to make sure that we are in vires in terms of our roles as Welsh Ministers, but I am very keen that we do do what we can, despite the fact that immigration is reserved, and we also have to protect our migrant women in terms of their status.
Thank you, Minister. I'm aware that my colleague Altaf Hussain may have a question before I come in, if I may defer to him.
Okay. Altaf Hussain.
Thank you, Chair. Thank you, Minister. In your paper, you mentioned that there are 500 migrant victims of violence, including 75 from Wales. Am I right to understand that those 75 from Wales don't also have access to this public fund? Is that right?
I'm just looking at which—. You refer to 500 women.
Migrant victims of violence, including 75 from Wales.
Right, okay. This is obviously where we need to do what we can within our powers to support those women. I don't know, Alison, if you want to comment on this. Does this—? Can you give more clarification on this point, Alison Plant?
This is the pilot that Southall Black Sisters—
Oh, right. The pilot. Apologies.
Sorry, I don't know if you can hear me, Minister.
Yes, I can.
I think you're referring to the support for migrant victims scheme, which is a pilot set up by the Home Office. So, it's 500 women in total, but 75 in Wales. So, it's led by Southall Black Sisters and the delivery partners in Wales are BAWSO. That's women who have no recourse to public funds.
Yes, apologies, Altaf, because that's a really important pilot as part of looking at the fact that we believe that—. For example, I don't know if anyone is, I'm sure, interested, or if the committee has taken evidence about the fact we're very disappointed that the UK Government is trying to ratify the Istanbul convention excluding migrant women. And this pilot is being undertaken and has been extended, but we feel that it cannot be ratified unless they include migrant women, and they're saying they are awaiting the results of this pilot. Well, I don't think that's good enough, but BAWSO is playing a very important role in undertaking our Welsh element of the pilot.
Thank you very much, Minister. And the guidance was supposed to come in the spring of this year. We are in summer. Where is the guidance about this scheme?
It's coming out imminently, Altaf. I think, actually, the Minister for Health and Services will also comment on that. It's very important we get the guidance right. I think Julie mentioned the fact that Swansea Citizens Advice are working on that guidance with the steering group. So, it will be out within the next few weeks. I think Alison is going to make sure that it's coming out as well.
Very good. Okay. We need to move on, so I just briefly want to ask you what Welsh Government is able to do in the context of preventing abuse, to make sure that migrants are aware of the law in this country. I appreciate the Welsh Government doesn't run immigration services, but how can we ensure that people who are migrants are aware that the law in this country does not allow people to be abused, either for sexual reasons or physical violence, and particularly to ensure that migrant women and girls are aware of what abuse is, because they may come from a country where beating somebody is considered to be normal behaviour?
I think that goes back—. In my written evidence, I talked about the really useful evidence we had from the 'Uncharted Territory' report—that was back in 2013—which looked at the experiences of violence against migrant, refugee and asylum-seeker women in Wales, and recognising what women might have gone through to actually come here in the first place, and not just in terms of leaving home and the violence and the conflict that they might have experienced, but actually their journeys here that can also be fraught with that kind of danger and exposure to violence. I do want to congratulate and recommend the SEREDA project, which some people were able to attend when they came and gave a presentation about their work, where they'd interviewed migrant women in Wales. And they talked about their journeys, and they talked about the fact that so many issues had affected them on their journeys and when they got to Wales as well.
I think this is about how we can, again, across Government make sure that this is part of our nation of sanctuary DNA in terms of our anti-racist action plan particularly, our nation of sanctuary commitments, of which there are many that we report on regularly, which actually should then encourage and ensure that any woman fleeing violence who comes to Wales, and then actually lives and stays in Wales, gets that information and support and advice. So, again, this inquiry is going to be very important. But the second point, finally, is what we do with our new refreshed strategy, the VAWDASV national strategy, for the next five years.
All right, we'll come back—. Sioned, I know, has got some questions on that. Just briefly, I'll bring in Eluned Morgan on this point.
I just wanted to draw attention to a particular programme that we have, that I think has been super successful, in terms of trying to pick up on the signs where people are aware that something's going on. So, the identification and referral to improve safety—IRIS—programme is a programme where—. We know that about one in four women experience domestic abuse during their lifetime. We know that between 6 and 23 per cent of people who go to GP surgeries over the previous year have experienced some form of domestic violence. So, what we're trying to do is to train GPs for the signs that they should be looking out for so that they can open conversations. And just to give you an idea of how successful this programme is—. And I'm just thrilled to say that this has now been rolled out across the whole of Wales—so, we've been waiting for just a couple of health boards just to come on board and that's now happened. But just to give you an example, in the two years prior to the IRIS programme, in the Caerphilly and Newport area, there were three referrals from GP practices over the course of two years to the support services. Following the training of GPs, there were 257 referrals, and of the 98 per cent of people who were referred, 90 per cent were attending GPs less following that referral, and 100 per cent said that they feel safer. So, I think that is a super successful project that we should all be very proud of.
Okay. Thank you for that. I'd now like to bring in Sioned Williams, who's going to ask some questions about how the new VAWDASV strategy is going to strengthen, or otherwise, the needs of migrant women and children or men. Sioned.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Prynhawn da. Jest eisiau gofyn cwestiwn cyffredinol i ddechrau: sut mae'r strategaeth newydd yn mynd i fynd i'r afael â'r materion sy'n wynebu merched a phlant mudol?
Thank you, Chair. Good afternoon. I just wanted to ask a general question to begin with: how does this new strategy address the needs of migrant women and girls?
Diolch yn fawr, Sioned. I was just about to talk about the new strategy, because it provides us with a huge new opportunity, which we're already embracing anyway, to look at what we've already done in terms of specialist services and responding to violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence, but also to expand it, as you know, into the public realm and into the workplace. But also, it's coming at a time when we've just launched our anti-racist action plan, where there's much more cross-Government working in terms of linking it to the nation of sanctuary as well. So, this is back to what I was going to say in terms of the Chair's point. This is about early intervention, prevention. And support for survivors is absolutely critical in terms of specialist survivors, but actually looking at some of those cultural issues that you're discussing today, and also looking at issues where we can now have better data sets, as a result of our data evidence unit, looking at public health interventions as well, in terms of prevention, but particularly just looking at the impact of male violence in terms of the next stage of our strategy.
Diolch, Weinidog. Pam ydych chi'n meddwl, felly, fod BAWSO ac Iechyd Cyhoeddus Cymru, yn eu tystiolaeth i ni, yn teimlo nad yw anghenion merched mudol wedi cael eu hadlewyrchu'n ddigonol yn y strategaeth? Allwch chi egluro pam fod adran benodol ar fenywod a phlant mudol ar goll o'r strategaeth?
Thank you, Minister. Why do you feel, therefore, that BAWSO and Public Health Wales, in their evidence to us, feel that the needs of migrant women and girls haven't been met sufficiently in the strategy? Can you explain why a specific section on this is missing from the strategy?
Well, I hope that they will—. BAWSO is part of the national implementation board and was very much part of the consultation leading to all of this, and the importance of BAWSO, the strengthening of their funding base, for example, has been crucially important, not just in terms of leading to this strategy, the new revised strategy, but also just in terms of the work that they've done.
I mean, I think it is important, as I say in my written evidence, just that we look at the commissioning of services, because we've got the statutory guidance. And now I think this should give some comfort to BAWSO and others who have given evidence that, in terms of statutory guidance, those who commission the services, regionally as well as nationally, actually do have to look specifically at the needs of black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and unless that is there in terms of plans—delivery plans, I'm talking about—and there's collaboration, clearly, to meeting those support services, then those plans will not be approved.
So, I think at every level there is now the opportunity. BAWSO has been with us for 30 years, providing those specialist services across Wales. They're hard-wired into every implementation policy group. They are undertaking the pilot we've just been talking about in terms of no recourse to public funds, and I hope that we can—. You've had the evidence. They're delivering also modern slavery and human trafficking services. They're partly funded by the Welsh Government, but also very involved in the Home Office modern slavery victim care and co-ordination as well. So, those should all, I hope, mean that this will be a fresh and invigorated place in terms of meeting those needs.
Nid oes recordiad ar gael o’r cyfieithiad ar y pryd rhwng 14:32 ac 14:33. Felly, darparwyd cyfieithiad.
No recording is available of the interpretation between 14:32 and 14:33. Therefore, a translation has been provided.
Diolch, Weinidog. Allaf i ofyn, ar wahân i'r sectorau arbenigol eu hunain, a oedd profiad byw menywod mudol yn bwydo i mewn i'r gwaith o ddatblygu'r strategaeth, a sut bydd eu llais nhw yn bwydo i mewn i'r gwaith o weithredu'r strategaeth? Er enghraifft, fy glywon ni gan rai o'n cyfranwyr grŵp ffocws ni fod gweithwyr iechyd meddwl ddim yn ymwybodol o wahaniaethau diwylliannol, er enghraifft.
Thank you, Minister. Could I ask, apart from the specialist sectors themselves, were the lived experiences of migrant women fed into the work of developing the strategy, and how will their voices be fed into the work of implementing the strategy? For example, we heard from some contributors in the focus group that mental health workers weren't aware of cultural differences, for example.
Apologies, I couldn't—
Sioned, there's no translation, so I wondered if you could ask your question in English. This is the last question; we're going to have to bring the session to an end.
Okay, yes. Well, if it is my last question I'll change the question, if that's okay. So, to what extent is Welsh Government working with other strategic partners, for instance the Welsh Refugee Council? We heard that in Scotland the Scottish Refugee Council is a strategic partner of the Scottish Government, delivering on VAWDASV for migrant women. Is there a reason why the Welsh Refugee Council isn't a strategic partner, and would you be open to exploring a separate strategy, for instance similar to the 'Ending Destitution Together' strategy we see in Scotland?
Well, I think we've got every opportunity now to integrate this and absolutely mainstream it into our next strategy, and I think it would be better for us to—. If we need to expand the membership, for example, of our national implementation board for the next strategy, I would be very willing to look at that in terms of the Welsh Refugee Council. I mean, we discussed these issues with them in terms of the coalition, the refugee coalition. We engage with them in the Wales race equality forum, and, indeed, BAWSO sits on our national implementation board, so I'm sure that we could look to strengthen. It's not a matter of—. I don't think we need a separate strategy, because all bodies have got to respond to this. I think, also, just in terms of the anti-racist Wales action plan, I would comment, Chair, that perhaps it might be useful if I could extract for you in further written evidence the aspects of the anti-racist Wales action plan that actually do help to address some of these issues in your inquiry, if that would be helpful, and the nation of sanctuary action plan.
Okay. That would be extremely helpful, because we have now run out of time, so I want to thank Eluned Morgan, Minister for health, Jane Hutt, Minister for Social Justice, Julie Morgan, Deputy Minister for Social Services, and Dr Heather Payne and other officials who've contributed. We'll obviously send you a transcript and you'll be able to correct it, but if we need further information from you that we haven't been able to cover today, that would be extremely useful. We will obviously be doing further inquiries on the really important issue of domestic violence; this is not our final shout on this important subject. So, thank you very much indeed for your attendance and we look forward to seeing you again.
Diolch yn fawr.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 5 a 9 yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 5 and 9 in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
So, I would now like to ask Members if we could agree a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to exclude the public from the next item and item 9 on the agenda. Is that agreed?
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 14:36.
The public part of the meeting ended at 14:36.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 15:00.
The committee reconvened in public at 15:00.
I'd like to welcome members of the public and members of the committee back to the meeting of the Equality and Social Justice Committee, and we have with us Peredur Owen Griffiths, who's substituting for Sioned Williams, and Joel James, who's substituting for Altaf Hussain. Welcome, both of you. This is our first scrutiny session of the social partnership and public procurement Bill. First of all, I'd just like to ask Members to note the paper from the Welsh Centre for International Affairs and Size of Wales regarding this very subject that we're about to discuss, about the environmental obligations that they regard as being absent from the Bill.
I'd also like to welcome Richard Tompkins, who's representing NHS Employers, and Sue Hill, representing one of our largest, if not our largest health board, Betsi Cadwaladr. So, welcome, both of you. And I'd like to start off the questioning just by asking you what your view is of the need for this Bill. Perhaps, Richard, would you like to start first?
Yes, thank you. I think, in the context of our work in the NHS, we work very much in social partnership, and we do recognise the value of it. I think, certainly over the past couple of years, with working remotely, but being very much connected across organisations during COVID, and working in partnership with trade unions and Welsh Government colleagues, I think it really strengthened the power of working together, and I think the social partnership Bill will help to advance that. And I think, yes, there is a need for it.
Thank you. I agree with Richard's comments so far. I think what we have learnt is that there is a real pressing need to move the social partnership agenda on. If we think just from experience in Betsi over the last two years, we've worked really well with our local authorities around setting up the field hospitals, test, trace and protect, vaccination, and also, the work of the trade unions during the last two years has just been absolutely essential, and they have been an integral part of the decision making in the health board.
I think what we also need to do is think about the financial pressures that we have. If you think about the cost rise we've seen around utilities, the pressures on the communities around financial adversity, there's a real need to work better together.
Thank you. I'm sure partnership working is really, really important, but does it need legislation?
Shall I come in on that? I think, in terms of bringing everybody together and requiring, across the economy, organisations to work collectively together and listen to each other, and listen to how those concerns can be addressed, I suspect we'll come on to talk about a lot of the detail in the Bill, but I think a lot of this is around cultural change, and the future world of work as we come out of working in a sort of pandemic response. There are so many global pressures as well, and Sue's mentioned the cost-of-living issues. But, by understanding those issues across the economy, across our workforces, working with trade union colleagues and the interests of their members, I think putting that onto a statutory footing will help to advance that and actually act as a catalyst for moving things forward in a much more co-ordinated way, and a way that wouldn't happen necessarily just organically, just expecting it to happen.
What's your view on the way the Bill is drafted, in terms of improving public services through social partnership working? Is this the approach that you wanted to see, or is there another way in which you wanted to see that expressed?
I think it's difficult to answer that specifically. All I can do is to draw on the experience that we've had, as I say, over the past few years. We've obviously been working in the NHS very, very closely in social partnership—we've got our Welsh partnership forum at a national level, we've got arrangements, obviously, within health boards, and Sue will be able to refer to those. We've also had the workforce partnership council working across public services, and we reformed and took that forward by developing a joint executive approach. And that collective approach of working across public services we felt was working very, very well. And in terms of the responses to the Fair Work Commission, and the development of the social partnership Bill, one of they key things that came out during the pandemic was the shadow social partnership arrangements, which brought everybody together and allowed different voices to understand what some of the concerns or the direction of travel could be, by working and listening together. So, I think bringing everybody together onto a common platform is a positive way forward.
Thank you. Is there anything you wanted to add to that, Sue?
No, I think Richard has been very articulate.
Fine. Okay. So, if I can just ask you both about the potential costs, because the regulatory impact assessments suggest that there will be additional costs over the five years after the Bill comes into force, particularly in relation to construction contract management. As you're both going to be large procurers of construction contracts, I wondered if you could say how you would plan to absorb that cost.
Richard, this is probably a question that's easier for me to answer than for you, as a member of the health board. I think it is going to be difficult. Obviously, the financial challenges that all of the NHS is facing are unprecedented, really, around almost all areas, whether we're talking about the cost of utilities or the cost of contracts generally because raw materials are going up. But I think if we do it properly and if we do it in a co-ordinated fashion, we do have an opportunity to mitigate some of those costs. But the contract management of our large capital construction contracts is quite a huge number anyway, so we probably need to think about how we can work better together, across NHS Wales, to deliver those projects. And obviously—and I think we'll probably come on to this a bit later—if we think about all of the expenditure across the public sector, if we can work together across that bigger footprint, it would make a difference, I think. During COVID, we worked much better with our local authorities, and a lot of the projects were done jointly—think about the three field hospitals that we had in north Wales. And I think it's just about trying to maximise on that. I think there's probably something that we can think about—social value and the foundational economy. They're all principles around supporting the local populations that we serve.
Thank you for that. I'd just like to bring in Jane Dodds at this point, because she's got some specific questions on the social partnership council.
Thank you so much. Yes, I'm going to ask specifically about the social partnership council, and, actually, you both mentioned the shadow body that was established during the pandemic. So, could I just get your views on the proposal for a social partnership council within this Bill, and how do you think it's going to build on that shadow body, and why would it be different? Richard, perhaps I could take you first. Thank you.
I think one of the key differences—. During the pandemic, it was very much an opportunity to bring partners together, and bring partners together through Zoom or MS Teams, and a lot of people were able to gather online. The First Minister often gave an outline of what was in the thinking of Government in terms of taking things forward over the next three weeks and those sorts of reviews. I think it will be different, going forward. The representation is nine representatives from employers, nine representatives from Government and the trade unions alike. So, I think, for the way that is constructed to ensure that there is an appropriate representation across the economy, and how organisations that maybe aren't represented on the social partnership forum have their voices heard and listened to, there will need to be a very, very strong secretariat around that, and I think one of the things that does potentially worry me is that we don't want to be too bureaucratic about it. It's about a cultural change, I think, and I think if we get too bogged down in the bureaucracy and the way things work and meetings and agendas and all that sort of stuff, rather than actually looking at outputs and outcomes, then I think we won't be delivering what the Bill is intended to deliver.
Thank you. Sue, could I ask you, please, about the social partnership council?
Yes, of course, Jane. I think I've probably got very similar comments to Richard to make, really. It's about the practical implementation of that council, that it's neither too big so it's cumbersome, or it's too small so that we're not getting the right cross-section of views.
Thank you, and I think you've probably responded to my next couple of questions, which were about representation and making sure that the right people were on it. So, I'll just shorten these, really. I'm assuming that you're fairly confident that your organisations will be on it, but could you just also respond to the issues of making sure that it does include the right membership as well? Maybe I could take Sue first on this one, please. Thank you.
Yes. Looking at who has engaged in the consultation will probably give us an idea about those parties that are really interested in the implementation of that partnership council and that it works effectively. The contribution the trade unions have made over the last couple of years around how the health board has been working is amazing, and you wouldn't want to lose that connection, but I think we just need to get the right balance so that we've got the right people in the room. I don't really feel qualified to comment on who we should have on the board, just because it's not something that I've had a lot of detail on.
I may come back to trade union representation in a minute, but, Richard, I wonder if I could ask you just to respond to that in particular.
Yes. Trying to squeeze everything into nine is going to be a challenge, and I think one of the aspects is maybe thinking through how there are mechanisms and straightforward mechanisms that allow organisations that potentially aren't going to be represented or aren't represented, for their voices to be heard. There are lots of aspects of the economy, such as the voluntary sector, that have got a significant contribution, and they may well be part of the social partnership council, but it's about ensuring that there is a good cross-section of organisations represented that are able to be representative of Wales as a whole.
Thank you. That's really interesting. We took evidence last week concerning trade union representation, and I just, really, wondered what your views were. One of the concerns we may have had was about the TUC being able to determine, perhaps, who the trade union representatives were. You may or may not have a view on that, but that would be interesting to hear from you if you did. Please do say if you want to give a view, but we won't expect it.
We had a little bit of this in health, because obviously we've got organisations that aren't members of the Trades Union Congress, such as the Royal College of Nursing, and they may put their own views around that. Representation for the workforce partnership council was through the TUC, and they reached out to organisations who weren't members of the TUC to ensure that they were included in the wider discussions and it wasn't just all being channelled through an organisation that perhaps had a certain exclusivity to it.
Thank you, Richard. Sue, I don't know if you wanted to comment on that, but there wouldn't be a need for you to if you felt you didn't have anything to add.
I just think probably, if you look at the make-up of the NHS, we've probably got about 80,000 employees, and, if we just made sure that all of those groups were represented in the trade union engagement, that would probably help, wouldn't it?
Thank you, Sue. Thank you, Chair. Over to you. Thank you.
Okay. Peredur's just got a question before I bring in Sarah.
Just a quick one, picking up on what you were saying there, and you're talking a little bit about the chances of things becoming a little bit too bureaucratic and that it requires a cultural shift. Is enshrining the membership in law going to stifle flexibility?
I'll come in, if you like. There's always that potential—of course there is—and I think we just need to—. I think the drafting maybe needs to ensure that it doesn't close off too many avenues, to ensure that we can be pragmatic in terms of the First Minister, in appointing people to the partnership council, can ensure that the membership doesn't paint him or her into a corner.
Okay. Thank you.
Thank you. Moving on, Sarah Murphy wanted to pick up on matters related to the social partnership duty.
Yes. Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you both for being here today. You mentioned about the consultation and I just wanted to ask: so, in the draft Bill consultation, a number of public sector employers raised the potential for avoidance of the social partnership duty, because it does use such broad terms like 'reasonable steps' and 'decisions of a strategic nature', which remain in section 16 of the Bill that's been introduced to the Senedd. So, is that a concern for you, that those terms are so broad, and do you think there's anything that the Welsh Government could do to address this?
And I suppose my other question is: where do you think there could be some tension, I suppose, if those broad terms do remain in there? So, if I can come to you first, Richard.
Thank you. It's always difficult when there are broad terms, but I think there are two aspects. There's one in terms of that wider duty, and the reporting duty, that organisations do in a meaningful way; and I think 'meaningful' is probably helpful as well in this context. I think also it's some of the outputs potentially of the social partnership council in terms of what the council actually delivers, whether it's guidance, further principles, ways in which employers and trade unions can work together, or the way in which—you know, it might be something around the decarbonisation agenda or the anti-racist Wales agenda. So, it's about how some of those things should be delivered, and agreements that might be reached to actually support organisations in taking forward those things that are perhaps a bit more concrete, and actually bring the legislation much more into a reality that can be measured against delivery.
Thank you very much, Richard. That's really helpful. And Sue.
Thank you, Sarah. So, I think there are a couple of things there. I can understand why there are broad terms, because it's trying to be helpful in allowing organisations to interpret it and deliver on the agenda in their own way. I think what might be helpful is, as we try to start the implementation of the legislation, that we get some additional guidance as things come up so that we can actually make sure that we're being consistent, because I think consistency is the key; we don't want a different approach in north Wales to south Wales, so it is about sort of bringing it together.
Yes. Thank you both very much. And actually, it kind of follows on nicely to my next question. What is your view on the proposals in the Bill to require public bodies covered by the well-being of future generations Act to consider fair work while pursuing the prosperous Wales well-being goal? So, again, what impact do you think this proposal will have on delivering fair work in particular, and what guidance do you think might be needed to support public bodies? And again, just to give a little bit more context on this, when we spoke to the Deputy Minister last week, we were asking for an idea of overall objectives and measurements and outputs, and these kinds of things, really. And anything that you can give us, really, in terms of what you've taken away from this and how you see that working would be extremely helpful, please. So, if I come to you first this time, Sue.
Okay. Thanks, Sarah. I think the complication is understanding the scope of it. I think it's something that we can really easily manage within NHS. I think something like, is it, 75 per cent of our cost is our own people, and we can work around that; it's where we've got things like the construction contracts that we've already talked about and how we ensure that there's fair work for the employees of our sort of partner organisations. I think we'll work through it, but I think having a smart measure that is easy to measure and that we can make part of the procurement would be really helpful. Obviously, in the NHS in Wales, we have a shared service partnership that manages all the procurement for us, and that works in a really effective way. And, obviously, there are a lot of social sustainability questions already as part of the procurement, so we just need to be able to expand that to cover the definition of fair work and make sure that we can then find a way of assuring ourselves that actually it is being complied with by our partners.
Brilliant. Thank you so much, Sue. And Richard.
Yes, very similar. It goes back to one of my previous points; it does note that advice and guidance will be published and developed to support organisations. I think, in the context of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, to have consistency across legislation, changing 'decent' work to 'fair' work is sensible, and it changes that ambiguity. In terms of broader health and well-being, and health and well-being of our workforces, I think that's a key aim and strand. Our workforce is our population as well, so it is significant in that regard.
Just one small aspect to it—. Well, it's not a small aspect. One aspect—and it is referenced—is that the health and safety forum was one of the outcomes from the shadow social partnership forum, and I think that demonstrates—. It was clear that there was a gap there and that's been put in place. And it's building on those things that do advance the wider fair work agenda.
Thank you, both, ever so much. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you. The NHS is obviously a very large body of individuals, and you've got lots of different agencies who are all part of the NHS. And I just wondered how you saw it improving the human relations aspect of your organisations, to raise the game to that of the best.
Shall I come in? We've got very longstanding social partnership arrangements in NHS Wales, and we do work very, very closely; we can't imagine not working in partnership on a tripartite and bipartite basis. All our workforce policies and procedures are developed on an all-Wales basis, and they're co-created with our trade union partners. One of those examples is we've got a strand of healthy working relationships, and we've been developing our respect and resolution policy for NHS Wales. That couldn't have got to where it's got to, as a cultural change across NHS Wales, if it hadn't been for the partnership working and the way in which that was developed together, and quite a significant change in terms of the way in which we've taken what were traditional grievance and dignity at work procedures into something that is much more about respect and resolution and solving issues at an early stage. That very much feeds into the health and well-being of the workforce and those cultural changes in terms of the way in which we do things. And it also sends a wider signal around the way in which people will be listened to and problems acted on at an early stage, rather than becoming real problems that can only be dealt with by policies and procedures. So, I think that's social partnership in action, and I think if that can happen on a broader scale then I think that would be a really positive move.
Thank you. Unless there's anything that Sue wants to add, I'll move on to Peredur.
Thanks, Chair. I'd like to focus a little bit on socially responsible public procurement. My first question is in two parts, and it depends on your world view and whether or not you're glass half empty or half full, I suppose. So, the first bit is how these proposals are likely to deliver tangible benefits and then, the adverse of that, maybe, is the impact resulting from the Bill and also the UK Government's Procurement Bill. What are the benefits and what are the challenges to procurement processes, especially around the socially responsible procurement processes? Maybe if I go to Sue first.
Yes, thank you. I think we broadly approve of the views on the provisions and thresholds around the procurement. I think there's probably a point about it applying to all areas of the public sector, rather than just a subset of them, just so that we get that efficiency and consistency across the public sector.
As I started talking about earlier, there are an awful lot of things that we already take into account as part of our procurement policy, things like social sustainability, environmental sustainability and economic sustainability. So, it's only broadening those aspects that are already taken into account when we're doing procurement. We have a finance academy in NHS Wales and I'm the lead for the foundational economy theme, which is about educating our staff around the benefit of the foundational economy and how we can support our local communities. And we already do a lot of work around thinking about social value as part of that procurement exercise. I think anything that we can add in a bit like that, which allows us to bring these elements into the actual procurement, can only be helpful in terms of furthering the aims of the Bill.
Thanks. And Richard.
There's nothing specific that I would want to add to that. I think, if there was something particular that the committee want to ask, our colleagues in NHS Wales shared services might be able to elaborate.
Are there particular instances, maybe, of changes to data and things that might need to be captured as part of this Bill that would be problematic for you—potential addresses of invoices, that sort of thing, or is that sort of information already kept? Either Sue or Richard; I'm not sure who would be best placed to answer that.
It's probably me. Because we have the shared service for procurement already in place, we already have that database of suppliers and we make sure that we work mainly with suppliers that are already on an NHS framework, so we've got that guarantee about value for money. I guess a number of the health boards now are wrestling with how you quantify social value, because that is quite a subjective measure. So, probably something around consistency around that would be helpful and that's something that we could definitely work on through the procurement service.
Okay, thank you very much. Obviously, we're talking about the implementation of the Act and we've seen in the explanatory memorandum that it highlights the time that it's taken for public bodies in Scotland to consistently apply the measures. What would be a realistic timescale for public bodies in Wales to implement the socially responsible public procurement elements? Richard, maybe.
Yes. I wonder whether that might be a question that I could ask colleagues to provide that information to the committee.
Excellent, yes. That would be good, if that's okay, Chair. Thank you. My last question is about in what sort of circumstances do you believe that Welsh Ministers should use the powers under section 41 of the Bill to investigate how a contracting authority carries out procurement. So, when do you believe that the Minister should use the power? Either one to go first. Or am I picking on somebody? Richard, you're smiling at me. There we are, you can go first.
I think it was a grimace, actually. [Laughter.] Again, it isn't an area I'm particularly familiar with, but maybe you can ask that as part of the question around timescales.
Okay. Yes, certainly. Sue, I don't know if it's more within what you would do, or would it be better off asking colleagues?
I think it might be helpful if you spoke to an expert on that question.
Okay. No problem. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you. Can we now move to Ken Skates, who's got some further questions on procurement?
Yes. Thank you, Chair. Do you support the inclusion of the construction contract management and outsourcing public duties within the Bill? And can you just outline your reasons for having any views that you might hold?
I'll go first, if that's okay. I do support it, and I support it because we spend a significant amount of money with construction companies, if you think about all the capital investment projects that we have across NHS Wales, and how important it is that we get the right results. But not only in terms of the final product, i.e. the building or the extension or whatever, but about the labour force used to deliver that construction project. And I'm just thinking about things around modern slavery and making sure that people aren't working over their hours, because they've got a deadline to finish the project, and just having that greater partnership.
What I would say is that the projects that I've seen in Betsi, we do have a really good relationship. So, there's always a proper programme board, where we've got representatives from the surveyor, the people who are overseeing the project, and we have that ongoing conversation with the supplier. Because, obviously, things change fairly quickly, and we have to make sure that we are getting the right outcome for the project in terms of the delivery of the services.
I think it's complicated, because you don't have that one-to-one relationship sometimes with your suppliers, but you've got people working on a NHS site and you need to be sure that they are being treated fairly. So, let's go back to that fair work piece. There is obviously a huge pressure around the capital allocation for Welsh Government, but particularly for the NHS, and therefore you're under greater pressure. I'm thinking about just some of the projects that we've got in train now, where we're seeing incredible inflation around the potential raw material prices that's going to have a big effect on what we can deliver. So, if we can work in a better partnership with our construction partners, then that's going to give us a better result at the end of the day. But these things are always really difficult to put into practice.
I don't have anything to add, thank you.
Okay. Thank you. Now, section 24(8) of the Bill gives Welsh Ministers regulation-making powers to create additional contract managing duties. Do you think that any further duties should be prioritised at this stage? And what evaluation of the two contract management duties relating to prescribed contracts included in the Bill should be undertaken before any additional duties are introduced?
I think this is down to me again.
I think there's something about—. We need to see practically what is going to be required before we put any more duties. I think it's right to have the statute allowing them to be extended, but we probably just need to take a measure of where we are as we start to implement the Bill before we put additional duties on, so we can understand, actually, the context of what we're having to do. Obviously, this is somewhere where our procurement specialists are probably best advised to give more detail around that duty.
Okay. Can you think of any duties that you might want to see prioritised at the appropriate time, once evaluation has taken place, and if evaluation demonstrates that this has been beneficial?
There's probably something about measures around the numbers of people who are working for us, through construction partners, so that we understand that they've got some kind of dashboard around how they would say that their fair work was measured.
Okay, great. Thank you. Do you believe that the compliance mechanisms in place for the contract management duties are robust enough? That's probably for you again, Sue.
I'd have to admit that I haven't looked at them in that much detail, but I can come back to you if you want and get some—
That would be really helpful.
Having talked to the procurement team.
Yes, if you do have a view on that, having spoken to the team, yes, that would be very helpful. Thanks, Chair, that's all from me.
Fine. Joel James.
Thank you, Chair. Thank you, both, for coming this afternoon. I just wanted to quickly start on something that Richard said, but I imagine it's a question aimed at both. In one of the previous responses, Richard, you said that you have long-standing social partnership policies in place. So, with that, I'm wondering why there is a need for this Bill, then. What's your view on that? Given the existing legislation that's in place, for example, the well-being of future generations Act, wouldn't you see more legislation as burdensome, really? I just wanted to get your opinion on this.
I think that's a fair question, and I think there's a question around looking at the current architecture around the role of the workforce partnership council and where the social partnership council would fit in. One of the elements that—. I mentioned the decarbonisation agenda, there are issues around apprenticeships, there are issues in terms of wider Government intent in terms of anti-racist Wales, for example, which I mentioned. We don't exist in a bubble, we work in partnership all the time with other public bodies and in terms of the private sector as well, and I think if we're all working to the same agenda in terms of how we work and the outcomes we expect in terms of our workforces, then that levels the playing field.
One of the points I made before around—. We've been on quite a long journey in terms of—. Working in partnership within the NHS is very much part of what we do, but there have been step changes since 2000 in terms of much, much closer partnership working, and I mentioned the Welsh partnership forum before in terms of—the NHS Welsh partnership forum, that is. So, I think it's about working in a similar way with our partners and understanding that they're working in a similar way, to similar aims, or the same aims, I should say, in terms of the fair work goals and the well-being of future generations Act.
So, on one level, yes, it does introduce a different dynamic, but it's the outcome from that dynamic that is actually going to be important. It's not just the fact that we're establishing a social partnership council; it's actually what that delivers and how that delivers across Wales, I think, that is going to be significant.
With that in mind, you mentioned what it delivers. If you were to say, 'Well, this legislation is a success,' what would need to be delivered? Because you mentioned decarbonisation. One would think that you would be looking to meet that without the need for legislation.
We wouldn't have a forum where we could talk together about that collectively in a tripartite way, understanding what the competing—to use that word—or differing interests are, potentially, of employers, because there are public services employers, there are employers in the private sector, so we're not homogenous either, with different views amongst different trade unions and different aspects of Government as well. So, I think how that is taken forward, how that actually impacts on the workforce, how it will have an effect on fair work and how we can jointly mitigate those impacts would be something that, I think, collectively, we can take forward together in terms of understanding things, because we don't have a monopoly on thoughts and the way we can do things, and learning from others, I think, is going to be the way forward, and to collaborate and listen and reflect and provide a direction of travel, which is—. We can all sort of say, 'Yes, that is something that we can sign up to', and then we can take things forward in that direction.
Perfect. Sue, do you have anything you'd like to add?
No. I think Richard was very comprehensive in his response. The need for the legislation, I guess, is because each organisation has conflicting priorities, and this just makes sure that we all have a consistent view about what needs to be delivered from the objectives of the Bill.
And with that in mind then, what would you say are what needs to be delivered, then—as in, the objectives?
Just using the social partnership for the right reasons, which is about trying to take forward the agenda and deliver social value across Wales in light of the future generations Act.
Okay, thank you for that. I suppose the last question that I have, really, is a two-pronged question. Obviously, it brings in an element of reporting requirements for the Bill now. Do you think that is proportionate for the legislation?
But then also, in terms of the training requirements that would be needed to bring in this legislation, do you feel that that is adequately addressed, or do you think that there needs to be more support in order for organisations such as yours—? For example, you mentioned then about working closely with trade unions. Do you see that the representatives that you work with are already adequately prepared and trained to be able to get involved in this, then? But, it's not just them; it's everyone else in your organisation that will be involved in this Bill.
I'll come in firstly on that. I think that's a really, really perceptive point. I mentioned something earlier around the cultural change, and I think it has to be recognised that this is a cultural change and things aren't going to change overnight. So, I think there's going to be an approach around the advice and guidance, particularly from the social partnership council, around what the aims and objectives are, envisaging what good looks like, and the objectives and the direction of travel that we're actually trying to go in together, and equipping our employers, workforces and trade unions to work to that end.
So, I think, with any cultural change, it does start with those phrases, 'A single step', and, 'We need to move in that direction.' And I think that the reporting requirements will reinforce that as organisations move forward. Some organisations will have the capacity to move forward faster than others, but I think that then has a benefit in terms of indicating what the art of the possible is to other organisations and other employers, in terms of good practice, developing guidance and toolkits and those sorts of things. So, I think it's going to be an iterative process, and it will take time, but I think those things combined will indicate whether we're delivering what we set out to deliver.
Peredur wanted to ask—
Can I just come in with a quick question to both of you? If you were to move forward 10 years, and this legislation has been in place, and you're looking back and saying, 'Well, that was the step change that happened because this legislation was put in place', what would be the one thing that you'd be proud of, that, 'Because this legislation is now in place, this happens'? Either of you.
Yes, I'll come in again, if I can. I think it's about stakeholders and I think it's everybody feeling that they've got a stake in their own organisation and they're listened to and they can understand where challenges are within organisations, but understand that they have a voice, and that their contribution is being recognised, not just as part of their own employment, but as part of something that is much bigger.
I'd probably make a similar point to Richard. NHS staff have been working in a really high-pressured and stressful environment for a number of years now, and we've all started to think harder about the well-being aspects of the employer's role to make sure that we are looking after our staff. If we can get the staff involved in the conversation, that they feel that they are being listened to, it just starts to make that sort of cultural change that Richard has already referenced. It's just saying that we feel that there is a genuine collaboration between the employer and the staff going forward. But then you have to bring in the population that we serve as well into that conversation.
If there are no further questions, I think I'd like to thank you both for your very reflective and thoughtful responses to our questions. Clearly, this is uncharted territory to some extent, and so we need to ensure that this is a practical Bill that's going to have some concrete outcomes. You will be sent a transcript of your contributions and, obviously, I would urge you to ensure that you make sure that what you meant to say has been captured accurately, and amended if not. Otherwise I thank you very much for your evidence today. It was very helpful indeed.
We're going to take a short break now. The next session is due to start at 16:00. So, if Members who are online could come back just before 16:00 so we can start on the dot at 16:00.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 15:47 a 16:15.
The meeting adjourned between 15:47 and 16:15.
Welcome back to the final session of the Equality and Social Justice Committee’s inquiry this afternoon into the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill. We’re very pleased to welcome Geraint Thomas, the temporary assistant chief officer for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service; Helen Rees, head of procurement for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service; and Shân Morris, assistant chief officer for North Wales Fire and Rescue Service. Thank you very much, all three of you, for joining us. Joel James is going to start off the questions that we have for you.
Thank you, Chair, and thanks, everyone, for coming this afternoon. I suppose I’ll just start off with some basic questions, just to get a bit more of an idea about your thoughts on this proposed legislation. We heard earlier evidence from the national health service that they’ve already got long-standing social partnership policies in place, and with that in mind, I was just wondering if this was the case for your organisations, and whether or not you feel there is a need for this Bill. Is that Helen?
It is, yes. We have had what I call social value in place for a number of years now, where we work with suppliers to include social value on our contracts to benefit local communities. But I think this Bill goes a step further. There are a lot of additional things in the Bill—for example, when outsourcing services, to ensure that not only the staff that are TUPE'd over have the same pay and conditions that they had previously, but also existing staff that that new contractor might have. So, before, the TUPE would protect the staff transferring over, but not the remaining staff employed by that contractor. So, I see that as a benefit, albeit I think there are some disadvantages in terms of it will cost us more, because contractors are very likely to pass on those costs to us.
On contract management, hands up, I think everybody in the public sector would say that contract management has not been done particularly well through the years. That is something that we’ve been working on in Mid and West Wales. We’ve been giving a lot of training, we have a contract management guide in place, so that’s something we do want to develop. We are devoting quite a lot of time to it. What I would say, though, is that we in procurement are all for robust contract management, but it is difficult to convey that when you’re dealing with operational firefighters, in many instances, within departments. They don’t see contract management in the same way that we do, so what I do envisage is, when this Bill comes in, we will need to do a lot more training in terms of contract management to make sure that they understand why and what they have to manage within those contracts.
Thank you, Helen. Shân or Geraint? Shân.
Diolch yn fawr. Prynhawn da. Good afternoon, and thank you for this opportunity to give evidence to the committee. It’s a good opportunity, I’m grateful. In terms of our social partnership, we’ve certainly got very good relationships with trade unions, and we do work very closely with our trade unions. I think the only thing to note, perhaps, is that we have closer working relationships with some more than others. I can’t speak for the other two Welsh fire and rescue services, but certainly here in North Wales, some are there to represent their members, but they don’t necessarily respond to consultations or anything to such a degree. I was pleased therefore that, in this Bill, it does make provision for that. We can’t force, we can’t insist that people engage with us, that the trade unions engage at all times, but the Bill does make provision for that, so we can explain that. So, to some extent, this might actually help to drive that a bit more, so that we can start to build those stronger social partnerships with the full set of recognised trade unions in North Wales.
Okay. Thank you. Geraint.
I'd probably agree with what's already been said. Perhaps just to add to it, I don't think we've got a long-standing history of social partnership within the fire sector. It's certainly something that we've been doing a lot more of, probably over the last two years. I think COVID has naturally brought it to the fore, and we've worked in a lot more social partnership-type arrangements with our unions, with our partner agencies, working across with other emergency services and with health boards, for example. We're starting to move in the right direction, so hopefully the Bill and the legislation will only improve that and drive it forward. I did question it, really, first of all, when I first saw it and thought, 'Is it really needed in addition to the well-being of future generations Act and the socioeconomic duty?' But having read more on it and looked at the guidance in a bit more detail, I think it only adds to what's already there, and adding to it and complementing it is only a good thing. So, yes, I think there is a need for it.
Thank you for that. I suppose it's best if I come straight back to you, Geraint. How clear are the overall objectives of this Bill, do you think, and are they likely to be achieved?
I think they're clear. As I said, it is complementary to the existing legislation that's in place, and it looks to build on that and really emphasise it and drive it home. I think, on achievability, there will be a knock-on effect, there will be implications for our services—additional burdens. But, in terms of getting it achieved and across the line with greater awareness, greater training, better communication and engagement, I think it's definitely something that can be done.
Perfect. Thank you. Shân or Helen, is there anything you want to add to that?
I agree with Geraint. It is clear. I think what is less clear, possibly, is how we measure it at the end; it's the impact. From our end, we can comply, and pretty much there are only a couple of small areas, and I think we'll await the guidance for some other areas, but in terms of the overall impact, then clearly we're not in a position to measure that from a socioeconomic or any other social aspect in Wales, or indeed globally. So, whether that's achieved from a Welsh Government perspective I think is another matter. But, certainly from the input end, if I can put it that way, it is certainly clear.
Thank you for that. Helen.
I wanted to add, really, that in terms of some of the things mentioned in here, the Welsh fire services are doing them already, for example the payment within 30 days. We've worked together for a number of years now in the Welsh fire services, so we have a collaborative contract plan in place. The only additional aim of that would be to publicise it and make it known, and that was something we had as an intention anyway to share with Business Wales in particular, because they engage a lot with local SMEs, et cetera. So, we've got that information to hand. The most difficult bit, I think, will be, where services are outsourced, trying to encourage contractors to pay their existing staff the same wages as staff who will be transferring in will be paid. That might have a knock-on effect in terms of additional costs for the supplier, and inevitably they will pass those costs on, then, to the fire service.
Perfect. Thank you. I suppose that brings me, really, on to the last question. Both you, Helen, and Geraint mentioned the impacts that this legislation would have, and I know, Helen, you specifically mentioned contract management, if I remember rightly. I was just wondering if I could get some idea of what sort of impact you see this legislation having, then, in terms of that financial impact and then even right down to that contract management-level impact. And then do you think that this is where the Welsh Government should come in to help more and even maybe provide more financial assistance to you, then, to help meet that impact?
Yes, certainly. In terms of contract management, we have delegated budgets within our organisation, so the people who manage the contracts hands-on, day to day are, obviously, the department staff. We have probably about 14, 15 departments with about 300 contracts between them. So, it will have a knock-on effect on those staff. We have a central contract co-ordinator within the procurement team that chivvies people along, reminds them of their obligations, having contract review meetings, et cetera. So, that does help, but we will need to give quite an additional amount of training for the departmental staff in terms of—. What they are mainly concerned about with contracts is that they get the goods on time and that they're paying the correct price, and when you start bringing additional aspects in, that's where they'll need to have a greater understanding. So, yes, it will take additional time, and I would say additional costs as well in terms of contractors passing costs on to us, particularly if they're small, local SMEs, and that's who we are trying to target with this type of Bill and with social value in general. So, yes, I do expect some repercussions. Until we get the exact detail of how all the reporting, et cetera, works, it's hard to put a figure on it at the moment, but I would envisage that we will need some support from Welsh Government.
And have they given any idea that that will come, or are you really much left to your own devices on that?
Well, we've had lunch and learn webinars through Welsh Government; we've had a couple now. So, they are mainly just to keep us up to date with all the developments in terms of this Bill and the procurement Bill that's coming in as well. But they haven't actually advised whether any financial support will be available specifically to deliver the actions from this Bill.
Perfect, thank you. Unless anyone else has anything to add, I'm done, I suppose. Thank you, Chair. Oh, I think—
Go ahead, Shân.
Thank you. Could I just chip in there? Without knowing what the next question is going to be, this may not be the appropriate place, but just to pick up on that and also the social value of the contracts, a large proportion, if not the majority—probably the majority—of our key contracts are with companies outside Wales. So, you've got the large ICT contracts, procuring and servicing PPE, fire kit and uniforms, and those sorts of contracts. But I think this legislation will probably drive us towards thinking what aspect of those contracts can be delivered locally through the SMEs. So, for example, we might order our uniforms from outside Wales, but the embroidery could potentially be done by a small company locally. So, it does start to generate some sort of alternative thinking, and therefore if it's not all totally for the economy of Wales, at least some aspects can potentially be brought across. As I say, we can't measure it, we can't be certain, however, from our end, we can demonstrate that we have in some way assisted.
Thank you. Can I bring in Jane Dodds now to talk about the social partnership council?
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd, a phrynhawn da i chi gyd. Dwi am ofyn tipyn bach am y social partnership council, a'r cwestiwn cyntaf yw: ydych chi'n cefnogi y cynnig i ni gael social partnership council fel rhan o'r Bil yma, os gwelwch yn dda? A gaf i ofyn i Helen fynd yn gyntaf, os gwelwch yn dda?