Eluned Morgan, Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Welsh Language
In June this year, I appointed Dr Simon Brooks as Chair of the Increasing the Use of Welsh Group, which is a Sub-Group of the Welsh Language Partnership Council. I asked for advice and recommendations on the impact of COVID-19 on Welsh-speaking community groups.
The sub-group's report was published last week and is available on the following link:
Today, I am publishing the Sub Group's recommendations based on that report.
The Sub-group's conclusions, based on the evidence, are that the challenges faced by Welsh-speaking community groups during the pandemic have highlighted more general challenges in relation to the future sustainability of Welsh-language community activity. The Sub-group believes that this situation could become even more challenging due to socio-economic and social changes in the wake of COVID-19 and Brexit. The Sub-group believes that action is needed to strengthen Welsh as a language of community and social activity.
The Sub-group considers the Welsh language to be an important part of the social capital of Wales, and have drawn up the recommendations with that in mind. In the Sub-group's view, this is tied to the need to make communities more resilient in terms of human resources/skills in order to nurture the next generation of community leaders—resources such as centres, digital infrastructure, and fostering a culture of enterprise among Welsh-speakers. It also means strengthening language planning at the micro (neighbourhood) level.
Many of these recommendations are relevant not only to the Welsh language policy area but to several areas of government policy. I will respond in detail to the recommendations in due course.
Recommendation 1: Re-establish Welsh language community groups
As soon as possible, the Welsh Government, in partnership with the Mentrau Iaith, should contact those community groups who indicated in the survey that they are unlikely to resume activities after the pandemic to ascertain what support is needed to help them resume action as they would wish. This should be achieved with appropriate action to enable activities to resume including working in partnership with local Voluntary Councils to ensure appropriate support.
Recommendation 2: Digital inclusion
The survey shows that there are a significant number of Welsh speakers who are excluded from participating in online activities. The Welsh Government should consider the barriers that exist in terms of lack of access to digital networks and raising digital skills.
Recommendation 3: Sports clubs and arts/performance groups
The Welsh Government, in partnership with Sport Wales and the Arts Council of Wales, should give greater attention to the role of sports clubs and arts/performance groups in the context of language planning in order to support the use of Welsh as a community language.
Recommendation 4: Micro language planning and the role of the Mentrau Iaith
The role of the Mentrau Iaith should be developed to work at a micro level in more communities. This should be done by broadening the focus of the Welsh Government grant to the Mentrau Iaith in order to create schemes to support the specific work of Welsh-speaking community organisations, and activity that is in line with the principles of micro-level language planning. Action should be taken based on the principles of community development to respond to local needs (see the document Local Action: a Framework to facilitate micro language planning among Welsh neighbourhoods. Capacity of and funding to the Mentrau iaith should be expanded to help achieve this.
Recommendation 5: Project funding
The Welsh Government should establish a mechanism for funding projects to facilitate and operate at a community level to ensure the viability of the Welsh language. This should include creating a mechanism that will be able to draw upon the Welsh Government's various financial funds. This would be in line with the aim of promoting and developing the Welsh language throughout government activity, at Welsh Government and local government level.
Recommendation 6: Intergenerational balance
Note the older age profile of many of the existing Welsh language societies. The next generation of community leaders should be actively nurtured to ensure leadership succession in community groups and societies. Volunteering opportunities could be offered in Welsh-medium societies, as well as apprenticeships, work experiences and skills development opportunities. Facilitating and supporting the arrangements could be part of the work of Mentrau Iaith and Welsh-language social organisations, but they also need to be integrated into schemes across the Welsh Government that develop community leadership across Wales.
Recommendation 7: Social enterprises and co-operatives
More Welsh-medium social/co-operative enterprises which offer Welsh-medium employment and volunteering opportunities should be created in our communities.
We should build upon the strength of committees of Welsh-speaking community organisations, focusing on the organisations’ long-term resilience, strengthening financial management, information technology, business and community entrepreneurship skills.
A national network of Welsh-medium social/co-operatives should be created to encourage strategic collaboration.
Recommendation 8: County Promotion Strategies
Local Authorities should give Welsh-speaking community organisations a strong voice in planning and implementing their language promotion strategies. Welsh Language Promotional Strategies, Welsh in Education Strategic Plans and Mentrau Iaith County Forums should be interwoven with the Welsh-speaking community organisations.
Recommendation 9: Information sharing
It should be ensured that Welsh-speaking community groups know about and take advantage of opportunities to improve their organisation through relevant training, funding sources and guidance etc. It should be ensured that language planning training is available to Welsh-speaking community groups as required.
Members of the Sub-Group
- Simon Brooks (Chair)
- Rhian Huws Williams
- Rhys Jones
- Lowri Jones
- Walis George
- Meleri Davies