Gwenda Thomas AM, Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services
I wish to inform members of the recent launch of More than just words…. the Strategic Framework to strengthen Welsh language services in health, social services and social care. The Strategy confirms the Welsh Government’s commitment to strengthen Welsh language services to service users and their families.
As Chair of the Health and Social Services Welsh Language Task Group, I know a lot of good work has been done to strengthen Welsh language services in the sector. I also know, from personal experience, about the commitment of many of the staff working in both of the services. However, there is a need to do more in order to respond to language needs of users as a key part of planning and delivering care.
Strengthening Welsh language services is about improving the quality of care for patients and service users. It is important to recognise the concept of language need. For many Welsh speakers, language is an integral element of their care e.g. some people with dementia, or who have suffered a stroke, and children under the age of five.
A large number of service users are vulnerable and giving them the responsibility of asking for services through the medium of Welsh can contribute to their anxiety. It is the responsibility of the NHS and Social Services to deliver appropriate services which, of course, includes meeting users’ linguistic needs. Only by doing this can they provide care that is safe and effective. In the strategic framework we refer to this as the “Active Offer”.
In developing the framework I was encouraged by the fact discussions with the health service and social services were positive and supportive. The framework was also subject to public consultation earlier this year. 150 responses were received and I am pleased to say the majority of the responses were very positive. We have also produced an easy read version of the strategy and a children’s leaflet.
Whilst Welsh language officers will have an important role to play in providing advice in implementing the strategy, it is also clear to me responsibility for it falls on the shoulders of each and every senior officer, whether in planning, commissioning or human resources. Strong leadership and ownership of Welsh language services is vital. Everyone must take responsibility and mainstream this work into daily responsibilities.
I am determined the strategy will make a difference to people’s lives as part of the Welsh Government’s agenda of providing the best possible health care. The three year action plans which commence in April 2013 will support the strategy outline the practical steps which are required to realise our vision. Making progress in the first year will be important in order to ensure that the foundations are in place for the future. The first priorities will be to strengthen leadership, map the workforce and increase awareness about the “Active Offer”.
A monitoring system will be in place from April next year. This will include establishing an implementation group which will include representatives from the health and social care sectors and the group will report back to me and the Task Group.