(Title Image: Public Health Network Cymru)
Another ministerial question time. This time it was the turn of Leader of the House, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West), who’s also Minister for Skills & Technology and has some responsibilities for equalities.
Shadow Communities Secretary, Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) doesn’t believe the Welsh Government are living up to the UN Convention on Disabilities, which has been enshrined in Welsh law and requires consultation with, and involvement of, affected communities.
“I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Flintshire gave its contract for disability support services to outside agencies, not the agency FDF Centre for Independent Living, on which the local disability community depends, who told me at their AGM that they had not been involved in the decision.
The news today from Wrexham, that a number of social businesses providing work for disabled people are set to close, but no reference whatsoever to designing and delivering with the communities affected. We know about the Conwy deaf community, having had to go to Ombudsman after their British Sign Language services were withdrawn. And of course, concern in Cardiff that Autism Spectrum Connections Cymru has had to pull back services from its one-stop shop, despite the local autism community saying they weren’t consulted.”
– Mark Isherwood AM
The Leader of the House said she would take up those queries with the respective local authorities and new guidance will be issued in November.
Blue Badge Deficiencies
Sian Gwenllian AM (Plaid, Arfon) raised the issue of temporary blue badges. A number of requests for the badges were being turned down when a person was expected to recover within 12 months. Demanding proof from organisations which work with disabled people was placing an undue burden on them.
“I will continue to ask questions on blue badges because it’s becoming more and more apparent that over the past decade the attitudes of Government towards disabled people have veered towards placing criteria that are much harsher and processes that are far more bureaucratic, where they are required to prove their disability in order to access their rights.”
– Sian Gwenllian AM
The Leader of the House argued it was a transport issue and not her responsibility. However, she would like to see Wales not placing demands on disabled people that anybody else wouldn’t be asked to do.
Caroline Jones AM (Ind, South Wales West) raised the issue of attacks on a gay minister and the effect online bullying and gender stereotypes have on women who may be put off entering politics.
The Leader of the House highlighted two recent successful campaigns:
“The This is Me campaign is trying to make sure that people don’t accept gender stereotyping. It’s been one of the most successful in terms of range and reach across Wales that we’ve ever run and it’s been very popular with a number of the colleges and schools that I’ve visited.
“….We’ve got our Don’t Be A Bystander campaign, which I hope you’ve also seen, which encourages people to take action where they see something that might look a bit weird to them and just to say something. We had very powerful testimony from some of the survivors there. Actually, it moved me to tears on one occasion, where one woman was seen coming out of her shed early in the morning in her pyjamas by her neighbour, and her neighbour just said, ‘Is everything okay?’ because that seemed a bit odd to her, and she said that was the catalyst for her to think ‘No, it really isn’t.'”
– Leader of the House, Julie James
She said its often the simplest actions in these situations that can be the most powerful.