Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg

Children, Young People, and Education Committee

13/01/2022

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Buffy Williams MS
Carolyn Thomas MS Yn dirprwyo ar ran Buffy Williams ar gyfer eitem 5 ymlaen
Substitute for Buffy Williams for item 5 onwards
James Evans MS
Jayne Bryant MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Ken Skates MS
Laura Anne Jones MS
Sioned Williams MS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Albert Heaney Prif Swyddog Gofal Cymdeithasol Cymru, Llywodraeth Cymru
Chief Social Care Officer for Wales, Welsh Government
Claire Bennett Cyfarwyddwr Cymunedau a Threchu Tlodi, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director, Communities and Tackling Poverty, Welsh Government
David Morris Tîm Polisi, Llywodraeth Cymru
Policy Team, Welsh Government
Eluned Morgan MS Y Gweinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol
Minister for Health and Social Services
Irfon Rees Cyfarwyddwr Iechyd Poblogaethau, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director of Population Health, Welsh Government
Jeremy Miles MS Gweinidog y Gymraeg ac Addysg
Minister for Education and the Welsh Language
Judith Paget Cyfarwyddwr Cyffredinol Cyfarwyddiaeth Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol, a Phrif Weithredwr GIG Cymru, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director General Health and Social Services and Chief Executive NHS Wales, Welsh Government
Julie Morgan MS Y Dirprwy Weinidog Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol
Deputy Minister for Social Services
Lynne Neagle MS Y Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd Meddwl a Llesiant
Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing
Steve Elliot Cyfarwyddwr Cyllid, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director, Finance, Welsh Government
Tracey Breheny Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr yr Is-adran Iechyd Meddwl, Camddefnyddio Sylweddau a Grwpiau Agored i Niwed, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director of Mental Health, Substance Misuse and Vulnerable Groups, Welsh Government
Zenny Saunders Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr Diwygio Addysg a Hyfforddiant Ôl-orfodol, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director, Post-compulsory Education and Training Reform, Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Jennifer Cottle Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Naomi Stocks Clerc
Clerk
Phil Boshier Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Sian Thomas Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Tom Lewis-White Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

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 drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:15.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:15.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da. Croeso i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg heddiw.

Good morning. Welcome to this meeting of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee.

I'd like to welcome Members to the meeting of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee. The public items of this meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, with all participants joining via video-conference. A Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. Aside from the procedural adaptations related to conducting proceedings remotely, all other Standing Order requirements for committees remain in place. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available.

I'd like to welcome Sioned Williams to the committee, replacing Siân Gwenllian MS. You're very welcome, Sioned, and I'd like to put on record my thanks to Siân Gwenllian for her invaluable contribution to the committee since the start of this Senedd, as well as her work on our predecessor committee. I've had apologies this morning from Laura Anne Jones, and Buffy Williams has sent apologies for item 5 onwards, with Carolyn Thomas substituting.

Are there any declarations of interest from Members? Sioned.

Ie. Hoffwn i nodi bod fy ngŵr yn gyflogedig gan Brifysgol Abertawe, yn aelod o Undeb y Prifysgolion a'r Colegau, ac yn gymrawd o—beth yw e—yr Learned Society for Wales. Diolch.

Yes. I'd like to declare that my husband is employed by Swansea University, is a member of the University and College Union, and is a fellow of the Learned Society for Wales. Thank you.

Diolch, Sioned. And finally, if I drop out of the meeting for any reason, I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.22, that Ken Skates MS will temporarily chair while I try to rejoin.

2. Bil Addysg Drydyddol ac Ymchwil (Cymru)—sesiwn dystiolaeth 11
2. Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill—evidence session 11

So, I'll move on to our first item this morning, which is the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill. This is our eleventh evidence session, and we're pleased to welcome this morning the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles MS. With Jeremy Miles this morning is Zenny Saunders, deputy director of PCET reform with Welsh Government, and David Morris, from the policy team, Welsh Government. So, you're very welcome.

Minister, I understand that you'd like to make an opening statement before we go into questions from Members. Minister.

Diolch, Gadeirydd, a diolch am y gwahoddiad y bore yma i roi tystiolaeth bellach i'r pwyllgor. Gaf i jest cychwyn, os caf i, drwy wneud datganiad byr byddaf i'n gobeithio bydd o gymorth i'r pwyllgor a'ch ystyriaethau chi? Diolch ichi, i gychwyn, am y gwaith craffu rŷch chi wedi ei wneud ar y Bil. Rwyf wedi bod yn edrych, wrth gwrs, ar y sylwadau a wnaethpwyd gan Aelodau pan oeddwn i o flaen y pwyllgor y tro diwethaf, a'r dystiolaeth hefyd sydd yn y cyfamser wedi cael ei rhoi gan rhanddeiliaid i chithau fel pwyllgor, ac wedi bod yn ystyried, yng ngoleuni'r cyfraniadau hynny, ba ddiwygiadau fyddai'n addas ar gyfer y Bil, ar gyfer cam nesaf y Bil, er mwyn sicrhau ei fod e'r Bil orau y gallai fod a'i fod yn adlewyrchu'r hyn rŷm ni wedi clywed wrthoch chi ac wrth eraill. Wrth gwrs, byddaf i eisiau clywed ystyriaethau pellach y pwyllgor yn sgil y cyfle byddwch chi yn ei gael i glywed y dystiolaeth i gyd ac i roi ystyriaeth i hynny cyn fy mod i'n gwneud unrhyw benderfyniadau penodol ynglŷn â diwygiadau arfaethedig.

Thank you, Chair, and thank you for the invitation to give further evidence to the committee this morning. May I just start, if I may, by making a brief statement that I hope will be of assistance to the committee in its deliberations? Thank you, first of all, for the scrutiny work that you've undertaken on the Bill. I have, of course, been looking at the comments made by Members when I last appeared before the committee, as well as the evidence that you've taken in the meantime from stakeholders, and I've been considering, in light of those contributions, what amendments may be appropriate for the next stages of the Bill, in order to ensure that the Bill is as strong as it possibly can be and that it reflects what we've heard from you and from others. Of course, I will take note of the committee's further deliberations once you have had an opportunity to hear all of the evidence and consider that before I make any specific decisions on proposed amendments.

But, Chair, I hope it will be helpful just to indicate at this point that I'm considering amendments in relation to strengthening the existing provisions within the Bill in respect of a number of areas, which include the issues around transparency that the committee and others have discussed in the past. There is a debate around questions to do with how research is represented in the Bill, which I'm very alive to. There are discussions that we've had both with you and with others in relation to how we can do more to strengthen even further the learner voice provisions in the Bill, and indeed the quality provisions as well. We will have a discussion, perhaps, on some of those today, but I will be very happy in due course, Chair, when I've had the benefit also of further reflection, to write to the committee with a bit  more information about that and it will reflect some of the discussion, no doubt, which I'm sure we'll have today.

I also wanted, if I may, to give an update on my current thinking in relation to the question of the implementation timeline, which I know has—. It featured in our last discussion, and it's exercised some in particular of our stakeholders. So, it remains my intention, Chair, to establish the commission during 2023, and, as I said back in November, I think it was, wasn't it, when I was last in front of the committee, I envisage implementation progressing, if you like, on a phased basis throughout 2024, but then perhaps reaching into 2025 if that's appropriate as well. But having again listened to what stakeholders have been staying to you and to us directly, in particular perhaps those who've got a very direct role, if I can put it like that, in the successful establishment of the commission, which we all want to see, I've decided to reschedule the closure of Higher Education Funding Council for Wales from April 2023, with a view to HEFCW continuing in existence probably at the latest until early 2024. And the thinking behind that, if it's not obvious, Chair, is that I think comparatively short period of overlap, with a short continuation, if you like, for HEFCW, will, I hope and I expect, ensure that there is a continuity of provision and I think enhances the outcome of a smooth and orderly transition to the new commission. So, I hope the committee and stakeholders who are most directly affected will welcome that.

09:20

Thank you very much, Minister. I think it's really helpful for you to have outlined that at the start, and I'm sure Members have further questions to raise with you on some of the points that you've raised this morning. We'll start off around, and put some questions around, the board, governance and workforce. The National Education Union have told us that they believe that promoting social partnership and fair work should be one of the commission's strategic duties. What's your view on that, and do you intend to make amendments to the Bill regarding that?

Thanks, Chair. Well, clearly, social partnership is a very key priority for the Government and certainly a key priority for me as education Minister, and I do agree that the commission should be subject to social partnership duties in the way that a number of stakeholders have also indicated to you that they would like to see. So, as you will know, the Government is introducing a social partnership and public procurement Bill, which will support that commitment to social partnership and to fair work, in fact; obviously, it features in the programme for government, as you'll know. The purpose of the Bill, which has obviously been published—well, published in draft—is to improve well-being and especially social and economic well-being, obviously also including the delivery of public services in Wales, and to do that by making decision making in Wales, if you like, more robust and effective, with a consistent approach to social partnership and fair work across public services. So, clearly, we fully expect the commission to have a crucial role in promoting social partnership and fair work in that broader context.

The social partnership duty—which some members of the committee may be familiar with from the draft social partnership Bill—applies to bodies that are subject to the well-being of future generations legislation, and the Bill provides for the commission to be added to the list of public bodies that are subject to the future generations legislation, so there's a kind of—. The commission becomes subject to the Act and, in accordance with the draft Bill, therefore subject to the social partnership duties that are set out in that Bill. So, that will bring the commission within the scope of the proposed social partnership and fair work legislation. So, it doesn't—. I think it will be counter-productive, if I can put it like that, to legislate twice for the same duty, one in one Bill, and one in another. Part of the purpose in bringing forward the social partnership Bill, as I mentioned just briefly at the start, is, in fact, to ensure a consistent and robust delivery of social partnership across public services. So, it's already a feature of our work as a Government, but there isn't actually yet a single model of that that engages and focuses the work of all bodies subject to the future generations legislation. So, the point is to make it robust, the point is to make it consistent, and therefore the commission will be subject to the duties, but through that consistent approach in the other legislation rather than—. What we want to do is move away from a piecemeal approach, if I can put it like that, and I don't think it would be helpful to legislate partially here and more fully elsewhere. We want this to work. We want the commission to be subject to the full range of social partnership and fair work duties in that new legislation.

09:25

Okay. Thank you, Minister. We've had some concerns from unions and other stakeholders that the arrangements for workforce representation on the commission aren't sufficient, given the wide-ranging remit of the commission. What are the options available for you to address that?

Well, obviously, it's a very important area. What the Bill provides, Chair, is for there to be a minimum of two workforce representatives on the board. Although, just to be clear, that, obviously, isn't a limit; it's a minimum of two representatives. So, there is, obviously, some scope there, isn't there, to increase above that number. And then those are appointed by Welsh Ministers, as the committee will know. So, I'm clear in my mind, as the Minister bringing forward the Bill, that I want the commission's functions to be, if you like, co-determined and co-developed, if you like, in that kind of culture of trust, where there's a greater understanding of the needs of the workforce in how we deliver tertiary education. So, that really is a very important aspect, and that mechanism in the Bill allows that worker voice to be heard very clearly, I think. So, the associate board members, which is the mechanism for representation, will have a very crucial role in providing advice and input into those discussions at a board level, which will then reflect their perspectives and the perspectives of the wider workforce.

Thank you. Is it the intention to have one associate learner member only, or at least one, and do you believe that Schedule 1 reflects this intent? Because there seems to be a bit of inconsistency in the Bill's text relating to the associate learner member.

Yes, I can see why the confusion has arisen, Chair. So, just to acknowledge that at the start. So, the policy intention is—and I hope it's helpful for me to clarify—for there to be at least one associate learner member, and, in fact, I've asked my officials to look again at the Schedule and the explanatory material. Some of the references in the explanatory notes, for example, might give the opposite impression. So, just to be clear, it's at least one. I want there to be clarity on that, so officials will look again at that and speak our draftspeople as well. Obviously, the associate learner members will be appointed by the Welsh Ministers; there's a process in the Bill for appointing them. Again, in addition to the inclusion of associate members on the board, the commission can also, of course, bring forward additional mechanisms, both for learner involvement and, indeed, in the context we were just talking about, for workforce involvement. So, there could be a range of additional mechanisms for enhancing even further the voice of both learners and the workforce. I mean, they'd need—[Interruption.] Sorry, Chair. I think they'd need to think about how that would link to the work of the board, obviously, but it's definitely an option.

That's really helpful, and thank you for clarifying that and for the work that you'll do to put that more clearly. Can you just outline what the purpose of associate membership of the commission is, and why will learner and workforce representatives not be able to vote?

Okay. So, the inclusion of associate members, whether that's learner members, staff members, trade unions or the wider tertiary education workforce, will enable those who are most affected, if you like, by the establishment of the commission to have an opportunity to influence board discussions and board decisions. The mechanism that we have was developed, Chair, as you will I think know, as a consequence of the views that we heard from stakeholders during consultation, and obviously to make sure that there's appropriate representation. The approach in terms of the voting and the non-voting arrangements, really, is—. I think the approach has the benefit, if I can put it like that, of maintaining some distinction between activities that are required as a member of the board and the wider activities of learner representation—NUS, for example, trade unions—so that there is, if you like, a reduction, perhaps, in the possibility of a conflict of interest that those organisations might otherwise feel. It is an approach that—[Inaudible.] Perhaps it might be helpful, Chair, if I were to provide you with a note of what has happened in other organisations, so that might give you a bit of colour.

In the proposal that we have here, it goes further than what happens over our border, it goes further than the current arrangements that we have through the arrangements with HEFCW. And again, some stakeholders have highlighted during the process that there may be some reluctance, perhaps, for representatives to, if you like, be bound under decisions of the commission that they themselves might not feel that their members would endorse. And I dare say, that situation will arise from time to time. So, it protects that relationship as well. But I do think that, in order to ensure the balance of the board membership across the broad range of its functions, we need those additional members in addition to the minimum number of board members, so that that's kind of baked in, if you like, to the structure.

09:30

Thank you, Minister. Yes, the committee would very much appreciate the note that you suggested. That would be very helpful, so thank you for that offer. Just finally from me at this point, we have heard some evidence that the board must be representative of the very broad range of provision that the commission will regulate and fund. The Bill doesn't seem to address this point in Schedule 1; would you introduce an amendment to ensure that Welsh Ministers must consider this when appointing ordinary members?

Just to put a bit of context to this, Chair, which I hope is helpful, the board isn't comprised on the basis of a representative of individual parts of the sector; that isn't the kind of thinking, if you like, behind the Bill. In fact, I think I would probably struggle as a Minister if my role was to select somebody to represent a set of third parties. I'm sure that the committee and others would have reservations about that as well. The recruitment of the board will be via the public appointments process, which is very well established, as Members will know, and it absolutely requires Ministers to make sure that, in those appointments, the board itself, the breadth of the board, represents the skills and experience across the full range of the commission's proposed functions. So, it's representative, if you like, in that broader sense. The recruitment process of the board will bring out, if you like, a set of both essential and desirable criteria to ensure the mix across the board as a whole. And then, obviously, that will be drawn from industry, from employers, from post-16 education, from adult learning, from apprenticeships, the third sector, the research sector—you know, that range of the commission's functions. That will be the pool, if you like, from which members will be drawn for the board. The commission's purpose, obviously, is to ensure coherence across that range of voices in the sector, so it's really important to have that breadth of skills. But, that's a different approach, if you like, from selecting individual representatives from individual parts of the sector.

Okay. Thank you, Minister. We've got some questions now from Buffy Williams. Buffy.

Thank you, Chair. Good morning, Minister. I think you touched on this in your opening statement, but I'd just like to ask: how will the transfer of staff, particularly senior staff, from Welsh Government to HEFCW be managed? And how will you ensure that you do not lose expertise or replicate existing divisions between FE and HE staff, et cetera?

This is obviously a crucial part of the delivery in the real world, if you like, of the commission, isn't it? In any public context where we are moving from one set of institutions and arrangements to another, you know, with the best will in the world, so to speak, there is a period, isn't there, and that's usually, sadly, quite a long period, because it's quite a complex thing to do, and when you have to legislate, clearly it's that much longer. So, the tensions that we are navigating, if I can put it in those terms, are, on the one hand, maintaining momentum and visibility of what the new arrangements may look like on the one hand, so that staff remain engaged and don't start worrying about their own futures and looking at options elsewhere. That's the first priority. But the other priority is to make sure that the new institution owns all of that, as it needs to. You know, we're setting up a new body and we're looking to create an organisation that owns its own destiny, but also, in the point that you're making, where staff feel they've played a part in its formation and have bought into it, if I can put it like that. So, there's a twin set of, frankly, sometimes perhaps conflicting priorities that we need to navigate. That's perhaps obvious, but I just hope it's helpful to give you that context.

The approach that we've taken in developing the legislation and working through implementation is one that I hope will be recognised as being one of partnership and inclusivity, and it's very important that staff have a voice in that process and are not just going to broadly engage but are quite directly included in it. What we've done so far is to provide opportunities for staff, both from HEFCW but also Welsh Government, because functions from both bodies will obviously end up with the commission, to be directly involved in project work through participation in work streams. Also, we've had some secondment arrangements, so that there's a proper bridging, if you like, of staff between the two organisations. All the recognised unions, both in HEFCW and in the Welsh Government, are members of the relevant delivery boards, if you like, and an integrated team approach, I think, is being adopted. I'll ask Zenny Saunders to come in in a second on some of the colour around some of that. But senior staff from both Welsh Government and HEFCW will be very directly involved in developing those staff structures, and then there'll be a consultation on that.

What I want to be clear on, though, is that it is very important that developing a draft structure, consulting on it, is work that we can—and we are—get on with now, but it's really important that the leadership of the commission, the new CEO, is able to come in and look at that at a point when he or she is able to question it, test it, amend it. Again, that's the balance I was talking about. Once that's happened, then there'll be a matching process, and all staff will have an opportunity to look at, to identify, if you like, which posts are the best match in the new structure for their current role, obviously with the exception of the CEO, because that'll be an external process. I would hope that that will happen, and I expect it to happen, no later than the spring of next year, and the draft structure will be available this year. So, as you can see, I'm hoping we can maintain that visibility with staff, so they can see where the opportunities are for them in the new structure.

Just finally, the extended time that I mentioned in the opening statement, I think, will actually provide a bit more scope for there to be co-operation and integration and a cohesive approach to that, really. So, I think it's really important that we maintain people's engagement throughout that process. Chair, I'll just ask Zenny Saunders if there's anything I—. I'm sure there are things that I haven't covered in terms of how that looks on the ground, if you like, so perhaps I can ask her to expand on that, if you're happy with that.

09:35

Minister, I think you've covered most of it. Communication is one of the main things; it's making sure that we're actually engaging everybody. We have appointed a staff engagement manager, who's bringing that together. It's that involvement. I think when we talk to individual staff members, they very much want to understand what their role will be in the new organisation, and they want to see what that organisation would look like. So, we've got integrated teams working on the target operating model, and from that will come the staff structure, and we'll take forward that process that you've outlined. And then, when those individuals can see their role in the new organisation, they know that they're part of that and are developing that—I think that is the best way to keep that motivation and to make sure that we have the expertise and the right people actually move into that new organisation. Is that okay?

09:40

The Open University pointed out to us that this legislation will not apply to them until the requisite regulations come into force. When do you plan to introduce these regulations and when will you publish them for scrutiny?

As we all know, the OU's relationship with the Bill is slightly different, for reasons that are to do with its establishment and its compass, but, having said that, the values and the objectives of the Bill are four-square with those of the OU, really. So, I would suggest—and I think I'm right in saying the OU feel the same—there's a very direct identity of interest, in many ways. At the moment, officials are working on the implementation plan for the Bill. We've just talked a little bit about some of the things that will be in that. The timeline for both developing and preparing the regulations themselves in respect of the OU will be looked at as part of that work, and I've already committed to write to the committee, I think, in February to update you on where we are with that, so I'll be maintaining that commitment.

In the statement of policy intent that I published, obviously, I said I want to work with the OU to determine the most appropriate application for different parts of the Bill. There have been discussions to date with the OU, clearly, about what that looks like. Those discussions continue into further detail. They've been very collaborative discussions. Some of the things in the Bill that I would anticipate being in scope for that would be registration conditions, the learner protection plans, the elements in the Bill that are around ensuring funding and protection for learners in Wales who study with the OU. So, there's a range of things that I would anticipate being subject to those regulations, but, as I say, those discussions are continuing in ever greater detail, really, and when you see the implementation plan, that'll contain some more information about time frames.

Thank you, Buffy. Just following on, actually, from that and trying to get an idea of how you feel that this will work in practice, really, how will the functions of HEFCW and the commission be carried out if they both exist at the same time? How will this be dealt with from a legal perspective? Is there a chance that, perhaps, lessons that should be learned from Education and Learning Wales, for example, aren't learned in this instance and that we could be repeating some of the issues that occurred with ELWa? 

There are definitely lessons to be learned from elsewhere, but I don't think they're lessons, if I can be clear, that we learn from ELWa, Chair, because I think that was a very different enterprise indeed. We are talking here about actually bringing together in one institution the oversight, funding and regulation of the entire sector, really, which is, actually, a very different thing from what ELWa ended up being. We learn lessons from all experiences, clearly, but I think, probably, there are more direct lessons to learn either internationally or in other parts of the UK, and we'll be keen to learn those.

It has always been a feature, obviously, that there would be a period of overlap between the setting up of the new body and the dissolution of HEFCW. It can't be done in any other way; there needs to be a seamless soft landing, if I can put it like that, of moving from one to another, but that is absolutely complex. There are a range of pillars that I've spoken a little bit about to the committee in the past of work. Some of it is around legislation, some of it, as we've just been talking about, is staffing, and there'll be other dimensions that are operational to the commission itself. As I say, the challenge is to make sure that it happens, obviously, smoothly, but in a way that is, as it were, orderly, but also one that the new commission owns. So, that's why the implementation plan is at the heart of the next stage, provided the Bill gets a smooth passage, obviously. I think you'll have a bit more colour when the plan comes out, Chair, if I can put it like that.

Okay. Thank you, Minister. We're now moving on to some questions from Sioned Williams.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Bore da, Weinidog. Dwi jest eisiau mynd nôl yn gyflym iawn i'r atebion a wnaethoch chi eu rhoi i'r Cadeirydd reit ar y cychwyn ynglŷn â'r bwrdd. Gwnaethoch chi drafod sut roedd angen i'r bwrdd fod yn gynrychioladol o'r sector a'r gweithlu eang a'r rhanddeiliaid gwahanol. Beth roeddwn i jest eisiau gofyn yn gyflym oedd beth yw eich barn chi ynglŷn â sut y dylai'r bwrdd fod neu sut y gallwch chi sicrhau bod y bwrdd yn gynrychioladol o Gymru yn nhermau rhywedd, yn nhermau cefndir ethnig ac yn y blaen? Achos, yn amlwg, gyda chorff newydd fel hyn, dwi'n siŵr eich bod chi'n cytuno ei bod hi'n bwysig nad yw'r bwrdd yn edrych fel pob bwrdd arall, ac yn adlewyrchu'r ysbryd newydd a'r gwaith pwysig at y dyfodol y bydd y bwrdd yn ei gyflawni. Felly, rôn i jest eisiau cael eich barn ar hynny'n gyflym.

Thank you, Chair, and good morning, Minister. I just wanted to return briefly to the responses you gave the Chair at the outset on the board. You discussed how the board should be representative of the sector and the broad workforce and the different stakeholders involved. What I wanted to ask very briefly was what your views are on how you can ensure the board is representative of Wales in terms of gender, ethnic background and so on. Because, clearly, with a new body such as this, I'm sure you'd agree that it's important that the board doesn't look like every other board and does reflect the new spirit and the important work that the board will undertake for the future. So, I just wanted your views on that briefly.

09:45

Ie, cytuno'n llwyr gyda chi am hynny—pa mor bwysig yw e. Mae'n bwysig yn ein cyrff cyhoeddus ni yn gyffredinol. Wrth gwrs, rŷn ni'n gweithio i sicrhau hynny. Fel mae'n digwydd, mae darn o waith ar y gweill ar hyn o bryd—efallai ei fod e hyd yn oed wedi cael ei gyfathrebu erbyn hyn—lle mae'r uned cyrff cyhoeddus yn gweithio gyda chyrff cyhoeddus sydd gyda ni eisoes i wella amrywiaeth ar y byrddau a sicrhau cynrychiolaeth o gymunedau o bob math yng Nghymru, a byddaf i eisiau gweld hynny'n rhan greiddiol o'r apwyntiadau i'r bwrdd newydd, a byddaf i neu bwy bynnag fydd yn gwneud yr apwyntiadau maes o law eisiau sicrhau ein bod ni nid jest yn sicrhau bod pobl yn dod ymlaen, ond bod ffyrdd o recriwtio sy'n debygol o ysgogi, os hoffech chi, apwyntiadau a chynigion wrth bobl.

Yes, I agree entirely with you. It's extremely important; it's important in our public bodies in general, and we are working to ensure that. As it happens, there is currently a piece of work ongoing—it may have even been communicated now—where the public bodies unit is working with the public bodies that we have to improve diversity on boards and to ensure representation from all sorts of communities in Wales, and I'd want to see that as being a core part of the appointments to the new board, and I or whoever makes the appointments in due course will seek to ensure that we not only ensure that people come forward, but that there are recruitment processes in place that will encourage applications from and appointments of a diverse range of people.

Ie, neu hyd yn oed defnyddio rhywbeth fel co-option i gyflawni hynny. Efallai y byddai hynny'n syniad. Gwych.

Dwi eisiau symud ymlaen at gwpwl o gwestiynau ynglŷn â dylanwad Gweinidogion Cymru ar y comisiwn a darparwyr. Rŷn ni wedi cael barn gref nad oes sail resymegol glir dros y pwerau i ddiddymu corfforaeth addysg uwch heb gydsyniad y corff llywodraethu. A wnewch chi gyflwyno diwygiad i'r Bil i'w gwneud hi'n ofynnol i gael cydsyniad y cyrff llywodraethu?

And perhaps even use co-option to deliver that. That might be an idea. Great.

I want to move on to a few questions on the influence of Welsh Ministers on the commission and providers. We've heard strong views that there's no clear rationale for the powers to dissolve a higher education corporation without the consent of a governing body. Will you bring forward an amendment to the Bill to require the governing bodies' consent?

Wel, yr ateb syml i'ch cwestiwn chi yw fy mod i'n bwriadu cyflwyno diwygiad yn y maes hwn. O ran cynnwys y diwygiad hwnnw, dwi'n dal i edrych ar beth fydd hwnnw. Ond jest fel cyd-destun, os caf i, mae'r pwerau sydd yn y Bil o ran diddymu'r corfforaethau, oni bai am rai newidiadau technegol, rhai sy'n codi yn sgil creu comisiwn newydd, a rhai ymylol—os caf i ddisgrifio fe felly—eraill, oni bai am hynny, maen nhw'n adlewyrchu'r pwerau sydd ar gael ar hyn o bryd. Felly, pwerau wrth gefn ydyn nhw, yn sicr, a'u defnydd nhw'n ddarostyngedig i gyfraith gyhoeddus beth bynnag. Felly, dwi jest yn credu ei bod hi'n bwysig i roi'r cyd-destun hwnnw hefyd wrth inni edrych ar hwn. Ond dwi'n sicr wedi clywed gan rai o'r rhanddeiliaid sydd wedi rhoi tystiolaeth i chi ac yn y trafodaethau dwi wedi eu cael gyda nhw'n uniongyrchol hefyd—a dwi wedi bod mewn amryw o fforymau i wrando ar safbwyntiau sefydliadau—mae'n gwbl glir bod y thema hon yn codi'n weddol gyson gan y sefydliadau sydd yn cael eu heffeithio'n fwyaf uniongyrchol. Felly, dwi'n sicr yn agored i'r drafodaeth honno ac i weld sut y gallwn ni adlewyrchu'r hyn rŷn ni wedi'i glywed yn yr adborth mewn diwygiadau i'r Bil. Ond, os caf i, Gadeirydd, dyma un o'r pethau efallai y byddai'n ddefnyddiol imi ysgrifennu'n bellach at y pwyllgor amdano. Dyw'r broses o feddwl drwy hynny ddim eto wedi cyrraedd y lan. Felly, fe wnaf i ysgrifennu, os caf i, pan fydd y syniadaeth wedi symud ychydig ymhellach ymlaen.

Well, the simple answer to your question is that I do intend to introduce an amendment in this area. In terms of the content of that amendment, I am still considering what that will look like. But just to give you some context, if I may, the powers contained within the Bill in terms of dissolving corporations, other than the technical considerations in terms of creating a new board and some peripheral issues, do reflect the powers that are currently available. So, they are reserved powers, certainly, and their use would be subject to public law. So, I think it's important to give that context as we look at this. But I certainly have heard the remarks of some of the stakeholders that have given you evidence and I've had some direct discussions with them too, and I've been in a number of fora to listen to the views of organisations, and it is quite clear that this theme arises quite consistently among those organisations that are most directly affected. So, I'm certainly open to having that debate and to considering how we can reflect what we've heard in feedback in proposed amendments to the Bill. But if I may, Chair, this is one of the things where it might be useful if I write to the committee, because the process of thinking that through hasn't reached the end of the line as of yet. So, I will, if I may, write to you when our thinking is slightly more developed on this. 

Diolch. Mae Prifysgolion Cymru wedi dweud wrthym ni na fydd yn rhaid i'r pŵer i roi cyfarwyddiadau cyffredinol i'r comisiwn gael ei wneud drwy Orchymyn mwyach. Y cyfan fydd angen ei wneud fydd cyhoeddi hynny. Gallai hyn leihau gwaith craffu'r Senedd ar y comisiwn. A wnewch chi gyflwyno diwygiad i'r Bil i'w gwneud hi'n ofynnol i gyfarwyddiadau gael eu rhoi drwy Orchymyn?

Thank you. Universities Wales have raised with us that the power to issue general directions to the commission will no longer have to be done by Order—they will just need to be published. Now, this could reduce Senedd scrutiny of the commission. Will you bring forward an amendment to the Bill to require directions to be given by Order?

Wel, rŷn ni wedi dilyn trywydd gwahanol i'r approach sydd yn Neddf 1992 ar hyn o bryd. Mae hynny, wrth gwrs, yn wir. Mae'r Bil yn caniatáu i ni fel Gweinidogion roi cyfarwyddiadau. Ond mae cyfyngiadau ar hynny, ac mae camau sydd yn diogelu ynghlwm yn hynny. Hynny yw, mae angen ymgynghori gyda'r comisiwn, mae angen sicrhau bod unrhyw gyfarwyddiadau'n cael eu cadw o dan drosolwg parhaus, ac mae angen cyhoeddi'r rheini a datgan i’r Senedd beth yw’r cyfarwyddiadau hynny fel bod cyfle i’r Senedd ymwneud â nhw. Felly, fy marn i yw bod hynny’n cyflwyno pethau sy’n diogelu buddiannau sefydliadau a’r Senedd hefyd.

Dwi’n trio cofio pa un a'n bod ni wedi trafod hyn yn fras y tro diwethaf roeddwn i o flaen y pwyllgor, so dwi ddim eisiau ail-ddweud beth wnes i ddweud amser hynny, ond un o’r pethau sydd wrth wraidd y dull newydd yw bod angen, ambell waith, edrych at symud ar fyrder i allu gwneud cyfarwyddiadau. Rŷn ni wedi gweld, yng nghyd-destun COVID yn benodol, fod ambell beth yn codi mewn cyfnod o argyfwng sydd yn golygu bod angen symud yn gyflym iawn. Felly, dyna sydd wedi ysgogi’r approach newydd yn y Bil. Ond eto, fel rŷch chi’n dweud, dwi'n cydnabod bod pobl wedi codi pryderon am hynny, felly dwi’n hapus i edrych ar ffyrdd amgen, os hoffwch chi, o gyrraedd y nod honno o allu bod yn hyblyg ac yn nimble, ond hefyd yn rhoi, efallai, mwy o gysur i’r rheini sydd wedi codi pryderon mor belled. Felly, dwi’n edrych ar hynny—ar y mecanwaith hwnnw.

Well, we've followed a different path to the approach of the 1992 Act. That certainly is true. The Bill allows us as Ministers to give directions, but there are limits on that and there are safeguarding steps involved there. That is to say there would need to be consultation with the commission, we would need to ensure that any directions are kept under ongoing overview, and we would need to publish those and to declare to the Senedd what those directions are so that the Senedd can be involved. My view is that that provides safeguards in terms of the interests of institutions and the Senedd too.

I'm trying to think whether we discussed this the last time I was before the committee. I don't want to rehearse what I said at that point, but one of the things that's at the heart of this new approach is that we, occasionally, need to move with urgency in order to provide directions. We've seen, in the context of COVID specifically, that certain things do arise in a time of crisis that mean that you do need to move very quickly. So, that's what's brought forward this new approach in the Bill. But, as you said, I do recognise that people have raised concerns about that, so I'm happy to consider alternative approaches, if you like, of reaching that aim of having that flexibility and being able to be nimble, but also providing some comfort to those who have raised concerns so far. So, I will look at that mechanism.

09:50

Diolch. Er bod darpariaeth sy’n golygu na all y comisiwn ei gwneud yn ofynnol i gorff llywodraethu wneud unrhyw beth sy’n anghydnaws â chyfraith elusennau, ymddengys nad oes cyfyngiad o'r fath ar Weinidogion Cymru. Beth yw'r rhesymeg dros hyn, ac a wnewch chi ddiwygio'r Bil i gynnwys hyn?

Thank you. Although provision means that the commission can't require a governing body to do anything incompatible with charity law, there's seemingly no such limitation on Welsh Ministers. What's the rationale for this, and will you amend the Bill to include this?

Wel, y rheswm am hynny yw bod cynnwys y Bil yn gyson gyda’r darpariaethau cyfredol sydd yn Neddf 2015, ac mae’r rheini’n cynnwys dyletswyddau a gwaith HEFCW yn unig. Felly, dyna’r rhesymeg—ei fod e’n adlewyrchu’r hyn sy’n digwydd yng nghyd-destun HEFCW. Ond eto, rŷch chi’n llwyddo  i gael mwy nag un cytundeb allan ohonof i, Sioned. Dwi wedi clywed gennych chi a gan eraill fod hynny’n rhywbeth y byddech chi’n hoffi ei weld—bod Gweinidogion yn ddarostyngedig i hynny hefyd—felly, byddwn i'n hapus i edrych ar beth allwn ni ei wneud o ran dyletswydd ehangach, efallai, yn hynny o beth.

Well, the rationale for that is that the content of the Bill is consistent with current provisions in the 2015 legislation, and those include the duties and work of HEFCW alone. So, that's the rationale—it reflects what's currently in place in the context of HEFCW. But, again, you're getting quite a bit out of me this morning, Sioned. I've heard from you and from others that that is something that you would like to see—that Ministers would be subject to that—so, I'd be happy to look at what we can do in terms of a broader duty in that regard.

Thank you, Sioned. And just following on from Sioned’s questions on this, really, Minister, can you clarify and perhaps give us an understanding of in what circumstances Welsh Ministers would use the current powers available to them on the face of the Bill to, for example, modify the commission’s strategic plan and perhaps issue a general direction to the commission?

Well, those are two separate scenarios, Chair, really. The point, really, is that—. Firstly, on the question of directions more broadly, the kind of example that has—. I suppose the most recent example, if I can put it like that, isn’t actually a direction under this legislation, but a direction under the Qualifications Wales Act 2015, for example, where we issued a direction in respect of the cancellation of exams and the determination of grades. That was the mechanism with which we responded in COVID times, if I can put it like that, to some of the exam challenges.

Another example might be where financial support directions became necessary. Maybe it’s perhaps a little bit more straightforward to identify those kinds of situations. There could conceivably be a situation where if there were—it’s unlikely, isn’t it, but if there were—serious financial mismanagement and there might be a need to act with urgency in that situation, then those direction powers would need to be pretty nimble and flexible in that context. So, that’s the sort of scenario. I hope, both in the way that I’ve struggled a little bit to find examples, and described [Inaudible.] examples, that it tells you that they are very much at the backstop end of things, thankfully. So, that’s the situation from a directions point of view.

In terms of the modification of the strategic plan, again, I don’t envisage Ministers having to use the powers, but you as a committee will, rightly, hold me to task on the establishment of one of the largest public bodies in Wales when it's established, with a very, very significant amount of public funding. It is right, from a democratic accountability point of view, that there is a line of sight that goes from the things that we're elected to do as a Government, and you will scrutinise us for, and the policy being implemented. And so, in the very vanishingly, I would suggest, unlikely circumstances of that not happening through the planning of the commission itself, there is a sort of backstop power. But again, it's constrained, isn't it? The Bill provides for protections around that, and, again, as we've discussed previously, we're navigating a balance here, aren't we, between the priorities of accountability and the priorities of independence of action?

09:55

Thank you, Minister. It's really helpful to get your thinking on that. We'll move on now to some questions from Ken Skates.

Thanks, Chair, and can I just thank the Minister for his opening statement as well? It really is good to hear how pragmatic he is being in his approach to this subject area, and how he's also listening to stakeholders and to committee members. I'm just going to ask a few questions about regulatory machinery, and also funding and collaboration, if I may. First of all, quite a few stakeholders have already told us that they've got concerns about the commission achieving a balance of funding across its activities. Would the Minister just be able to talk to these concerns and explain how he may introduce amendments on transparency in balance of funding?

Yes, of course. Look, I'm conscious that stakeholders have given evidence to you along those lines, and, as it happens, I was able to attend the cross-party group on universities where this was a theme that a number of people raised there as well. The concept of balanced funding has generally arisen—I think I'm right in saying has only arisen so far—in the context of the allocation and disposition of research funding, rather than more broadly across functions within the UK. But, as you know, I think, part of the development of the Bill has been inspired, really, by work that's happened elsewhere internationally, in particular in New Zealand. They've managed, I think, quite an effective way of making sure there's a high level of transparency around how they allocate their budget between different parts of the sector, and that kind of indicates, if you like, where funding is allocated, why it's allocated, and the movement between categories. So, it's very transparent, it's consulted on, and so, in a way, I'm very confident the arrangements we have in place both at HEFCW and the Welsh Government for funding the parts of the sector we respectively have responsibilities for is already very transparent. But I think my expectation is that there will be a very extensive consultation that the commission undertakes. And there's a range of legislative duties. I think HEFCW sets a very good example in this space, but there's a range of legislative duties to build even further on that good work. So, again, as I touched on a little bit in the opening statement, transparency around this is one of the areas where I'm thinking about whether we can do more in the Bill.

Excellent, thank you. You'll be aware that the Senedd is currently considering a petition that students at the Centre for Alternative Technology can receive Welsh Government statutory support but they can't receive the STEM bursary. So, it would be helpful for us to understand why this is the case under current legislation and to what extent would the position that the students are in change under the Bill?

I have had correspondence in relation to this matter, so I'd be happy to write specifically to the committee on the current arrangements. In terms of how that is amended by the Bill, I'm afraid it won't be. You might recall the discussion we had the last time I was in front of the committee, about why student support functions weren't contained within the ambit of the commission, and the argument that I gave then was that that becomes more than about the dispensation of a budget that the Welsh Government has given to the commission; it then becomes something about designating the size of the budget more broadly, if I could put it like that. So, that is beyond the vision that we have, really. And since the issue that you're describing is really a student support issue, that won't be within the compass of the Bill.

That makes perfect sense. It would be very helpful if you could just send us the note that you outline. That would be very helpful indeed. Thank you.

Now, in England, the Office for Students has a general duty to protect institutional autonomy. Why isn't there a similar provision in the Bill, and is it your intention to introduce one?

10:00

Why is there no similar provision in the Bill? By that I take it that you mean a general broad-based duty across the piece, if you like. So, the starting point for any law really, but it's definitely the case here, is that we have institutions that are autonomous. That's the steady-state position, and so the question I ask myself as Minister is: does the Bill that I'm introducing impinge upon that, and if it does risk that, how do we address that in the Bill? And so that's the approach that I've taken here. The steady-state position is that institutions are, thankfully, autonomous. 

Section 15 sets out some protections in the Bill around academic freedom. I know the point you're making is actually broader than that, but that is an important aspect of institutional autonomy around content, teaching, assessment and so on, as well as admissions and appointments, obviously. Section 17 then has some protections around governance and charitable status. I think there are—. You could draw contrasts between this legislation, for example, and legislation in Scotland, which has quite specific provisions. Again, it's about that accountability question and autonomy. But, again, I have heard what stakeholders have been saying to you, so we're looking at what we can do to perhaps give a little bit more assurance to stakeholders in this space as well.

Thank you. Turning to some of the other concerns that have been raised by stakeholders, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has told us in their evidence that they've got concerns that the equality impact assessment might not meet the requirements of the regulations. Do you think this is a fair assessment?

I do, actually, on the whole, from what they said to you, and I think we could and should include more detail in the EIA. To be honest, much of that is to reflect evidence that's already been collated, so some of it might require a bit more investigation, but there's been a lot of evidence that we've gained from the various stakeholder engagement and the learner voice sessions. There has been a continuous process of engagement, obviously, through the policy development process, and I think there is a strong argument, to be fair, that some of that work could be better reflected in the EIA. So, I've asked officials to look at both the evidence that the EHRC gave you and to look at what we need to do to better include that in the EIA. 

I think, on the specific—. There was a specific recommendation, wasn't there, about making sure that the commission is a listed body for the purposes of the 2010 Act? HEFCW is currently a listed body, as you will know, and the commission, once established, will become a listed body. So, I can confirm that is already the plan. I think above and beyond that there's a little bit of a balance here, isn't there? Having set the framework, there's an equality of opportunity duty on the face of the Bill. Having made the body a listed body, as to how that works on the ground, if you like, I think it's a little challenging to be more prescriptive about as Ministers, but I think that strikes the right overall balance. 

Thank you. And just finally, what's the rationale for only requiring providers of HE to register? And how do you think this advances parity of esteem when providers and provision will be treated differently?

Well, the objective of the Bill is to create one sector with a plurality and diversity of providers. That's one piece of context. The other piece of context is that the Bill isn't able to change the entire landscape of how, for example, in this particular context, all the different parts of the sector are funded. So, as you obviously know, they're funded in different ways, aren't they? That's the position as of today. Some of it is student support, some of it is grant funding, some of it is research funding, and each of those has a range of different mechanisms for delivery. And, as a consequence of that, poses a range of different regulatory challenges, perhaps, for the commission. So, my view is being on that list doesn't actually tell us anything about parity of esteem. What it tells us is what is the mechanism for the commission regulating that part of the sector. And so, just to be clear, we don't distinguish on the basis of provider, we distinguish on the basis of provision. So, there'll be, as you know, FE colleges that deliver some aspects of HE. So, it's the provision that determines whether you need to be on the register. And obviously that's because, in order to get student support there needs to be a means of you being within the compass of the commission, and the mechanism to do that is the register. So, we don't need to have FE provision on the register because there's already a mechanism through grant funding conditions that enable regulation to be effective. However, having said that, part of the point of the Bill, obviously, is to futureproof, isn't it? And so, it's conceivable in the future that the funding structures do change, and so the existence of the register provides that flexibility so that we can respond at that point to changes in the funding market, if I can use that term. 

10:05

Thank you. Over now to some questions from James Evans.

Bore da, Gweinidog. I've got some questions about lifelong learning and research, and you just talked and touched on provision. And what I'd like to know is: what will the practical differences between proper and reasonable FE and training provisions look like for Welsh people? And also, what will non-eligible persons, which is mentioned, be entitled to? 

Okay. So, in a way, this is a borrowed concept, if I can use that term. It is borrowed from the existing legislative framework. So, if you look at the Learning and Skills Act 2000, that makes a distinction between facilities that are proper and those that are reasonable, and that's based on age, principally. So, in this Bill, section 90 provides for the commission to give proper facilities for FE and to training for those between 16 and 19. And what that means is that they need to be of a quantity and quality sufficient to meet the reasonable needs of individuals, as well as to be sufficient to meet the needs of the curriculum under that Act.

Section 91 of the Bill provides for the commission to secure proper facilities for those aged over 19, but to fall within the definition of regulations that Ministers make, and that's the mechanism by which the lifelong learning entitlement is extended, basically. So, it extends the provision from reasonable to proper, which is a higher level of provision, to those groups of people specified in the regulations. And for those not in that group—everyone else is entitled to the reasonable facilities. 

In practical terms, what that amounts to—perhaps obviously, given what I've just said—is that the obligation to the duty to deliver reasonable facilities is less onerous. So, it's a mechanism by which you allocate priority, essentially. Now, we would all like to live in a world where that wasn't necessary, but it is necessary, and that's why we're extending the level of priority, if you like, by using those regulations. So, reasonable provision is likely to be as it is today—a lower level of scope, if you like, than proper provision—but, obviously, the point of the mechanism in the Bill is to progressively extend that higher level of obligation. And that principally follows the funding available to the commission to deliver that outcome, really. 

Okay. Diolch, Minister. I want to move on to research and innovation now, because it does state that only registered providers, in other words, those that provide higher education, will be eligible to receive research and innovation funding. I want to know: why does the Bill take this approach, when this excludes, in the long-term, bodies such as—you'll have to excuse my Welsh pronunciation; dwi'n dysgu siarad Cymraeg—I think it's Amgueddfa Cymru, who can access UK Research and Innovation funding?

I suppose the first question here is: what is the purpose of the Bill, isn't it? So, is the purpose of the Bill to regulate research, or is the purpose of the Bill to regulate the post-compulsory education sector, in very broad terms? There's obviously an overlap, clearly. But that's the starting question, and the answer to that question is: the principal scope of the Bill is around the regulation, funding and oversight of the tertiary sector. Plainly, research has a very significant role to play in that, but there is absolutely research that is not within the scope of the tertiary education sector, including the sorts of things that you've just been referring to in your question.

So, that may just be the answer to your question. If you're a tertiary education provider, if you're in the relevant category, if you've complied with the conditions, then you get access to the research funding through the commission, but there's a range of research funding that sits way outside the commission's responsibilities. Roughly speaking, the commission will inherit the current research funding powers that HEFCW has, so that's QR, your quality research, the research Wales innovation fund, postgraduate student research funding, those sorts of things. But, as you said, there are other sources of research funds, and that isn't in the commission's responsibilities, not least because the commission doesn't regulate those providers of those sources, so it wouldn't be appropriate. And there's also a set of research powers that Welsh Ministers will also retain, as they do currently. We fund research in health developments and so on. So, those powers will remain. I hope that's helpful.

10:10

Yes, that is, thank you. Just moving on slightly on this, when we met with HEFCW they suggested in evidence a new strategic duty that requires the commission to promote competitiveness and collaboration in research and innovation. So, I just wonder what your views on this are, considering a key find of the Reid review was that Welsh universities need to become more competitive at winning UK funding to replace EU funding as we've now left the European Union. Diolch.

HEFCW has given you evidence of that. I know the Learned Society have a view on this and the chairs of universities in Wales have also raised questions and proposals in this space. I think it's kind of helpful to decouple them a little bit, because there's a slightly different aspect on different bits of it, if I can put it like that.

So, clearly, the Government recognises, obviously, that science research and innovation are completely fundamental to addressing many of the challenges that are part of the context of the Bill. That's the first point. The second point is that research is already obviously identified as a strategic duty in the context of collaboration and coherence and promotion of continuous improvement, all that sort of set of concerns and priorities. So, if you look at the question of whether there's a case for, in some way, enhancing that, if you like, so that there's a duty to be competitive, I think there's definitely an interesting discussion to be had about that. So, I'm grateful to HEFCW for raising that point, and it's one of the things I'm looking at in terms of how we approach that.

Then there's a set of questions around whether—from memory, HEFCW's evidence to you was, you know, 'Is it right', as it were, 'for the research duties to be subject to that broader duty to collaborate?' I think they had some anxiety about whether that would prevent universities from competing in the way that your question was describing. My honest view on that is I think that's a less persuasive argument. I think it needs to be a little bit more tested. So, actually, I'd be interested in the committee's assessment of that position, actually, if you're inclined to look at it. I definitely don't have a closed mind to it, but I think it needs a bit more testing. There are definitely advantages to having a collaborative approach to research, obviously, so I think—. And a coherent approach—that was, I think, the language that they were concerned about. 

I guess the last bit is there's a debate about whether research in its own terms should be promoted, or research that leads to a sustainable and innovative economy. I think that's also in the kind of space that I'd be interested in looking at.

Diolch, Minister. And I've got a final question, which is on adult learning. Adult Learning Wales have drawn our attention as a committee to the fact that the national strategic body for adult community learning isn't mentioned in this Bill or any of its documentation. The body was announced by your predecessor and my predecessor on 12 July 2019. So, can you tell us more about those plans as of today?

Sure. I think, just for context, when you say 'announced', it was a decision to explore the feasibility of a national body, actually, rather than the announcement of a body being established. So, my personal view is that the key issue here is about national co-ordination. So, that's the objective we're trying to meet, co-ordinating on a Wales-wide basis. But I think it's a couple of years plus at this point from when the national body, the feasibility of that, was—things have moved on. I think we need to recognise the improvements in the rationality of funding and the planning of provision that have happened in the interim period. I think also we've just had reports, haven't we, which I don't know if Members have yet had a chance to look at, of the Wales Centre for Public Policy about a set of recommendations they have about how we take forward lifelong learning and adult education as part of that.

So, I think we all need to look at that in context really. I suppose my point is it's about the co-ordination principally. I have asked officials to bring forward, just to give you a current—. I've asked officials to convene a group of stakeholders to provide external advice, if you like, and scrutiny really, to look at how we can take forward that national co-ordination programme, and I think they're meeting in the coming weeks actually, so I'd be very happy to update the committee in due course on that.

10:15

Diolch, thank you, Gweinidog. I've got some further questions; I'll ask them at a later stage. Thank you.

Thank you, James. I'm just going to bring in Sioned Williams now who's got a further question on the research. Sioned.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Ie, jest un cwestiwn cyflym ynglŷn ag ymchwil, a dwi'n gwerthfawrogi eich bod chi wedi dweud yn eich datganiad agoriadol eich bod chi yn mynd i edrych ar y cwestiwn o ymchwil a'i le o fewn dyletswyddau'r Bil. Mae yna lot o sôn am ymreolaeth sefydliadol a rhyddid academaidd ar lefel sefydliadol, ond lle mae ymchwil yn y cwestiwn, a ddylai fe fod hefyd ar lefel yr unigolyn? Gan gymryd beth rŷch chi newydd ei ddweud o ran pwysigrwydd gallu Gweinidogion i fedru cyllido a chyfeirio ymchwil mewn rhai meysydd sydd o fudd i'r genedl, onid oes angen i ni sicrhau bod gan unigolion yn ein sefydliadau hefyd y rhyddid i ymwneud â'r ymchwil maen nhw'n teimlo, fel arbenigwyr yn eu maes nhw, sy'n mynd i fod o fudd i'r cyhoedd, ac o fudd i'w maes ac i'r genedl hefyd?

Thank you, Chair. Just a brief question on research, and I appreciate that you said in your opening statement that you were going to look at the issue of research and its place within the duties in the Bill. There's a lot of talk about institutional autonomy and academic freedom at an institutional level, but where research is concerned, should it also be at an individual level? Given what you've just said about the importance of the ability of Ministers to fund and direct research in some areas that are of benefit to the nation, shouldn't we also ensure that individuals in our institutions also have that autonomy to undertake the research that they feel, as specialists in their field, would be of benefit to the public, and of benefit to their particular field and to the nation too?

Wel, mae rhyddid academaidd yn y ffordd hwnnw yn rhan o gwmpas y Bil fel mae e ar hyn o bryd. Byddaf i'n hapus i edrych ar y pwynt penodol rŷch chi wedi'i wneud, i jest sicrhau—. Roeddech chi'n gwneud pwynt manwl, felly fe wnaf i jest wirio eto fy mod i'n hapus bod hynny wedi cyfro'r maes.

Well, academic freedom in that sense is part of the Bill as it's currently drafted. I'd be happy to look at the particular point you've made to ensure—. You did make quite a detailed point, so I will just check again that I am happy that that has been covered.

Thank you. Moving on to some questions now from Buffy Williams.

Thank you, Chair. Minister, HEFCW argue that Estyn and the commission have powers in the same space in respect of policy that may cause confusing duplication of legal responsibilities. Where do their powers overlap, and was this the intention?

Well, it was not the intention, and I also don't think it's the outcome. I don't think there is an overlap in the powers of the commission and Estyn. I think the Bill sets out pretty clearly who does what in this space, if I can put it like that. So, there are pretty distinct roles that the commission have and that Estyn have in the context of assurance and inspection and quality. There's a very clear value, obviously, in maintaining an independent inspectorate, and then for the commission, who has the overall responsibility for quality assurance, to work with an independent inspector of provision in the way that Estyn does so very well. So, I think those roles are pretty distinct myself.

The Bill provides that Estyn has to conduct the inspections having regard to the framework that the commission publishes. It has a duty to consult—. The commission has a duty to consult with Estyn before publishing the framework. There needs to be a plan agreed for the inspection of provision secured by the commission. So, I think, actually, that will reduce overlap for providers because the commission will be in a position to ensure that quality assessment, both in FE and HE, is actually more aligned really, in a way that can't currently happen. So, I actually think that will lead to less 'confusing duplication', I think was the phrase that you used.

I suppose the question is: what is the alternative? Should we be taking Estyn as—? Is the argument that Estyn shouldn't have a role in post-16, for example? I actually think that would lead to more confusion, more overlap really. What we've tried to do throughout is to build on it being one sector, but with a plurality of providers, isn't it? So, we are building on the strengths that we currently have, but setting it in a more coherent and unified sector, really. But that is different form being a homogenous approach. There are differences within that sector, obviously.

Thank you. Touching on funding again, Estyn have raised with us that their funding will come from two sources as a result of this Bill. Can you explain in detail how you see the funding for Estyn working in practice, please?

10:20

Yes. Well, it is right, they're right: there are two sources of funding, but there are two sets of activities. So, I think, in very high-level terms, that's the rationale for it. Estyn is currently funded, obviously, by us, by the Welsh Government, under the Government of Wales Act 1998. And under the Education Act 2005, the chief inspector has got a duty to keep us informed about the quality of education in schools, and, under the Learning and Skills Act 2000, to advise Welsh Ministers about matters in relation to post-16 provision. So, it's a provision—. The TR Bill—this Bill—will mean that funding to support post-16 moves from the Welsh Government into the funding that the commission controls, and obviously then the commission will fund Estyn for the work it does for the commission. So, I think it's a pretty straightforward change in funding relationship.

Estyn—I'm sure they will have told you this—have been closely engaged, obviously, with us in how the quality provisions in the Bill have been developed. Obviously, we've sought their advice on the functions that they need in the Bill to do their work in post-16. There's a very good working relationship between Estyn and the Welsh Government, and I would expect there to be a similarly constructive relationship between Estyn and the commission in due course. How Estyn manages the funding that the commission provides to it to deliver its functions obviously is a matter between the commission and Estyn, just in the way that it's a matter between the Welsh Government and Estyn at the moment. So, I think it's a simple transfer of responsibility, really.

Okay. We've heard views that two quality systems are being hard-wired into the Bill, which has more sector coherence as an aim. Does setting out Estyn's role in detail in the legislation prevent the future development of a single quality system? HEFCW have proposed deleting all these provisions, to give the commission more freedom of action.

Well, I don't think we can do that. Again, and I don't want to keep saying the same phrase, but it's about, you know, it's one sector but there is a plurality of provision in the sector. And I think quality is one of those areas where what we're trying to do is build on what currently works, really. So, it's obviously very important for—. Well, on the second point, Estyn will have a series of powers and duties in relation to inspection; it's important that that has a statutory footing. So, that needs to be in the Bill and we've worked with Estyn to make sure that it reflects what they feel they would need as well. So, I'm not sure I can see a way in which that comes out of the Bill and the statutory basis is sufficient to deliver the role that Estyn would have. More broadly than that, I guess, I don't want to repeat the points I've just made in terms of the earlier question, but there is a range of provisions in the Bill that stipulates very clearly the respective roles of the various parties. And I think that is clear, myself.

Back to me. [Laughter.] Minister, I've got just two questions, and there may be some follow-ons. Several stakeholders have concerns about the commission's powers to rationalise sixth forms, and they're worried about the unintended consequences for Welsh-medium provision and the consequences for learners and the workforce. What's your view and take on that?

Well, this concept of rationalisation—I don't want to set a hare running—that language is used in the existing legislation. So, that's the relevance of that phrase; it's not that there are some new tools being deployed for the purpose of rationalisation. The 2013 Act uses that term already, for example, and obviously the Bill amends those provisions with references to Welsh Ministers' powers, but that's within the scheme of the Bill's relationship with the existing legislation, really. So, just to give that assurance at the start, really.

You asked for my take on it. I think that including maintained sixth forms will provide an opportunity for the commission to be strategic in its oversight, in looking at post-16. I think it enables us to continue with a mixed-economy model of 16 to 19 provision across Wales, which is what I want to see, offering a diversity of choice. But it also allows there to be a coherent approach adopted to planning and funding, which is the key kind of balance to be struck, as well as monitoring and joint working and all those other positive things that we want the Bill to deliver.

Just to be clear, the Bill will not affect local authorities or schools in their day-to-day organisation or the legislation governing the arrangements for the local management of schools or local governance arrangements—all of that is unaffected by the Bill. So, there will be limited circumstances, which the commission—. But acting in accordance with the school organisation code, and I know that you're very familiar with that from discussions that we've had in previous discussions elsewhere. That code remains the code for organisation, whoever is proposing it, and that code is approved by the Senedd. So, that remains the democratic backstop, if you like. But within that, the commission will have powers to direct authorities to bring forward proposals. But, again—and I know you know this as well—there is a backstop set of provisions for Ministers in relation to those reorganisations on limited grounds. So, it will be a last-resort power and there's a democratic backstop to the exercise of it anyway. So, I think that provides the right balance, basically.

10:25

Okay, that's great; thank you. I've got just two final questions on apprenticeships. I know they're cross-cutting with the Minister for Economy, but bear with me on these ones. We've heard a warning from the National Training Federation Wales that the Bill could make the apprenticeship system more clunky because Welsh Government will retain the strategic stewardship of the apprenticeship system. Why doesn't the Bill give the commission strategic stewardship?

And also, my final question: it's in the programme for government where you do state that you want to create 125,000 more apprenticeships. Do you think this Bill will help increase that number or decrease it? Thank you.

I think the Bill will enable us to deliver—will support us in delivering that number, for sure. So, the question of 'more clunky', I think my own language is being used back at me here—I think I described the current system as 'clunky', so I'm being challenged by others using my own language. So, what do I think? I think it's very hard to imagine any legislation that would end up being more clunky than the existing legislation, if I'm completely honest. So, we've got a system at the moment from 2009, which wasn't designed in Wales. It's unclear, definitely doesn't support our level of ambition; it's dependent on a state system that was put in place by another Government; it's inflexible, it's pretty unresponsive. I think it's remarkable really that we've been able to use it to deliver with such success the apprenticeship programme that we have over many years really. But there's an opportunity to fix that in this Bill—that's what this Bill does.

There's a long timescale in order to change apprenticeships in the current framework. We want it to be more nimble, faster and more responsive, and the Bill definitely will provide for that. The basic question—. The basic point, if you like, which lies behind your question is: should Welsh Ministers have a role at all in this? And you've made yourself the link with economic policy here. It is absolutely legitimate for Welsh Ministers to be able to influence the level of skills, the kind of areas in which skills are being developed in the economy for the benefit of the economy at large. And there are cross-cutting areas that the Government will need to support, that the Government will want in order to support economic policy, and this provides that stewardship at the very highest level whilst also making the delivery, the consultation, the actuality of it on the ground infinitely more flexible.

Thank you, Minister. I'm very grateful for your answers. Diolch.

Thank you, James. We've now got a final set of questions from Sioned Williams.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Allwch chi egluro beth fydd y Bil yn ei olygu ar gyfer dysgwyr sydd ag anghenion dysgu ychwanegol? Ydych chi'n fodlon na fydd y Bil yn rhoi pobl ag anghenion dysgu ychwanegol cymhleth o dan anfantais? Mae sawl rhanddeiliad wedi codi pryderon gyda ni yn eu hymatebion i'r ymgynghoriad ynghylch trin darpariaeth ADY yn y Bil. Felly, os gallaf gael eich sylwadau chi ar hynny.

Thank you, Chair. Can you explain what the Bill will mean for learners who have additional learning needs? Are you content that the Bill will not disadvantage those with complex additional learning needs? Several stakeholders have raised concerns with us in their consultation responses about the treatment of ALN provision in the Bill. So, if I could have your comments on that.

Wel, wrth ddrafftio'r Bil, rŷn ni wedi edrych ar y rhyngwyneb, rwy'n credu yw'r gair, rhwng deddfwriaeth anghenion addysg ychwanegol ar yr un llaw a beth rŷn ni'n ei gynnig yn y Bil ar gyfer y comisiwn. Felly, mae'r gwaith yna wedi bod yn rhan greiddiol o ddatblygu'r Bil fel mae e heddiw. Mae Deddf 2018 yn creu'r sail ar gyfer diwallu anghenion y rheini sydd yn manteisio ohono fe. Nid y comisiwn fydd â'r cyfrifoldeb i ariannu pob darpariaeth ALN ar ôl 16. Mae awdurdodau lleol yn gyfrifol o dan y Ddeddf i sicrhau darpariaeth arbenigol ar gyfer pobl 16 i 25, pan fo gyda nhw'r oblygiad i greu a chynnal cynllun datblygu unigol, wrth gwrs. Felly, ar hyn o bryd, mae'r tîm ALN o fewn y Llywodraeth yn gweithio ar wireddu'r camau gweithredol sydd eu hangen i gyflwyno impact Deddf 2018 i'r bobl ôl-16. Mae hynny'n cynnwys cwestiynau pwysig ynglŷn â sut rŷm ni'n edrych ar y cyfrifoldeb am ariannu darpariaeth arbenigol. Llywodraeth Cymru sy'n gwneud hynny ar hyn o bryd. Mae trafodaeth yn digwydd ynglŷn ag ai dyna'r dull gorau ar gyfer y dyfodol. Dŷn ni ddim eto wedi cyrraedd yr ateb i hwnnw—sut byddwn ni'n trosglwyddo hwnnw neu a fyddwn ni'n gallu trosglwyddo fe i awdurdodau lleol, fel byddai hynny'n edrych, beth yw'r opsiynau am wneud hynny. Mae trafodaeth eithaf eang a manwl yn digwydd ynglŷn â hynny ar hyn o bryd.

Mae'r Bil rŷm ni'n ei drafod heddiw yn gwneud cyfeiriadau ar wyneb y Bil—clir—at rôl awdurdodau lleol yn hyn o beth. Mae'r dyletswyddau sydd ar y comisiwn yn adlewyrchu yn gyffredinol y dyletswyddau fydd ar Lywodraeth Cymru o dan Act 2018, felly mae hynny'n gyson, a bydd dyletswyddau newydd yn y Bil hwn ar Weinidogion, ar y comisiwn hefyd, i ymateb i ofyniadau awdurdodau lleol am wybodaeth neu gymorth o dan Ddeddf 2018 a phan yn defnyddio pwerau o dan Ddeddf 2018 i sicrhau eu bod nhw'n rhoi ystyriaeth i unrhyw ganllawiau statudol ac ati. A hefyd mae dyletswyddau newydd ar Lywodraeth Cymru i ymgynghori gyda'r comisiwn cyn ein bod ni'n diwygio neu yn newid termau'r côd anghenion dysgu arbennig. Felly, fe fyddwn i'n dweud bod fframwaith y Bil hwn a'r Ddeddf 2018 yn gyson gyda'i gilydd. Yn sicr, dyna'r bwriad. Mae'r gwaith hwnnw wedi digwydd yn ystod datblygu'r Bil hefyd.

Well, in drafting the Bill, we have looked at the interface between ALN legislation on the one hand and what we propose in the Bill for the commission. So, that work was a core part of the development of the Bill as it currently stands. The 2018 Act provides a foundation for meeting the needs of those who are affected by it. It won't be the commission's responsibility to fund all post-16 ALN provision. Local authorities are responsible under the Act to provide specialist provision for those between 16 and 25, when they are responsible for an individual development plan, of course. So, at the moment, the ALN team within Government is working on delivering the actions required to deliver the impact of the 2018 Act for those in the post-16 sector. That includes important questions as to how we look at responsibility for funding specialist provision. It's the Welsh Government that does that at the moment. There is some discussion as to whether that is the best approach for the future. We haven't yet reached a conclusion on that—how or if we would transfer that to local authorities, what would that look like, what are the options there. There is quite a broad-ranging and detailed discussion on that at the moment.

The Bill we're discussing today makes reference clearly on the face of the Bill to the role of local authorities in this regard. The duties placed on the commission do generally reflect the duties that the Welsh Government has under the 2018 Act, so that's consistent and there will be new duties in this Bill on Ministers and on the commission to respond to requirements of local authorities for information or support under the 2018 legislation and when using powers under the 2018 Act to ensure that they give consideration to any statutory guidance and so on. And also there are new duties placed on the Welsh Government to consult with the commission before we change the additional learning needs code. So, I would say that the framework of this Bill and the 2018 legislation are in keeping with each other. Certainly, that's the intention. That work has happened in the development of the Bill.

10:30

Diolch. Dau gwestiwn gen i nawr ynglŷn â'r Gymraeg. Mae gan Gomisiynydd y Gymraeg a'r Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol bryderon am eiriad ac uchelgais y ddyletswydd strategol sy'n gysylltiedig â darpariaeth cyfwng Cymraeg. A fyddwch chi'n cyflwyno diwygiad i fynd i'r afael â phryderon mai dim ond 'ateb y galw rhesymol' am ddarpariaeth cyfrwng Cymraeg sydd angen i'r comisiwn ei wneud?

Thank you. Two questions now on the Welsh language. The Welsh Language Commissioner and the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol have concerns about the wording and ambition of the strategic duty related to Welsh-medium provision. Will you introduce an amendment to address concerns that it's only needing to 'meet reasonable demand' for Welsh-medium provision that is all that's required of the commission?

Wel, eich gair chi yw 'dim ond' yn y cyd-destun hwnnw, nid gair y Ddeddf. Nid dyna gwmpas y ddyletswydd. Mae e yn ehangach na hynny. Hynny yw, y drafodaeth rŷm ni wedi'i chael mewn amryw o gyd-destunau addysg statudol ac ati yw nid ein bwriad ni, nid ein huchelgais ni, yw jest diwallu'r galw presennol. Dyw hynny ddim yn ddigon, i fod yn gwbl glir. Ac felly, mae'r geiriad yn y Bil hwn yn ymateb i hynny. Felly, mae cyfrifoldeb ar y comisiwn i annog unigolion i gyfranogi mewn addysg drydyddol drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg, a hefyd i gymryd camau rhesymol i sicrhau bod digon o hynny i ateb galw rhesymol. Nawr, dŷn ni ddim moyn ateb jest yr actual galw; ni moyn ateb galw rhesymol, sydd, yn fy marn i, yn ymestyn tu hwnt i hynny, felly dyna, yn sicr, yw'r bwriad: ein bod ni'n gwthio lefel y ddarpariaeth yn ehangach ac yn annog mwy a mwy o bobl i mewn i'r system, ac rwy'n credu bod hynny ynghlwm yn y ffordd mae'r dyletswyddau wedi cael eu llunio. Fe fyddwn i hefyd yn dweud—. Os edrychwch chi, er enghraifft, mae gyda ni, fel rŷch chi'n gwybod, raglen waith ar gyfer Cymraeg 2050 bob tymor. Dŷn ni newydd ddatgan hynny yn yr haf. Mae e'n rhan o’r rhaglen waith honno i roi blaenoriaeth i ddatblygu ymhellach ddarpariaeth Gymraeg ôl-16. Bydd cyllid pellach yn mynd at y Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. Byddwn ni'n ehangu cwmpas eu gwaith nhw, fel rŷch chi wrth gwrs yn gwybod. Mae hynny'n caniatáu, felly, i’r ddyletswydd strategol sydd ar wyneb y ddeddf i ymateb i uchelgais y Llywodraeth. Fel mae’n digwydd, mae gyda ni gynllun eisoes, onid oes e, cynllun pum mlynedd, bob pum mlynedd, ym maes y Gymraeg, a bydd hynny hefyd yn digwydd yn fwy eang, yn fwy cyffredinol nawr, o fewn y Bil hwn. Bydd pob tymor newydd yn dod â datganiad o flaenoriaethau strategol, ac mae’n bosib wedyn i adlewyrchu uchelgais polisi maes y Gymraeg sydd gyda ni eisoes mewn sut mae'r comisiwn yn diwallu ac yn cyrraedd y cyfrifoldeb sydd ar wyneb y Bil.

Well, 'only' is your word; it's not included in the legislation. That is not what the duty encompasses. It's broader than that. That is, the discussion that we've had in a number of contexts on statutory education and so on is that it's not our intention or our ambition just to meet the current demand. That isn't enough—I'll be clear on that. So, the wording in this Bill does respond to that. So, there's a responsibility on the commission to encourage individuals to participate in tertiary education through the medium of Welsh, and also to take reasonable steps to ensure that there is provision available to meet reasonable demand. Now, I don't want just to respond to actual demand; I want to respond to reasonable demand, which goes beyond that, and that's certainly the intention, that we do push the level of provision more broadly and encourage more and more people within the system to take advantage of it, and I think that that is encompassed in the way in which the duties have been drawn up. I would also say—. If you look, we, as you know, have a work programme for Cymraeg 2050. We do that every term, and we just declared in the summer that part of that work programme will be to give priority to further developing Welsh-medium provision in the post-16 sector. There will be additional funding provided to the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. We will expand their remit, as you already know, and that therefore allows the strategic duty on the face of the legislation to respond to the Government's ambitions. As it happens, we already have a five-year plan, a plan every five years, in place in terms of the Welsh language, and that will also be covered more broadly within the Bill now. Every new term will bring a statement of strategic priorities, and then it's possible to reflect the ambitions of the Welsh language policies that we already have in the way in which the commission responds to its responsibilities on the face of the Bill.

10:35

Diolch, a chwestiwn pellach ynglŷn â pherthynas y comisiwn gyda’r coleg Cymraeg. Roedd rhanddeiliaid eraill, nid yn unig y coleg ei hunain, yn pryderu am ddryswch ynglŷn â, a hefyd dyblygu, rolau a chyfrifoldebau o ran darpariaeth cyfrwng Cymraeg, gan fod y Bil yn gosod cyfrifoldebau ar y corff newydd yn ymwneud â’r Gymraeg sydd eisoes yn gyfrifoldeb i'r Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. A allwch chi nodi ar lefel uchel sut y bydd y coleg, y comisiwn, a chyrff perthnasol eraill, yn cydweithio, a beth fydd y berthynas rhwng y comisiwn a’r coleg, o ystyried na fydd y coleg o fewn cylch gwaith y comisiwn?

Thank you, and a further question on the relationship of the commission with the coleg Cymraeg. Stakeholders—not just the college itself, but other stakeholders—were concerned about confusion and duplication of roles and responsibilities regarding Welsh-medium provisions, since the Bill places responsibility on the new bodies in relation to the Welsh language that are already the responsibility of the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. Can you set out at a high level how the  coleg, the commission, and other relevant bodies, will work together, and what will be the relationship between the commission and the coleg, given that the coleg won't be within the commission's remit?

Wel, mae hwn, ar un lefel, yn faes cymhleth, felly, ond, ar y llaw arall, mae'n eithaf syml. Hynny yw, beth yw'r opsiynau posib o ran perthynas? Rŷch chi'n dweud—neu mae eich cwestiwn chi'n dweud, efallai dylen i ddweud—fod cyfrifoldeb ar y comisiwn i yrru’r ddarpariaeth Gymraeg. Mae gan y coleg ddyletswydd yn hynny o beth hefyd. Felly, ydych chi'n—? Wel, fyddai dim un ohonom ni eisiau gweld bod hynny ddim yn ddyletswydd ar y comisiwn, felly y cwestiwn yw: beth yw'r berthynas rhwng y comisiwn a'r coleg? Wel, dwi ddim yn cefnogi'r opsiynau yma, ond dyma'r rhai sydd yn rhesymol ar gael. A ddylai'r comisiwn wneud gwaith y coleg? Dwi ddim yn credu bod hynny'n atyniadol nac yn dderbyniol. A ddylai'r coleg fod yn ddarostyngedig i'r comisiwn? Wel, fydden i ddim moyn i'r comisiwn efallai yn y cyd-destun hwn bennu maint cyllideb y coleg gan bod hwnna'n rhan o nod ehangach polisi ar y Gymraeg. Dim ond amryw o opsiynau sydd ar gael, ontefe?

Byddwn i hefyd yn dweud bod gan y coleg rôl benodol. Dyw e ddim yn ddarparwr addysg yn y ffordd y mae’r cyrff eraill sydd yn  ddarostyngedig i gwmpas gwaith y comisiwn, ac mae rôl gan y coleg ei hun, rôl trosolwg, mae rôl gynllunio strategol, mae rôl reoli, mae rôl gefnogi, felly mae amryw o gyfrifoldebau ehangach gan y comisiwn sydd yn eithaf penodol, a dweud y gwir.

Bydd y Bil yn caniatáu, byddwn i'n dweud, i’r comisiwn gael yr hyblygrwydd i allu bod yn eithaf arloesol yn y ffordd mae'n gweithio gyda’r coleg, a hefyd, gyda llaw, gyda’r ganolfan genedlaethol a phartneriaid eraill. Dŷn ni'n gweld yr arweinyddiaeth strategol, os gallaf i roi e yn y cyd-destun hwnnw, sydd gan y ganolfan dysgu eisoes yn hynny o beth, felly rwy'n credu y bydd manylder sut gall hynny edrych yn rhannol yn rôl i’r comisiwn, ond rwyf hefyd o’r farn bod rôl i ddisgrifio rhai o'r elfennau hynny yn yr implementation plan, y cynllun gweithredol. Felly, byddaf i'n hapus i esbonio ychydig yn fwy am hynny pan fyddwn ni'n ysgrifennu at y pwyllgor am y cynllun ehangach, os hoffwch chi.

Well, at one level, this is a complex area, but, on the other hand, it's quite simple. So, what are the possible options in terms of relationship? You say in your question that there is a responsibility on the commission to drive Welsh-medium provision and the coleg also has responsibilities in that regard too. Well, none of us would want to see that removed from the commission, so the question is: what's the relationship between the commission and the coleg? Well, I don't support these options, but these are the options reasonably available. Should the commission do the work of the coleg Cymraeg? I don't think that that would be acceptable or attractive. Should the coleg be subject to the commission? Well, I wouldn't want the commission in this context setting the budget for the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, because that is part of the broader aims of the Welsh language policies. So, there are only a limited number of options available.

I would also say that the coleg Cymraeg has a specific role. It's not a provider of education in the way that the other bodies that are subject to the work of the commission are. The coleg Cymraeg itself has an overview role, it has a strategic role, it has a management role and a support role, so the commission has broader responsibilities.

Now the Bill would allow the commission to have the flexibility to be quite innovative in terms of how it works with the coleg Cymraeg, and also, by the way, with the National Centre for Learning Welsh and other partners. We see the strategic leadership role that the national centre already has in that regard, so I think the minutiae of how that could look will partly be a role for the commission, but I also am of the opinion that there is a role to describe some of those elements in the implementation plan. So, I'd be happy to explain more on that when we write to the committee on the broader plan, if you like.

Iawn. Diolch yn fawr. Diolch, Cadeirydd.

Okay, thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, Sioned. And just a very quick question from me around consent in relation to section 128, and just that we know at the introduction that consent was pending. Has consent been granted by the UK Government?

Chair, I may have to confirm that to you. I'm currently looking through my notes, if I can be candid with you. I don't know the answer to that off the top of my head, but perhaps I can follow up in correspondence with you.

Yes, absolutely, Minister, that would be really helpful. I'm just checking that Members don't have any further questions. No. I can see no further questions, so that's the end of the session. I'd just like to say thank you very much to the Minister and officials for joining us this morning for this evidence session. I think it was a great session, and I'd like to thank the Minister for the constructive way you've approached this and for your helpful and clear answers and clarification. I think it's been really helpful for the committee. 

You'll, obviously, receive a transcript of today's proceedings. We'll also look forward to receiving some of the correspondence that you've said you that you will provide the committee. We will also write to you if there are any other further areas that we would need some clarification on. So, obviously, because of the reporting deadline, we would very much appreciate a speedy response. But thank you for joining us this morning.

10:40
3. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o’r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitem 4, eitem 7, eitem 8, eitem 9 ac eitem 10 ar agenda y cyfarfod.
3. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for items 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 4, 7, 8, 9 a 10 y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

We'll now move on to item 3. So, I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, that the committee resolves to meet in private for items 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Are Members content? I can that Members are content, so we will now proceed in private.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:41.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:41.

13:00

Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 13:00

The committee reconvened in public at 13:00

5. Craffu ar Gyllideb Ddrafft Llywodraeth Cymru ar gyfer 2022-23 - sesiwn dystiolaeth 1
5. Scrutiny of the Welsh Government Draft Budget 2022-2023 - evidence session 1

Croeso i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg heddiw.

Welcome to the meeting of the Children, Young People and Education Committee today.

I'd like to welcome Members to the meeting of the Children, Young People and Education Committee. I'd like to welcome the panel for this afternoon, which is for our scrutiny of the Welsh Government's draft budget 2022-23. This is our evidence session. I'd like to welcome everybody. I'd like to welcome the Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan; Julie Morgan, Deputy Minister for Social Services; Lynne Neagle, Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Well-being; Judith Paget, director general of health and social services and chief executive of NHS Wales; Steve Elliot, director of finance; Albert Heaney, chief social care officer for Wales; Claire Bennett, director of communities and tackling poverty; Tracey Breheny, deputy director of mental health, substance misuse and vulnerable groups; and Irfon Rees, director of population health. I'd also like to welcome Carolyn Thomas to the meeting as well—Carolyn is substituting for Buffy Williams this afternoon. So, welcome to everybody. Members have a number of questions that they would like to ask the panel on this topic, so we'll start with some questions initially from James Evans.

Diolch. Thank you. Deputy Minister, if I could address my questions to you, Lynne, if that's okay, because I want to ask about emotional and mental health. My first question is: can you explain the exact additional allocations for children and young people's mental health in this draft budget for each of the three years, 2022 to 2025? What will this be spent on, and how will this support the whole-system approach to improving mental health and well-being amongst children and young people? Because we need to make sure that that money is getting to those groups and not being spent by health boards on adult mental health when children's mental health is where the focus needs to be. Thank you.

Thank you very much, James. Good afternoon, everyone, it's good to be here. We are making a very substantial additional investment in children and young people's mental health, and I'll just set out now for you what we're doing. First of all, we're increasing the investment directly in children and young people's mental health within the education portfolio budget expenditure limit. There's £5.5 million in 2022-23 and that rises to £10.5 million by 2024-25 annually. That additional resource has gone in there to provide direct support to the whole-system approach that we're taking forward across education and health.

It's important, I think, not to forget the money that we put into substance misuse services. We've been able to use the very welcome additional £50 million that we've received this year for the mental health budget. We've been able to use some of that for substance misuse. We already spend £2.75 million of the substance misuse area planning board money—that's ring-fenced for children and young people. I'm very pleased to say that we'll be increasing that by £1 million in 2022-23, and thereafter, there are plans to increase this to £5.25 million and £6.25 million. As you know, we have had a significant additional investment across the three years in mental health services, and that money will be to provide improvements in mental health services across the board. As this committee will know better than anyone, improving the mental health of children and young people is my top priority, so I can say to the committee very clearly that you can expect to see additional funding in this area. And although we're still working out the detail of the £20 million that we've set aside for mental health service improvements, I will definitely be making sure that a good proportion of that is directed at services aimed at children and young people. That is, of course, in line with—and not just because we think that it's the right thing to do—the expected demand that we are anticipating.

We are also retaining the right to be flexible, because we still don't know yet quite how the pandemic is going to impact. We are expecting a further increase in demand and acuity, and we want to have the flexibility within our budgets to respond to that. I think that it's also important for the committee to note that it has been an incredibly challenging time for health boards to recruit to new posts using the money. We gave a substantial amount of money this year for mental health improvements, and it has been very difficult for health boards to use all of the money that we've given them so far. So, we're engaging in an exercise to work with the health boards to identify what they haven't been able to recruit to, what the gaps are, and to be able to flex our spending then, based on that. But, this year, we've spent £7 million on the service improvement funding that's gone direct to health boards, and I am anticipating increasing that in the coming year and thereafter.

There is also money in the budget to fund the commitment that we made as part of our agreement with Plaid Cymru in the co-operation agreement. That is to pilot alternatives to admission for young people who are experiencing crisis. We are looking at sanctuary models, and we will be funding that going forward. I would also like to assure the committee that eating disorder services will continue to be a priority for us. I think that I have told the committee before that we have seen a substantial rise in both the numbers and the acuity of children and young people presenting with eating disorders. So, that is going to be a priority for us as well, in line with how it has been a priority in the last few years. Thank you. 

13:05

Thank you, Deputy Minister. I have got another question now—and you mentioned it with the co-operation agreement that you have between Plaid Cymru and yourselves in Labour—on alternatives to admission. I have told you 100 times about this, and about CAMHS support, and the number of young people who are missing their appointments there. To what extent is the third sector going to be included in delivering the new mental health provision for children, given the increase in waiting times for CAMHS? I am just wondering what funding allocations are being put with that to make sure that it is actually deliverable in the third sector.   

Thank you very much, James. You are right to highlight the very important role of the third sector, and I'd like to take this opportunity to place on record how much I value the role of the third sector and the important work that they do in supporting people with mental health issues. Of course, we know that most young people who need emotional and mental health support won't need specialist CAMHS. They need more lower level intervention earlier on. So, the third sector has an absolutely vital role to play there.

Some of the support that we provide via the third sector is commissioned nationally via us, but health boards also invest significantly in the third sector. We have already provided an additional £1.4 million—£200,000 to each health board—to commission directly with the third sector. That's recurring funding, so they will get that funding. What I can say is that we are looking at what additional funding we can provide via the third sector to increase the support that we give to develop low-level support—tier 0, tier 1 support. You will be aware that we have also got a new regional investment fund coming onstream that will have a very substantial amount of money, and that will include emotional and mental health. I would anticipate a good chunk of that money also being channelled by the third sector. Indeed, I have been very clear with RPBs that I want them to take the approach that the third sector are equal partners at the table, really.

Also, just to say that my officials and myself continue to have very regular dialogue with the third sector. We meet regularly with the Wales Alliance for Mental Health, and I meet regularly with them as well. So, we have got that dialogue going forward, and I very much value the important role they play, and that goes for the substance misuse third sector as well.

13:10

I think Ken Skates wanted to come in on the back of that, James, if that's okay. Ken.

Thanks, Chair. It's just a query and, I guess, a plea as well. First, the plea, in regard to the very welcome increase in funding for mental health support within education. I mean, this is so, so important. It's a plea that as much of that money gets to the well-being teams rather than be swallowed up by year-group activity, which sometimes isn't as effective in preventing mental ill health and emotional illness as the provision that can be offered by well-being teams.

And then, a query around the commitment to the new curriculum having regard to mental health when it's being designed and implemented. I don't need an answer to this today, but it'd be very interesting to know whether any budget has been earmarked for training purposes for staff and schools to be able to develop the work on the curriculum. Again, I don't need an answer on that day, but it would be very interesting to know whether any budget has been allocated for that.

Thank you, Ken. You're absolutely right to highlight the crucial role of education. The £10.5 million I highlighted is to underpin not just our system-wide reforms but also our whole-school approach to mental health. I think you've got the education Minister coming in next week, haven't you, but I would see the funding needing to go across that whole system, really, and some of that would need to be targeted to direct support to children and young people. But there will be funding, and there already is funding at the moment, to provide training for school staff. It's absolutely crucial—I mean, we've always said that mental health is everybody's business—that we equip all staff who are in contact with children and young people with the skills that they need to interact with them. So, I very much agree with that. And you're absolutely right as well to highlight the crucial role of the curriculum. This committee in the last Assembly made a key contribution to getting those changes in the curriculum Act, and I think it's world-leading, really, to have such a fundamental commitment to mental health at the heart of our curriculum. There will undoubtedly have to be training moneys to underpin that going forward, because we'll have to have the whole workforce equipped to deal with that.

Thank you, Minister. I want to talk about suicide prevention now, if that's okay. Your paper refers to the investment in suicide prevention, and it says that

'The new allocation earmarked for mental health funding will support the continued development of crisis services including provision for children and young people.'

So, I was just wondering, Minister, what exactly will be funded in this service area for children and young people?

Thank you, James. I think many of you know that suicide prevention is something very close to my heart, and in particular the prevention of young suicides. So, this is very much a priority for me. As part of the service improvement funding that I referred to, some of that will be directed towards children, because that will help fund our all-age 111 24/7 service. We've also had the delivery unit review of crisis services, with a particular focus on children and young people. I'm expecting a report on that very shortly, and we'll be wanting to fund the recommendations arising from that. But, on top of that, I'm really pleased to say that I'm going to be directing additional funding to support and strengthen our work in the area of suicide prevention more generally.

First of all, we will be establishing an all-age real-time surveillance system, and that's multi-agency working, which will provide really quick access to information and data to help identify immediate opportunities to support people affected by suicide. As you will be aware at the moment, in many cases, it's a question of waiting for the inquest process, which can take quite a long time. But, vitally, we'll also be able, then, to target our bereavement support. What we're developing is the comprehensive postvention pathway that we've been so keen to have, really. People affected by suicide will be identified, support will be put in place and that will include children and young people, because we know how critical that is, especially as being bereaved by suicide is, unfortunately, a very significant risk factor for dying by suicide. We will be monitoring that, then, to make sure that the money that we put in delivers the outcomes that we want to see, and that work will report to me through the ministerial delivery and oversight board that I chair.

But we are also, as well as that, strengthening the delivery arrangements for our suicide prevention work across Government. We're putting in place a new mechanism to bring together all the departments—and it's everybody, everybody has got a role to play in this arena, whether it's planning, housing, anti-poverty work—to really make sure that this work is driven across Government to drive down and to reduce suicides in Wales.

13:15

Thank you. Final two questions from me, Deputy Minister. One on perinatal mental health: can you give guarantees that the draft budget allocations will ensure that mothers right across Wales, from north-east, south, mid and right across, have equal access to perinatal mental health services, given that the only in-patient mother and baby unit is located in south Wales at the moment? I just wanted to know what you're going to do for the whole of Wales.

Thank you, James. The first thing to say is that the vast majority of families won't need a mother and baby unit, and we want those families to be supported in the community. That's why we're targeting such a lot of extra funding at perinatal mental health services, so that women can have that support in the community, and there will be further investment in that area going forward, as it's a key strategic area for us.

As you've highlighted, we currently have a mother and baby unit in south Wales, but I am acutely aware of the need to deliver at pace on the one for north Wales, and I'm pleased to say that the funding has already been identified to develop that service in north Wales. And as I think you probably know already, that service is being developed jointly with NHS England, because there's a question of critical mass with developing MBUs, because they are highly specialised services. So, some of that work will be undertaken—well, all the work will be undertaken in partnership with NHS England, but as far as I'm concerned, I am driving that work with pace. I've made that very clear to the Welsh Health Services Specialised Committee that this is a priority for me. I met them again just before Christmas and I'm having regular meetings and regular updates, so I am willing to do whatever I can as Minister to make sure that that is driven at pace so that we have provision for mothers in north Wales as well.

Thank you, Deputy Minister, and my final question—I'm not sure whether you'll answer this or the Minister directly, but mine is basically: we all welcome the additional moneys that are being put into mental health support services for young people and children. It's very much needed, but what checks and balances are in place to make sure that that money is actually being delivered and doing what you want to see and the rest of us want to see to improve the mental health and well-being of young children? Because what we don't want to see is money being given to local health boards and it not being directed into the areas into which it needs to go to make that actual change in people's lives. So, if you could answer me, any Minister, on how the checks and balances are done to make sure it's spent correctly, I'd be very grateful. Diolch.

Thank you. There are definitely checks and balances in the system, because, like you, I want to make sure that we get the outcomes for the very substantial investment that we're making. So, as part of that, when health boards will be asking now for additional service improvement money from the extra £50 million, they will have to provide plans to support those funding requests. Those plans will be scrutinised by officials and then, obviously, monitored by me as Minister. I have regular meetings with the vice-chairs, I'm meeting all of the regional partnership boards individually, so that I can really delve down into what they're doing. I also meet the chairs regularly, so there are mechanisms in place, and obviously we've got the whole performance framework that we monitor the NHS delivery on—we've got the targets and what have you. But I'm also really keen that we—. It's important that we monitor waiting times et cetera, but we also need to look at the outcomes for young people, and I believe the reforms that we're implementing, with earlier intervention, the 'no wrong door', and wrapping services around the child will lead to fundamental improvements in outcomes for children and young people as well.

13:20

Okay, thank you, James. Thank you, Deputy Minister. Following on, really, from James's question, and this is to the Minister: obviously it's important that we as a committee are assured that children are getting their fair share of health and social care funding. Are you able to tell us approximately how much of the £10.14 billion in the health and social services main expenditure group has been allocated to provisions specific to children and young people?

Well, I understand that this is a question that often arises in this committee, but it is really difficult to give a precise answer and that's partly because the majority of the funding within my budget is allocated to the NHS directly as unhypothecated funding for the delivery of their plans, and we tell them where we'd like them to focus their plans, but the whole point is you're making local decisions based on the need to respond to the needs of that area. So, I guess the difficulty when you're thinking about children is we don't know how many of them are going to break their leg, we don't know how many of them are going to develop diabetes, we don't know how many of them are going to develop cancer. So, it is difficult to say, 'That's how much we're going to spend on that', and I think we've be reluctant to start earmarking money in a sectoral space. I was asked earlier on today, 'What do we do for women?' You can imagine, if we just start to sectorise it all up, it's difficult then to see how that's going to work across the NHS generally. 

So, what we do is we make sure that there's a planning framework in place. I set out what I think the ministerial priorities should be, and that includes services for all people, and that includes children and young people. So, just in terms of my priorities, I confirmed them in July shortly after I was appointed to this post. It's really making sure that we focus on 'A Healthier Wales', which is very much a prevention approach to health; making sure that we focus on population health, on things like eating, obesity and smoking and things like that; clearly, we've got a COVID response that we need to look at; there's the NHS recovery; and you've already touched upon the need to really look at mental health, particularly with young people. But then, of course, we've got to think about the health and care workforce and making sure that the NHS are working alongside social care and coming in on budget. So, all of those things have been priorities, and, of course, most of those have an aspect that relates to children.

Thanks, Chair. I'd agree entirely with the Minister that it's very, very difficult and it can be quite dangerous to earmark money at the start of the financial year for specific groups. On the flip side, it is possible to gather data relating to how the money is being spent. So, I don't know whether the Government does that already and whether perhaps a note would be produced for the committee that could be helpful in terms of identifying the spend in each of the, perhaps, five financial years per various groups, particularly for young people.

At the moment—. I hate to say this, because I want to be as transparent as I can, but I know the pressure the NHS is under, and to go and ask them to gather information—. If they've got it, then of course I'll hand it over, but if they haven't, I can imagine that could be quite a big exercise for them to collect that data. It is interesting, sometimes you have to dig quite deep. I remember when I was mental health Minister just trying to dig, 'Right, how are we spending this mental health budget exactly? We spend £780 million on it. So, who gets it? Where does it go?' And, actually, it is quite difficult because every health board spends it differently. So, what I'll do, Ken, if you don't mind, is I'll just ask, 'Look, what is collected at the moment?', and if any of that might be of interest to you—if we could start there, and then maybe we could have a further conversation about collecting data in a way that might be of interest to you in future.

13:25

I think Steve Elliot wants to come in on this point, Minister.

Sorry, I was just going to add that we do collect cost data in the service each year, so that would identify things like specific spend on paediatric services and children and adolescent mental health services. So, we could pull that information together in a note for you.

Thank you, that's really helpful. And I think you can understand our concerns as a committee and the importance that we see that we are assured that the children are getting their fair share of the health and social care funding, given that their needs can be very specific and different to the adult population. So, any assurances that you can give us to show that they're getting their fair share—I think we would be very happy for you to write to us with further information or any points, because, obviously, we as a committee would like to be assured that they are getting their fair share.

I think that's fair enough, and I know, if you look at the broader Government—. I think that's the other thing to bear in mind, isn't it, when it comes to health—and we had that very interesting debate in the Chamber yesterday about health inequality—what is absolutely clear is that, actually, you've got to intervene very early if you want to prevent health issues from developing? That's why, for example, we've got an additional £40 million this year for Families First and Flying Start, and all of those things help to contribute to giving children the best possible start in life. You'll also be aware that there's been an increase in the childcare offer, and an additional £17 million capital for that childcare offer. The early years in the 'A Healthier Wales' budget and supporting children's budget together—there's about £120 million in there for 2022-23. So, that's for those specific programmes.

Thank you. Your paper that you've sent us sets out that the NHS revenue budgets will increase by £842 million in 2022/23, with a further increase of £250 million and £200 million in the following two years. How can you guarantee that this will address issues specific to children and young people's routine healthcare and their needs in what we're going to see is a backlog resulting from the pandemic?

Thanks. Well, when we're looking at, for example, routine waiting lists, they're generally broken down by speciality, but they include both adult and children's waits. But what happens, particularly at a time like this when we've got so many people waiting—what's important is that we base the priority on a clinical priority, so regardless of age. So, I think that is an important principle. Then there's the specialist service commissioning. So, there's special treatment, there are special funds available and pathways for very specialist areas, and there's a requirement in there to include paediatric-specific services within that as well.

And, of course, all of the health boards have a duty under the Children Act 2004 to make sure that they respect equity of resources for children and young people, and paediatric recovery will, of course, be part of the national planned care recovery plan. So, we're building a programme now, a plan, for how we tackle this backlog. And, obviously, paediatric recovery will be a part of that and, where appropriate, children's pathways are reviewed and they're jointly designed with adult services to make sure we build sustainability. So, you're quite right, sometimes they need to be very specific for children, but also we've got to remember that the bridging between children and adults is also quite important. Getting that right is key.

Thank you, Minister. One of the things the committee has decided to put at the heart of everything we do is children's rights. There is a clear legal duty on Welsh Government to give due regard to children's rights in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child when making spending decisions. The strategic integrated impact assessment that accompanies the draft budget makes no reference whatsoever to the UNCRC or any of its articles. Why is that?

13:30

I'm hoping Julie is going to be able to deal with this.

I'll answer that.

Thank you. Right, thank you very much, Jayne, and prynhawn da, everybody—it's good to be here. In a general sense, obviously the Government is fully committed to fulfilling the legislative requirements for all impact assessments, including where these relate to the assessment of financial decisions. But we have, over recent years, taken an integrated approach to impact assessments, which includes, of course, the consideration of children's rights, reflecting their protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, as well as taking into account the impact of decisions and policies on social, economic, cultural and environmental well-being, as set out in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, as well as sustainability and the Welsh language. We believe it's best to bring all those together in an integrated approach, and that enables us to understand more clearly the overall impact of decisions on children and young people. 

Obviously, detailed impact assessments, including children's rights impact assessments, are undertaken as part of our ongoing policy development and review, and these assessments will continue to be used to inform budget decisions and the wider impact assessment of the budget. So, it is a fundamental part of the work that we do in Welsh Government, and like the committee, children's rights are absolutely crucial to us. But we believe that we should have a strategic integrated impact assessment that brings together all the strands. Nevertheless, we are very keen to highlight in the budget process how it relates to children. And of these six case studies, for example, that are illustrated in the budget, four relate to children and young people, and we've outlined in more detail how we've provided funding for basic income, free school meals, the young person's guarantee, and looked-after children's preventative budgeting. We have considered the impact on children and young people, and as a result of this targeted funding, where it can have the greatest positive impact. So, we have used the budget process to illustrate that, although we've had an overall, strategic integrated impact assessment.

I'm sure the committee would be interested to know about the efforts that have been made to make the budget relevant to young people. For example, the budget leaflet was originally started off as a children's leaflet, but that does reach out to children, and it has been tested on children in primary schools. The Minister for finance has visited schools as a result of the budget process.

Thank you for that answer. It is something that, obviously, will concern the committee greatly; as I said, children's rights are something that we take very seriously. Is there perhaps something in writing that you can point the committee towards where any of the children's rights assessments have led to policy decisions reflected in the budget? Perhaps you could send us some further information on that at a later date. 

Thank you, that would be really helpful. And just finally from me, on one of the issues around the Flying Start programme and services for looked-after children—they're both programme for government priorities that are within the ministerial portfolio. How do you overcome the challenges presented by the fact that funding to deliver these priorities is within the budget for the Minister for Finance and Local Government and not directly within your control?

Thank you. Well, funding for the Flying Start programme is divided through the children and communities grant, and the children and communities grant is made up of funding for seven early intervention and prevention programmes. So, it offers a flexible funding approach that enables local authorities to decide the best way to deliver early intervention services and support, taking into account local needs. Local authorities are responsible for deciding how they divide their overall children and communities grants allocation in support of the seven-programme requirements. 

Now, policy matters, of course, relating to the Flying Start programme sit within my portfolio, and responsibility for the children and communities grant lies in the Minister for Finance and Local Government's portfolio, as you've indicated. This is a well-established arrangement. It's been in place for a number of years. It works, it doesn't cause any difficulties. Officials working on the children and communities grant and those working on Flying Start policy in the children and families division work hard to ensure that the governance arrangements are clear and that they're well understood by both parties. There are regular joint meetings, and funding and policy decisions are integrated. Policy and CCG officials are regularly there at stakeholder meetings, ensuring messages are communicated and feedback is shared. And certainly during the pandemic, the engagement has been maintained very intensely. So, it is not a problem. There are working arrangements that are working, and there are strong monitoring and performance management arrangements in place. All I would say, really, is that everybody is very familiar with the arrangements and, as is the case for services for looked-after children as well, the key is close working relationships with local authority delivery partners. And it's a tribute to the way the partnership works that this works well. So, there aren't any problems.

13:35

Thank you, Deputy Minister. Sioned Williams, did you want to come in?

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Ie, roedd jest gen i bwynt oedd yn dilyn ymlaen o'r hyn roedd Eluned Morgan yn sôn amdano, ond hefyd mae Julie Morgan wedi sôn tipyn bach amdano fe fanna hefyd, o ran, yn gwerthfawrogi'r pwyntiau ei bod hi'n anodd yn sgil y ffordd mae'r cyllid yma wedi ei ddyrannu ar draws sawl adran i gael yr union dryloywder, efallai, mae'r pwyllgor yn chwilio amdano fe, ond er mwyn gwarchod yn erbyn dyblygu adnoddau neu wastraffu adnoddau, efallai y gallwn ni gael rhywfaint o eglurder ynglŷn â sut mae hyn yn cael ei fonitro. Hynny yw, ydyn ni'n sicr, ydyn ni'n hapus bod yna ddim dyblygu gwaith rhwng Dechrau'n Deg a Teuluoedd yn Gyntaf? Er enghraifft, dwi'n gwybod bod y ddau beth yn cynnal rhaglenni rhiantu, er enghraifft. Felly, yn ogystal â sicrhau bod y pethau yma'n cael eu delifro a'u targedu yn unol â pholisi, ble mae'r trosolwg yna o ran sicrhau nad oes yna adnoddau a gwaith yn cael eu dyblygu? Diolch. 

Thank you, Chair. Yes, I just had a point following on from what Eluned Morgan was talking about, but also Julie Morgan has talked a little bit about it there in terms of—I appreciate the point that it's difficult as a result of the way that this funding is allocated across many departments to get that exact transparency that the committee is looking for, but in order to safeguard against duplication of resources or wasting resources, perhaps we could have some clarity regarding how this is being monitored. Are we certain, are we happy that there's no duplication of work between Flying Start and Families First? For example, I know that both schemes have parenting programmes. So, as well as ensuring that these things are delivered and targeted according to policy, where is that oversight in terms of ensuring that resources and work are not duplicated. Thank you.

Monitoring and performance management arrangements are in place to ensure that there isn't the duplication that you mentioned. You particularly mentioned the parenting issue, and there are a number of places where parenting takes place across the portfolio. And I think it is by having the monitoring arrangements in place that we are able to ensure that we don't duplicate. So, I can assure you that those monitoring arrangements are in place.

Thank you, Deputy Minister. Moving on to some questions now from Ken Skates.  

Thank you, Chair. I'm going to ask about physical health, if I may. First of all, the paper refers to a budget of I think it's £6.63 million, which will be allocated in the next financial year to support the 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales' strategy. Of course, the delivery plan is not yet published. I think it's due to be published early this year. But could you outline how the figures in the budget relate to the costings in the plan, and whether there's going to be a heavy weighting towards—given the correlation between levels of prosperity and obesity—communities and families in the most deprived areas of Wales?

Yes, I'm responsible for 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales'. Thank you, Ken. The delivery plan is going to be launched on 1 March. So, we will have a revised delivery plan in place, and that will set out seven national priority areas, with the focus on reducing health inequalities. To give you some sort of flavour of the funding, there'll be a further £2.9 million investment per year into the delivery of services provided through health boards through our all-Wales weight-management pathway, and that includes services for children. There's a £1.2 million investment into system-based approaches to help support and drive local action and delivery, and that will involve working with communities to co-design and enable local decision making. We're investing £600,000 in a children and families pilot, and that's taking place at the moment in three areas—Cardiff, Merthyr and Anglesey—and a core part of this approach is to implement a secondary prevention home-based intervention for families of children in the early years from three to seven, in line with the foundation phase. Obviously, with that being a pilot, we are going to want to evaluate that, and then obviously roll out anything that we find that is really working with associated funding. We've got some additional funding for the over-60s activity as well. There's £1 million per annum for the delivery of the all-Wales diabetes prevention programme, which we are trialling at the moment, and £330,000 that is going to support the development of evaluation, communications and further research, and that will include supporting the work of our national ambassadors who play a key role in engaging with communities across Wales. 

But just to say as well that although we've got this funding in place to deliver the 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales' strategy, this has to, again, be a cross-Government effort, and we want to make sure that the work we're doing through the strategy is linked to the work to develop free school meals, Healthy Start, active travel and the Welsh network of healthy schools. So, I've already had discussions with the education Minister about the expansion of free school meals to try to make sure that if we're spending that money, that that money is going to be delivering school meals that are nutritious and beneficial for children and young people. As you said, I'm very keen to see as much effort as possible targeted in the communities where we know that we've got the most significant problems, and we also know that the pandemic has made those inequalities so much more pronounced. So, we've got lots to do, but very significant investment being put in. 

13:40

Carolyn would like to come in, yes. Thanks, Ken. Carolyn. 

Thank you, Chair. I'm on the Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee, and we had evidence from Sport Wales who were concerned that, under the new curriculum, there's no mandation for sports to be introduced in schools. So, there's a recommendation that 120 minutes of sports should take place at schools, but I think it just generally comes under health and well-being. Like I said, it's not mandatory, so I just wanted to raise that here as well, some concern regarding ensuring that children—. Because that's very often the gateway, isn't it, where children start trying sport and physical activity—it's through school? So, I've just got a little bit of concern about them not having that, possibly. Thank you. 

Thanks, Carolyn. Just to say, obviously, the new curriculum places a really strong emphasis on health and well-being, and that's not just mental health. There'll be the whole area of learning and experience, which is focused on health and well-being, and that should see an emphasis across the curriculum that will improve physical activity levels as well. But just also to say as well, in recognition of the fact that we need to take urgent action now, we have set up within Welsh Government a daily active group that is looking at how we can improve physical activity levels in schools. And that work is ongoing and will be driven with pace. 

Thanks, Chair. Just briefly, is there any additional funding being made available for children's hospices? You'll be aware that Tŷ Gobaith and Tŷ Hafan have called for a lifeline fund. I would be interested to know just whether there's any increase in funding available to children's hospices.

Yes, I can answer this. I had a good meeting with them—oh gosh, was it before Christmas or after that? I can't remember, but I had a meeting with them recently. We are very confident that we are going to be able to help them out, and I'm going to be making an announcement on it, actually, not next week, which is what I thought, which I've just told the other committee, but the following week. So, if you could just be a little bit patient, Ken, then I can give you some detail on that. But it's good news.

13:45

Fantastic. That's great. Thank you. And finally, the detailed draft budget narrative says that more than three in five families of disabled children have seen the levels of formal and informal support decrease since the COVID outbreak, with many still doing without vital forms of support. How is this being addressed in your draft budget allocations?

Thank you very much. Thanks very much, Ken. I think we all know the strain that has been on families with disabled children when day services have stopped. I pay tribute to what families have managed to cope with during the pandemic. I know we were all really pleased to meet with some of those families during the pandemic and hear from them first-hand, which drives us even more to try to do what we can to help. The additional funding of £1.3 billion for the NHS and £0.75 billion for local government in the draft budget will support a range of core services and improve core services, and that will of course include services for disabled children and their families. So, the general uplift that we're so glad we've been able to do will obviously help disabled children.

The draft budget includes funding a range of support for children and young people, which includes disabled children. This includes, taken together, the funding for early years in the 'healthier Wales' budget, and the 'supporting children' budget in the health and social services MEG will be over £120 million in 2022-23. We're increasing the investment in supporting young people's mental health and well-being within the education portfolio. The additional resource will include directing support to the whole-system approach across health and education. We'll be allocating an additional £90 million to the mental health BEL, which will support priorities across the age range, and we're investing an additional £16.5 million in a range of targeted interventions up to 2024-25 to tackle inequality and to advance and strengthen equality and human rights, improving outcomes for people, and contributing to a more equal Wales. This includes funding actions within the disability rights taskforce. We're investing to meet the care needs of children with complex needs, older people and people with a physical or learning disability with £240 million of capital up to 2024-25 in the integrated care fund. This will continue to support more complex housing, health and care projects that involve the co-location of housing with health and care services.

Then, there are a lot of other much smaller budget allocations that I know are so important, such as £360,000 to the Family Fund Trust, an organisation that delivers grants for disabled and severely ill children and their families for respite and short breaks. I think that's very important. There's funding to Whizz-Kidz of £79,671 for the next three years to increase the life satisfaction and happiness of young wheelchair users in Wales. Also, we've allocated £3 million emergency respite and short breaks funding, and of course we continue to fund lots of organisations that work with disabled people, such as the All Wales Forum of Parents and Carers of People with Learning Disabilities. So, there's a whole range of things we do, but I know we can't underestimate the strain and the difficulties that families have had in this pandemic. But certainly in this budget we are recognising that and are increasing funding to give some help.

Thank you, Ken. Now we have some questions from Carolyn Thomas. Carolyn.

These are about safeguarding and looked-after children. NSPCC Cymru's consultation response in advance of the draft budget said that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns intensified risk for children and young people and that its helpline saw on average a 12 per cent increase in contacts compared to pre lockdown. These included concerns about mental ill health, physical abuse, domestic abuse and child sexual abuse. How does the draft budget reflect the apparent increase of these significant risks to children?

13:50

Thank you very much, Carolyn. Safeguarding children is a key priority for the Welsh Government. During the pandemic we've worked very closely with the stakeholders, all the people involved in this field. We have invested in a public-facing communications campaign, which I'm sure many of you saw, which encouraged the public to report concerns to helplines and statutory services, in response to the fact that there was inevitably reductions in face-to-face contact between children at risk and universal services. There was a great deal of concern about what was occurring during that time, and the 12 per cent increase that you referred to, Carolyn, I think reflects what may have been happening. We also commissioned the NSPCC's Childline to develop information for children and young people on speaking out and how to get help by going to a trusted adult or by contacting Childline. This information was widely promoted by the Children's Commissioner for Wales, and by safeguarding boards, safeguarding in education, and other networks. So, that was widely spread. 

We provided targeted grants to local authorities in 2021-22 to the value of £1.6 million for a family intervention fund, to support child and family well-being through a mixture of practical and direct support, to try to safely divert cases from the child protection registration, to try to get in with that help before that becomes necessary. That same grant funding has been made available for 2021-22, with grant awards totalling £2.8 million. For 2022-23, the social care reform fund includes an indicative £3.2 million to continue the intervention fund for local authorities to support family and child well-being, and again, to safely divert them from the child protection register. 

And then, finally, we announced additional funding to support families of vulnerable children in a written statement in October 2020, with a total package of £12.53 million. This was to ensure that children, young people and families in Wales received the support they needed during this really extraordinary time. I don't think we've ever lived through such a time, and so we're using that to try reach families and young people to provide activities, to help support preventative services, and provide goods and services to families, like helping with rent arrears, white goods and equipment. So, there's a range of things we've done, basically, but, obviously, this is one of our top priorities. 

Thank you. I remember it was one of the reasons to try and get schools open as well early on, getting children back to school, and I do actually remember the promotion as well of the helpline. So, thank you very much. 

The budget paper makes no reference to the significant programme for government commitments for looked-after children. Do you expect these to be cost neutral? I think it could be in another budget, another MEG. Looked-after children is really important—making sure that there isn't family break-ups by funding advocacy and helping parents. So, I was just wondering if you could respond to that please.

Yes, of course. We are absolutely committed to improve the outcomes for care-experienced children. During the last Senedd term, and we'll continue it in this Senedd term, we've been making strenuous efforts to reduce the number of children who are in care, who are looked after, and to try to help children remain in the care of their families, because we think, where it's at all possible, children should be with their families and we should be putting as much effort as we possibly can to keep them at home with their families. 

But for hose who do have to come into care and to be looked after, we want it to be as close to home as we possibly can. So, we have been making a big effort to do that. But we do have a number of key commitments in the programme for government that are relevant to children's social services. We've got lots of ambitions, really, and we would like to see the wholesale transformation of children's social care in Wales. That's what we're working towards. The draft budget announces a new £45 million social care reform fund, and from this indicative allocation, we will invest in the delivery of our programme for government commitments relevant to children's services. So, it's from that fund we will do a lot of these developments.

We believe very strongly that public care should mean that children are cared for by local authorities or other non-for-profit providers, where the overriding values are social values and the best interest and the outcomes for children. And so we don't really think that it's right that some private companies who are running fostering agencies or residential care services make significant profits from the children that they're looking after. We don't think that's right. And so, we're using £10 million, and plans are being prepared by the eliminating profit in care programme board. It's got work streams, and it's been set up to take this area forward. We anticipate that that £10 million will enable the transition of existing private sector providers to not-for-profit providers, support new not-for-profit providers who are entering the market, and help local authorities and existing not-for-profit providers develop additional placement capacity.

It's really important that we start early now in this term, because it's a challenging thing to do, but we are very committed to it, and we want to be sure that we are able to set up the arrangements for care-experienced children that they will benefit from. And so, of course, we want to further support Foster Wales, which is developing a Wales brand for fostering. For that, again, we're going to use money from that allocation. And to support our wider reform agenda, we'll be investing £3 million on service transformation and preventative models and approaches, which will help support children remaining with their families. We've also got an additional £21 million investment over 2022-25 to support delivery of our commitments for children's services.

Lastly, for very complex situations, children with very specific needs, we're using the regional integration fund and working with the regional partnership boards to invest in projects and new approaches that will benefit children with complex needs, such as complex disability and emotional or behavioural needs. We're working across Government on all these issues, so I can assure you that there is money that is marked in the budget for care-experienced children.

13:55

Thank you very much, Deputy Minister. I have a question about outcomes for children leaving care as well. Responding to the children's commissioner's annual report in November, you made a number of commitments to improve outcomes for children leaving care, such as developing good-quality accommodation and ensuring all care leavers have a personal advisor up to the age of 25. Where are the costs to deliver this in the draft budget, given it has commitments up to 2025 for some policy areas? I think, actually, I heard an extra announcement in the budget yesterday, when we debated it—was it yesterday? It was Tuesday, actually. The finance Minister said that there'd be possibly an extra £20 million for children leaving care. But I'm not quite sure on that.

There is an additional £20 million for care-experienced children—it's probably that—which is great news. Obviously, we are very committed to improving outcomes for children who are leaving care. One of the most important things we can do, I think, is to help children in that situation. One of the things we're doing, of course, is taking forward the development of a basic income pilot for care leavers in Wales. This isn't actually in my portfolio, it's under the Minister for Social Justice, but her officials are working very closely with our officials to look at this delivery and impact for care leavers. There is going to be a ministerial announcement on this matter very soon, but that'll announce the funding for that particular element. 

And then, in terms of what the children's commissioner called for, we've committed to introduce legislation in this Senedd term to deliver on our commitment to provide care leavers with a statutory entitlement to access a personal adviser up to the age of 25. And this, we think, will be taken forward—the legislation—in 2023. And any costs related to its delivery will be supported by programme funding. So, the money is there for that to be taken forward.

Then in terms of unregulated placements, which are a matter of concern to us, which do impact on care-experienced young people, officials are in regular contact with officials from the Department for Education in Whitehall about the ban on unregulated placements for children under 16 that they have introduced in England and the implications for Wales. But, obviously, the money for that comes under the local government sector. We've got a £1 million recurrent fund for the St David's Day fund, which is a fund for care leavers, which is very flexible, which enables local authorities to spend what they think is needed to locally identified needs. It has been very successful and has been very widely used. 

So, I think it's fair to say that we have got earmarked in the budget quite a number of areas where care-experienced children are being recognised and their needs are being recognised.

14:00

Thank you, Deputy Minister, and I'm very excited to hear about the pilot for care leavers for the universal basic income, so I'll eagerly await that announcement. Thank you.

Thank you, Carolyn. We've now got the final section of questions from Sioned Williams. Sioned.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Cwestiwn i ddechrau ynglŷn â gofal plant. Mae'r cytundeb cydweithredu gyda Phlaid Cymru yn gwneud sawl addewid ynglŷn ag ehangu gofal plant—ehangu'r cynnig i'r rhai sydd ddim yn ei dderbyn ar hyn o bryd. Felly, byddwn i'n hoffi cael gwybod faint o gyllid sydd ar gyfer hynny, a sut mae'r ymrwymiad yn y cytundeb cydweithio i ehangu i bob plentyn dwyflwydd yn mynd i ddigwydd. Ble mae gweld y manylion cyllidol ar gyfer cyflawni hynny, os gwelwch yn dda?

Thank you, Chair. A question first of all regarding childcare. The co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru makes a number of pledges regarding expanding childcare—expanding the offer to those who don't receive it at the moment. So, I'd like to know how much funding is available for that and how the commitment in the co-operation agreement to expand to all two-year-olds is going to happen. Where are those funding details going to be available? Thank you very much.

Thank you. Thank you very much, Sioned. And it's very exciting that, in the co-operation agreement, we are planning to expand childcare in the ways you mention. Now, we estimate that extending childcare for parents in education could cost in the region of £15 million to £20 million over the next three years, and the funding has been included in the budget for this purpose. So, there's specific money to extend to parents in education and training. That money is sitting in the budget for the childcare offer. But we did have an independent report, which was published last March, and we are looking at support available through other schemes, including existing programmes within higher and further education and programmes like ReAct, because we certainly don't want to duplicate something that is already there. And this independent report did tell us that we should look at not just expanding through the childcare offer, but should look perhaps at putting some money into other funds that already existed, because it wasn't straightforward in terms of reaching people in education and training. So, the money is there to do it. We've made the estimate of how much it costs, but we will probably be using a variety of different ways to implement it.

Now, the commitment to expand childcare provision to two-year-olds is ongoing at the moment, and I am discussing that with Plaid Cymru and with the officials about how we will take that forward. And we will be working closely with local authorities and the childcare sector as we look at, really, a whole range of issues and options that will affect how this is actually delivered. It's a really significant step, I think, the expansion to two-year-olds, and it's part of the 10-year plan we have for early childhood education and care, which aims to ensure that all children in whatever settings have a high-quality and stimulating learning environment and experience of care as well. 

So, the other issue that we're looking at in relation to the roll-out for two-year-olds is the capacity of the sector to meet the levels of demand and what additional investment in developing and opening new childcare settings may be required, as well as training additional childcare workers. So, we're very aware that, if we were able to, we couldn't immediately expand to all two-year-olds, because we just don't have the staff to do it and we don't have enough trained people, and we are in a position where there is some concern about the existing levels of staffing. So, that is one of the things that we're looking at. So, those discussions are ongoing. I can't really have anything more specific to say at the moment. But the other important issue, of course, we're taking into account, is that we want to develop access for two-year-olds in conjunction with support for developing the Welsh language. So, that is another important element in terms of how we actually develop.

We've got capital funding of £20 million in 2022-23, £25 million in 2023-24, and £25 million in 2024-25, and that's in the education MEG. So, we'll be working closely with our key partners to look at the impact on capital. So, I hope that—. Well, we will be setting out the plans later this year, including the funding, following detailed discussion with delivery partners, but I'll make sure that the committee knows all those details when they come forward.

14:05

Diolch. Diolch yn fawr. Mae dyraniad ychwanegol o refeniw o £40 miliwn hyd at 2024-25 ar gyfer Dechrau'n Deg a Teuluoedd yn Gyntaf. Beth yw'r dyraniad unigol ar gyfer y ddwy raglen hyn ar gyfer 2022-23? Rwy'n gwybod fe wnaethoch chi hefyd gyffwrdd ar hyn yn un o'ch atebion blaenorol i'r cwestion oedd gen i ynglŷn â thryloywder, ond jest os oes gyda chi fwy o sylwadau i ychwanegu ynglŷn â sut allwn ni fod yn hyderus bod gyda chi oruchwyliaeth ddigonol o'r gwerth am arian ar gyfer y rhaglenni hyn, gan nad yw'r gyllideb i gyd ddim yn eistedd o dan eich cyfrifoldebau chi.

Thank you. Thank you very much. There is an additional allocation of £40 million of revenue up to 2024-25 for Flying Start and Families First. What is the individual allocation for these two programmes for 2022-23? I know that you also touched on this in one of your previous answers to the question I had regarding transparency, but if you've just got some more comments to add on how we can be confident that you have sufficient oversight of the value for money for these programmes, as the whole of the budget doesn't sit under your responsibility.

Yes, thank you. As I said—. I did say earlier that these arrangements are of long standing, and the fact that it's not under the same portfolio—the funding and the policy—doesn't really matter. It doesn't cause a problem. But obviously it is an issue to consider, and I think I probably did say earlier that the children and communities grant, where the funding comes from, is actually the funding for the seven early intervention projects, and it does give a flexible approach, and so it gives local authorities the ability to decide how they want to deliver those services. I do think it's very important; I support local democracy very strongly, and I think I've got confidence in the local authorities to deliver, but we are—. There's a lot of information that comes to us, and it's not that we don't know what's happening. It's all very closely knit.

So, that budget includes an additional £40 million revenue over three years to 2024-25 for early help and support, which includes Flying Start and Families First. And, as I said, local authorities are responsible for deciding how they divide that, and it's really in recognition of our importance of seeing that we want to support more children and families across Wales, and we want to help more children, and I'm really pleased that the programme for government and the co-operation arrangement has made it possible for us to do this. And we do challenge local authorities and keep in touch closely. We scrutinise delivery plans. And we're confident—we're just confident this extra investment will provide valuable support.

14:10