Y Pwyllgor Cydraddoldeb a Chyfiawnder Cymdeithasol

Equality and Social Justice Committee

17/06/2024

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Buffy Williams Yn dirprwyo ar ran Julie Morgan
Substitute for Julie Morgan
Carolyn Thomas
Jane Dodds
Jenny Rathbone Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Joel James
Sioned Williams

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Amelia John Cyfarwyddwr, Cymunedau a Chyfiawnder Cymdeithasol, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director, Communities and Social Justice, Welsh Government
Catrin Awoyemi Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr yr Is-adran Tystiolaeth a Chefnogaeth ar gyfer Cydraddoldeb, Tlodi a Phlant, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director, Equality, Poverty, Children’s Evidence and Support Division, Welsh Government
Claire Germain Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Trechu Tlodi a Chefnogi Teuluoedd, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director, Tackling Poverty and Supporting Families, Welsh Government
Lesley Griffiths Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros Ddiwylliant a Chyfiawnder Cymdeithasol
Cabinet Secretary for Culture and Social Justice
Lorna Hall Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr yr Is-adran Cydraddoldeb a Hawliau Dynol, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director, Equality and Human Rights Division, Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Angharad Roche Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Gareth David Thomas Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Gemma Gifford Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Rachael Davies Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Rhys Morgan Clerc
Clerk
Sam Mason Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:00.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 13:00.

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

Good afternoon. Welcome to the Equality and Social Justice Committee. I've had apologies from Joel James and Julie Morgan, and I'd like to welcome Buffy Williams, who's substituting for Julie Morgan, online—hopefully her connection will be restored shortly. Are there any declarations of interest? I don't see any.

2. Craffu cyffredinol ar waith Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros Ddiwylliant a Chyfiawnder Cymdeithasol
2. General scrutiny of the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and Social Justice

We'll move straight into our general scrutiny of the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and Social Justice. Welcome to Lesley Griffiths, our new Cabinet Secretary, Amelia John, director for communities and social justice, Ruth Meadows, acting director for culture, heritage and sport, and Claire Germain, deputy director for tackling poverty and supporting families. Welcome to all of you.

Sorry, just to say that Ruth Meadows isn't here.

I beg your pardon. Catrin is here. Da iawn. Thank you very much.

Obviously, it's a very large portfolio and, in addition to that, you've now got culture, as well as social justice, which is a new challenge, but also potentially a benefit. How do you plan to bring these different pillars of the different aspects of your portfolio together to march forward on equality and social justice?

Thank you. As you say, it's a very large portfolio, it's a very diverse portfolio, but I do think that culture and social justice go very well together. I've been in post 12 weeks now, I think it is, and I've been looking at the opportunities to do that. I think, from a widening access point of view around culture, sport and arts, it's really important in our endeavours in relation to equality, to tackling poverty. For instance, I remember the first time I went to the national museum in this portfolio, I heard that they are the second biggest provider of education outside, obviously, school settings in Wales. That was something that hadn't resonated with me before. I think it shows you the opportunities for culture and the rest of that side of the portfolio in relation to looking at inequalities.

Clearly, that part of the portfolio had had significant budget cuts. I sat around the table of Cabinet when we were having to look at a fundamental different approach to the budget, so I was very well aware of those cutbacks, and clearly that is something I'm having to work very closely on with the sector too. But I think there are lots of opportunities, as I say, from an equality point of view particularly. When I've met with different communities that perhaps don't as a matter of course go to a museum, or don't as a matter of course go to an art gallery, that's all been able to help me work out how we can bring those two parts of the portfolio together.

As you say, there have been funding cuts to this portfolio. Are you planning to work smarter, or do less?

I think it's definitely working smarter. I say in every portfolio I've been in that you just can't keep doing the same things differently, you have to do different things. It's working with partners in areas. Certainly, in sport, I've been having discussions with different parts of the private sector, for instance, who are very keen to help us with grass roots. I'm known for my love of elite sports, but, for me, grass roots is really important, because that's where it tends to start. So, I've had some really good discussions. You'll be aware of Wrexham football club, and the ownership there, and they're very keen to do more in the community. I've been able to look at the examples that they've brought forward, to see what more we can do in relation to that.

Of course, when you have budget cuts of the size that we've had, there are bound to be things that you can't do. I think we all have to be very pragmatic and realistic about the very difficult budget and the challenging financial time we're in. But, for me, it is really about working smarter, working in partnership and doing things that perhaps we hadn't thought about before.

How will these interconnected pillars work in enabling you to work smarter?

13:05

Again, I think it's about making sure that everybody is looking at what they've done previously. So, I was at the third sector partnership council—not last week, the week before—and clearly the voluntary sector and the third sector is very important in helping us to deliver lots of different things, and certainly during COVID, I think we saw that in a way we hadn't done before. But I think, talking to them, they recognise that we have to be smarter, we have to do different things and strategies really have to deliver. It's not about having a strategy sitting on the shelf. So, I have to say, in this portfolio, there are an incredible number of strategies and partnership boards, delivery boards, and I am taking my time to look at them all and work out how we can do them smarter.

Okay. Most immediately, because obviously, the next budget looms, the Building Communities Trust recently published a document on how their members were coping with the cost-of-living crisis, and basically the evidence they're shouting loudly is that these were organisations that were set up to capacity build the resilience of communities, help people get jobs, training, et cetera, and instead they're operating like Elastoplast over problems, and the sources of funding are becoming more and more difficult to find. So, how are you going to ensure that the voluntary sector doesn't simply collapse, as it's such a major vehicle for delivering on your objectives?

As I said, we have to be very pragmatic about it. In relation to the third sector, I heard a great line when I was at the partnership council. They said, ‘We should be called the first sector’, and I thought that was really good, because they are often at the front line. You might hear me say that a few more times. But looking at the Welsh Government funding that we do provide to the third sector, I think it's about £7 million, and I think about £5.6 million of that goes to the voluntary councils, goes to the WCVA. I've had the opportunity to meet with the new chief executive of the WCVA a couple of times. So, we need to make sure that officials keep working closely with them. Amelia leads on this piece of work. We need to make sure that the governance is right and the funding that is going to them is used in the best way possible, that they all have access to the same support. I think that's really important, irrespective of how they've been constituted. I think it's really important they have access to the support. But I think one of the things—it's fair to say the data that comes out of the third sector is not perhaps as robust as it could be. And we are doing some work to make sure that that improves.

Do you have a strategy for getting beyond the Elastoplast? Seven million pounds is obviously a significant sum of money, but how do we get beyond simply giving people cans of food at a foodbank and trying to get people to be more resilient?

We do. We are in the here and now, aren't we, at the moment? Because you will be very aware of the impact that the cost-of-living crisis has had on so many people in Wales. Before I came into this portfolio, my predecessor, Jane Hutt, chaired a cost-of-living Cabinet sub-committee, where we were again working right across Government. So, I sat on it as the rural affairs Minister. I think every Minister, or a majority of Ministers, were around the table to see what we could do going forward. But I think you have to recognise the challenging time we're in. They still need that Elastoplast, unfortunately. You mentioned foodbanks. We know the increase in foodbanks. I was looking at some figures the other day on the significant rise in foodbanks over the last 14 years, and clearly there's a collaboration—what’s the word I’m looking for?—a parallel there for the last 14 years. It was double figures and then it's gone into four figures now. So, you still need that, don't you? But as you say, what do you do coming out of that?

So, I suppose one of the main areas where we work with people is making sure that they get all the funding that they are entitled to. So, you know, the Welsh benefits charter, all the work we've been doing around benefits and ensuring that the single advice fund—. Again, making sure everyone is signposted to the correct place. So, making sure they maximise their income. I would say that's probably where we are now in relation to that. I don't know if Amelia can add anything.

13:10

Claire's better than me, I think, probably. 

I think that the child poverty strategy, which is about children, but also about the families that they live in, while the first objective of that is about that immediate support, the second to fifth strands are about that longer term approach. So, the path from poverty, how do we work on attainment and fair work, and that longer term, the work around community, and think community, and how do we work with partners on more community-based offers. So, the work around community work in schools is in that space. Also, that shift into thinking about the stigma of poverty and how do we create compassionate services that treat people with dignity and respect. And finally, that sense of collaboration, how do we come together across Wales—Government, public sector, third sector, private sector—and what's that collective role. A lot of that is about the longer term change as well as the importance of that immediate response.

Okay, we'll come back to some detail on that later. Sioned. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Jest eisiau mynd nôl yn gyflym iawn at gyllido'r trydydd sector, ac rŷch chi'n dweud bod angen, oherwydd y gwasgedd ar gyllid, gweithio'n glyfrach. Ydych chi'n edrych ar sut mae cyllid yn cael ei weinyddu? Achos un o'r pethau dŷn ni wedi cael sawl tro mewn tystiolaeth fel pwyllgor yw'r trydydd sector yn dweud wrthym ni eu bod nhw'n gwneud rhywbeth, maen nhw'n cael cyllid, maen nhw'n gwneud project, mae'n gweithio, maen nhw'n gallu ei werthuso fe, profi ei fod e'n gwneud gwahaniaeth o ran cael pobl allan o dlodi neu gynyddu eu hopsiynau nhw, ac yn y blaen, neu eu cyfleoedd nhw, ond wedyn mae'r cyllid yna yn dod i ben, mae'r project yn dod i ben, er ei fod e'n gweithio, ac mae disgwyl iddyn nhw wedyn ailddyfeisio'r olwyn. 'The pursuit of the novel' yw rhywbeth mae pobl yn dweud wrthym ni o ran y Llywodraeth.

Os oes rhywbeth yn gweithio, pam nad oes modd ei gyllido a'i gyllido yn y tymor hir fel nad yw'r trydydd sector yma, sydd o dan bwysau, wedyn yn treulio misoedd yn meddwl am syniad newydd, yn treulio misoedd yn rhoi'r gwaith papur i mewn ar gyfer cyllid newydd, ac yn colli staff achos bod y cyllid yn dod i ben, mae'r swyddi yn dod i ben ac maen nhw'n symud ymlaen, a'r holl wybodaeth ac arbenigedd yna yn cael ei golli i'r grŵp penodol yna? Felly, ydy hwn yn rhywbeth rydych chi yn edrych arno o ystyried yr hinsawdd economaidd?  

Thank you, Chair. I just wanted to go back very quickly to funding the third sector, and you say that because of the pressure on funding, we need to work smarter. Are you looking at how funding is administered? Because one thing that we've heard several times in evidence as a committee is that the third sector tell us that they do something, they get funding, they do a project and it works, they can evaluate it, prove that it makes a difference in terms of getting people out of poverty or increasing their options, and so on, or their opportunities, but then that funding comes to an end, the project comes to an end, even though it works, and they're expected then to reinvent the wheel. 'The pursuit of the novel' is something that people tell us in terms of the Government. 

If something works, why is there not a way of funding that and funding that in the long term, so that the third sector, who are under pressure, then don't have to spend months thinking up a new idea, spending months putting that paperwork in for new funding, and then losing staff because the funding comes to an end, the jobs come to an end and they move on, and all that information and expertise is then lost to that specific group? So, is this something that you're looking at, considering the current economic climate?

Yes, absolutely. That is a classic example of working smarter. I remember when I was in this portfolio 10 years ago, the third sector really pushing me to have more than three years funding. If you think about it, probably over the last 10 years, several times they've had annual funding because Welsh Government has had annual funding, so it's really difficult, and you get into that cycle. If you think about it—I'm thinking of myself here—if you have a new job or a new scheme, it probably takes six months to get into it. If that funding comes to an end after a year, you probably have to give redundancy notices three months before the end, so you've only got three months where you're making a difference. And to me, that's just a waste of resources. As you say, you don't want to reinvent the wheel. 

So, when I was in this portfolio last time, I had a ministerial advisory group in relation to tackling poverty, and they were handpicked people who worked in providing services to people who, unfortunately, were living in poverty. And I remember that conversation. It always started off with, 'If only we had five-year funding we would be able to do so much more.' So, I think it is really important that we look at that and, as you say, if it's been evaluated, if it's been monitored and it's absolutely working and helping us to reduce the number of people living in poverty, then there must be a way. We must be smart enough to be able to carry that on, even if it's in a different guise, even if it's called something different; if that actual scheme is providing that assistance and helping us, I think that is absolutely the way forward. Do you want to come in?  

Mae e'n rhwystredig, meddwl eich bod chi wedi gweld hwnna 10 mlynedd yn ôl a bod yna ddim newid wedi bod. 

It is frustrating to think that you've seen that a decade ago and that there still hasn't been a change.

Wel, ddim yn ôl y dystiolaeth rŷm ni'n gweld, na. 

Well, not according to the evidence that we've been seeing, no. 

Well, certainly organisations—. You'll appreciate that I haven't met with a huge number of third sector organisations in the past 12 weeks, but the ones I have met with, certainly, that's not coming over as much as it did 10 years ago. But I'm very happy to look at what you were referring to. Amelia.

Thank you, Cabinet Secretary. We've got a very close working relationship with the third sector partnership council, which, of course, the Cabinet Secretary chairs, but the piece of work we're doing at the moment is around the third sector code of practice on funding. So, we're co-producing with the sector, with a view to consulting on it later in the year, a code of practice that will actually go right the way across Welsh Government around how we're funding, moving to that longer term funding that gives security and also builds on pilots and innovation to then mainstream it, rather than having it as a one-off, which can happen and has happened in the past. But I think that code of practice will be really important.

13:15

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd, a chroeso mawr ichi, Ysgrifennydd Cabinet newydd, atom ni. Ar draws y blynyddoedd, dŷn ni wedi clywed lot o eiriau ynglŷn â'r sefyllfa y mae pobl yn byw ynddi, yn enwedig y sefyllfa dlodi. Dŷn ni wedi clywed geiriau a geiriau, ond dim byd yn newid, dim byd yn digwydd i newid y sefyllfa y mae pobl ynddi. Dŷch chi wedi cyffwrdd ar hyn, mae'n frawychus iawn fod gennym ni sefyllfa yma yng Nghymru lle mae banciau bwyd yn cynyddu, ac mae hynny’n ofnadwy. Ac yn fy nghalon i, dwi'n teimlo fy mod i ddim eisiau bod yn rhan o hynny, a dweud y gwir, ac mae'n emosiynol, yn fy marn i, ein bod ni'n byw mewn gwlad sy'n gweld hyn yn digwydd. Felly, allaf i glywed gennych chi ac o'ch calon, os yw hynny'n iawn, beth dŷch chi'n gweld yw'ch blaenoriaethau chi yn eich cyfrifoldeb newydd?

Thank you, Chair, and welcome to you, new Cabinet Secretary. Over the years, we've heard a lot of words being spoken about the situation that people are living in, particularly the situation in terms of poverty. We've heard words and more words, but nothing changing, nothing happening to change the situation that people are living in. You've touched on this already, it's frightening that we have a situation in Wales where the use of foodbanks is increasing, and that's terrible. And in my heart, I feel that don't want to be part of that, truth be told, and it is an emotional situation, in my opinion, that we live in a country where we are seeing that happening. So, could I hear from you, from your heart, if that's okay, what do you see as your priorities in terms of your new responsibilities?

Thank you. I don't disagree with what you're saying, and when I came into the portfolio, one of the first questions I asked was, 'How many children are living in poverty in Wales?' And it's shameful, it's absolutely shameful, the number; it's 29 per cent now of children, and none of us could be content with that and, certainly, that's what spurs me on now in this portfolio, to make a difference.

You also have to recognise—and I know you do—and I have to recognise that we don't have all the levers in relation to tackling poverty. But what is really important is that we have some, and we use those to the very best of our ability. And actually, when you look across my portfolio, it's very cross-Government. So, I hold some of the levers, I don't hold some of the budget, and I don't hold some of the policies, so it's about making sure that every Cabinet Secretary recognises—. And going back to when I was in portfolio last time, I asked for a Cabinet sub-committee on tackling poverty, and we used to meet—I think it was monthly—and every month, a different Cabinet Secretary—or Ministers, as they were in those days—Ministers would come, with their senior officials, and have to tell us what policies they had to help us all reduce and tackle poverty. And for me, that worked really well, because I know Amelia is far too polite to say this, but it's really important that my senior officials have the buy-in from other senior officials across Welsh Government, and that really can only be done with ministerial direction, I think. So, I've had early discussions with the First Minister about bringing that back, because I do think that gives a focus on tackling poverty. So, that is absolutely my top priority. When you look at a portfolio the size of mine, I did three priorities, because I think that's only fair across Government. So, obviously tackling poverty has to be the top priority. I recognise that I can't do that on my own, but I have ideas and plans to make sure we do that across Government.

The second priority for me was community cohesion. We've all seen horrific examples of when community cohesion goes wrong across Wales, and I always think—and I'm sure you're the same—if I have somebody come to my advice surgery with a housing issue, I always think, 'You are absolutely entitled to peace and quiet in your home, and I will do everything I can, with my MS hat on, to make sure that we can achieve that.' And it's about that feeling of safety—belonging as well, but I think safety and wanting to feel safe. So, community cohesion, that obviously covers quite a lot of policy areas in the portfolio.

And then the third one was, because culture had come into the social justice portfolio for the first time, I was really keen, or I am really keen, to see what we can do, and that goes back to the Chair's questions at the beginning about—. So, widening access is really important for me, because it should be there for everybody. All those treasures that Amgueddfa Cymru have don't belong to any one of us; they belong to everybody, and it's really important to see that. Again, when I came into portfolio, one of the first things I found out was that there are 100,000 items not on show, not on display. I think that's a travesty, so I'm very keen, as part of that third priority, to get as many online as we can, so people who perhaps can't go out of the house, they can access those treasures in another way, so I think there are lots of opportunities in that third priority to increase that access.

13:20

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Felly, mae'n wych clywed bod un o'ch blaenoriaethau yn canolbwyntio ar dlodi, ac rydych chi wedi jest cyffwrdd hefyd â'r pwerau sydd gennym ni, neu sydd ddim gennym ni, yma yng Nghymru, ond, ar ôl 4 Gorffennaf, dwi'n siŵr byddwn ni mewn sefyllfa wahanol, ac mae gennych chi wedyn ddylanwad i sicrhau bod pethau’n newid. Felly, beth fyddwch chi'n ei wneud? Rydyn ni eisiau clywed beth fydd yn newid yma yng Nghymru i sicrhau bod yna lai o bobl mewn sefyllfa o dlodi. Beth fyddwch chi'n ei wneud, os gwelwch chi'n dda?

Thank you very much. So, it’s great to hear that one of your priorities is to focus on poverty, and you’ve just touched on the powers that we have, or that we don’t have, here in Wales, but, after 4 July, I’m sure that we will be in a different position, and you will then have an influence in terms of ensuring that things change. So, what will you do? What will change here in Wales to ensure that fewer people are in poverty? What will you do, please?

So—I’m speaking personally, obviously—I certainly hope to see a UK Labour Government in, and, as you say, we will have far more opportunities to have discussions, to influence, and to help, I hope, set the agenda. So, even now, during the kind of pre-election period, any time I meet anybody who I think might be a Minister in the next Government, I certainly take those opportunities to lobby. I think we have seen, unfortunately, a very cruel Government for the last 14 years, if you look at the things that have come out about personal independence payments, for instance, just in the last few months, and the kind of rhetoric that comes from them. So, for me, it’s about being kind and compassionate. I think being kind to people is a really important thing, so I would hope to see, obviously, a kinder and more compassionate Government that is keen to listen, is keen to put money where it needs to go, not the austerity that we saw for over a decade, that ideology. But, until it happens, I’m afraid I’m not going to say too much, but, of course, we’re hoping to see—. I’ve been a Minister for a long time in Welsh Government; I’ve been very privileged. I think, in 14 and a half years, it was only the first six months—I was a Deputy Minister then—I had a Labour UK Government. So, unfortunately, I’ve had to work with austerity, Brexit, the cost-of-living crisis, the Truss 40-odd days, and that’s all had a massive impact, and, when I look at tackling poverty, what I want to see is a Government who wants to do what we want to do and reduce those numbers of people living in poverty.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Cwestiwn olaf, os yw hynny'n iawn. Fel roeddwn i'n dweud, rydym ni wedi clywed lot o eiriau a phobl yn dweud lot o bethau, ond pethau ddim yn newid. Oes gennych chi amserlen yn eich pen i edrych ar sut ydyn ni'n gallu gweld newid yn y sefyllfa yma yng Nghymru ynglŷn â thlodi, os gwelwch chi'n dda?

Thank you very much. A final question from me, if I may. As I said, we’ve heard a plethora of words and people saying a lot of things, but things not changing. Do you have a timescale in your mind in terms of looking at how we can effect change in this situation in Wales regarding poverty?

I don’t think you can have a timescale. So, if you'd have told me back when I was in this portfolio 10 years ago that I would spend—. Well, certainly, when I was in the previous portfolio, all I did was Brexit. It was just so, so intense; there was so much in that portfolio that was bathed in Brexit. If you’d have told me we’d have a global pandemic, I probably wouldn’t have—. Well, I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t have believed you, but you know what I mean; you couldn’t imagine the challenges that COVID-19 brought forward, and, obviously, the impact that then had on public finances. So, I don’t think you can set a timescale.

All I will say for myself is: I want to see improvement year on year, and it’s about making sure that, the tools we do have, we use to the very best of our ability. So, I would say the Minister, or the Cabinet Secretary, in Welsh Government who can help me the most with tackling poverty is Jeremy Miles, in the economy portfolio. That is so important, making sure we attract quality jobs so that people have access to those jobs and are able, then, to make sure that we do our very best to spread that load. So, obviously, for me, you need to monitor it on a—. Well, it is monitored on a monthly basis, but I would desperately want to see those figures coming down. I don’t want to see an increase in child poverty this time next year, for sure.

Jest un cwestiwn byr. Felly, a oes gennych chi uchelgais mewn tri mis, chwe mis, efallai, i weld y ffigurau'n dod i lawr? Beth, yn eich pen, sydd gennych chi, ydych chi'n barod i rannu? Beth yn eich pen sydd gennych chi i danlinellu eich bod chi wedi bod yn llwyddiannus, i edrych ar y—? Achos mae o'n un o'ch blaenoriaethau chi, ac mae hynny'n wych, felly, beth fydd yn eich pen? Beth fydd yn rhywbeth sy'n dweud, 'Dwi wedi bod yn llwyddiannus'?

Just one brief question to finish. So, do you have an ambition, in three months, or six months, perhaps, to see those figures reducing? In your mind, what's your vision? What's your vision in terms of emphasising that you have been successful? Because it's one of your priorities, and that's great, so what's your vision? In your mind, what is the benchmark for success?

13:25

I suppose, for me, personally, I wouldn't want to leave it in a worse state than when I came into the portfolio. So, for however long I'm in that portfolio, I wouldn't want to do that. But, of course, I would want to see—. Particularly if we have a change of Government next month, I would want to see an improvement as quickly as possible. I haven't, as I say, put a timescale in, because things just throw you off. That's the one thing I have learned: you can have all the greatest ambitions, strategies, plans—. And you've also got to be very pragmatic. I would want to see a massive change in our budget, but you've got to be realistic. The UK Government, whichever UK Government comes in, and I've just said what I prefer, their financial situation isn't going to be—. There's not going to be money flowing out in a way that we haven't seen. What we would want to see with a change of Government is different priorities. So, the priorities for the current UK Government I would not want to see as the priorities for a UK Labour Government. So, I haven't done timescales, because, I suppose, I don't want to set anybody up to fail, but I am very clear that we do need to see an improvement.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Eisiau canolbwyntio yn benodol ydw i nawr ar dlodi plant o fewn y maes gwaith gwrthdlodi rŷch chi'n ei wneud ac rydych chi'n dweud sy'n flaenoriaeth i chi. Fe ddywedoch chi, mewn ymateb i fy nghwestiwn i, dwi'n meddwl, yn y Cyfarfod Llawn eich bod chi fel Gweinidog yn reddfol yn edrych tuag at dargedau, ond rŷn ni'n gwybod, wrth gwrs, fod yna lot o feirniadaeth wedi bod, ac rŷn ni fel pwyllgor wedi beirniadu'r Llywodraeth am beidio â gosod targedau o fewn y strategaeth tlodi plant. Felly, o dan ba amgylchiadau byddech chi'n ystyried cyflwyno targedau, gan dderbyn beth o'ch chi'n ei ddweud ynglŷn ag, wrth gwrs, dydy dim popeth o fewn eich grym? Ond pryd ydych chi'n teimlo, gan gymryd eich bod chi yn rhywun, fel dywedoch chi, oedd yn edrych tuag at dargedau yn reddfol—o dan ba amgylchiadau sydd eu hangen nhw, byddech chi'n meddwl, wrth i amser fynd ymlaen, fel does gyda ni ddim yr holl strategaethau yma yn eistedd ar y sielff?

Thank you, Chair. I want to concentrate specifically on child poverty within the broader field of the anti-poverty work that you're doing and which you say is a priority of yours. You said, in response to my question, I think it was, in Plenary that you as a Minister impulsively look to targets, but we know, of course, that there's been a lot of criticism, and we as a committee have criticised the Government for not setting targets within the child poverty strategy. So, under what circumstances would you consider introducing targets, accepting what you said about the fact, of course, that everything isn't within your gift? But when do you feel, taking it that you, as you say, are someone who looks to targets impulsively—under what circumstances would they be needed, do you think, as time goes on, so that we don't have all these strategies sitting on a shelf?

Yes, I am a Minister that instinctively looks to targets. However, I also recognise, in relation to the child poverty strategy, why there were no targets. I understand that, and I think, when I was in portfolio last time, there was a target. I think it was 2015, if I remember rightly, and then that was dropped, mainly because the UK Government also dropped theirs. Again, I think the two are interlinked. I don't think the UK Government even have a child poverty strategy currently, so that's certainly something I would expect to see from a new Government. We have to recognise that we don't have all the levers, and I absolutely understand the link between if we've got targets—. I think, if I remember rightly, the 2015 target was linked with the UK Government target to end child poverty, so I think that's the first thing to say in relation to that.

So, the approach that was taken when the child poverty strategy was published in January was to adopt this monitoring and demonstrating progress on the implementation of the strategy, because that's what's really important; it's the implementation and it's the delivery. I had lots of discussions, particularly with Claire, on this, when I came into portfolio, to understand why this approach was taken. So, we've committed to progress in three ways, and that's the monitoring framework, the policy progress report and the report of evidence from children and young people and families who've got lived experience of poverty. That, then, will provide evidence. So, I think the first monitoring and reporting, if I'm right, Claire, is December 2025.

It is, yes.

So, I think at that point, if we were unable to demonstrate that there had been progress, maybe, then, that would be perhaps the time. But I go back to what I was saying: it's about making sure that our targets—. They have to be inextricably, unfortunately, linked with the UK Government, because they've got so many of the levers.

Rŷn ni'n gwybod bod Llywodraeth yr Alban, er enghraifft, wedi cyhoeddi tystiolaeth fod eu polisïau nhw yn mynd i gadw 100,000 o blant allan o dlodi. Pa ddadansoddiad ydych chi wedi ei wneud o'ch polisïau chi, gan dderbyn, wrth gwrs, eu bod nhw ar draws y Llywodraeth? Oes yna ddadansoddiad yn cael ei wneud o ran yr allbynnau? Ydy, mae gweithredu yn bwysig, ond mae allbwn, wrth gwrs, yn fwy pwysig.

We know that the Scottish Government, for example, has published evidence showing that their policies will keep 100,000 children out of poverty. What analysis have you done of your policies, accepting, of course, that they are across Government? Is there an analysis being done in terms of the outputs? Yes, action is important, but output is more important.

13:30

There is a piece of work that officials have been doing. I think it's fair to say that, under Jane, I think you were very much steered to learn from the approach of the Scottish Government to see if there are any approaches that we can steal off them, really—you know, best practice should travel well. But I think what we need to understand is how effective their policies are, because if there is something that we can learn—. So, yes, there is a piece of work, and I think you're due to meet again over the summer recess. 

Officials are due to meet Scottish officials over there. So, I think, yes, there is a piece of work. Obviously, we'd looked—well, again, Jane Hutt had looked—at a piece of work, thinking about child payments. But I think it's really important to understand the impact it has, and, again, they've got lots of powers that we haven't got, but anything that works well that we could do, I'd certainly be very keen to look at doing that. 

And to add, we work very closely with the Bevan Foundation. So, Bevan will also be interested in knowing where the impacts are and how we can do a similar analysis. So, we're working closely with Bevan and other colleagues in Wales, thinking about how do we build that understanding.

So, pryd fyddwn ni'n cael gwybod? Mae'r darn yma o waith dadansoddi effaith y polisïau yn digwydd, mae'n ymddangos i fi eich bod chi'n mynd i fynd i ymweld â chydweithwyr yn yr Alban, so pryd fyddwn ni'n cael y wybodaeth yna? Pryd fydd y dadansoddiad yn cael ei gyflawni?

So, when will we find out? This piece of work of analysing the effect of these policies is happening, it appears to me that you're going to go to visit colleagues in Scotland, so when will we receive that information? When will the analysis be completed?

So, I think it depends on when Scotland, probably, finish their evaluation, but you're meeting them in the summer—

But it's more of an ongoing process, rather than a particular product we're aiming for.

Yes. So, I guess if they've got something that they can say, 'Well, we've evaluated this and this is the outcome', then we can have a look at that.

Maen nhw wedi dadansoddi'n barod bod eu polisïau nhw sydd ar waith ar hyn o bryd yn mynd i godi 100,000 o blant mas o dlodi. Felly, dwi jest eisiau gwybod pryd fyddwn ni'n gallu dweud yr un peth am bolisïau Llywodraeth Cymru. Pryd fyddwn ni'n gwybod? Pryd fydd y gwaith yna'n cael ei wneud? Pryd fydd yr astudiaeth yn cael ei gwneud?

They have analysed already that their policies that are implemented at the moment will raise 100,000 children out of poverty. So, I just wanted to know when we'll be able to say the same thing about the Welsh Government's policies. When will we know that? When will that work be done? When will that study be done?

Sorry, can I ask you to repeat that? Did you say that it has lifted 100,000 out?

As I say, we're looking at the tools they've used and how much of those can be transferred across to a Welsh setting, given the levers they've got. So, it's more a process of understanding how they did that analysis, rather than us having a sort of product at this point. We are really keen to understand how we can use those kinds of analytical tools to help our understanding.

So, when do you think we would be able to have something that we could, perhaps, share in writing with everyone?

Later this summer.

Later in the summer. So, maybe after the summer recess, once the next meeting has been done, we can certainly write to committee, Chair.

Okay. Carolyn wanted to come in and then I'll come back to you, Sioned.

Sorry. I'm new to this committee. What is the measure of child poverty? Is it low-income households or is it access to food, to play, to good education, to a warm home? Are they being measured in different ways in Scotland than here, or—?

I think that's why we've got the basis of a framework rather than some other targets, because, often, the target is relative income, but that doesn't measure some of the wider aspects of well-being, which is why the framework that we're developing picks up that wider sense of things that we do have levers over, around housing, education, play and other aspects.

Because, earlier, we talked about access to culture, to sport, for disadvantaged communities. When we did that—. I was on the culture committee, and access to sport for a disadvantaged community was access to that play area, and having a leader in that community, a volunteer, a young person, who can encourage that child to play basketball or football is a measure, as well; it's not just about coming from a low-income household. So, I—

Okay, this is an interesting discourse, but we need—

I know I'm going off on a tangent here, I'm sorry, but I was keen to know how it's measured, you see.

Okay. Well, I think that's part of the problem. Jane.

I think it's measured in relative poverty and there are lots of measurements there—relative and absolute. So, they're very clearly defined, so we cannot argue—we cannot argue and nor should we ever—that we have 29 per cent of children here in Wales living in relative poverty. Sorry to sound as if I'm getting on my high horse, but it's really important.

No, I'm not saying that. I'm not. Sorry. I'm not saying that; all I'm saying is: how can we get them out of that poverty? Because, in this document, it says that we need to put more money in people's pockets. I get that. That's going to take a while, but how else can we do it, so that children have access to these other things, like a warm home, food, access to play, that all children should have—that basic right? 

13:35

If I can just say, I think getting money into people's pockets is in the here and now. And, certainly, I'm sure, somewhere in this briefing, I've got the figures about how we have made sure—I mean, it's millions of pounds, literally, through our single advice fund, through other advice signposting—we have got millions of pounds into people's pockets. So, I don't think that's for the longer term; I do think that's the here and now. But I also wanted to say in relation to that—. And I hear what Sioned was saying about targets, and I've met with the children's commissioner, I've met with the Bevan Foundation since I've been in portfolio, and, whilst that is a message, it's also coming through really loud and clear that we do have the right objectives and we do have the right priorities within the child poverty strategy to enable us to make that progress that we do want to see.

I just want to really come back to the Scottish model, if I may, just to follow up on Sioned's point, because I think it really is important. It just demonstrates, and it has demonstrated—. A report came out this week—it's been on the media—around what they've done with their payment system. So, how do you feel we can move that forward? They do have different powers. Are you looking to see if there could be an opportunity for us to adopt the same powers here in Wales, which means we can really deliver in a similar way to Scotland on those child payments, for example?

Yes, that is something we're looking at. I've also asked if we can explore within our budget to see if the child payment is possible. So, that, as Claire said, it is an ongoing piece of work with our Scottish counterparts.

Un cwestiwn bach, jest o ran y strategaeth, beth yw eich blaenoriaethau chi am y tymor nesaf o fewn y strategaeth tlodi plant? Mae yna lot o bethau yn y strategaeth tlodi plant. Beth ŷch chi moyn bwrw iddi yn syth o ran y gwaith yna? A hefyd, o feddwl—achos efallai caf i ddim dod yn ôl—am y newid mewn Llywodraeth sydd yn mynd i fod, a chwestiwn cychwynnol Jane ar faes gwrthdlodi yn gyfan, a fyddwch chi yn blaenoriaethu gofyn am ddileu'r terfyn dau blentyn ar fudd-daliadau?

Just one final question, just in terms of the strategy, what are your priorities for the next term within the child poverty strategy? There are many things in the child poverty strategy. What do you want to get working on straight away in terms of that work? And also, thinking—maybe because I won't be able to come back on this—about the Government changing, as there'll be a new Government, and thinking of Jane's initial question on the tackling poverty area generally, will asking for getting rid of the two-child benefit cap be a priority for you?  

So, for me, the most important thing—and this, I suppose, was my answer to Carolyn—is that I do think it is about making sure that we get as much money into people's pockets as well. The Welsh benefit charter, I didn't know a huge amount about before I came into portfolio—I'd heard Jane talking about it—but when you drill down into that, I think that will be a really important piece of work, and it's great to have the buy-in of local authorities. I've met with Anthony Hunt, who is the overall lead on that for the WLGA. So, that's really important.

In relation to a new Government, I will certainly be banging on the door of the new Minister to make sure that child poverty is a priority for them as well. In relation to the two-child cap, I've certainly read a lot since I came into this portfolio about—it was a very controversial policy, wasn't it—how, if we got rid of it, you could lift many, many more children out of poverty right across the UK, but specifically in Wales. I forget the figure for Wales. I think it's about—

Sixty-five thousand. So, certainly, I would want to have that discussion, because I do think—. I personally recognise it's a very powerful lever. So, any levers that we could possibly have, I think we should have. And I'd be very happy to that discussion. 

Fine. Can I bring in Buffy Williams now, who's going to talk about health inequalities for children?   

Thank you, Chair. Welcome, Minister. The First Minister has said that renewing the Welsh Government’s focus on supporting the first 1,000 days of a child’s life is key to lifting children out of poverty. We've received lots of evidence that suggests that access to childcare will play a vital role in this. How will you work with the Minister for Mental Health and Early Years on this area, and what are your early priorities? 

Thank you. I met with the Minister for Mental Health and Early Years last week, to discuss how we could work together to best support children, address inequality resulting from poverty, and also explore ways to tackle poverty for families in Wales, particularly around the provision of support for early years. So, I think there's lots that we can do, working together. I mentioned that I seem to have lots of—what's the word—a lot of the overarching responsibility, but the policy sits with other Ministers, and I think that Jayne Bryant is a classic example of somebody I need to work very closely with. You'll be very well aware that childcare is an absolute priority for the Welsh Government, and Jayne recognises that too. It's about how we reduce that childhood adversity. So, as you say, you're going back to those first 1,000 days and the impact that they have. Interestingly, on Friday, I had somebody come to my surgery as an MS, and she chairs a voluntary group of people who provide for families. And again, it's very interesting to see how disperse all that information is. I was thinking, after that meeting, of having a word with Jayne about making sure it's not spread too thinly, about making sure that all these organisations work together and aren't just working in their silos. It's not just the Government that works in silos; perhaps some of these organisations can as well.

High-quality support for children, but also for their parents, obviously, is very important. We need to enable people to be able to be the parent they want, and to be good parents, and I think that focus on working with families in that area is really important around child development as well. For me, I've always said that one of the most amazing things the Welsh Government has ever done is Flying Start. I think Flying Start is a brilliant conception, and you'll know that we've put £100 million in childcare provision across Wales through Flying Start and the childcare offer. A huge amount of funding has gone into capital as well, because we need those buildings, don't we, to be able to provide those services.

13:40

Thank you. I know we've just touched on this, but we know that child poverty leads to poor health and increases health inequalities, which, in turn, place demand on the NHS. Do you think the Welsh Government should consider spending more money to prioritise initiatives that address child poverty, and, if so, should this money come from existing NHS budgets?

Obviously, in the very challenging funding settlement we have, we made the NHS a priority, and I think, going back to working smarter, we need to make sure—. I don't want to pit one budget against the other, and I think I'd get a very short shrift if I tried to take funding out of the NHS. However, I've had discussions with Eluned Morgan. Obviously, she recognises those really good public services, making sure we've got NHS services. Who do they impact on the most? They probably impact on people that we're trying to improve their life for. By putting extra money into the NHS, what we're trying to do, really, is offset the severe impacts across all parts of Wales and on some of our most vulnerable people—obviously, that includes children, it includes the disabled, it includes older people. 

Alongside the NHS also is the local government budget and making sure that we put funding there, because, again, if you look at some of our most vulnerable families, and our children, they really need access to those good public services that local government supply. So, yes, I don't really want to pit, as I say, budgets against budgets, but I think what is important is that everybody—every Minister and every service—recognises that they have their duties around tackling poverty as well. I keep going on about the Welsh benefits charter, but that's because I think it is such a fantastic initiative, and if you look at the three grants that we're concentrating on, that will have a big impact on our families that we're trying to help in this aspect.

I wonder if I can just intervene, Buffy? Very specifically, I was with the Royal College of Midwives on Friday, and they were talking about the Solihull programme, Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond. It's a six to eight-week programme and the sort of thing that people used to pay for through the National Childbirth Trust, because parenting doesn't come with instructions. They're saying that this is the state of the art for enabling people to understand the breadth of a parent's responsibilities. So, with your role of being the ambassador for tackling child poverty, I wondered if you could talk to the health Cabinet Secretary about whether that is something that all families, in particular those who need more support, are getting—that service?

Yes, I'd be very happy to have that conversation. I don't know about the Solihull programme. I used to swear by Penelope Leach when I was a new mum. But, you're right—it's really important that you have that access, because you really don't know what you're doing, do you, when you first have a child. I would be very happy to have that conversation. I'll certainly ask Claire to have a look at that Solihull programme. I like the word 'ambassador'. When I went to the third sector partnership, they said they wanted a 'gladiator'.

13:45

Okay, good. Well, we'll go with that as well. Buffy, did you have any further questions in this section? 

Thank you. Sioned, you wanted to come back on something.

Yn gyflym iawn, jest ar y pwynt olaf yna ynglŷn â’r berthynas gyda blynyddoedd cynnar, yr elfen, wrth gwrs, sy’n bwysig yw buddsoddi er mwyn arbed, onid e, nid rhoi un gyllideb yn erbyn y llall o ran cyfiawnder cymdeithasol a’r gwasanaeth iechyd? Ac rŷn ni’n gwybod bod y Royal College of Child and Paediatric Health wedi dweud wrthym ni taw plant mewn tlodi sy’n gwneud cyfran enfawr o’r triniaethau mewn ysbytai—rhai brys a rhai sydd wedi’u cynllunio. Felly, dwi jest eisiau deall ynglŷn ag, er enghraifft, y bwndeli babi yn cael eu sgrapio yn y gyllideb ddiwethaf. Ydy hwnna’n rhywbeth nawr, gyda'r ffocws newydd, sef y cwestiwn roedd Buffy yn gofyn, y ffocws newydd nawr ar y blynyddoedd cynnar fel rhywbeth ataliol, fel rhywbeth sy’n gallu arbed costau, er enghraifft, yn y gwasanaeth iechyd gwladol—? Ydych chi’n ailystyried torri’r rhaglen yna, er enghraifft?

Very briefly, just on that last point in terms of the relationship with early years, the element of importance is invest to save, not having competing budgets in terms of social justice or the health service. And we know that the Royal College of Child and Paediatric Health has told us that it's children in poverty who make up a huge proportion of the treatments in hospitals—some emergencies, some planned. So, I just want to understand about, for example, the scrapping of the baby bundles in the last budget. Is that something, given the new focus now, which was the question that Buffy was asking, on the early years as something preventative, as something that can save costs, for example, in the national health service—? Are you reconsidering cutting that programme, for example?

That would be a matter for the Minister for Mental Health and Early Years. That wouldn't be a decision for me. We didn't discuss—I'm trying to think; did we discuss it?—we didn't discuss it last week.

Fine, we need to move on to things that are in your portfolio. Carolyn.

I'm just asking questions about fuel poverty and having warm, energy-efficient homes as well. So, very often, you see adverts popping up on Facebook saying, 'You can apply for this funding and that.' It's complicated as well, isn't it? But heating a home is so expensive. So, how will you work on that? Will you talk to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Energy and Welsh Language to develop a coherent approach on fuel poverty? And the Cabinet Secretary for Housing, Local Government and Planning, I know, is looking at grants for social housing, but it's also people that live in private housing as well—how they can access grants.

Going back to what I was saying about my portfolio being very cross-Government, I've got the overarching responsibility for fuel poverty. You mentioned the Minister for economy and energy, who obviously has energy. Julie James has warm homes, and I think Huw Irranca-Davies has—

Climate change and rural affairs. He has the funding. So, it is a real cross-Government part of the portfolio. So, yes, I certainly work very closely with them. I think it's really important that we have that joined-up approach. You mentioned Warm Homes, you mentioned—. I don't know if you did mention retrofitting, but certainly, when I was the housing Minister, it was a massive part of the portfolio.

I go back to what I was saying when you were asking about getting more money into people's pockets. That's why it's so important, because retrofit takes a long time, whereas you've got an electric bill that you need to pay off, you've unfortunately got a prepayment meter, you need the money there and now. So, I think it is really important. But I think the Warm Homes programme, which was launched a couple of months ago—I think it was just as soon as the new Government came in—the new Warm Homes/Nest scheme is the primary mechanism for tackling poverty, and that sits in Julie James's portfolio. She extended the Nest scheme to the previous month to make sure we had that smooth transition. I think lots of lessons were learned from the previous scheme to make sure that the new scheme was—going back to what we were saying before about being smarter and making sure we are doing different things—not just doing the same things differently. We've got a new advice centre that's independent from the contractor who puts in the measures. So, I hope that will give fuel-poor households more confidence in the scheme and that they'll be keener to access those schemes.

We have huge windfarms off north Wales, don't we, and they have funding. So, it's making sure people can access that funding as well, whether it's through councils or through voluntary organisations and citizens advice bureaux. They could be used, couldn't they? People are saying, 'If we've got wind turbines, we need cheaper energy.'

Absolutely. When I was energy Minister, I remember going to—. I'm trying to think where it was now. I don't think it was north Wales. I think it might have been west Wales, where, as you say, a new windfarm had been installed and the community had had significant benefits—a new community centre. But it's about making sure it's not just a one-off; it's about working with them. I remember going to a community hydrogen scheme, I think it was, up in north Wales, where every member of that community was receiving cheaper energy. So, it's about making sure that (1), the community gets the benefits, and (2), that they're long term not just short term.

13:50

I think that's what people want to see more of—that benefit coming forward. Regarding ensuring that there's advice, the single advice fund has been really helpful for voluntary councils, but they are struggling, I know, to deal with all the calls that are coming in. So, I was wondering how you'd be able to support them further so that they can actually give the advice to people going forward. We've got issues with unclaimed benefits, so how would you be able to tackle that?   

Well, I haven't got any money; I think I need to make that very clear—I've got no further money. So, it's going back to what we were saying about working smarter. I met with the new—I say 'new', I think he's been there about a year—chief executive of Citizens Advice Cymru a couple of weeks ago. They're certainly doing a significant amount of work around the single advice fund. We did have some research that showed us a lot of people have welfare benefit advice needs, but a lot of people also have debt advice needs, so that's preventative. I'd much rather be preventative than reactive, so again it's about having a focus on that. I know officials do meet regularly with the Citizens Advice Cymru, because, obviously, they're the lead organisation for us. But for me, as I say, it's about making sure you've got those self-help tools to stop you getting into debt, for instance. We've also upskilled a lot of front-line workers to make sure they're able to give the advice that people need to ease the pressure.

Poverty issues seem to have grown as people have changed from the old benefits system of tax credits to the universal credit system, and they seem to not be able to have as much in benefits any more. And then, they're not able to access other grants. And another issue is that council tax is tied into universal credit as well, which causes a big issue. Is this something that you could take up with the UK Government? Because the reform has not helped people—it has created more poverty. I'd like you to see if you could raise with your counterpart in the UK Government regarding that issue of how council tax is tied into universal credit. Before, family tax credits used to have a look at how much somebody was earning over a year on average, and I know that they had to pay it back the following year a little bit, but now it's so volatile that they could just earn slightly above one month that they have to pay a lot back—

Okay. But it's an issue that needs looking at as to how it's tied up. 

Before we move on from the Warm Homes programme, it came in in April, but how many homes do you want to have benefited from the Warm Homes programme before winter hits in December? So, by the end of November, how many of these fuel-poor households are you hoping will benefit from the new, much more generous and more coherent Warm Homes programme? 

As I say, the policy sits with Julie James, so I don't have that figure to hand. 

But how are you ensuring that people are getting the right information and are taking it up? Social housing is being sorted elsewhere. It's people in private accommodation who are living in the poorest homes, and, for me, getting more money into people's hands is just Elastoplast, because they should be living in warmer homes where they're not having to spend so much of their income on it.

Obviously, I've had discussions with her. I don't have the figure that you referred to to hand, but the conversations I have had with the Minister for housing and local government have been about making sure that officials—and the majority of those are her officials—work with contractors, with local authorities, with other partners, so that we can maximise benefits for people in Wales by having a much more joined-up approach to the service, but if—

13:55

I don't have a target. She probably does have a target. 

Fair enough. Perhaps you'd like to reflect on it and come back to us.

Roeddwn i jest eisiau dilyn i fyny ar hynny, os gwelwch yn dda, a hefyd mynd yn ôl i gwestiwn Sioned ynglŷn â'r bwndel babanod hefyd. Rydyn ni wedi clywed bod gennych chi sefyllfa newydd, a'ch bod chi'n gyfrifol am bobl sy'n byw mewn tlodi. Ydy hi'n iawn os ydyn ni'n clywed yn union sut rydych chi am gydweithio â phobl eraill sydd â chyfrifoldeb, er enghraifft am Cartrefi Clyd a'r bwndel babanod, ac efallai ymateb a dod yn ôl atom ni efo gwybodaeth, erbyn rhyw fath o ddyddiad, i ddweud, 'Wel, dwi wedi siarad efo Jayne Bryant neu Julie James, a dyma'r ymateb dwi wedi'i gael'? Achos, fel dwi'n deall, rydych chi'n gyfrifol am sicrhau bod yna lai o bobl yn byw mewn tlodi.

I just wanted to follow up on that, if I may, and also to return to Sioned's question about the baby bundle. We've heard that you're facing a new situation and you're responsible for those living in poverty. How are you going to co-operate with other people who have responsibility, for example for Warm Homes and the baby bundle, and could you come back to us with some information, by some significant date, to say, 'Well, I've spoken to Jayne Bryant or Julie James, and this is the response I've had?' Because, as I understand it, you're responsible for ensuring that fewer people are living in poverty.

I go back to what I was saying: I've got the overarching policy. I gave you an example about what I think worked really well last time I was in this portfolio: having that Cabinet sub-committee, where you've got—. It sounds as if I'm interrogating them; that's not what I mean. It's about making sure that every Minister—

Yes, but it might not be from theirs. It's about making sure that their policy decisions and the way their budget—. Baby bundles is a classic example. I really didn't think I discussed baby bundles with her, although I'm now starting to think that maybe we did. That would be a decision for her, as the Minister with responsibility for the budget, as to whether that's the best way of spending that budget. But, for me, the Cabinet sub-committee would then ensure that I had oversight of every policy that was coming through. So, the education Minister would come along and say, 'Right, this is what we're doing', and then you get that overview. Whether I could write to you and say—. But certainly, perhaps, when I've had a full round of meetings—. I mean, I'll also be having bilaterals as well with all Ministers, but whether I could write to you on a—. I'd probably have those discussions on a weekly basis; I wouldn't want to do that, but I'd be very happy to give a sort of—. I was going to say an annual report, but don't hold me to that. You know what I'm trying to say. It'd be good to bring—

I think there's a couple of specific responses we want. I appreciate you can't just pull them out of a hat, so perhaps we could have a—. Did you want to come back, Carolyn, on—?

It's just about the Welsh benefits system. The Welsh Government has established a steering group. Do you know when this is expected to be completed, the plan, when it's supposed to be getting into place? And also, the First Minister's leadership manifesto committed to exploring the creation of a digital pass for public services, to make it easy for people to access support as part of the Welsh benefits system. So, there are two questions there.

I was going to answer your other question as well. You were asking about welfare reform, and I don't disagree with anything you say, but, obviously, welfare reform is a reserved matter. I think we have seen a complete eradication of what is absolutely needed for people to be able to survive, let alone thrive. I will be very happy, when the new Government's in place, to have those discussions. And I know my predecessor was constantly meeting with UK Government Ministers, writing to UK Government Ministers, to make that point. But we have to accept the welfare reform system is a reserved matter.

I've mentioned the Welsh benefits charter, which is progressing well. When I came into post, it had obviously been started. I met with Councillor Anthony Hunt, who is the lead member, who really reassured me about the buy-in from all local authorities, which I think is really important. As you say, we've got the steering group. What the steering group has done is develop an implementation plan, and by the end of—where are we now—September, I think we will be able to then have a set of timescales that will set out the actions that we will take, on the first phase of the work, so that we can simplify access to Welsh benefits. I have committed to reporting back to the partnership council in the autumn on that.

I appreciate it's a very complex piece of work, but, as I say, I think it's progressing well. I've certainly been reassured; officials have reassured me as well. We focused on—and I referred to this before—three schemes. It was the council tax reduction scheme, the free school meals and the school essentials grant. They’re the first phase. That’s the focus of the first phase, if you like. And they were chosen because of the alignment that was already there. For me, I think it’s going to be fantastic, and I really expect to see some significant progress from that.

On the digital pass, as you said, it was in the First Minister’s leadership manifesto, and I think it’s fair to say we’ve only done some exploratory work up to now. We haven’t done a significant amount of work. I think I need to have a discussion, which I haven’t yet, with the Minister for economy and energy, because he holds the cross-cutting digital policy and strategy.

Talking to Councillor Hunt, it was clear that what he foresaw was this sort of person-centred approach for the Welsh benefits. I’m very aware that not everybody is digitally included. I think we’re down to a single figure now in terms of the percentage of people in Wales who are digitally excluded, but there is still a significant number of people who are digitally excluded. So, for me, we’ve got to have the most inclusive process when it comes to making sure people can administer those Welsh benefits.

We’re also doing a piece of work with the Centre for Digital Public Services around the impact of the new one login for Government services on the people of Wales—that’s people accessing both devolved and non-devolved services.

14:00

Key for this committee is the passporting of benefits, so that if you’ve been assessed as eligible for one scheme, you automatically get the others that you are eligible for, because some local authorities are doing that already and others are simply ignoring it and expecting people to come back.

I think the Welsh benefits charter will make sure that happens—so that you only have to do it once, and if you’re entitled to four different things, you will get them.

Okay. We need to move on. Sioned, you are next on my list.

Dwi jest eisiau mynd nôl yn gyflym iawn; dwi'n mynd i siarad yn fwy eang ynglŷn â datganoli gweinyddu nawdd cymdeithasol. Ond o ran y siarter, rŷch chi wedi sôn eich bod chi wedi dewis y tri pheth yn gychwynnol ar gyfer y phase cyntaf: gostyngiadau’r dreth gyngor, prydau ysgol am ddim a’r grant hanfodion ysgol. Mae'r prydau ysgol a'r grant hanfodion ysgol wedi'u halinio'n agos iawn, byddwn i'n dychmygu, yn barod. So, mae rheina'n eistedd yn agos iawn at ei gilydd beth bynnag. A wedyn gostyngiadau’r dreth gyngor. Pam jest y tri yna? Pam na wnaethoch chi ddim mynd ar ôl beth roedd y Cadeirydd jest yn sôn amdano fe? Hynny yw, os ydych chi’n gymwys ar gyfer un peth, mae hynny’n dangos bod gyda chi ryw lefel o incwm; byddech chi siŵr o fod yn gymwys ar gyfer nifer fawr o bethau. Pam dewis y tri yna yn benodol? Dyw e ddim yn teimlo'n uchelgeisiol iawn; rheina yw'r tri sydd efallai fwyaf amlwg mae pobl ar hyn o bryd yn medru gwneud cais ar eu cyfer. Beth oedd y rhesymeg?

I just want to return quickly; I’m going to speak more broadly about the devolution of social security administration. But in terms of the charter, you said that you’ve chosen those three specific items for the first phase: the council tax reduction scheme, free school meals and the school essentials grant. They’re very closely aligned, I would imagine, already. They do sit very closely together anyway. And then the council tax reduction scheme. Why just those three? Why didn’t you pursue what the Chair mentioned? That is, if you are eligible for one thing, that shows that you have a particular level of income, and you’ll probably be eligible for a great number of things. So, why choose those three items specifically? It doesn’t feel very ambitious; those are the three most obvious things that people can apply for. What was the logic behind that?

The logic was what you’ve just explained, really. I think the eligibility criteria aligned, some local authorities had already started to do it. So, whilst I appreciate you might think it’s not very ambitious, I think the approach that Jane Hutt took was it was the most pragmatic, and there were already conversations going on about what other schemes could come in. So, let’s get that simplified administrative process set out, then we can look at other schemes as well. And certainly, the partnership council, I think—I’m guessing, because I wasn’t part of those discussions—felt that to have that phased approach was better. I think the partnership council certainly endorsed that.

Diolch. Fe wnaf symud ymlaen. Roeddech chi'n sôn am waith y Gweinidog blaenorol ynglŷn ag edrych ar ddatganoli gweinyddu lles. Mi wnaethoch chi sôn eich bod chi'n mynd i barhau gyda'r sgyrsiau yna. Felly, pa agweddau ar weinyddu sydd gyda chi ddiddordeb ynddyn nhw o ran eu datganoli i Gymru?

Thank you. I'll move on. You mentioned the work of your predecessor in looking at the devolution of social security administration. You mentioned that you are going to continue with those conversations. So, what aspects of administration do you have an interest in in terms of devolving them to Wales?

I certainly recognise that if you devolved powers relating to the administration of social security to the Welsh Government, we certainly would have a wider range of tools, which we were referring to, and levers, to offer much more sustainable routes out of poverty for people, and ensure that—again, going back to the Welsh benefits charter—person-centred approach. I think it’s really important not to pre-empt the research that my predecessor set up. That's going to provide an overview of how devolution of the administration of social security to Welsh Government would work. I don't know when we're getting—I don't know who I'm looking at here. I'm looking at you, Claire. I don't know when we're going to get that research back, but I think it's important not to pre-empt it.

14:05

We're looking to get it commissioned, actually. We put it out for bids back at the end of last year, and didn't get any bids off a closed framework, so we're now putting that out again with a slightly revised spec.

So, does dim gwaith wedi cael ei wneud ar hynny ar hyn o bryd.

So, there's no work that's been done on that at present.

Just the allocation.

Ac o ran comisiynu hynny, pryd oeddech chi'n gofyn iddyn nhw adrodd erbyn, wedyn? Pryd mae'r gwaith yna i fod i gael ei gyflawni erbyn?

And in terms of that commissioning process, when were you asking them to report by? When is that work supposed to be completed by?

Originally, the work should have been completed by, I think, the autumn of this year.

It's now going to be spring next year, because we didn't have any bids. Sorry, I forgot that. We didn't have any bids, but we have had some bids now, and I think you're looking—

No, we're about to go out. So, we hope for bids this time.

I get confused with all the research. Sorry, it will be spring next year.

Jest cwestiwn byr ynglŷn ag un grŵp sydd mewn sefyllfa ofnadwy, a dweud y gwir, yma yng Nghymru, y bobl no recourse to public funds, hynny yw does ganddyn nhw ddim byd o gwbl. Felly, dŷn ni'n deall bod yna jest ddau awdurdod lleol yma yng Nghymru sy'n casglu data ynglŷn â'r grŵp yma—jest dau—a dŷch chi wedi sôn am ddata a phwysigrwydd hynny. Beth fuasech chi'n ei wneud ynglŷn â sicrhau bod yna fwy o wybodaeth ynglŷn â'r grŵp yma, os gwelwch chi'n dda?

Just a short question about a group who are in an awful situation, to be honest, here in Wales, those people who have no recourse to public funds. They don't have anything at all. So, we understand that there are only two local authorities here in Wales that collect data on this group—just two—and you've mentioned data and the importance of that. What would you do about ensuring that there is more information about this group, please?

We give guidance to all local authorities. I don't know why there are only two. Amelia, I think you're the official who deals with this. I don't know why there are only two, because we give guidance to all. I don't know why they don't collate it.

Allwn ni efallai gysylltu ynglŷn â hynny, a sicrhau eich bod chi'n gwybod pa ddau sy'n ei wneud o a'r lleill sydd ddim? Wedyn, os oes yna gyfle i chi ddilyn i fyny, efallai, Gadeirydd, jest i sicrhau—

Could we maybe get in touch with you later about that, and ensure that you know which two do do it and what the others are that don't? Then, if you could follow that up, maybe, Chair, just to ensure—

I know that they struggle in terms of not everybody who has no recourse, obviously, has that contact with the local authorities. But, certainly, those who do should be easily counted. So, yes, absolutely, we can do that. We can follow that up.

We could also—. Obviously, we provide funding to BAWSO to help us in this aspect, so we could certainly see if they've got any data as well, Jane.

Okay, thank you. Just one brief question from me, because we're about to start a disability and employment inquiry. What progress has been made on developing the disability rights action plan, which was due to be published in March? I wondered whether you're able to tell us when it is going to be published.

This is a piece of work that has been right at the fore of my workload. I've met with Professor Debbie Foster who co-chairs the disability rights taskforce, and you may be aware—I hope I'm not telling you something that you already know—but this has been a significant piece of work. I think it's over 350 external group members who have been part of this taskforce to bring the plan forward. I think we've got another meeting next week. That will be the final meeting, and I think the two aspects, the work streams, that are coming next week are well-being and access to justice. I think the access to justice has been the one that's taken longer than, perhaps, we thought it would do. I think there have been 10 thematic working groups, so last month we met, and it was education and housing. For me, I learned so much listening to those group members, it was incredible. So, I think it will be March next year now when it's all brought forward—

We're hoping to consult later this year, but I think by the time we actually finalise the action plan, because, obviously, it's involved such enormous co-production, the consultation has got to be really inclusive.

Right. We'll come back to you at another date. Carolyn, you had some questions about site provision for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers.

Yes. Could you provide me with an update regarding any bids that have been received and when they will actually be given out to local authorities to provide sites? What are you doing to address the lack of progress with them?

I think you're right. There has been a lack of progress, and this is an area where, again, right at the beginning, working with Lorna and the team, I've been really keen to have a focus. A little bit of good news. You'll be aware of the capital grant that we have and that can be used for lots of different things—it can be used for new pitches, it can be used for refurbishment, it can be used for new sites—and we just were not getting the bids. So, Lorna and the team have done a significant piece of work with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. We had absolutely no applications for capital funding in 2022-23 and we know there's a need, don't we? So, really pleased, we opened the first window just after I came into portfolio. That was open for a month and I think we've had five bids, which officials are looking at. Today we've opened the second window, so hopefully there'll be more bids coming through there. So, I'm really very keen to see an increase in spending and we will have a focus on that.

14:10

Are you talking to local authorities to increase the bids?

Yes. Well, I'm not, personally, but officials are working with them. I think there's a bit more hand-holding going on. We've had guidance to them, we've revised the guidance, because I think that was, perhaps, a barrier. So, it's really important that local authorities understand that.

With another committee, we visited some sites, and they're very often on the outskirts, not in communities or where they can have access to community provision. On one site, they just wanted a play area—they asked for a play area and the local authority used the funding to tarmac the access road, which had holes in it. So, they weren't being listened to, and this was a really big issue. They wanted links to the community as well, because there were no pavements there. They're often put by the side of roads, where there are issues with exhaust fumes and really poor air quality. So, I'm glad that you're moving forward with this, but I really do feel that you need to speak to local authorities and make sure that they're really on board and they've got an officer listening to people as well. So, thank you for—

I think that's really important, and one of the things—. I've had—I don't know how many I've had; it seems I've had about six, I think, so you can see how hard the team are working—Gypsy Traveller accommodation assessments. So, again, we didn't have all of those in. I think we're now up to 16 and I think I've got another six to clear, but for Lorna and the team, it seems to have been a constant stream, which is really important. Also, I think local authorities were saying to officials, 'Well, we won't put in bids, we'll wait for you to sign off, or wait for the Minister to sign off our accommodation assessment.' Well, you don't need to wait, and I think that's a really important message to local authorities. And Lorna has been working to make sure that they understand that they don't have to sit back and wait; they need to really get on with this.

On the point you make around the play area and the access road et cetera, I don't have a site in my constituency, but Wrexham County Borough Council have one and it's actually in the village where I live—it's right on the edge of the village. But I often think you have to walk everywhere from there, there is no access to shops, or anything like that. And I think it's really important that they're thought about in where they are placed. But this is a—. When I go back to my priorities, obviously everything's important in the portfolio, but this is an area where I do think we are making some significant progress. The other thing we're doing, which, again, I think is really important and I remember working very closely with it when I was in portfolio before, is the stakeholder group. Since COVID, I don't think it's met in the way that it used to, so I think it's really important, because we need to hear from people in that community what they want, what their needs are, to make sure that, then, we can speak to local authorities and get the right things.

Well, I just want to say that we want to see this move at pace, because at the beginning of this calendar year, applications had been submitted and nobody was looking at them in Government. So, the representatives of the Gypsy and Traveller community were very, very unhappy. So, I'm very glad to hear that you are now moving this on at pace.

Yes. I think it's fair to say, and I know that you're aware, and, obviously, staffing of officials is not for me, but—

Well, it is for the head of your department, though.

But it's the head of my department, and it's fair to say that we now have a full team, led by Lorna and I think you can see already the progress that Lorna and the team are making.

Can I just—? There's one thing I'd like you to take up with the local government and housing Minister, okay? Some of the sites they rent from councils—the council sites, as well. They're not given the same priority as social housing, so they've reported broken windows et cetera, and the standard of the accommodation was poor. The hook-ups weren't separate for electric, so they were plugged in and plugged in. So, they want to have that same standard, or at least a rise in standards, to be equal to those on social housing, because they pay a lot of money for their rent as well. So, thank you.

14:15

Jest cwestiwn cyflym ynglŷn â'r polisi cenedl noddfa. Rŷch chi wedi ymrwymo i adnewyddu'r polisi, felly, pa waith sydd wedi cael ei wneud ar hyn cyn belled a pha waith sydd wedi'i gynllunio? Gyda pha sefydliad ŷch chi wedi bod yn gweithio i adnewyddu'r polisi? Ac ydych chi'n gallu rhoi amserlen i ni ar y gwaith yma?

Just a quick question about the nation of sanctuary policy. You have committed to carrying out a refresh of the policy, so what work has been carried out so far and what further work is planned? With which organisation have you been working to refresh the policy? Could you provide a timeline for that work?

So, at the moment, I've asked for, not a pause, but we're still doing so much work with people who've sought refuge here, so I want to make sure that what we're doing now is fit for purpose. Since I came into portfolio, I've asked officials to continue to engage with stakeholders, so it's not a specific organisation, to ensure that the policy that we currently have is fit for purpose. Personally, I don't think it needs a refresh, as such; I think we need to make sure that we are absolutely delivering. So, I've asked for more of an update, really, for the plan, rather than a complete new plan. I think we just need to look at what we've got, which is working—we know it's working, you only have to look at the number of Ukrainians, for instance, that we've had join us here in Wales. So, I would say—I think I'm right, aren't I, Amelia—rather than a refresh, we're going for an update.

Ocê. Jest i fod yn glir, does yna ddim adnewyddiad yn mynd i fod o'r polisi, jest eisiau gwerthuso beth rŷch hi'n ei wneud yn barod. Felly, er enghraifft, dŷn ni wedi cael galwadau am bethau sydd wedi cael eu galw amdanyn nhw ers 20 mlynedd gan sefydliadau hawliau plant, er enghraifft y guardianship service for all unaccompanied children—rhywbeth mae sawl mudiad, y Gymdeithas Plant, Bevan, y Groes Goch, yr Arsyllfa ar Hawliau Dynol a Chyfiawnder Cymdeithasol ym Mhrifysgol Abertawe wedi gofyn amdano fe, a hefyd, wrth gwrs, fel rŷch chi'n gwybod, y Cenhedloedd Unedig yn argymell y dylai fod mewn lle. Felly, mae hwnna'n rhywbeth dwi'n gwybod roedd y mudiadau hyn yn edrych i weld fyddai'n gallu mynd i mewn i adnewyddiad o'r polisi, ond dyw hynny ddim ar y bwrdd nawr, neu a fydd rhai polisïau newydd yn gallu cael eu hymgorffori i mewn i'r cynllun cenedl noddfa?

Okay. Just to be clear, then, there's not going to be a refresh of the policy, you just want to evaluate what you're doing already. So, for example, we've had calls about things that have been called for for 20 years from children's rights organisations, for example the guardianship service for all unaccompanied children—that's something that several organisations, such as the the Children's Society, the Bevan Foundation, the Red Cross and the Observatory on Human Rights and Social Justice at Swansea University have asked for, and also, as you know, the United Nations recommends that it should be in place. So, that's something that I know these organisations are looking at to see if it could have been put into the refresh of the policy, but that's not on the table, is it, or would some new policies be able to be incorporated into the nation of sanctuary policy?

Well, I know, before I came into portfolio, there was an informal survey undertaken with organisations, and when I came into portfolio, I looked at that. As I say, at the moment, there is still a huge amount of work we are doing. You've got to look at capacity of staff, and I think it's fair to say that I don't think we need an absolute new policy at the moment. What I think we need to make sure of is that we're delivering on the policy.

Yes. I think it's fair to say that we're looking at—and we will advise you, Cab Sec—anything that we feel needs to be extended. We, of course, work closely with the British Red Cross around the family reunion and integration service. I think we're the only Government in the UK to fund that, but we're absolutely looking at all areas. It doesn't necessarily need a new plan, as the Cab Sec has said, but looking at anything that needs to be strengthened, and certainly new areas as well, but just as part of that refresh. But we're very much focused on the delivery of what we've got already.

Okay. There are five areas I'd like to get through, briefly, but they are specific questions. One is on gender-based violence and our recommendation that children who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence should have access to specialist therapy services. And there's been rather confused correspondence on this, where the response that's been given is around the work that's been done on preventing people from moving into care, which is, frankly, not the same issue at all. So, I just wondered whether there's anything you can tell us at this stage about how we're going to ensure that these children who've obviously experienced this gender-based violence—you know, how schools are going to be able to refer them for these specialist services if they identify, if and when they say, 'I need help now', because they won't always come forward immediately.

You and I did have a discussion around this in the letter that I sent to you, so I did bring the letter to committee with me. Obviously, a lot of this will sit in Lynne Neagle's portfolio, so I've asked for a meeting with her to discuss it. So, I can write to you following that meeting, if that's okay, Jenny.

Okay. That's really helpful, because this is what stakeholders were asking us. Jane.

Jest rhywbeth byr, a dweud y gwir, eto, jest i edrych eto ar fenywod sydd o fewn y grŵp yma, menywod sy'n fewnfudwyr a'r rheini sydd â no recourse to public funds. Rydyn ni wedi cymryd tystiolaeth ynglŷn â'u sefyllfa nhw. Gaf i ofyn sut ydych chi am weithio efo'r grŵp i sicrhau bod ganddyn nhw gyfle i beidio byw mewn tlodi a chael cyfle i gael cefnogaeth hefyd yn eu cymunedau nhw?

I just wanted to ask a short question, just to look again at women who are in this group of people, who are migrant women and those who have no recourse to public funds. We have received evidence about the situation that they're in. Could I ask, how are you going to work with this group to ensure that they have the opportunity not to live in poverty and that they have opportunities to receive support too in their communities?

14:20

Did you say migrant women? Yes. So, officials work closely with migration policy officials, social services officials, housing policy officials. As you know, migration and asylum are reserved to the UK Government, but I think, for us as a Government, it's for us to navigate those complexities that seem to be there, unfortunately, regarding how public funds can be used to support victims of abuse who don't have recourse to public funds. I've recently approved a second year of funding through the migrant victim of abuse support fund. It's a pilot scheme, but I've just approved the second year of funding for it, and that will make it easier for victims of abuse who don't have recourse to public funds to be able to access services, and also to help them navigate the very complex asylum system that we have here in the UK. Again, I think BAWSO are working with us in relation to this as well. I don't know if there's anything further to say.

Yes. They've had the funding awarded, absolutely. But we've also done guidance and updating, working closely with local authorities about what they can do for migrant women and for those with no recourse to public funds, so they understand better—because there's that edge of devolved and non-devolved, but there are things that can be done. So, really making that clearer and working with our housing colleagues as well.

Jest cwestiwn byr i ddilyn i fyny, roeddech chi'n sôn yn gynharach ynglŷn â faint o arian ac am ba fath o amser y mae'n mynd i grwpiau fel BAWSO. Roedden ni'n clywed hefyd eu bod nhw'n gwneud gwaith gwych efo'r menywod yn y sefyllfa yma. Felly, yn eich pen, oes gennych chi rhyw fath o gynllun am sut ydych chi am gefnogi BAWSO, er enghraifft, a'r rhaglen roeddech chi'n sôn amdani?

Just a short question to follow up on that. You mentioned earlier about how much funding and for how long it's given to groups such as BAWSO. We've also heard that they're doing amazing work with these women in these situations. So, do you have any thoughts in your mind about a kind of plan for supporting BAWSO, for example, and the programme that you mentioned?

I don't have the figures. We do provide funding as well, core funding for BAWSO as well as this—

Yes, but, for how long? It's this issue that they keep saying, year on year—and this programme you've just mentioned is one year. I mean, it isn't enough, really, to sustain a brilliant service.

No, I appreciate that. The difficulty is that when we only have one-year funding, it's really difficult to do that. I must admit, I haven't spent a lot of time on the budget. I inherited a budget, which obviously was part of the collective responsibility, and I've had to work with what I've got. But, as you say, as we come on to the summer—summer's always devoted to budget time—it's something that I will certainly look at. I've got BAWSO in my own constituency, I know of the incredible work that they do. Certainly, that sustainable funding, now that I've got responsibility for third sector again, is something we have to think about very clearly.

Very, very quickly, Chair, just to say that it was a pilot. The BAWSO and NRPF work is a pilot, and we're going to evaluate its impact.

Okay. Perhaps you could write to us on the detail. Right, Buffy, are you able to give us a succinct question around community safety?

I am, and I will. Very quickly, I know you've touched on community cohesion and what it means to you, so, following the independent review of the community cohesion programme, your predecessor agreed the programme should continue to be funded until 2025-26, can you provide more clarity on what the review covered and whether you are confident that the programme should continue? Quickly.

Thank you. So, there was a review of that programme. I think, again, it was to make sure that the design of the programme, the delivery of the programme, was fit for purpose. There was lots of engagement with public sector organisations, third sector organisations, I think there were some focus groups thrown in as well, to help us look at how individuals with protected characteristics were being engaged in the review. So, it was a very comprehensive review, and I think what came forward was that this was a really important programme to make sure that we were making progress in relation to community cohesion across Wales. The review concluded a couple of years ago now, and, for me, I think it works well. It works well for us as a Government, and I think it works well for our partners, particularly in local authorities.

14:25

Thank you. Just really quickly, regarding the wider nature of community safety and justice. I understand the current devolution settlement confines—[Inaudible.]—Wales, but could you please outline the Welsh Government's pledges, if any, in this policy area, and could you also outline any challenges your department faces as a result of the devolution settlement, and how you intend to overcome them?

I'm really sorry, I didn't catch a bit of that. Is it me? I'm not sure if it—

It may be me. I've got a really unstable internet connection for some reason.

It just told me from the Senedd. Do you want me to quickly repeat that?

That's okay. Just regarding the wider nature of the community safety and justice. I understand the current devolution settlement confines our work in Wales, but could you please outline the Welsh Government's pledges, if any, in this policy area, and could you also outline any challenges your department faces as a result of the devolution settlement, and how you intend to overcome them?

For me, the big plus in this area is the partnership working—so, the work we do with our police forces, with our police and crime commissioners. It's really important that we have that collaboration, to make sure we bring forward the approach that we have. I'm really concerned about our prison services, which, obviously, is a reserved matter. Everyone will be very well aware of the issues at Parc prison. That has taken a huge amount of time. I'm now meeting fortnightly with His Majesty's Prison and Probation Service, because I am so concerned about that. Clearly, because we're in a pre-election period, it's really hard, I can't meet with the prisons' Minister at the moment. That will be the first meeting following an election, because I am really concerned. There's clearly an ongoing prison population crisis, which, to me, shows that the current approach to justice is not working. I think there's a huge amount that needs to still be done around prevention.

I have a particular interest in prisons and, I think, unfortunately, when people end up in prison, we've, obviously, very often failed them. While they're in prison, we need to make sure that the work we do enables them to come out and live a life that won't put them back there again. We need a public health approach to justice. That needs to be evidence based, it needs to be trauma informed. So, there are a huge amount of challenges, I think. And whilst we're not responsible for the prisons, obviously we are responsible for a lot of what goes on when someone's in there. We've got responsibility for health, we've got responsibility for education. I've got a prison in my own constituency, and the work that some local businesses do with the prisoners is incredible. It's a really piece of good practice that I'm not sure takes places right across the prison service.

I chair the policing partnership board. We'll next be meeting in the autumn. That brings together all the policing leads and the strategic partners. Last week, I joined a workshop with policing leads. That was chaired by the Permanent Secretary. This follows on from a commitment from the previous First Minister, who wanted to see perhaps a little bit of a different way of working with the police. So, I joined that meeting last week. As I say, the Permanent Secretary chairs that. So, I think there are a huge amount of challenges, lots of opportunities, but I do think an early discussion with the prisons' Minister—

Could I bring in—? We've got two specific questions, before we completely run out of time, so Jane, and then Sioned.

Dwi eisiau jest cyffwrdd ar y sefyllfa ynglŷn â—

I just wanted to touch on the situation—

Sorry, I'll say it in English as it'll be quicker. I just wanted to touch on the issues around prisons, particularly women in prisons. We've, again, done an inquiry on women in prisons, and it's a really, sadly, concerning issue. So, I just wondered if, maybe, as part of your responsibility, you could be reporting back to us how we're going to be able to look after the women who do require or are sentenced to prisons, and also work with people who sentence them, in order to really address the issues around women in prisons.

14:30

Yes, absolutely. When I was in post last time, I visited both Styal and Eastwood Park, and I could probably tell you minute by minute what went on when I was in Eastwood Park prison. I found that a very, very challenging visit. It was quite horrifying in the mother and baby unit. It was horrific. And talking to people from south Wales who were there, so I absolutely understand that. So, yes, certainly, we need to make sure—

We've done a report on women in prisons, which you might want to—

Perhaps we could hear further from you when you've had a chance to read that report and to look at how you can—

Yes, I've not read that report. I'd be very interested to do so. 

All right. So, I think specifically on youth justice, our report on speech and language and communication needs in the youth justice system, we wanted to see more speech and language people being available to the youth justice teams, on the lines of Neath Port Talbot, who are the markers. I just wondered if you were able to tell us at this stage what is happening there, because we are locking up people because they haven't been able to tell you, tell us, what has really gone on, as opposed to what somebody assumes has gone on. And also the judge—they don't even understand what the judge is telling them they should not do in order to avoid going into custodial sentence.

I know my predecessor did arrange a summit back in—I think it was January, the beginning of the year. I haven't got an update on that. I've certainly had—. I know for a fact that we need to recruit more speech and language therapists right across Wales. I think there's only around 800 registered SLTs in the whole of Wales, so I don't think there are even enough to employ in the NHS. So, I'd be very happy to have a discussion—

If you could, because Pippa Cotterill, who's the head of the speech and language therapists, is saying that it's all being pushed back to the health boards, and I don't think that's the leadership that's needed here.

Well, I appreciate it's a matter for health boards, how they employ them.

Yes, but we're looking at people who shouldn't be in prison, and there's a cost there, isn't there? Is there something very briefly that you wanted to, that you had a burning question about?

Jest yn gyflym iawn, yn adlewyrchu ar beth ŷch chi wedi'i ddweud ynglŷn â charchar y Parc a'r hyn gwnaethoch chi ei ddweud mewn ymateb i Jane o ran sefyllfa menywod o Gymru sy'n cael eu carcharu. A fyddwch chi'n gwneud achos i'r Llywodraeth nesaf, os taw Llywodraeth Lafur yw hi neu beidio, o ran datganoli grymoedd dros gyfiawnder troseddol, er mwyn atal y sefyllfaoedd erchyll yma sy'n digwydd i'n dinasyddion ni, a niwed erchyll?

Just very quickly, reflecting on what you've said about Parc prison, and what you said in response to Jane in terms of women from Wales who are imprisoned. Will you be making the case to the next Government, if it is Labour Government or not, in terms of devolving powers for criminal justice, in order to prevent these terrible situations that happen to our citizens, and the great harm that they suffer?

I'll certainly be having conversations with whatever colour Government is at the other end of the M4. I think this is a really important piece of work and, as I say, prisons are of particular interest to me. So, I will certainly be having discussions.

Well, we've come to the end of our session and we thank you very much, Cabinet Secretary. It's been a whirlwind tour around a lot of very large subjects, but it's good to know that you're going to be a gladiator for social justice, and obviously, we'll write to you on some of the specifics, the details that we weren't able to go into.

Obviously, we'll send you a transcript you can correct. Thank you. 

3. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i wahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
3. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

I now just want to invite the committee, under Standing Order 17.42, to exclude the public from the rest of today's meeting. 

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 14:34.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 14:34.