|Bethan Sayed AC|
|Gareth Bennett AC|
|Janet Finch-Saunders AC|
|Jenny Rathbone AC|
|John Griffiths AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Mick Antoniw AC|
|Siân Gwenllian AC|
|Dr Rachel Garside-Jones||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Sgiliau a Chyflogadwyedd, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director, Skills and Employability, Welsh Government|
|Eluned Morgan AC||Gweinidog y Gymraeg a Dysgu Gydol Oes|
|Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning|
|Gareth Howells||Y Gwasanaethau Cyfreithiol, Comisiwn y Cynulliad|
|Legal Services, Assembly Commission|
|Joanne McCarthy||Y Gwasanaeth Ymchwil, Comisiwn y Cynulliad|
|Research Service, Assembly Commission|
|Ken Skates AC||Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth|
|Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport|
|Marcella Maxwell||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Economi, Sgiliau ac Adnoddau Naturiol, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director, Economy, Skills and Natural Resources, Welsh Government|
|Maureen Howell||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Cydraddoldeb a Ffyniant, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director, Equality and Prosperity, Welsh Government|
|Simon Thomas AC||Yr Aelod sy’n Gyfrifol am y Bil|
|Member in Charge of the Bill|
|Chloe Davies||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Gareth David Thomas||Ymchwilydd|
|Manon Huws||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Stephen Davies||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Ymchwiliad i dlodi yng Nghymru: gwneud i'r economi weithio i'r rheini sydd ag incwm isel – sesiwn dystiolaeth 11||2. Inquiry into poverty in Wales: making the economy work for people on low incomes - evidence session 11|
|3. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 (vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 4, 8, 9 a 10 y cyfarfod||3. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (vi) to resolve to exclude the public from items 4, 8, 9 and 10 of the meeting|
|5. Bil Ombwdsmon Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus (Cymru): sesiwn dystiolaeth 11 – craffu ariannol||5. Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill: evidence session 11 - financial scrutiny|
|6. Bil Ombwdsmon Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus (Cymru): sesiwn dystiolaeth 12 – craffu ar egwyddorion cyffredinol y Bil||6. Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill: evidence session 12 - scrutiny of general principles|
|7. Papur(au) i'w nodi||7. Paper(s) to note|
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.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:16.
The meeting began at 09:16.
May I welcome everyone to this meeting of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee? The first item on our agenda today is introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. We've received one apology today. Are there any declarations of interest? There aren't.
We move on to item 2, our inquiry into poverty in Wales: making the economy work for people on low incomes—evidence session 11. I'm very pleased to welcome Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, and Eluned Morgan, Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, to committee this morning. Would you like to introduce your officials or would the officials like to introduce themselves?
I'm sure they would. Rachel.
I'm Rachel Garside-Jones, and I'm deputy director, employability and skills.
Marcella Maxwell, deputy director, economy, skills and natural resources, leading on the economic action plan implementation.
Maureen Howell, head of equality and prosperity, also covering the Valleys taskforce.
Thank you all very much. Perhaps we will move straight into questions, if that's okay.
If I might begin, then, with some questions on the future of work and job security: the Wales Centre for Public Policy found rising concerns around the growing gig economy, zero-hours contracts, underemployment and other non-traditional and insecure employment practices, with which I think we're all becoming very familiar. So, the committee would like to know what plans you have to undertake further research recommended by the Wales Centre for Public Policy on sectors particularly affected by these factors and these changes.
Thanks, Chair, it's a great pleasure to be with you this morning at your committee. I think we should probably just reflect on why this is an important issue for many people. I think it's important because in order to have a sense of control over your life—. A sense of control and a sense of security contribute to your well-being—a huge contribution to your sense of well-being. Therefore, it's absolutely vital that people, during their working age, have a sense of control over their working life, and that means control over the amount of time that they spend in the workplace, that they have the security of knowing that they have the skills to remain in work, and that they have a job that is going to be secure as well—that's why I believe this particular area is vitally important to consider.
I do think that the Wales Centre for Public Policy's findings tally very much with other reports that have been commissioned. My officials have considered numerous reports in this area, and the economic action plan places a great focus on the importance of the fair work board in considering the future of work, not just within the definition of fair work, but also in terms of being able to carry out future work, to analyse the consequences of the changing nature of work and to recommend policy initiatives that can ensure that people do retain that degree of control and that degree of security over the way that they're working and working practices in the modern age.
No sector, I think it's fair to say, is completely shielded from the changing nature of work, and we're willing to undertake whatever research is required to understand the consequences of zero-hours contracts, the gig economy and so forth, and to make informed decisions on how we can ensure that there is sustainable growth, that there is inclusive growth, but that people are able to retain a sense of control over their lives.
Thanks for that, Cabinet Secretary. I do think these matters are at the heart of how Welsh Government's economic strategy, the economic contract and the economic action plan should be taken forward, and at the heart of the issues that have to be wrestled with and dealt with. You mentioned inclusive growth, and, obviously, that's at the heart of the Welsh Government's economic development plan. Could you expand on what you've already said in terms of the key ways that you will seek to deliver that? And what will be the key differences in terms of the future strategy, compared to what we've seen up to now?
Okay. Thanks, Chair. I should say at the outset that the new economic plan has inclusive growth right at its very heart. With the plan, we are striving to improve well-being and wealth in the aggregate, but also to reduce inequalities. There will be a departure from the way that we have been doing things. First and foremost, I think we've been pretty honest in the plan in terms of the challenges that we face. Yes, there has been success in recent years, but, equally, there are huge challenges that remain to be resolved.
We've also made, I think, a very clear moral and economic case for inclusive growth. It's quite clear, from international studies, that growth that is inclusive is more beneficial in terms of raising productivity levels than merely focusing on pure growth. We're not alone in pursuing the inclusive growth agenda. It might be worth—depending on your time and whether you have the capacity to do it—looking at the work of the World Economic Forum in this regard, and at some of the specific cases that they'd be able to offer up globally—for example Canada, where there is a clear demonstration of how inclusive growth can drive better productivity, but can also lead to a greater sense of well-being. The happiest nations, if you like, are the most equal nations, and you don't get equality by accident, you have to intervene. And our economic action plan outlines how we will intervene in various areas.
There are three primary routes that we will pursue. One is that we've outlined a new economic contract. The economic contract is designed to drive inclusive growth. It's designed to deliver fair work. Then the calls to action and the five components of the calls to action are designed to futureproof the economy, because, of course, if we're going to get inclusive growth now, we also want inclusive growth to be sustainable. What we can't have is entire communities and individuals left behind in an age of automation. So, the calls to action are designed to futureproof an inclusive economy.
Thirdly, we're going to deliver it through pursuing a regional place-based agenda. We recognise that growth in recent years has not fallen equally across all parts of Wales. The development of a new regional approach I think will ensure that we can identify all of the regions and the communities within those regions, their strengths, their challenges, their existing capabilities, and also where we need to intervene and invest to make sure that we do have an economy of tomorrow based on the industries of the future.
Thanks for that, Cabinet Secretary. Perhaps I could just ask a few more specific questions within the ambit of what you've stated already. The Bevan Foundation, looking at the economic contract, made the point that it will need to be very well monitored and policed if it's going to be effective, to ensure that firms meet the criteria. So, how would you see that operating in terms of the fair work principle and the high-quality employment skills development and fair work call to action?
I'd agree with the Bevan Foundation. There will be a need to carefully police and monitor the new economic contract. The fair work board is currently determining the definition of fair work. We'll be able to, through implementation of the economic action plan, work with social partners on the criteria and the detail of the criteria and, if you like, the burden of proof that will be required in the new economic contract. I want to make sure that we work in social partnership because ultimately we need business, trade union partners and employees to be working together to contribute to economic growth, but to work together to also deliver inclusive growth. I'd welcome the committee's views on the extent to which we demand proof of compliance with the criteria in the economic contract. Equally, I think it's worth the committee reviewing, at the appropriate time, the definition of fair work when the fair work board deliver it.
Okay, thanks for that, Cabinet Secretary. Again quoting the Bevan Foundation, they've called for Welsh Government to set specific targets around the objectives of the economic action plan around inequalities between different groups and also with regard to geographical areas. Would you intend to do that by creating targets for areas, such as in-work poverty reduction and increasing the number of workers paid the living wage, or would you have some other—?
I think Maureen and Marcella have spoken to knowledge and analytical services about this, and I intend to incorporate the well-being indicators within the action plan to ensure there's a consistent approach across Government. I appreciate there are many calls for many, many targets to be included within the plan. But targets alone will not deliver the outcomes that we need. We need a cultural change and a behavioural change, and that will be delivered through the stick-and-carrot approach of the economic contract and the calls to action and the regional work. However, once the definition of fair work has been agreed by social partners—the fair work board—I understand that knowledge and analytical services will then look at the well-being indicators to ensure that we're able to take full account of the definition of fair work in the measuring that we conduct as a Government. Is there anything you'd like to add at all, Maureen?
Just to add that knowledge and analytical services are at the moment looking at milestones underneath the indicators and, again, are quite keen to work with the fair work board on their definition in terms of developing those milestones.
I would rather the fair work board has the trust, authority and faith of Government to come forward with a definition and then for us to shape the indicators and the measurements accordingly.
Okay, thanks for that. I think there will be a lively debate about those issues and I'm sure the committee will want to play a full part. One final question from me on this section before we move on, Cabinet Secretary, and that's in terms of Chwarae Teg rather than the Bevan Foundation. Chwarae Teg has suggested that the calls to action in the economic action plan should embed gender equality, as is done in Berlin. How would you respond to their concerns that not including that in the plan is a missed opportunity?
I would be amazed if the fair work board did not include the gender gap as a consideration in the definition of their work. I would be amazed if the fair work board did not consider various levers and interventions that can contribute to narrowing the gender gap. I appreciate the call from Chwarae Teg for an additional point to be included within the calls to action. Numerous calls are being made by numerous organisations to widen the calls to action. The calls to action are designed to futureproof the economy. The calls to action are designed to drive up productivity. Inclusive growth will be driven by the economic contract. The economic contract—right at the heart of that is the work of the fair work board and the definition of fair work. I would fully expect the fair work board to bring forward a definition that complies with the requirement to reduce the gender pay gap and to improve opportunities for women in employment across all sectors.
I think it's also important to recognise that we are developing a new approach to the foundational economy. Within the foundation sectors, women are disproportionately represented. There is a higher rate of employment of women in many of those sectors than men. Unfortunately, in many of those sectors, the rates of pay are far less than the average within the economy. So, enabling plans for each of those foundation sectors, intended to drive up the quality of employment and the pay rates within those respective sectors, will, in turn, contribute to the narrowing of the gender pay gap.
The relationship between you and the fair work board is, obviously, going to be very important, Cabinet Secretary. How would you characterise the way that you see that relationship developing?
I like to be challenged. I'm also open to being challenged. I think it's going to be important that the fair work board feel comfortable—I know they are at the moment—to challenge Government and to work as a partner with Government, but also to ensure that they are able to present the case for Welsh workers and Welsh businesses in a way that meets all of our collective ambitions for inclusive growth. Also, I think it's important that they recognise that, in order to get the best out of Government, and in order to get the best out of themselves, there has to be an element of challenge on both sides.
Just to finish your point, on the gender gap, we had the Equal Pay Act 1970. Of course, aspects of audits were delayed for quite a number of years. We, of course, have new powers in this area. What's your view in terms of maybe putting at the core of work the need for companies, businesses and the public and private sectors to undertake statutory gender audits?
This is something that's being considered, actually, by the board—the enforcement element as well. I think it's something that, in the coming months, we'll see the board report on. I would, clearly, be sympathetic to the calls that you make, as a socialist colleague, and I think it's important that the board are able to carry out this work in a timely fashion.
Moving back to the foundational economy, the Equal Pay Act is all well and good, but in the foundational economy we have a preponderance of women, and that makes it very difficult to use the Equal Pay Act to enforce better wages. It's very welcome that the Valleys taskforce delivery plan focuses on the foundational economy, but it obviously applies to the whole of the rest of the foundational economy across Wales. Given the powerful levers that Government has in this regard—social care, childcare, education and health—how do you think we are going to be able to improve employment practices and increase fair work? Surely, there'll be nowhere to hide for people if you insist on it.
Yes, that's right. The economic contract will clearly demonstrate that the Welsh Government is ready to assist in any way possible in the growth of a company and in the growth of a business if it's able to commit to the four key components of the contract, and they include fair work. As I've said, I'd be amazed if the fair work board didn't include considerations relating to the living wage and the gender pay gap within its definition within its work.
I think, in terms of the foundation sectors, there will be different challenges and there will be different opportunities across each of them, and therefore the enabling plans will be bespoke for each of the sectors. I think one of the common factors across all of those four foundation sectors is that there is an environment and a culture that has allowed women to be paid less, and that needs to be tackled. It can be tackled. I've already had discussions with Mark Drakeford concerning the potential to extend the economic contract to procurement. With a £6 billion spend annually, I think we could see, if we implement it across procurement, a huge difference in the way that businesses operate within those four sectors.
Professor Karel Williams says that there are three social asks of businesses: training, paying the living wage— the real living wage, not the minimum wage—and the sourcing of local products at a fair price in return for sectoral support. So, how are you going to implement that, if you intend to focus on those three?
I could provide a paper, if you like, on what's happening across Government, for example the code on ethical employment in supply chains, the interventions that are being made as a consequence of the budget agreement with Plaid concerning social care in the foundation sectors. I can provide a paper on that. But I think what's absolutely key is that we see the foundation sectors as an aspect of the economy that touches every community and is therefore fundamental in delivering inclusive growth. I can provide that paper on the activity that's across Government, but—
Right, but are you going to use the fair work board and the economic contract to actually insist that those things happen in private businesses in the foundational economy?
Yes. The aim of the economic contract is to provide a bar that any business will have to overcome in order to gain support from the Welsh Government, and that bar is based on four criteria: commitment to skills, for example; health, with a particular focus on mental health and well-being; decarbonisation, because we know, again, that inclusive and productive economies are those that will drive down their carbon footprint in the future; and fair work, of course. So, fair work will be influenced by the fair work board. So, any company, if you like, that seeks Welsh Government support will have to comply with the conditions and the criteria outlined by the fair work board insofar as employment is concerned and employment practices. But in addition to that, once you're, if you like, over the bar and you're at base camp, in order to get to the summit, to draw down the funding, it will come through five calls to action. And, again, they're designed to deliver high levels of productivity and inclusive growth.
Okay, good. Just focusing now on two priority areas for Government, which are social care and childcare, how do you plan to professionalise the workforce and give them the skills that are needed to provide the high-quality service that we all expect and would like? Given that this is almost overwhelmingly a female workforce, how are you going to give them a better status so that we're not giving them minimum wages for doing incredibly important jobs?
It's probably better for the Minister for Social Care to talk about how Government is driving up the perceptions of the sector—
—and also how we are driving up the quality of care, professionalism within the sector. In terms of skills, there is an employability plan being developed, and an all-age employment programme that is designed to capture anybody that is either underemployed, requiring additional skills training, or requiring assistance to get onto the escalator of employment activity. But in terms of social care, the enabling plan, as I said earlier, will be bespoke for that particular sector, and will look at how the quality of care is going to be improved and how we can professionalise the service still more. I think there are a lot of willing and determined partners within the sector who wish to work with us. The key will be in ensuring that the plan applies to all potential partners as well.
Okay. So, I'd like to hear from the Minister for adult education, because a lot of these people are already in the workforce; it's just that they don't have the status and the progression that we need for them, and therefore is it going to be in-work training? How are you going to ensure that training is available within a reasonable travel distance, given that they will probably also have family responsibilities?
These are quite difficult subject matters, and if you take something like care, part of the problem is that—. It's quite a good entry to the workplace—and don't forget, we've got a huge number, still, of people who are economically inactive—and it's a great way into the employment market. Part of the problem, then, is that—absolutely we're desperate to make sure that we give it status and that we professionalise it—many of the people who go into these areas are saying, 'Actually, I don't want to do the paperwork. If you're paying me this amount of money, a supermarket's opening round the corner, I can go and work there and I don't have to do the paperwork.'
So, it's a real challenge for us, I think, whilst these people are employed in relatively low-paid work. So, that is a challenge for us as a Government, there's no question about that. But I do think that it's absolutely the right thing to try and professionalise it, to give it status, but also to give them a way then to climb up the ladder within that area. So, if you're going into care that there is a managerial structure that then you can enter, and I think we do need to offer that as a means of progression, because the last thing we want is to trap people in low pay. So, to keep on training them, in-work training, is absolutely crucial.
Okay, but it's not about paperwork. Paperwork is important, obviously, for the managerial roles, but what we need are people who have the listening skills, who have the empathy, who have the observational skills, who understand about child development, who listen to frail older people.
Absolutely. I think a lot of people who have been carers in the past for their families have those transferable skills that they can take into the professional world. So, I think that's an area that we are focusing on, in particular in relation to economic inactivity—getting people from economic inactivity into the workplace. So, there are lots of different areas. If we don't tackle economic inactivity, then actually the impact for the economy and for those people is that they're trapped in poverty. So, getting them into the workplace in the first place has got to be the first step. After that, we can focus on, 'Let's give you the confidence to build up those professional skills.'
But, you're right. What employers are telling me is that, quite often, what they're looking for are the softer skills. They want people who are reliable, who are enthusiastic, who have that empathy. And actually a lot of those skills people have and they don't necessarily have the paperwork of an academic career behind them.
I think the question that Jenny is asking is: how can we make social care as a sector more attractive for people to enter into? And how can we ensure that there is decent pay awarded to workers in social care, that there is progression and that there is participation? Those three key questions are all being considered by the fair work board as part of the definition of fair work. In order to get support from Government—and we're going to be looking at procurement as well longer term—or to procure, potentially, in the longer term, then you will have to comply with the definition of fair work, and therefore there will have to be a demonstrable effort to ensure that there are improvements in pay rates and that there is progression in the workforce and that there is a good degree of participation, so that people feel that they are contributing to the place they work in and that they are being fully recognised for what they are contributing.
I do think that, in terms of driving up pay, because that is a major, major issue, the £19 million that we've been able to award to local government this year to support the introduction of a living wage within social care is hugely valuable. It's a very, very strong starting point, but we wish to see the sector go on driving up quality of provision and also a level of professionalism within the sector, and that's why the enabling plans will be so important.
One of the components of the support that we'll be offering the foundation sectors, including social care, is the support for level 2 apprenticeships. We wish to see primarily a focus on the provision of level 3 and above, but, for the foundation sector, recognising that many people do need a lower level of skills provision in order to get onto the escalator of employment activity, there will be a need to provide support for level 2 apprenticeships.
In terms of the very important question about transport issues and travel to work, I think one of the interesting areas of work undertaken by the Valleys taskforce is the mapping exercise that was conducted in determining where the strategic hubs should be located. Actually, if you look at the locations of those hubs, you'll find that 80 per cent of people in the most deprived communities in the Valleys are within 45 minutes of public transport travel-to-work time. I think it's absolutely essential that we look at all of the support in the whole that we can give to people to get into work, to get the skills to get into work, and to get the skills that are required to progress upward within the workplace. But Maureen, I think, had something else to say.
I was going to say, in terms of the Valleys taskforce, very much this sort of career progression thing has come up, and particularly around health and social care. So, we've been working with partners, with health, with the Royal College of Nursing, and the work's been led by Dr Chris Jones, as a member of the taskforce, who was chair of Cwm Taf Local Health Board and is now leading Health Education and Improvement Wales. That's looking at progression in caring: could we actually accredit people caring informally, so that they start to acquire qualifications at that stage, which will then enable them to enter as carers, but then the career progression within that whole health and social care sector, recognising that there are lots of different careers within that sector? So, that's a piece of work that the taskforce is sort of taking on board, particularly in the Cwm Taf LHB initially.
Thank you for that, and we look forward to receiving the paper that you mentioned, Cabinet Secretary. Speaking of the Valleys taskforce, we have some further questions from Mick Antoniw.
The Minister, Alun Davies, has said this is a plan by the Valleys, from the Valleys, for the Valleys. I've got, in my office, a copy of the 1945 south Wales development plan, which looks quite similar, actually, to the Valleys taskforce plan. Obviously, there have been changes over those years. What way is this plan different from the previous plan? What will it do that is different?
It is from the Valleys, for the Valleys, and it offers a holistic approach to the challenges and to dealing with the challenges that Valleys communities face. It looks at the mutually reinforcing role that transport and economic development play. You can't possibly encourage businesses to be based in a community if there are no homes that young people can afford. There's no point in delivering a metro system if, at the end of the metro system, there are no jobs to go to. There's no point in encouraging businesses into an area if the people within that area don't already have the skills to be able to work in those businesses. What the Valleys taskforce work ensures is that we will work across Government in a way that contributes to the ultimate objective of raising employment prospects and the quality of employment across that particular region.
I think it's worth reflecting on some of the success that we've seen within the Valleys region in recent years. We have seen considerable increases in employment rates in many of those communities that we have targeted investment in. For example, in Torfaen, it's gone up by 10.5 per cent between 2011 and 2017; in Blaenau Gwent, it's up 9.4 per cent; in Caerphilly, it's risen by 8.7 per cent; and in Merthyr it's gone up by 8.5 per cent. Now, this is all very welcome news, but there is still a stubborn problem with underemployment and social reproduction leading to workless households and to intergenerational unemployment that needs to be dealt with. That's going to be dealt with, in part, through the focus on strategic hubs and interventions at all levels across all of Government. They'll also be dealt with through the employability plan.
I do think that Merthyr actually offers the blueprint for development across the Valleys—across Valleys communities—particularly in the three strategic hubs because, in Merthyr, I think the success of that particular community has come from direct interventions across Government and local government, and with the private sector as partners, and with education. So, we've seen the development of a twenty-first century college, which is an astonishing building that people are proud of, but it's also a place that offers the highest quality of skills training. Merthyr has benefited from a concerted effort by Welsh Government to redistribute wealth-creating opportunities by placing public sector jobs in the community, away from Cardiff and other more affluent urban centres. Merthyr has also benefited from considerable investment in connected infrastructure, not just physical infrastructure, including roads, but also through digital infrastructure as well. There's been a concerted effort to make sure that we provide wealth-creating opportunities, the proper skills provision and the support for people to get into work, and to and from work as well. That's the sort of blueprint that we'll be applying to the other strategic hubs.
It is a departure from previous plans that have often sat in silos in isolation, where we've talked about economic development, and economic development being driven by building the right facilities and then the investors will come, but not then looking at where we're going to have the people with the skills to be able to occupy the jobs; where we've looked in the past, sometimes, at transport strategies without actually recognising the need to ensure that transport hubs are based where we need employment as well. So, the Valleys taskforce, and particularly the strategic hubs, draw together all interventions from across Government, including, as Maureen said, in the health and social care field as well.
That's very helpful; it's actually quite a good summary of the 1945 plan as well. But there are three aspects. It's very much hinged on the creation of a number of hubs in order to do that co-ordinating role. It seems to me, at the core of those hubs—in terms of the levers that Government has, and the ones that I think are identified in your paper as well—is the issue of procurement and the issue of the metro as a big capital infrastructure. But, also, the devolution of Government functions—Pontypridd and Transport for Wales is almost a classic example.To some extent, Merthyr's a little bit like that.
To what extent—? I'll ask you, perhaps, to deal with those three things, and then we'll go on to the fair work thing later on in this session, because there are a couple of matters there. On the procurement side, we're not just talking about Welsh Government procurement, but local authority procurement and local health board procurement. That is something that seems to be very, very absent, even though I've raised issues in terms of e-digital services, and so on. In terms of the metro, the real concern there is that the capitalisation seems to be more geared to poshing up the stations rather than in terms of real infrastructure investment—and there's concern about the capital there. So, what sort of guarantees do you have, then, in terms of that as being part of this regenerative project?
And the second one was: Transport for Wales is an incredibly exciting development and initiative by you, in fact, but other examples of that, where you think that there are things that can be devolved out that would actually act as a catalyst for regeneration, to what extent do those feed in? Because, as it stands at the moment, we've got very vague concepts—we're creating hubs, and there's a lot of very nice talk around it—but it's practical responses that will actually deliver for the Valleys and regional economies.
That's okay. Transport for Wales, I've been very clear about the potential for Transport for Wales to acquire additional responsibilities. Over time, Transport for Wales, I think, will have the ability to be able to invest—or to influence the investment—in those components of physical infrastructure that contribute to economic development and regeneration as well.
I think the design process for the metro is going to be crucially important, which will be undertaken very soon. I think the national infrastructure commission for Wales will also be instrumental in offering expert advice on how we can utilise infrastructure as a catalyst for regeneration and economic growth, and how we can ensure that the right decisions are made on infrastructure, such as the metro and other major pieces of Government spend.
On procurement, I've already said that the economic contract could be applied and extended to procurement over time. It's something that Mark Drakeford and I have already discussed. In terms of the practical interventions that we've made, well, the Transport for Wales headquarters in Pontypridd, I was very pleased to be able to announce that; the investment in Yr Egin, I know that it was quite controversial, but, again, it demonstrated my belief that we have to decentralise and share wealth-creating opportunities across Wales; and, the Development Bank of Wales to north Wales. So, we're looking at every opportunity to move public sector jobs to those areas where we need to see a greater degree of wealth-creating opportunities. It's not just us who have a role in this, I think right across the public sector there is a role. It's important now, I think, that organisations within the public sector recognise that some parts of Wales—some areas of Wales—have near full employment. So, basing your headquarters in those areas where you have near full employment will not have the wider benefits that I think we should all be striving to deliver now. I do believe it's incumbent upon us all to make sure that future developments are undertaken where they will have maximum beneficial impact.
So, it's almost a reversal back to the old, traditional policies of the 1960s and 1970s that resulted in the mint going into Llantrisant.
That's right, absolutely, because—. I wasn't born—I was going to say I look back at it, but I wasn't born when Harold Wilson delivered the DVLA to Swansea, but that was a huge, huge decision that has been of massive benefit to the community and to the region. This wasn't an individual and isolated case; the Harold Wilson Government was determined to rebalance the economy of the UK. The UK Government now says that it wishes to rebalance the economy of the UK. It could demonstrate its commitment in some practical ways. It could look at moving some of the departments of UK Government away and into some of the other areas of the UK. I don't see the reason—
So, presumably you're working on a policy that aims to incorporate that and achieve that as part of the strategy.
Yes. Across Government, we're looking at every opportunity for the public sector to be able to contribute to the development of communities outside of the intensely urban areas where there is already near full employment.
Rydym ni wedi bod yn trafod y Cymoedd yn fan hyn rŵan. Wrth gwrs, mae rhai o gymunedau tlotaf Cymru mewn dwy ardal: y Cymoedd a'r gorllewin. Yn y gorllewin, mae gennym ni rhai o'r cyflogau isaf, nid yn unig yng Nghymru ond ar draws Prydain, ym Meirionnydd a Môn. Felly, mae'n amlwg fod angen rhoi sylw i'r ardaloedd yn y gorllewin. A ydych chi'n cytuno efo fi nad ydy hynny ddim i'w weld yn flaenoriaeth o fewn eich gwaith economaidd chi?
We have been discussing the Valleys here just now. Of course, some of Wales's poorest regions are in two areas, which are the Valleys and west Wales. In west Wales, we have some of the lowest wages, not only in Wales but throughout the UK, in Meirionnydd and in Anglesey. So, it is obvious that we do need to give some attention to these western areas. Do you agree with me that that does not seem to be a priority within your economic work?
I'd say on the contrary. Inclusive growth means that we deliver a greater degree of opportunity to all parts of Wales and that includes west Wales. If we look at some areas of west Wales that have developed very well in recent years—if we take some examples I think it shows that the focus that we've placed on developing the economies of west Wales have paid dividends. The Isle of Anglesey has seen the employment rate rise from 66.3 per cent in 2001 up to 73.9 per cent, one of the highest rates of employment in Wales. Gwynedd, likewise, went from 66.9 per cent up to 73.4 per cent. They've seen some of the biggest increases in employment in recent times. In one of the interesting areas of Wales, again pivoting back to Merthyr, we've seen an increase of 12 per cent and that again demonstrates the impact that decentralising and sharing wealth-creating opportunities can have on more deprived communities. Carmarthenshire has seen an increase of more than 10 per cent in the employment rate.
I think the key concern is ensuring that wages rise in those more rural and marginalised areas, particularly so that young people who are developing the skills that will be required to get jobs in the industries of the future do not feel that they have to move out of their communities. Therefore, it's not just about ensuring that the public sector drives more job opportunities to west Wales and other rural parts of Wales. It's not just about ensuring that we get more private capital into those communities. It's also about making sure we have better connectivity between the communities and with the more urban centres and that we develop the right sort of housing stock so that young people, again, can afford to get on the housing ladder.
As I said earlier, there's no point in focusing on economic development and job creation if you're not dealing with the housing problem. In terms of the housing challenge, we as a Government have a very ambitious plan for rolling out affordable housing, we've got a skills plan to make sure that people are equipped to be able to get employment, but our focus on connected infrastructure is vital as well. In parts of west Wales, the broadband roll-out has been incredibly important. Let's not forget, the reason we've intervened with Superfast Cymru is because of market failure. This is a major project that is huge in scale and ambition. The Minister recently outlined the next phase of our intervention, which will deliver reliable, fast broadband to the remaining properties that are not yet connected to superfast, and I think that as well will ensure that people don't feel they have to move out of their communities in order to move up in the world.
Siân, before you go on, can I ask if Janet wants to come in at this stage? Or after—yes, okay.
You've talked a lot there, but surely there is a responsibility on Welsh Government to actually lead and to move public sector jobs out of where there is full employment, as you say, to the areas where they're most needed, and that does include north-west Wales, which has been neglected recently. We've lost 42 per cent of Welsh Government jobs from Caernarfon since 2010. Now, what kind of message does that give out to that area, in particular when you remember that Caernarfon is the most Welsh town in the whole world? What kind of message does that give out to Welsh speakers? So, it's all very well to say, 'Yes we're going to be doing this, we're going to be doing that', but looking at the evidence, it doesn't seem that you're actually doing that, and in fact you're going the other way.
We've lost 18 per cent of jobs from Welsh Government, from the civil service. We've lost 42 per cent of those in Caernarfon. So, there is an imbalance there. I understand that the austerity has meant that there are fewer civil service jobs across—
But the loss in Caernarfon is much larger than the loss across Wales. Those are the facts. So, what are you going to do to try and rebalance that now? Because you've said, 'Yes, we need to intervene to get equality', and obviously the ambition to get a million Welsh speakers does include strengthening the Welsh communities, which are traditionally poor. There is a correlation between poverty and Welsh-speaking communities. So, this is part and parcel of improving quality of lives, but it's also important in striving to get a million Welsh speakers, and the moment I don't see proper signs that that is happening, just a lot of talk.
But I'm happy to address the Caernarfon question. Yes, we've lost jobs across Welsh Government estates, but what we're also doing is investing heavily in those areas of Wales that do feel marginalised or detached from some of the more urban centres—
The Caernarfon-Bontnewydd bypass, to make sure that the community is better connected. The waterfront development—a huge, huge development that we are undertaking in Caernarfon to enhance the community's profile as a destination, a key destination in Wales. The tourism infrastructure support scheme has been investing very heavily indeed in your region, and there's no denying that, without Welsh Government support, infrastructure such as—
But that kind of investment happens across Wales. What I'm talking specifically about is Welsh Government jobs, which is where you can actually show leadership—
If you say that you want to distribute wealth across Wales, great. Do it through something you can actually enforce, through the Welsh Government jobs.
That's why we've moved the development bank out. That's why we're developing that particular infrastructure up in Wrexham. There's Yr Egin in west Wales as well. It's why we're ensuring that communities are better connected, with heavy investment in road and digital infrastructure. All of our investments within business are targeted at addressing some of the shortcomings within local economies, but also to capitalise on their unique selling points and their strengths. There is no denying that Welsh Government funding has led to north-west Wales being recognised as the capital of adventure tourism in the UK. There's no denying this. Without our support, projects such as Zip World, projects such as Surf Snowdonia, would have struggled to get off the ground. We're extending our wealth-creating opportunities by investing in other tourism infrastructure—for example, the waterfront development, and in the castles and the historic environment across north-west Wales. So, looking at one component, which is the Welsh Government office in Caernarfon, I'm afraid does not do justice to the investment that we are pumping into that region, ensuring that the rate of employment, which currently stands at 73.4 per cent, which incidentally is ahead of other communities such as Cardiff, it's ahead of Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, it's ahead of Ceredigion, and it's also ahead of some of the central areas such as Conwy—to ensure that employment rates remain high and go on improving.
Just before you do—I will bring you in, Janet—I think Eluned Morgan had something to add at this stage.
Roeddwn i jest eisiau ychwanegu fy mod i'n meddwl bod y gwaith sydd wedi mynd ymlaen yn Wylfa, er enghraifft, i baratoi ar gyfer Wylfa—mae andros o lot o arian y Llywodraeth wedi mynd i mewn i'r paratoadau eisoes. Ond beth sy'n bwysig yw, os bydd y datblygiad hwnnw yn digwydd, o ran hyfforddiant a sicrhau bod y swyddi yna a fydd efallai yn dod yn swyddi lleol, mae'n rhaid i ni roi yr arian hyfforddiant i mewn fel ein bod ni yn gallu manteisio mewn ardal sydd wedi dioddef oherwydd swyddi sydd wedi eu colli yn yr ardal yna yn y gorffennol. Felly, efallai nad yw'n uniongyrchol, ac rydych wedi clywed am yr holl bethau lle mae'r Llywodraeth eisoes wedi buddsoddi, ond y tu hwnt i hynny beth y gallwn ni ei wneud yw rhoi help i'r sector preifat yn ychwanegol.
I just wanted to add that I think that the work that's ongoing in Wylfa in preparation for Wylfa—a huge amount of Government funding has gone into those preparations already. But what's important is if that development does proceed, then in terms of training and ensuring that those jobs that will come will be local jobs, then we must ensure that that training is available and funding is available for that, so that we can take full advantage in an area that has suffered because of the jobs that have been lost in that area in the past. So, you've heard about all of the things that the Government is already doing and the investments that have been made, but beyond that what we can do is to assist the private sector also.
If I can be cheeky, I might suggest that with regard to public sector jobs in Caernarfon, if you are determined to see more public sector jobs developed and offered in Caernarfon, it might be helpful to get the regional Member for your party to locate his office in Caernarfon as well.
I do endorse that, and I think that you gave some very good answers there. It's a fact, isn't it, that to grow the economy in Wales we have to grow the private sector in Wales, because that's where the jobs actually—. You know, it isn't sustainable to just have an economy that runs purely on the public sector, so I actually do take my hat off to you. The projects you've mentioned—the tourism industry is a huge industry in Wales and we should never look at that negatively. Those jobs are far more sustainable.
Roeddwn i jest eisiau gofyn ynglŷn â—. Fe wnes i gael cyfarfod wythnos yma gyda ColegauCymru, ac roedden nhw'n dweud bod lot o fusnesau lleol yn seilio eu holl waith, neu'r rhan fwyaf o'u gwaith, ar beth sy'n digwydd o fewn y paneli sgiliau rhanbarthol. Roedden nhw'n dweud bod diffyg eithriadol o fewn y paneli hynny i ymwneud â'r iaith Gymraeg. Wedyn, mae busnesau bach yn gweld y paneli sgiliau rhanbarthol, yn gweld y dogfennau, ac yn seilio eu agenda nhw ar hynny. Os nad yw'r iaith Gymraeg yn rhan gynhenid o hynny, mae lot ohonyn nhw jest yn penderfynu peidio â gwneud unrhyw beth. Beth allwch chi ei wneud fel Llywodraeth i ehangu ar waith datblygu o fewn y paneli yma i sicrhau bod yr iaith Gymraeg yn fwy o ganolbwynt fel rhan o'r paneli hynny?
I just wanted to ask about—. I had a meeting this week with ColegauCymru, and they said that a lot of local businesses were basing most of their work on what is happening within the regional skills panels, and they said that there was an extreme insufficiency within those panels in relation to the Welsh language. SMEs will see the skills panels' work and documents and will base their agenda upon that. if the Welsh language isn't in an integral part of that, a lot of them will decide not to do anything. So, what can you do as a Government to broaden the development work within these panels to ensure that the Welsh language has a greater focus as part of those panels' work?
Rwy'n meddwl bod y ffaith fod dwy het gyda fi—un o ran y Gymraeg ac un o ran sgiliau ac addysg bellach—gobeithio yn mynd i helpu i ddod â'r rheini ynghyd. Ond beth fyddwn ni yn gweld yw datblygiad newydd. Rydym wedi rhoi caniatâd nawr i'r Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol wneud lot mwy o waith yn y sector addysg bellach, ac rwy'n meddwl fod hynny yn mynd i fod yn hanfodol o ran symud yr ymgyrch ieithyddol tu fewn i addysg bellach. Mae o wedi cael effaith bositif iawn, rwy'n meddwl, yn y sector addysg uwch, ac felly rwy'n gobeithio gweld hynny. Fe wnes i weld graff yn ddiweddar a oedd yn dangos pryd roedd pobl yn stopio defnyddio'r iaith Gymraeg, a beth oedd yn amlwg oedd bod yna gwymp aruthrol ar ôl i bobl adael ysgol. Felly, mae'r ardal yna o gynyddu y defnydd o'r iaith Gymraeg ym maes addysg bellach fel eu bod nhw yn gallu cario ymlaen gyda'u hyfforddiant nhw drwy gyfrwng yr iaith Gymraeg yn hanfodol.
Rwy'n cymryd eich pwynt chi ynglŷn â'r regional skills partnerships, ond mae pob agwedd ar y Llywodraeth yng Nghymru nawr gyda mandate i gymryd i mewn i ystyriaeth y ffaith bod yn rhaid i ni weithio tuag at y pwynt yma o gyrraedd miliwn o siaradwyr erbyn 2050.
I think the fact that I'm wearing two hats—one in terms of the Welsh language and the other in terms of lifelong learning and skills—hopefully will bring those two things together. But what I do think we will see is new developments. We have now given consent to the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol to do a great deal more work in the FE sector, and I think that is going to be crucial in terms of promoting the language within FE. It has had a very positive impact in the higher education sector, and I do hope to see that developing in FE. I saw a graph recently that demonstrated when people stopped using the Welsh language, and what was apparent was that there was a huge decline once people left school. Therefore, that work of increasing the use of the Welsh language within FE is now included so that they can continue with their training through the medium of Welsh, and that is crucially important.
I do take your point on the regional skills partnerships, but all aspects of Government in Wales now do have a mandate to take into account the fact that we must work towards this target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050.
Okay. Diolch yn fawr. We will move on. The fair work board we touched upon earlier, but I think Mick Antoniw has one or two further questions.
Yes, thank you for that, Chair. You made a few comments about the fair work board and the work it's doing, and also the importance of all the discussions about coming to a definition of what fair work is—I tend to have the view that you know fair work when you see it. The underlying crux of all of this is this: in order to achieve fair work, the two key factors that have undermined and have led to the deterioration in work standards, work payments and terms and conditions have been the diminution of collective bargaining and the non-recognition in practice of trade unions. It seems to me that an absolutely fundamental element is the creation of a duty—in my view, perhaps, preferably a statutory duty, but certainly a duty—in procurement projects of establishing collective bargaining and also of ensuring that there is a genuine opportunity for the role of trade unions within that. What's the Government's view on that?
The First Minister, I believe, wrote to the Wales Trades Union Congress at the end of the year, the end of 2017, and reaffirmed the commitment of the Welsh Government to extending collective bargaining. Within the work of the fair work board is the need to ensure that we can implement the changes that are required in a practical way. I think that some of the challenge is in ensuring that we implement collective bargaining across particularly the small and medium-sized enterprise sector in a way that recognises some of the difficulties that could be faced by employers. But the First Minister has already outlined that we are fully committed to extending collective bargaining. I'm happy to take forward discussions with Mark Drakeford in terms of procurement, for example. It's something that we're looking at right across Government, but the First Minister is absolutely determined that we should remain committed to this policy agenda.
I very much welcome those comments. You accept the concerns that exist that unless it's put on a statutory basis, or there is a clear obligatory duty down this road, in reality it just doesn't happen. We've seen—and you will be aware of it—the concern, for example, over the incinerator plant in north Wales, where the councils have come together but have a contract that, basically, doesn't contain any of the key social objectives—it's a company that doesn't recognise trade unions. There's dismay at the fact that where you have such massive collective procurement, the whole system seems to have broken down.
Yes, I'd agree. I'm fully aware of the concerns of that particular case that you've identified. I know that there's a local partnership board that's been convened in order to look at the challenges there. I think it's also worth reflecting on why fair work is so important, and why what you say is so important, because we have too many people in work who get up in the morning dreading the working day—dreading the working day because they don't feel that they are fully recognised and they don't feel that they're being paid enough or that they're getting a fair day's pay. In order for people to get up in the morning and look forward to the working day, people do need to be better recognised, and they do need to be able to contribute with their skills to the company or to the place of work, or to the public sector or whether it's voluntary as well. They also need to recognise that their remuneration, or the recognition, is fully reflected in terms of the work that they undertake.
It's important that fair work delivers because there is an economic imperative. Fair work contributes to a greater degree of productivity in the workplace, and there is a huge productivity gap between the UK and other western economies that needs to be addressed. That productivity gap will not be narrowed alone by introducing new forms of working practices or by embracing automation; we also need to embrace, and deliver on, the fair work agenda.
Can I just ask a further very short question on that? One of the things we've seen with the Carillion debacle is the issue that happens when you have this continual subcontracting downwards. At rock bottom, after everyone has taken a cut, there's nothing left other than to impinge on the terms and conditions and so on of the workers. So, the whole role of the trade unions and collective bargaining still remains absolutely fundamental within this. I'm just wondering how much further you're thinking of taking the policy in terms of the actual structure of procurement?
This is something that, again, Mark Drakeford and I have had earlier discussions about. It's something that, through implementation and over time—through implementation of the economic contract—we'll be considering. I think it's fair to say that we've already made great strides in terms of supply chains in particular, and the code on ethical practices and ethical employment within the supply chains was a major step in the right direction, but it's a piece of work that is ongoing, it's being considered in Government and it's also being considered by the fair work board, and rightly so.
Yes. I want to go on now to the issue of pay and the voluntary living wage, because you'll be aware that we have real concerns over the confusion that comes into the system over the minimum wage when the UK Government changed the name of it to call it the living wage. And in actual fact it wasn't—it was an enhanced minimum wage, but, of course, it then created confusion over the campaign for the establishment of a real living wage. So, I'd put it within that context. Do you think there's more the Welsh Government could be doing in terms of co-ordinating and campaigning for the establishment of this as a norm, as a culture change, across Wales, and something that obviously fits in to some of these things we were discussing earlier about collective bargaining and procurement and so on?
I think there's always more that can be done in the drive to reach an environment in which all people are paid a decent wage. But we have made great strides. We've introduced the real living wage across Welsh Government. It has been introduced within the NHS in Wales. We've established the common contract for further education, which embraces the real living wage. But I think it is something that can be extended still further, and through the economic contract I do believe that we can make great strides in applying the contract to procurement in particular. In social care, again, we've come a great distance, I think, in a relatively short time. There is still more to be done. The enabling plan for social care will identify the objectives for that particular sector, but we've been able to support local authorities in terms of implementing and introducing the living wage in social care.
I know that other countries have keenly promoted the living wage, but the test of whether it's successful is whether it's actually being embraced and introduced. We're doing it within the public sector in Wales. We're going to be doing it more within the private sector in Wales through the economic contract.
That takes me then on to a further development of that, because it's all very well us promoting our procurement in terms of direct employment, but we know that indirect employment has been predominantly about paying less in terms and conditions and so on. And you can understand the pressures on public services; I don't move away from that. But it does create a dilemma, doesn't it? That is, we have significant chunks of public services that are out of direct employment or direct control by public bodies. The consequence of that is that you don't have the real living wage. I raised the question, do you remember, yesterday in terms even of staff indirectly employed by the Assembly Commission, and leading by example in these areas, and I think that that is very important. But there is a cost issue, and that is that, if we're saying, for example, to local government, 'Your indirect employees—you either bring them in-house or you ensure that they comply with these standards', local government is perfectly entitled and justified in turning round and saying, 'We want to do that, but you've got to provide the funding to do that', and that brings us back into that circle. So, how do you move along that where there is such a cost implication for many of the public services we have?
Well, there are cost implications within public services. We've been able to assist specifically within social care with local authorities, but, equally, I think it's absolutely imperative in recognising that inclusive growth that contributes to higher levels of productivity will narrow the pay gap within organisations as well, and the introduction of the real living wage can do that. It's something that I wish to see across the public sector, and particularly in those organisations and those bodies that Welsh Government supports. The cost of introducing it can, over time, in many cases, be offset or captured in terms of improved productivity. There is a moral as well as an economic argument for embracing the real living wage, and that's why we are rolling out the economic contract and that's why we're considering further extending the economic contract to include procurement and the public sector as a whole.
One of the key objectives, obviously, is going to be, in Government, that the body can flex its muscles within the terms of the devolution settlement. Do you think Welsh Government is now looking at that and is up to flexing its muscles and setting a clear framework that requires the public sector to operate in this higher ethical way?
I think there's a determination to do just that. We've seen it from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, I believe, very clearly. The economic action plan as well points towards that goal. I think, with continued and concerted effort, we will do just that and we will flex our muscles more and strengthen our approach.
And just one very final point—sorry, Chair. Do you think there is something that could be specifically done within that to stop the discrimination against young people that's occurred all of the way down, whether it be minimum wage, real living wage or employment terms and conditions?
Various things can be done to assist young people. We've got a pretty good record here in Wales compared to many parts of the world—a very good record compared to other countries around the globe. Our intervention through Jobs Growth Wales, for example, managed to contain the rise in long-term youth unemployment, which became a massive issue in many English communities between 2010 and 2015. Long-term youth unemployment in some English cities rose by thousands of per cent. Just across the border from me, in Chester, I believe the figure was something like 300 per cent between 2010 and 2015.
Chair, this has been very much focused on you and I'm just wondering what some of the other—
I'd just caution that we have limited time left. If there's anything else that it would be very important to add, please do. Otherwise, we'll need to move on. Okay, Jenny.
Most of the people on low incomes don't have the luxury of a job working in the public sector, unfortunately, and the Wales Centre for Public Policy highlights rising concerns about the gig economy, underemployment and zero-hours contracts. This is the sort of insecure employment that is what is available to most people on low incomes. I wondered what research you've done into whether it's possible to halt it, or how we could halt it, and how it informs the provision of childcare. How are we going to provide childcare when people are not being told more than a few hours before they are due to go to work that they are needed or not needed that day?
The future of work and changing patterns within the workplace, changing cultures within employment I think present many challenges right across all sectors. You've rightly identified childcare as one particular sector. That's why we've included childcare within the foundation sector of care. the enabling plan will recognise those challenges and seek to identify how we can overcome them. A lot of research has been conducted by the Wales centre and by other organisations that demonstrate the opportunities that can be had in limiting the use of zero-hours contracts and other forms of unemployment practices that undermine the security of the employment that many people have. We wish to incorporate within the economic contract a definition of fair work that offers security. I think it's absolutely imperative that people are able to work in a way that gives them security of mind that they're going to have a job tomorrow but also gives them the security of knowing that they have the skills that are required if their job does not exist in the future to be able to transfer over to another form of employment. Is there anything you'd like to say at all, Eluned, on future of work?
I just think there are a few patterns that we need to be aware of in terms of the future of work. One is the ageing population, and there are things, for example, that a manual worker can do when they're 24 that they can't be doing when they're 64. We just need to bear that in mind and we need to be thinking very seriously about in-work training and an understanding that people, in future, may have to change their jobs up to 14 times. So, we're putting a lot of thought into what infrastructure we can provide around that, just to help people to make some decisions about what their future might look like.
The other thing is the growth in self-employment. So, there's the gig economy, which I think we've got to be very aware of and careful about, and, certainly, I've asked to meet with some of the trade unions; I know they've done a lot of work around this. But not all self-employment is bad, and, if you look at the pattern of the direction of travel, just in Wales it's increased about 2 per cent in the past couple of years. So, the direction of travel is something we've got to be aware of. What infrastructure can we provide around actually encouraging people to take up self-employment, which may give them more flexibility around childcare, or whatever? So, we need to constantly be thinking, I think, about how we work around the individual, and some of the things that we'll be bringing forward in the employability action plan are how do we change the system so that we're working around the individual, rather than some kind of group that we think exists. People are individuals. We need to adapt our provision to the individual, and that's what we'll be doing in future.
Okay. But I think, given the limited powers that the Welsh Government has over zero-hours contracts, it's difficult to see how much influence you're going to have on it. I know you've legislated to ensure that domiciliary care workers are given an alternative contract to a zero-hours contract once they've done the job for three months, and that's very welcome, but what powers do you have to extend that right to other sectors?
You're absolutely right—our powers are limited, and that weighed heavily on our minds when we were putting together the economic action plan. But it's also the reason why we were determined to proceed with the new economic contract, because whilst we might not have the powers, we do have considerable resource that can act as the carrot. And if we extend it, as I said earlier, to include procurement, that resource becomes monumentally large. So, whilst we might not be able to legislate, whilst we might not be able to enforce through law, what we can do is use our financial power and our power of persuasion and, I think, over time develop the cultural change that will lead to the sort of objectives that I think we all share.
Okay, but, obviously, there's also the changes in benefits, which are obviously going to reduce further the incomes of people on low incomes. The Resolution Foundation calculates that a single parent will be £1,350 a year worse off under universal credit. So, what conversations have you been having with Jobcentre Plus on how we ensure that people aren't left destitute as a result of the employer ringing up and saying, 'I don't need you this week.'
Realistically, we do not have the resource to be able to mitigate against all of the changes that are going to be coming, but what we can do is we can tackle the causes of poverty, and the primary cause of poverty is not being in work and not being in a household where there's work. That's why the action plan is focused, and it does have quite a hard-edged, I think, focus, on getting all people into well-paid, secure employment or getting them into employment where they are secure in their mind that they've got the skills to be able to get alternative employment if they lose their jobs. We've got to tackle the causes of poverty and not just the consequences.
It will be difficult to mitigate against the effects of change in the welfare system. We're supporting advisory services in offering free impartial advice to individuals. We will go on supporting people in terms of acquiring the skills that are required to get into work. The childcare offer, a hugely ambitious programme, will also remove one of the key barriers preventing a lot of women from entering the workforce. Transport reforms to local bus services and the development of metros will also aim to remove the barrier of affordable, punctual, reliable transport to get people to their places of work. But, at the end of the day, Welsh Government is not in a position to be able to resource all of the changes that are going to be coming down the track.
We'll be coming back to social security later on, but, before we do, we have some questions on the employability plan and in-work progression from Bethan Jenkins.
Fy nghwestiwn cyntaf i yw jest i ffeindio mas pam mae wedi cymryd mor hir i roi'r cynllun cyflogadwyedd yn ei le. Rŷm ni wedi bod yn cymryd tystiolaeth ar y maes yma am sbel nawr, ac mae lot o bobl ddim wedi gallu ateb cwestiynau oherwydd nad ydyn nhw'n gwybod beth sydd yn y cynllun yma, ac rŷm ni wedi cael addewid o weld y cynllun cyn nawr, felly beth yw'r broblem?
My first question is just to try to find out why it's taken so long to put the employability plan in place. We've been taking evidence in this area for quite a while now, and many people have been unable to answer questions because they didn't know what the plan contained, and we had been promised that we would be able to see the plan before now, so what's the problem?
Ar yr employment action plan, ie?
On the employment action plan, yes?
Employability plan, reit. Wel, yn amlwg, rydw i newydd, yn ddiweddar—. Dim ond yn ddiweddar rydw i wedi cymryd y swydd—
It's the employability plan. Right. Well, clearly, I've just recently—. I only accepted the post recently—
Ond nid yw'r swydd yn newydd. I ti, mae'n newydd, ond nid i'r Llywodraeth.
Well, the post isn't new. It's new for you, but not to Government.
Wel, beth sydd yn bwysig—. Cofiwch, roedd y Llywodraeth yn glir iawn bod yna sequencing i fod o ran pryd oedd y pethau yma'n dod, achos maen nhw i gyd i fod i uno gyda'i gilydd. So, roedd e'n bwysig bod yr economic action plan yn dod allan yn gyntaf, fel ein bod ni, wedyn, yn gallu dod ar gefn yr economic action plan, gweld beth oedd y blaenoriaethau yn y fanna, ac ein bod ni, wedyn, yn paratoi ein sgiliau ni fel complement i beth oedd wedi dod allan. Felly, nid oedd e'n bosib i ni ddod mas gydag employability action plan cyn bod yr economic action plan wedi dod allan—ni fyddai hynny wedi gwneud dim synnwyr.
Yes, but what's important—. The Government was very clear that there was some sequencing in terms of when all of these things would be introduced, because they're all supposed to dovetail. So, it was important that the economic action plan came out first, so that we could then look at that and see what the priorities were contained within that, and then we would prepare the skills programme as a complement to that. So, it wasn't possible for us to bring out an employability action plan before the economic action plan was published. It would have made no sense at all.
Ocê. So, nawr eich bod chi yn cael y cynllun yna, sut ydych chi yn siarad gyda'r sector neu gyda phobl yn y maes yma i weld beth sydd yn ddelfrydol i roi yn y cynllun? Rydym ni wedi cael tystiolaeth yn dweud bod yna enghreifftiau o sut y gallai fe edrych—er enghraifft pecyn o hyfforddiant cyn-cyflogaeth, lleoliad gwaith a sicrwydd o gyfweliad am swydd, a'i fod e'n hyblyg i'r unigolyn. Rydw i'n credu taw'r Sefydliad Bevan sydd yn dweud hynny. Sut ydych chi'n mynd ati wedyn i sicrhau y bydd hyn yn gallu gweithio ar lawr gwlad i'r unigolyn?
Okay. Well, now that you have that plan, how are you communicating with the sectors, with the people working in this area, to see what are the ideal things to put into the plan? We're received evidence saying that there are examples of how it could look—for example a pre-employment work package, a work placement and a guaranteed interview, and that it would be flexible for the individual. I think it was the Bevan Foundation that suggested that. How would you then go about ensuring that this can work out on the ground for the individual?
Wel, rŷm ni wedi bod yn cymryd cyngor wrth y bobl sy'n broffesiynol yn y maes yma, yn sicr. Fe wnes i gael cyfarfod gyda'r Bevan Foundation yn gynharach yr wythnos yma. Rydw i wedi bod mewn cysylltiad gyda'r Learning and Work Institute. Rydw i hefyd wedi bod yn cael trafodaethau gyda phobl fel yr Institute for Public Policy Research, ac eraill, sydd wedi gwneud lot o waith yn y maes yma. Felly, rydw i'n meddwl, erbyn hyn, mae lot fawr o waith wedi cael ei wneud yn y maes. Fe fyddwn ni'n edrych, fel rydw i'n dweud, ar sicrhau—. Un o'r pethau rydym ni eisiau ei wneud yw sicrhau ein bod ni'n ymateb i'r hyn mae'r unigolyn ei angen, ac ein bod ni'n gweithredu ein polisïau ni o gwmpas yr unigolyn.
Well, we have been taking advice from professionals in this area. I had a meeting with the Bevan Foundation earlier this week, and I have been in touch with the Learning and Work Institute. I've also had discussions with people such as the Institute for Public Policy Research, and others, who have done a great deal of work in this area. So, I do think that a huge amount of work has been done in the area. We will be looking, as I've said, at ensuring that—. One of the things that we want to do is to ensure that we respond to individuals' needs and that we develop our policies around individuals.
A fydd hwn mas erbyn Chwefror—diwedd Chwefror?
And will this be out by the end of February?
Rŷm ni'n gobeithio y bydd e allan erbyn diwedd Chwefror [cywiriad: Mawrth].
We hope it will be out by the end of February [correction: March].
Ocê, grêt. Fe wnaf i edrych ymlaen at hynny, felly.
Great. Well, I look forward to that.
Y cwestiwn arall sydd gen i yw'r cysoni yma rhwng sgiliau a—wel, yr anghysondeb, actually, rhwng y sgiliau ac wedyn y swyddi sydd ar gael, sydd â sgiliau isel. Roedd yr Athro Caroline Lloyd wedi dweud wrthym—ac rydw i'n dyfynnu:
The other question that I have is about the inconsistency between the skills and the jobs available, which are low-skilled. Professor Caroline Lloyd has told us:
'Over many years, skill levels have been rising, yet the number of poor quality jobs has continued to increase.'
Felly, eich agenda chi yw cael pobl mewn i swyddi â sgiliau uchel, ond os nad yw'r swyddi hynny yn bodoli, sut ydych chi'n mynd i helpu'r unigolion yna i gael swyddi o ansawdd yn eu cymunedau lleol?
So, your agenda is to bring people into high-skilled jobs, but, if those jobs don't exist, how are you going to assist those individuals to receive those good-quality jobs?
Wel, beth rydym ni wedi'i wneud yw cael ymgynghoriad trwy'r regional skills partnerships. Rydw i'n meddwl bod y rhain yn hanfodol, fel ein bod ni'n gwybod beth yw'r anghenion o ran y cyflogwyr. Felly, rydym ni wedi bod yn gwrando ar y cyflogwyr fel ein bod ni yn cael gwell matsh rhwng beth sy'n dod mas o'r colegau a beth mae'r cyflogwyr ei eisiau.
Y gwaith nesaf, nawr, yw sicrhau ein bod ni'n cael trafodaeth—rŷm ni wedi dechrau'r drafodaeth yna—gyda, yn sicr, colegau addysg bellach, a hefyd rŷm ni wedi bod yn cael trafodaethau ar brentisiaethau fel ein bod ni'n sicrhau ein bod ni'n newid y prentisiaethau i fynd gyda'r swyddi hefyd.
Well, what we've done is to have consulation through the regional skills partnerships. I think these are crucial so that we know what the requirements are in terms of the employers. So, we've been listening to the employers so that we do get a better match between what comes out of the colleges and what the employers need.
The next task, now, is to ensure that we have a discussion. We've started that discussion with the FE colleges, and we've also been having discussions on apprenticeships so that we can ensure that we can adapt apprenticeships so that they match the jobs too.
Ond beth sydd yn digwydd yn y cyd-destun lle rydym ni wedi cael tystiolaeth gan bobl ar draws Cymru sydd yn dweud, 'Wel, gan fy mod i jest wedi gadael coleg, mae rhai busnesau sydd ddim eisiau rhoi swydd i mi, am nad oes gen i brofiad yn y gweithle'—sut ydych chi'n mynd i'r afael â sefyllfa fel yna?
But what is happening in the context that we've heard our evidence from people throughout Wales saying, 'Well, just because I've just left college, some of the businesses don't want to give me a job, because I don't have experience in the workplace'—so how do you tackle a situation such as that?
Wel, rŷm ni wedi bod yn cael trafodaeth gyda'r Bevan Foundation. Mae rhai syniadau ymarferol gyda nhw. Rŷm ni'n trio gweithio mas sut y byddai hynny yn digwydd. Er enghraifft, un o'r pethau maen nhw wedi'i gynghori yw ein bod ni'n rhoi guaranteed job interview i bobl. Nawr, efallai y gallem ni ystyried gwneud hynny i raddau, gyda'r pethau lle mae'r control gyda ni, ond byddai'n anodd iawn i ni ofyn hynny o'r sector preifat, rydw i'n meddwl. Felly, mae'n rhaid i ni feddwl am sut y gallem ni fynd ati i edrych ar bethau felly.
Well, we have been having discussions with the Bevan Foundation. They do have some practical ideas. We're trying to work out how that could happen. For example, one of the things that they have advised is that we give a guaranteed job interview to people. Now, we can consider doing that to a certain extent, where we have some control, but it would be very difficult for us to impose that on the private sector. So, we have to think about how we can approach this and look at these issues.
Cwestiwn arall sydd gen i yw ynglŷn â dilyniant—a chwestiwn rydw i wedi'i ofyn droeon yw hwn, oherwydd rydym ni wedi clywed lot am y ffaith bod cynlluniau Llywodraeth, neu gynlluniau Ewrop, yn rhoi swydd i rhywun ond nid oes, wedyn, tracio data i weld os ydyn nhw'n mynd yn ôl at y swydd honno. Mae'n easy win i'r Llywodraeth i ddweud eu bod nhw'n cael gwaith, ond wedyn nid ydym ni'n siŵr beth yw dilyniant hynny. Sut rydych chi'n mynd i wella hynny i sicrhau bod rhywun yn gallu aros yn y swydd a'u bod nhw'n cael y sgiliau i aros yn y swydd, a hefyd sut rydych chi'n mynd i newid sut rydych chi'n cofnodi data i sicrhau nad yw'r data ond yn cofnodi eu bod nhw wedi cael tic, a'u bod nhw wedi cael y swydd honno, ond eu bod nhw'n aros yn y swydd am, er enghraifft, dwy, tair blynedd a bod hynny wedyn yn golygu rhywbeth i'r unigolyn?
Another question that I have is about progression, and it's a question that I've asked many a time, because we have heard a great deal about the fact that Government plans, or European plans, give people work, but then there is no tracking of the data to see whether people return to those jobs. It's an easy win for the Government to be able to say, 'Yes, they've been given work', but then we don't know what the progression is. So, how are you going to improve that to ensure that someone can remain in a post and that they have the skills to stay in that post, and how are you going to change how you record the data to ensure it isn't just a tick-box exercise that someone's got a job, but that they stay in that post for, for example, two to three years, and then that that is meaningful to that individual?
Wel, yn sicr, mae'r rhaglen newydd byddwn ni'n ei chyflwyno, Working Wales—mae honno yn mynd i sicrhau bod yna ddarpariaeth o leiaf am chwech mis ar ôl iddyn nhw fynd mewn i'r gweithlu fel ein bod ni yn gallu cynnig y gefnogaeth yna unwaith mae pobl wedi mynd mewn i'r lle gwaith. Felly, bydd yna ddilyniant; fydd yna ddim taliad i'r asiantaethau yma fydd yn rhoi pobl mewn i'r gweithlu oni bai ein bod ni'n gweld y dilyniant yna'n digwydd. Felly, bydd y monitro hynny yn rhan o'r contract bydd yn dod allan gyda Working Wales.
Well, certainly, the new programme that we're to introduce, Working Wales, will ensure that there is provision for at least six months after they've entered the workforce so that we can provide that support once people have entered the workplace. So, there will be continuity and progression; there won't be payments for these agencies that put people into the workforce unless we can see that there is that progression. So, monitoring that will be part of the contract coming out through Working Wales.
A'r cwestiwn olaf—. A ydych chi eisiau gofyn am y ganolfan menywod?
And the final question—. Did you want me to ask about the women's centres?
Jest cwestiwn olaf ynglŷn â chanolfannau i fenywod. Mae Helen Walbey wedi dweud, yn America, bod ganddyn nhw ganolfannau yn benodol i fenywod sydd yn rhedeg cynlluniau mentora ac sydd yn rhoi sgiliau gwahanol i fenywod. A ydy hynny'n rhywbeth rydych chi wedi considro?
Then just a final question about women's centres. Helen Walbey has said that, in the USA, they have specific centres for women that run mentoring schemes and provide different skills for women. Is that something that you've considered?
Beth yr ydym ni'n ei wneud hyd yn oed yn fwy individualistic na hynny. Nid yw pob menyw yr un peth, felly beth yr ydym ni'n mynd i'w wneud yw i sicrhau bod pob menyw—ein bod ni'n ymateb i bob menyw yn unigol. Felly, efallai bod childcare issues i un yn issue mae'n rhaid i ni ymateb iddyn nhw, a byddwn ni'n gallu rhoi cyngor i bobl ar hynny, er enghraifft, ond efallai bydd rhywun arall gyda issues sy'n ymwneud â thrafnidiaeth a sut i fynd i'r gwaith. A bydd y bobl sydd yn gyfrifol am roi'r pobl yma mewn i'r gweithlu gyda flexibility, sydd ddim gyda nhw ar hyn o bryd, i ymateb i ofynion yr unigolyn. Felly—
It'll be even more individualistic than that. Not all women are the same, so what we're going to do is to ensure that we respond to every woman individually. So, childcare issues may be a problem for one, and an issue that we'll need to respond to, and we'll be able to provide advice on that, but another individual may have issues related to transport and how to access the workplace. Those people responsible for placing these people in the workforce will have the flexibility that they don't currently have to respond to the needs of the individual.
Ond a ydych chi'n meddwl byddai rhyw ganolfan yn benodol i fenywod yn rhoi mwy o ffocws yn hytrach na delio â—? Rydw i'n deall beth rydych chi'n ei ddweud o ran delio â'r unigolyn, ond efallai y byddai canolfan yn rhoi ffocws i fenywod nad yw, efallai, yna ar hyn o bryd.
But what about a specific centre for women? Wouldn't that give greater focus, rather than dealing—? Because I do understand what you're saying about dealing with the individual, but perhaps a centre would lend a focus to women that may not exist at present.
Rydw i'n meddwl beth sy'n bwysig yw ein bod ni'n monitro yn really agos beth sy'n dod allan a sut mae hwn yn mynd i weithio, y gweithredu yma, gyda'r unigolyn. Rydw i'n meddwl un o'r issues bydd cael pobl mewn i sicrhau eu bod nhw'n dod mewn i Working Wales a'u bod nhw'n mynd trwy'r gateway yma. Felly, bydd lot o'r gwaith yna yn cael ei wneud gan fudiadau sy'n gweithredu yn y gymuned. Felly, bydd e rhan o'u swydd nhw, rydw i'n meddwl, i estyn allan i'r menywod yn y cymunedau.
I think what's important is that we monitor very carefully what's emerging and how this is going to work in terms of this individually-focused approach. I think one of the issues will be to ensure that they come in to Working Wales and enter through this gateway. A lot of that work will be done by organisations working within communities. So, part of their function will be to reach out to women in our communities.
Yes. Just on that point, we're working closely with Chwarae Teg and the work that's come out of the Agile Nation project and the best practice and the evidence we found in what really helps women to get into work and to be able to sustain those jobs will be really helpful. That's helped us inform some of the implementation of Working Wales, that we want to be open to that. So, I think building on that best practice—and just to add, on the tracking of data, that's something we've really tried to take account of in the new Working Wales programme. It's not fully moving to an outcome-based approach, but there is some payment on outcomes. So, it's not just about that tick box we want to avoid, it's, 'What are the jobs? Are they sustainable? And, six months after, are they still in those jobs?' And to really focus on those outcomes is what it's done, and, through that individualised approach that the Minister's outlined—that's what we want to do with the new Working Wales programme.
I think it's probably a lot easier to track certain groups than others. Young people up to a certain age are easier to track—
We have the data, yes.
We've got the data. But other age groups are far more difficult, for obvious reasons.
But we're trying to get things in place now so we can monitor, and, as you say, if we're not doing that and we're not opening opportunities for women or other protected groups then at least we have that data and we can take action.
I think we've had good tracking of apprenticeships and Jobs Growth Wales placements as well. I think they're two interventions where progression rates are very high indeed. In apprenticeships, I believe the figure is still in excess of positive progression of over 80 per cent.
And with Jobs Growth Wales it was consistently above 70 per cent, and I think it increased still further towards the back end of 2016 and through into 2017.
And I think it's just the focus on those sustainable jobs, that it keeps going, and six months after we contract, that is the key focus of the new programme.
Okay, thanks for that. We've just got about five minutes left, I'm afraid. Before we move on, to return to social security briefly, I was just going to ask the Minister whether there's been any consideration of an in-work progression service, as recommended by the Learning and Work Institute.
This is certainly something we've been discussing with the Bevan Foundation. I think we've got to be clear that, actually, there is a responsibility on employers to do a lot of this. The state can't pick up the tab constantly. Actually, the responsibility is on them. Part of the contract that the Cabinet Secretary will introduce will go towards that, so we are expecting them to deliver on that. But what we can do, and what we are doing, is, for example, investing in equipment in further education colleges. So, for example, I went to visit a college last week in Carmarthenshire where they've got a lot of automation kit, and local companies are coming in in the evenings to train their workforce—the college is training their workforce. Individual companies can't invest in that kit, but that's where we as a Government can make a difference. So, that's an example of where I think we can and should be stepping in.
Gan ddychwelyd at y maes a'r credyd cynhwysol yn benodol, mi gawsom ni dystiolaeth gan Dr Sharon Wright o Brifysgol Glasgow ac yr oedd hi'n dadlau y dylai'r Cynulliad a'r Llywodraeth fod yn lobïo Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig i gael mwy o bwerau dros les er mwyn cyrraedd cydraddoldeb efo beth sy'n digwydd yn yr Alban, a hynny er mwyn creu diwylliant gwell o ran y ffordd yr ydym ni yn gweinyddu'r gyfundrefn gredyd cynhwysol ac elfennau eraill o'r system lles. Hyd yn hyn, nid yw Llywodraeth Cymru i'w gweld yn barod i ddechrau meddwl am hyn. A ydych chi wedi rhoi ystyriaeth iddo fo ac, os ydych chi wedi rhoi ystyriaeth iddo fo, a fyddech chi'n fodlon rhannu mewn adroddiad pam yn union nad ydych am fynd ar ôl y llwybr hwn?
Yes, returning to this area and to universal credit specifically, we did receive evidence from Dr Sharon Wright from Glasgow University who argued that the Assembly and the Government should be lobbying the UK Government in order to gain further powers over welfare in order to reach parity with what is happening in Scotland, and this would then create a better culture in terms of the way that we administer the universal credit system and other elements of the welfare system. Thus far, the Welsh Government does not appear to be ready to be thinking about this, but have you given consideration to it and, if so, would you be willing to share in a report why precisely you don't want to take this path?
Well, I think it's a matter of principle, of social solidarity, that we should all be entitled to an equal claim to our welfare state. The needs of citizens right across the UK, wherever they live, should be equally met, in my view. I think we should be mindful as well of what happened when the Government devolved housing benefit to Wales: it top-sliced the budget. I'd be very concerned about devolving this particular area of responsibility given that the risk would then transfer to the Welsh taxpayer. Whilst I recognise the Scottish position, as a matter of principle and as a matter of concern over the risk and the costs that could be incurred in devolving and administrating it ourselves, I do not believe it's in the interests of the Welsh people.
There would be initial set-up costs that could amount to hundreds of millions of pounds. I think, in Scotland, it was £200 million, and ongoing administrative costs in Scotland of £66 million. But, again, I'd be very, very cautious of wishing for this responsibility, given the track record of the UK Government in this area and, crucially, given the principle, I think, that should be maintained that, no matter where you live in the UK, you should have an equal ask of the welfare state.
I just want to put it on the record, though, that the fiscal framework has been devolved to Scotland along with the powers, and so I just get confused as to why you would want to leave the powers in the hands of the Conservatives and bemoan it so much, when you could actually have power, especially for some elements of the benefit system, here in Wales. And as we've had evidence to say, culturally different attitude then arises from the Scottish Government to the Conservative Government in Westminster because of the fact that they have those levers within their control. Would you not want that as a Minister?
There are principles and there are practical implications to proceeding in the way that you would suggest. And also, the border in many parts of Wales is incredibly porous. As a consequence, I do not believe that having different systems operating on a very porous border would be to the benefit of communities on either side of the border. I do go back to that point of being mindful of recent history of when housing benefit was devolved and what the UK Government did. I would prefer to see a change of Government at the UK level—one that recognises social solidarity and the need for a safety net and the need for a strong welfare state.
It is a very brief point. In families eligible for universal credit, have you had any correspondence with the UK Government on the importance of women being the default recipients of universal credit? In low-income households it's likely to be the woman who's earning less than the man, and they tend to be the main carers and the main provider of the food on the table.
I think this is something that the Minister, in a different department—the responsible Minister—would be better placed to answer. I'll check with Rebecca Evans. I'll also check with Mark Drakeford.
Okay. Thank you very much, Cabinet Secretary, Minister and your officials.
At this stage, could I acknowledge the presence of Llamau staff and service users in the public gallery today, and thank them very much for their help to the committee in terms of this inquiry? Because their participation in focus groups helped to inform our scrutiny today, and indeed will help inform the report that the committee eventually produces. So, thank you very much indeed, and it's good to see you here today.
Okay. Cabinet Secretary and Minister, you will be sent a transcript of your evidence to check for factual accuracy in the usual way. Diolch yn fawr.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 4, 8, 9 a 10 y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 4, 8, 9 and 10 of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Okay, the next item for the committee today is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public in terms of items 4, 8, 9 and 10 of this meeting today. Is the committee content so to do? Okay. Thank you very much. We will move into private session.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:47.
The public part of the meeting ended at 10:47.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 11:02.
The committee reconvened in public at 11:02.
Welcome back, everyone, to this meeting of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee. We move on to item 5, which is our evidence session 11 with regard to the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill. I'm very pleased to say that today we will be scrutinising the Member in charge, Simon Thomas, initially, now, with regard to financial matters, and later with regard to general scrutiny. Welcome, Simon, back to committee with regard to the Bill, and also to Gareth Howells, Legal Services with the Assembly Commission, and Joanne McCarthy, Research Service with the Assembly Commission.
If you're content, Simon, perhaps we might move straight into questions.
We have quite a lot to get through and not a great deal of time. Perhaps I might begin by asking a question in terms of the justification for the additional costs of the Bill. Perhaps some of you might set out the reasons why you believe the additional costs from this Bill are justified in terms of improving the work and salience of the ombudsman, and also improving the capability of public services to respond to complaints and respond to the needs of the people of Wales.
Diolch yn fawr, Gadeirydd, a bore da, bawb. Rwy’n falch iawn i ddod nôl i adrodd eto ar y Bil. Ni wnaf ailadrodd popeth sydd yn y Bil, wrth gwrs, ond fe fyddwch chi’n cofio bod yna bedwar grym newydd yn cael eu rhoi i’r ombwdsmon gwasanaethau cyhoeddus yn y Bil hwn.
Pwrpas sydd yn bwysig, mae’n debyg, achos gyda phwrpas mae’r dyraniad arian yn dod. Pwrpas hynny yw gwella mynediad at gyfiawnder ar gyfer dinasyddion, i fod yn fwy ymatebol i ddinasyddion yng Nghymru, i fod yn fwy cyfiawn yn y ffordd mae gwasanaethau’r ombwdsmon yn gweithio, ac yn benodol, wrth gwrs, i fynd i’r afael â’r dinasyddion yng Nghymru sydd fwyaf bregus, neu sydd â mwy o angen am gefnogaeth i fynd at wasanaethau a chefnogaeth gan yr ombwdsmon. Wrth gwrs, yn gyffredinol hefyd, mae’r Bil yn adlewyrchu’r amcanion o dan Ddeddf Llesiant Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol (Cymru) 2015 yn gyffredinol, rwy’n teimlo. Felly, dyna’r cyfiawnhad polisi dros y dosraniad arian sydd ynghlwm wrth y Bil wedyn, ac rydw i o’r farn, ac ar ran y Pwyllgor Cyllid, rydym ni o’r farn, fod y costau a fydd yn deillio o’r Bil hwn yn fuddiol i wasanaethau cyhoeddus yng Nghymru, ac yn dod â lles i ddinasyddion unigol yng Nghymru. Felly, ar sail hynny, rydym ni’n meddwl bod y Bil yn werth ei gefnogi.
Thank you, Chair, and a very good morning to you all. I'm very pleased to return to discuss the Bill again. I won't rehearse everything in the Bill, of course, but you will recall that there are four new powers given to the public services ombudsman through this Bill.
It's the purpose that's important, I suppose, because that's where the financial allocation comes. The purpose of that is to improve access to justice for citizens, to be more responsive to citizens in Wales, to be more just in the way that the ombudsman's services work, and specifically, of course, to deal with the most vulnerable citizens in Wales and those who most need the support and services of the ombudsman. Generally speaking, of course, the Bill also reflects the objectives under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 in general terms, I feel. So, that's the policy justification for the financial allocations attached to the Bill, and I'm of the view, and the Finance Committee is of the view, that the costs emerging from this Bill will be beneficial to public services in Wales, and will improve well-being for citizens in Wales. It's on that basis that we believe that the Bill is worth supporting.
Could you be more specific at all, Simon, in terms of the work and the salience of the work of the ombudsman and how that would—you know, what key differences we would see?
Rwy'n credu beth rŷch chi'n edrych arno fan hyn yw beth yw pwrpas yr ombwdsmon yn ei hunan. Wrth gwrs, nid yw'r Bil presennol yn newid yn sylfaenol beth oedd pwrpas sefydlu swyddfa'r ombwdsmon gwasanaethau cyhoeddus yn y lle cyntaf. Mae yna ddau brif ben i hynny, byddwn i'n tybio. Yn gyntaf oll, i ymateb i anghenion dinasyddion, so pan fo rhywun wedi cael trafferth gyda gwasanaethau cyhoeddus yng Nghymru, neu pan fyddan nhw wedi cael cam mewn rhyw ffordd neu’i gilydd, mae yna ffordd o unioni’r cam hwnnw ac mae gyda chi’r ombwdsmon sydd yn sicrhau, os nad yw’r dulliau eraill y tu fewn i’r cyrff cyhoeddus yn gweithio, bod cyfiawnder yn cael ei wneud i’r person hwnnw.
Ond, yr ail ran—a dyma lle, efallai, os nad yw’r cyntaf yn cyfiawnhau’r gwariant, mae’r ail ran yn cyfiawnhau'r gwariant—yw eich bod chi’n arwain at wella yng ngwasanaethau cyhoeddus drwy’r broses o ymdrin â chwynion, drwy’r broses o ymdrin â phroblemau y tu fewn i’r gwasanaethau hynny, a thrwy ateb gofynion yr unigolion. Rydw i'n meddwl eich bod chi, fel pwyllgor, wedi cael tystiolaeth gan y sector iechyd. Rydw i wedi gweld tystiolaeth i chi sydd yn sôn yn benodol bod cwynion yn ffordd o wella gwasanaethau. A dweud y gwir, rydych chi wedi cael tystiolaeth yn dweud, 'Rydym ni’n hapus i dderbyn cwynion, yn gyffredinol, achos dyna'r dull a'r arf rydym ni’n defnyddio i wella’n gwasanaethau i ddinasyddion yng Nghymru'. Felly, mae’n rhaid i chi gofio, cyn mynd mewn i rai o'r manylion gwariant yn y Bil, mai dyna prif bwrpas y Bil, a dyna'r prif bwrpas felly a'r cyfiawnhad dros y gwariant a fydd yn deillio o’r Bil.
I think what you're looking at here is the purpose of the ombudsman. Of course, the current Bill doesn't fundamentally change the purpose of the office of the public services ombudsman. There are two main focuses to that purpose, I would say. First of all, to respond to the needs of citizens, so, when an individual has experienced difficulty with a public service in Wales, or when they believe that they've been mistreated in some way, there's a way of dealing with that and you have an ombudsman who can ensure that, if there are no other methods available within the public service, justice is provided for that individual.
The second part—and this is where, perhaps, if the first part doesn't justify the expenditure, then the second does—is that you do bring about an improvement in public services through a process of dealing with complaints and dealing with problems within public services by meeting the needs of individuals. I think that you, as a committee, have received evidence from the health sector. I've seen evidence that you've received that says complaints are a means of improving services. Indeed, you've had evidence saying that bodies are happy to receive complaints, because that is the tool used to improve services for citizens in Wales. So, you must bear in mind, before going into some of the detail of expenditure in the Bill, that that's the main purpose of the Bill, and that's the main justification for the expenditure emerging from the Bill.
Okay. Simon, in terms of the figures in the regulatory impact assessment, I wonder whether you could tell committee to what extent you are confident that the concerns that the Cabinet Secretary had that there may, in fact, be more cost than is envisaged and that that would then move resource away from the delivery of front-line services—how confident are you, in terms of the figures in the RIA, that those concerns are not well founded?
Rydym ni'n hyderus. Ond, wrth gwrs, rydym ni wedi treulio amser yn edrych ar y dystiolaeth rŷch chi wedi ei derbyn fel pwyllgor. Rydw i wedi gweld eich bod chi wedi cael ymgynghorydd arbenigol hefyd i roi adroddiad i chi, ac rydw i’n croesawu hynny’n fawr iawn. Mae hwnnw’n arfer da. Gan wisgo’r het Pwyllgor Cyllid, mae’n arfer da y byddai’r Pwyllgor Cyllid yn annog i bwyllgorau ei wneud pan fo’n briodol. Felly, da iawn chi am wneud hynny.
Rydw i’n derbyn bod yn rhaid i ni gael y cydbwysedd yn iawn fan hyn rhwng y gwario ar swyddfa’r ombwdsmon gwasanaethau cyhoeddus—ac, wrth gwrs, mae pob ceiniog sy’n cael ei rhoi at unrhyw bwrpas arall ond pwrpas y gwasanaethau front line, fel petai, yn geiniog sy’n cael ei cholli yn yr ystyr yna. Ond, wrth gwrs, fe fedrwch chi fynd â’r ddadl yna i ryw fath o bwynt absẃrd, hefyd, lle rydych chi’n gwario pob ceiniog ar y gwasanaeth iechyd a dim ar unrhyw wasanaethau cefnogol eraill.
So, rwy’n dod nôl at y pwynt o le mae'r cydbwysedd yn briodol er mwyn sicrhau bod unrhyw un sy’n ymwneud â gwasanaethau cyhoeddus yng Nghymru nid yn unig yn cael y gwasanaeth sydd yn ddyledus iddyn nhw o ran y gwasanaethau rheng flaen, ond hefyd yn cael gwasanaethau cefnogol os oes rhywbeth yn mynd o'i le. Rŷm ni i gyd, fel Aelodau Cynulliad, yn gwybod fod pethau’n mynd o’i le o fewn gwasanaethau cyhoeddus—yn y maes iechyd, addysg, gofal ac ati. Rŷm ni i gyd wedi delio â’r cwynion hynny.
Mewn byd perffaith, wrth gwrs, ni fyddai unrhyw broblem o fewn gwasanaethau cyhoeddus, fe fydden nhw i gyd yn gweithio fel watsh, ond nid ydyn nhw. Felly, mae'n rhaid i ni sicrhau bod yna ryw fath o gefnogaeth i ddinasyddion pan fo pethau'n mynd o'i le. Wrth gwrs, mae'n rhaid i wariant fod yn briodol ac yn gymesur ac yn sicrhau'r cydbwysedd iawn, ond rydw i'n credu mai pwrpas y Bil yma yw sicrhau cydraddoldeb, sicrhau bod neb yn cael eu hamddifadu o wasanaethau cyhoeddus da oherwydd nad oes ganddyn nhw'r gallu i gwyno ei hunain, fel petai, a bod ganddyn nhw fynediad at rywun annibynnol i sicrhau hynny.
Jest i ddweud hefyd pam ein bod ni, fel Pwyllgor Cyllid, yn gyffredinol hyderus yn y ffigurau—ac rydym ni'n agored iawn i edrych ar wahanol senarios sydd wedi cael eu disgrifio yn y pwyllgor, wrth gwrs, ac adroddiad eich arbenigwr chi hefyd. Ond mae'r ffigurau'n seiliedig ar brofiad y swyddfa ar hyn o bryd, y gost bresennol o ddelio â chwynion, y gost o ddelio â chyrff eraill, a'r costau y mae'r cyrff eraill yn ymwneud â nhw. Wrth wneud yr RIA yma, fe wnaethom ni ofyn i'r ombwdsmon yn benodol i gysylltu â'r awdurdodau lleol ac i gysylltu â'r cyrff iechyd i sicrhau bod y costau sy'n cael eu hadlewyrchu yn yr asesiad yn gostau sy'n deg ac, yn sicr, yn ein barn ni, yn gyffredinol yn adlewyrchu'r gwir gost. Felly, mater o farn yw e wedyn a ydy'r gwario ar wasanaethau'r ombwdsmon yn gymesur, neu a ddylid gwario yr arian i gyd ar wasanaethau rheng flaen. Ond, wrth gwrs, os gwnewch chi hynny, ni fydd gyda chi'r gefnogaeth i bobl sy'n cael eu heffeithio gan wasanaethau gwael yn y pen draw.
We are confident. But, of course, we've spent some time looking at the evidence that you, as a committee, have gathered. I see that you had an expert adviser to provide you with a report, and I welcome that. That is certainly good practice. Wearing my Finance Committee hat, I would encourage other committees to do as you have done, where appropriate. So, I congratulate you on that.
I do accept that we need to strike the right balance here between the expenditure on the public services ombudsman's office—and any penny given to anything other than front-line public services is a penny lost, as it were. But you can take that argument to an absurd point, where you spend everything on the health service and nothing on other, supportive services.
So, I come back to the point of where's the appropriate balance in ensuring that anyone involved in public services in Wales not only receives the service that they should expect in terms of front-line services, but also gets those support services if something should go wrong. We all, as Assembly Members, know that things do go wrong in public services from time to time—in health, education, care and so on. We've all dealt with those complaints.
In an ideal world, there would be no problems at all in public services, everything would run superbly, but that's not the case. We must ensure that there is some sort of support available for citizens when things are remiss. Of course, expenditure must be appropriate and proportionate and must secure the right balance, but I do think that the purpose of this Bill is to ensure equality, to ensure that nobody is deprived of quality public services because they don't have the ability to complain themselves, and that they should have access to an independent advocate to secure that.
Just to say why we, as the Finance Committee, are generally confident in the figures—and we are very open to looking at the different scenarios that have been described in the committee, of course, and your expert adviser's report too. But the figures are based on the experiences of the office at present, the current costs of dealing with complaints, the costs of dealing with other organisations, and the costs of other organisations. In carrying out this RIA, we asked the ombudsman specifically to contact the local authorities and to contact the health bodies in order to ensure that the costs in the RIA are costs that are fair and, generally speaking, in our view, reflect the real cost. So, it's a matter of opinion then whether the expenditure on the ombudsman's services is proportionate, or should we be spending all the money on front-line services. But if you do that then you won't have that support for people who are affected by poor services.
Rydw i eisiau jest edrych tipyn bach yn fwy manwl ar allu'r ombwdsmon i ysgwyddo'r pwerau ychwanegol tra hefyd yn gorfod ymateb i bwysau ariannol mwy eang. Rydych chi wedi sôn am y cyngor arbenigol rydym ni wedi ei gael. Wel, mae'r cynghorydd arbenigol wedi awgrymu bod yna risg gwirioneddol y bydd costau'r Bil yn fwy na'r hyn sy'n cael ei ragweld yn y ddogfennaeth, a bod hynny oherwydd bod yr amcangyfrif o gwynion llafar yn yr asesiad effaith rheoleiddiol yn rhy isel. Pa mor hyderus ydych chi y bydd yr ombwdsmon yn gallu cyflawni'r arbedion?
I just want to look in greater detail at the ability of the ombudsman to shoulder these additional powers whilst also having to respond to broader financial pressures. You have talked about the expert advice that we have received. Well, the expert adviser has suggested that there is a real risk that the costs of the Bill will be greater than predicted in the documentation, and that that would be because the estimation of the oral complaints in the regulatory impact assessment is too low. How confident are you that the ombudsman will be able to achieve those savings?
Diolch am hynny. I fod yn glir ar y dechrau, fel y dywedais, byddwn i'n croesawu'r ffaith fod adroddiad annibynnol wedi cael ei gomisiynu. Ond, yn ymarferol, dim ond ar fore dydd Mawrth y derbyniais hwnnw. Rwyf wedi mynd trwyddo fe, wrth gwrs, ond nid ydym ni mewn sefyllfa i ymateb yn benodol i bob peth. Fe fyddwn ni'n edrych ymlaen at weld pa bwysau rydych chi fel pwyllgor yn eu rhoi ar yr adroddiad yna, ac ym mha ffordd mae'r Pwyllgor Cyllid yn gallu cymhwyso'r argymhellion. Rwyf i wedi gweld hynny yn yr adroddiad, wrth gwrs.
Rydw i'n credu fy mod i eisiau pwysleisio, yn yr asesiad rydym ni wedi ei wneud fel Pwyllgor Cyllid, rydym ni wedi edrych ar beth rydym ni'n teimlo sy'n deillio fel cwynion ar lafar ychwanegol—gwir ychwanegol i'r broses bresennol. Rydw i'n tanlinellu hynny yn yr ystyr bod gan yr ombwdsmon presennol y disgresiwn i ddelio â chwynion llafar. Felly, nid yw'n wir i ddweud ein bod ni'n mynd o system lle nad oes cwynion llafar yn cael eu delio â hwy i system lle, yn sydyn iawn, mae'r llifddorau'n agor, os liciwch chi.
Mae'n broses. Rydym ni jest yn gwneud pethau'n fwy cyfiawn ac yn fwy agored i bobl sydd ddim yn medru ar sgiliau llythrennedd yn benodol i wneud y cwynion hynny. Rydym ni hefyd, wrth gwrs, yn paratoi at y posibiliadau yn y dyfodol y bydd dulliau eraill o ymgysylltu â'r ombwdsmon. Rydym ni'n sôn yn benodol fan hyn am ysgrifennu ac ar lafar, ond fe allwch chi ddychmygu ap yn cael ei ddatblygu sy'n eich galluogi chi i gysylltu â'r ombwdsmon, er enghraifft. Mae'n rhaid bod yn agored i ddatblygiadau.
Felly, rydym ni wedi ffocysu ar beth sydd wir yn debyg o fod yn ychwanegol yn y maes yma. Rydw i'n derbyn bod yr arbenigwr rydych chi wedi ei gomisiynu wedi awgrymu y gallai fod yn fwy. Rydw i eisiau cael amser i ystyried hynny. Nid ydw i'n meddwl bod tystiolaeth, serch hynny, yn ei adroddiad. Beth mae'n dweud yw bod yna bosibilrwydd, bod yna rychwant, os leiciwch chi, ystod o bosibiliadau fan hyn. Byddem ni eisiau delio â hynny'n briodol, wrth gwrs. Ond, o ran y dystiolaeth gyffredinol rydych chi wedi ei derbyn fel pwyllgor, nid ydym ni'n teimlo ein bod ni'n bell ohoni yn y ffordd rydym ni wedi mynd ati.
Thank you for that. Just to be clear at the outset, as I said, we welcome the fact that an independent report was commissioned. But I only received that on Tuesday morning. I have read it, of course, but we are not in a position to respond specifically to every point made there. We will look forward to see what weight you as a committee give to that report, and in what way the Finance Committee can apply those recommendations. I have seen the comments that you refer to in your report.
I do think that I need to emphasise that, in our assessment as a Finance Committee, we have looked at what we believe would emerge as truly additional oral complaints—and that's additional to the current process. I highlight that in the sense that the current ombudsman does have the discretion to deal with oral complaints. So, it's not true to say that we are going from a system where there are no oral complaints dealt with to a system where, all of a sudden, the flood gates open.
It is a process. We're just making things more just and open for people who don't have literacy skills to make those complaints. We're also, of course, preparing for possibilities that in future there may be other means of engaging with the ombudsman. We are talking specifically here about oral and written complaints, but you can imagine an app being developed that would enable you to contact the ombudsman, for example. We have to be futureproofed in that regard.
So, we've focused on what's truly likely to be additional in this area. I accept that your expert adviser has suggested that the oral complaints may have been underestimated. I want time to consider that. I don't think there is evidence provided in the report, however. What he says is that there is a possibility, that there is a range of possibilities here. We would want to deal with that appropriately, of course. But, given the general evidence that you've received as a committee, we don't feel that we're too far from the mark.
Rydych chi wedi dweud bod angen i'r ombwdsmon weithio'n galetach i leihau ei gostau uned, ond mae'r costau uned wedi gostwng 65 y cant yn barod. Felly, mae'n mynd i fod yn heriol i ddod â fo lawr yn is eto.
You have said that there is a need for the ombudsman to work harder to reduce his unit costs, but the unit costs have reduced 65 per cent already. So, it is going to be challenging to bring the sum down even lower.
Ydy, mae yn heriol. Ond mae'n rhywbeth mae'r ombwdsmon ei hunan yn adrodd i ni bob blwyddyn yn ei gyllideb. Mae e wedi bod yn gyson. Mae e wedi gostwng costau'r uned yn gyson. Mae'n deillio o sawl peth, wrth gwrs: arfer da, datblygu gweithdrefnau effeithiol yn y swyddfa—mae technoleg yn helpu yn hynny o beth. Rydym ni, fel Pwyllgor Cyllid, wedi caniatáu i'r ombwdsmon fuddsoddi mewn technoleg gwybodaeth a data er mwyn hwyluso'r broses yma. So, rydym ni yn ymateb, fel Pwyllgor Cyllid, i anghenion buddsoddi swyddfa'r ombwdsmon. Yn y bôn, mae'n rhaid i'r ombwdsman reoli—mae cyfrifoldeb proffesiynol a gweinyddol arno i reoli'r ffordd mae'n deilio â rhychwant—. Byddwn i eisiau pwysleisio hefyd fod rhan fwyaf o waith yr ombwdsman yn ymholiadau cyn eu bod nhw'n troi'n gwynion hyd yn oed. Felly, rydych chi dim ond yn sôn am gwynion fan hyn, ond mae yna rychwant o waith mae'n gwneud sy'n ymwneud â'r cyhoedd ac, at ei gilydd, pwrpas y peth, wrth gwrs, yw codi safon gwasanaethau cyhoeddus yn y pen draw.
Challenging, yes. But it's something that the ombudsman reports to us on annually in his budget. It has been consistent. The unit costs have reduced consistently. That emerges from a number of different things: good practice, developing effective procedures within the office—technology assists in that regard. We, as a Finance Committee, have allowed the ombudsman to invest in information technology and data to facilitate this process. So, we, as a Finance Committee, are responding to the investment needs of the ombudsman. Essentially, the ombudsman must manage—it's a professional and administrative responsibility for him to manage the way in which he deals with a range—. I would like to emphasise that most of the work of the ombudsman is inquiries before they become complaints. So, you're only talking about complaints here, but there is a range of work that the ombudsman does in relation to the public that, altogether, leads to an improvement in the quality of public services ultimately.
Jest nawr, i fynd nôl i'r cwestiwn o ar lafar, roeddech chi'n ei ddweud—. Rwy'n deall nad ydych chi wedi cael lot o amser i ddehongli'r hyn sydd wedi cael ei roi gan yr arbenigwr, ond fe wnes i eich clywed chi'n dweud nad oedd yna dystiolaeth efallai i gefnogi hynny. Ond, yn yr adroddiad, mae'n sôn am yr hyn sydd wedi digwydd yn Ontario, lle mae 43 y cant o bobl yn cysylltu dros y teleffon, ac mae’n sôn am yr Alban, lle mae 72 y cant wedi cwyno o ran y social welfare fund. A ydych chi'n anghytuno felly bod hynny'n ddigonol o ran tystiolaeth? Achos mae'n bwysig i ni ddeall, os nad ydych chi'n credu bod hynny'n ddigonol o ran tystiolaeth i gyfiawnhau ei ddadl, beth fyddech chi'n penderfynu fydd yn dystiolaeth fwy cadarnhaol na hynny.
Just on this, to return to the question of oral complaints, you said—. I understand you haven't had much time to interpret what has been put forward by the expert adviser, but I heard you say that there was no evidence to support that. But, in the report, it does talk about what has happened in Ontario, where 43 per cent of people contact by telephone, and it also referred to Scotland, where 72 per cent of complaints were about the social welfare fund. Do you disagree that that is sufficient in terms of evidence? Because it's important for us to understand, if you don't think that that is sufficient as evidence to justify his argument, what you would see as being stronger evidence in that regard.
Fe fyddwn i'n eich annog chi i beidio â chael eich camarwain gan yr enghraifft yn yr Alban. Mae honno'n gronfa benodol yn ymwneud â lles sydd ddim yn cael ei gwneud yng Nghymru, ac felly'n gamarweiniol mewn gwirionedd achos nid yw Ombwdsman Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus Cymru yn gwneud dim byd tebyg i hynny. Byddech chi'n disgwyl i wasanaethau penodol sydd wedi'u sefydlu o gwmpas lles—mae datganoli lles, mae mwy ohono wedi digwydd yn yr Alban; nid oes yn rhaid i mi ddweud wrth Bethan Jenkins am hynny—. Byddech chi'n disgwyl i wasanaethau o'r fath ddibynnu llawer mwy ar gysylltiadau ar lafar na fyddai gwasanaeth cenedlaethol ar draws rychwant o wasanaethau. Felly, rhywbeth penodol iawn ym maes lles yw hynny. Felly, nid ydw i'n meddwl fod y dystiolaeth yna yn berthnasol i hyn. Mae'n rhaid i mi bwysleisio hynny. Nid ydw i'n dweud na ddylech chi edrych ar bethau felly, ond rydw i o'r farn nad yw'r dystiolaeth benodol yna yn berthnasol i'r swydd yma.
Wrth gwrs, mae'n bosibl rhagweld y byddai symud tuag at system fydd yn fwy agored i ddelio â chwynion ar lafar yn arwain at gynnydd mewn cwynion ar lafar, ond, yn yr un ffordd, mae'n golygu, dros y maes i gyd, gostyngiad wedyn yn y cwynion sy'n cael eu derbyn yn ysgrifenedig. Rwyf ond yn gallu troi atoch chi fel Aelodau Cynulliad a gofyn i chi faint o lythyrau rydych chi'n eu cael mewn llawysgrifen a faint rydych chi'n cael fel e-byst. Rydw i’n ddigon hen i gofio pan oedd hynny wyneb i wared, pan oeddech chi'n cael llwyth o lythyrau ac ychydig o e-byst—i fynd nôl 20 mlynedd. Erbyn hyn, mae hi wedi'i gwyrdroi. Ond nid yw cyfanswm y gwaith wedi newid yn sylweddol iawn. Dyna beth rwy'n trio pwysleisio fan hyn. Efallai fod y dull o gysylltu â'r ombwdsman yn mynd i newid, ac mae yna ychydig yn fwy o gostau—jest i fod yn glir, mae yna ychydig yn fwy o gostau yn ymwneud â chwynion ar lafar achos mae'n rhaid ichi ddelio â phobl sydd efallai mewn stad emosiynol ac ati ac mae'n rhaid i chi ddelio â nhw.
I would encourage you not to be misled by the Scottish example. That's a specific fund related to welfare that isn't dealt with in Wales, and is misleading, if truth be told, because the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales doesn't do anything of that kind. You would expect a specific service established around welfare—and there has been greater devolution of welfare in Scotland; I don't need to explain that to Bethan Jenkins—. You would you expect such a service to rely far more on oral communications than you would a national service across a range of services. So, that's very specifically related to welfare. So, I don't think that that evidence is relevant here. I need to emphasise that. I'm not saying that you shouldn't look at such examples, but I am of the view that that specific evidence isn't relevant in this case.
Of course, one could anticipate that a move towards a system that is more open to dealing with oral complaints would lead to an increase in oral complaints, but, in the same way, across the whole range of activity, it would lead to a reduction in the written complaints received. I can only turn to you as Assembly Members and ask you how many letters you receive that are handwritten and how many you receive by e-mail. I'm old enough to remember the time when you'd get a whole host of letters and very few e-mails—that's going back 20 years. But that's been overturned now. But the totality of the work hasn't changed to any great degree. That's what I am emphasising here. Perhaps the method of contacting the ombudsman will change, and there will be some additional costs—let's be clear about this, there is a little more cost attached to an oral complaint, because you have to deal with people who are in an emotional state.
Dyna'r pwynt roeddwn i eisiau dod ato'n gyflym wedyn a gwrthddweud tipyn bach beth yr oeddech chi'n ei ddweud, achos rydych chi eisiau cael mwy o weithwyr achos y sialensiau ar lafar, ond eto rydym ni wedi cael cyngor yn dweud y bydd angen yr un faint o waith ar gyfer cwynion eraill. Felly, rydych chi'n anghytuno â hynny: mae angen mwy o staff i ddelio â chwynion ar lafar oherwydd bydd mwy o waith yn dilyn o hynny.
That's the point I wanted to come to quickly, to disagree slightly with what you've said, because you said you might need to have more workers because of the challenges with oral complaints, but we've had advice saying that the same amount of work will be needed for complaints brought forward by other means. So, you disagree with that: more staff will be needed to deal with oral complaints because there will be more work following on from that.
Beth yr ydym ni wedi ei osod allan yn yr asesiad ariannol yw nid o reidrwydd bod angen llawer mwy o staff, ond bod angen staff gyda bach mwy o brofiad, felly staff mwy sgiliedig, felly maen nhw'n costio mwy, achos—. Rydych chi'n delio â system sydd o bosibl yn fwy costus. Ond mae'n bwysig tanlinellu pwrpas gwneud hyn. Pwrpas gwneud hyn, a'r cyfan o'r Bil, wrth gwrs, yw sicrhau bod gwasanaethau cyhoeddus yn fwy effeithlon yn y pen draw a'ch bod chi'n derbyn llai o gwynion. Pwrpas yr ombwdsman—wel, un o bwrpasau'r ombwdsman—yw cyrraedd sefyllfa lle mae llai o broblemau yn y gwasanaethau cyhoeddus a llai o gwynion yn cael eu derbyn. Felly, beth rwy'n dweud yw bod yn rhaid i chi edrych ar yr asesiad ariannol yn ei gyfanswm. Oes, mae yna beth tystiolaeth—ac mae'n rhaid i ni fod yn agored i'r posibiliad—bod newid y dull o gwyno yn arwain at mwy o un fath o gwynion na math arall. Rydym ni wedi paratoi ar gyfer hynny yn yr asesiad. Byddem ni jest am i chi farnu'r dystiolaeth. Os oes gyda chi farn wahanol, wrth gwrs, fel Pwyllgor Cyllid, byddem ni eisiau ystyried hynny.
What we've set out in the financial assessment is that it's not necessarily that there will be a need for more staff, but you will need more experienced and highly skilled staff, and they are more expensive, of course, because—. You are dealing with a system that is possibly more expensive. But it is important to highlight the purpose of all of this. The purpose underpinning the Bill is to ensure that public services are more efficient and, ultimately, that you receive fewer complaints. The purpose of the ombudsman—one of the purposes of the ombudsman—is to reach a point where there are fewer problems in the public services and fewer complaints received. So, what I'm saying is that you need to look at the financial assessment in its totality. Yes, there is some evidence—and we have to be open to the possibility—that a change in the method of making complaints will lead to having more of one type of complaint than another. We have prepared for that in the assessment. I would just want you to come to a view on our evidence. If you have a different opinion, as a Finance Committee, we'd consider that.
Na, mae'n iawn.
Rydych chi'n dweud eich bod chi isio herio rhai agweddau o adroddiad y cynghorydd arbenigol. Byddem ni'n croesawu, rydw i'n siŵr, cael hynny ar bapur. Rydych chi wedi sôn am un enghraifft yn y fanna. Efallai eich bod chi'n gweld bod yna bethau eraill y dylid eu herio er mwyn inni wedyn fedru mynd yn ôl at y cynghorydd ariannol i gael ymateb eto. Dyna'r unig ffordd, a dweud y gwir, i gael at wraidd y peth.
No, that's fine.
You do say that you want to challenge some aspects that the expert adviser has put forward, and I'm sure we would welcome seeing that on paper. You talked about one example there, but you may see that there are other things that should be challenged so that we can then go back to a financial adviser to see what his response is to that. That's the only way, really, to get to the bottom of this.
Nid wyf i'n meddwl y byddwn i'n defnyddio'r gair 'herio'. Rydw i isio mynd i mewn i'r drafodaeth yma, byddwn i'n ei ddweud, er mwyn inni ddeall—mae yna ambell i beth yn yr adroddiad lle mae fe neu hi—'fe', rydw i'n meddwl—yn mynegi ein bod ni wedi tanamcangyfrif. Byddwn i'n licio deall ar ba sail mae'r casgliad yna. Ond, wrth gwrs, fel y dywedais i ar y cychwyn, rydw i'n meddwl ei bod yn beth braf iawn bod yna adroddiad annibynnol a bod hwnnw yn bwydo i mewn, ond mae'n un agwedd ar edrych ar hyn. Dyna beth rwyf i eisiau ei bwysleisio.
I don't think I'd use the word 'challenge'. I want to have that debate, I would say, so that we can understand—. There are a few things in the report where he or she—I think it's 'he'—states that we have underestimated. I'd like to understand on what basis he's come to that conclusion. But, as I said at the outset, I think it's a very positive thing that you have that independent report and that that feeds into the process, but it is one aspect of looking at this. That's what I want to emphasise.
Ydy, ond, wrth gwrs, mae Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru a'r Ysgrifennydd Cabinet, yn gyffredinol, felly, wedi nodi pryderon tebyg. Felly, mae yna dystiolaeth yn dechrau crynhoi o gwmpas y pryderon bod yna danamcangyfrif.
Yes, of course, but the Welsh Local Government Association and the Cabinet Secretary have, generally speaking, outlined similar concerns. So, there is evidence that is starting to come together in terms of the concerns that there might have been some underestimating.
Ie, ond mewn dwy ffordd wahanol iawn, os caf i ddweud. So, mae gyda chi'r adroddiad arbenigol sydd wedi edrych yn fanwl ar yr asesiad, ac mewn mannau—ond, yn gyffredinol, os caf i ddweud, yn fras, mae'r adroddiad yn cefnogi beth mae'r Bil yn trio ei wneud. Ond, oes, mae yna fannau lle mae'n dweud bod tanamcangyfrif. Mae yna fannau lle mae'n dweud bod goramcangyfrif, gyda llaw, so mae yna fannau lle mae'n dweud, 'Wel, nid wyf i'n meddwl y bydd e'n costio cymaint â hyn, actually.' So, mae dwy ochr i'r geiniog yn y fanna.
Mae'r Ysgrifennydd Cabinet wedi mynegi yn llawer mwy eang ei amheuon ynglŷn â, 'Wel, ble ydych chi'n gwario'r arian? A ydych chi'n ei wario fe yn y rheng flaen? A ydych chi'n ei wario fe fan hyn?' Mae hwnnw'n gwestiwn gwleidyddol, really, yn y bôn—gydag 'g' fach, efallai, os caf i ddweud. Ond mae tystiolaeth arall rydych chi wedi ei derbyn gan y cyrff iechyd, gan y gymdeithas lywodraeth leol ac ati. Mae'n rhaid i chi fel pwyllgor, ac mae'n rhaid i ni fel Pwyllgor Cyllid hefyd, gydbwyso'r holl dystiolaeth yna, achos mae gan bobl eu hochrau eu hunain hefyd i roi i mewn iddo fe, ac mae'n rhaid inni gymryd rhyw agwedd dros y cyfan oll, ac rydw i'n siŵr y byddwch chi'n dymuno gwneud hynny hefyd.
Yes, but in two very different ways, if I may say. So, you have the expert adviser's report that has looked in detail at the assessment—but, generally speaking, the report is supportive of what the Bill is trying to do. But, yes, there are areas where he said there are underestimates, and overestimates, in fact, in others. There are areas where he says, 'Well, I don't think it will be that expensive, actually.' So, there are two sides to that coin.
The Cabinet Secretary has expressed some doubts in far broader terms as to where the money is being spent. Do you spend it on the front line or do you spend it elsewhere? That's a political question, essentially—with a small 'p', perhaps. There is other evidence that you've received from the health bodies, the WLGA and so on. And you as a committee, and we as the Finance Committee, have to balance all of that evidence, because people have their own views, but we have to take an overarching view of all of this evidence, and I'm sure that you would wish to do that as well.
Byddwn ni'n dod nôl at rai o'r pwyntiau yna, rydw i'n meddwl, mewn tipyn. Rydym ni wedi bod yn trafod y cwynion llafar, ac nid ydym ni'n siŵr iawn beth fydd y rheini'n eu golygu mewn costau, ond mae yna hefyd, wrth gwrs, gynnydd yn y llwyth achosion. Nid ydym ni'n siŵr iawn beth yn union mae hynny'n mynd i olygu chwaith. A ydych chi'n fodlon gwneud dadansoddiad o hynny a pha gostau ac arbedion a allai fod yn bosib?
We'll return to some of those points, I think, in a while. We have been discussing the oral complaints, and we're not quite sure what that will mean in terms of costs, but there are also, of course, increases in the case load and we're not quite sure what precisely that will mean either. Are you willing to undertake an assessment of that and what costs and savings might emerge?
Mae yna gynnydd cyffredinol mewn achosion i'r ombwdsmon. Os edrychwch chi ar adroddiadau blynyddol yr ombwdsmon, mae'n broses sydd wedi bod ar waith ers sefydlu'r swydd, a dweud y gwir. Mae'n rhan o'r datblygu bod pobl yn gwybod bod ombwdsmon ar gael a'u bod nhw'n gwybod eu bod nhw'n gallu mynd at yr ombwdsmon. Mae'r rhan fwyaf o'r cynnydd mewn cwynion at yr ombwdsmon yn deillio o'r gwasanaeth iechyd. Rydw i wedi clywed gan ombwdsmon rhyngwladol mewn digwyddiad yn Aberystwyth, er enghraifft, fod tueddiad i gwynion gynyddu mewn gwasanaethau cyhoeddus wrth i'r arian sydd ar gael i wasanaethau cyhoeddus leihau. So, mae gennych chi ryw fath o ddadl gyfyng fan hyn sy'n anodd i ddelio â fe, achos gyda mwy o bwysau ar wasanaethau cyhoeddus, mae mwy o gamgymeriadau yn gallu digwydd, sy'n arwain at fwy o anghyfiawnder yn y gwasanaethau hynny. Felly, rydym ni yn gweld bod hynny ar waith yn gyffredinol.
Nid yw'r Bil ei hunan o reidrwydd yn agor y llifddorau, rwy'n teimlo, a phwysleisiaf hynny, ac rwy'n dweud hynny achos—
There is a general uplift in cases for the ombudsman. If you look at the ombudsman's annual reports, you will see that it is a process that's been ongoing since the office was established. It's part of the general awareness of the ombudsman and people's awareness that they can approach the ombudsman. Most of the uplift in complaints to the ombudsman emerge from the health sector. I've heard from an international ombudsman in an event in Aberystwyth, for example, that there is a tendency for complaints to increase as the funding for public services decreases. So, you do have a duality here that is difficult to deal with, because with a greater pressure on public services, more mistakes can be made, which leads to injustices within those services. So, we do see a trend there.
The Bill itself doesn't necessarily open the floodgates, in my view—I'd like to emphasise that—and I say that because—
Na, ond mae o'n golygu bod angen ffeindio arbedion. Os ydy'r llwyth achosion yma'n mynd i gynyddu, ac nid oes yna arwydd bod unrhyw newid yn mynd i fod, mae llymder yn mynd i fod efo ni, mae problemau'r gwasanaeth iechyd yn mynd i fod efo ni—felly, mae'r achosion yn mynd i dyfu, ond rydych chi eisiau chwilio am arbedion ond yn rhoi pwerau ychwanegol sydd yn gallu creu costau ychwanegol. Felly, mae cael y balans yna—. Mae rhywun yn—
No, but it does mean that savings need to be found. If the case load is going to increase, and there is no sign that there's going to be any change in terms of austerity and the problems of the health service continuing—so perhaps the cases may increase, but you want to look for savings whilst giving additional powers that could lead to additional costs. So, getting that balance is—
Mae cael y balans yn anodd. Mae'n rhywbeth mae'r Pwyllgor Cyllid a'r Cynulliad yn gorfod ei wneud, achos, yn y pen draw, cael ei ariannu gan y Cynulliad mae'r swydd yma. Rydw i jest eisiau pwysleisio, wrth gwrs, fod y Bil, mewn rhannau eraill ohono, er enghraifft yn y ffordd mae'r gweithdrefnau trin cwynion, yn ceisio cyrraedd sefyllfa lle mae yna arbedion, lle mae yna lai o gwynion yn cael eu cynhyrchu yn y lle cyntaf, a lle mae pobl yn dysgu o'r broses gwynion. Mae'r ombwdsman eisoes yn rhoi swyddogion yr ombwdsmon i mewn i wasanaethau cyhoeddus, i mewn i fyrddau iechyd, i gydlynu y ffordd maen nhw'n delio gyda chwynion er mwyn i hynny fod yn brofiad dysgu i'r mudiadau hynny. Nawr—
Finding that balance is difficult. It's something that the Finance Committee and the whole Assembly have to do, because, ultimately, this post is funded by the Assembly. I just want to emphasise, of course, that the Bill, for example in the complaints procedure, seeks to reach a position where savings can be made, where fewer complaints are generated in the first place, and where people learn from the complaints process. The ombudsman is already placing his officials into public services, into the health boards, in order to co-ordinate the way in which they deal with complaints so that that can be a learning experience for those organisations. Now—
Pa mor realistig ydy hynny ydy'r cwestiwn.
How realistic is that? That's the question.
Wel, byddai'r ombwdsman yn dadlau—mae yn dadlau yn ei adroddiad blynyddol—bod hyn yn ffordd dda iawn. Rydw i'n credu eich bod chi hefyd wedi cael tystiolaeth gan y byrddau iechyd eu bod nhw'n gwerthfawrogi'r ffordd yna o weithio. Y gamp yw troi system gwynion i mewn i system ddysgu sut i wella gwasanaethau, a dyna ran o rôl yr ombwdsmon. Bydd wastad rôl arall, wrth gwrs, o ymateb i gwynion dinasyddion a gwneud yn siŵr bod unrhyw un sy'n cael cam yn cael cyfiawnder.
Well, the ombudsman would argue—and does argue in his annual report—that it's very effective. I think that you, too, have received evidence from the health boards that they appreciate that approach. Now, the task is to turn a complaints system into a system where you learn how to improve services, and that's part of the role of the ombudsman. There will always be another role in responding to citizens' complaints and ensuring that anyone who feels they've been mistreated is dealt with properly.
Yn olaf yn y darn yma, felly, beth fuasai'n digwydd petai'r ombwdsmon yn dod atoch chi fel Pwyllgor Cyllid yn gofyn am fwy o bres? Rydych chi fel Pwyllgor Cyllid wedi dweud yn barod nad ydych chi eisiau i wasanaethau ac yn y blaen ddod atoch chi yn gofyn am fwy na beth sydd yn y grant bloc. Beth petai yna senario'n digwydd lle buasai'n rhaid iddo fo ofyn am fwy o bres?
Finally on this section, therefore, what would happen if the ombudsman came to you as a Finance Committee asking for more funding? You, as the Finance committee, have already said that you don't want to see services and so forth coming to you asking for more than is in the Welsh block grant. What if a scenario took place where he would have to request greater funding?
Byddai'n rhaid i ni, fel Pwyllgor Cyllid, ystyried hynny a gwneud argymhellion i Plenary ar sail hynny. Byddem ni'n cadw mewn golwg nifer o bethau rydym ni wedi dweud fel Pwyllgor Cyllid, y byddwch chi'n ymwybodol amdanyn nhw—yr angen i lynu, yn fras, at y cynnydd yn y bloc i unrhyw gorff sy'n cael ei ariannu'n uniongyrchol gan y Cynulliad, y gwahaniaeth rhwng jest cynnydd achos mae yna rywbeth wedi mynd o'i le neu rywbeth sydd ddim yn cael ei reoli'n iawn, a buddsoddiad. Felly, os oes yna gais am fuddsoddiad at ryw bwrpas penodol, byddem ni'n edrych ar hynny'n wahanol. Fel dywedais i, byddem ni'n edrych ar ddiweddaru'r system wybodaeth gyfrifiadurol yn wahanol.
Byddem ni hefyd yn cadw mewn golwg y canllaw. Nid yw e'n statudol, ond mae wedi bod yn gyson nad yw'r ombwdsmon wedi defnyddio mwy na 0.03 y cant o'r bloc. Felly, mae hynny fel nenfwd ar faint sy'n cael ei wario at bwrpasau'r ombwdsmon. Byddem ni yn ymwybodol iawn o'r addewid sydd wedi cael ei wneud ar lafar yn y sesiynau tystiolaeth ombwdsmon yn gyson i gadw o dan y nenfwd hwnnw, a byddem ni eisiau cadw at hynny. Yn y pen draw, penderfyniad y Cynulliad yw faint o arian i roi i'r ombwdsmon a'r cyrff eraill—yr archwilydd cyffredinol, wrth gwrs, yw'r prif un arall. Ond rydw i'n credu bod y Pwyllgor Cyllid wedi gyrru neges gref iawn yn ystod y ddwy flynedd ddiwethaf nad yw'r Cynulliad, yn gyffredinol, yn gallu gorwario neu wario mewn ffordd sy'n sylweddol yn wahanol i gyrff cyhoeddus eraill.
We, as the Finance Committee, would have to consider that and make recommendations to Plenary. We would bear in mind a number of the things that we as the Finance Committee have said. You'll be aware of these: the need to adhere, broadly speaking, to the increase in the block grant, for any body funded directly by the Assembly, the difference between an increase because something may have gone wrong or something has been mismanaged, and investment. So, if there's a request for investment for a specific purpose, then we would look at that in different terms. As I said, we would consider updating information technology systems differently.
We would also bear in mind the guidance. It's not statutory, but it has been consistent that the ombudsman hasn't used more than 0.03 per cent of the block. So, that's a ceiling, if you like, on what is spent on the ombudsman's office and we would be very aware of the pledge that's been made orally in the ombudsman's evidence session to actually keep below that ceiling, and we would certainly want to adhere to that. Ultimately, it would be a decision for the Assembly in terms of how much funding is provided to the ombudsman and other bodies—the auditor general being the main other. But I think the Finance Committee has sent a very strong message over the past two years that the Assembly, generally speaking, cannot overspend or spend in a way that is significantly different to other public bodies.
Ocê, diolch yn fawr. Janet Finch-Saunders.
Okay, thank you very much. Janet Finch-Saunders.
Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and the Care Inspectorate Wales have expressed concerns that the own-initiative investigation provisions within the Bill may encroach on their role as regulators. Do you agree?
Yes, okay. Because I think we're talking about two very different groups of people here, and I think it's really important to bear in mind that regulators established by Government to regulate Government services is a different process than an independent public services ombudsman. It is conceivable, of course, that a regulator and the ombudsman might look at the same broad range of issues in, say, Betsi Cadwaladr. So, it is perfectly conceivable they're looking at the same thing. That is not duplication; they are looking at it from two completely different perspectives. One is a regulator looking at legislation, looking at what the Government objectives are, looking at Government statutory guidance and all the rest, and looking to see whether that's been followed. The other is the voice of the citizen—the voice of the citizen brought in, sometimes in place of a very vulnerable person who might have perceived some kind of harm or injustice arising from that, and I think the two are very discrete and very different. I think it's very dangerous to think that because a regulator is looking at something, the ombudsman shouldn't go there. I think the ombudsman has to be independent, has to be able to respond to a citizen's concerns or concerns brought to the ombudsman by other citizens, and I don't regard that as encroachment. I regard that as a part of the complex but necessary range of provisions that the Assembly has made in order to ensure citizens' rights in Wales.
I agree with you on that, and I know, from my own experiences of dealing with lots of casework, that constituents will come to me on an individual issue about an organisation and those regulators are not interested in the individual, so the next recourse is the ombudsman. But also, a lot of our public bodies in Wales actually, as part of their own complaint procedures, when it's been, in their terms, exhausted, they actually tell the constituents to go to the ombudsman. It's written on their final letter of the complaint process. So, to me, it is a distinctly different role, and I hope, certainly as this Bill goes forward, that the powers available to the ombudsman to fully investigate as he should, and can, are not diluted in any way, and, if anything, I'd like to see them strengthened, because I do believe that the citizen's voice has to come—. Especially when we're talking about vulnerable people, and we're talking about some of the public bodies that so many people rely on, I want to see the ombudsman's position strengthened in terms of investigation. And I don't see investigation and regulatory—. So. I'm glad you've answered that.
If I could just say: they are two different things, and perhaps I should have said that in answer to Siân Gwenllian as well, just to emphasise what you've just said, which is really important. The ombudsman only steps in after the local complaints system has been exhausted. So, this isn't a blank cheque just to bring more and more complaints. This only happens when those systems have not delivered what is perceived to be the justice—
And we'll come on to general scrutiny later. Financial scrutiny is what we're doing now.
So, what assessment have you made of the potential for duplication of functions from these powers leading to the additional costs of this part of the Bill not representing value for money?
Well, I really would rely on what I've just said, really, that I don't think this is duplication—it is two different roles. Therefore, I think the resources that would be allocated are justified because of that.
We've assessed it on the basis that—actually, you've just made the claim for more powers—in fact, this already happens. We're not changing the basic relationship between the ombudsman and the other bodies with regard to the 2005 Act that's already in force. Where we do change that relationship, which is around own-initiative investigations, there are very powerful methods for consultation—that's probably more a policy question now—but there are consultation methods there. So, I think there are safeguards in the Bill to ensure that we don't have unnecessary spending and duplicate spending. But I would emphasise again, just because a regulator and the ombudsman look at the same broad area, that doesn't mean there's a waste of public money there. Those are two different things that are happening and I think that is justified in terms of public resources.
Thank you. The Welsh NHS Confederation and Welsh Government have suggested changes to the way that the own-initiative powers are to be implemented. To what extent do you consider their approaches are desirable alternatives and would reduce any potential for duplication and wasted resources?
Well, Chair, as I think I've just said, I think the consultation that's on the face of the Bill is sufficient to avoid unnecessary duplication. I don't want to see a waste of money here. If it's more appropriate for the regulator to deal with it, then that's something that can be done in consultation with the ombudsman. If, however, the citizen's voice needs to be expressed, the ombudsman must have the independence to say, 'I'm sorry, I'm going there and I need to investigate that.' I think we've got the balance right. I think in terms of not allowing public money to be used for a purpose that is not profitable, if you like—that doesn't bring any benefits—I think that's on the face of the Bill and I'm content with that, yes.
Thanks very much. We'll move on then to oral complaints and Jenny Rathbone. Just before Jenny asks her question, Simon, I just wonder if you could clear up potential confusion in terms of the regulatory impact assessment, because the regulatory impact assessment considers that an upgraded member of existing staff and a further member of staff would be required in terms of issues around oral complaints. But I think what you said earlier was that you didn't think that was the case, which I think is what our own expert adviser suggests. So, are you distancing yourself from the RIA in that respect?
No, Chair. I think I did say that the person concerned would need more skills to deal with oral complaints.
The additional member has come from the ombudsman himself, who fed in that information to the RIA, so I'm content with—. I mean, it very much depends on this committee's deliberations. If you think that we've got it about right on oral complaints, then I'm content with what's in the RIA.
Could I just add—? I think that much of the evidence has featured around 25 additional complaints, but of course the ombudsman has advised that he is likely to get an increase in his enquiries. So, the 25 is not the totality of the additional workload anticipated under this provision in the Bill. The 25 is very much the increase in the workload that likely to be borne by the listed authorities, i.e. the bodies listed under Part 3 of the Act. So, the 25 is the cost to listed authorities. Of course, there's a range of other work that the ombudsman would be required to carry out, and his estimate is that he would need an additional member of staff and to upgrade an existing one. So, I hope that that clarifies the position in respect of oral complaints.
Sticking with Simon Thomas's assertion that dealing with oral complaints will require somebody with higher skills than already employed by the public services ombudsman, I want to delve a bit deeper into that, because I wouldn't expect the public services ombudsman to be employing anybody who didn't have the capacity to listen carefully to oral information, given that we're not talking about people venting their spleen because of the cancellation of the bus or their operation or somebody being rude to them. We are talking about things where the organisation being complained about has failed to properly achieve local resolution. So, why do you think they would need additional skills, given that they're already experts in distilling whether there is a reason for the ombudsman to carry out this complaint?
I'm very much relying on the ombudsman's own evidence that was given to the committee, and which we fed into the RIA, emphasising in that regard that he does already deal with oral complaints. This is not a new thing; it's just that he has discretion now, rather than an absolute right, for the citizen to approach him through oral complaints. So, there is experience in his office of dealing with oral complaints, and it's on the basis of that.
Now, what the ombudsman has told the committee, which has then informed the RIA, is that, when complaints are duly received in a written form, there's a lot of processing of those that happens at quite an administrative level, if you like. That is not the same as having somebody who's skilled to deal with somebody—. And I would slightly sort of question your assertion that the person is not in some way particularly upset or particularly having trouble expressing themselves due to grief or problems that they've had. I think, again, I would think that, in many ways, all of us as Assembly Members are mini ombudsman offices ourselves. So, you will know from the way you manage your staff that there are members of staff who've got the skills to deal with somebody difficult—not somebody difficult, but somebody with difficult problems in that way—and there's another member of staff who's very good at organising your diary. It's a different set of skills.
So, we had evidence from the ombudsman. We explored that as a committee as to why he felt that he would need that skills level in a different way for oral complaints. That's reflected in the RIA. Again, you've got the independent adviser that's come to your committee. We haven't really had time to go through it in detail; we need to reflect on that. But there's a different perspective there that says that, if anything, complaints will actually go up, so we have to bear that in mind.
But if your first premise is correct that, if all public service bodies were adopting the positive approach to complaints handling as a way of improving services, actually, complaints should be going down—
So, we have to be sceptical of people endeavouring to inflate their budgets through this way. So, I'm—. You're content with this suggestion that we would need to upgrade one of the caseworkers to a further £3,000 a year.
Yes, and I don't think—. When you think that you're changing regime from one in which the ombudsman has to exercise discretion around oral complaints to one in which oral complaints will be received in exactly the same way as written complaints, I don't think it's unreasonable for the ombudsman to say, 'I believe that I will need to have a slightly more skilled level to deal with this', and I think, in the context of the overall Bill's provisions, which is between £1.8 million and £2 million over five years, this is a reasonable sum for the ombudsman to have suggested we put in the RIA. So, we were content with that, yes.
Okay. What analysis has been done of existing complainants who have difficulty expressing themselves in writing?
I think the best way to look at that is that the ombudsman himself, in his reporting to the Finance Committee and, I think, to this committee as well, says that about a half of enquiries that could be, potentially, complaints received orally, actually, at the end of the day, end up taken as duly-made complaints. He suggests that one of the reasons for that is the process by which a complaint has to be written up and has to go back to the complainant in a written form for them to approve it, if you like. He suggests that that is a potential barrier for somebody with lower levels of literacy skills to access his services. So, in changing this, to make it a much more—to put all the complaints at the same level as written complaints, he will now not have to—. He will go back with a written process, but he can still take the complaint on as long as the complainant is content.
Okay, but it might also be down to presentational issues—you know, plain language used in summarising what it is the complainant wishes the ombudsman to act on.
It may well be, but that would be, really, an operational matter for the ombudsman.
Okay. The training travel and subsistence additional cost of £1,000 per annum, presumably anybody who is a vulnerable citizen, where the member of staff has to go to the individual, that's already factored into the budget, isn’t it?
What we’ve done, as the Finance Committee, is taken £1,000 a year as a reasonable average. We’ve looked at, for example, the cost of an average training course of between £300 and £400 for a day's training. So, that’s the kind of figure we've put in here. This is not the operational costs of the ombudsman's office. This is an additional cost associated with any additional staff that's reflected in the RIA.
Well, the £5,000 for transitional costs does look an appropriate cost, simply because you've obviously got to embed a change in the processes of the way in which they operate, but I'm a bit concerned about the ongoing costs written across each of the five years. That doesn’t look like terribly serious calculations. And then—
The figures that we use—the ombudsman has advised us that his current office costs per member of staff are around £13,000. So, we have to take that into account when we are talking, in an RIA, about additional members of staff. We also have to factor in that there are some costs that don’t change. If you add to your staff, your heating costs don’t necessarily change. You don't necessarily change your rental costs, for example. It depends how you expand, but we're talking about a small number of people here. We don’t believe that that will have an effect, but we have to account in an RIA because it's very clear that Standing Orders ask us to do that. If you are appointing or suggesting there will be a new member of staff, then you have to account for on-costs, recruitment costs, training costs and travel costs that are reasonable around that member of staff, and we've used the current ombudsman’s costs to guide us in that regard.
Okay. We’ll have to move on at this stage. We’ve got 16 minutes left and a lot yet to get through. We need short questions and answers from here on. Bethan.
Jest o ran ymchwiliadau ar ei liwt ei hun, beth roeddwn i’n ffeindio’n ddiddorol gan yr arbenigwr a gwnaethom ni ei gael oedd ei fod e'n dweud bod rhai o’r sialensau o dramor wedi dangos bod natur yr ymchwiliadau yn wahanol iawn, gyda dechrau rhai ar ei liwt ei hun—roedd e’n sôn am ombwdsmon Lloegr, a hefyd yn sôn am Ontario—roedd e’n creu mwy o waith oherwydd ei fod e wedi gofyn i bobl i ddweud os oedden nhw wedi cael yr un profiad â’r enghraifft hwnnw. Felly, a ydych chi'n credu—? Ai dyna pam mae amrywiaeth mor eang o gostau, rhwng £9,000 ac £13,000, oherwydd y ffaith y gallai fe ddiweddu lan yn lot fwy trylwyr, lot fwy in depth, nac, efallai, bod yr ombwdsmon wedi’i wneud hyd yn hyn?
Just in terms of own-initiative investigations, what I found interesting from the expert adviser was that he stated that some of the challenges from abroad showed that the nature of those investigations were very different with own-initiative investigations—there was mention of the ombudsman in England, and also Ontario—and that it created more work, because people had been asked whether they’d had the same experiences as that example. So, do you believe—? Is that why there is such a wide variation of costs, between £9,000 and £13,000, because it could end up being much more detailed and going more in depth than the ombudsman has been doing up until now?
Mae’r ffigurau rydych chi wedi’u defnyddio yn fanna yn ffigurau yr oedd yr Ysgrifennydd Cabinet wedi rhoi i chi fel pwyllgor. Mae’n bwysig tanlinellu nad ein ffigurau ni yw’r rheini; nid ydym yn edrych arno fe cweit fel yna. Y ffordd rŷm ni wedi edrych ar y costau sy’n gallu deillio o’r ymchwiliadau ar ei liwt ei hun yw—eto'n defnyddio costau swyddfa’r ombwdsmon—edrych ar y ffaith bod hwn yn ymwneud â dau aelod o staff dros bum mlynedd, a gwariant, felly, fesul blwyddyn, dros hynny. Nawr, rydw i’n meddwl ei fod bach yn gamarweiniol i feddwl yn nhermau’r ffaith eich bod yn cymryd y nifer o ymchwiliadau ar gyfartaledd ac wedyn yn rhannu hwnnw i mewn i’r costau i drio cael rhyw ffigur fesul ymchwiliad. Mae’n gyfan gwbl bosib, mewn un flwyddyn, bod yr ombwdsmon yn gwneud pedwar ymchwiliad dwys iawn ar ei liwt ei hun yn y gwasanaeth iechyd, er enghraifft, a’r flwyddyn wedyn, efallai, ddim yn gwneud unrhyw ymchwiliad, a’r flwyddyn ar ôl honno, yn gwneud 20 o ymchwiliadau bach, penodol. Felly, mae’r ystod o ymchwiliadau ar ei liwt ei hun, a’r ffaith bod ganddo fe'r disgresiwn a’r rhyddid i wneud hynny yn golygu nid ydw i'n meddwl bod—yn sicr, nid ydym ni wedi rhoi cost fesul ymchwiliad i mewn i’r RIA. Mae’r Ysgrifennydd Cabinet wedi ceisio rhoi ffigurau fel yna i chi, ond nid ydym ni, i ddweud y gwir, yn cydnabod bod hynny’n ffordd briodol o edrych ar hyn.
The figures that you've quoted there are figures that the Cabinet Secretary has provided to you as a committee. It's important to underline that those aren't our figures; we don't look at it in quite those terms. The way that we've looked at the costs emerging from own-initiative investigations— again, using the current costs of the ombudsman's office—is that it would relate to two members of staff over five years, and there would be an annual expenditure calculated from that. I think it's slightly misleading to think in terms of the average number of investigations and to actually try and find a figure per investigation. It's quite possible that, in one year, the ombudsman may carry out four very intensive own-initiative investigations into the health service, for example, and the next year, there wouldn't be a single own-initiative investigation, and there may be 20 very small, specific own-initiative investigations the next year. So, the range of investigations and his discretion and freedom to do those means that I don't think—we certainly haven't provided a per investigation cost in the RIA. The Cabinet Secretary has tried to provide those figures to you, but we don't recognise that as an appropriate way of looking at this.
A ydych chi wedi edrych ar y sefyllfa yn yr Alban, lle nad oes ganddyn nhw'r pŵer i wneud ymchwiliadau ar ei liwt ei hun, ond petasen nhw eisiau, mae yna ryw fath o contingency fund? A ydych chi’n credu efallai bod hynny'n rhyw fath o compromise, neu a ydych chi'n credu y dylai’r ombwdsmon gael y gyllideb, fel ag y mae, fel yr ydych chi'n ei awgrymu, fel ei fod e'n glir bod y gallu hwnnw’n cael ei adlewyrchu’n ariannol hefyd?
Have you looked at the situation in Scotland, where they don't have the power to undertake own-initiative investigations, but should they wish, there is a sort of contingency fund? Do you believe that that is some sort of compromise, or should the ombudsman have the funding hat you suggested, so that it is clear that that ability is reflected financially?
Nid oeddem ni’n meddwl ei fod yn briodol bod unrhyw fath—. Mae’n briodol bod rheolaeth gyllidol flynyddol dros yr ombwdsmon drwy’r Pwyllgor Cyllid a’r Cynulliad. Er roeddwn i’n gweld bod ombwdsmon yr Alban wedi dweud wrthych chi nad oedd hi’n teimlo y byddai Senedd yr Alban erioed yn peidio â rhoi’r arian iddi hi, nid ydw i'n meddwl ei fod yn briodol, ychwaith, i fynd i’r gors wleidyddol yna, lle mae’n ddibynnu ar benderfyniad Senedd a wnewch chi, fel ombwdsmon annibynnol, wneud ymchwiliad ar eich liwt eich hunain. Rydych chi naill ai’n ymddiried yn yr ombwdsmon gyda’r grymoedd hynny neu ddim. Byddwn i’n awgrymu, os nad ydych chi’n hapus gyda’r grymoedd hynny, rŷch chi’n tynnu’r grymoedd oddi ar wyneb y Bil yn hytrach na thrio’u rheoli nhw drwy ddull atodol cyllidol. Felly, rydym ni o’r farn, os ydych chi’n hyderus bod yr ombwdsmon angen y pwerau hyn, gadewch i’r ombwdsmon i gael yr arian yn y gyllideb ar gyfer y pwerau, felly.
We didn't think it was appropriate that—. It's appropriate that there is annual financial management of the ombudsman through the Finance Committee and the Assembly. And although I saw that the Scottish ombudsman had informed you that she didn't feel that the Scottish Parliament would ever not give her that funding, I don't think it's appropriate to get into that political mire, where it's reliant on the decision of a Parliament as to whether you, as an independent ombudsman, will carry out an own-initiative investigation. You either trust the ombudsman with those powers or you don't. I would suggest that, if you're not happy with those powers, you remove them from the face of the Bill, rather than try to manage them through a supplementary budgetary approach. So, we're of the opinion that if you're confident that the ombudsman needs these powers then allow the ombudsman to have the funding in the budget for those powers.
Ocê. Y cwestiwn olaf sydd gen i yw'r gost flynyddol o £10,000 ar gyfer ffioedd proffesiynol. Mae’n ymddangos bod y cynghorydd arbenigol sydd gennym ni wedi dweud bod hynny’n rhy uchel ac y dylai fod yn £5,000. A ydych chi’n cytuno, neu a oes barn gennych chi?
Okay. My final question is about the annual cost of £10,000 for professional fees. It appears that our expert adviser has stated that that is too high and it should be £5,000. Do you agree with that, or do you have a view on that?
Wel, mae’n ddiddorol i weld bod yr arbenigwr cyllidol weithiau yn meddwl ein bod wedi goramcangyfrif faint o arian sydd. Mae’n amlwg dyna un o’r pethau y byddwn ni’n gallu edrych arno nawr bod gyda ni yr adroddiad, ac os oes yna dystiolaeth yno, gallwn ni newid y ffigurau. Hwnnw oedd yr amcangyfrif gorau yr oeddem ni'n gallu'i wneud ar y pryd. Dyna i gyd y dywedaf i.
Well, it's interesting to see that the independent adviser sometimes feels that we've overestimated the costs. Clearly, that's one of the things that we can look at now that we have the report, and if there is evidence then we can change the figures, of course. That was the best estimate that we had at the time. That's all I would say.
Thanks, Chair. We mentioned the committee's expert adviser a couple of times. He has looked at the inability of the RIA to estimate costs of the Bill to private health providers, and he thinks that's a significant omission. He has also suggested that you could estimate those costs using the same methodology as for the estimation of costs to public bodies. So, what do you think about that?
We did look at this when we prepared the RIA. I think the difficulty is that we don't have access to the figures of the real costs within the private sector. I don't think it's appropriate to use public sector figures to estimate a private sector part. There are two reasons for that: we don't have the evidence, because the ombudsman doesn't have the powers to demand that information, and, secondly, we're not looking here—and this is very important, I think—in this part of the Bill, at the whole of a treatment in the private sector; it's that bit of treatment in the private sector that comes within NHS treatment.
So, the figures that you've had, for example, given to you by the Independent Healthcare Sector Complaints Adjudication Service, ISCAS, as I think they're called, relating to their costs of investigating, those are figures relating to costs of investigating complete treatment plans in the private sector. So, I think we're in danger of comparing, if I may say, apples and pears here. They're two different things.
There are two things that are underlining what's in the RIA from the point of view of the public services ombudsman. One is—and I think you've had evidence from the Wales Audit Office here as well—this is a very de minimis kind of level. We're talking about seven cases a year. So, there's a question of how much is reasonable for us to do in terms of going after small sums and figures when, in fact, it doesn't really change the overall balance. Secondly, as I say, we don't have access to true figures in this sector. So, although I would agree that there is an omission there, it's a kind of deliberate omission, because we haven't got the figures and we don't have access to the figures.
You mentioned the figure of possibly seven cases a year containing a private healthcare element, but it might not be that low. There might be more. So, would you be prepared to undertake further analysis of the financial implications of this part of the Bill so that the ombudsman is prepared for scenarios under which the number of cases is significantly above that level?
The figure of seven that we have there currently is based on actual experience. It's based on what the ombudsman deals with now, the number of cases that he comes across annually during which somebody has entered into an element of private healthcare, whereas the rest has been delivered by the NHS. I would suggest to the committee that the only likely scenario where that figure would change significantly in a way that would impact on an RIA is that there would be a public policy change about the use of private healthcare in the NHS in Wales. I don't see how else the figure would change significantly. So, in that sense, again, I come back to the argument that I think there is a limit to how much work you should undertake, and ask yourself—. When it doesn't change the global figure, which is around £30,000, you can divide it up in different ways, you can work it out in different ways, but you're still talking about roughly the same figure in the RIA. We just need to understand that, sometimes, you're chasing detail that won't actually enrich your understanding of the Bill or the costs of the Bill.
The committee's expert adviser has highlighted potential minor additional costs to public bodies associated with being involved in the development of the complaints-handling procedures and then the training of staff on those new approaches. To what extent were those issues considered in the development of the costs set out in the RIA?
They were considered, because I think you can see in the RIA there is a general overview of how public bodies will need to respond to a complaints-handling system. I think the expert adviser, again, has suggested we could look at this again. We're open to evidence and to re-examine that, that's what I would say. It is marginal to the overall balance of cost, but if in any way we can get it better in the RIA, then we'd be open to do that, obviously.
Thanks, Simon. Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council have expressed a concern about the impact of complaints-handling procedures on smaller local authorities who do not employ complaints officers. What assurances can you give them that this aspect of the Bill will not impose significant data collection requirements that will impose a financial burden on smaller local authorities?
I think there are safeguards in the Bill. I also think that, just as a general principle, to start, it's very important that we don't let any public authority, whatever its size, say, 'We're too small to deal with this.' These are requirements that the Assembly has set out. They have to do data collection for regulatory purposes, as well. We're not asking for things that are significantly in advance of that. But, as regards the new bit of this Bill—so not what the authorities have to do under the current Act—the new bit is around complaints handling. I think the safeguards on the face of the Bill around that are very much that the ombudsman would have to publish what his complaints-handling procedures would be. He would have to consult with the bodies around that, so I think they'd have plenty of opportunity to feed in if there was an onerous burden suggested there. That would be, obviously, reported to the Assembly, so scrutiny committees would have an opportunity to look at that. And we already have a pattern; this is a development of what's already happening, where we have improvement officers embedded in authorities. I probably don't need to tell Janet Finch-Saunders this, but there are also regionalisation developments happening in local authorities. These are early days for how this might develop, but what you're trying to do with complaints handling is just have some sense of standardisation and have some sense of standards that can be shared amongst authorities. It would need to be, in effect, agreed. I don't think the ombudsman is seeking to impose these from above. The safeguards that are there are around the need to consult and publish his complaints-handling procedures, and I think those are the safeguards in the Bill.
On that point, Chairman, we have taken evidence in this committee that proves that there is inconsistency across that, and if we can tighten that, that would be good.
I think there was one local authority—because we had evidence from them—that had a really good model. Could you not, instead of having the auditor general create the new model, just take that one? Would that create fewer costs?
Potentially, but I think I would turn your argument on its head and say, 'Why isn't that happening now?'
Jest i ddod yn ôl at dystiolaeth Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru a'u hawgrym nhw bod yr elfen osgoi costau o £2.6 miliwn sydd yn yr asesiad effaith rheoleiddiol yn uchelgeisiol, beth yw eich ymateb chi i hynny? Beth fyddan nhw eisiau gwybod, a phawb eisiau gwybod, ydy pa rannau o'r sector cyhoeddus fyddai'n cyfrannu at leihau'r baich achosion i'r ombwdsmon. A ddylid cynnwys dadansoddiad o'r math yna yn yr asesiad effaith?
Just to return to the evidence from the WLGA, and their suggestion that the element of avoiding costs of £2.6 million that is in the RIA is ambitious, how do you respond to that? What they and everyone else would want to know is what part of the public sector would contribute to reducing the case load for the ombudsman. Should an analysis of that type be included in the RIA?
Yn gyntaf oll, rydw i'n meddwl ei fod yn bwysig tanlinellu mai arbedion i swyddfa ombwdsmon ydy'r arbedion hyn yn y tymor hir, ac nid arbedion, rydw i'n cyfaddef—ac nid ydym ni wedi gosod allan hynny, achos mae'n amhosibl i amcangyfrif—i'r gwasanaethau cyhoeddus eu hunain. Felly, nid ar gyfer y cyrff cyhoeddus sydd yn ddarostyngedig i'r Bil ydy'r arbedion hyn, ond i swyddfa'r ombwdsmon ei hunan. Felly, maen nhw'n troi o gwmpas: os yw'r Bil yn gweithio, os yw'r pwerau newydd o gwmpas mentrau ar eu liwt eu hunain a gweithdrefnau trin cwynion yn effeithlon ac yn gweithio at y pwrpas, mi ddylen nhw, yn y pen draw, leihau nifer yr achosion a chwynion llawn sy'n cael eu delio â nhw gan yr ombwdsmon. Rydym ni wedi gosod allan, ar sail tystiolaeth yr ombwdsmon, rai o'r amcangyfrifon ynglŷn â'r arbedion hynny. Dyna beth sydd yn yr asesiad ariannol, yn hytrach na—. Jest i bwysleisio, nid arbedion i gyrff gwasanaethau cyhoeddus ydyn nhw, ond swyddfa'r ombwdsmon ei hunan.
First of all, I think it's important to highlight that these would be savings to the ombudsman's office in the long term, and not savings—and I admit this, and we haven't set this out because it is impossible to estimate—to the public services themselves. So, they're not savings for the public bodies subject to the Bill, but savings for the ombudsman himself. If the Bill works, and the new powers around own-initiative investigations and complaints procedures are effective and efficient and work properly, then they should reduce, ultimately, the number of full complaints dealt with by the ombudsman, and we have set out on the basis of the ombudsman's evidence some of the estimates in terms of those savings. That's what's included within the financial assessment. Just to emphasise again: these are not savings for public services, but savings for the ombudsman's office.
Ie, ond o ba rannau o'r sector cyhoeddus y byddech chi'n gweld yr arbedion yna yn dod?
Yes, but from what part of the public sector would you see those savings emerging?
Wel, maen nhw yn swyddfa'r ombwdsmon. Rydw i'n credu, os ydych chi'n edrych, er enghraifft, yn y dystiolaeth yn y RIA, rydym ni'n sôn am arbedion o 5 y cant; 40 achos y flwyddyn, dywedwch. Os ydych chi'n gofyn a ydym ni wedi edrych ar a ydy'r 40 achos yn dod o wahanol rannau, nid ydym ni wedi gwneud yr asesiad yna, na. Mae hwn yn ffigur global yn hytrach na fesul sector.
Well, they are savings within the ombudsman's office. I think that if you look, for example, at the RIA, we mentioned savings of 5 per cent, or 40 cases per annum. Now, whether those 40 cases all come from different sectors, no, we haven't carried out that assessment. That's a global figure.
Ie, ond beth maen nhw'n gofyn amdano ydy rhyw fath o ddadansoddiad fesul sector i ddeall o ble mae'r arbedion yna yn digwydd.
Yes, but what they're looking for is some sort of assessment according to each sector, just to understand more about where those savings will take place.
Bydd yn rhaid i ni edrych ar hynny. Bydd yn rhaid i ni fod yn siŵr nad ydym ni yn siaso manylion na fydd yn cyfoethogi'r wybodaeth sydd yn yr RIA, i fod yn onest â chi. Rydw i'n hapus i ystyried hynny, ond mae'n rhaid i ni fod yn siŵr bod modd gwneud hynny mewn ffordd briodol. Rydym ni wedi edrych ar beth tystiolaeth yn deillio o Ogledd Iwerddon yn y cyd-destun yma, hefyd.
We would have to look at that. We would have to be convinced that we aren't chasing details that wouldn't necessarily enhance the information that's in the RIA. But I'm happy to consider that. But we do need to be sure that that can be done in an appropriate manner. We've looked at some of the evidence from Northern Ireland in this regard, too.
Ac yn yr un modd, mae Swyddfa Archwilio Cymru yn dweud bod y gostyngiad o 10 y cant mewn llwyth achosion o ganlyniad i gyflwyno gweithdrefnau ymdrin â chwynion yn ansicr, ac y byddan nhw'n peidio â defnyddio ffigurau manwl. Unwaith eto, a ydych chi'n fodlon gwneud rhyw fath o ddadansoddiad sensitifrwydd er mwyn mynd i'r afael â'r pryderon yna?
Also, the Wales Audit Office has stated that the 10 per cent case load reduction as a result of the introduction of the complaints-handling procedures is subject to uncertainty, and that they would be wary of using precise figures. Once again, would you be prepared to undertake some sort of sensitivity analysis in order to deal with those concerns?
Rydym ni mewn bach o gyfyng-gyngor yn fan hyn, achos mae'r Rheolau Sefydlog sydd gyda ni yn dweud bod yn rhaid i ni ddefnyddio ffigurau manwl. Ond rydw i'n derbyn beth mae swyddfa'r archwilydd cyffredinol yn ei ddweud, ac wrth gwrs, pan wnaethom ni ymateb i'r pwyllgor yma mewn llythyr sydd gyda chi heddiw, rydw i'n meddwl, yn y papurau—10 Ionawr—mae hynny yn gosod allan rhai o'r senarios eraill. Nid ydyn nhw yn yr RIA, ond fe ddywedom yn y llythyr yna—rŷm ni wedi gosod allan y senario 5 y cant, er enghraifft. So, gallech chi weld a chael gwell syniad o'r rhychwant sydd ar gael yn y cyd-destun hwnnw.
We're in something of a quandary here because Standing Orders say that we have to use detailed figures. But I do accept the comments made by the Wales Audit Office, and of course when we responded to the committee in the letter, which I think is part of your papers—10 January—that does set out some of the other scenarios not included in the RIA. But we said in that letter that we have set out a 5 per cent scenario, for example, so that you can get a better idea of the range that would apply in that context.
Okay. The final question from me, Simon, and that's in terms of the RIA not specifying how additional costs would fall on different parts of the public sector. Do you recognise an issue there, and is that something you might do some analysis around?
If there's evidence and information that we could usefully use, we would be very open to do that. This is the end of the Stage 1 process; what we need to do now is look in more detail at your independent adviser's analysis and the recommendations of this committee. Can I say as a general point that the Finance Committee wants to produce the best possible RIA? We tell other—well, not committees—we tell Government, even in the debate yesterday, how to do this. So, we want to make the best stab at it ourselves as well.
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance highlights that your estimates of doing nothing are based on the annual report from the ombudsman, which includes wage inflation, and that's not in line with the Green Book produced by the Treasury, where you are not supposed to do that. I wondered what you're doing to rectify that.
If we were to use the Green Book, it doesn't actually change the costs in the RIA significantly; in fact, it reduces them slightly, just to put that on record. However, we're completely open to looking at whether we use the Green Book figures rather than the figures we've used. They don't actually change the scenario planning significantly, though—I would emphasise that.
Okay, thank you very much. Thanks Simon, thanks Gareth and thanks Joanne for your evidence to committee today. You will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy in the usual way. Diolch yn fawr.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 12:01 a 12:33.
The meeting adjourned between 12:01 and 12:33.
Welcome back, everyone, as we resume this meeting of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee. We turn to continue our scrutiny of the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill. I'm very pleased to welcome back, once again, Simon Thomas, the Member in charge; Gareth Howells of Legal Services with the Assembly Commission; and Joanne McCarthy of the Research Service with the Assembly Commission. This is our evidence session 12 on this Bill, and we will be dealing with general principles. As previously, Simon, we'll go straight into questions, if that's okay, and perhaps once again I could begin.
In terms of own-initiative investigations, section 5, subsection (4) allows Welsh Ministers to change the criteria by regulations with regard to own-initiative investigations. Do you think this is appropriate, considering that Welsh Ministers can be subject to scrutiny by the ombudsman?
Diolch am y cwestiwn. Fel rŷch chi’n ymwybodol, mae’r Bil drafft, fel y mae e, yn gosod allan y canllawiau a’r amodau ar gyfer yr ombwdsmon i gynnal mentrau ymchwiliadau ar ei liwt ei hunan. Y cwestiwn, rwy’n credu, wedyn yw: a ydych chi o'r farn bod angen ei gwneud yn bosib i newid yr amodau hynny wrth fynd ymlaen? A ydych chi'n teimlo bod angen modd o newid hynny? Ac os ydych chi'n teimlo bod angen modd o newid hynny, sut mae gwneud hynny? Yn ymarferol—ac rwy'n siarad o brofiad fan hyn, yn dod ger eich bron chi fel Aelod yn gyfrifol am Fil—mae'n llawer mwy hwylus i Aelod o'r Llywodraeth i gynnig deddfwriaeth a rheoliadau yn hytrach nag Aelod cyffredin, fel petai. Mae'n ymarferol.
Y diogelwch sydd yno yw bod yn rhaid i'r broses yna fod yn gadarnhaol gerbron y Cynulliad cyfan. Dyna'r cydbwysedd rŷm ni wedi'i daro yn y Bil. Rwyf wedi gweld, ac wrth gwrs rŷm ni wedi ystyried fel Pwyllgor Cyllid, o bosib fod hynny, nid yn tanseilio, ond yn taflu cysgod ar annibyniaeth lwyr yr ombwdsman. Yr opsiwn arall, wrth gwrs, fyddai rhoi hawl i'r Pwyllgor Cyllid, drwy Aelod, i newid y rhan yma o'r Bil, ond, wrth gwrs, yn ymarferol, fel y dywedais, mae hynny'n anodd ei sicrhau bob tro.
Dyna'r cydbwysedd rŷm ni wedi'i daro yn y Bil drafft. Roedd y Pwyllgor Cyllid yn awyddus bod amodau ar wyneb y Bil; rŷm ni wedi newid y Bil drafft yn y Cynulliad blaenorol er mwyn cynnwys hyn. Os ydym ni am fynd ymhellach, rwy'n edrych ymlaen at eich argymhellion chi a thystiolaeth gan bobl eraill, a bod yn onest.
Thank you for the question. As you're aware, the Bill as it stand sets out the guidance and the conditions for the ombudsman to be able to undertake own-initiative investigations. The question that then arises, I believe is: are you of the view that we need to make it possible to change those conditions as we move forwards? Do you feel that there needs to be a way of changing that? And if you do agree with that, how do we do so? Practically speaking—and I speak from experience here, coming before you as a Member in charge of a Bill—it's much easier for a Government Member to propose legislation and regulations than an ordinary Member, as it were—practically speaking.
The safeguard that is in place is that that process has to be in the affirmative, and it has to come before the whole Assembly. That is the balance that we've struck in the Bill. I have seen, and of course we have considered as a Finance Committee, that that may, not undermine, but perhaps cast a shadow over the full independence of the ombudsman. The other option, of course, would be to give the Finance Committee the right, through a Member, to change this part of the Bill, but practically speaking, as I said, that is difficult to ensure at all times.
So, that's the balance that we've struck in the Bill as it stands. The committee was eager that the conditions should be on the face of the Bill; we've changed the draft Bill in the previous Assembly in order to include that. If you want to move further ahead, I look forward to seeing your recommendations and the evidence of other people, to be frank.
Okay, and generally in terms of the criteria for own-initiative investigations, are you content with those?
Yes, we are. We considered how best to write those on the face of the Bill, and there's a dual test, if you like: one of public interest and then one of two other tests, and they turn around vulnerability and access to justice.
Yes, okay. In terms of a possible amendment to the Bill to require the ombudsman to inform other regulators of an intention—his or her intention—to move forward with an own-initiative investigation, do you see a case for such an amendment?
I don't, because I think the safeguards are quite strong, actually, on the face of the Bill. So, section 4(3) of the Bill sets out clearly that the ombudsman, in deciding to begin an own-initiative investigation, must consult the appropriate persons. Clearly, in that regard, the appropriate persons would include any regulator in the field in which he was proposing to do an own-initiative investigation. There are also safeguards in sections 65 and 66, where the Bill requires the ombudsman to inform and consult the relevant commissioner or regulator. So, I think, actually, we've got a belt-and-braces approach there.
Okay, that's certainly quite clear. Generally then, on the same sort of area of concern, are you content that there are enough safeguards to avoid duplication of work and roles, especially where investigations cross the remit of other regulators, commissioners and, indeed possibly, the auditor general?
Yes, and without reiterating the evidence before lunch too much, I think it's important to emphasise that we have a different role for the ombudsman than other regulators in this area, and to emphasise that we want the ombudsman to have an independence in this on behalf of vulnerable and disadvantaged people or, of course, in looking at the possibility of systemic failure within public services in Wales. So, there must be a public interest and he has a duty to consult and to make and prepare an investigation proposal, which, of course, those who might be affected by that have a chance to comment upon. I think, in that regard, we have the safeguards there to properly keep the independence of the ombudsman, but respect the remit of other regulators in that area.
I think we also have some good evidence from the current exercise of the ombudsman's functions under the current Act, where there is a good working relationship with other regulators and commissioners, and I think you've had evidence from those regulators and commissioners that underline that that working relationship has been established and is effective.
Just so that we don't lose the momentum on this, under paragraph 4(3)—it's just on this point that the Chair raised with regard to consulting other persons, and whether that should be an obligatory duty, really, to consult other regulators or to inform. You referred to said belt and braces with sections 65 and 66, but of course the problem with section 4 is that what it says is that he must consult such persons as he considers appropriate. So, the 'must' is really irrelevant there. It's basically, 'he can if he wants to.' Sections 65 and 66 really sort of repeat the same approach:
'if it appears to the Ombudsman that'.
So, basically, it's completely up to the ombudsman whether he does or doesn't. So, the point of principle as to whether it is desirable to have in the legislation—because there are other regulators and because one of the desirable aspects of legislation is having clarity and as much certainty as possible, particularly to lay members, where you do have such a complicated regulatory system—is it the case that you're opposed to it or you just think it probably doesn't add much, but you wouldn't object to it if it was there?
If you're asking that we consider that we can make this more clear, then we'd be very happy to consider that. It's not that we're opposed to that. My interpretation of these two interacting parts of the Bill is that the 'must' is important actually because there's a more general test of appropriateness, as you might be aware—the general test of administrative law, it's open to judicial review—. If, for example, he was to do an own-initiative investigation into healthcare and said, 'I don't think it's appropriate I consult the regulators', that would be very, very actionable in the high courts, I feel.
If I can just reiterate—. If we can make it clearer, we're quite happy to do that because there's no intention not to make it clear.
I just wanted to have a question—. When I met with Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, sometimes they have—. Usually, it's a referral from Welsh Government whereby they carry out an investigation and it seems to me to be more reactive than proactive. I'm struggling with how the ombudsman sometimes may know about a systematic failure if, for example, as I've just outlined, bodies that you would naturally assume would be looking at it did not, and then how do you have the conversations about what would be a theme for the ombudsman to take up? Is it only something that somebody would come to him with, or would he then be able to do it anyway regardless of if he had any evidence to show that this was an issue?
Well, he certainly has the powers under the Bill to do it even if he's not approached by an individual citizen. But he must be persuaded that there is a public interest there and there is an ongoing systematic failure, and I would emphasis 'ongoing' there. This is not about the power to go back over long history and try and do things retrospectively in that sense. He must prepare a proposal and he must consult on that proposal, so I think that's the ability then for the other regulators and other people who are interested to say, 'Well, actually, we've dealt with this. You need to be aware that you might be wasting your time here because we've dealt with this under this report or that report.'
I think the difference I want to emphasise here is that he comes to it from the point of view of the individual citizen and the most vulnerable people in our society. Regulators don't always come to it—. I'm not saying they deliberately ignore that, but that's not always their driving force, because they come to it from the point of view of the basic principles of the legislation that's passed by the Assembly in terms of standards, for example, within social care or whatever it might be. So, there's a different approach.
He does have the ability to do things if he believes that the public interest would be served, but as I say, he has to prepare a proposal for that, there's consultation on that, and the other bodies would have the opportunity to comment on that. To go back to the earlier points I was making to Mick Antoniw: the general principles of administrative and public law bind the ombudsman as they do any public body.
But do you think there's any potential for looking at the principle of it, conflict with—? For example, we've had evidence from the Welsh NHS Confederation, saying, 'Well, you know, there are already bodies there that will be more specialised to do these types of things.' I just want to be totally assured, from your point of view, that you've rehearsed the possibility for conflicts to be identified. There's a lot of, you know, 'This is my turf'; you know, Wales is a small country. If he starts encroaching on those areas quite a lot, there may be that sort of protectionism agenda that might come through. So, I just wanted to be satisfied that everything that you've got in the Bill will cover those potential pitfalls.
I would want the ombudsman to be empowered by this Bill, and, when it becomes an Act, to actually, if necessary, go into those areas where there may be conflict. I'm not suggesting that should always happen, but I think if you, and us as an Assembly, support an independent public services ombudsman then, obviously, we want him or her—it's a him, currently—to work in the best way possible with all of the regulators and commissioners and other bodies in Wales. But we also have to acknowledge that ultimately, yes, he does have independence to say, 'I think there's a problem here and I can conduct an inquiry into that'. That's what the Bill proposes, and I think the Bill is right to do that because I do think there is a voice for the citizen that needs to be preserved and enhanced. It is not merely about the right bureaucratic or regulatory environment; it's also about direct access to justice on behalf of citizens when there is potential—it has to be ongoing potential, and I emphasise that—for systemic failure leading to vulnerable people being made more exposed to potential harm.
Section 9 deals with the requirement for complaints to be received by the ombudsman. You've just left it to guidance in 9(2) for the ombudsman to delineate how those complaints should be received. There's no mention at all of oral complaints. I just wondered if there's a need to mention oral complaints, given that not all of the listed bodies may allow oral complaints. I just wondered why you didn't put that on the face of the Bill, rather than just in the guidance.
On the whole, we replicate the current Act and the arrangement now. I think it's touching on two different things there, but they're both important. One is we do think it is right for the ombudsman to prepare his own procedures to do that—that's the current arrangement, and it's worked well. I think that you have to produce a Bill that is very clear about the principles and powers, but allows the best administration to be done at the level of the ombudsman's office itself. I think the other thing you touch on around recording oral complaints is something that we're prepared to look at, because I think if there's inconsistency there then we'd be happy to examine how there might be more clarity placed on the face of the Bill.
Just to clarify, section 9 deals with when a listed authority refers a complaint on to the ombudsman; section 8 deals with when a person actually complains to the ombudsman.
Yes, I agree, that's why I was—. If the listed authority—. I wouldn't expect a listed authority to transfer on a complaint to the ombudsman in an oral form, because—
Right, okay, good. On section 8, it feels a bit fuzzy. For example, section 8(7) says:
'If the person wishes the complaint to be confirmed in writing'.
Surely, normally, you'd expect the complaint to be in writing, but clearly we want the ability for oral complaints to be taken—that's one of the key aspects of your Bill. I just wondered why you haven't been a little bit more prescriptive in how we capture the accuracy of an oral complaint today—in six months' time, we don't want the goal posts moving. We need to capture the accuracy of the oral complaint. And how do you think—? If the person says, 'Oh, no, I don't want it confirmed in writing; I just want you to get on with it', how are we then going to establish what the complaint was about on day one, as opposed to six months down the line when we actually get to hear it?
I think you're touching on there that we have a discretion for the ombudsman to pursue an oral complaint even if the complainant—him or herself—does not respond. I think we're very cognisant in this regard that people can be very vulnerable, can disengage. That often happens with public services; people do disengage. Then, if the ombudsman feels that there is an issue that can be pursued here, he has two options: he can pursue it as an oral complaint, but he can also use it as evidence for a wider own-initiative investigation. So, the kind of thing that emerges here—and this is anecdotal, but we sort of pick it up as Assembly Members ourselves—is that a lot of people have complaints about how their elderly relatives are being kept in care homes, but they do not want to convert them into formal complaints, because they don't want a challenge with the position, or they'll say, 'Ah, but she's been moved now to a much better home and I don't want to ruffle any feathers.' So, that's the kind of area where the ombudsman would be picking up information and might try—might—he certainly has the potential to think, 'This is an area I might want to explore in an own-initiative investigation.' So, there is discretion for the ombudsman there. I don't know if Gareth can add any further clarity around that.
Just to say that I think we've had evidence that, where the ombudsman currently confirms something in writing, or seeks to confirm it in writing, 50 per cent of complaints are lost.
Okay. I understand that. I understand the sensitivity of the example you give, but, equally, we all have cases where the complainant or the person driving the complaint is not actually the person who's suffering the indignity. And how do you—? It seems to me that we haven't quite established—but maybe we will in guidance—how we are going to deal with somebody else driving the complaint, whether or not the individual wishes it.
I think that has to be dealt with at an administrative level by the ombudsman in his complaints procedures in the way he sets out how he will deal with complaints. He will have to produce that around oral complaints. That will be subject to scrutiny at this committee, I would imagine, because you'll have an annual report and be able to look at that, as well as more general scrutiny in the public sphere. I acknowledge the point that you're making. I struggle to think how we could write such things on the face of a Bill. I think that's more something that you'd want to see the ombudsman doing in terms of best practice, administration, and, of course, making records of those things. Again, if there is anything on the face of the Bill that we can clarify around record-keeping, we'd be happy to do that.
Okay. That just brings me neatly on to my next point, which is around the—. I think point 8 covers the need for the ombudsman to record what the complaint is all about, but you then go on to the requirement to maintain a register of complaints, but only oral complaints. HIW was pretty clear that all complaints needed to be registered: the manner in which they're received, and the outcome. Would you consider amending the Bill to that effect?
It would certainly be good practice to record all complaints, not just oral complaints. I think the Bill reflects that we're adding oral into the mix, if you like. Again, if we can clarify that, if that's something that we can clarify on the face of the Bill, we'd be very happy to do that.