Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

Yn ôl i Chwilio

Pwyllgor Diwylliant, y Gymraeg a Chyfathrebu

Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee

19/05/2020

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Carwyn Jones AS
David Melding AS
Helen Mary Jones AS
John Griffiths AS
Mick Antoniw AS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Nick Capaldi Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru
Arts Council of Wales

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Manon George Clerc
Clerk
Manon Huws Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Martha Da Gama Howells Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Osian Bowyer Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Robin Wilkinson Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Sian Hughes Ymchwilydd
Researcher

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

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

Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:15.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:15. 

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

Bore da, bawb. Good morning, everyone. Can I welcome you all to this meeting of the Senedd Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee? In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I have determined that the public are excluded from attending this committee meeting in order to protect public health. However, the meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv with participants joining via video-conferencing. The Record of Proceedings will, of course, be published as usual.

Aside from the necessary procedural adaptations relating to conducting proceedings remotely, all other Standing Orders and requirements for committees remain in place. The meeting is bilingual, and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. May I ask my fellow Members if there are any declarations of interest? I see there are none. Thank you.

So, just for the record, before we move to item 2, if I may remind Members that, should I have to drop out of the meeting because of technological difficulties, we have already agreed that David Melding will kindly chair while I try to rejoin. Thank you very much, David. Diolch yn fawr.

2. COVID-19: Sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda Chyngor Celfyddydau Cymru
2. COVID-19: Evidence session with the Arts Council of Wales

So, if we move, then, to item 2, the purpose of this item is to discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on areas within the committees's remit. We're very pleased this morning to be joined by our first witness. Nick Capaldi, would you like to introduce yourself?

Good morning, Chair. I'm Nick Capaldi, and I'm chief executive of the Arts Council of Wales.

You're very welcome and thank you very much, also, for the paper that you've kindly provided us with. If you're happy and ready, we'll go straight into questions as usual. So, I'll begin. Can you tell us a bit about how the arts council has co-ordinated and worked with the sector while responding to the crisis?

We've done three principal things, and we had to move quickly to do them. In the first instance, it was a question of making contact with all of our principal organisations to try and understand, as best we could, what the particular issues and challenges were that they were facing on an individual basis, and they were many. But what we wanted to do was try and create, as far as was possible, some sense or a modicum of stability.

The second thing we did was to flex all of the rules and regulations around our traditional funding programmes. We couldn't rip up the rulebook completely, but what we could do was introduce some flexibility to enable organisations that needed to repurpose or to divert some of their funding to be able to do so.

Thirdly, and I think probably most importantly, we pulled together funds from within our existing resources to create an emergency response fund—what we called our resilience fund for the arts. We were able, with help from our colleagues in the Welsh Government, to put around £7 million in the first instance into that fund, and I'm very pleased to be able to say that we were also able to attract an additional £0.5 million from a private foundation, the Freelands Foundation. So, we have had resources of around £7.5 million.

Alongside all of this, obviously, we are in daily contact not only with organisations, but with individuals. It is a very, very fragile and worried sector out there, and I think part of our role is to be well informed about what those concerns are and to be able to brief organisations such as the Senedd and Welsh Government about the potential implications.

That's very helpful. Thank you. Could you tell us a bit about how you've engaged with Welsh Government and how they've engaged with you during your response to this crisis?

Engagement with the Welsh Government has been very good. We have had regular meetings with our two principal Ministers, and those have happened every week to 10 days. Those are opportunities for the cultural bodies in the Government's portfolio to brief Ministers directly about what's happening. In addition to that, there's rarely a day goes by without me having a conversation with officials about some aspect of what's going on. So, I think this has been a very good period for co-operation and communication with the Welsh Government. 

09:20

That's good to hear. You've already told us a little bit about your initial reprioritisation of funds to respond immediately to the crisis. Can you tell us a little bit more about that, and what future plans you have to provide further funding to the sector to respond to the crisis, and then, of course, what medium-term impact that might have on other uses of your resources as we move forward?

We have a number of financial levers at our disposal. The first and the most obvious is the annual grant in aid that we receive from the Welsh Government, a large proportion of which, some 85 per cent of that funding, goes to support a portfolio of 67 major organisations across Wales—what we call our arts portfolio Wales. So, the first quarter of our payments to those organisations, which total somewhere in the region of £6.4 million, was the essential foundation stone that underpinned their financial security for most around issues to do with cash flow. Within our portfolio, we have a number of organisations that are facing very significant issues. Ironically, those organisations that are least dependent on public funding have been the ones hardest hit.

So, in creating these response funds, we were able to repurpose around £800,000 of other Government grant in aid that wasn't contractually committed. The Welsh Government made another £1.1 million available, and we also sequestered half a year's worth of funding from the National Lottery—about £5.2 million. Now, that takes us as far, in effect, as September, and the key issue that we are going to have to face is what particular mode of operation are we in in September? I think, for reasons that I'm sure we will come onto later, we're likely still to be in emergency mode, and so, that's going to pose some challenges, because in effect, we will probably find that the majority of our year's funding has simply gone to keeping the portfolio organisations, the individual artists, critically, afloat and available. 

I think we will want to come back to that in some more detail. Just a couple of further points from me. We know, of course, that the crisis is impacting differently on different groups in society. To what extent has the arts council response been designed to mitigate some of those negative equality impacts of the virus? And to what extent is the impact of coronavirus on individuals and organisations different geographically across Wales? Are there places that are being harder hit than others? 

I think that, as I've said before, these major public health crises are not equal opportunity events. They really do hit hardest the least affluent, the least well educated, and the particularly hard hit tend to be black, Asian, and minority ethnic and disabled communities and individuals. So, within our emergency response funds, we've identified those groups that are a particular priority for support, and what we're seeing, particularly at the individuals' level—we set up two rounds for individuals, partly because we felt that those with particular challenges would need longer to think about and to plan for the support that they've needed. And that is being borne out in the applications that we're now receiving for our second round of support. 

I think that those organisations in rural areas particularly are facing difficulties, I think those organisations where, perhaps, there's been less of a tradition of local authority support for their activities. But as far as organisations are concerned, you could pick everything from the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff to Galeri in Caernarfon, and they are facing potentially life-threatening issues. 

09:25

Thank you, that's helpful. If I could turn to David Melding now, if I may. 

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Nick, I'd like to look at the impact on individuals in particular, because obviously, they will range quite widely, from individual performers to those in other capacities working in the creative sector. Some of them have, over the years, been required to construct slightly odd trading bodies, and they're self-employed in a particular way through companies and all sorts of things that they've been required to do, and no longer work for organisations, even though most of their work is in organisations. So, I just wonder what are the principal challenges facing these people. For the arts council, although you would have had experience of running certain support mechanisms like scholarships that are focused on individuals, most of what you do is through organisations. So I just wonder how that's being managed. 

Yes, the majority of funding that we allocate in amount goes to organisations, but we have had over the years a number of individual funding programmes. But you're correct that the current situation has thrown up some new challenges that we've not faced before. What we've tried to do is to strike the right balance, as far as individuals are concerned, between a presumption that we will support them to also making sure that the funds are going to the right individuals and those most in need of support. Part of the difficulty around that has been the way that individuals have been able to navigate, or not, the UK Government schemes.

So, the self-employed income support scheme has been particularly problematic for some who weren't able to meet the criteria. And also, the waiting time for universal credit for those who have applied there has been quite extended. So that was one of the reasons why we moved very quickly to support this group of individuals. And I have to say, in the applications that we've seen, there have been some absolutely heart-wrenching stories of individual difficulty and hardship, and these are, sadly, likely to continue. So we are very focused on thinking about the needs of individuals who are our ultimate gig workers, going from job to job with no prospect, at the moment, of future work, having seen their livelihoods cut off overnight. 

When looking at the resilience of the sector—and I think you hinted strongly there that we're not likely to return to anything like the position we were in before the lockdown quickly—do you think there'll be a fair number that exit the sector and seek other opportunities? And in the support you're giving to individuals, is part of the criteria the resilience they're likely to have to be able, once more, when opportunities again come in the sector to take advantage of them, because the demand you must be facing is presumably huge. And I just wonder how you're trying to manage that. Is it very much on an individual basis and welfare, or is it, 'Well, it's the industry, and where it is when we start to recover and its ability to contribute and take advantage of the recovery—'? How is that balance kept? 

09:30

We've tried to ride both of those horses. It has been difficult. We've created two types of fund for individuals, one which is about simply dealing with emergencies and getting money as quickly as possible to people in genuine hardship. We have another fund for individuals, which comes onstream at the end of the month, that offers slightly more substantial support to give individuals a leg up back onto thinking about developing and creating opportunities for sustaining their work. And artists are nothing if not incredibly inventive and entrepreneurial, and we're expecting that fund in particular to be very well used. 

Our worry is that, yes, a lot of these individuals will be forced to leave the sector. We were hearing stories of people who simply needed money to pay their rent and to put food on the table next month. These are not people who can wait around for months for the arts industry to recover. That, in itself, I think, will have issues down the line, as and when we hope that the arts sector does reopen. These people might not be available in order to provide—the craftspeople, the directors, the writers, the musicians, the actors, the directors that the arts industry depends on. 

That's helpful in terms of how you've constructed the funding streams to an emergency and stabilisation, and I can see the strong methodology in that. By my calculation—and please correct me immediately if I'm wrong—there's £1.5 million available for the individual schemes, presumably in the current financial year. And the emergency grants are up to £2,500, whereas the stabilisation grants, which are looking more at sustainability and resilience, are up to £10,000, but that stream has only just started, if I understand correctly. But I wonder, of the £1.5 million, how much has already been expended or committed for the emergency funding, and how much in the future of emergency funding are you likely to give, and how much for the stabilisation? Or are we kind of seeing a switchover now from the phase 1 work, more emergency, and then phase 2 will be heavily concentrated on the stabilisation? I mean, how's it going to work? And the total amounts—am I right it's £1.5 million? And how much has gone already? 

So far, we have allocated about £0.5 million in the first round of individuals. That's money that has been decided and has gone. 

Yes, it is. And we have round 2 of that fund where the commitment we gave when we announced funds was that we would have equal sums available for both, because we didn't want people to feel panicked into applying immediately. So, we're expecting another £0.5 million. We are also anticipating that we might need £1 million for the individuals' stabilisation fund, which you said will be, correctly, kicking off later this month, which means that we've pared back slightly on the funds for organisations, which are a separate category.

It's something that we keep constantly under review, and if we need to move funds around to meet demand, then those are issues that my council is looking at very carefully. Its central principle has been that, where there is demonstrable need, we need, as far as is possible, to be able to respond to that. And it could well be that council will conclude that, having done two rounds of emergency funding for individuals, by September, the situation hasn't improved significantly for this group of people, and it might well be that a third round is necessary.

09:35

It's very helpful that you're being so clear in this. About £1 million is what you foresee to be going in to the emergency funding, and indeed, you may even need to go further than that when you make your assessment in the autumn. You say £1 million is needed before further assessment anyway, so in your judgment at the moment, £1 million is needed for the stabilisation element, of which, at the minute, £0.5 million is available. So does that mean that, when you're rebalancing with organisations, some of the commitments that you thought would be going to organisations will be pared back to fund that £1 million-worth that you think is likely for the stabilisation fund? I mean, I don't know, I mean no criticism here, I would really expect you to have to move funds about and move very quickly. But just so that we can understand the flows, have I inferred correctly there?

I'll just summarise for clarity. So, we're looking at an overall fund at this point of £7.5 million. There are two rounds of the emergency funding to individuals, at £0.5 million each, so that takes £1 million. In addition, we are offering, and have advertised, a stabilisation fund for individuals, which is a further £1 million—we're budgeted for that; that has yet to open to application. The balance of the £7.5 million, the £5.5 million, we have earmarked for organisations that are in difficulty, and that is a combination of organisations that are members of our arts portfolio Wales, and organisations that sit outside the portfolio, but obviously make an important contribution.

We've been able to do that, largely, by reallocating and repurposing lottery funding, which is usually open to application for a variety of sources. So, so far in this process, we have not had to revisit core support to the arts portfolio and reduce that. And that's very important, because, as I said at the beginning, that is the foundation stone on which this whole strategy rests.

And finally then from me, in terms of the applications from individuals that you are receiving, what is the proportion that are successful that you are able to offer some funding?

The success rate from the first round was 71 per cent. We were surprised that it wasn't higher. However, when we looked at the reasons why organisations weren't eligible, there were a lot of individuals who were outside Wales, and who were applying in. There were also a number of applications where we had some quite difficult conversations about eligibility. We had specified within the criteria that public benefit, cultural benefit, and benefit to the public was a really important criteria. So, when faced with applications such as those from—I think we had a number of boy band impersonators. Now, I don't want in any way to be disparaging about anybody who earns their living from creative activity, but we decided that, possibly, that was stretching our definition of public cultural benefit a little far. So, 71 per cent is round 1, and obviously, we'll be monitoring the situation for round 2. 

09:40

Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. Yes. Nick, we've touched on the general issues. Obviously, organisations within the arts council's funding—and it—face massive challenges during these unprecedented times. Looking at the overall picture in terms of the issues that organisations face and the stabilisation fund that you have, what would you say are the most significant of those issues in the immediate and the long term? I guess, in a way, like I say, it's a wide-ranging picture, but would you be able to identify any issues in particular? 

The most significant, and it has both short-term and long-term implications, is cash flow. I think that this particularly affects those organisations, as I said earlier, who have a very strong record of commercial earned income. Now, under normal circumstances—and you will remember this, John, from your time as culture Minister—we were encouraging organisations to be less dependent on public subsidy, and a number of organisations have responded magnificently. So, organisations like Chapter in Cardiff, Galeri in Caernarfon, the Wales Millennium Centre—less than 20 per cent of their funding comes from public sources. Now, in a situation where their earned income dried up overnight, then—you know, the Wales Millennium Centre could potentially be losing up to £20 million over the current financial year. And our portfolio as a whole is currently, we're estimating, losing around £1.4 million a week in earned income. These are big numbers.

In the short term, the furloughing scheme has been a real life saver for a large number of organisations. However, the slight vagaries about the terms of the extension to October—and, critically in our sector, if there will be an extension beyond October is really important, because most of the organisations, particularly those in the performing arts that we're talking to, are not imagining that they will be back in serious business much before Easter of next year. 

Nick, then, given the scale of the financial challenge in that cash-flow situation, obviously any help that comes from UK Government—the furlough scheme or anything else—is very welcome and important. Presumably, you're also in discussions then with Welsh Government in terms of the scale of the financial challenge. The actual resource that the arts council has is pretty limited compared to the scale of this challenge, so would you anticipate any further Welsh Government funding to the arts council to meet the scale of the challenge? 

We're having those conversations at the moment, and, up until now, we've worked incredibly hard to make sure that we direct organisations in a multiplicity of different directions for different support programmes, but that we're careful that there's not duplication. That's been challenging but so far that has worked well. We are aware that the Welsh Government is facing very, very significant challenges right across every aspect of civic and public life, and we're under no illusions as to the difficulties, and they're being very frank and open with us about the scale of those difficulties. All I can say is that I relay back to, constantly, Ministers and officials that this very important aspect of Welsh economic and cultural life is on its knees and is going to be the last out of lockdown and will need our careful support and nurturing if it is to survive in the longer term.

09:45

Okay, Nick. Well, I think you've been clear about the existential threat to very big organisations like WMC as well as many smaller ones. Have you actually made an assessment of the number of organisations that could go out of operation as a result of this pandemic, and how arts council intervention might change that number and reduce it?

No, we've not done that particular calculation, partly because it depends so much on the future of some of the UK and Welsh Government funding programmes. However, if furloughing doesn’t continue beyond the current October deadline, I would say that there is probably a third of our portfolio of major organisations that is critically dependent on that support, and I don't see any replacement for that funding that would be able to respond to the same kind of scale. 

What organisations do in response to that is more difficult to predict. Again, they're resilient, they're entrepreneurial—they will stretch every sinew to try and survive into the future, even if that means surviving in a different format or different style. Our worry is: well, what will that look like, and, at the end of the day, will it represent value for money for the public taxpayer, and will it offer a good cultural experience? Now, at the moment—. Let's take the Wales Millennium Centre as a good example, struggling with all of the issues around social distancing—if they were to apply the current rules, they would only be able to sell one seat in six. So, The Lion King to an auditorium of 300 people doesn’t make sense financially and is probably a pretty poor audience experience as well. So, there is a real risk and danger of casualties.

In England, we've already seen one very high-profile, well-known theatre—the Nuffield theatre in Southampton—close and go into insolvency, and my colleagues in England are saying that there are a number not so far behind. We're holding our own in Wales, and that's largely because of the support and co-operation that we've had from the Welsh Government in helping to plug the gaps where the UK Government hasn't been able to help, but we're all clinging on by our fingertips here.

And in terms of ideas and entrepreneurial zeal to try and overcome some of these issues, Nick, the arts council then would be playing a role in exploring possibilities and sharing ideas and perhaps giving a sense to those that are less advanced, in terms of these ways of operating, of the ideas and the work of others?

Yes, very much so. Where we had originally thought we might be come September/October would be investing in offering funding to help that kind of planning and thinking about moving to the future. My fear and my worry is that we won't be out of the emergency mode of operation at that time.

Organisations themselves are exploring different ways of working. We have for some time been encouraging organisations to think more about how they can exploit digital opportunities for their work. Now, the current rush we've seen to digital has pros and cons. There has been some excellent work, and that has reached new audiences, but there has also been some less good work. And, of course, one of the most difficult and challenging things to do with digital work is to find a way of—and it's that ugly word—monetising that work, and, at the end of the day, I don't know a single organisation or artist who would not rather be in front of a live audience rather than sitting in their bedroom communing with a screen.   

Okay. Nick, could I ask you about the level of applications for the stabilisation fund for organisations and how much funding has been committed to date?

09:50

We have had 136 applications to that fund, of which 20 are from members of our Arts Portfolio Wales and the ask in terms of the size of the applications, from memory, is around just under £4 million. 

Do you hear me okay—sound okay? Just a question—a few questions, really—about the future, what it might look like. In your paper, Nick, you quite rightly refer to the achievements of art in Wales being

'rich, innovative and deeply appreciated',

and almost evangelically you say,

'Could the darkness of this crisis, give us an opportunity to bring about lasting and systemic change?'

What do you think the possibility is that the arts sector may look like after September? What might be the future? What might it look like? How might it operate differently? What are your thoughts on that? 

I think, inevitably, it will probably be smaller and it will be more focused, but I also think it will probably be more closely and better engaged with its local communities. The cleverer and the more astute organisations have not just rushed to get content online in a kind of shouty 'here we are' way; they've thought very carefully about, 'Who is our community? Who is our audience? Who do we want to get close to?', and I suspect that a lot of that thinking will follow through into new ways of working, because I think that organisations will recognise that, ultimately, their survival will depend on very high levels of support from their community, and that might be a local community geographically, it might be a community of interests—I don't know, opera-goers making sure that you're connecting well and providing them with what they want. I think we will see a lot more co-operation and I think we will see major organisations collaborating more to produce work on the basis that that work will be more affordable to produce and for that work to have a longer life by, perhaps, touring and moving across Wales in ways at the moment that—currently, there tends to be a little bit of everybody paddling their own canoe. I think we will see a new era and a new spirit of collaboration.

Well, thank you for that. Part of your vision is very much focused on this issue we've discussed many, many times, and that is the arts in relation to equality, diversity and social justice, and you seem to be describing, really, some of the arts perhaps in a change of direction of going back to its roots a little bit more, a bit more emphasis on community-based arts, and I wonder what sort of feedback you're getting around that vision from the organisations and individuals that you've been dealing with. Is there a mechanism for them feeding into what this future vision should look like? How have you actually been engaging with them at this time? And I say all this within the context that there are so many uncertainties, but, nevertheless, if you don't have a vision, then where do we go?

Those conversations are alive at the moment in spite of the current difficulties. We published a new corporate plan about two years ago, the title of which was 'For the benefit of all', and it was an absolute attempt on our part to say that the benefits and fruits of public investment in arts and culture had to be available to the wider cross section of the audiences. What's become abundantly clear over the years is that there is—and it is a minority—a minority of the population that has been super-served with the benefit of publicly funded arts, and we really must ensure that that wider cross-section of the population also has its opportunity to enjoy and take part in the arts, and equality is at the heart of that. And I'm pleased to say that the majority of organisations that I've spoken to absolutely (a) recognise that, and (b) see it as the answer to their future. They can't go on just appealing to 6 per cent of the population of Wales, no matter how many times that 6 per cent goes to the theatre. They've got to be reaching out to the other 94 per cent.

09:55

Thank you for sharing that part of the vision and it's really interesting that you're getting that feedback emanating from the organisations and individuals. And of course, during this coronavirus crisis, the community response, the re-engagement of community with many, many areas of engagement—music, arts and so on—has actually been quite phenomenal. So, as we begin to approach, as we get through the next couple of months, where do you think relaxations, if they occur, might enable that part of the vision to actually develop and benefit? What examples might there be of relaxations that could have an impact but still occur within safety? Because the very nature of arts is people coming together in a fairly traditional way. Now there may be some time before we are able to get back to that sort of situation, so how do you think relaxations might take place that would benefit us over the coming months and into the future?

I will answer that question directly, but you made me think at the beginning around this broader question of community engagement. Last week, like so many other people, I was pondering over the juxtaposition of the VE Day celebrations alongside the current challenges that we're facing. And with all of that post second world war comment about creating a land fit for heroes and reinvigorating the welfare state, equality for all, there are so many similarities, and I was trying to think, 'Well, who are the heroes of today?' And the heroes of today are obviously our doctors, our nurses, our NHS workers, those working in social care, but also all of those individual friends, families and neighbours who've supported each other and, as you say, that tremendous groundswell of community, and that sense of community, and that sense of community being able to make a difference. And that's, within the arts, what we must tap into.

In terms of what happens when the relaxations begin to occur, it is possible that for certain types of community activity, galleries and museums, it will be possible to introduce safe-space protocols and to get people in; certain types of outdoor events as well, I think, will be popular. I think the activity that will be right at the back of the queue, as we've acknowledged, will be the traditional theatre spaces and concert halls.

Thank you. I did have a number of other questions. I think you've answered those in response to others, so thank you very much for sharing that vision.

Thank you. Thank you, Chair. Good morning to you, Nick. Just three questions from me, if I may, just to wrap up. The programme Creative Learning through the Arts, obviously that would have been impacted by the closure of schools. I'm just wondering how much of that programme you think can be delivered online.

I think that a significant amount of the programme is and will be delivered online. Obviously, when COVID-19 hit, we looked very carefully about what to do with our creative learning programme. But, we've repurposed funds and the schemes, we've moved a lot of that activity online, and we're going to be offering master classes and training to artists who are going to be working with creative learnings and resources to provide teaching materials. We're also looking at changing our very successful and popular lead creative schools programme, which provides opportunities for schools to engage in creative activity within the school day. Obviously the school day takes on a completely difference perspective now, but, so far—and it's only been open a few days—we've had 45 applications from people wanting to take part in the masterclass programme, and 75 expressions of interest from schools who want to be part of the creative learning programme.

10:00

Thanks. Can you give me an example of a particular part of the programme that's being delivered online at the moment? What kind of educational activities are being delivered?

If you go on, I think, Hwb, you can see a lot of this activity, because at the end of projects a lot of schools are very keen to produce some kind of artefact or effect, and that's nearly always something online. So, there have been a large number of projects that have developed computer skills and online creative skills with young people around animation, around filming, around the use of different sorts of ways of engaging people in a conversation. Certainly, what I've seen of examples has been that young people, by and large, have a very high degree of digital competence. Our worry, particularly during this period of lockdown, are those households that perhaps don't have access to computer and online materials, and so we're trying to work out how we address that situation.

Okay, thank you. Can I move on to the next question, which is on the arts council's work in terms of arts and health? Obviously it's a very great test for everybody at the moment, but I was just wondering what you think the arts can do in terms of improving people's health or keeping people's health in the current lockdown. I suppose particularly, although not exclusively, we know that many people will suffer from mental health problems because of the isolation; how can the arts help to alleviate those problems, do you think?

I think that helping to alleviate mental health is a massive issue, and that is something that is a particular focus of our work at the moment, and also the fact that although, obviously, the focus in healthcare and social care settings is very much on recovery from coronavirus, there are still opportunities within those settings to provide creative and other activities, either for the staff or indeed for the patients. When all of the current difficulties took root, we contacted our partners in Public Health Wales, in the national health service, the Welsh NHS Confederation, the health boards here in Wales, and what surprised us was their wish to continue with the programmes at work that we've been putting out. So we've recently issued, as part of Well-being Week, some information and documentation with Public Health Wales on the importance of helping to maintain the mental health of health workers in particular. Although it's still at an early stage in terms of recalibrating precisely what our support will be, all seven health boards have said that maintaining this work at the moment is a priority.

10:05

A follow-on question from me, and it's to do with the arts council's resilience programme. Is it still running? I suppose that's the first question. Secondly, if it is, how can that programme help arts organisations to weather the impact of the virus?

I didn't catch all of that.

Sorry, it's to do with the arts council's resilience programme. Is that ongoing and how could that help arts organisations to weather the virus?

Yes, it is ongoing. So far, we have had one round of urgent support to individuals, which has completed. We have a second round that is currently under assessment. We are about to open a third scheme, which is for individuals in need of stabilisation support, and our current stabilisation fund is being assessed at the moment. We judge that package of support, hopefully, to be sufficient to get us to around September, at which point, provided that we still have the funds to be able to respond, our resilience fund will need to continue, and will need to be flexed and changed to meet whatever the needs are at that point in time.

Thank you, Carwyn. We do have a little bit of time left. Do Members have any other questions that they'd like to raise with Nick—any other points they'd like to raise? Mick.

Just one point, just to focus on—. Obviously, September is an absolute sort of watermark time for you in terms of the plans, and one of the points you raise is, of course, that there are so many people within the industry, whether it's the gig economy or whether it's freelancing and so on, who have been almost at the pinnacle of impact of this current crisis. You referred to trying to cover the gaps that fill in. I just wonder whether you could, perhaps, just focus very quickly on the gaps that exist, particularly with things like the freelancers and the gig economy—that whole section. I saw somewhere that something like 40,000 people in Wales are within that sector, so it is obviously of massive consequence for Wales what happens when, basically, I think what you're suggesting is that the money begins to run out. I wonder what your thoughts are specifically about that—that section.

Yes, it is a group of people who, I think, are especially vulnerable and at risk. This is largely because the self-employment income support scheme is not fit for purpose for that sector. We're currently working very hard with our colleague arts councils and with the Creative Industries Federation to lobby Government to try and get changes to the qualifying criteria for a group of individuals who are in and out of employment and, therefore, can't offer a track record of financial accounts and support, and also young graduates who are just out of college for, perhaps, a year or two, who haven't got three years' worth of accounts. These are the young talent that our future depends on, who are being hobbled at the first opportunity of getting a foot on the rung of the ladder. So, we're looking particularly carefully at these groups of people, who are going to slip through the net in what the UK Government's support schemes are able to offer.

Can I ask a question that follows on from that? As part of that, obviously, the trade unions within the sector, such as Equity, the Musicians Union, parts of Prospect and so on, what sort of engagement do you have with the trade unions and what is their thinking? What's their feedback into the current situation?

The connections are good. We are continuing to liaise with trade unions and will do so as the issues and the funds move forward, because it's a very confusing and fast-moving environment, and the fact that we can respond directly. So, for example, there was a query from the Musicians Union about some aspects of our support for individuals, and we were able to deal with that very quickly and very speedily. So, yes, trade unions have a really important role to play. They're also a tremendous source of information, and we've got information from all of them on our website about various avenues of support, and most trade unions are also offering hardship funds for their members.

10:10

Thank you. Do other Members have any additional questions for Nick? David Melding.

Yes. I just wonder, looking at the system broadly, not just through your fund, those that might open partially—you know, galleries and museums, I suppose, are the obvious ones—it could be a way of applying Fusion and equal opportunity equality—[Inaudible.] If you look at the national gallery in Cardiff, if that is socially distanced and limits quite considerably the number that can be admitted at one time, perhaps it should be prioritising schoolchildren and students for the moment, perhaps young people in general because of their very exposed position economically at the moment. Supermarkets are opening at specific times for those in the care industries and the emergency services, could you see that sort of programme perhaps being one way of rationing for the benefit of whole society—[Inaudible.]—to the back of the queue could be well in the next year, potentially.

Did you get that, Nick? The sound was a bit poor. Did you get the question?

It did dip in and out, but I think I got the gist of the question. I think that if we do find ourselves in a position where attendance—and the particular example you used was around how galleries and museums and the national museum are respected—then I think absolutely we need to think imaginatively about what that means, who's able to go, who we're able to encourage.

One of the frustrating aspects of our creative learning programme that Carwyn was asking about earlier on is that one of our most successful schemes was Go and See, which provided support for schools and young people to go and visit arts organisations—well, obviously that's currently on hold. But the sooner that we can begin to open funds like that, and the more imaginative we can be about responding to priority needs, then I think that's very much the territory that we must be in.

Thank you, Nick, that's really helpful. Just in the last minute or two of the session, are there any key messages that you'd like to leave with us that you haven't been able to raise today? As we respond to this crisis and scrutinise the Welsh Government's response, is there anything that you'd particularly like us to be prioritising?

I think that the obvious one, and Members are across this, is the fact that we're here for the long term, particularly as far as the performing arts are concerned, and that Welsh Government and the UK Government has to keep faith with this sector. It would be a tragedy if we were to reach October, having invested literally millions in keeping the sector and those individuals in play, and we were then to turn around and say, 'Oh, well, there we go, we haven't been able to support it.' I don't think, within the grand scheme of things, these are vast sums of money, but for our sector they're essential in keeping these individuals and organisations in play.

That's really helpful. So, if Members don't have any further questions, can I just thank you very much for your evidence, Nick? It's been really helpful. Your paper is also really helpful. I think one of the Members said in our informal earlier session that it's really nice when we get some evidence from people and they're actually clear with us about what they want. So, that was very helpful to see some practical suggestions of things that we might recommend. As usual, you'll be sent a transcript of the evidence so that you can check it for factual accuracy. And just once again, we're very grateful to you for everything that you're doing. I'm sure we'd all endorse your comments about the importance of the sector and we'll certainly explore ways in which we can talk with Welsh Government about the need for long-term support. So, with that, thank you very much, and you're able to leave the meeting now. Thank you. Diolch yn fawr.

10:15

Thank you for the opportunity.

3. Papurau i'w nodi
3. Papers to note

So, if we can move, then, Members, to item 3, which are our papers to note. We have—I'm just trying to find the first one. So, the first one is the letter from the Wales community radio network. Any comments? Mick.

Yes, just to comment on it, because we mentioned this last week, didn't we? We had a similar letter through, and I think we were writing to the Government about it. Did that actually take place? Sorry, you'll have to excuse me if I missed something on it.

I'm trying to remember off the top of my head; I know I've seen a draft. So, perhaps the way to deal with this is to respond to the letter, saying that we have written to Government and informing them of that.

I think so. The point they make, it's not listing all community radio, but it's certainly a sign of desperation that quite a number of community radio stations look as though they're on the border of financial collapse, and it's a fairly desperate plea. I think it's obviously one that deserves to be considered, bearing in mind our functions as a committee.

Well, we can add the comments from this letter into the—we haven't actually sent the letter to Welsh Government yet—so we can add this for emphasis and then write to the community radio network, informing them that we've done that. Are Members content with that?

So, our next paper to note was the brief from the arts council, which we'll discuss a bit further in the private session coming up. And then correspondence from the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, confirming that they're happy for us to undertake some more scrutiny work around the area of sport. I don't think we need any action on that, do we? No. So, with that, are Members content to note the three items for the record? Thank you.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 (ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (ix) to resolve to exclude the public for the remainder of the meeting

Cynnig:

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

Motion:

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

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

So, we move to item 4, then, and item 4 is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting. Any objections?

Oes yna wrthwynebiad?

Are there any objections?

If not, then we move, according to that Standing Order, into a private session of the committee.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:18.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:18.

Dysgu am Senedd Cymru