The assurance report is submitted in order for members to discuss its contents and consider any matters arising that could be relevant for Gwynedd Council and that could lead to actions in order to improve compliance.
Submitted - the report noting that another census would be conducted in two years. It was noted that the report had been submitted at the previous meeting but that a summary was required and a discussion held on the relevant features for Gwynedd. It was stated that the Welsh Language Commissioner published a report every year that was the subject of research by its officers on the successes of organisations in implementing and complying with Welsh language standards. It was added that they published the reports in order to offer an independent opinion to inform Welsh speakers, to draw the attention of organisations to successful practices and to provide evidence for politicians. It was stated that this report was a report on 2017/18, noting that development work had now been undertaken.
It was explained that the report highlighted three main challenges for organisations as noted below:
- Develop their provision in order to ensure that Welsh services were available and of good quality, and that they did not treat the Welsh language less favourably than English
- Improve understanding of the reasons for users' decisions, and take positive steps to promote and facilitate the use of Welsh language services
- Give detailed and strategic consideration on how to increase opportunities to use Welsh.
The Welsh Language Services Manager stated that the report raised many points of interest, but that she would focus on three recommendations for organisations.
Recommendation 1 - Although user experiences were still improving, it was noted that consistency was required in order to give people faith that services were always available through the medium of Welsh, and that Welsh would not be treated less favourably than English. It was stated that Technology was the matter in question and that many developments had been seen after a survey on the self-service machines had been undertaken. However, although this was positive, it was reiterated that care needed to be taken with new apps to ensure that both languages worked. It was added that there was a need to look into creating apps ourselves rather than attempting to modify some that were already available in English.
Recommendation 2 - It was noted that the recommendation was for organisations to encourage the use of Welsh language services, make them easy to use, and to understand users' real experiences. It was stated that this recommendation had been discussed on more than one occasion, and that the evidence submitted did not raise any new concerns. It was noted there was a need to think about a way of dealing with the barriers. It was added that some Council departments had attempted to make more use of clear Welsh and to reduce the use of more technical words.
Forms were discussed noting that research in Bangor had shown that only half of participants had chosen to complete forms through the medium of Welsh. It was noted that it raised the question whether there was a need to create bilingual forms, and to consider simple steps to change this. It was noted that the national report specified that people would be 'very likely to make a job application in Welsh if Welsh is essential' for the post. However, it was noted that a high number of job applications in Gwynedd were being submitted through the medium of English. It was added that this was the case although a level of Welsh was essential for every post.
In looking at the use of Welsh at public meetings, it was stated that the standards noted it was possible to contribute through the medium of Welsh. It was noted that Council policy noted that all Meetings were held through the medium of Welsh. It was stated that this needed to be highlighted to the Language Commissioner.
Recommendation 3 - it was noted that the recommendation was the need for organisations to give strategic and detailed consideration to increasing the use of Welsh when making policy decisions, and in terms of the internal operating language. It was noted there was a need to assess the Council system of assessing impact as the standards required organisations to consider how a decision could be implemented in a way that led to positive effects on the Welsh language. By examining work undertaken through grants and contracts, it was acknowledged that work needed to be done in this field. It was added that it was a priority.
Observations arising from the discussion
- It was stated that the report showed enthusiasm in the field, but that over 60% of respondents who were part of the data did not use the language as a result of confidence-related reasons. It was stated that there was a need to address this and increase confidence. There was also a question regarding sample size and the people questioned and a discussion was held on how scientifically accurate was the sample.
- A discussion was held on starting conversations in Welsh, enquiring whether or not this happened in all locations within the Council, including Leisure Centres. It was noted that work had been done and that all staff members were expected to start conversations through the medium of Welsh. It was noted that exercises might need to be undertaken to see whether or not this occurred in every location. It was added that verbal use of the Welsh language was seen on all job descriptions.
- Job applications were discussed noting that it may be an idea to include a section to demonstrate Welsh writing skills as part of the Council's Application Form.
- When examining the forms, it was stated that information needed to be collected to consider creating bilingual forms. It was added that an understanding of how to use, understand and develop data needed to be ensured initially. The need to put a programme together on how to collect information was stated.
- When discussing the Standards' requirement for Gwynedd Council to 'consider how a decision can be implemented in a way that leads to positive effects on the Welsh language', it was noted that the Council should be much better atdoing this. It was stated that the Council undertook impact assessments which identified the linguistic risks but people might take this field for granted. It was noted that Gwynedd residents may entrust members to ensure that the Welsh language received precedence. The need for the Council to undertake additional steps to ensure that the Welsh language was a priority was noted and to be more proactive.
- It was stated there was an increase in the number of posts where Welsh-speakers were required - and it was enquired what the department was doing to share this message with school pupils. It was noted that HunanIaith was undertaking regular work with young people, but it was noted that it was a field where they examined how information was shared and a further discussion was needed on the field.
The report was accepted.