22/Aug/2014 - Last News Update: 21:53

Welsh language plan for services unveiled by commissioner Meri Huws

Category: Wales

Published: 17th May 2012 15:17:24

Welsh speakers would be able to access fully bilingual public services if new plans outlined for the language are given the go-ahead.

The Welsh language commissioner has launched a consultation into standards which public sector bodies and some companies would have to follow.

It means a Welsh speaker could expect to receive correspondence and phone calls in Welsh, along with accessing Welsh-speaking doctors and carers.

Firms not complying would be fined.

Commissioner Meri Huws admitted the rules might be "challenging" for some organisations but denied they would add another layer of red tape.

A Welsh Language Measure, which came into force last year, set a duty on public organisations to treat the Welsh language no less favourably than English.

Ms Huws, whose post was created under the measure, has now set out what exactly this could mean for them.

She said that public sector organisations, as well as private companies and voluntary sector organisations which receive more than £400,000 in public money, would have to provide fully bilingual services.

These would include councils, hospitals, courts, utility companies, telecommunication firms, social housing providers and bus and rail companies.

The standards mean organisations and companies would have to ensure that they employ enough Welsh speakers.

The commissioner will have the power to investigate those who do not comply and they could face a fine of £5,000 if they do not.

Ms Huws admitted the standards would be "challenging" for some organisations but insisted they were important.

"I would challenge the issue of it being a thick layer of bureaucracy - this is about securing services and securing ways of operating that are modern and relevant to people in Wales at the beginning of the 21st Century," she said.

"This is about delivering quality services in Wales, not about bureaucracy."

Robert Lloyd Griffiths, director of the Institute of Directors in Wales, said businesses were keen to engage with the commissioner over the issue.

At the moment all public bodies in Wales have to agree on a Welsh language scheme which sets out what you can expect from them in terms of bilingual services.

However the content of these schemes can vary from one organisation to another. So for example, you won't receive the same level of bilingual services in Monmouthshire as you would in Gwynedd or Ceredigion.

The new standards, as set out by the Welsh language commissioner, will not only make it clearer which services people can expect to receive in Welsh, but will also ensure there is consistency across Wales.

This will mean that a Welsh speaker in Monmouth can demand the same level of Welsh language services from their council as a Welsh speaker in any other part of the country.

The principle aim of these standards is to ensure that in Wales, the Welsh language should be treated no less favourably than the English language.

"Over the consultation period, we will be happy to liaise with her and her team as to what is right for business. The key thing in this I think is engagement," he said.

"I think if you are able to offer Welsh language within what you're offering in goods or services then those who speak the language recognise that and it's a positive.

"Some of the major utilities already do that - BT already do that."

He added: "There are Welsh language opportunities for businesses and I think that's good because there are people in Wales who speak Welsh and want to have their language put forward who will benefit from that."

However, on Wednesday the British Medical Association said the use of the Welsh language should not be a priority when delivering healthcare.

It said health money should not go into "promoting" the language, and targeting Welsh-speaking staff could hamper recruitment.

The consultation period runs until 11 August and Ms Huws said it was essential to understand what people's needs were in terms of accessing Welsh language services.

It is understood that it would be at least 2013 before any enforcement of the standards would come into effect.

BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. Welsh language plan for services unveiled by commissioner Meri Huws [Online] (Updated 17th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1429218/Welsh-language-plan-for-services-unveiled-by-commissioner-Meri-Huws [Accessed 22nd Aug 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Day trips: Keeping the costs down for families

    The long holiday season is drawing to a close, with families across the UK counting the cost of trips at home and abroad.
  • India beat Middlesex by 95 runs at Lords

    India eased to a 95-run victory over Middlesex at Lord's ahead of the one-day series against England next week.
  • Ashton under Lyne Jewellery shop ram raid gang jailed

    A gang who admitted ram-raiding a jewellery store to steal about £100,000 of jewellery and cash have been jailed.
  • Pet Shop Boys to make cameo appearance on The Archers

    Ambridge is to get a dose of pop star royalty after it was revealed that pop duo Pet Shop Boys are to make a cameo appearance on Radio 4's The Archers.
  • MPs to quiz BBC and police bosses over Cliff Richard raid

    The bosses of the BBC and South Yorkshire Police have been summoned to appear before MPs after a claim of a "cover-up" over a recent police raid on Sir Cliff Richard's Berkshire home.