Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
Language has always been important in health and care because responding to the individual needs of patients / service users always starts with communication.
The Welsh Government recognises this by acknowledging that receiving services through the medium of Welsh is a key component of care, especially when discussing sensitive and emotional concerns. The focus of the More than just words, the Welsh Government’s strategic framework to strengthen Welsh language provision in health and social care, is on providing care that meets the needs of individuals.
In late 2018, Welsh Government commissioned Arad Research and OB3 Research to undertake an evaluation of More than just words. The aim of the evaluation was to assess how and to what extent the follow-on framework achieved its intended aim to promote and support use of the Welsh language in health and social care in Wales. It also aimed to identify the barriers and facilitators to implementing the follow-on framework’s seven key objectives. The evaluation report has been published today.
Overall the findings of the evaluation showed that for many Welsh speakers being able to access services in Welsh made a significant positive difference to their overall experience as well as in many cases, the health and well-being outcomes they gained as a result. However, the findings also demonstrated that service users often find it difficult to access services they need and are reluctant to ask for it when not offered.
The evaluation reported progress has been gained in relation to each of the seven objectives, although none of them can yet be considered as being fully met. Significant progress has been made in some areas, e.g. within higher education practices, but less progress has been achieved in others e.g. the Welsh language capacity of systems and processes to record and share language choice.
The findings also identified areas of good practice in relation to progress towards delivery of the Active Offer in some settings. However, in many cases these practices, although influenced by More than just words, appear to have been implemented as a result of local initiatives or the efforts of a few individuals within particular settings rather than any sector or setting wide plan or policy.
Overall, More than just words and the focus on the Active Offer (providing a Welsh language choice to patients without them having to ask for it) has encouraged good positive progress in terms of raising awareness of the need to deliver services in Welsh to Welsh speaking service users. The main challenge that remains is in supporting the sector to put in place practices and systems that enable and ensure that the Active Offer is delivered across all settings.
The findings of the evaluation indicate that there is a continued need for More than just words. However, the evaluation report suggest that More than just words’ role may need to change from being a strategic framework upon which the sector can plan provision, to an enabler, supporting the sector to put into practice the agreed priorities and support the aims of Cymraeg 2050.
The Welsh Language in Health and Social Care Partnership Board oversees the delivery of More than just words and includes representatives from key professional bodies. I have agreed a recommendation made by that group to set up a small Task & Finish Group to develop a 5 year work plan for More than just words based on the recommendations of the evaluation and other evidence. The Task & Finish Group will meet on a regular basis from September and provide me with advice and guidance on the next steps by 5 November.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do that.