By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing for us to set a small number of cookies. Cookie policy

Desktop
Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
 
 
You are in :
Back to list View this page without hyperlinks
The Assembly met at 13:30 with the Presiding Officer (Dame Rosemary Butler) in the Chair.
 
13:30
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Good afternoon. The National Assembly for Wales is now in session.
 
1. Questions to the First Minister
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
13:30
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
The first item is questions to the First Minister, and question 1 is Mohammad Asghar.
 
Healthy Lifestyles (South Wales East)
 
13:30
Mohammad AsgharBiography
1. What action is the Welsh Government taking to promote healthy lifestyles in South Wales East? OAQ(4)2718(FM)
 
13:30
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, we’re focused on ensuring a whole-of-society approach to improving population health, including supporting healthy lifestyles, protecting communities and addressing the wider determinants of health, such as good employment, quality housing and tackling poverty.
 
13:30
Mohammad AsgharBiography
Thank you for the reply, Minister. Recent figures produced by the child measurement programme Wales revealed that a quarter of children in South Wales East are overweight or obese by the time they start school. Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, and Torfaen were all above the Welsh national average of overweight and obese children starting school. What action will the Welsh Government take to reverse these truly shocking statistics and to promote healthier lifestyles to parents in South Wales East?
 
13:31
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, in 2010, we launched the all-Wales obesity pathway, which provides national strategic direction, by setting out a tiered approach for the prevention and treatment of obesity, from community-based prevention and early intervention to specialist medical and surgical services.
 
13:31
John GriffithsBiography
First Minister, to have a more physically active and healthier Wales, we need key organisations to come together and accept their responsibility. In that light, would you join me in welcoming the work that’s taking place in my area, where the Aneurin Bevan Local Health Board, Newport Live—the leisure trust—Newport City Council, sports bodies, and a range of others, are meeting to develop joint strategy and policy for a more physically active and healthier population?
 
13:32
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. I thank the Member for that question. I very much welcome, of course, the cross-cutting work that’s being taken forward by those organisations. We know that it isn’t simply a case that one organisation by itself can change people’s habits and encourage people to do more exercise. When they come together, of course, then they can have a much greater effect.
 
13:32
Lindsay WhittleBiography
Well, Minister, in view of the fact that a report by Public Health Wales stated, and I quote,
 
‘There is likely to be limited impact in programmes that focus on individual lifestyle behaviour change’,
 
how can we justify continuing to spend public money on trying to change people’s lifestyle choices when this approach is clearly failing, and many people—not me—regard it as the nanny-state interference anyway? And do you believe there should be a greater emphasis on concentrating on children’s healthy eating, please?
 
13:33
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I think we need to emphasise that people can acquire good health, or can improve their health, at any age. The Member’s right to say that, with regard to children, it’s important that children learn good habits young. But it’s also important to ensure that people are encouraged to stop smoking. We know that has an enormous effect on their health, even later on in their lives. I don’t see that as nanny-statism; I see that as something that actively helps people to ditch a habit that actively harms their health.
 
13:33
Jeff CuthbertBiography
Will the First Minister join with me in applauding the work of Diabetes UK in preparing their book ‘100 Things I Wish I’d Known about Living with Diabetes’? The book is designed to collate real experiences of people with diabetes and the tips that they offer about how they are coping with the condition. Clearly, leading a healthy lifestyle is very important for someone with diabetes and, especially, avoiding smoking.
 
13:34
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, I do very much agree that Diabetes UK Cymru are extremely valuable partners. We know their resources have helped many people come to terms with, and learn to manage, their condition. We do work closely with Diabetes UK Cymru. They have a seat on the diabetes delivery plan implementation group, and, of course, we look forward to working with them closely in the future.
 
Doctor and Nurse Training
 
13:34
Mike HedgesBiography
2. Will the First Minister make a statement on doctor and nurse training at Swansea University? OAQ(4)2719(FM)
 
13:34
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. Swansea University plays a key role in supporting the NHS in Wales through the provision of a wide range of education and training programmes. I know that, with regard to nurse training places at Swansea, we are now at the highest level that we have seen in the course of this Government in terms of the nurse training places commissioned. At the moment, that figure stands at 331.
 
13:34
Mike HedgesBiography
Thank you, First Minister. Of course, when the Assembly was created, there were no doctors in training at Swansea University; that’s only something that has come since the Assembly has been here. I’m very pleased to note the increase in numbers and I agree with the First Minister that there’s a whole range of other services, such as physiotherapists, et cetera, but I don’t think I’d have got past the Presiding Officer if I’d listed all of them in the question, so I stuck to doctors and nurses, but I do realise all the others are important. Is this not an example of the Welsh Labour Government supporting the Welsh NHS by having more doctors and more nurses?
 
13:35
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Absolutely. We have more doctors than ever, we’re increasing the numbers of nurse training places and we note with concern what’s happening, of course, with nurse bursaries in England and look for more information from the Government department there in terms of how that would work as far as Wales is concerned. But the Minister did announce an £85 million-package to support a range of education and training programmes for healthcare professionals, and we know that investing in our workforce is the key to the NHS’s sustainability in the future.
 
13:36
Suzy DaviesBiography
In view of the falling numbers of GPs and the ageing population of GPs, First Minister, what work has the Welsh Government done to help persuade postgraduate students who’ve studied at Swansea to consider general practice as a career path, and how would Welsh Government encourage them to take a stake in practices of their own?
 
13:36
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
First of all, we should avoid thinking that the only way for GPs to practice in the future is buying themselves into a practice. That model, increasingly, is in decline, and more and more GPs wish to be salaried GPs. They are equally as valid, if I can put it that way, as those who wish to buy into a practice. What’s important, of course, is the service that’s available to the public. We work very closely with the British Medical Association, of course, to identify any barriers that may exist to the recruitment of GPs. Nevertheless, we have 2,000 more GPs than we did 10 years ago, and that shows that the investment that we have made as a Government is bearing fruit.
 
13:36
Peter BlackBiography
First Minister, the BMA have written to the immigration Minister to express concern at proposals coming out of the migration advisory committee, which, they say, will have a devastating impact on the 500 overseas medics who graduate from UK medical schools each year, because of the changes to visas that are being proposed by that committee. Can I ask whether you’ve carried out an evaluation of the impact of the proposals on medical schools in Wales and whether you’ve also made representations to the UK Government about those proposals?
 
13:37
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, no doubt they will be detrimental. There are some who argue that we don’t control our borders. Well, say that to those students who aren’t coming here because of visa requirements and those doctors who now feel that they cannot stay in Wales, as they would have done in years gone by in order to offer their skills to the people of Wales. I often hear the argument that, somehow, migrants place a burden on the health service. As far as I can see, it’s those from overseas countries who actually staff much of the health service, and, certainly, the health service is reliant on and is grateful for the skills that they bring. But anything, of course, that imposes a barrier on those who wish to use their skills for the benefit of the people of Wales, is something that we would oppose.
 
13:38
David ReesBiography
First Minister, the £85 million recently announced for training for healthcare professionals is very much welcome, and that includes nurses, but also other professionals, such as radiographers and physiotherapists. I declare an interest at this point because my wife is a radiographer. Do you agree with me that the investment by the Welsh Government in these actually complements the work of Swansea University, because Swansea University does an excellent job in training doctors, nurses and paramedics? Will you also look at the possibility of expanding the provision at Swansea University to include the other professions?
 
13:38
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s certainly something that will be looked at in the future, and, as has already been pointed out, at one time, medical training was centred very much around Cardiff. Yes, medical students spent time in hospitals around Wales, but they weren’t training centres in the way that Swansea is now. We know, as I said earlier, that what is important is investing in the workforce to make sure that the people of Wales have access to the right level of services in the future.
 
Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders
 
13:38
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to questions from the party leaders and first this afternoon is leader of the opposition, Andrew R.T. Davies.
 
13:39
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. [ASSEMBLY MEMBERS: ‘Boris.’] He’s got more hair than me. [Laughter.]
 
First Minister, at the moment, A&E departments and, indeed, hospitals, are under huge pressure the length and breadth of Wales, but also the length and breadth of the United Kingdom; I take that point. Whether it’s in west Wales, south Wales or north Wales, people are being advised not to show up at hospitals because of the pressures some A&E departments are under. What assessment has the Government made of the demand being placed on our dedicated medical workers the length and breadth of Wales, and has any extra request come in for resources from our health boards to support the day-to-day operations of our district general hospitals, so that operations will not be cancelled and people will not face undue delays?
 
13:39
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
First of all, the level of demand on A&E is unprecedented. It strikes me that it can be difficult to assess what the level of demand will be over the course of the winter, and we’ve see on this occasion incredibly high demand. I’m grateful to the dedication of staff in A&E departments for the work that they have put in. I know that, certainly as far as Ysbyty Gwynedd is concerned today, some of the pressure has come off Ysbyty Gwynedd, because these things tend to go up and down very quickly. There are no requests for extra resources. We know that our health boards are managing.
 
With regard to not going to A&E, it comes back to this point: people should choose well. A&E is an emergency service. People should see the pharmacist as the first stop, a nurse in a GP practice, and then, of course, the GPs themselves, rather than going straight to A&E. Of course, where people have genuine emergencies, A&E is where they should go, but we do ask people, at this time and at all times, to consider whether in fact A&E is the best place for them to go to get the treatment that they require.
 
13:40
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
One thing that would help, obviously, is the reintroduction of minor injury units, which is what my party proposed some weeks ago now. Also, the other point is that these pressures on hospitals could have a dramatic impact on waiting times. Just before the half term recess, obviously, the new waiting times were out, which showed an increase again in waiting times and which have doubled on your watch as First Minister. Ultimately, what people want to know is when they will have the operational procedure that, obviously, they have been allocated by their hospital. Can you give a commitment that your Government is on top of the waiting times, which have, as I said, doubled on your watch and, ultimately, show no respite from the spiral upwards that we have seen over the last five years?
 
13:41
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I disagree with him on that. We’ve seen waiting times, of course, beginning to come down. We’ve allocated extra resources to deal with the issue of waiting times both now and in the future. I have to say, for example, with A&E, the average wait in A&E is two hours and 10 minutes still. Yes, there are more people who have remained in A&E for more than 12 hours. Sometimes that’s because the alternative is to admit them for three days. It’s often a better option for them to be in A&E for a little longer than in hospital for even longer. Now, we know, in England, that the figures originally in England showed that a few thousand people were in A&E for more than 12 hours. Now we know that that figure is 124,000 because BBC Radio 5 found that. So, we know that there are pressures across the whole of the UK, and, in fairness, the leader of the opposition pointed that out. But what we are seeing in Wales is waiting times coming down and ambulance response times are improving. We’re seeing, for example, cancer waiting times improving, as well. They are consistently high level when compared with England, and I’m confident that we’ll see waiting times continuing to drop in the future.
 
13:42
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Sadly, on cancer wait times, they are not improving, First Minister. The most recent cancer wait times in my own electoral area show a substantial decrease down to 78 per cent of referral times when your target is 95 per cent. But, in the leaflet that you put out in 2007, you gave a commitment that, ultimately, a Labour Government, if elected, would deliver shorter waiting times within our NHS. That was nearly 10 years ago. At your conference this week, you were talking that you’re only half way through your decade of delivery. Well, your decade of delivery has delivered one in seven people on a waiting list in Wales. That’s nearly 15 per cent of the population on a waiting list here in Wales. Also, with your pledges, you haven’t committed to protecting the NHS budget. How on earth can anyone have any confidence that you will be able to get on top of the waiting time lists that are spiralling out of control under your leadership, of which the day-to-day effect on patients and clinicians the length and breadth of Wales is that they are not getting the service that they need?
 
13:43
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I have to say to the leader of the opposition that we now know that figures in England have been massaged, because BBC Radio 5 found that over A&E waiting times of more than 12 hours. We see a record amount of money going into the Welsh NHS, some 46 per cent of our budget. We spend 1 per cent more per head on health in Wales than England does and 7 per cent more on health and social care. Only today, we see the Local Government Association in England saying that social care is on the verge of collapse in England because there’s not enough money going into social care. That’s not happening in Wales. You can’t divorce the two; one follows the other. We have a proud record in ensuring that our NHS is working. Despite the 10 per cent cut that we’ve had from his party in London to our budget, we have managed to increase health spending as a higher percentage of our overall spending. We have done that despite the cuts that his party have imposed on us. That is a record that we are proud to take to the people of Wales in May.
 
13:44
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood.
 
13:44
Leanne WoodBiographyThe Leader of Plaid Cymru
Diolch, Lywydd. First Minister, you said recently in response to the GP recruitment crisis in the north,
 
‘There will be issues from time to time where a GP decides to stop but that service then is carried on by salaried GP. From our point I don’t think there is a crisis’.
 
Do you accept that this response was dismissive to people’s concerns and do you regret not being more sympathetic to patients who are experiencing problems as a result of the GP recruitment crisis in the north?
 
13:45
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I have to say I’m not aware of patients suffering as a result of a lack of GPs in the north. The question she asked me was over some practices that have decided not to continue as practices. Their services are being covered by salaried GPs. As far as the public are concerned, the service will remain the same.
 
13:45
Leanne WoodBiography
First Minister, that sounds like you’re in denial as to the extent of the problem. The secretary of the north Wales local medical committee believes that urgent action is needed for the out-of-hours service in the north. The vice-chair of the north Wales local medical committee has said the situation is at breaking point. Will you now concede that there is a recruitment crisis and will you agree that patients deserve better?
 
13:45
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I accept there’s a challenge to recruit GPs in some parts of Wales, that much is true, and there are various reasons for that that aren’t to do with medicine. Actually, they’re to do with the opportunities available for their families. Nevertheless, we do work with the BMA to identify, as I said earlier on, any barriers that might exist to recruitment. We do have 2,000 more GPs in Wales than was the case certainly a decade ago and that is something that we’re looking to build on in future.
 
13:46
Leanne WoodBiography
First Minister, Wales has fewer doctors per head of the population than all but three EU countries. You don’t seem to be accepting of that fact. Is it acceptable to you, First Minister, that people are lying on the floors of emergency departments waiting to be seen? Is it acceptable to you that GPs are withdrawing their contracts? Is it acceptable to you that all but emergency cases have been turned away from a GP practice? You tell us that you are halfway through a decade of delivery, First Minister, under your stewardship. If you get a chance to see it through, what kind of NHS will we be left with at the end of your tenure?
 
13:46
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We’ll be left with an NHS where more is spent per head than in England, where more money has been allocated, where more money is going to mental health—that’s one of the questions that she’s asked me in the past—and substantially more money into child and adolescent mental health care. We will see a Wales where there is a new treatments fund for life-threatening illnesses. We will see investment—[Interruption.] We will see investment into NHS buildings. We will see further examples, as we have seen in Morriston, of a brand-new front to the building, a fantastic extension of the building that makes it much easier for people to go through A&E and much easier for people to see doctors. That is what we will see: good facilities for the people of Wales, paid for out of the public purse without privatisation—not her party's policy; I know that—but without privatisation, delivered free at the point of need for our people.
 
13:47
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the leader of the Welsh—[Interruption.] Order. Gracious me. We now move to the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams.
 
13:47
Kirsty WilliamsBiographyThe Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. First Minister, last year, following a ministerial resignation and questions raised about the operations of the ministerial code, you told the Assembly that you would be willing to ponder further potential changes to investigations under that code. Could you give us an update on your pondering?
 
13:48
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I have to say I’ve pondered this issue, as she puts it, but I do not see the need for there being some kind of independent adjudication process, and, of course, that doesn’t exist in London either.
 
13:48
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
I’m sorry your pondering hasn’t come to a more positive conclusion, First Minister. At the same time, I said that it’s perfectly appropriate and, indeed, Government should take outside advice, but that outside advice should also be transparent. When I asked you to publish details of meetings between Ministers with lobbyists and pressure groups, you replied:
 
‘There are none…it is not our policy to meet with lobbyists’.
 
But freedom of information requests reveal that you personally have met with external organisations 144 times since May of last year. Now, I assume you weren’t just passing the time of day in drinking tea. Will you commit to creating an accessible register of all meetings between Welsh Government Ministers and non-Government organisations to be made available on the Welsh Government website?
 
13:49
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
These are not lobbyists. These are organisations I have met while I’ve been out and around Wales, businesses and organisations that I’ve met here in Cardiff. They’re not lobbyists. We do not meet with professional lobbying companies or organisations. That is our policy and no such meetings ever take place.
 
13:49
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
First Minister, as I said, when you meet these organisations, whatever you decide to define them as, you’re not just passing the time of day. No doubt, they’re taking the opportunity to try and influence the Government’s thinking, and that is perfectly acceptable. I’m asking that you make that accessible to the people of Wales so that they know who you’re meeting with and what you’re talking about. But could I turn to a third measure of transparency in how we do our politics here in Wales? Under current rules, the Chairs of Assembly committees are appointed by party leaders. Now, this is a system of patronage and control so discredited that they don’t even do that in Westminster anymore. Can you think of a single good reason why these posts should not be elected by the whole of the Assembly rather than being in the gift of party leaders, and would you support such a change? [Interruption.]
 
13:50
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Order, order.
 
13:50
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I don’t know how things operate in her party, but the committee Chairs in my party are not within the gift of me as leader. They’re elected by the entire group and not appointed by me, and that’s the way it should be. The last thing that should happen is that party leaders appoint committee Chairs and remove them on a whim. I’ll leave that to other parties, but it doesn’t happen in my party. There has to be an element of independence. When it comes to scrutiny committees—[Interruption.]
 
13:50
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Order, order. Sorry–
 
13:50
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, the leader of the opposition is most vocal—he of course has sacked a committee Chair; so, I suppose he would know more than I do about this, because I understand that within his party it is the leader who appoints the Chairs. It’s a level of control that—[Interruption.]
 
13:51
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Order.
 
13:51
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
In terms of the suggestion—
 
13:51
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Order.
 
13:51
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
In terms of the suggestion that she made, it’s an interesting idea and it is something I think that’s worth exploring in the next Assembly.
 
13:51
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We’ll hopefully now move to a quieter session, and we’ll have question 3 from Darren Millar.
 
Coastal Communities
 
13:51
Darren MillarBiography
3. Will the First Minister make a statement on support for coastal communities in Wales? OAQ(4)2720(FM)
 
13:51
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. Our flagship regeneration programme Vibrant and Viable Places has seen local authorities sharing over £100 million of capital funding for regeneration schemes. That funding has been invested across Wales, including coastal communities. For example, £12 million has been provided to Colwyn Bay and £7 million to Holyhead.
 
13:51
Darren MillarBiography
First Minister, you’ll be aware that tourism is crucially important to the coastal economy, including in my own constituency, in places like Colwyn Bay, and indeed Towyn and Kinmel Bay as well, but one of the things that may put the tourism industry at risk is the potential move to four-weekly bin collections in my local authority area, which could see an increase in fly-tipping, litter and the pests that may result as a result of that. What action will you take to ensure that local authorities are responsible in the way that they manage their waste collection services so that these sorts of unintended consequences don’t arise and don’t cause a problem for tourism?
 
13:52
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, this is a matter, of course, for Conwy County Borough Council. They must make their decision, based on encouraging recycling—that’s true; we just don’t have as many holes in the ground to put rubbish as was once the case in Wales—and also, of course, ensure that the rate of collection is robust enough in order to avoid fly-tipping, which, of course, is a consideration they must take into account when they consider what system and frequency of collection they adopt.
 
13:53
Joyce WatsonBiography
First Minister, of course one coastal community in my region that has received special support is the Fishguard and Goodwick community, which, two years ago, had £50,000 awarded to it from this Government’s town-centre partnership fund. That money has helped to deliver all sorts of things, and to name a few: better Wi-Fi, pop-up shops, maps and guides, and of course the Fishguard bay app. So, First Minister, could I ask: will it be the case that this Government, or any future Government, will assess the value of those projects so that we can take them to the next stage?
 
13:53
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, as the Member says, the town-centre partnership in Fishguard and Goodwick was awarded £50,000. What’s happened is that it has devised and developed its own bespoke actions for the locality. The town-centre app has already been mentioned. There’s the Aberjazz festival as well. It’s important, of course, that we are able to assess the effectiveness of that funding, but it seems that the early evidence from Fishguard and Goodwick is that it has been put to very good use.
 
13:54
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
I’d like to turn to the economic viability of coastal communities in Wales as part of a blue growth strategy, if you like. In its recent report on the potential of the marine economy in Wales, the Enterprise and Business Committee, of which I’m a member, called for a clear strategy in this area to include energy initiatives, environmental tourism, transport, and so forth. Does the First Minister agree with our impression, as a committee, that this Government’s response to developing the marine economy has been patchy and fragmented, and that there isn’t adequate evidence of action taken comprehensively as a Government, which is crucial in entirely coastal areas, such as my constituency of Anglesey?
 
13:55
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, in looking at Ynys Môn, of course, there is great potential to develop the energy isle with the new powers that will come, we hope, in the Wales Bill. It would be easier, therefore, to develop that potential. There is major potential in Holyhead, and we have ensured that there is £7 million available to Holyhead too. In terms of the island as a whole, we’ve developed the coastal path around the island as well, and we’re still continuing to work with the council to develop the economy and tourism of Ynys Môn.
 
13:55
Aled RobertsBiography
May I ask what consideration is being given to the impact in terms of flood problems and the programme that you’ve just referred to, namely the Vibrant and Viable Places scheme? Is there additional work that will need to be done because of the damage caused in those coastal areas?
 
13:55
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
If we look at Colwyn Bay, of course, a great deal of work has been done there over the years. I’ve visited the Colwyn Bay Watersports centre twice, and that’s been an extremely important development for the town itself. Of course, we’ve invested in flood prevention in a number of places throughout Wales, and, of course, I made a statement some weeks ago about dealing with the situation on the A55 and also at Talybont.
 
The Rural Development Plan
 
13:56
Llyr GruffyddBiography
4. Will the First Minister make a statement on the rural development plan's strategic priorities? OAQ(4)2729(FM)[W]
 
13:56
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The primary objective of the Welsh Government Rural Communities—namely, of course, the rural development programme—is to support the rural economy, and in particular agriculture, through a period of significant change.
 
13:56
Llyr GruffyddBiography
Thank you for that response. The window for applications for the six schemes under the RDP was opened earlier this month, and if all the applications were paid out, we’re talking about some 250 successful applications. You’ve also announced that there will be no window for Glastir entry, so 1,600 won’t be able to carry on with their work at that particular level. Now, all Welsh farmers, of course, contributed 15 per cent from pillar 1 to pillar 2 in order to fund the RDP, but the reality is that a very small cohort is actually going to be able to access much of that funding. So, can I ask you what you’re doing to ensure, in order to see the transformational change that we want to see across the industry, that an adequate number of farmers do have access to that funding? Otherwise, the money will go, of course, to far too small a cohort to see the significant change that we all want to see.
 
13:57
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The Minister, of course, did make a statement a fortnight ago as regards two grant schemes where the window has opened. To date, £7.7 million has been paid out, as regards the funding of the new scheme, and, of course, funding has also been committed also to some other groups for future programmes. Of course, we want to ensure that the majority of farmers are able to receive support under the RDP and the major problem is that we have to ensure that there will be an RDP available with European funds in the future, but that, of course, is a question for another party in this Chamber.
 
13:58
Russell GeorgeBiography
First Minister, you will be aware that the sustainable production grant has a minimum spend of £40,000, with 40 per cent of this then eligible to be funded. In this current farming climate, I’m sure you will agree that it is very difficult for farmers to commit to such a difficult investment. There are very few members who have applied as a result of the limited scope. I’m aware of your previous answer and the Minister’s statement a few weeks back, but how are you going to address that the RDP is made more accessible to a greater proportion of farmers?
 
13:59
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I have to say that his party leader’s view yesterday was that there should be even less accessibility to this scheme, given the fact that he is going to vote to leave the EU, but not the campaign to leave the EU, I understand, and wishes to remove more than £200 million of support from Welsh farmers. Now, what he’s not explained—[Interruption.] I mean, it’s a matter for him, but we await the explanation as to where that money is going to come from in the future because we certainly can’t afford it here. From our point of view, we will continue to support Welsh farming. We will continue to access European funds. Welsh Labour will stand up for Welsh farmers, as the Welsh Tories sell them down the river.
 
13:59
William PowellBiography
First Minister, as you’ve just said, the decision by the leader of the opposition yesterday to oppose British membership of the European Union breaches the very consensus that has taken place within this Chamber over the past 17 years. In that period, the rural development plan over three consecutive periods has delivered over £100 million of investment into rural communities in Wales. In that context, First Minister, and given the danger of other wild-eyed zealots heading for the cliffs also, would it not be prudent for this Welsh Government to ramp up the conversation with rural communities across Wales, so that there is a fuller understanding of what is at stake in the months to come?
 
14:00
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I recognise the passion that the Member has displayed over what is the most important constitutional issue we will face this year. Welsh farmers will note that apparently one of their own believes that subsidies should be put in jeopardy. He will have the chance to explain himself, I know, and he has said he will, but the question for us is this: Welsh farming receives more than £200 million-worth of direct subsidy every year, where is that money going to come from in the future? Where is it going to come from in the future? It cannot come from Welsh Government. It’s too much money for us to be able to afford. The reality is that Welsh farmers know where they stand at the moment, and they will resist being invited to jump off the edge of a cliff in the hope there’s a net the other side, as they’ve been invited to do by the leader of the opposition.
 
14:01
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Do you know, there are terrible echoes here today? I’m sure the Chamber hasn’t changed since last week, so it must be the people in it. Please, let the Ministers answer and other people ask their questions. Question 5 is now from William Graham.
 
The Upgrading of School Buildings
 
14:01
William GrahamBiography
5. Will the First Minister make a statement on the effectiveness of Welsh Government investment in the upgrading of school buildings? OAQ(4)2725(FM)
 
14:01
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. Our twenty-first century schools programme will see investment of £1.4 billion over the five-year period to 2019. All 22 authorities will benefit from this investment, which will see the rebuilding and refurbishment of 150 schools and colleges across Wales. To date, 96 projects have been approved within the programme.
 
14:02
William GrahamBiography
I’m grateful to the First Minister for his answer. He may recall that in 2006, Rhodri Morgan, his predecessor, stated that many of our Welsh schools were ‘trash-built’—hence the programme that you have to put in hand now. But your funding’s reduced from 50 per cent to 30 per cent, and gives rise to situations such as that which happened with Duffryn High School in Newport. You will know there that the possibility still is to have a Welsh-medium school on the same site, releasing some funds to do up the school, yet NRW sabotaged that application at the very latest part of the consultation. Can that be avoided in the future?
 
14:02
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, it’s a matter for the council, of course, what happens in terms of planning. Just to make it absolutely clear, so the Member knows, the issue of the refurbishment of Duffryn and the building of a new Welsh-medium comprehensive school are not issues of finance. The money is there. It was an issue where a planning application was rejected. I understand that there will be a fresh planning application, and then of course it’s a matter for the council to decide. But the money is there to refurbish the schools through our programme, and there are some planning issues, clearly, that do need to be resolved.
 
14:03
Lynne NeagleBiography
First Minister, Torfaen council is currently consulting on the closure of Victoria Village Primary School and Brynteg Nursery School in Torfaen as part of the twenty-first century schools programme. I’ve raised numerous concerns throughout the statutory consultation process. I realise that you cannot comment on an individual school closure proposal, but in a recent letter to me the Deputy Minister indicated that the new school closure process in Wales, which I have a lot of concerns about, will be subject to a review by Welsh Government. Can I ask for your assurances that any review will take into account the views of parents and communities, and can I ask you to discuss this with the Minister for education, to ensure that happens?
 
14:03
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Could I thank the Member for raising this issue? I know this is an issue she’s been very active on in her community. I understand she has a meeting with the Deputy Minister, Julie James, planned in any event, and I know that she will make the case forcefully behalf of the constituency.
 
14:04
Simon ThomasBiography
Of course, as schools are renewed or as new schools are put in their place, there is a risk, and we are seeing it in various places, that one language cohort will be set against another. We see disagreements on the future of English-medium schools with a Welsh-medium stream and Welsh-medium schools in places as diverse as Haverfordwest and Brecon and Radnorshire at present. What is the Welsh Government doing to ensure that rights in relation to language choices are recognised in the process of building and creating new schools? Also, given that you’re not hitting your target nationally to attain your aim of getting children into Welsh-medium education, how are you going to ensure that this scheme does make provision for that?
 
14:04
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, that’s a very relevant question. First, of course, what’s important is that local education authorities consider the Welsh in education strategic plans that they have, namely the WESPs. They must ensure that they are catering for the demand that exists for Welsh-medium education. One of the issues that mean that there is less growth than one would wish for with regard to the number attending Welsh-medium schools in some areas is the distance that people have to travel to get to a Welsh-medium school. It is a fact that there will be a new bilingual secondary school in Newport—that will hopefully assist. And we would wish to see an increase in such arrangements in terms of Welsh-medium secondary schools in Powys too. If parents see that it’s easy to attend a primary and that it’s easier to attend a secondary school, then that will be of great help in ensuring that parents consider Welsh-medium education, not just in the primary sector, because we know that we lose children after the primary stage, but throughout the whole of the child’s education.
 
14:06
Mick AntoniwBiography
First Minister, had the Conservatives won the last election, the 20 per cent cut in education they would have imposed would have meant that there would be no twenty-first century schools programme, which would mean that the new £24 million Y Pant School in my constituency would not go ahead; the £43 million school for Tonyrefail would not go ahead; there would not be a new school at Llwyncrwn in Beddau; there would not be a new school for Williamstown in Penrhiwfer; and other multi-million-pound upgrades in my constituency would not have proceeded had the Tories won the last election, and were they to win the next one. Could you outline for me, because of the success of this programme, what the Government’s plans are in terms of the next phase of Welsh Labour’s twenty-first century schools building programme? We still have a lot of work to do, First Minister.
 
14:06
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The Member is correct to point to all the new schools that have been built in his constituency. We will continue with our programme to make sure we replace schools across Wales and refurbish schools where that refurbishment is needed.
 
I remind the party opposite that one of the first things they did when they went into Government in London was to slash the school-building programme, to the extent that almost nothing is now happening in England. We will not do that to children in Wales.
 
I remember before the last Assembly election—in fairness, it was a different leader they had then—but, he appeared live on ‘Wales Today’ saying that there would be a 20 per cent cut in education. Since the election, the party opposite has said, ‘It’s not 20 per cent, it’s 12 per cent’, and now they’re saying, ‘That figure’s out of date, but we haven’t crunched the numbers yet’—in the exact words of the leader of the opposition. The people of Wales would be delighted to know what the scale of the cut is that the party opposite—the Conservative Party—actually proposes.
 
14:07
Aled RobertsBiography
First Minister, one of the other challenges facing any Government in improving the condition of our schools is asbestos. So, can I ask you therefore—? It’s clear that there is a special working group that’s been established by the department for education to deal with this issue, but they have been quite clear in stating that they only have responsibility for England. So, can I ask you this: bearing in mind that that working group includes members of the trade unions and specific experts, is there scope for us to look at a similar arrangement here in Wales, or would you be willing to ask for representation for Wales on the working group in London?
 
14:08
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s the Health and Safety Executive that is responsible for safety in schools and guidelines have been issued to the duty holders—the owners of properties who have a duty—so that they know what their duties are and, of course, so that they know what their duties are under the health and safety regulations. An action group has been established in order to ensure that our guidelines are appropriate for the future, and also to review both the policy and the guidelines in Wales.
 
Healthcare Quality in the UK
 
14:09
Ann JonesBiography
6. What assessment has the First Minister made of the recent OECD report on the review of healthcare quality in the UK? OAQ(4)2731(FM)
 
14:09
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
This highly respected international body found quality at the heart of the Welsh health system and that we prioritise high-quality and patient-centred care. This definitive report finally puts to rest the claims that a particular health service in one part of the UK is better than the others.
 
14:09
Ann JonesBiography
Thank you very much for that assessment. I believe as well that the OECD report went in very deeply into the new primary care situation that is developing in my own constituency, following the funding model of GP surgeries finally showing up that, when they want to give in, they can retire and leave their patient list there. The primary care centre that we’re going to have to replace two surgeries in Prestatyn is noted within the OECD report as the model to take forward primary care. I know you will agree with me that it’s time that the UK Government actually looked over this border with envy at the way in which we actually negotiate and we actually value all our staff who are working in the NHS. It’s about time that Cameron and Hunt accede to your request and apologise profoundly and profusely for the damage that they have done to the dedicated, hard-working members of our Welsh NHS.
 
14:10
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, here we have the independent evidence that shows that the claims made by the Prime Minister were fallacious. It’s as simple as that. Yes, you heard my request that he should apologise; he hasn’t done it yet. But, one thing I can promise the people of Wales is that we’re not going to import the Tory’s junior doctor strike into Wales. We will treat our medical staff with respect; we will talk to them, rather than forcing contracts on them.
 
14:11
Darren MillarBiography
We’ll get back to the reality, shall we? The fact is that the OECD did not consider waiting times for diagnostic tests and they did not consider either waiting times for treatment. The fact is, First Minister, that if you live in Wales, you are more likely to be on a waiting list, you are more likely to wait longer for your diagnostic tests, and you are more likely to wait longer for your diagnostic treatment. It is a disgusting record for your Government to have—absolutely shameful. Why is it that people wait longer for their heart bypass operations, why is it that people wait longer for their cataract operations, their hernia operations and their hip operations—up to almost three times as long—if they live in Wales when compared to England? That is unacceptable. Those are the facts. That’s your record.
 
14:11
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
He always gets high pitched when he’s desperate. Have you noticed that about him, about the Member for Clwyd West?
 
14:11
Darren MillarBiography
Defend it. Come on—
 
14:11
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Let me remind him—
 
14:11
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Darren Millar, there is no need to shout in this Chamber, particularly when you’re sitting down—and that includes you, Andrew R.T. Davies. Please, just stop. First Minister.
 
14:12
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, Llywydd, I suppose it makes a difference from shouting at each other, which is what we’ve seen in the past few days. The reality of the situation is this—this is what the OECD report actually said:
 
‘“quality” is at the heart of the Welsh health system’,
 
and the importance of high-quality and patient-centred care is given a high-level priority.
 
‘Continuously improving the quality of care is a deeply established and widely shared commitment in the Welsh health system...A clear effort has been made in Wales to use patient concerns and complaints to help improve quality of care.’
 
It states that Wales is ahead in securely linking individuals’ health and social care data and is actively using some quality indicators; that the commitment by staff and the public to the values of the NHS in Wales seem strong; and that a good range of health system information, including on quality, is systematically collected in Wales.
 
14:12
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Darren Millar, will you listen to the answer? First Minister.
 
14:12
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It states that the introduction of a three-year planning cycle for the Welsh NHS is a step forward from yearly budget cycles; the creation of primary care clusters has the potential to be an important resource in Wales; Wales has a rich quality-monitoring and improvement architecture; the 1,000 Lives campaign has been a successful way of fostering a culture of quality improvement; the Wales surgical materials testing laboratory is an interesting model for other OECD countries. I could go on. We spend more on health in Wales per head than England does, and that’s why the party opposite is so desperate and shrill with their comments.
 
14:13
Eluned ParrottBiography
Yes, First Minister, you do spend more per capita perhaps on health in Wales than any other nation, but according to the OECD report, no consistent picture emerges of one of the United Kingdom’s four health systems performing better than the others, and that’s not including, of course, waiting times, as Darren Millar has said. Well, clearly, in terms of health budgets, size isn’t everything. Why does your Government, by your own logic, get a worse return on investment in terms of patient outcomes and experience against money invested in the health service than any other part of the UK?
 
14:14
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
If she looks at the report, she will see that there are areas where the Welsh NHS does better than the English NHS, and there are areas where the converse is true—that’s correct—and those are the areas where there needs to be improvement. But, what we do know is that, when it comes to waiting times, England is massaging its figures. People ask me what the evidence for that is, and I’ll say it: BBC Radio 5 found that when it came to A&E waiting times of more than 12 hours, the official figure was a few thousand, but the actual figure was 124,000. Why? Because England counts its walk-in centres as A&E centres and, of course, we don’t have walk-in centres in Wales. It’s an easy way to present your figures if you have that figure. One thing I can promise Members in this Chamber is we will never reduce health spend per head in Wales to the levels that they are under the Tories in England.
 
Education Provision (Brecon and Radnorshire)
 
14:15
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
7. Will the First Minister make a statement on education provision in Brecon and Radnorshire? OAQ(4)2726(FM)
 
14:15
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, provision of education in this area is the responsibility of the local authority. It has to decide how many and what type of schools should be provided and ensure, with the regional consortium, that these are able to provide the best possible outcomes for pupils.
 
14:15
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Thank you very much, First Minister. I’m sure you are aware that hundreds, literally hundreds, of people gathered outside county hall in Llandrindod Wells this morning to protest at the proposals being put forward by the council with regard to the reorganisation of secondary schools in both Breconshire and Radnorshire. First Minister, it grieves me to say this, but I think the people of my constituency have lost all confidence in the ability of the cabinet of Powys County Council to successfully plan for the future of education in that part of the county, and their question to me this morning was, ‘What is the Welsh Government going to do about it?’ There is no evidence to suggest that the plans put forward will improve the educational output for the county and for the children but there is plenty of evidence that the county’s proposals are setting community against community and are, potentially, setting language against language. Would you agree with me that is no way to recruit and retain the best teaching staff in the county and it is no way to inspire the young people of Brecon and Radnorshire to achieve in their schools?
 
14:16
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The Member represents the case made by her constituents powerfully. She’ll understand that Welsh Ministers can’t comment on individual reorganisation proposals but it stands to reason that, where there are fresh proposals, there’s as much consultation as possible, where the views of the public are taken into account, and that decisions are based entirely on what is best for children. She’s made the point that she’s concerned that language is being set against language, community against community. That does concern me greatly and I think it’s hugely important that Powys is able to reconcile those issues and to provide an education system that commands the support of parents—it is their decision at the end of the day—and, of course, that takes into account the views of parents.
 
14:17
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, First Minister.
 
14:17
Urgent Question: Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I have accepted an urgent question under Standing Order 12.66, and I call on Llyr Gruffydd to ask the question. Llyr Gruffydd.
 
14:17
Llyr GruffyddBiography
Will the Minister make a statement on emergency pressures at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board? EAQ(4)0694(HSS)
 
14:17
Vaughan GethingBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Health
I thank the Member for the question. Much like other parts of the United Kingdom, urgent and emergency care services in north Wales have experienced a period of significant pressure and demand since the turn of the year. There remains a high level of presentations and ambulance arrivals at A&E and all staff are working hard to deliver safe and effective services.
 
14:17
Llyr GruffyddBiography
Deputy Minister, I was made aware by nurses in Wrexham recently that a code red alert had been issued in the Maelor hospital a couple of weeks ago, actually, and that A&E there was closed for a short period of time. We know that Betsi Cadwaladr, of course, has been in special measures under your Government for eight months now and it doesn’t seem, when we see these kinds of incidents, that there’s much light at the end of this particular tunnel as things stand. It is true, as the First Minister reminded us, that some people don’t need to be in A&E but, of course, because you’ve closed minor injury units, because you’ve failed to staff GP services appropriately, and failed to provide a good out-of-hours GP service, then that gives many people little option but to go to A&E. We know that doctors and nurses and other staff are doing a sterling job under the pressure that they face, but it is taking its toll on them and, of course, having a knock-on effect. So, would you not agree, Deputy Minister, that we urgently need to train and recruit more doctors and nurses so that we can tackle the staffing crisis that we are experiencing in north Wales, so that we can ease the pressure on the service and make our NHS better?
 
14:18
Vaughan GethingBiography
Well, I do regret the way in which the Member has framed his question today. There are significant pressures on staff in our accident and emergency services, and suggesting that that pressure and the significant increase in demand coming through the doors of hospitals across north Wales is anything to do with special measures is simply not borne out by the facts and I’d ask you to reflect on that. In January, on Sundays, there were more than 25 per cent increases in demand compared to last year. In fact, demand overall compared to January last year was up by 10 per cent. There is an undeniable amount of additional demand. These are people who need to be in a hospital. These are people who are being admitted. The admission rate into hospital is up about 6 per cent compared to January last year. So, there is an issue about people who don’t need to be in an accident and emergency department and I do urge people, as the First Minister said, to choose well and not turn up at an A&E if they don’t need to be there; there are other alternatives available. Part of our challenge, though, is how we plan for winter each year and a population where we recognise more and more people are coming in to our departments each year. This is a UK-wide problem and challenge. Although even with the additional demand coming through the door, the same number of people are being seen within four hours compared to the months previously. And, when you think about the elective activity that is still taking place, we’ve seen more people on elective activity compared to last winter. So, there is real pressure and I recognise the significant demands that staff face, and I do thank and recognise the dedication of staff, who I met in Wrexham and in Llandudno last week. But this is not an issue where there is a simple, easy answer.
 
We’re engineering system reform so that more people have alternatives for treatment outside hospital. The out-of-hours service is improving across north Wales, as a key part of what we want to see Betsi Cadwaladr do, and I have confidence that our staff are delivering a safe and effective service. I’m happy to deal with scrutiny about the pressures that we’re facing, but I really don’t think that suggesting that this is in any way linked to special measures is helpful or accurate.
 
14:20
Darren MillarBiography
It is clear evidence that your policy of closing minor injuries units and taking away those alternatives has been an abject failure, and is causing more pressure on hospitals in north Wales. It’s also clear evidence that the plans that have been developed for the winter on your watch in charge of that health board have not been sufficient to address the capacity problems in our hospitals. Do you regret being part of a Government that has seen a decline of one-fifth in hospital in-patient bed numbers over the past 15 years, and do you accept that that has added to these pressures in our hospitals where the capacity of the hospitals is the problem, not necessarily the number of people who are actually turning up at the hospital front door?
 
14:21
Vaughan GethingBiography
Well, it’s a pretty extraordinary statement to say that the problem isn’t the number of people who are turning up, when there are record levels of demand. I simply don’t understand how any rational or reasonable person could take that as the conclusion. And for all of the anger and the discharge from Darren Millar, I have to say our staff in the NHS recognise that they’re in a service that values them, they’re in a service that recognises the pressure that they’re under, and I’m proud to be part of a Government that values our national health service, not as a matter of political convenience, but a matter of conviction. We are a party of conviction for the NHS, a publicly accountable service that we are proud of, and that we still expect people to be able to turn up and have a safe and effective service, and a service that will last for the future. I’m very proud of what we do, and I’m very proud of what our staff do on behalf of people in every single part of Wales on every single day.
 
14:22
Aled RobertsBiography
I share that pride in the NHS. You’ve mentioned that it’s a UK-wide phenomenon, but, given that you were in Wrexham last week, did you have any discussions with the health board and have regard to the health board report in December, when health managers said
 
‘there is something unique to Wrexham Maelor, its practices and how its population uses the emergency department’?
 
Perhaps that’s because of the reduction in community hospitals in the north-east of Wales and the closure of minor injury units, and I just wonder whether you’ve actually sought in the period of special measures any explanation from the health board with regard to its own statement that there is something unique and worrying happening in Wrexham, given that that same health board ran vacancies at consultant level within the A&E department for some months, and is over-reliant on both locum and bank nurses within the same department, as evidenced by a whistleblower who went to the press in our area last week?
 
14:23
Vaughan GethingBiography
I spoke directly to staff, both nursing and consultant staff, when I visited the hospital—an unannounced visit, actually—on Friday morning. And I was impressed by the level of commitment, as I say, and I don’t think that—. We shouldn’t take for granted the very real commitment that our staff do need to show. They recognise this was about additional demand coming through the door that they could not and did not predict themselves. And I do say that, despite that demand coming through the door, the fact that the system is coping is a remarkable achievement for our staff and the system that we run and rely upon. But I have spoken to the health board on a number of occasions about performance across unscheduled care in north Wales, about the need to see further improvements being built upon in the out-of-hours service, and to see further alternatives to avoid admissions in the first place. That is about primary care working with secondary care, working with social services, working with the voluntary sector and working with housing providers as well. So, to try and suggest that this is a simple picture and there’s one answer—I’ve never accepted that; that really does do an injustice to the challenges that the service faces.
 
I’ve made it very clear that I expect to see improvement across the system. I’ve also made it clear that there are variations within north Wales healthcare between the unscheduled care figures within Bangor on the one side and Glan Clwyd and Wrexham as well. And some of those are about individual culture and not just, in terms of the population, the way they use the hospital, but also about some of the challenges within the staff mix and leadership there. So, we need to see some of the really successful practice that exists in Bangor being transferred across into Glan Clwyd and Wrexham as well. I’m really pleased to see that there is an engaged group of staff, including the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, who recognise our willingness to work with them and the delivery unit and the local population to improve healthcare outcomes for people right across north Wales.
 
14:25
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
Deputy Minister, as a result of much campaigning on my part and that of many others locally, we now have a super minor injuries unit in Llandudno General Hospital with excellent and well-qualified staff. This unit, of course, provides a facility for many of those often deemed as the ‘anything and everything’ cases to be treated appropriately and more locally, thereby reducing the pressures on, say, Glan Clwyd. But the awareness of this unit is still very low.
 
Additionally, I understand that the current flu strain in circulation is H1N1, which is a very, very serious strain of flu and it actually targets younger adults and the respiratory systems of those and, of course, the old, but yet the take-up of the flu vaccine this year is particularly low. Both of these are incidents and examples of where there are poor communication levels coming from the board but also from you as Deputy Minister, who is charged with the intervention of the Betsi board during special measures. Deputy Minister, how do you intend to improve the communication levels about the minor injuries unit at Llandudno and, more importantly, about the absolute need for the take-up of the flu vaccine, given the very virulent strain that is now in circulation?
 
14:27
Vaughan GethingBiography
I welcome Janet Finch-Saunders’s support for the minor injuries unit at Llandudno. I’m not aware that she had any influence on the decision to invest in it. I was very pleased to visit staff at the unit—[Interruption.] I’m being perfectly honest. I was very pleased to visit staff to see the work they undertake, but also to see the very high level of awareness that is developing amongst the local population and indeed local practitioners. So, I think it’s a service we’ve been right to invest in. I’m very proud of what they’re doing.
 
On the point you make about the flu vaccine, we know that, every single year, we make a significant effort to make people aware of the need and the desirability of undertaking the flu vaccine. Every year, Ministers get the opportunity to embarrass themselves, as I did this year, in an embarrassing photo op as part of the flu vaccine campaign. It’s for older people and it’s for people who are at risk, including me. I am in the at-risk population because of my previous kidney disease. And so we want to encourage more and more people to undertake the vaccine. Part of our challenge though is that many people are aware of the vaccine, that it’s available, that they’re in an at-risk category, but they opt not to take it. That includes healthcare professional staff and too many older people as well. So, there’s an ongoing challenge in communication, but I don’t think it’s at all helpful to try and suggest that this is the fault of one individual, whether in Government or elsewhere. There is a broader challenge here and we need more than one form of communication and more people urging people to undertake the sensible thing and to take the flu vaccine when it is offered and available.
 
14:28
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Deputy Minister.
 
14:28
2. Business Statement and Announcement
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 2, which is the business statement and announcement. I call on the Minister for Finance and Government Business, Jane Hutt.
 
14:28
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance and Government Business
Diolch, Lywydd. There have been no changes to the business statement for this week’s business, and business for the next three weeks is as shown on the business statement and announcement, which can be found among the agenda papers available to Members electronically.
 
14:29
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Leader of the house, is it possible to have a statement from the health Minister in relation to parking at the University Hospital of Wales? I fully accept that it is an operational matter between the health board and their contractor, but there is a huge issue now developing over potential fines being levied against staff in the hospital over non-payment due to discrepancies in notices and other areas of concern. Some members of staff are facing huge potential liabilities. Again, I’m not putting the blame on the Welsh Government here, but I do believe that there is assistance required from a third party to try and navigate a route through between the operator of the parking regime in the Heath hospital and the health board themselves because many staff are finding themselves being served with notices and are literally at the end of their tether as they are being threatened with court action. I’d be most grateful to understand if the Welsh Government has a way of assisting to facilitate some resolution of this, so that staff can get on with the job that they passionately wish to do, which is care for people within the hospital.
 
14:30
Jane HuttBiography
The leader of the opposition is quite right; this is an operational issue for Cardiff and Vale University Local Health Board. Indeed, I have met with staff, as, indeed—. We know, and are very aware, of the difficulties facing staff, and, of course, the health board wants to address this. This is a long-term contract, unfortunately, which goes against our Welsh Government policy—Welsh Labour Government policy—to have free car parking charges, free car parks, in our health facilities, which, as you know, do facilitate and provide good access for patients and relatives, and, most importantly, as you say, staff. But this is a key operational matter, which the health board is addressing.
 
14:30
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
William Powell. William Powell, stop chatting to Dafydd Elis-Thomas.
 
14:30
William PowellBiography
Diolch, Lywydd. Minister, could I ask for a statement, please, following the positive news from Gwynedd Council last week, with regard to the future of the Lloyd George Museum? Would it would be possible to have a statement from the Deputy Minister for culture on the long-term future of that important facility, because the council has indicated that it won’t, in the long term, be able to commit to funding it, and given the importance of commemorating Wales’s greatest Prime Minister?
 
14:31
Jane HuttBiography
Well, of course, this again is a matter for Gwynedd Council. I know that the Deputy Minister will be aware of this, and aware, as many of us have visited that museum, how important it is in terms of our history, and of course in recognition of that key Welsh figure.
 
14:31
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
William Graham. William Graham.
 
14:31
William GrahamBiography
I’m sorry. [Laughter.] My apologies.
 
Business Minister, I wonder if I might ask for a statement from the heritage Minister regarding the Newport medieval ship. The Minister will be aware that, by efforts of volunteers entirely, the ship has been preserved, after initial funding from the Welsh Government. It comes at a time when some local businesses have been able to help that, but I wonder whether there might be particular moneys in the forthcoming budget. In the European dimension, of course, the Minister will be aware the ship was actually built in Spain, but traded in the Welsh coast in the early fifteenth century.
 
14:32
Jane HuttBiography
Well, I’m very interested, William Graham, that you do mention that European dimension in positive terms, in terms of the importance of that ship, and the fact that the Welsh Government actually did save, and fund—some time back now—in terms of that injection of funding, but, also, recognition of the historical importance. And I’m sure the Deputy Minister for culture will be wanting to hear an update on developments, in terms of preserving that particular historical ship.
 
14:33
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Minister, this week is international eating disorders week, where people try to look at the continuing battle that many people have with regards to eating disorders. Would the Minister make a written statement available, to update Assembly Members on the steps Welsh Government is taking to provide more services to people suffering from eating disorders within Wales? Many people often have to find placements a long way from home, and I know the Government is committed to developing services locally, so that people can find help and support within their communities. An update on this work would be gratefully appreciated.
 
14:33
Jane HuttBiography
The Minister for Health and Social Services, I know, would be very happy to provide that update, considering that, over the years, we have developed a pathway, and been particularly concerned to look at ways in which we can provide services for people with eating disorders as close to home as possible.
 
14:33
Russell GeorgeBiography
Minister, will you ask the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food to make an urgent statement on the reasons behind the delays to farmers receiving letters from Rural Payments Wales on the status of their payments, under the basic payments scheme? I have been contacted by dozens of farmers who have not received their payments and haven’t even received any correspondence outlining a timetable for payment, in spite of assurances from the Welsh Government that letters would be sent to affected farmers at the end of January and the beginning of February. This is an ongoing issue, which is having a detrimental effect on the whole agriculture supply chain. Can I ask for an urgent statement on it? Farmers need to have clarity and urgency on the timetable for payments, to alleviate the unnecessary pressure on them. Can I ask further—? I have written to the Deputy Minister for agriculture and food on behalf of a number of constituents with regard to the status of their payments. That was three weeks ago. I’m yet to receive a reply. Can I ask that you raise this with the Deputy Minister and that we have speedy responses to such enquiries?
 
14:35
Jane HuttBiography
Well, I’m glad, Russell George, that I can put the record straight this afternoon. The letter sent to farm businesses with outstanding payments was not delayed. As the Deputy Minister explained in the written statement to Assembly Members issued on 13 January, the Welsh Government would write to all farm businesses that have not received their basic payment scheme payment by the end of January. The letter was printed on 3 February, sent on 4 February and that letter explained the reasons BPS payments had not been made and explained who may expect to receive their payment and when they may expect to receive it. There’s been no change in circumstances. Rural Payments Wales still expect to pay all but the most complex cases by the end of March and that was explained as well, as you know, in the written statement on 13 January. And, indeed, the statement and letter are available, of course, for your information.
 
14:36
Mark IsherwoodBiography
I call for two statements. First, on the proportion of children being taken into care in Wales. The number of care applications in Wales rose by 16 per cent in the year to March 2015 and has continued to rise since. Whereas 30 per cent of section 31 care applications are being heard by magistrates in Wales, it is radically different to the situation in England where the proportion of children taken into care is significantly lower than in Wales. The children’s commissioner has said that contributing factors could be less effective family support services, more risk-averse professionals and legal teams and higher child poverty levels, and that Welsh Government’s emphasis on reducing looked-after children numbers must be accompanied by effective support for children and their families, which, of course, includes both parents. I call for a statement to the Assembly accordingly.
 
Secondly and finally, could I call for a statement on access to the criminal records unit for Wales currently run by the Wales Council for Voluntary Action? The Welsh Government has informed third sector organisations that they will no longer have access to the DBS check service provided by the WCVA from 31 May, and we understand that this was without prior consultation or discussion. The service, Minister, provides a vital outlet for many third sector organisations to vet potential volunteers and its loss could have devastating long-term consequences, with deeply worrying consequences for the services provided by the third sector and ultimately leading to greater cost for the Welsh Government and the Welsh public sector. The Welsh Sports Association, representing all national governing bodies of sport in Wales, says this will cause significant concern for many organisations within the voluntary sector, and there are concerns that its closure will affect some of the most vulnerable members of society. The chief executive of St John Cymru says the decision will affect every charity in Wales, is short-sighted and potentially very harmful to the sector as a whole. Again, could I call for a statement accordingly?
 
14:38
Jane HuttBiography
Mark Isherwood, we very much welcome, of course, the children’s commissioner’s clear policy, thinking and evidence, and, indeed, her own deep experience in the field of care in terms of the opportunities to ensure that children can remain in their homes with the support that they need and require. But, recognising that this is a matter where we are at one with the views and evidence of the children’s commissioner—of course, that is what we’re working to with the Minister for Health and Social Services; working in the grain in terms of those policy recommendations from the children’s commissioner’s report.
 
Of course, on the second point, this has been raised in previous sessions in the Senedd. The Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty is working very closely with the Wales Council for Voluntary Action to ensure that we can address this issue—because it is a very important service—and that there is, again, no difficulty in working through this to make sure that that service can be available, particularly to the third sector.
 
14:39
Eluned ParrottBiography
Minister, I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say I find it extraordinary to hear Members complaining about delays in CAP payments to farms, who might then choose to campaign for them to end forever. I wonder if I might request a statement from the Deputy Minister for agriculture on the likely impact on the farming industry in Wales if we were to leave the European Union, as a nation. Clearly, it’s important that we have honest facts to be able to offer people, rather than base it purely on superstition.
 
Secondly, I note that, yesterday, the route for the Velothon Wales was announced. You will be aware that, previously, there have been some concerns about organisational issues. I wonder if I could request a joint statement from the Deputy Minister for tourism and the Minister for the economy on two issues: firstly, the operational arrangements in ensuring that lessons have been learnt from previous events and, secondly, on whether or not hardship relief for business rates will be made available to businesses that are adversely affected.
 
14:40
Jane HuttBiography
Yes, I can only agree with Eluned Parrott on her point about the support that we give to—I believe it’s 16,000 farming businesses by the European Union, and the £200 million support, which, of course, the First Minister alluded to earlier on, and the importance of the rural development programme, which, of course, across Wales, has not only delivered in the last programme, but is now moving into next programme and having such an important impact, as a result of full consultation, not only with farming businesses, but also the communities which they serve and are located in.
 
Your second point, of course, is something where early consultation will develop on the next velothon in Wales, to ensure that those routes are fully understood, and, of course, where local authorities have responsibilities in terms of proving, planning and traffic order arrangements.
 
14:41
Darren MillarBiography
Can I ask for a couple of statements in relation to waste collection services, please, Minister? One from the Minister for Health and Social Services in relation to the public health impacts of four-weekly bin collections. One thing that has not been considered by Conwy County Borough Council, which will be, of course, considering these matters this afternoon, is the disposal of pet waste and the potential hazard that that poses to local authority operatives when disposing of that waste, particularly, of course, if somebody misses a bin collection for whatever reason and something is left festering in those bins for eight weeks or more. There is not sufficient regard given to those risks by that local authority, and I suspect that if others follow suit with Conwy, should it decide to adopt four-weekly bin collections, then that could potentially have a very bad impact on our public health.
 
Can I also ask for a statement on waste collection services from the Minister responsible for equalities? The reason I ask for that, Minister, is that, whilst the local authority in my constituency, Conwy County Borough Council, has considered the implications of four-weekly collections for those people with children who are in nappies and arranged for additional collections for those nappies, it has not considered the implications for older people who may be users of incontinence products. Of course, they can very often be quite vulnerable people, and should separate collections be required for those sorts of products, or any other clinical products that they may need to dispose of, they could be identified as vulnerable people as a result of the waste collection service that may be introduced. I’m very concerned about the implications. I don’t think these have been properly thought through. I think it requires some response in respect of the equalities issue that this raises and, indeed, the public health issues that these raise. I would welcome statements from Ministers in the Welsh Government on it.
 
14:43
Jane HuttBiography
It’s very helpful, I think, Darren Millar, that I can give a response to your question based on the provisional figures that were published last week in terms of municipal waste statistics. They do show further progress towards reaching our ambitious targets for recycling in Wales, testament to the hard work of local authorities across Wales. I’m sure you make your representations to your local authority in terms of waste management, but, of course, it’s also a tribute to communities and residents embracing new ways of managing their household waste. Working to make the best use of our resources, of course, will bring Wales undoubted economic and environmental benefits. I think it’s particularly encouraging, again, to see that the overall quarterly provisional rate reached 60 per cent across Wales for the first time. I’m sure, Darren Millar, that you welcome those provisional figures from last week. Of course, we look for improvement and ways in which we can learn about management of change, working closely with all our local authorities and ensuring, particularly, that best practice is not only implemented, but shared across the country.
 
14:45
3. Statement: Invest-to-save Programme Update
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 3, which is a statement by the same Minister on the invest-to-save programme, and it’s an update. I call on the Minister, Jane Hutt.
 
14:45
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance and Government Business
Llywydd, I’d like to update Assembly Members on the achievements of the invest-to-save fund since its launch in 2009 and provide details of the latest initiatives that the programme is supporting. From 2009 to 2015, the recyclable loans fund has supported 140 projects and invested a total of £128 million. An independent review of the fund published in 2014 found that for every £1 invested, gross savings of £3 are generated. In December, the Northern Ireland Audit Office published a report on invest-to-save schemes and referred to the Welsh Government’s fund as a model from which much could be learned in terms of good operational practice. This now well-established Welsh Government initiative is unique and successful, it is self-sustaining, it helps organisations to realise savings, and it encourages innovation.
 
In addition to the independent review, the fund has also been subject to scrutiny by the Finance Committee of the Assembly, and the recommendations by the committee were considered carefully and incorporated into the operation of the fund. The Public Policy Institute for Wales has also published a report, in November 2014, on how the fund can be used to spread good practice across the public sector. Good progress has been made to achieve that goal.
 
Since 2009, the fund has been active in all areas of the public sector across Wales—local government, the NHS and sponsored bodies have all taken advantage of the fund. More recently, we have seen significant interest from the further and higher education sectors and we are also developing our first project in the third sector. The collaboration between the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant and me to enhance the green growth fund is the latest development to assist organisations with delivering more cost-effective and innovative energy efficiency solutions.
 
I launched the eleventh invest-to-save bidding round in October and I am pleased to announce support for the following projects in this first tranche of announcements in this round: £450,000 for the All Wales Therapeutic and Toxicology Centre. Now, this initiative is supported by chief pharmacists from across all Welsh NHS bodies and it will ensure that procurement of drugs is undertaken in the most cost-effective way, whilst satisfying clinical best practice. It is the type of project that sees good practice being implemented across a whole sector right from the outset, and the potential savings are estimated to be at least £375,000 per annum.
 
There’ll be £421,000 to Powys teaching health board. This funding will allow the board to implement improvements in community resource teams, mental health services, assistive technologies and nursing skills. As well as significantly improving the care options available in the Powys area, the projects will generate estimated savings of some £443,000 per annum. There’ll be £105,000 for the City and County of Swansea to support the employment of a group therapy worker for a three-year pilot to work with vulnerable young adults with children so that they can be helped before more costly statutory interventions come into play, and to also reduce the incidence of neglect and abuse. There’ll be £152,000 for Cardiff and Vale university health board to improve the treatment of diabetes in the Cardiff and Vale area. The board estimates that this improved approach will generate savings of just over £100,000 per annum. A number of other projects are also being considered for this round and will be announced in due course.
 
The recent development of the invest-to-save green growth fund as a new and distinct part of invest-to-save is an all-Wales initiative aimed at supporting the Welsh public sector in meeting targets for the reduction of carbon emissions. The invest-to-save green growth fund is a joint venture with the Minister for Natural Resources to secure carbon emissions coupled with reduced running costs. Within a few short months of operation, this part of the fund has already made significant investments, which include the installation of LED street lighting in Monmouthshire County Council, Gwynedd Council and Wrexham County Borough Council. The value of these three projects is £2.7 million. There is also £333,000 for Natural Resources Wales for the implementation of a number of energy efficiency measures; £4 million for the installation of LED lighting on sections of the Welsh Government trunk road network; and £2.1 million to support energy efficiency projects across various Cardiff city council premises.
 
Taken with the projects announced earlier in this statement, these energy efficiency projects mean that the fund is supporting 15 further projects with a value of some £11 million. This increases the number of projects supported to 154, with an aggregate investment value of almost £140 million.
 
The Minister for Natural Resources has also issued a written statement today, addressing the relevance of the energy efficiency project to the Welsh Government’s policy on energy efficiency. These latest energy efficiency projects carry on the work that was started by the fund in previous bidding rounds, and mean that the total investment by the fund in energy efficiency projects over the last 12 months is over £13 million. This investment will generate annual cash-releasing savings of £2.4 million and reduce carbon emissions by over 8,000 tonnes per annum. In addition to the recent energy efficiency projects, a pipeline of projects for implementation across the Welsh public sector is being developed.
 
Overall, the invest-to-save fund has demonstrated what can be achieved with a relatively modest injection of resources and running costs. I’ve no doubt that it will continue to be seen as an important source of funding for allowing the Welsh public sector to realise real cash benefits and to help drive innovation.
 
14:51
Nick RamsayBiography
Can I thank the Minister for today’s statement and invest-to-save update? I’m pleased I was called to speak before Mike Hedges asked all my questions; I know Mike’s got serious enthusiasm for this issue.
 
Minister, invest-to-save is clearly an important programme, based on a very good premise. I think we can all agree on that. However, how self-sustaining is it? It clearly relies on money coming back into the coffers, not just going out. Is that money being repaid on time and, if not, what sort of delay are we seeing? I imagine that in most cases it is coming back on time, but there must be some areas where you have concerns about the money being paid back. Is any money being written off, I should ask, as well?
 
Secondly, in what ways is invest-to-save encouraging the innovation that you talk about? Is that innovation long term, and is the innovation itself self-sustaining?
 
Turning to the current round of bidding, which you’ve just referred to, what criteria have you used to select these projects? I see that the city of Swansea is receiving £105,000 to employ a therapy worker—clearly a reward to Mike Hedges for all his years of loyal questioning on the subject. I’m also pleased to see the announcement on the installation—. Well, I’m very pleased to see the installation of LED street lighting in Monmouthshire County Council. Hopefully, they’ll be around long enough to pay you the money back. You always tell us what projects have been accepted, but what you don’t tell us, or are not so open with, are the projects that are being rejected and the criteria that have led to that rejection. Would you consider publishing more detail of why certain projects haven’t made the grade, and what advice are you giving to projects to make sure that, in future, they do manage to get the money that they’re seeking?
 
14:52
Jane HuttBiography
I thank Nick Ramsay for those questions. As you say, the fact is that we’ve developed a great deal of consensus about the development and delivery of the invest-to-save fund. As I’ve said, I thanked the Finance Committee for their full review and, in fact, incorporated their recommendations into the delivery of the invest-to-save fund, but the invest-to-save fund has also benefited from other evaluations, which, of course, include the Public Policy Institute for Wales. It has enabled us to ensure that we can not only learn from best practice, but share that in terms of the public sector across Wales. It’s very interesting that the successful initiatives that are now being implemented in Wales are now being followed and copied in other parts of the UK. I think, in the latest tranche, the allocation, as I’ve said, of £450,000 to a project covering the pharmaceutical purchasing arrangements across all health boards and trusts in Wales really demonstrates innovation and collaboration. Of course, we do look to ways in which we can continue to learn from that best practice. In fact, the Public Policy Institute for Wales is conducting a follow-up review now that we’re almost 18 months from the publication of their initial report.
 
Just in terms of the delivery and, actually, the proof that projects are generating the savings that they promise, every project is subject to quarterly monitoring to assess progress and to identify any issues in terms of delivery. Then, at the end of each project, a case study or project evaluation is undertaken, assessing benefits, establishing what worked well, and also looking at what didn’t work well and where there can be lessons learned, but also making sure that that is passed on in terms of spreading good practice in the development of business cases from different sectors across Wales. We do publish, of course, case studies on the Welsh Government’s invest-to-save website.
 
Again, I think we have to go back to that all-important figure—that the invest-to-save fund generates £3 for every £1 invested. Just in terms of the criteria, as you mentioned, we of course look to innovation in the public sector, which then does bring forth some of those projects. I have mentioned the pharmaceutical purchasing arrangements, but I think the project that you mentioned in terms of Swansea city council is, again, another new way in which we can look at the sort of preventative focus of invest-to-save. We supported a couple of projects in the last round, and you will remember one based in Torfaen, also, with another RSL body, working together to again try to intervene before costly statutory interventions come in to play. There is the example, again, of improving treatment of diabetes, estimating, as I said, savings of just over £100,000 per annum. We have now developed this new strand, which is the energy efficiency strand, which is not only generating savings, but cutting carbon emissions. That is a development, of course, across Government, in terms of working and delivering that.
 
There are some projects, as I have said, for this round, that are not yet at the stage where we can approve funding investment. I think that, with many of the projects that come forward, it is a process of working with project applicants rather than saying that we have a list that we approve or dismiss. It is about going out and encouraging new applications and working with those expressions of interest to support as many as possible that come forward, based on the knowledge that we have of what works and what is applicable.
 
14:57
Mike HedgesBiography
I welcome this statement. As Nick Ramsay said, I have long been a supporter and advocate of invest-to-save, and I make no apologies for that. It is self-sustaining, encourages innovation and helps organisations make savings that they can further reinvest. What’s not to like about it? I’m also very pleased that the Minister accepted the Finance Committee’s recommendation that the minimum amount for invest-to-save was not increased, and I see that a number of small but very good projects have come through this year. There have been a number of LED street lighting projects and other energy saving measures. I cannot think of anywhere in Wales that would not actually benefit from such projects. What more can be done to get more organisations to use invest-to-save for such projects, which would be good for the environment and good for the organisations financially?
 
14:58
Jane HuttBiography
I thank Mike Hedges for those questions. I think, again, the influence of, and the evidence taken by, the Finance Committee had an impact in terms of us understanding the importance of enabling smaller projects to continue to be developed and put forward for approval. In terms of energy efficiency development, alongside the Minister for Natural Resources, I think it is worth looking at the Minister’s written statement today on his energy efficiency strategy, where we can see how invest-to-save can dovetail. Particularly, he saw yesterday the example of Cardiff and Vale University Local Health Board children’s hospital installing LED lighting, and in the underground tunnels within the main University Hospital of Wales—£252,000 loan value, creating savings of £63,000 per year. Who wouldn’t adopt this in the health service? This is something, again, where, in terms of higher education, if one university does it, why aren’t they all following suit? We certainly want to make sure that this fund can respond to that kind of roll-out—and it would be a roll-out, if this worked effectively—of invest-to-save for energy efficiency, particularly with LED lighting replacement.
 
14:59
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
I welcome the statement and am very supportive of the strategy, of course. The fund is very useful and has clear benefits, as has already been noted.
 
This statement looks forward most of all, of course, but can I just look at two examples mentioned here? There is one with £150,000 for diabetes treatment in the Cardiff and Vale health board, and this anticipates savings of £100,000 per annum, which is an exceptionally high figure, and very encouraging, of course. But if such a scheme is so effective, shouldn’t it be rolled out in all parts of Wales, and shouldn’t that be done as a matter of urgency? Because not only does it improve treatment, but it also brings about savings. But you state in your statement that
 
‘good practice across the public sector and good progress has been made’—.
 
Sorry, I’m misquoting you here—that good practice and rolling out good practice across the public sector does happen, but you don’t say how it happens. So, how can you actually roll out such a successful scheme so that it can be implemented in all parts of Wales?
 
Then, another that’s already been referred to is the LED street lighting, and these plans in Gwynedd, Monmouthshire and Wrexham. There is no information in the statement as to the potential savings of this, but, once again, given that that’s the purpose of the programme, when and how will you ensure that this scheme is also rolled out to all parts of Wales, as it is so clearly a scheme that will bring such beneficial outcomes?
 
The only other question I have is: you mentioned assessing all schemes; who is responsible for carrying out that assessment? How do you ensure the accuracy of those assessments?
 
15:02
Jane HuttBiography
I thank Alun Ffred Jones for those very pertinent questions because it does follow on very much from what Mike Hedges said about these projects: if it works in Cardiff and Vale university health board in terms of improving treatment of diabetes and delivering those savings, why not the rest of Wales? Every health board could move forward and adopt that, and we need to ensure that the—. This is one good point about making an oral statement of this kind today, because it puts on record what is being achieved and how that can then be followed through. Of course, the health service, in many respects, has adopted—not only following on from one health board’s practice and adopting it in another health board, but some all-Wales NHS-led schemes, which of course has meant that we’ve got consistency of coverage across Wales. If we look at the health boards, the NHS has benefitted to the greatest extent in terms of use of invest-to-save projects. I think that is testament to the fact that, of course, within our relationship with the Welsh NHS we can adopt and drive that practice.
 
But it is important also to look at other ways in which we can promote the results of invest-to-save. We’re also working with the recently established innovation lab on a small number of projects where we’re looking at real-time evaluations. That’s going to help us build up that evidence base, which will show what can be achieved, and also give incentives to adopting new ways of working and delivering services.
 
Of course, your points about energy efficiency again are important. Just in terms of LED lighting, in addition to the four local authority schemes we have, as you’ll recall, supported a number of other organisations in 2015-16: Carmarthenshire County Council’s LED street lighting; Isle of Anglesey County Council’s LED street and leisure centre lighting; Cardiff University—£1 million; Betsi Cadwaladr—£450,000; Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service—£165,000. So, we’re building on this. Just in terms of the impact of that, the latest projects mean we’ve invested much more in this financial year as a result of adoption now across Wales and across sectors—much more than the £3 million allocated to the fund over a two-year period specifically for energy efficiency projects. I think it’s also important to know that we’re using the services of an organisation known as Salix to support energy efficiency projects. Welsh Government has invested £10.4 million with Salix, which is helping to support 39 public sector organisations to implement over 300 separate projects. So, this again is rolling out.
 
15:05
Peter BlackBiography
Minister, thank you for the statement. I just wanted to ask some specific questions in relation to the annual report and directory of projects, which I think the statement arises out of. Specifically in relation to procurement, I notice a very big invest-to-save project, £5.9 million for the national procurement service in Wales, which is meant to cover the Welsh Government, local government, health boards, police service, fire service, and Welsh-Government-sponsored bodies, which I think is absolutely invaluable and certainly would be worth pursuing. I’d be interested to know over what period the payback on that large investment is going to be. But, in that section, you have also given £300,000 to an all-Wales procurement, NHS shared-services programme, and there are five other schemes in this procurement section—all money given to procurement services in the hundreds of thousands. I’m just concerned that, having invested £5.9 million in an all-embracing procurement service, why we’re then spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on six other procurement services, which clearly don’t appear to be in that all-embracing procurement service. Could you explain what that duplication is and how that is meant to work together?
 
The other question I had, Minister, following on from previous questions about the spread of good practice—. I think it’s important that good practice is spread, and there’s a lot of individual projects in this document that I think would certainly come under that label of good practice, so I’m interested—do you have any specific examples of where an invest-to-save scheme has been funded by this particular project and has actually then led on to other authorities taking that up and actually delivering that? I think LED lighting is one, but could you give me another one?
 
15:07
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you very much, Peter. I think your questions are very pertinent about the funding that we put in to enable the national procurement service to take off as a cross-public-sector way in which we can procure more effectively in terms of value for money, and in terms of ensuring that we’re also procuring as far as possible from Welsh-based and local businesses. But, of course, NPS is still developing. It hasn’t taken over all procurement across the public sector. The NHS obviously has a very strong shared-services procurement and delivery arm, which actually predates the national procurement service and still has a very important role to play. But, of course, we have assisted that, as you say, alongside NPS. I’m very glad that you drew attention to the detail in our annual report. I’d be happy to clarify in correspondence the difference between the aims and objectives of the invest-to-save in NPS and other procurement service delivery projects.
 
In terms of spread of good practice, yes, LED is one clear example of where we can see others across the public sector taking on the example. I think good practice in terms of innovation and collaboration and delivery of public services and integration of health and social care is another area. I would very much want to show, particularly through the work of the Y Lab, that kind of innovation in terms of transformation of delivery in public services.
 
15:09
Jenny RathboneBiography
I, too, share Mike Hedges’s enthusiasm for invest-to-save. I think it’s one of the most innovative part of Government. I think that’s been recognised by some of the studies that have been done. I particularly welcome the invest-to-save green growth fund, and you’ve already outlined some of the savings, both financially and in terms of carbon emissions. I wondered if you could tell us what opportunities exist for community or third sector organisations to bid for invest-to-save money so that they can both generate wealth locally and also provide some competition to the big six energy companies, which failed to put down their prices along with their costs.
 
15:09
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you, Jenny Rathbone. We have just started to develop more engagement with the third sector in terms of invest-to-save—not, at this point in time, as far as I’m aware, in terms of energy efficiency and links to the green growth fund, but that certainly is an area that we could now explore.
 
15:10
Julie MorganBiography
The Minister has referred to the LED lighting at Cardiff and Vale LHB, and I was pleased to visit the children’s hospital yesterday with the Minister, Carl Sargeant, where we went around the children’s hospital looking at the lighting and, in particular, looking at the lighting in the hydrotherapy pool, which was very inspiring, really, as a facility. We were told by the person in overall charge of the building that, whenever a ward is now refurbished, LED lighting is put in, which is an example of the spread of good practice that we’ve already referred to. I wonder, would the finance for that be part of invest-to-save, or is the spread of the good practice part of the day-to-day running money of the health board?
 
15:11
Jane HuttBiography
I thank the Member for Cardiff North for that observation, following her visit yesterday. If fact, we’ve visited the children’s hospital on more than one occasion to see the benefits of this—an approach that now seems so obvious that it has to be built into all new building projects in terms of invest-to-save, but also the beneficial impact of that LED lighting. We can only use invest-to-save to pump-prime this kind of change, to help release savings, but then of course it will need to be developed into all business planning for capital estates.
 
15:12
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
15:12
4. The Qualifications Wales Act 2015 (Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2016
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 4, which is the Qualifications Wales Act 2015 (Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2016, and I call on the Minister for Education and Skills to move the motion—Huw Lewis.
 
Motion NDM5973 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales; in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
 
Approves that the draft The Qualifications Wales Act 2015 (Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2016 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 26 January 2016.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:12
Huw LewisBiographyThe Minister for Education and Skills
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I welcome the opportunity to debate the draft statutory instrument, the Qualifications Wales Act 2015 (Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2016. The regulations would be made in consequence of the Qualifications Wales Act 2015, which established Qualifications Wales as the independent regulator of qualifications awarded in Wales. The Act repealed the functions of the Welsh Ministers in the Education Act 1997 relating to the regulation of qualifications awarded in Wales, and replaced the restriction in the Learning and Skills Act 2000 on the public funding of certain courses with a similar restriction in section 34 of the Act. These regulations update references in other legislation to reflect the new system of qualification regulation in Wales as a result of the Act. They should also better enable Qualifications Wales to perform its functions under the Act by adding it to lists of prescribed persons to whom particular information may be disclosed by certain persons.
 
We could not have established Qualifications Wales without the support and constructive engagement of Members of this Assembly, and I sincerely hope Members will support the motion this afternoon.
 
15:13
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I have no other speakers, so the proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? No objections, therefore the motion is agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
15:13
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
15:13
5. Legislative Consent Motion on the Housing and Planning Bill relating to Enfranchisement and Extension of Long Leaseholds
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move on to item 5, which is the legislative consent motion on the Housing and Planning Bill relating enfranchisement and extension of long leaseholds. I call on the Minister, Lesley Griffiths, to move the motion.
 
Motion NDM5968 Lesley Griffiths
 
To propose the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 29.6, agrees that provisions in the Housing and Planning Bill, relating to enfranchisement and extension of long leaseholds in so far as they fall within the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales, should be considered by the UK Parliament.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:14
Lesley GriffithsBiographyThe Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
Thank you, Presiding Officer, and I move the motion. I’m pleased to be able to bring forward this legislative consent memorandum for the UK Government’s Housing and Planning Bill. I would like to thank the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee for their scrutiny of the memorandum, and note they have no objections.
 
The changes covered by this LCM are technical in nature. The gilt used in the formula for rent charges and for the calculation of amounts payable for leasehold enfranchisement and extensions was redeemed by the UK Government on 5 July 2015. Basically, this means leaseholders are being disadvantaged by the fact that these formulae are no longer valid. This effect of the amendments pursuant to the LCM for the Housing and Planning Bill allows the formulae to be calculated in accordance with regulations made by the Welsh Ministers, rather than in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State. This means we can get replacement formulae in place as soon as possible and I commend the motion to the Chamber.
 
15:15
Lindsay WhittleBiography
We will be voting in favour of the LCM today, which will give the Welsh Ministers regulation-making powers over the formula for calculating the cost for leaseholders exercising their rights to enfranchisement and leasehold extension. Leasehold law, of course, is infamously complicated. There have been a number of cases in recent years with leaseholders who have bought properties without fully understanding the potential consequences of the legal agreements they’ve entered into, only to find themselves facing thousands of pounds in repair costs over many years later. I was a housing manager in a previous life and I know the difficulties it’s caused. One famous case, of course, concerned the residents of a certain very famous Cwmbran tower block who eventually won their legal battle to avoid paying bills for up to £27,000 each for improvement works to their flats. And whilst this LCM relates to technical legal amendments to existing law, I would like to take this opportunity to ask the Minister, please, to continue to look at making leasehold law fairer and clearer, and ensuring that leaseholders in Wales are protected from excessive repair costs. Thank you.
 
15:16
Lesley GriffithsBiographyThe Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
Thank you, Presiding Officer, and I thank Lindsay Whittle for his contribution. As I mentioned, the only consequence of not supporting this LCM would be to disadvantage leaseholders in Wales compared to their counterparts over the border. In relation to Lindsay Whittle’s specific request to continue working, you’ll be aware I made a written statement just very recently regarding the current work that we are undertaking in relation to the issue. Thank you.
 
15:16
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? There are no objections. The motion is agreed in accordance with Standing Orders.
 
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
15:16
6. Motion to Vary the Order of Amendments for Stage 3 of the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move on to item 6, which is the motion to vary the order of amendments for Stage 3 of the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill. I call on the Minister for Finance and Government Business to move the motion—Jane Hutt.
 
Motion NDM5969 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales in accordance with Standing Order 26.36:
 
Agrees to dispose of sections and schedules to the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill at Stage 3 in the following order:
 
a. Sections 2-36
 
b. Sections 38-81
 
c. Section 37
 
d. Sections 83-116
 
e. Section 82
 
f. Sections 118-156
 
g. Section 117
 
h. Sections 157-170
 
i. Sections 172-184
 
j. Section 171
 
k. Sections 185-195
 
l. Section 1
 
m. Long Title.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:17
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance and Government Business
I move the motion.
 
15:17
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Formally moved. I have no speakers.
 
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? No objection. Therefore, the motion is agreed in accordance with Standing Orders.
 
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
15:17
7. Motion to Vary the Order of Amendments for Stage 3 of the Public Health (Wales) Bill
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move on to item 7, which is a motion to vary the order of amendments for Stage 3 of the Public Health (Wales) Bill. I call on the Minister for public health to move the motion. Will someone move the motion?
 
Motion NDM5970 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales in accordance with Standing Order 26.36:
 
Agrees to dispose of sections and schedules to the Public Health (Wales) Bill at Stage 3 in the following order:
 
a. Sections 2-31
 
b. Schedules 1 and 3
 
c. Sections 32-52
 
d. Schedule 2
 
e. Sections 53-57
 
f. Sections 59-96
 
g. Schedule 4
 
h. Section 58
 
i. Sections 97-117
 
j. Schedule 5
 
k. Sections 118-126
 
l. Section 1
 
m. Long title.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:17
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance and Government Business
Move.
 
15:17
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you. I have no speakers and, therefore, the proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? The motion is therefore agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
8. Debate on the Estyn Annual Report
The following amendments have been selected: amendment 1 in the name of Elin Jones, amendment 2 in the name of Paul Davies, and amendment 3 in the name of Aled Roberts.
 
15:17
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move on to debate the Estyn report. I call on the Minister for Education and Skills to move the motion—Huw Lewis.
 
Motion NDM5972 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:
 
Notes the annual report for 2014-15 of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:18
Huw LewisBiographyThe Minister for Education and Skills
Thank you, Presiding Officer. You’re certainly on the ball today. Can I open this debate today by thanking Meilyr Rowlands for his first annual report as Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales? This year’s report provides us, again, with a rich and valuable source of information with which to shape our thinking on the future of education and training in Wales. I want to thank the Estyn team for all of their hard work over the last 12 months.
 
The report’s findings highlight the continued progress our schools, colleges and local authorities are making here in Wales, demonstrating progress this year from the early years right through to further education. The chief inspector points to, and I quote,
 
‘a growing maturity, confidence and shared sense of endeavour within the Welsh education system.’
 
The report makes clear that where the foundation phase is implemented well, standards are excellent and learners make very good progress. It is also clear that although there is work still needed to embed the ethos of good attendance, the actions we are taking to reduce absenteeism from schools are having a positive impact.
 
What is of particular interest to me are the constructive comments the chief inspector offers in relation to the interventions aimed at supporting disadvantaged pupils, including the pupil deprivation grant. The report confirms that schools are more confident about using the grant and consider that it is a having a tangible impact on teaching and learning as well as on learner wellbeing. Last summer’s GCSE results demonstrated that clearly: 31.6 per cent of pupils eligible for free school meals achieved five A* to C grades at GCSE, including English or Welsh first language and mathematics. This is 3.9 per cent higher than in 2013-14, and the gap between those not on free school meals and those that are is closing.
 
I’m also delighted that the report reflects the hard work undertaken by schools to build on the foundations we have put in place through the literacy and numeracy framework. Ensuring that practitioners feel supported to deliver on literacy and numeracy is vital, and we are continuing to invest in this area and work with partners in the regional education consortia.
 
The report shows, however, that there is still much work to be done in addressing the contrast between the quality of teaching and learning in our best education providers and those in our weakest. We are working with the consortia and the national leadership development board to refresh our leadership strategy. Improving standards of teaching and leadership are key priorities that underpin the purpose, principles and implementation of the new deal, and I’m grateful to this year’s report for helping us shape our thinking on the next steps forward.
 
The data in the Estyn report show overall improvement in the education system. There have been improvements this year across the board without exception, from the foundation phase through to key stage 4, demonstrating a positive upward trend when it comes to educational standards. The proportion of excellence in primary schools has increased over the last five years from 8 per cent to 18 per cent this year, and there is a small increase in the number of primary schools inspected and judged as ‘good’. The proportion of excellence in secondary schools has increased from 23 per cent five years ago to 38 per cent this year. However, about the same proportion of secondary schools are unsatisfactory, and there is a decrease in the proportion of the secondary schools inspected that are good, and we need to look at this closely when it comes to our secondary school sector.
 
I’m very pleased at the continuing progress of our special schools in Wales, and I’m keen to ensure as a system that we are better at transferring some of the excellent practice we see there into the mainstream system. The excellent leadership and self-evaluation on the part of special school teaching staff is something we need to particularly learn from. I’m pleased to see that, in all special schools, many older learners are obtaining the skills and relevant qualifications required to prepare them for later life.
 
I’m also pleased to see that all of the pupil referral units inspected were judged as having good provision, but as Members will know, as a sector I do acknowledge that we have more work to do in terms of raising standards across the board. The work that Ann Keane is leading in this area will, I hope, lead us to achieve higher standards and improved leadership, such that we all want to see.
 
The report shows that across all further education programmes in 2014, 86 per cent of learning activities were successfully completed and attained. This represents an overall increase of 2 per cent from the previous year, and continues a trend of gradual rising success rates.
 
The report also outlines some pleasing outcomes from the inspection of work-based providers. The Welsh Government has announced an additional £5 million for apprenticeships next year, and I am keen that we continue to build our reputation for quality in vocational learning.
 
It is clear that the policies we’ve put in place, from the foundation phase to the literacy and numeracy framework, to the strengthened regional consortia and the pupil deprivation grant, are helping to drive improvements in standards across the country. We have more to do, but this year’s report demonstrates the clear progress that we are making. I’m grateful to the teachers, leaders and managers throughout the sector for their contribution in driving these policies forward. We all share the same ambition for an excellent education system. It only remains for me to thank again Meilyr Rowlands and his team for the work that has gone into producing this report this year. Thank you.
 
15:24
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I have selected three amendments to the motion. I call on Simon Thomas to move the amendment tabled in the name of Elin Jones.
 
Gwelliant 1—Elin Jones
 
Add as new point at end of motion:
 
Notes that the Estyn report states that ‘Schools with successful leaders have a strong culture of professional learning and focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning’ and believes that paying a teaching premium to highly qualified education staff who maintain their professional development would be a significant contribution to raising teaching standards.
 
Amendment 1 moved.
 
15:24
Simon ThomasBiography
Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. I start by agreeing with the Minister in expressing his thanks to Meilyr Rowlands for this year’s report, and I’d also like to thank Ann Keane, the former chief inspector, for her work with Estyn over the term of this Assembly. I think it’s appropriate, as we are discussing the Estyn annual report for the last time in this Assembly, that I do put on record how important the evidence of Estyn has been for me personally and for Plaid Cymru and, I would have thought, for each and every other party here too in the way that we have interpreted and held the Government to account on so many educational issues. It’s very interesting to note how Estyn has developed over the years from being a schools inspectorate to a body that provides evidence for the education system in its entirety. That is something that we have seen to be a great benefit to this Assembly and certainly to the work of the children and young people committee, and hopefully for the public debate on the education system here in Wales.
 
The Deputy Presiding Officer (David Melding) took the Chair.
 
Simon ThomasBiography
As the Minister mentioned, there is a great deal to welcome in this report, but there is also cause for concern within it. I think the main concern that I have is the variation in educational standards between the poorest performing schools and our best schools. It’s a cause of concern, I think, in a context where we have seen the Government establishing a number of different programmes—the main one, of course, being Schools Challenge Wales—to see that the number of secondary schools that have deteriorated has increased. Although the number of secondary schools that have improved has also increased, the polarisation that’s happening—and I think that’s the word that’s used by the chief inspector in his report—between the excellent and the poorest performing in our education system is a cause for concern and is something that needs to be tackled.
 
Estyn say that this variability in standards can only be addressed by school leaders and teachers. The Government can only do so much to set the right environment; it is down to leadership and high-quality teaching to address this variability. Plaid Cymru is certainly of the view that we want to see all pupils taught by good teachers and led by strong headteachers, and that is why our amendment today puts forward our proposals for the May election as well of a teaching premium of up to 10 per cent for all those teachers who attain a Master’s in educational practice or the equivalent of skills, remain in the sector and maintain those skills levels. We also want to extend this offer to teaching assistants who gain skills at level 3 or above. The reason we do this is that we’ve had a debate for five years in this place around the devolution of teachers’ pay and conditions. That has not happened, it’s not likely to happen in the immediate future, and we need to do something to mark our belief that we need a teaching profession in which skills and professional development are held uppermost, in which that is mandatory to all intents and purposes, and in which we expect teaching to be of that standard and to maintain that standard at all levels. We would like, therefore, good teachers to be rewarded for their teaching practice, and not only by becoming managers or heads or deputy heads, but also by using their teaching skills in their schools, in their school clusters, and in the new pioneer schools that are delivering our national curriculum. This is an acknowledgement of the huge ask that we’ll be making of our teaching profession over the next five years in delivering that new national curriculum and the Donaldson agenda.
 
This teaching premium can work alongside cutting bureaucracy in schools, giving teachers time to teach and headteachers time to lead on educational standards, with the hope, of course, that we will attract more to become headteachers in turn, because one of the other things that lies behind this report is that the lack of leadership amongst heads is not just down to, possibly, a lack of standards; it’s more often down to the fact that there are insufficient headteachers to take up this role in Wales and insufficient support, therefore, for those who want to move into headship positions.
 
We will accept the amendment from the Conservatives also. We believe that it’s in line with our thinking on the need to close the gap between the poorest and the best supported pupils. We can’t accept the amendment from the Liberal Democrats. I know that the Liberal Democrats have an interest in class sizes—they’ve rediscovered it after forgetting about it for 10 years—but I have to say to the speaker from the Liberal Democrats that I go with the OECD in this regard, in April 2014 when they said very clearly, that
 
‘High-performing education systems tend to prioritise the quality of teachers over other inputs, most notably class size.’
 
I believe that Plaid Cymru’s emphasis on a premium for high-quality teachers does prioritise the quality of teachers over class size and is therefore a better policy than that advocated by other parties.
 
15:30
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I call on Angela Burns to move amendment 2, tabled in the name of Paul Davies.
 
Gwelliant 2—Paul Davies
 
Add as new point at end of motion:
 
Notes that this year’s Estyn report shows that more needs to be done to narrow the attainment gap between secondary school pupils in receipt of free school meals and their peers.
 
Amendment 2 moved.
 
15:30
Angela BurnsBiography
Thank you very much, Deputy Presiding Officer. I am also grateful to speak in today’s debate, and, like my colleague, Simon Thomas, I would like to also thank Estyn for their hard work, and for the rigour that they bring to the examination of our education service. And I too, like the Minister for Education, felt that there was a lot in this report that was of good news. There were some changes that have shown some improvement.
 
However, education in Wales still remains very much a curate’s egg, and I would like to focus my contribution today to one particular area that I think suffers as a result of the challenge of variability that was so identified by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, and that is the transition between primary school and secondary school, which can be an exciting and yet daunting experience for a child—new school, new friends, new teachers, new challenges. A period of enormous change. And what is crucial during this period of change is the continuation of a child’s educational development—that the knowledge acquired in primary school serves as a foundation upon which a pupil will grow, and this is particularly important for pupils who are in receipt of free school meals.
 
Pupils from low-income backgrounds must not be disadvantaged further. They must be able to gather knowledge and understanding that would help to lift themselves out of poverty, and towards a future that is fulfilling and happy, and has good prospects. And the most recent report, here, does show signs that this is happening for pupils receiving free school meals during their primary years, and that is to be very much welcomed. The annual report found 91 per cent of primary school pupils achieved their foundation phase core indicator at age seven, and a further 93 per cent at 11, and no-one would wish to argue with those.
 
However, the proportion of children on free school meals who achieved the core subject indicator at 14 fell by over 10 per cent, before dropping a staggering 43 per cent by the time they were 16. To put the latter finding more starkly, fewer than 30 per cent of free-school-meals pupils gained the key stage 4 core subject indicator, a gap of 31.9 per cent between themselves and their non-free-school-meals peers.
 
Now, Minister, I expect that you will reply by telling us this is a narrowing of the attainment gap, and that’s true—it’s a narrowing that only amounts to 0.5 cent, compared to last year. And, yes, the direction of travel is the right one, but it’s just happening too slowly. I understand it’s not something that will happen immediately, but the progress of that narrowing is almost unnoticeable. And, after five years, the gap remains worryingly stubborn.
 
The Minister named eliminating the link between poverty and attainment as one of his, and his Government’s, primary objectives, and, although I don’t doubt your desire, Minister, to see this happen, evidence shows it’s simply not happening at a dramatic enough rate. You’ve introduced policies such as Schools Challenge Cymru, the purpose of which we supported. And, although the policy is still in its nascent stages, to find out that, after £20 million of public money, some schools regressed in their proportion of students attaining level 2 in last summer’s GCSEs is concerning. This shows that money alone will not solve the problem—it’s the effective use of that money.
 
For example, the introduction of Teach First in Wales is something that we on this side of the Chamber support. A recent report by Arad on the impact of the charity’s work in Wales mentioned that senior managers and heads of department report that Teach First participants have made positive impacts on their schools in a number of ways, including supporting learner attainment and softer outcomes such as learner motivation, attitudes, engagement and qualities of work. The report also states that Teach First provides an alternate route into teaching that can, and does, attract talented people into the profession and adds value to the Welsh education workforce. And, as Simon Thomas has enunciated, a great teacher will more than balance out a learner’s disadvantaged background.
 
There are, of course, a great many good teachers in Wales. But we would argue that there need to be more, and this is how we would address this. We also need to address another reason why attainment between primary and secondary is not as consistent as it should be, and that is the need to address disengagement with learning, and this is pertinent to both free-school-meals and non-free-school-meals pupils. It does not make sense to make a 14-year-old pupil study an academic subject when his or her affinities or skills lie in more technical or practical disciplines.
 
While it is crucial that the right levels of proficiency in English and maths are essential, pupils should also be able to build upon their talents and pursue their interests, whether in engineering, the arts or architecture. We would think that the previous Estyn annual report would’ve alerted the Welsh Government to act on its failings in managing this gap between the attainment of poorer pupils. This year’s report shows that not nearly enough is happening and I hope that next year’s report will show a redress in that situation.
 
15:35
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I call Aled Roberts to move amendment 3, tabled in his name.
 
Gwelliant 3—Aled Roberts
 
Add as new point at end of motion:
 
Believes that at a time of increasing pupil numbers in primary schools, school closures, and teacher shortages, smaller class sizes for infants are ever more important to give teachers the time to properly teach our children.
 
Amendment 3 moved.
 
15:35
Aled RobertsBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I move amendment 3, and, in so doing, I endorse the comments made by Simon Thomas: I think we should thank Estyn for their work. I think their annual reports have provided a foundation for some of the debates here in the Assembly, and I’d particularly like to thank Meilyr Rowlands during his first period in charge, although I also endorse the words of the Minister on the work that Ann Keane has done as his predecessor. Hopefully, she will bring forward some recommendations in terms of some of the changes that are needed in terms of those children who aren’t entirely within the education system at present.
 
I do think that we should recognise what the Minister said this afternoon, that there have been a number of successes, which are referred to in the report, but I also welcome the fact that the Minister has said that there are a number of other issues where more work is needed. And I think Simon Thomas did mention what concerns me most, which is the fact that there is some polarisation between the improving schools. The percentage of secondary schools that have been assessed as ‘excellent’ has increased from 23 per cent to 38 per cent over the past five years, but, despite that, there are a number of schools that are now unsatisfactory—a percentage similar to those deemed excellent. And the number of schools that have been found to be good or better has reduced, of course, since last year.
 
I do welcome and we will support the Conservative amendment. I do think that the pupil deprivation grant is now starting to bear fruit. It’s clear that there were a number of issues that needed to be addressed over the first year or 18 months, but I do now think that good practice is being rolled out. I do think that we do need to be careful, because I think some of these children who are 14, 15 and 16 years of age—and Angela Burns referred to them, of course—haven’t actually seen the investment whilst they were in the primary sector. So, I do think it’s fair to expect that the progress of those in receipt of free school meals would be better in primary schools than within secondary schools.
 
But we do need to pursue this inconsistency in terms of the fact that these children from disadvantaged backgrounds are still performing worse than their peers. Also, I think we do need to ask some questions. The percentage in terms of attendance within our schools has improved, but it is clear that there are still problems in terms of the most disadvantaged children. They are performing worst in terms of their attendance, and a higher proportion of them are absent regularly from our schools. I think that the figure for Denbighshire, which is neighbouring to where I live, where 6.3 per cent of the children are often absent is something that we need to pursue.
 
So, there is weakness, and there is some inconsistency, and I think the question that arises is: what work are the local authorities and the regional consortia doing to spread good practice? That’s what we need to pursue now. I do support the comments made by the Minister, that we need to look at exactly what they are doing, but also there is scope for the Government to question some of its own strategies. Reference is made on page 30 of the report that mentions weaknesses in terms of the Government’s literacy and numeracy strategy and the way in which schools are dealing with that. I will quote. They state:
 
‘Many schools have reduced the time spent on non-core subjects and areas of learning. This is often after introducing heavy-handed approaches to literacy and numeracy development, aimed at boosting their performance data and the outcomes of annual tests’ rather than the achievements of children.
 
Unfortunately, we won’t be supporting the Plaid Cymru amendment. I do understand Simon Thomas’s point here, but I have to say that I am not convinced that additional payments are the solution. I have seen, within local government and as a school governor, to a certain extent, that additional payments in the past have been made without any reference to performance in education. I feel that, at present, the Master’s qualification doesn’t necessarily make for a good teacher. But I do think that there is plenty of evidence to support what we’re saying about freeing up teacher time in order to teach, and that, of course, is supported by the teaching unions, and, ultimately, it’s the profession that we should listen to rather than the OECD.
 
15:40
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The Minister to reply.
 
15:40
Huw LewisBiographyThe Minister for Education and Skills
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Can I first of all thank Members for their comments today? I said earlier that we are making progress as a system. We’ve heard many Members graciously evidence those improvements this afternoon. However, I also said that significant challenges still remain. As Minister, I am determined that we will have an honest and, insofar as is possible, collective approach to addressing them.
 
As the chief inspector comments in the foreword outline, and as many Members have echoed this afternoon, the variability of teaching and learning should be at the top of our list of concerns. Of course, this is something that I am keen to address through our new deal for the teaching profession.
 
Simon Thomas is quite right: teachers and leaders themselves must drive this, but, in reference to his amendment, I have to say that we still do not have devolution of pay and conditions. In addition to that, my expectation is, and I think that all our expectations should be, that all teachers should be self-improving professionals in terms of their commitment to professional development, and not just some. So, we are working with the profession to develop new professional standards, which will redefine the expectations that we have on our educational workforce to provide high-quality teaching and leadership. Our network of new deal pioneer schools will play a lead role in developing ways to strengthen provision for professional learning and support the workforce to embrace future challenges including, of course, the new curriculum.
 
I intend to establish a national framework of high-quality professional learning co-ordinated by consortia, which will be available to all practitioners and leaders with an expectation that all practitioners and leaders should engage with it. It will be backed up by a strengthened online professional learning passport, hosted by the education and workforce council, which will support a range of career pathways and enable practitioners to take increasing responsibility for their own professional learning. Thus, I hope, and I am convinced, we will best address this issue of variability.
 
One area that does require continued attention as we move forward is the validity, accuracy and reliability of teacher assessment. To address concerns in this area, we’ve worked closely with consortia and Estyn during the last academic year to build confidence in the teacher assessment system. This includes developing a new system of external verification and work to strengthen stakeholders’ understanding of the principles of teacher assessment. I’m minded to ask Estyn to include a thematic review on the evaluation of teacher assessment in the 2016-17 Estyn annual remit letter, and I will update Members on this closer to the time.
 
Estyn’s inspection report of the North and Mid Wales Centre for Teacher Education reflects many shortcomings and I have been clear in this Chamber previously about my own concerns about the quality of the current provision in ITT across Wales and the lack of pace from our higher education institutions in terms of driving improvements.
 
Professor John Furlong has been commissioned to chair a task and finish group to revise our current statutory criteria for accreditation and to implement change so that the system is more robust and fit for purpose. This work is due to conclude very soon, in March, with a view to all courses being accredited against the revised arrangements from September 2018.
 
I note the findings in the report that enrolment and examination attainment levels in the sciences continue to cause concern, as does the progression from GCSE to A-level to undergraduate courses. It is clear that our economy needs more individuals progressing on to STEM-based careers, and that’s why we’re launching a teacher directory of learning and continuous professional development in science, maths and ICT that will support teachers to enhance skills and knowledge. We’ll need to work closely with consortia, local authorities and schools with focused funding to address issues in STEM subjects, and I hope we will make progress on this agenda as we move forward over the next few years.
 
I’m also minded to ask Estyn to include a thematic review on science at key stages 3 and 4 in the 2016-17 Estyn annual remit. Again, I will update Members on that when I’ve finalised our planning.
 
I also note the findings in the report that standards in Welsh second language are improving too slowly and that the social use of the language is not promoted well enough. Our aim is for everyone to be able to use their Welsh with pride and confidence, whatever their level of ability, and the new curriculum we’re developing will allow learners to make greater progress towards proficiency wherever in Wales they go to school. While the new curriculum is being developed, we will support actions to benefit learners currently following the statutory Welsh second language programme of study.
 
Estyn’s inspection framework identifies weaknesses in our system, but, more importantly, secures continuous improvement through follow-up action. We have a lot to celebrate in Wales. Last year’s Estyn report stated that there was a new momentum in Wales and this year’s report shows that progress continues to be made. Last year, we saw the best ever GCSE results in Wales. Our level 2 inclusive results are up 2.5 per cent on 2014 to 57.9 per cent; 69.7 per cent achieved A* to C in English or Welsh, that was up 2.5 per cent on the year before; and 64.4 per cent achieved A* to C in maths, up 2.7 per cent on the year before. I am particularly pleased that the gap between deprived pupils and their peers showed the biggest closing of the gap in recent years, allied to a renewed focus through the pupil deprivation grant, better planning and the impact of categorisation.
 
Progress may not be dramatic enough for Angela Burns and perhaps not for me, either, but this is an historic first. Those in the know will also tell you that it is following the pattern of the dramatic turnaround that we have seen in London, where there are lessons for us all, and where primary schools, incidentally, led the way in terms of the turnaround in standards in that city.
 
As clearly evidenced, many of the policies we have put in place are delivering results and I’m very proud of that. We have more to do, and I believe this report will help us in shaping our next steps. Angela Burns talks rightly of rigour in Estyn’s annual review and, as always, the route-map to excellence is described in Estyn’s annual report in black and white and in relatively straightforward terms. There are no excuses for consortia, for local authorities or, indeed, for individual headteachers. Everyone should read this report, everyone should understand this report, and everyone with a leadership role in education should implement it.
 
15:48
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The proposal is to agree amendment 1. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I defer voting until voting time.
 
Voting deferred until voting time.
 
9. Debate on the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010—Duty to Review—Final Report
The following amendments have been selected: amendment 1 in the name of Elin Jones, and amendment 2 in the name of Aled Roberts.
 
15:49
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 9 is a debate on the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010—Duty to Review—Final Report. I call on the Minister for Health and Social Services to move the motion—Mark Drakeford.
 
Motion NDM5971 Jane Hutt
 
To propose the National Assembly for Wales:
 
Notes the content of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010—Duty to Review—Final Report.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:49
Mark DrakefordBiographyThe Minister for Health and Social Services
Thank you very much, Deputy Presiding Officer. I’m very pleased to open this debate on the final report, which was made under section 48 of the mental health Measure 2010, which places a duty on Welsh Ministers to report on specific aspects of this new legislation and the new system that has been put in place for mental health services in Wales.
 
If truth be told, the report before the National Assembly for Wales today goes over and above the requirements of section 48. It deals with a broad range of operational issues. Particularly, it focuses on the outcomes for service users, as well as inputs and outputs for service providers. In doing so, the report also reflects one of the key principles of the Measure, and that principle is to realign the relationship between those who receive services and those that provide them. By doing that, we can ensure that service users and their families are at the heart of the way in which we tackle issues of mental health.
 
Dirprwy Lywydd, the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010 has always had broad cross-party support during the time that it went through this Assembly. Its progress has always been carefully followed by Members. The duty to report has produced important material to allow that progress to be tracked in each of the last three years. The ‘Duty to Review Inception Report’ was published in 2013 and set out how the Government intended to discharge the section 48 obligation. The ‘Duty to Review Interim Report’ was published in April 2014, and it contained the findings available up to that date. Then, in December of last year, I published the ‘Duty to Review Final Report’. The report sets out its finding and makes several recommendations. In order to have a rounded understanding of the impact of the Measure, and to be able to make recommendations that would ensure that practice continues to improve, the final review has drawn on information from a wide variety of sources. These include task and finish groups on which stakeholders have been represented to consider specific issues arising from the Measure. It’s drawn on independent commissioned research, service user and general practitioner satisfaction surveys, third sector surveys and comments, an assessment of compliance with the Measure’s legal requirements, qualitative performance measures, and the Health and Social Care Committee’s post-legislative scrutiny of the Measure recommendations.
 
While, as with any change in both process and practice, time is required fully to realise improved outcomes, the Health and Social Care Committee’s post-legislative scrutiny of the Measure recognised—and I quote from their report—that
 
‘mental health services in Wales have improved as a result. Access to primary mental health assessment is easier, more people in receipt of secondary mental health services have care and treatment plans, and more people are able to access independent mental health advocacy.’
 
The ‘Duty to Review Final Report’ supports the Health and Social Care Committee’s findings that the Measure has improved services. It reaches that conclusion across all four key components of the Measure—the creation of a local primary mental health support service, care and treatment planning, the right to reassessment for discharged secondary care patients and the provision of independent mental health advocacy. It also concludes that the Measure has represented value for money and that the improvements it has set in hand are continuing.
 
The current funding of £5 million was initially provided to health boards within the mental health ring fence to support the ongoing implementation of the Measure. During the course of this Government, we have gone on investing in the provision of mental health services, with record additional funding, for example, going to child and adolescent mental health services in this financial year in order to support necessary improvements.
 
Notwithstanding this and other investments, we are aware that more needs to be done and, particularly, that we need to ensure that when people first experience mental health problems, they are able to get the help they need in a timely fashion. That is why we will continue to invest new money in mental health services in the next financial year, using the additional £30 million that the finance Minister has set aside for older persons and mental health services. I intend to use some of that £30 million to support continued implementation and improvement of services within the mental health Measure. We will also act, Dirprwy Lywydd, to address the recommendations in the report that point to further areas where we can do more to build on success to date.
 
I would like to highlight just three of those areas this afternoon. First, we will bring forward some changes to secondary legislation that will enable a wider range of suitably qualified and competent staff to undertake both local primary mental health assessments and the care co-ordination role. This was a strong theme in the evidence collected as part of this final review, and I intend to bring forward proposals that will, of course, be subject to further discussion and consultation. Secondly, the Government intends to consult on potential changes regarding children and young people’s access to reassessment when discharged from secondary mental health services. Adults already have this right, and the review recommends that we afford the same rights to young people and to children. I think that’s right, and we will bring forward proposals to consult to make that happen. Thirdly, we will put mechanisms in place to monitor the improved access to therapeutic intervention in local primary care mental health support services. We expect to see improvement there as a result of the extra investment we have made in the provision of psychological therapies, and it’s right that we should put mechanisms in place to monitor that improvement. That’s why I’m happy to accept the second amendment on the order paper today; it reflects a recommendation of the final report.
 
We will continue, as well, to publish and be clear about compliance with targets for improving access to services. For the first time, and partly as a result of proposals from the children’s committee of the Assembly, we have collected data since April 2015 to show compliance with the Measure by age group. These show that target times for assessment and intervention for children and young people in local primary mental health support services have improved by over 20 per cent. But we know we can do better, and that’s why, in this financial year, I have announced additional investment of £800,000 in the local primary mental health support services, specifically to meet the needs of children and young people. It is because I recognise that the issue of timely access is so important that I’m willing to support the first amendment on the order paper today. While it is not the length of the waiting list that is important, as the amendment suggests, I accept the spirit of the amendment because we do want the length of time that children and young people wait for the service they need to reduce.
 
More generally, Dirprwy Lywydd, we have strengthened the Measure last year by reducing the time in which therapeutic interventions provided under it need to be provided, from 56 to 28 days. I’m pleased to confirm to Members that in December 2015, on average, 80 per cent of people were already being seen for both assessment and for a therapeutic intervention within that reduced timescale. By taking forward the recommendations of the report, I’m confident that we will both further improve the effectiveness of the services delivered under the Measure and ensure we are better able to demonstrate the outcomes that services are delivering for those who make use of them. In the meantime, I hope the report provides Members with an important source of information, and one that has positive things to say about the legislative impact of the National Assembly for Wales.
 
15:59
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I have selected the two amendments, and I call Elin Jones to move amendment 1, tabled in her name.
 
Gwelliant 1—Elin Jones
 
Add as new point at end of motion:
 
Believes that waiting lists for child and adolescent mental health services are unacceptably high.
 
Amendment 1 moved.
 
15:59
Elin JonesBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I move the amendment in Plaid Cymru’s name. As the Minister has concluded by saying, this report before us today is a positive one and confirms the value of introducing the mental health Measure in 2010. There’s been important progress made, and there are recommendations to amend the regulations and the Measure, and they appear to be very sensible ones. I will be supporting them, and I was very pleased to hear the Minister outlining the next steps on some of those.
 
There are two specific matters that I want to refer to from the report this afternoon. First of all, primary care and the role of the GP are crucially important to the success of mental health services. It’s disappointing, therefore, to understand that 25 per cent of GPs are not aware, according to the report, of the mental health services available to their patients. Twenty-five per cent of service users also noted that their GPs had shown a lack of understanding and empathy with the condition of that particular individual. Now, that’s far too high a percentage still, and there’s work to be done urgently by the health boards and representatives of GPs to ensure that there is improved performance in the service that is offered by those GPs to those suffering mental health issues.
 
One of the criticisms of the GPs in this report is the lack of access to services and psychological therapies. The waiting lists are too long and there needs to be improved access to these therapies in general. There is an opinion from experts that the percentage of users who note that they are offered prescription medicines is still too high—72 per cent of people note that they’re still being offered prescription medicines first of all, and that there is a need to shift the service from the overdependence on prescription medicine towards therapeutic services. So, it’s important that data on access to psychological services and therapies are noted within primary care and are published regularly across health boards so that we can measure performance and measure progress on this. Like the Minister, we will be supporting the Liberal Democrats’ amendment in this regard.
 
It’s not possible to discuss mental health in this area without referring to mental health services for children and young people. Whatever the good steps that have been taken in the service since 2010, it’s still entirely clear that waiting times for children and young people for mental health support are a matter of shame for all of us still. The number of those waiting more than 10 weeks has tripled from 24 per cent to 70 per cent between March 2013 and September 2015. I accept that the demand has also increased, but it’s obvious to everyone that there needs to be provision of non-medical services for young people especially, and there is a responsibility on the next Government to improve performance for our young people, who deserve that swift access to services before their condition deteriorates further.
 
Finally, as I prepared for this debate today I was contacted by constituents whose son, a young man living in Aberystwyth, became poorly again with mental health issues, and was taken to the emergency unit at Bronglais and needed a bed, but no bed, of course, was available in Bronglais because they were closed two or three years ago now; there was no bed either for him in Hywel Dda, nor in Bangor, his first choice after that. By now he’s in Port Talbot, and perhaps facing a move to Bridgend. Now, he is a young, Welsh-speaking man outside of his community, far from his family and his support network, and this is no help at all to his recovery as a young person. It reminds me today in this debate, and hopefully reminds the Minister too, that there is a great deal to be done to ensure that our mental health services are appropriate and are within reach to every community within Wales.
 
16:04
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I call on Kirsty Williams to move amendment 2, tabled in the name of Aled Roberts.
 
Gwelliant 2—Aled Roberts
 
Add as new point at end of motion:
 
Regrets that current waiting time targets mask often lengthy waiting times for psychological therapies and calls for more transparent and routine data in relation to waiting times for psychological interventions.
 
Amendment 2 moved.
 
16:04
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Thank you very much, Deputy Presiding Officer. I formally move the amendment in the name of Aled Roberts.
 
As the Minister outlined in his opening contribution, this is an important debate on an important piece of legislation—a piece of legislation that my party supported. At the time, it was clear to us that a thorough review of the impact of the legislation was absolutely critical to its success, and I hope that the model that we’ve had with regard to the mental health legislation will be a model for other legislation as well, so that we can truly assess the impact that it’s having. The legislation has to be judged, as I said, on its impact and on outcomes—outcomes for individuals in Wales who often find themselves particularly vulnerable and can find it very, very difficult to speak out and speak up for themselves. I do believe that legislation, as stated in the report, has led to improvements in the service, and that is to be very welcomed. But we also have to acknowledge, as indeed the Minister did in his opening statement, that there is more to be done to improve services across the piece. Like Elin Jones, I believe that the fundamental building blocks of any successful NHS service is getting primary care correct.
 
We know, if people can access interventions early in a crisis, then their outcomes are generally better and the length of their illness can be shortened. Yet, when it comes to empathy and understanding when discussing these issues with primary care, we still find that there is a job of work to be done to empower primary care staff—and that’s not just GPs, it’s the entire primary healthcare team—to have better empathy and understanding. It takes a lot of courage for someone to walk into their doctor’s surgery to talk about mental distress and mental ill health—a lot of courage. If that is met by a lack of understanding at best, or indifference at worst, that can be absolutely devastating to an individual. So, ensuring that all aspects of the primary healthcare team have the confidence, knowledge and understanding that they need to respond appropriately is absolutely crucial.
 
And of course we have to go beyond empathy and understanding. We have to be able to offer appropriate intervention. As our amendment suggests, my group continues to be concerned about access to psychological therapies as an alternative. Part 1 of the Measure placed the legal duty to offer a range of support and interventions for people suffering from mental illness. But, as we have seen from the report and have already heard, when it comes to offers of intervention, offers of a prescription drug continue to outstrip any other measure that is presented to a patient in terms of an intervention that may be available to them.
 
The offers of other types of help is growing and that’s to be welcomed, but there is still an imbalance. I’m particularly concerned that, where there is an offer of psychological intervention, people have to wait a considerable amount of time. I know that new money has been made available. The First Minister has made some very grand commitments about how long people will wait for a talking therapy. I hope that that money will indeed deliver those outcomes for people. But there is still a way to go to ensure we have clarity and an understanding of how long people are waiting for psychological therapy input.
 
In-patient services—it’s very pleasing to see the number of people in in-patient services that are aware of their rights and are having their views listened to when care plans are being drawn up. That’s very, very welcome and is a step forward from where we were before, when many patients felt that plans did not reflect, actually, what they felt was important to them. But, as we’ve heard from the previous speaker, there continues to be an issue around access to in-patient beds. I know my colleague Aled Roberts was recently approached by a family who had a relative in crisis who presented to services locally in Wrexham, only to be told there was no bed available and, actually, maybe they should go to Bristol. When you’re in a crisis, you need to be as close to home, to your support mechanisms, as possible. Saying to somebody in Wrexham that the bed was available in Bristol is hardly a therapeutic-type intervention—better than nothing, I acknowledge, but is hardly going to add to the therapeutic input for that.
 
Then, finally, to move on to the issue of children—I appreciate the Minister often says that the number of children on the waiting list is not important in the sense that many people are there when they don’t need to be there, but we still have an issue. If they’re on that list, it’s because there are no suitable alternatives and clinicians feel they have no other alternative but to put children on to a CAMHS waiting list and I’d be grateful to hear from the Minister in his closing statement what progress is being made to offer a comprehensive suite of interventions for families and children when they have concerns about young people and their mental wellbeing.
 
16:09
John GriffithsBiography
Dirprwy Lywydd, mental health service users and the organisations and groups that represent them have rightly demanded radical improvement to mental health services and continue to do so. We often hear the figure of one in four people experiencing a mental health issue at some stage in their life. Whatever figure is used, it’s clear that mental health issues are very prevalent in our society today and affect an awful lot of people. So, it’s absolutely right that there should be that focus on mental health services, and particularly because, as is also often said, there has been a relative neglect of mental health services historically. So, I think it’s clear that there was much work to do, and there is still much work to do, to improve these services for our people here in Wales. That’s why I’m very, very pleased that the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010 has provided a framework and a focus for that necessary improvement—a focus for health boards, local authorities and others, and I think that’s quite clear from the review report.
 
All of this, of course, is in the context of ‘Together for Mental Health’ and increased funding provided by Welsh Government. So, although there was an awful lot of work to do, and there is still substantial work to do, I think it is clear that significant progress has been made, and that is due, I believe, in no small part, to the focus, the priority, that has been clear in this Assembly—from all sides, from all political parties and many Members, who’ve made it clear that they do see the need to radically improve services and redress that historical neglect. They are clear as to how much it matters to so many people, and we’ve had many personal examples from Assembly Members as to how they themselves have faced mental health issues.
 
So, I think the record of this Assembly term and, indeed, before that, is strong, but there is an awful lot yet to do. One example of that is adolescent and children’s mental health services, and I’m glad that the Welsh Government is accepting the amendment today for the reasons set out by the Minister earlier. There is substantial progress still to be made, and that is one example, as is the example included in the other amendment in terms of psychological services, waiting times, and the need for early treatment. But I do believe that all of this is recognised in ‘Together for Mental Health’ and, indeed, in the focus and framework provided by this Measure.
 
‘Together for Mental Health’ and, indeed, its delivery plan and the increased funding that Welsh Government has provided is driving the necessary improvement for our mental health services. They are being reshaped and improved. Playing a significant part in that are the service users themselves and their representative groups. There is a change in culture, which I think the Minister has been very strong on, and if we continue with that change in culture, I do believe that we will see the further significant improvement that I’m sure every Member here today would support.
 
Dirprwy Lywydd, greater priority for mental health, as I said, has been a notable theme of this Assembly, on all sides of the Chamber, and that significant progress, I believe, will be driven further forward if that cross-party support is maintained into the future. I very much look forward to making sure that it is a real and important issue in the campaign and our manifestos as we move towards the forthcoming Assembly election.
 
16:13
Darren MillarBiography
I, too, want to rise to thank the Minister for bringing this important debate to the Chamber today. I think it has been a feature of this Assembly that there has been cross-party consensus on trying to drive improvements in mental health, and it’s been terrific to see the achievement that has been the Mental Health (Wales) Measure actually in place. Of course, this review that has taken place has identified that there has been progress on mental health—very welcome progress indeed—but of course it’s also identified some of the weaknesses that still need to be addressed, and it’s only right and proper that we, collectively, try to drive those improvements forward on a cross-party basis, whether in Government or opposition post the election, in order to make sure that those issues that have been identified are addressed.
 
I think one of the other, wonderful, features of the mental health landscape, if you like, in Wales is the tremendous engagement that we have from the third sector, from organisations like Gofal, Hafal, Mind, and a whole host of other, smaller organisations around Wales that have played their part in helping to shape the legislation and shape the way that it has been implemented on the ground across our national health service.
 
It is quite right that amendments have been tabled today that draw attention to two areas that we do need to make improvements on, particularly the child and adolescent mental health service waiting times for access and the need for parity, if you like, between the mental health waiting times and the physical health waiting times that we have in our national health service, and getting the balance right between those pharmaceutical and psychological interventions. It hasn’t been there in the past, but, of course, all of the data seem to suggest that things are going in the right direction and, in spite of the problems that quite clearly are there, it is encouraging to see things moving along the right trajectory.
 
There are a few things that I just wanted to raise that nobody else has mentioned so far. One is the in-patient bed capacity across Wales. There have been references to some individual cases here. But, when you have young people in particular having to be placed hundreds of miles away from their families and from their loved ones when they’re in a crisis situation, I think that that is an appalling situation. We know that there is bed capacity that is currently not being utilised. I cite the example in my own constituency with the wonderful flagship project on the Abergele hospital site, with the tremendous investment that went in there from the Welsh Government to develop an in-patient facility with a sufficient number of beds to meet the need across north Wales, and yet we’re still placing people hundreds of miles away over the border in England in other facilities. I think there’s got to be some recalibration of the balance of in-patient beds so that it does meet the demand that is there and we have to make sure that we’ve got sufficient staff in place to make sure that people can be cared for closer to home.
 
There’s also a growing problem in terms of in-patient capacity for older people’s mental health beds now in north Wales, partly as a result, quite rightly, of the closure of the Tawel Fan ward as a result of that dreadful report that we all read. But, that capacity has been lost, it’s not been replaced and we know that there’s a growing need for those in-patient facilities. I wonder, Minister, whether in your response you will just touch on the action that you’re taking to make sure that that capacity is there in the future.
 
There’s already been reference in the Chamber to attitudes amongst primary care staff, but I do think that the Time to Change campaign has begun to make a real difference actually in Welsh society in terms of attitudes towards mental health, which has been very welcome indeed. One thing that many people are still not getting sufficient access to, though, is advocacy support—independent advocacy when things go wrong—and this was something that the Health and Social Care Committee picked up on in their report and isn’t really touched on to a great extent in the review. But, I do think it’s important to make sure that people are aware that there is advocacy available, that they have a right to that independent advocacy when things go wrong and to avail themselves of it.
 
Just finally, Minister, if I may: one other aspect of the services that hasn’t been mentioned today, which is something we can continue to celebrate here in Wales, is the Veterans’ NHS Wales service, which has received significant investment in recent years. But, again, there are some capacity issues in that that still need to be nailed down and I wonder, Minister, whether you’ll give us an indication as to whether there may be further investment in that service pending further reviews in the future.
 
16:18
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
And the Minister to reply.
 
16:18
Mark DrakefordBiographyThe Minister for Health and Social Services
Diolch yn fawr, Ddirprwy Lywydd. Thank you to all those who’ve taken part in the debate. Can I begin by agreeing with what Kirsty Williams said about the way in which the reports that have been produced through section 48 of the Measure demonstrate the importance of keeping legislation that is passed in this place under review, to allow us to track its implementation and to draw the lessons that are there to be learned from it? There have been a number of common themes amongst the contributions this afternoon, Dirprwy Lywydd, and I just want to draw out a small number of them. Elin Jones began by drawing attention to the importance of primary care in the field of mental health, and the striking material in the review that shows that we still have to do more to improve the knowledge of the Measure amongst some of our primary care clinicians and to improve their confidence in the primary care mental health support service.
 
I think that the service does speak for itself: over 33,000 people using it last year and more investment to make sure that young people in particular get the service that they need there. But, there’s definitely more to do in making sure that that service is recognised and used by GPs and, as I think Kirsty said, to make sure that if someone with a mental health condition needs to use their primary care service, then the whole of that service is attuned to their needs. Members here will know of the work of the Welsh mental health in primary care group. They have a fantastic half-day training scheme that they offer to primary care right across Wales, but it does involve the whole practice shutting down for half a day because it is training for the whole of the primary care team, from the receptionist to the GP and everyone in between. Large numbers of primary care practices have now taken up that training in Wales, and I think we’re right to be proud about it.
 
We’ve had a discussion about the balance between pharmacological and psychological therapies in this area. I read a very interesting paper by Dame Sue Bailey recently—chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, and a very distinguished child and adolescent psychiatrist herself—in which she reminds us that prescription drugs do go on having a very important part to play in the treatment of mental illness. They are very effective drugs when used properly, but we do need to make sure that there is a wider range of possibilities available to clinicians. That’s why we’ve invested more money in psychological therapies. There is some way to go in making sure we have a sufficient range available for them, but we do need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Prescription drugs have an important part to play, and we need to make sure that they’re available for patients in Wales too.
 
We’ve heard quite a lot about services for children and adolescents. I enjoyed my opportunity to discuss CAMHS services in front of the Children, Young People and Education Committee recently. I do now believe that we have in Wales a combination of factors that will allow us to make a real difference in this area. We have a strategic intent that is about de-escalation, and about making sure that those young people who are struggling with the difficult business of growing up do not have that struggle turned into a long-term use of mental health services. I heard the Children’s Commissioner for Wales on the radio speak about the work that the education Minister has done in bringing forward reforms of the curriculum as one of the most important things that we will be able to do in this field, and we are on the journey that I think will lead us to success in this area.
 
We’ve had particular success in an area that Darren Millar and others mentioned, in in-patient treatment at our units in Abergele and in Bridgend. We had the fewest number of children ever in Wales placed outside our border at the end of last year, and that’s because of investment in that area.
 
16:23
Darren MillarBiography
I’m very grateful to you for taking the intervention, Minister. Do you accept, though, that given that there is extra capacity within Wales, it remains a concern that people are still being placed outside of Wales? So, there’s extra capacity in Abergele, for example, yet people from north Wales are being posted many, many miles apart from their families and loved ones.
 
16:23
Mark DrakefordBiography
I would want no child from Wales to be looked after outside Wales when we can look after that child properly inside Wales, and we’re doing much more. I think we have to recognise that there still may be a very small number of very, very specialist needs that you have to go to a population base beyond 3 million people, and that there will always be, I hope, a reducing and irreducibly small number of children who need that service while we look a