The Welsh Language Act 1993 gives the Welsh and English language equal status in public life in Wales. It places a duty on the public sector to treat both languages equally when providing services to the public.
The act requires public bodies to produce a language scheme to explain which services they will provide in Welsh, how they will do so and when. Crown Bodies, private companies and third sector organizations may produce a voluntary language scheme.
Public organizations that provide services to the public in Wales have a statutory duty to produce a Welsh language scheme if they receive a notice to do so by the Welsh Language Commissioner. The notice will set the date by which the organization must present the scheme to the Commissioner, and will also outline how they can apply for an extension to the timescale.
When producing a scheme, the organization must follow the statutory guidelines on producing languages schemes provided by the Commissioner. Before presenting the language scheme to the Commissioner for approval, the organization must hold a public consultation to receive comments from members of the public. After this, if the scheme presented is acceptable, it will be approved by the Commissioner.
Revising language schemes
If the functions or circumstances of an organization with a language scheme change, the Commissioner or the organization may propose to revise the scheme, via a written notice to the other party. If the revisions are accepted by the Commissioner, the revised scheme will replace the previous version.
In the future, statutory standards will replace language schemes. This change was introduced by the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011. The standards will specify how named organizations should use the Welsh language. Other organizations, for example, Crown Bodies, will continue to implement their schemes and revise in order to strengthen them.