Opportunities to use the Welsh language with public organisations continue to improve, according to a new report by the Welsh Language Commissioner.
‘A Measure of Success’ is the fourth report the Commissioner has published where she gives an independent opinion about the way public organisations use the Welsh language. The basis of the report is a series of surveys and research about the public’s experience and evidence from the organisations themselves.
Improved opportunities to use Welsh
Here are the main findings:
• Welsh greeting in 87% of phone calls answered by a receptionist
• Welsh response to a Welsh email on 93% of the cases
• 100% of self-service machines working fully in Welsh
• 82% agree that opportunities to communicate in Welsh with county councils have increased or stayed the same
Welsh Language Commissioner, Meri Huws, said: “There is now clear evidence that language standards have led to improving the experiences of Welsh speakers as they receive services from public organisations. This can be seen in all parts of Wales and is a sign that an effective framework, as well as a real effort by organisations, is having a positive effect."
The report notes that organisations need to encourage and make it easier for people to use the Welsh language when receiving services. It became apparent, after conducting mystery shopper surveys, that people had to ask for a Welsh service in 19% of the cases over the phone and visits to reception areas found that only 46% of staff who spoke Welsh, wore badges to indicate their ability.
Meri Huws said: “We want to understand what factors effect people’s decisions to use the Welsh language services available or not.
“We strongly believe in the ‘proactive offer’ – and what that means is that that the Welsh service is apparent without having to ask for it. This could be achieved by wearing the orange Iaith Gwaith badge, offering a Welsh service when answering the phone or by using an automated service that gives the language option from the start - on self-service machines or an automated answer machine, for example. This could contribute to increasing the use of the Welsh language.”
Increased opportunities to use Welsh in the workplace
The report also shows that staff in organisations have new opportunities to use Welsh at work since the introduction of standards:
• 100% of the organisations interviewed provided a Welsh language spell check for their staff
• 69% of the organisations interviewed provided a Welsh interface on computers
• 85% of the organisations interviewed were able to share examples of policies and documents available to staff in Welsh.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has taken steps to increase the use of Welsh within the workplace. Steffan Gealy, Welsh Language Services Manager at the Council said: “We have created a number of attractively designed resources and shared them with all staff. Our aim by doing this is to break down the standards into small, easily achievable requirements, and give staff the support they need to use more and more Welsh at work.”
Organisations taking proactive steps to improve their own performance
There is a section in the report concentrating on how organisations monitor their own performance. One organisation that sees complaints as a positive way of improving its services is South Wales Police. According to the Assistant Chief Constable, Jeremy Vaughan: “I’ve decided that I personally want to see every complaint that the force receives regarding its Welsh language provision. As we start to implement the standards, this is an excellent way for me to understand the reality of the situation.”
Considering the effects of policy decisions on the Welsh language
The report notes the need to strengthen the way organisations consider the impact of policy decisions on the Welsh language, with only three organisations stating that they collect information to help them make decisions.
Meri Huws said: “Organisations should now adopt the practice of giving detailed consideration to the Welsh language in every policy decision made, so that the language becomes a fundamental and integral part of their identity.”
Sharing good practice
The report also gives an overview of the performance of organisations not yet subject to Welsh language standards (such as the health sector) and organisations not implementing standards during the monitoring period (the education sector). Although these organisations were generally not performing as well as those already implementing standards the report contains good practice from these sectors.
Llinos Roberts, Head of Corporate Communications and Welsh Language at Coleg Cambria, explained how the college collects “information on Welsh speaking students and contact them individually to tell them about opportunities to receive Welsh language services.”
Meri Huws added: “This is a report which provides us with a wide-ranging illustration of organisational performance during 2017 – 18. The impression is generally very positive. We must remember that the standards system is still young, and that the first standards only became operational in March 2016. Good work is already being done by organisations, and I hope that they respond to the report's findings by using them to focus their efforts on further improvements. By working with organisations, sharing good practice with them, we make a key contribution towards increasing the use of the Welsh language."
The report will be launched in a special event at Societies 2, in the Senedd, on Monday 6 August during the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff Bay. There is free entry, and the discussion panel will include Liz Saville Roberts MP, Councillor Huw Thomas Leader of Cardiff Council and Jeremy Vaughan, Assistant Chief Constable of South Wales Police.