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Rights taking root

Welsh services are improving, and people are confident that their rights to use the Welsh language are starting to take root. These are the main findings of a report published by the Welsh Language Commissioner today (12 October 2017).

Since March 2016 county councils, the Welsh Government and national parks, have had to reach certain standards in terms of the Welsh language service they offer. By the end of March 2017 78 organisations were implementing standards, including national public bodies and the emergency services.

 The Commissioner has been asking Welsh speakers if the Welsh language services they receive from public organisations have improved, and concluded that people are confident that there is an improvement and that more people are aware that they have rights to use the language. She concluded also that there is an increase in the opportunities to receive services through the medium of Welsh and an increase in the Welsh language services offered proactively.

The information was gathered by conducting surveys and studies and asking Welsh speakers about their experiences.

 The report finds the following:
•      76% felt that public organisations’ Welsh language services are improving
•       57% believed that opportunities to use the Welsh language with public organisations were increasing
•       Welsh or bilingual greeting given to 90% of phone calls (59% in 2015-16)
•       Welsh skills essential for a quarter of the jobs advertised (16% in 2015-16)
The Welsh Language Commissioner, Meri Huws, said:
 "It is very encouraging to see that organisations’ efforts to comply with standards over the past eighteen months have been a step in the right direction in terms of respecting and meeting people's rights to use the Welsh language.
 "There are an increasing number of organisations meeting the standards, and we enjoy a good working relationship with them. We now need to build on this, so that providing a Welsh language service becomes the ‘norm’ in every organisation.”
WLGA spokesperson for the Welsh language, Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn (Ceredigion) said:

 "Over the last year, councillors and officers in every council have worked diligently to ensure that there is an increase in the services offered in Welsh and I am pleased to see that their efforts are recognised in this report.

“Even so, councils realise that there is still more to be done to ensure that this level of improvement continues.  We succeeded in our efforts over the last year as a result of an open and constructive dialogue with the Welsh Language Commissioner.  Local authorities look forward to continue to work with the Commissioner in the same manner in the future to ensure that local government can play a key role in delivering the Welsh Government's aim of one million Welsh speakers by 2050. "

Although obvious improvements have been identified, the report also notes that further work needs to be done to improve the quality and availability of Welsh language services. This was especially true in terms of technology, and particularly social media.

Another field that needed improvement was the work being done by organisations to promote and publicize Welsh language services.

Meri Huws added:
"As there has been a marked improvement in the services offered through the medium of Welsh, I would now like to encourage the organisations to build on this and offer Welsh services to their customers proactively. It is important that these services offered in Welsh are easy to use and are clear to the public.
“We will now hold a series of workshops during the autumn to discuss how organisations promote their Welsh services effectively and give the customer the proactive offer of a Welsh service.”

The Welsh Language Commissioner will now hold a series of workshop across Wales with the relevant organisations. During the same period, they will hold 24 focus groups and will be monitoring services, which will feed into the 2017 – 2018 report.

A full copy of the report is available here

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