Tag: Assembly Bills

Renting Homes (Wales) Bill: Chair’s blog, 21 May 2015

Christine Chapman, Committee Chair

We have now finished taking oral evidence from witnesses. We are grateful to everyone who has taken the time to assist us in our consideration of the Bill so far – it has been a very interesting process.

In our meeting this week we heard from the Housing Law Practitioners Association. We also questioned the Minister about the Bill for the second and final time. This was an opportunity for us to ask the Minister about the main points that have emerged during our evidence sessions. Finally, we discussed all the evidence we have heard over the course of our inquiry and agreed on the matters to be included in our Stage 1 report. We will now prepare our report, which we will publish by 26 June.

If you missed the meeting or would like to watch it again, you can do so on Senedd.tv:
Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee meeting, 20 May 2015.

Keep an eye on #RentingHomesBill for more updates.

How to get involved and keep up-to date with the Committee’s work

Chair’s Blog: Renting Homes (Wales) Bill

Christine Chapman in Committee

We are now more than half way through our evidence gathering. We began with a session with the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, as the Member in charge of the Bill, on 22 April. The following week, on 30 April, we heard from the Law Society, Welsh Tenants, the NUS Cymru and Let Down in Wales.

Last week, on 6 May, the Chartered Institute of Housing, Community Housing Cymru, the WLGA, Cymorth Cymru, Tai Pawb and the Residential Property Tribunal came along to our meeting to share their views on the Bill.

This week, we will be hearing from landlord and letting agent representatives, as well as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Citizens Advice Cymru and Shelter Cymru.

Our evidence gathering will conclude on 20 May, when we’ll hear from the Housing Law Practitioners Association, as well as the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty for the second time.

In addition to the oral evidence heard during our formal committee meetings, in coming to a view on the Bill we will also take into account the 41 responses received to the public consultation, and the range of views and comments that were expressed during the stakeholder event held back in March.

Our next meeting is on Thursday 14 May. You can watch it live on Senedd.tv

How to get involved and keep up-to date with the Committee’s work

Chair’s blog: Inquiry into New Psychoactive Substances

DavidReesAM

I’m David Rees (@DavidReesAM), Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee.

In September 2014 the Committee started looking into the issue of new psychoactive substances (“NPS”). We have now finished our inquiry and have written a report (PDF, 1MB) making 14 recommendations to the Welsh Government. A shorter summary (PDF, 252KB) is also available.

What are New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)?

NPS are commonly marketed as safer and legal alternatives to illegal drugs, often made in laboratories and sold via the internet or in so-called “head shops” that exist on the high street. They are often referred to as “legal highs”. This marketing is misleading – their side effects can be as serious as those caused by illegal drugs, and they can be as addictive too. Often, they also contain traces of substances that are against the law to sell and take.

Why did we hold this inquiry?

We decided to look into this issue because the use of NPS has grown in Wales, and elsewhere, in recent years. In 2013, 60 deaths in England and Wales involved NPS, 15 per cent higher than the previous year. Members were concerned about the health and social harms caused by NPS, and wanted to shine a light on the steps that need to be taken to allow people to make more informed decisions about their use of NPS.

How did we gather people’s views for this inquiry?

We used a number of different ways to ask people what they think about NPS, including:

  • asking the public to fill in a survey, which 1072 people responded to from across Wales;
  • inviting representatives from key organisations to speak with Members in official meetings at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay;
  • holding focus groups in Merthyr Tydfil and Wrexham to hear directly from frontline staff, and Committee members visited the LOTS project, Forsythia Youth Club, DrugAid and the headquarters of DAN 24/7, Wales’ national substance misuse helpline.

We wrote a blogpost about these visits and have also have published pictures from Wrexham and Merthyr alongside some short videos so you can see what the Committee has been doing:

Health and Social Care Committee focus group on NPSHealth and Social Care Committee focus group

The Committee also used  storify to keep people updated on the inquiry’s progress.

What did people tell the Committee and what have we done about it?

What the Committee was told

  • More needs to be done to increase public awareness of the harms caused by using NPS;
  • the term “legal highs” is really unhelpful. It suggests that using these substances is a safe and legal thing to do. In reality, they are often really harmful and contain illegal substances;
  • the UK Government, which is responsible for drugs policy, should ban the supply of NPS, making “head shops” and market stalls that sell NPS illegal;
  • those using NPS should not be given a criminal record – that could make things even worse for users who are trying to get their lives back on track;
  • not enough is known about how many people are taking NPS and what harms they can cause.

What we said in our report

  • The current drugs education programme in schools should be reviewed urgently to make it better and more consistent across Wales, and to make sure it is delivered by people who are suitably trained and qualified;
  • a national training programme on NPS should be developed for all staff providing public services (e.g. doctors, nurses, police, social workers, prison officers etc);
  • the Welsh Government’s 2015 public awareness campaign on NPS should include targeted information for young people and emphasise that legal does not mean safe;
  • those working in this field, including the media, should stop using the term “legal highs” as it is very misleading;
  • the Welsh Government should encourage the UK Government to move as quickly as possible to implement the suggested ban on the supply of NPS.

To read all 14 of our recommendations please see our report (PDF, 1MB) or the shorter summary (PDF, 252KB) document.

What did the UK and Welsh Governments think about our report?

The Welsh Government’s response (PDF, 295KB) to our report accepts fully all of our recommendations. The UK Government Home Office (PDF, 69KB) has also written to the Committee to note that it welcomes our work and supports each of our 14 recommendations.

What happens next?

Our report will be debated by all Assembly Members on 13 May in the Siambr, the Assembly’s main debating chamber. This will be an opportunity to draw attention to this important topic, and to put questions to the Welsh Government’s Health Minister about what the Welsh Government will do to deliver our recommendations.

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to share their experiences of NPS and their views about what needs to be done to raise public awareness of their harms. Although the Committee itself can only recommend changes rather than being able to make the changes itself, we will continue to put pressure on the Welsh Government and others to deliver the actions set out in our report.

How to get involved and keep up-to date with our work

Guest Blog: Consultation Event to Scrutinise the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill

My name is Claire Blakeway and I am the Vice President for the Heath Park Campus at Cardiff University Students’ Union. On Wednesday the 18th of March, I took part in a consultation event to scrutinise the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill. This involved Assembly Members speaking to a wide range of tenants about their experiences of renting properties from the council, housing association and private landlords. Tenants from different rental areas were put into focus groups which were led by Assembly Members. In my focus group, I was representing the tenancy views of students.

On the whole I agreed with ideas of the new Housing Bill but felt that there needed to be more detail around repair agreements. For example, there needs to be a detailed scheduling timeline in the agreement that outlines how quickly landlords should react to acknowledging and working towards resolving a repair that is reported by a tenant. I feel that currently tenants can be waiting a long time before repairs are addressed, and as result of this they are essentially paying to rent a property that isn’t fully to the standard that they originally rented the property out for. By implementing a repair agreement with specific timelines, both landlords and tenants will know exactly what to expect in the case of a repair and landlords can work to complete a repair in a pre-agreed timeline and thus meet the expectations of their tenant.

Here’s Claire being interviewed after the event:

I also fed my ideas into the focus group around how firmer repercussions need to be implemented for landlords and tenants who breach their contracts. The more serious repercussions are, the more likely it is that contracts will be adhered too and respected.

I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the focus groups, and it was great to hear AM so interested in the views of students. I look forward to seeing the Housing Bill being released, and hope that my views will be taken on board. Thank you to the Welsh Assembly for inviting me along!

The next step is for the Committee to hear what other people think about the Bill in formal meetings at the Senedd. The first of these meetings takes place on Wednesday morning, where the Committee will talk to the Welsh Government Minister responsible for the Bill, Lesley Griffiths AM. You can watch this meeting live on Senedd TV.

More information about the meeting is available here.

Chair’s Blog: Renting Homes (Wales) Bill

Christine Chapman

I’m Christine Chapman (@ChrisChapmanAM), the Chair of the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee.

About the Bill

In February, the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Lesley Griffiths AM, introduced the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill into the Assembly.

The Bill aims to reform the legal basis in Wales for renting a home from a private landlord or community landlord, including local authorities and registered landlords.

The work of the Committee

As the subject matter of the Bill falls within the remit of the Committee, we have been asked to look at its ‘general principles’ or main aims. This is called ‘Stage 1’, and we use this part of the process to hear evidence and prepare a report making recommendations to the Minister for changes to the Bill. We have until 26 June to do this.

We have started our work by running a consultation, asking organisations and members of the public to look at the Bill and write to us with their views. The consultation closes on 27 March, after which we will publish the evidence we have received.

There is still time to send in your comments on the Bill; please email SeneddCELG@Assembly.Wales with your views.

Stakeholder event

Last week, the Committee held an informal stakeholder event to hear from tenants about their experiences of renting in Wales. This was a really interesting event and allowed Committee members the opportunity to speak to a number of people and gather a range of views. As the Chair, I found this extremely useful in preparing for our forthcoming oral evidence sessions.

You can view photographs from the event in our Flickr album.

Oral evidence sessions

The Committee will start hearing oral evidence on the Bill after the Easter recess.

On 22 April, we will hear from the Minister for the first time, before we begin to hear from other, selected organisations.

How to get involved and keep up-to date with the Committee’s work

A Look at the Local Government (Wales) Bill

IN BRIEF

17 February 2015

Article by Alys Thomas and Rhys Iorwerth, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Blog-en

A previous blogpost has set out the background as the Welsh Government embarks on reforming local government in Wales. This blogpost looks in more detail at potential issues around the Local Government (Wales) Bill, which is the first legislative step in that process.

(For more information on the Bill itself, the Research Service has just published a summary of its main provisions.)

Voluntary merger and uncertainty about the map

The Bill was introduced by the Welsh Government on 26 January 2015, and in essence it has two primary aims:

  • To enable local authorities who have made successful bids to merge voluntarily to do so;
  • To enable preparatory work to begin for new local authority areas that will be created by compulsory mergers via a second Bill.

One immediate question to ask is whether…

View original post 848 more words

The Curriculum in Wales – over 1000 young people have their say!

Over the summer the Assembly spoke with over 1000 children and young people across Wales to capture their views on the curriculum, qualifications and assessments.

Through a survey which was promoted at summer events like the National Eisteddfod and Royal Welsh Show, young people were given an opportunity to tell us what skills and subjects should (or shouldn’t!) be taught in schools, how careers advice could be improved and what they thought about the Welsh Baccalaureate.

Assembly Outreach Bus

An amazing 1177 young people responded, from every region in Wales! The results have shown that financial literacy, politics and modern business languages (like Chinese) should be taught more in schools, and only 29% of respondents felt that what they were currently being taught in schools, adequately prepares them for later life and finding a job.

Once published, the survey results were shared with Assembly Members and the Assembly Committees. The Children, Young People and Education Committee shared the findings with Professor Graham Donaldson, who is leading the Welsh Government’s Review of the Curriculum and Assessment in Wales, and wrote of his gratitude in bringing the statistics to his attention.

Summer Event

The results were also considered by the Enterprise and Business Committee, as part of the Inquiry into Assisting Young People into Work. Parts of the inquiry focus on careers advice young people receive in schools, and the results highlight what a number of young people told them through video evidence – namely, that careers advice needs to be improved in schools to help young people decide how to go about finding work and getting the skills they need to do that.

Bethan Jenkins AM

Finally, Bethan Jenkins AM spoke recently spoke in a Plenary debate, about her desire to improve financial literacy skills in Wales. She would like to do so by asking the National Assembly to consider her Financial Education and Inclusion (Wales) Bill. The purpose of this law would be to promote financial literacy in the Welsh population by making it part of the school curriculum. She was able to use these results to successfully argue for the Bill’s consideration.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who took part in the survey, and for taking that opportunity to have their say!

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill

After much anticipation, the Well-being of Future Generations Bill was introduced by the Welsh Government earlier this year. We were told that this Bill will put sustainable development at the heart of public service governance in Wales, and that it will be one of only a few laws of its kind anywhere in the world. It was our role as the Environment and Sustainability Committee to assess whether the Bill will deliver these objectives. As the Bill covers many different policy areas, we heard from a varied range of stakeholders to gather their thoughts on whether the Bill will achieve what they expect from sustainable legislation.

Stage 1 Committee Report

On 28 November 2014, we published our Stage 1 Report on the Bill and made 32 recommendations to the Minister that we believe will strengthen the Bill.

Well-being of future generations (Wales) Bill

Whilst there was unanimous support for the policy intent of the Bill, Committee Members were divided as to whether the general principles of the Bill should be agreed by the Assembly. As a compromise Members agreed to support the general principles of the Bill on the condition that the Minister gives assurances that he will address the key issues outlined in the report.

The key issues include:

  • broadening the sustainable development principle;
  • clarifying and strengthening the wording of the well-being goals;
  • clarifying the application of the Bill, and role of the proposed Future Generations Commissioner, in relation to public bodies; and
  • ensuring there is cross party and stakeholder involvement in the appointment process for the Commissioner.

We believe that the sustainable development principle needs to be amended to reflect the broader issues included in both the One Wales: One Planet and Brundtland definitions of “sustainable development”, particularly climate change, using only our fair share of the earth’s resources, environmental limits and the international impact of what we do in Wales.
We agree that the wording of the well-being goals needs to be clarified, strengthened and amended to reflect the many comments made by stakeholders and the findings of the National Conversation interim report. In particular, that the goals should specifically address key issues such as environmental limits, restoration of biodiversity, international impacts and social justice, and that the language used in the goals should be clear and unambiguous.

We have recommended that amendments be brought forward to make it clear that the provisions of the Bill apply to all functions, activities and decisions of public bodies, and to ensure that the scope of the Commissioner’s role functions extends to all of these functions activities and decisions.

Members agree that there should be cross-party and stakeholder involvement in the process for appointing the Future Generations Commissioner, possibly in the form of an appointment panel making recommendations to the appointing body.

Shortly there will be a Stage 1 debate in Plenary and the Assembly will be asked if it agrees with the general principles of the Bill.

How to get involved and keep up-to date:

 

Chair’s Blog: Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill

Stage 1 – Debate in Plenary on general principles

This afternoon, the Assembly will debate and vote on the general principles of the Bill in Plenary (‘the Stage 1 debate’).

A picture of the debating chamber of the Senedd

During the debate, Assembly Members and the Minister will have an opportunity to discuss the content of the Committee’s Stage 1 report and the recommendations the Committee has agreed.

This is also an opportunity for the Minister to confirm if he agrees with any of the recommendations that have been made, and to give an indication of any changes that he intends to make to the Bill. At the end of the debate the Assembly will be asked to vote on a motion (a formal proposal) to agree with the general principles of the Bill.

If the Assembly agrees, the Bill will proceed to the next stage, which is called Stage 2. If the Assembly does not agree to the general principles, the Bill falls and no further action is taken on it.

You can watch live proceedings here: http://www.senedd.tv/

How to get involved and keep up-to date

Christine Chapman (@ChrisChapmanAM) is the Chair of the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee.

Chair’s Blog: Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill

 Stage 1 Committee Report

Christine Chapman AM

On 14 November 2014, we published our Stage 1 Report on the Bill and made 12 recommendations to the Minister that we believe will strengthen the Bill.

Whilst there was overwhelming support for the main aims and the need for the Bill, many respondents did have some concerns about its content.

Our main concerns were:

  • the need to ensure victims have a right to services;
  • the importance of education;
  • the needs of children and young people; and
  • the role and responsibilities of the Ministerial Adviser.

We believe that the Bill should have a rights-based framework to ensure that victims of violence and abuse in a domestic setting have a right to access services. We recommended that the Bill should refer to “Violence Against Women”, rather than “Gender-based violence”, as we feel it is important to recognise that women are disproportionately affected by these types of abuse. However, we made clear this should not preclude male victims from accessing services.

Our other main concern was the omission of education proposals within the Bill, given that education is the most crucial part of preventing gender-based violence. We recommended that the Minister makes it compulsory for schools to provide age-appropriate education programmes on health relationships. We also felt there was a lack of emphasis on the specific needs of children and young people who are at risk, or victims of domestic abuse and we believe this should be addressed.

Whilst we believe the role of the Ministerial Adviser will be key in providing strong leadership to deliver the aims of the Bill, we think this role should be independent of government and the title of the role should be changed to reflect this arms-length position.

Shortly there will be a Stage 1 debate in Plenary and the Assembly will be asked if it agrees with the general principles of the Bill.

How to get involved and keep up-to date