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Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee

09/10/2018

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

David J Rowlands AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Janet Finch-Saunders AM
Mike Hedges AM
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Anita Davies Sefydliad Cenedlaethol Brenhinol Pobl Ddall
Royal National Institute of Blind People
Helen Fincham Cynghrair Pobl Anabl Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr
Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People
Rhian Davies Anabledd Cymru
Disability Wales
Simon Green Cynghrair Pobl Anabl Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr
Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People

Swyddogion Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru a oedd yn bresennol

National Assembly for Wales Officials in Attendance

Graeme Francis Clerc
Clerk
Kath Thomas Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Kayleigh Imperato Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Megan Jones Ymchwilydd
Researcher

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:00.

The meeting began at 09:00.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datganiadau o fuddiant
1. Introduction, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da, good morning, and welcome to the Petitions Committee. We do have one apology this morning from Neil McEvoy, who's not able to make it, and, in the usual way, of course, Rhun ap Iorwerth may be attending late because of his attendance on the Business Committee. 

2. Deisebau newydd
2. New petitions

So, if we can move on, new petitions. 'Improve rail services for Chepstow'—this petition was submitted by Richard Lemon, having collected 260 signatures. Basically, the petition is asking for there to be more rail services to Chepstow, and we wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport on—. I'm sorry. A response came from the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport on 25 September. There are some complications here in that, of course, Chepstow has two serving providers. One is under the auspices of the Welsh Government, and the other under the auspices of the UK Government. The Wales and borders franchise will have a consistent one train per hour between Cheltenham and Cardiff, but that will not take place until 2022. Do any of the committee have any comments to make on that? Mike? 

I think that all we can do on these is continue the dialogue between the petitioner and the Cabinet Secretary until such time as we are either able to come to a conclusion, or the petitioner is happy with the decision, or we decide to have an investigation. So, we just continue our traditional role of passing information backwards and forwards.  

Yes. We could as a committee write back to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport to ask for further details of future plans in relation to Chepstow station, and why the planned increase in the Wales and borders franchise services stopping at Chepstow cannot be achieved until December 2022—why is there that delay, as such. Are you content that we do that? 

Fine. The next new petition is 'All Schools Should be Welsh Medium and Teach Welsh History'. The petition was submitted by Ashley Davies, having collected 75 signatures. We had a response from the Cabinet Secretary for Education on 4 September. In that response, she said that all local authorities are required to prepare a Welsh in education strategic plan, outlining how the authority intends to increase provision in relation to the growing demand for Welsh-medium education. And all proposals are subject to the requirements of the school organisation code.

I think there's a wider argument to be had here. In my constituency, I have people concerned that schools will be going towards Welsh medium.

I think that, basically, what the Cabinet Secretary is saying is that it's in the remit of parents as far as how much provision is placed within any local authority for Welsh-medium education, and they are willing to respond to that. I think that's a fair comment to make. So, we could await the views of the petitioner on the response received from the Cabinet Secretary for Education before considering whether to take any further action on the petition.

I would go along with that. Can we actually—? The petitioner makes the statement that our history is written in Welsh. Can we actually have any evidence to say whether that's true or false? It's a bold statement: the history of Wales is written in Welsh. Can we actually find out whether that is true or not? My understanding, which may be wrong, is that a large portion of it is written in Norman French, a large portion of it is written in Latin, but that's my understanding—I may be totally and utterly wrong, and I accept that, so I wouldn't want to mislead the committee by making those statements, but I think that we can find out whether that statement is actually true or not. I'm not saying it's untrue, but I think we need to verify that that statement is true first.

09:05

All I've given is my understanding, which may not be true, so I wouldn't want to mislead the committee on that, but I think we need to find out whether what is said there is true. 

Would you prefer that we ask the petitioner to substantiate the statement made in the petition or that we seek information from another source?

I would always ask the petitioner first to substantiate that statement, and I'd then want that statement peer reviewed by someone. It may well be true. It's not something I recognise, and as such I would like it to be proven.

Very good. A very good point there, Mike. Thank you very much for that.

The next petition is 'Allow Free Movement of Taxi Drivers to Carry Out Private Hire Work Anywhere in Wales'. The petition was submitted by Taxis Without Borders, having collected 136 signatures. Now, this of course is in contrast to another petition that we have and which is still under review, and that is that there should be strict regulation as to where taxis operate. I think that we will be mindful later in the session to perhaps find out whether we will consolidate those two petitions going forward.

I think we've got to, otherwise—. It would be strange if we supported both.

We have had a response from the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport on 19 September. He points out that he intends to publish a White Paper this year. So, our possible actions are that the committee group this petition with petition P-05-775 and consider them together in future, and the committee could also agree to await the publication of the Welsh Government's White Paper on proposals for the reform of taxi and private hire vehicle licensing in Wales before considering further action on the petition.

I just welcome Rhun ap Iorwerth to the meeting. Thank you, Rhun. We've just considered the first few of the new petitions. 

We're now looking at the petition from the taxi drivers. We're proposing that we group this petition with the other petition from taxi drivers—an opposing petition, actually. But we shall group them and await the White Paper on the proposals for reform, which are to be coming out this year, before we consider going on with our deliberations on those two petitions.

I agree entirely. This is an example of those conflicting petitions, where it highlights the contentiousness of an issue.

Fine. Okay. We are all in agreement on that. So, we're going to move on to the next new petition, which is 'Gender Pay Gap Reporting'. This petition was submitted by Estelle Hart, having collected 56 signatures.

I think this is actually a very timely petition considering the recent debates we've had on this. Even the leader of the house states that:

'Simply reporting the gender pay gap is not enough. The Welsh specific duties require appropriate action to be taken.'

And we know from evidence we've taken in another committee here that this is not happening, so—. Let's see what the views of the petitioner are on the Cabinet Secretary's response.

Can I, for the record, say that I know the petitioner?

Fine. Okay. So, are we all happy to await the petitioner's response to the letter received from the leader of the house—

09:10

—before considering whether to take any further action on that petition?

The next new petition is 'Green Energy for the Wellbeing of Future Generations in Wales'. The petition was submitted by the Welsh Anti Nuclear Alliance, having collected a total of 1,316 signatures. There will be some issues raised with regard to this petition in that the initial petition wording was, in fact, not about nuclear waste as such. So, I will note that the petitioners' comments in reply to the Cabinet Secretary's letter do not address the initial concept outlined in the petition, but solely concentrate on the nuclear power aspect. So, the committee should therefore address the wording of the original petition in deciding what further action will be taken.

The only comment I'd make is that I agree entirely with the need to focus on growing renewables— and I quote—in order to reduce the need for fossil fuels and nuclear energy. I couldn't agree more with that. That doesn't resolve the issue of what we do with the petition, really. Because it is a petition dealing with—

Yes, that's right. I think the concerns are that the initial wording of the petition differs from their response to the Cabinet Secretary's response, where they now seek to address the nuclear issue, rather than the other aspects of where their petition was coming from, and we ought to take that into account. So, given that the UK Government has responsibility for the development of Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station, there is little practical scrutiny that the committee can bring to bear on this aspect of the petition. In addition, the committee may wish to consider whether it would be appropriate to take forward an issue that would not be admissible as a petition in its own right, because, of course, it comes under the remit of the UK Government. The committee could consider writing to the petitioners to explain this and to ask whether they would like to offer any additional comments on the primary points raised in the petition, relating to how the support and investment in renewable technologies provided by the Welsh Government could be improved or increased.

Do we feel that's a reasonable course of action? Fine.

The next new petition is, of course, a very relevant petition at this point in time. It is 'Support the M4 Relief Road Black Route'. This petition was submitted by South Wales Chamber of Commerce, having collected 1,482 signatures. What the petition seeks to point out is the economic desirability of having the black route, as opposed to no route, or alternative routes. We had an initial response from the Cabinet Secretary on 18 September. There has, of course, been a public local inquiry into the Welsh Government proposals to build a new section of the M4, and that closed in April 2018. So, I think we could consider the fact that, in the light of comprehensive scrutiny given to this issue by the public inquiry, and the commitment to a full debate on the issue, the committee could agree to keep a watching brief on the issue at this time.

This is an issue of major public interest. I'm pleased and welcome the fact that these petitioners have chosen to use the Petitions Committee route as another means of expressing their opinions.

Yes, absolutely. Yes, I think that's precisely the situation.

I think that there are campaigners on the other sides who may well also decide to use the petitions route, and I'm pleased, as I say, that this committee is being used as a platform to air those views. I'm not sure that this committee is where this issue is going to be resolved, though.

09:15

No, absolutely. But I think you're absolutely right in pointing that out, Rhun. Thank you. So, are we happy to go along with that possible action? Fine.

3. Y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am ddeisebau blaenorol
3. Updates to previous petitions

We move on now to item 3, which is updates to previous petitions. The first of these is 'Put an end to the Cross Border and Sub-contracting Taxi Licensing loophole'. This is the one that we referred to earlier. It was submitted by the taxi drivers of Cardiff and we first considered it in November 2017, when it collected 390 signatures. 

The last time the committee considered it was on 21 November 2017 and we agreed to await the publication of the Government’s report on their public consultation on possible reforms to taxis. In view of the comments that we made earlier with regard to the former petition, the committee could group this petition with petition P-05-835 and consider them together in future, and the committee could agree to await the publication of the Welsh Government’s White Paper on proposals for the reform of taxi and private hire vehicle licensing in Wales before considering further action on the petition.

You're all agreed on that.

The next petition for consideration is 'To Make Mental Health Services More Accessible'. This petition was submitted by Laura Williams and was first considered by the committee in February 2017, having collected 73 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 17 April and agreed to seek further information from third sector mental health organisations about the issues raised by the petition and the evidence received to date.

We received a response from Mind Cymru on 7 July, which seems to have agreed with many of the points made by the petitioner, and we previously received a response from Hafal. So—.

This has gone to and fro a few times, hasn't it? We're all aware that mental health services are not good here and I think we've challenged the Cabinet Secretary numerous times in the Chamber on this, so—.

I think we ought to point out here that we've had a further comment submitted by the petitioner and you've had an opportunity, I suggest, to read that.

Yes. We could keep going back, but I think perhaps we've come to the end of this petition, because many of the things that we're being asked to ask here we've—well, I've certainly raised issues similarly in the Siambr. What do other Members feel?

I certainly agree entirely with what is contained in this petition. It's something that's very important to me—I proposed a motion in our party conference along similar lines to this over the weekend. So, we're in complete agreement. It's about how much further we go with the petition, isn't it?

I think it's true to say that there is a great deal of understanding of the position—not just of the petitioner herself, but that which many others find themselves in with regard to mental health. So, the possible actions probably are: the committee could write to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services to ask a number of questions based on the evidence received, including the Welsh Government’s expectations in relation to the availability of 24/7 crisis services accessible across the whole of Wales; for data on the length of time patients are currently waiting for access to psychological therapies; and to ask when a report on progress under the 'Together for Mental Health' delivery plan will be published.

I have a view on petitions, which is a general one, which covers this—that if the petitioner keeps coming back to us with questions, it's our duty to send those questions on to the Cabinet Secretary until all the questions they've asked have been resolved. I think that's the value we add to it. I think if they ask the same question three or four times and they don't like the last answer, then we can't take it any further. But as long as they keep on asking new questions, I think we've got a duty to send them on.

09:20

I think it might be worth noting as well that in the petitioner's comments she asks for this issue to be debated as a way of trying to resolve it. Perhaps the committee could work towards, once we have that response from the Cabinet Secretary, producing some kind of report on this petition, if the committee felt that that was appropriate, and that would trigger that kind of debate, later in the day.

I think that people misunderstand what a debate is going to achieve. All that will happen is our report—I'm saying this for the record, for the people watching rather than the Members in here—all that will happen is our report will be published, we have a debate in the Chamber where the report will be noted, Members will speak in favour of it and against it, the Government will respond, but nothing will actually be agreed. Our petition is noted, it isn't accepted. People need to realise that taking it to debate does not mean that a binding decision will be made. On a Wednesday afternoon, no binding decisions are made. They're almost like statements of opinion but subscribed to by lots of people. I think that petitioners need to realise that we can have a debate on it but all that does is note our comments. 

We've been trying to work with petitions of 5,000 signatures or more to go towards debate, haven't we?

Yes, we have, absolutely. I think that perhaps Mike is absolutely right about if we could let petitioners know or give them reasonable expectations as to what would happen with regard to a debate, then maybe they will realise that calling for a debate may not be the course of action that they particularly want to take. I think that's right.

Okay, we move on to the next petition, which is 'Terminate Private Parking Contracts at Welsh Hospitals'. The petition was submitted by Nick Harding and was first considered by the committee in January 2017, having collected 102 signatures. I think we have to say matters have moved on considerably since this petition was put in place. I think that, given the fact that there are no charges for parking within hospitals in Wales now, it may be time for us to close the petition.

Yes, I agree. It's through the efforts of petitioners like this and others in politics that the parking charges have been abolished.

Okay, the committee is agreed that we close that petition.

The next petition to consider is 'Ensure access to the cystic fibrosis medicine, Orkambi, as a matter of urgency'. The petition was submitted by Rhian Barrance and was first considered by the committee in January 2018, having collected 5,717 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 15 May and agreed to invite the Cabinet Secretary and Vertex to evidence sessions. Subsequently, the committee agreed to consider further evidence through written correspondence. A response from the Cabinet Secretary was received on 25 May. Responses from Vertex were received in July and on 20 September. The Cabinet Secretary’s letter reiterates that Orkambi is not currently recommended for use on the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. The Cystic Fibrosis Trust have reiterated the urgency of improved treatments. They have urged the Welsh Government to consider providing access to the drug through an interim arrangement and proposed using the UK cystic fibrosis registry to gather evidence on its effectiveness at the same time.

Do you have any comments? This is quite a complicated situation that's arisen between Vertex and Welsh Government, and also, I understand, between Vertex and the UK Government. There are matters ongoing with regard to that. So, I think we ought to be careful as to how we proceed on this particular petition. The possible action is the committee could provide the proposal from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust to the Cabinet Secretary for health and ask for a response to the interim arrangements proposed and the potential use of the UK CF registry; and/or, if the committee wish to gather an external perspective on the appraisal process for new medicines and the information received from the various parties, the clerking team could explore possible sources of impartial expertise. I think what is suggested here is that we have heard from two of the—first the proponent of using Orkambi and the Government. Could we call in other expertise that would take a neutral view as to what should happen? Do we believe that this may be a way forward?  

09:25

Why don't we ask NICE, who are meant to be the people who know more about whether something is worth it—is a worthwhile medicine or not? I claim no knowledge or expertise on either cystic fibrosis or on the medicines being considered, but there are lots of people out there. Perhaps we could ask NICE for their views on why they're not recommending it. 

Yes, and I think, in addition to those possible actions, I note that there is to be a meeting between Vertex and the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group in the near future to discuss how to proceed with appraisals for Orkambi. It's relevant to us, isn't it, to find out what happens as a result of those meetings too?

Yes, I think we've been told one thing by the company and another by Welsh Government. I know that by going through the AWMSG, I think that there is some dragging of feet on this, really. I have got constituents who are dependent, really, at the right age, on Orkambi. I believe the company are also wanting to introduce a wider range of medicines that would have a greater success rate with different types of—. It's quite a complex—

—and I think Mike is absolutely right in saying that we should ask why NICE have decided that this is not a cost-effective treatment and, of course, to take on board Rhun's comments as well. Are you happy to go forward?

Okay. So, we could write to the Welsh Government and ask for their response to the proposal made by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, who are supporting the petitioner on this petition. We'll approach NICE and look at what other source of expertise on the process the committee could tap into, and we will ask to be kept informed about the discussions. 

Okay. We're not leaving NICE at this moment for the next petition: 'We call for the Welsh Government to encourage trusts to implement the NICE guidelines for Borderline Personality Disorder or justify why they do not do so'. The petition was submitted by Keir Harding and was first considered by the committee in May 2018, having collected 137 signatures. The NICE guidelines for borderline personality disorder were published in 2009. Nine years on, fewer than half of Welsh trusts provide services that comply with the guidelines; this compares with 84 per cent of trusts in England. The committee last considered the petition on 3 July and agreed to write to local health boards to ask for details of the services currently provided to people with borderline personality disorder in their areas and whether specialist services are available, as suggested by NICE guidelines. We've had responses from five out of the seven health boards and we have not received responses for Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Local Health Board or Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board.

I should note at this point that a response from Betsi Cadwaladr was received yesterday, so it's not available in the papers for this meeting.

I haven't had an opportunity to investigate it yet. It came yesterday afternoon. 

I suggest we write to ABMU so we can have a reply from all seven of them before we come to make a decision on what to do next. 

Okay. I will point out that the petitioner has provided comments in response to the responses that we'd received from five of the boards.

So, possible actions: the committee could chase the outstanding responses from the one further health board; the committee could write to the organisations that support people with mental health conditions to seek their views on the petition and the responses received from health boards.

09:30

I think, certainly, we need to make sure we get the full set of responses. The thing that strikes me is the anomaly between the figures quoted in the petition about fewer than half of Welsh trusts providing services that comply with guidelines, and the responses that we've received from the health boards, which suggest that everything is fine. Is there a simple piece of data analysis that could be provided for us through the Assembly Research Service that could, maybe, just explain to us as committee members what the situation actually is? 

I can request that.

Okay, are we happy with that? The committee could chase the outstanding responses, as I said earlier, from the one board. The committee could write to organisations. Are we happy to do that?

I think we can do that at the next stage when we have the full set and when we have the data, because it would be useful if we knew exactly what we were talking about. 

Okay. Are you happy with that? I think that's an excellent suggestion, Rhun.

The next petition to be considered is 'Change the National Curriculum and teach Welsh history, from a Welsh perspective, in our Primary, Secondary and Sixth form Schools'. The petition was submitted by Elfed Wyn Jones and was first considered by the committee in February 2018, having collected a total of 5,794 signatures. 

The committee last considered the petition on 17 July and agreed to seek further information from the pioneer schools working with the new history curriculum, and asked the petitioner and Dr Elin Jones for their reflections on the Cabinet Secretary’s evidence.

A response from the petitioner was received on 26 September. The petitioner expressed disappointment with the nature of the evidence received from the Cabinet Secretary for Education, which emphasised the opportunity that exists for pupils to learn Welsh history, at local and national levels, in schools.

Am I right in understanding that we're still waiting for the response from Elin Jones to the comments of the Cabinet Secretary?

I think it's important. She's quite key to all this, because of the work that she did. It strikes me that the big disagreement on what should happen is on the issue of compulsion and discretion.

I don't like the word 'compulsion', in general, but I think it should be the case that schools have to make sure that pupils are well versed with their nation's history. And maybe there is a correspondence that we could enter into with the education Cabinet Secretary on this issue of her thoughts on moving towards compulsion rather than giving schools discretion, because that's, clearly, not worked,

I think that we've made the point in the past that things like the agrarian revolution and things like that should be taught with a Welsh perspective, in particular, if it can be, and all items that come under that sort of social issue and changes within Wales should be taught with a Welsh perspective. I think we're in agreement with that and I think we ought to seek the Cabinet Secretary's assurances that that's exactly what this new curriculum is addressing. The committee could write to the Cabinet Secretary for Education to ask if she will provide a list of the pioneer schools working specifically on the history element of the new curriculum, to enable the committee to seek further information on the work being undertaken.

Rhun and I are slightly at cross purposes here. I'm very interested in local history. I can only talk about Swansea in any detail, but how Swansea developed and the relationship between Swansea and Ynys Môn, because the copper came to Swansea from Ynys Môn. When it ran out there, they got it from Cuba. It explains why certain places in Swansea, like the Cape Horn and the Cuba, which are two pubs, were named because that's where people were coming from. And this sort of idea of understanding how we got to where we are. I think it's tremendously important, certainly at primary school level, that children understand a perspective of how they are where they are, and I mean, in some cases, how they're living in the houses they're living in and why they're there. In the Hafod for example, they were built for copper workers. In Morriston, they were built for tinplate workers. The idea of how we got to the place, how the houses they live in got there—that sort of thing—I think that's really important. I don't understand why that cannot be part of the primary curriculum.

09:35

I must admit, from my own personal education—which would have been some time ago, obviously—in history, there seems to have been a retrograde step there, with regard to teaching Welsh, because at my time in school it was certainly taught with a Welsh perspective. Perhaps that's because our history teacher was Welsh speaking, but it was certainly taught at my time, and the curriculum was based on teaching it from a Welsh perspective—no doubt about that at all. So, are we happy to go along with the possible recommendations?

Yes, and talk about this compulsion/discretion issue as well. And the distinction, I think, was made in the discussion that we had, the discussions that we've had, between local history, which I absolutely agree is very, very important, and Welsh history. Whilst there's an overlap, clearly, between local history and the history of the nation, the history of Wales needs to be in there, not just your own locality. They're two very important but distinct things.

Absolutely. Okay, thank you for that.

We move on to 'Save the trees and ground in Roath Mill and Roath Brook Gardens before it's too late'. The petition was submitted by Tamsin Davies and was first considered by the committee in February 2018, having collected 8,700 signatures on paper and another petition website. The committee last considered the petition on 3 July, and agreed to request a further update from NRW and the campaign group, given the ongoing discussions between both parties, the planned engagement work with households directly affected by flood risk, and NRW's consideration of the request to extend the current pause in the works, and to seek information from Dŵr Cymru about its plans in relation to Llanishen reservoir. A response from Dŵr Cymru was received on 2 August. Both the petitioners and NRW have provided updates.

I think this is one of the areas where oral evidence might be useful. We've got two people who appear to have distinct views on this, and actually having us question them in public may well help the situation. I'm not sure taking it to a debate in the Assembly would help it, but we would actually be able to ask questions of one and ask questions of the other, based on the statements of each party. It might actually shed some light on the situation.

Yes. The note I made for myself here yesterday was: can we help resolve the impasse that there currently is, in maybe having the two parties—

The consultancy report actually shows where the project isn't complying with published and emerging Government policy guidance. It's quite critical, isn't it?

Those are questions we can ask of NRW if we've got them sat there.

We can make sure that some of those points are put into the briefing for Members as well.

I think we ought to point out that there was a consultation with local residents. These are the local residents who are most likely to be affected by flooding. There were 32 responses received, and roughly the same number accept the calculation of flood risk as the others who say that they didn't accept those figures. So, we had a split of something like 50:50 on that consultation process. 

Well, we should have an opportunity to question the methodology of calculation.

Okay. We'll seek to schedule those evidence sessions in the autumn. I think in the next committee meeting we plan to bring a copy of the committee's forward work programme for Members to decide how to prioritise those things for the rest of the year.

09:40

We'll move on to the next petition, which is 'Tackle Rough Sleeping'. This was submitted by Hanin Abou Salem and was first considered by the committee in December 2017, having collected 71 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 23 January and agreed to make the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee aware of the petition as part of its current inquiry into rough sleeping in Wales and to forward the petitioner a copy of that committee's report once it was available. The petitioner has welcomed the work of the ELGC committee and supported the recommendations made. She has also supported many of the commitments and comments made by the Minister. She has provided a detailed overview of her views on the report's contents. So, the possible actions are that, in light of the satisfaction of the petitioner with the inquiry into rough sleeping conducted by the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee, this committee could thank the petitioner for submitting the petition and close it at this point. Are we in agreement with that?

We move on to the next petition, which is 'Statue to Honour Billy Boston'. The petition was submitted by CIAC's RFC and was first considered by the committee in June 2017, having collected 151 signatures. The committee last considered the petition in November 2017 and agreed to ask the petitioner to provide the committee with a further update on the project in due course. The petitioners had indicated that they were establishing a charity to fundraise for the statue. The clerking team have sought an update from the petitioners in June and September 2018 but none has been received.

I think though that the petition does in fact address an issue that many people will have desire to see implemented. It very much comes down to the ability of the petitioners to create a fund in order to have this statue erected, and to a certain extent I think it's true to say that, if it's to be Cardiff, it may come under the local council rather than the remit of the Welsh Government.

I've got experience of only one statue that has been put up, for the person who I think is the greatest ever Welsh footballer, Ivor Allchurch, and that was raised by public subscription in Swansea. I think that that is the method by which to proceed. Billy Boston deserves one; I think there is no doubt about that whatsoever, but public subscription has been the method of providing statues, and I think that is a good way of doing it because it gives the public a buy-in of it. 

I think the committee would agree with the sentiments of the petition. Billy Boston was an outstanding athlete and rugby player in his time, and due recognition should be given to his achievements.

So, in light of the fact that no update has been received on the petition for 12 months and the likelihood that there is little practical scrutiny that the committee can apply to this issue, the committee could close the petition.

Yes. It's been noted on the record that we wish them well. 

That's right.

Okay, the next petition is 'Stop Forsythia Closing'. The petition was submitted by Forsythia Youth Centre and was first considered by the committee in March 2017, having collected 533 signatures. I think it must be pointed out that Forsythia was more or less one of the institutions set up under the Communities First programme. That has now ended. The people who were involved in running the Forsythia at that time, the people who were employed to run Forsythia at the time, and the petitioner in fact, are no longer employed by the Communities First programme, and so it seems that there is very little we can do to further the aims. We understand that it is still running but in a different format. It no longer seems possible to take this petition forward given the lack of contact from the petitioners and the impact of the end of Communities First funding. Given the scrutiny already applied to this overall issue by the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee, the committee could decide to close the petition at this point.

Are we happy? I don't think we can take this petition any further. Fine.

And so we will be moving on to the evidence session.

09:45

We could take a short break.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 09:45 a 09:57.

The meeting adjourned between 09:45 and 09:57.

09:55
4. Sesiwn Dystiolaeth - P-05-806 Rydym yn galw am roi rhif Tystysgrif Mynediad i bob safle busnes yng Nghymru, yn debyg i'r Dystysgrif Hylendid Bwyd
4. Evidence Session - P-05-806 We call for all premises in Wales to be awarded an Access Certificate number similar to the Food Hygiene Certificate.

Bore da, good morning, and welcome to the Petitions Committee. The idea behind inviting you in is that we can ask you to explain the purpose, to explore the proposal within your petition and what that proposal is about. In order to do that, I shall ask some questions and my committee members will ask questions. It's not an interrogation of any sort; it's simply that we can get the information that we need before we go on to the next process in deliberating the petition, and perhaps where we will be taking it after this session. I will say that it's not incumbent upon each and every one of you to answer every question. Perhaps one of you would like to take a lead on a particular point, and perhaps that will be the best way to go about it, otherwise it could turn into a very long session. And, as I ask any attendees in this situation, could you be as succinct as possible in your answers because it's important that we get as much information in this session as we possibly can?

So, if I can open the questioning by asking: can you explain why you believe it is necessary to introduce an access certificate scheme, and should any access certificate scheme be voluntary or compulsory? Simon.

I'll start, briefly. This whole petition came about just from our members, our group members, talking in a room, and one of our members, who's sadly passed away now, and whose idea this first was, was complaining that he went to a restaurant and didn't have good access. Unfortunately, he couldn't use the toilet. He'd had a starter, and then he wasn't able to use the bathroom and they left. Then somebody else in the meeting said, 'It's a pity they don't have scores on the doors like the food hygiene certificate, and, there we are, this is what's happened since.

What we're looking for, and I think everybody this side of the room agrees on this, is to know before we get somewhere. I, as a wheelchair user, tend to only go places that are accessible for me—that I know have accessible toilets and have a low bar maybe. So, I want to know in advance. Everywhere we know shows food hygiene numbers, but nowhere shows accessibility. So, you might see somewhere that looks inaccessible, but it actually is accessible because they've got a side entrance, for example. So, at first, we hope it could be voluntary, but, eventually, my hope is that it would be mandatory.

To me, also, if somewhere tells you in advance, through a logo system, that they're wheelchair-accessible, they have a loop system, they may have a Braille menu and staff who can use sign language, and they have a safe room and an adult changing facility, et cetera, you're more likely to go in there. A visually impaired person is more likely to go in there. I think a business would get more money. We've got purple pound day coming up in three or four weeks' time, and that's the disabled person's money. I have money that I want to spend; I want to spend it. Everywhere you go—where I, Helen, Anita and Rhian go, because of our impairments, we're restricted from getting into some of those places. So, at the start, I think this could be advertised more and done on a voluntary basis, and lots of places that we've spoken to have said that they would happily take part in it.

I don't know if anyone has anything to add.

10:00

Can I say at the outset, that there is obviously huge sympathy with your predicament from all Members of the committee and we'd like to express that at this moment? Can we also explore the fact—? We know that, in your initial petition, you were talking about the nought to five scoring system. Are you still in favour of that? Where do you stand with regard to that?

We said similar to the food hygiene certificate because it was an easy way to explain it, and I admit that, at first, I was for the zero to five rating, but, to be honest, the logos, I think, are more important, because somewhere could be brilliant for me to go into as it could have really good wheelchair access, but it might be rubbish for someone who's visually impaired and hearing impaired or who has autism. So, I think having the logos is more important, because for someone who is visually impaired, and somewhere had five out of five because they had great wheelchair access but they weren't very good on sensory impairments, then I don't think it works. I don't know if Anita—

Just adding to what Simon said, in my family, we have people with a number of different disabilities. So, I'm visually impaired and registered blind. I can't read print and I'm reliant on people to read menus to me and I'm reliant on good signage to help me find the right toilets so that I don't go into the wrong one. I'm quite reliant on people to do lots of things for me if I go somewhere unfamiliar to me. I also have a son who's a wheelchair user and I have a daughter who has problems around audio processing and things. So, even if you want to go somewhere as a family, if you can find somewhere, or if there's somewhere that has labels—whether it be that they advertise it on their website or whether it's on the window—it actually makes it so much easier for you, even just as a family to celebrate somebody's birthday rather than having to worry, 'Can I go there or there?', because we have all of these different needs. So, it just gives you that information. At the moment, it can be a struggle for us as a family, because we have to make sure that it is accessible to me and it is accessible to my son and it is accessible to my daughter and other friends or members of the family who we want to go and have a basic meal with to celebrate a birthday. Obviously, if you have a disability, you actually might know a lot of other people with a disability, so you might actually want to go out and celebrate something together. At the moment, that can be a challenge. Having this rating and having these symbols, because lots of people recognise the symbols and they understand what they mean, so if you want to go and book a—. We go on holidays to campsites, and if I go online, campsites quite often will have the symbols to indicate what type of facilities they have. That's really easy for me because I can go, 'Okay, they are wheelchair accessible, or they do have an accessible toilet or they do have changing rooms'—

What it does is raise the question as to where these symbols are actually displayed—obviously, on the front of the premises, et cetera, but, really, you want to be able to know whether a premises is accessible to you prior to you actually turning up at the premises. So, I think it would be very important—. Are you talking about creating something on the internet that would allow you to access whether any particular building is able to take your disability? Is that what you think is right?

10:05

I think both. When we just go past a premises to know whether or not they have an accessible toilet, if a place has a Braille menu—we're not looking at naming and shaming places, but just good places that are good. But also, on a website—. Speaking as someone who travels a lot, when you're in a hotel and you want to go out at night, everywhere says what they serve, what game they're showing that night, but nowhere says whether they're accessible or not. I don't know if Disability Wales—

The context for this is that, since 2004, business premises have had a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments and address physical features to buildings. But what we found a few years ago when DW did the Streets Ahead campaign, which was about access to the high street, was that many high streets around Wales were still inaccessible. There was a recent House of Lords report into accessibility and it was found that access still tends to be an afterthought. So, I think what this scheme is about, even though there is a legal requirement on business owners, proprietors and service providers, at the moment, and particularly smaller businesses, they don't know where to go for information and advice on how to address issues. So, I think what this scheme would do is give that support and give it profile, raise awareness.

Simon talked about the purple pound. In Wales, disabled people comprise 26 per cent of the population. First of all, that's a high number of people to be excluded from what many people take for granted, and, secondly, it represents a business opportunity—for people to create custom and for repeat and loyal custom. Many of us know that if we find somewhere that's accessible, then we keep going back there and we tell our friends and family. So, this is very much in the context of, obviously, yes, disabled people having the right to go wherever we want, but also in terms of developing the economy of Wales, which I think we're also all concerned about. This is also a great opportunity. So, hopefully, I think we're here in the spirit of it being a win-win situation. I think we're all keen to work with the Assembly, with Welsh Government and with business representatives to find a way of making it work, because I think it's a great benefit for everybody.

Thank you. Can we move on—? Mike, would you like to—?

Can I preface my remarks by saying my sister is profoundly deaf and I've got another member of my family who's got severe difficulties with mobility, and I'm president of the Swansea hard-of-hearing group, which is declared on my register on interests? I'll just say that for the record.

The question I've got, which is probably aimed at Disability Wales, is: how is the system going to be different to having to be DDA compliant? Public buildings have to be DDA compliant, don't they?

Well—[Laughter.]

Well, it would be great if they were. I think it all depends on whether it's a new building or if it's a refurbished building. Also, it's often down to the local authority in terms of what they accept in terms of the planning. And, of course, a lot of the bigger business developments can actually circumvent local authority planning officers and actually hire their own person who will sign off premises for them. So, it would be lovely if it was the case. I think what this scheme is about is contributing to—

So, what you're saying is that the Disability Discrimination Act, which is an Act of Parliament—

It doesn't exist anymore.

That doesn't exist anymore; it's the Equality Act now.

—which was passed, and now we've got the equality Act, which is talking about buildings having to be accessible, is not being enacted.

Well, that is a matter of some concern. The question, of course, is, in asking for an access certificate scheme: why do you think, if people aren't prepared to obey the law in terms of accessibility, they would undertake accessibility?

10:10

If they figure they have to, they will. Because they think, 'Oh, within reason'. Unfortunately, lots of places get away with it, because it's like, 'You must be accessible within reason'. But I'm not looking to—if you've got a little hairdresser's or a little cafe—to name and shame a place that doesn't have good access, but we really want to know what places do have the good—. Like here, it would be lovely outside if you showed on the doors that you have a really good accessible toilet, you have an adult changing facility—I believe you have a hearing loop system by reception, but you wouldn't know that going past. So, that's what we want to do; we want to let people know. We all—Helen, Anita, Rhian—we all go places like everybody else but we want to know in advance, before going there.

I'm a bit new to this. I've only been paralysed for two years. So, obviously, I was quite lucky before; I would always be able to go anywhere I wanted and I never had any issues or problems. At my age, I'm very sociable—I like to go out a lot and I used to do a lot with my friends and family—but I've missed out on a lot of opportunities now and events because I can't get to those places. It's led me to a little bit of social isolation and, obviously, that's led me to taking anti-depressants, which I don't want to be taking at the age of 23. I want to be able to be avoiding that; I want to be able to do a lot more with my friends and not think, 'Oh, I can't go there. I can't get in there.' It would just be nice to just—online or outside as well—have a notice. Once before, I have called a place asking is it accessible and the person on the phone was saying 'yes', so I'm taking their word for it—I get there, we've organised an event, and I can't get in. So, it's not been a nice experience for me, being new to this. There are a lot of barriers. I understand we can't take them all down but it would be nice just to lift them a little bit and just include everyone. 

Can I also just add, though, that, even though we've had the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and we've had the Equality Act 2010, actually a lot of places out there, the people who work in these places—you know, the managers, the bar staff, the whatever—they actually really don't understand very much about the DDA and the Equality Act and what reasonable adjustment is. When you actually have conversations with them, they were like, 'Oh, I didn't know that' and, 'Oh, I wish somebody had explained that to me.' This scheme, actually, is a way of helping people have that understanding.

I can honestly say—I've always been visually impaired all my life, but I've worked in the field of disability for the last 25 years. I've worked in access design, and, in talking to premises and going around and talking to a variety of different venues, most of the time, people actually don't know what it is that they're supposed to do. They know the law is there but they don't actually know what they're supposed to do within it. It's actually very hard. There might be guidance documents, but, if you don't understand it, they can be complicated to read through. Even architects and designers, who are actually supposed to comply with it, don't comply with it. So, how do we expect a business owner, who is just trying to make ends meet—run their business and make ends meet—to actually understand something that people who are supposed to understand it don't really implement? So, this system will actually be a way of encouraging people to learn in a very positive way. If it is voluntary to start with, and if it is about people—a system that gives people advice on how they can do that—then it's a positive way, isn't it, and it's a way of people understanding and learning, but in a positive way.

As I said, from what I said earlier, I'm very keen on buildings being accessible for people with all forms of disability. I've really got a two-part question. What part do you think disabled people should play in designing the scheme? And the other one is: what happens if people decide to opt out—if cafe X or restaurant Y decides that it's not going to put any signs up, it's not going to say it's disability accessible, it just won't bother, it'll turn the purple pound down?

So, with the second part, if a cafe or restaurant opts out—say this is voluntary—then, to me, it's their loss, because I have money to spend. I want to go to a restaurant. As Helen and Anita and Rhian have all said, we want to go to restaurants. I don't know if—. I mean, I'm trying to book a Christmas dinner for maybe 30 disabled people to go to. Finding a venue that can accommodate people with different impairments is damn hard work. So, I'd be disappointed if anywhere did opt out. If it's voluntary, obviously, it's their decision, but I think it would be their loss. As far as implementing it goes, 99 per cent of disabled people and disability groups—I know you've had a couple that have been critical and we're happy to hear those—think it's a good idea. Because, as a wheelchair user, Helen as recent wheelchair user, Anita as a visually impaired person—we just want to know where we're welcome. To be honest, if a place isn't accessible and doesn't want to have access, then I don't want to spend my money there. But I do want to spend my money in a good restaurant that has spent time and spent effort on making themselves have an accessible toilet and having good access.

And, if somewhere has a Braille menu or a hearing loop or staff, then great, but tell us. Because, believe it or not, there are establishments in Cardiff that have Braille menus and we don't know about it. it's only when—. Anita was telling us on the bus that she went to a Wagamama, and it was only because they saw her white stick that somebody came over and said, 'Would you like a menu in Braille?' And it was, like, 'Oh, great. Oh, gosh, I didn't realise you had that.' But there are other restaurants that have that facility, but we don't know.

That's all we're asking for at the start. If owned a restaurant that had a good accessible toilet, had a Braille menu, I'd want to tell people about it, I'd want people to come. I'd want disabled people to come and spend their money there. Sorry if I'm spending too long answering.

10:15

Yes, on the question of voluntary versus compulsory—you prefer a compulsory model, or would you be happy to start with a voluntary?

I think we'd prefer compulsory, but, if this was implemented by you, then voluntary to start with. I know that—I think I'm right—Disability Wales have said maybe pilot it in places that serve food, because then it could be monitored by the people who deal with the food hygiene certificate. But I'd like to see this rolled out through to hairdresser's, to shops, because everywhere that you go—

We want to go.

Yes, exactly. So, I have my hair cut, so to know in advance if you go to a hairdresser's if they have good access and if I can wash my hair, if I have access to the building, beforehand—. But also it's not just about wheelchair access. Unfortunately, most people who have accessibility training just don't know how does a wheelchair go around a shop. We had problems here, to be honest—Anita coming into the building—because of the windows and the darkness of it. So, that needs to be—. But, if you have good facilities, then tell us.

It's just the word 'accessibility' isn't it? I don't think a lot of people understand it quite well. Obviously, when I called that company and they were like, 'Yes, it's accessible', and you get there and there's a step—I just think people just need to be educated a little bit on the word 'accessible' more than they actually have been and pinpoint on that. And, obviously, let us know what they have then, of course. Because, like Simon said, I want to go out and do things as well. We all want to go to the places you go, and I feel it's unfair that we either can't get in those places or we don't know if we can get in them.

I don't want to go to the door and like ask permission, 'Oh, can I came in, please?' It's a lot of embarrassment. One time, I did get knocked down when I called a restaurant and they said, 'No, you can't come in; it's an old building and we don't have to.' And I left that call really upset and I thought that could either break me or make me. So, I could have left that call and thought, 'I'm never going out again', because some people can't handle things very well. But, fortunately, I took the right path and I thought, 'No, I'm going to let them know that they should be more accommodating, more compassionate, to everyone.' We're all individuals at the end of the day. We just want to go out, have some food, have a drink, go to the toilet. Everyone uses the toilet. Just things like that. We just want to be included, that's all. We don't want to be the minority of disabled people. Because I don't really see that many disabled people out, and I think it's really unfortunate. I think that we need to get a bit stronger a be bit more included together, to be honest, in the community.

Do you want to tell us a little it more about the pilot proposal that Disability Wales has made, and how you think a pilot might work? What kind of area?

We are aware that, obviously, this is, potentially, a huge scheme, because there are so many different types of premises and service providers. Obviously, we've been talking about the private sector, like restaurants, but, obviously, there's public services as well, which can often, I have to say, leave a lot to be desired.

So, yes, what could work is to pilot it first of all, perhaps, in a geographic area, and then with a particular cohort. So, we could start off with pubs, restaurants, cafes, for example—as we know, they're already used to having to deal with the food hygiene rating system. Or you could look at other things like corner shops, hairdresser's, whatever. But I think starting it off small.

I think a question was asked about the involvement of disabled people. That's crucial, because it is lived experience—and you've had quite a lot of it here already this morning—that will actually determine whether something really is accessible or inclusive or not. When Disability Wales ran our Streets Ahead campaign a few years ago, we involved disabled people as mystery shoppers. They had a survey and would go into a business or premises and take note of what the facilities were, what staff attitudes were like, how cluttered or otherwise it was, the lighting—things like that. And then they'd do a report afterwards, and we fed that into what was our campaign report. I think it's that sort of process that is going to be needed. I mean, obviously it would be great to get local authorities—I think Bridgend is potentially interested in piloting it, as a scheme for Bridgend. So, starting small, learning the lessons from it, and then extending it perhaps either to wider geographical areas or to wider ranges of business.

10:20

We have had Bridgend County Borough Council—. The leader, Huw David, and the diversities officer, Dhanisha Patel, have both said that they'd be happy piloting it in Bridgend. We've a number of properties that have said that they will happily display these logos, some places that aren't brilliantly accessible, but they've all said that if they knew what to do they would do it. So, we hope, maybe, to supply—obviously, it might be different in north Wales, but—where they can get a cheap loop system from, where a listed building can get a cheap ramp from, for example, and where's best to learn sign language. People have said they'd more than happily do it, if they knew what to do, et cetera. It's not confirmed yet, but we've got potential of some funding to help pay towards it from a local group, but they're waiting to confirm that. But, certainly, Bridgend council have said they'd happily pilot it in our area.

You mentioned the different logos. Is it the three logos—hearing, visual and physical disability? How do you make sure that all the various different disabilities are covered?

We're not asking for, like, crosses—if they don't have wheelchair access they have a cross—but just to tell us what they've got. So, if somewhere has what you've mentioned, has good wheelchair access, has a hearing loop, has a Braille menu, but also if a venue has a safe room for people who are autistic or who've got mental health problems, if people have an adult changing facility—you know, put that on the door. So, if somebody walking past has mental health problems and needs to go into a safe room, they can go in there.

To be honest, since we've launched this, because we've had quite good media coverage, we've been inundated by people who run autism groups, who run stroke groups, who've said, 'Are you going to include us in this?' I would hope—. If I ran a shop with a safe room, I'd would want to advertise that, so, to me, that should be on there. Obviously, the main ones are wheelchair access, accessible toilets, whether or not they're friendly for visually impaired or hearing impaired, but the vast majority—. I think that about 10 per cent of disabled people actually use wheelchairs like myself. The majority are walking about and look non-disabled. But, if somebody has a mental health problem or has had a stroke or is autistic, it can be just as debilitating as using a wheelchair. So, having a safe room is important, but knowing—. So, to me, logos that cover all aspects of disability should be covered. But, again, we want to know where we can go.

So, the hearing, Braille, and obviously the wheelchair, and the disabled toilet as well—I think, obviously, they are the main ones, aren't they, let's be honest. There are not many places that do have safe rooms and things, we understand that, but, obviously, if they do, then we could create another logo. But obviously those would be the main ones that we're going to be focusing on, I think, at the moment.

I think we recognise that, again, with this, there's some development work that's needed to get the right kind of logos that capture the range of facilities that would suit people with different kinds of impairments or health conditions. I think that's something that we're keen—. I know, certainly, Disability Wales and our sister organisations like Learning Disability Wales, Wales Council of the Blind, Wales Council for Deaf People, Mind Cymru—we're certainly keen to work with the Bridgend coalition and others to make sure this is a cross-impairment approach.

Thank you for that. Whilst I realise that you don't want to name and shame, and I fully understand why you're saying that, isn't it also the case that you need a little bit more information than whether somewhere is wheelchair accessible? How good that accessibility is is actually quite important, and that's why the food hygiene mark works. Is there—rather than putting a red cross by somewhere that's useless, that you have a bronze, a silver and a gold, or something.

10:25

You could have a gold award; what you say is right. Unfortunately, lots of places that, certainly, I've been to, and probably others, have good accessible toilets, but they're full of rubbish or full of cleaning equipment, and you can't actually get in them. But it's for disabled people to actually complain, not just leave, to actually say to staff, 'Why have you done that?' And, if need be, complain to the local authority.

Because, also, what's been mentioned to me is that it's great that a place has an accessible toilet, but it's how big it is. Like, somewhere that might be good for me and Helen to go into—. We have a lady who spoke on ITV Wales news a while ago—Mandy, in our group—who's a very large lady who uses a large electric wheelchair; I can physically get in, but she can't physically get in. And if you've had a stroke—. Really, accessible toilets should be in the centre of the room because some people can only transfer left to right, some people transfer right to left with both bars. I'm glad your toilet complies with that upstairs. So, it'd be nice on the logo to have—you have a place that has an accessible toilet, but say it's a right-to-left transfer.

So, accessible and really good access would be useful. In which case, who would measure that? Because with food standards, which we refer back to again, there is now a process through which the hygiene standards of a restaurant are measured. Who would do the work on accessibility and—?

I don't know if my colleagues—. I knew you'd ask that, and it's probably one question I can't fully answer, but I would hope the local councils, because I don't think it'd be that expensive. If we followed Disability Wales's idea, and this was first piloted in, say, restaurants and cafes that have the food hygiene certificate, then the person going along to assess how clean the kitchen is could say, 'Can I have a look at your accessible toilet? How wide are your corridors? How low is your bar? Do you have a hearing loop?' And if they have that, then, great, because, at the end of the day, as I said before, if I owned a hairdresser's or a cafe, I'd want to advertise that I was accessible for all to use. So, I don't think it will be that expensive to monitor, but it might be up to a local authority, or a local disability group, to go in there regularly to see how good they are.

I go to a pub—I go to lots of pubs. [Laughter.] But I go to a pub, it's got a ramp entrance, it's got a disabled toilet, it's got a wide corridor. Unfortunately, that wide corridor often becomes a very narrow corridor when people move chairs around to get more people around tables, et cetera. So, although if you went there at 10 o'clock in the morning, when it was barely open, you'd have a wide corridor, you'd have a disabled toilet and you'd have all these access things. If you went there at 10 o'clock on a Friday night, you'd have difficulty in getting through, with—. I'm just asking, how do we deal with that sort of situation, where they get a tick on—?

You know with the food standards, obviously, they've got their food hygiene rating of five, so they're proud of that, so they keep their standards high, and clean all day. If they've got the logos on the doors saying that they've got wide corridors and wheelchairs, they should, hopefully, stick to that as well. They're sticking to their standard of the food rating, which is a five. They don't just get a sign and go, 'Oh, don't worry, we'll just chuck all the food on the side.' I think with, obviously, displaying the logo, they are then saying, 'We are wheelchair friendly; we have a wide corridor.' And then, if we go there and, obviously, they've gone against that, but I'm hoping that they should be that—

But it's up to disabled people to complain; we need to complain more.

They don't make it narrow, customers make it narrow, because the table should only hold four people, they want to get seven or eight around the table because new friends have arrived, and all of a sudden, the corridor disappears. 

It's partly, though, about the management of the staff and getting the staff to ensure that the customers are actually staying within that requirement, because we've mentioned Braille menus a lot, but it isn't just about Braille menus for people with sensory impairment, it's about staff awareness, and staff having that understanding of what they might need to do for somebody with sensory impairment, or sight loss or hearing loss, and how they communicate with people.

But if you just look at the outside of a venue, quite often, a local authority—. A person will apply for a licence to put chairs and tables outside their premises. Now, that licence will allow them to work within so many feet of that premises. I know, from the work that I do, that there are premises that try to go outside that line, and I know that there are customers who take their chairs outside the line, but the local authority require that cafe to ensure that their customers stay within their boundaries. And they do do checks on them now and again to make sure, and where it does get a bit out of hand—. I certainly know in the areas that I cover that the local disability group or the local organisations that are related to people with disabilities actually go, then, and work with the local authorities to say, 'Okay, look, these are not staying within their compliance,' and the local authority keeps an eye on those premises a bit more. But, I think, once you get momentum with it and people actually get that understanding and know why they need to keep the chairs and tables within line, or they need to have a better understanding of what they're doing and the reasons for that, just like Helen was saying about food hygiene, I think it will improve. I'm not saying it will never happen, but I think it's less likely to happen.

10:30

Yes. How would an access certificate scheme work in conjunction with the Equality Act? Would the access certificate scheme use reasonable adjustments to assess accessibility, or would accessibility be judged to a higher standard?

I think Rhian, working with Disability Wales, might know more—. But I'd look at it—. We're going to work with the Equality Act, but my personal view is that it should've been kept separate, because the reason why a disabled person is discriminated against might be very different to why somebody who has a different skin colour or a different sexual orientation might be discriminated against. I think we'll work with it, but this scheme is simply about knowing in advance. I want to know what's accessible for me. I could tell you here what's accessible in Bridgend, but if I travel outside of Bridgend, if I travel to north or west Wales, I don't know what pubs, clubs, bars or hairdresser's are accessible.

So, we hope that places are compliant with the Equality Act and that places do have the ramps and make reasonable adjustments, but, to me, I don't want to spend my money in a hairdresser's or cafe that are not accessible, but I do want to spend my money in places that are accessible. I don't know if you—.

I think that's a good point about the Equality Act. From our point of view, we're not entirely happy with the definition of 'disability' in the Equality Act, because we would see it as more of a medical model definition; it focuses on the impairment somebody has, rather than the removal of the barriers that are created, and obviously, this is what this scheme is very much about. So, ideally, we would like to see the highest possible level of standards. I suppose, from a pragmatic point of view, because businesses and service providers come within the remit of the Equality Act, that's probably where they're going to look to, but I think the issue is that a lot of this is down to the individual having to take a case, and it's something that—. In the Houses of Parliament, the Women and Equalities Select Committee are actually now looking at the Equality Act—they're doing an inquiry about the enforceability of it.

So, where this has come from is that, despite decades of having legislation, there's still a lack of access. So, I think, in a way, this is a kind of complementary process—people still have a right to redress, to the legislation, but this is a scheme that, perhaps, would give it practical effect and it would raise awareness of what business providers and service providers are legally obliged to do, but give them some practical tools and information and some kind of independent monitoring body that would actually then be able to measure whether or not it's achieved it. Because I think, at the moment, that isn't there. So, what this is trying to do is to make the Equality Act and inclusion real and raise awareness of them.

Just to make it that little bit easier for us to go out, like everybody wants to go out. I don't think that this is going off the point, but if this was to become law in Wales and then across the UK, I'd like to see a similar thing implemented for public transport. For example, I know, as a wheelchair user, only one wheelchair user can travel on a bus, so if Helen and I want to travel together on a bus somewhere, we can't. And many trains will only allow one wheelchair user on there. So, if you have a train or a bus, it's to say, 'How many wheelchairs can get on there?' and if they have a audiovisual display.

We had a bit of a horror story. A blind person, who lived in Bridgend, got on a train to Cardiff, and it was a train that stopped in Llanharan, Pontyclun and Pencoed on the way home, but, for some reason, they didn't stop in Llanharan, so she counted four stops and got off at Wildmill. It's an estate. She was completely blind and was stuck on her own, didn't know where she was, but if they'd had an audio of, 'The next stop is Bridgend', then it would be—. And if it's someone who's hard of hearing, if they had a visual display saying, 'The next stop is Bridgend'—.

And, as a wheelchair user travelling on a bus, you have to travel backwards, and if it's raining and dark, I don't know where the bus is. So, we would like to know, whether it's public transport or a general cafe or restaurant, just how good they are—just what they offer in advance of getting on and using that premises. 

10:35

Okay, thank you. Would the access certificate scheme set the same standards and expectations of small, independent businesses as it would of large, multinational companies? 

To be honest, I'd want to know, but looking at—. If you have a small restaurant or small cafe, because of the financial reasons or they're in a listed building, and they physically cannot make themselves wheelchair accessible, then it's frustrating but it's fair enough. But there's no reason why that premises can't be really good at sensory impairments, can't have a hearing loop in their premises, or if they have a restaurant that I can't get into, have a Braille menu, for people who are hard of hearing. But if you have a Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds, Costa Coffee or Wetherspoons that's not accessible, to me, that's not acceptable because they're a national chain, a multimillion pound organisation. So, those are the businesses I'd come down harder on than a small little cafe that was owned by a family and that it was going to cost them £50,000 to put a ramp in. But there are things called 'accessible ramps'. Some listed buildings have steps they can't physically take away, but you can have a bell on the door just so that someone can come out with a ramp. And a lot of the time, it's just about talking to people. I could name you a number of premises that I've spoken to and said, 'Your access isn't very good', and there's been someone really amenable there, and you've gone back, and they've had a little bell on the door and they've had a ramp. It could be a simple thing like that. It can be a simple thing like just having a hearing loop by a till. I don't know if you agree.   

Just trying to communicate with each other. We are not a different species, or anything like that; we're just trying to get good communication involved between us, and anywhere we go, and able-bodied people, you know. Obviously, it would be great to have that on the door, or just have people who are more educated, and knowing they want to come out, and just know how to handle and deal with the situation, and just become more prepared, let's say, for someone who does have hearing or visual impairments, so then, even for a wheelchair user, if they know how, 'I've done a ramp, I know how to put a ramp down, yes, come on in, I'll get the ramp out for you', that would just make my day. It would just be so nice, rather than them standing there going, 'Oh well, I don't know', and then me sitting there just like—an awful experience. It can knock you down a lot, but I think communication.  

And I think what would be good is to be working with—. You know, this kind of scheme could work with things like the Federation of Small Businesses, chambers of trade and commerce in a local area, and actually take a collective approach where businesses can share experience and advice and knowledge. So, we kind of build that capacity as well. As I say, we are aware that, for this scheme to work, it needs some development, and there would be some resourcing of it in the way it's set up, the way it's run, but I think it could be a real way forward, particularly in Wales, where we do have such high numbers of disabled people around Wales, in small towns, market towns. Something like this could actually, as I say, as well as help on the inclusion front, also help as a driver for economic development as well.  

Okay. You've mentioned about the assessment of it and how good it is. I know you've mentioned about, with the scores on the doors, how that's usually carried out by the regulatory function within a local authority. Do you think the minute you involve them, it becomes—? I know small businesses worry about regulation. Do you think it might be better if the businesses themselves did self-assessment, or do you think it is something that—to me, it sounds like it would fall more on local authorities? I know their regulatory departments, with lots of the other competing priorities, are quite overstretched. Do you think it might be better to try and engage businesses themselves? They perhaps have got some of these facilities, but they don't really know how important it is to let you know. So, whether they would be better, perhaps, at assessing themselves rather than making it a regulatory—

10:40

As long as they knew what they were assessing, really. Because lots of people—. Helen will admit herself that she was pretty clueless on disability before she became a wheelchair user herself. I don't have a visual impairment. I don't have a mental health problem. That's why we really want to incorporate them all. But I've been in this building very often talking about disability hate crime and harassment, and people who've actually made fun of me, who think they can make fun of me being in a wheelchair, have then had accidents themselves, or have disabled relative, and it's, 'Oh, yes, I know you weren't exaggerating. I know you were being honest.' So, lots of times, people don't know what it's like to be disabled until they are. They don't know the importance of going to the toilet until they can't. If you're in a bar and there's no accessible toilet, you've just got to go.

In order for somebody to be able to assess what they've got, they would need some kind of resource kit or guidance that actually helps them go through that, because if I'm talking about lighting and colour contrast, which helps me, that's not really going to mean much to somebody who doesn't understand why contrast is important to me. So, there's a big supermarket local to me, and I've said to them lots and lots of times about the fact that they have this white pole in the middle of the floor with the white flooring around it, and how dangerous—because I know for a fact that a number of visually impaired people have been in the supermarket and actually walked into the white pole, and some of them don't complain and some of them do complain. But the fact the white pole is still there—. Now, the staff are not really getting it, and whether they send it to their higher management to have it resolved—but if I take a photo along and then I put it in a black-and-white contrast and go, 'Right, this is actually why', and I explain it to them in clearer detail rather than just make it a complaint, they actually get it better, or they understand it better, and they sort of go, 'Oh, right. We can see that now', and when you point out to them that, by somebody actually having a serious injury—. I actually had an injury on it one day, and fortunately for me, I've still got good balance, and my skin doesn't cut easily, but for somebody's who's older, who doesn't see very well, who has poor balance or their skin tears easier, having an accident on this pole is a much more serious thing. And then it's about: further forward, does that person make a claim against that shop or something? Basically, if there's a toolkit—for that, there would have to be a toolkit or there would have to be assistance to help people understand what this means, what that means, and what having good staff training means.

Thank you very much for that. I'm very mindful of the time, so unless my colleagues have got any specific questions to answer, can we just do very briefly, if possible, a little round-up about what we've been talking about? And please forgive me if I don't take every point into account, but it seems to me that, in the first instance, you would like to have a pilot scheme to test out, which would give you the opportunities to refine whatever it is you're about. Is that correct? I think that massively integral to this is that you should have some sort of specialist internet site that would allow businesses to put themselves on the site and explain exactly what they will wish to offer or—.

Not necessarily a specialist site, but if you go on a website to look at a restaurant or a hotel, they'll tell you what they offer, but they won't tell you whether they're accessible or not. So, actually, I'd like it on the doors, but also, when you look at the Senedd website, for example, to say that you have good wheelchair access, you have an accessible toilet, so I'd love to Google a restaurant and for it to say, 'We have an accessible toilet', and they have a Braille menu. This is basically about telling us what they've got in advance.

Okay. And that, obviously, would be down to the individual restaurant or whatever it is to put that on to that site or to make that information available to Google or whatever it is.

Yes, and I'm hoping that, where it's voluntary at the start, you can tell places they have to do that. I know it's a big ask, but I'm hoping that, in the future—

10:45

Exactly. And if I can come to that, obviously, it's the promotion of this to every business that's out there. Do you feel that the Welsh Government should have a part in that, or do you think that it should be done in some other way?

I think all Governments—I don't know whether you agree—I think the Welsh Government, the UK Government, and local authorities, because, as Rhian mentioned, 26 per cent are disabled, 9, 10 per cent of those use wheelchairs, and we all have money to spend, we want to—. So, I think everywhere—Welsh Government, UK Government, local authorities—should be involved with this, to push it. And the vast majority of businesses I've spoken to, even those that don't have great access, think it's a good idea, and said they're happy to take part in some way or another, to tell people what they have.

Okay. And then there would be a monitoring body, whatever that body might be, so that things that happened to Helen, like turning up at something that says, 'Yes, there is accessibility', and there isn't—that would be monitored, and could be fed in to some central—

I hope so. I would very much hope so, yes.

Okay, fine. I just want to address the comments that you made with regard to transport, if I can, because I'm on the transport committee. We went into it, and we did have disabled people coming and explaining to us the problems they were having. And we were assured on that that, with the new franchise, it would very much be addressing the accessibility of all the transport systems, and that, obviously, under the metro,  that should be addressed as well. So, we would be hopeful that at least some of your—

I know, because the buses—me and Helen, we actually have a couple who are both wheelchair users who live near me, and they go to Porthcawl quite regularly, and they have to get on different buses to go there. And it's just frustrating, and—I know this may be going off the point a bit, but where they've put the bars, they're in completely the wrong places, so you're now competing with people with pushchairs, whereas there used to be space for a wheelchair and a pushchair. If you're a wheelchair user who has a pushchair, then you're stuck, and you can't travel on the—. So, that might be a separate thing, but, again, it's knowing in advance. It's like with the trains—knowing if there are audiovisual displays.

Absolutely. And the fact that, obviously, the accessibility to all railway stations, wherever they are, is crucial for you to be able to use public transport. We've had assurances on my other committee that they are being comprehensively looked at, so I think you should—

And taxis as well.

Hopefully, yes, exactly. So, if I can explain that the committee will now consider the evidence that you've given us, obviously, and then we'll be determining what to do next, to explore the petition and your proposals. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

It would just be nice just to be included, and just communicate with one another, just to be able to know—become a friendship, you know, just start building that relationship, and then knowing where we can go, can't go, what they can do. And then hopefully, with these signs on the doors, it might guilt-trip some to try and make it better, just to feel they're proud of their establishment, and that they know that everyone is included, and that there's no discrimination or isolation of anyone at all or any individual.

And most people—as I said to Rhun ap Iorwerth—are quite clueless on disability. I had brain surgery recently, and, believe it or not, a month ago I couldn't speak—I was stuttering, and I've progressed a lot. But little things like ordering a cup of coffee, or ringing up a taxi to tell them I'm a wheelchair user—I need a bigger boot—became almost impossible. And if I needed a taxi—. So, it would be nice to know what facilities a place offers in advance, so I could do that just that little bit easier.

Yes, exactly. So, as I said, we will now be considering all the information you've given to us. Obviously, the clerking team will be in touch with you, to let you know exactly where we might be taking this. But in the meantime, obviously, if you have any other evidence that you'd like to give, or any other comments that you'd like to make, please go through the clerking team, and I'm sure they will pass them on to us. Anita—sorry.

I only just wanted to say as the last thing, really, if you can look at all of the various Acts that have gone through, whether it be the well-being Act, the future generations Act, or the Equality Act—all of those things talk about limiting isolation in people, and inclusion. They all talk about people actually being out there and part of the community. I just feel that this is one way of positively engaging people who have got particular needs, regardless of what their disability is, members of their family and their friends and their community—it's just a way of actually getting people to be more inclusive and less isolated and I think it just ticks all of those boxes that those different Acts are asking local authorities, the third sector or everybody to start engaging with. I think it just ticks all those boxes. I think if you could consider that when you're looking at the evidence and look at how that could get people back out into the community—people spending their money and giving people a better quality of life, then it just ticks those boxes, I think.

10:50

I think there has to be an across-the-board engagement with this process.

Because it takes two seconds—anyone in this room could become disabled at any time. Helen went to bed and woke up disabled.

I was paralysed—no idea why—

So, it can happen to anyone.

—no warning. I was very healthy and very active, so my life changed completely. Obviously, this is a whole new world now and I had quite a good quality of life before, so I just want to live like I did before—I don't want it to be any different. I'm just sitting down in a wheelchair; I don't see why this is becoming this huge issue and this huge thing changing my life and how I feel physically, emotionally and mentally—all those matters.

And I think therein lies the difficulty of people truly understanding what the issues are for you. But I'm absolutely certain that there is a movement out there—that we are realising that you should have access in exactly the same way as able-bodied people. 

Yes, of course.

Thank you for inviting us and welcoming us.

I got out of the house—'Yay'. [Laughter.]

I do have—I don't know if you want to give it to the clerk, because I was in hospital for a long period of time—our petition. I know we have our petition online, but there was some of the handwritten petition that I hadn't handed in.

If you leave them there, we'll take them. Thank you.

5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod
5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitem 6 yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public for item 6 in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

I propose in accordance with Standing Order 17.42 that the committee resolves to meet in private for item 6 on today's agenda. Are we all agreed on that? Yes. Thank you.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:53.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:53.

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