Action needed to mitigate long term Covid impact on Welsh language groups, report finds

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The Covid-19 pandemic could have a long-term adverse impact on groups that promote the use of the Welsh language unless action is taken.

That’s the finding of a group set up to investigate the impact of Covid-19 on organisations including the Urdd, Young Farmers and Mercher yr Wawr.

Only 62% of the community groups surveyed thought that they would continue to exist in a year’s time if the social distancing rules still applied.

“Only 2% of the groups that responded reported that they arranged any online activities before the end of March 2020,” they said

“A fifth of the groups (20%) had managed to adapt their activities to operate in some way since the first lockdown began at the end of March. The other 80% may have kept in touch with their group, but had not continued to operate.”

Welsh Language Minister Eluned Morgan, who commissioned the group’s report, said that she would respond in detail to the recommendations in due course.

“The Sub-group believes that this situation could become even more challenging due to socio-economic and social changes in the wake of COVID-19 and Brexit,” she said.

“[They] believe that action is needed to strengthen Welsh as a language of community and social activity.”

The group led by Dr Simon Brooks makes a number of recommendations to mitigate the long-term impact of Covid-19 on community groups.

These include re-establish Welsh language community groups as soon as possible when the pandemic begins to wane.

“As soon as possible, the Welsh Government, in partnership with the Mentrau Iaith, should contact those community groups who indicated in the survey that they are unlikely to resume activities after the pandemic to ascertain what support is needed to help them resume action as they would wish,” the recommendations say.

“This should be achieved with appropriate action to enable activities to resume including working in partnership with local Voluntary Councils to ensure appropriate support.”

 

‘Planning’

Other recommendations for the Welsh Government include:

  • Ensuring that the significant number of Welsh speakers who are excluded from participating in online activities, because of a lack of access to digital networks and digital skills, are able to do so.
  • Giving greater attention to the role of sports clubs and arts/performance groups in the context of language planning in order to support the use of Welsh as a community language.
  • Develloping the role of the Mentrau Iaith should be developed to work at a micro level in more communities.
  • Establishing a mechanism for funding projects to facilitate and operate at a community level to ensure the viability of the Welsh language.
  • Noting the older age profile of many of the existing Welsh language societies and taking steps to nurture the next generation of community leaders to ensure leadership succession in community groups and societies.
  • Creating more Welsh-medium social/co-operative enterprises in communities which offer Welsh-medium employment and volunteering opportunities.
  • Sharing information between Welsh-speaking community groups so that they know about and take advantage of opportunities to improve their organisation through relevant training, funding sources and guidance.

“The Sub-group considers the Welsh language to be an important part of the social capital of Wales, and have drawn up the recommendations with that in mind,” Eluned Morgan says.

“In the Sub-group’s view, this is tied to the need to make communities more resilient in terms of human resources/skills in order to nurture the next generation of community leaders—resources such as centres, digital infrastructure, and fostering a culture of enterprise among Welsh-speakers.

“It also means strengthening language planning at the micro (neighbourhood) level.

“Many of these recommendations are relevant not only to the Welsh language policy area but to several areas of government policy.”

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