Call for free Welsh language lessons for NHS workers
NHS staff should be offered free Welsh lessons funded by the government in the same way as teachers and teaching assistants, Welsh language campaigners have said.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith said that the current aim that NHS staff attain “courtesy level” as set out in the Welsh Government’s More Than Just Words framework for Welsh language services was not enough.
The More Than Just Words framework for Welsh language services in health and social care was published in March 2016 and a draft update is expected in April.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith said they recommend setting a clear target to ensure that everyone achieves basic courtesy at a specified time and that the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language makes funds available to provide free Welsh lessons for health and social care staff, as has happened in the education sector.
“Our vision is for the Welsh language to be deeply embedded in health and social care services across Wales so that Welsh speakers have direct access to the highest quality care that meets their language needs without compromising their position,” they said.
“As such, patients and service users should expect to receive Welsh language services routinely without having to ask for them … Welsh language provision within the health service is currently dependent on individuals making the effort.
“If these individuals leave their jobs, then the effort is wasted, this cannot continue and the Welsh language needs to be considered a key part of every aspect of healthcare to ensure basic consistency across the service. ”
Part of the answer according to Cymdeithas yr Iaith would be to set expectations on managers to report on staff Welsh language skills. Staff are expected to regularly present evidence to their employers and professional regulatory bodies on other skills and qualifications, Welsh language skills could be added to that, whilst also providing free Welsh language lessons.
Furthermore, with the introduction of the new National Care Service for Wales there was a real need to set quotas for recruiting a sufficient number of fluent Welsh speakers for the future workforce, they said.
They praised North Wales Police who they said had been successful in setting a target to ensure that the entire workforce is able to speak Welsh at a basic level.
Due to the nature of the work in the health and social care sector and the vulnerable position of service users, Cymdeithas yr Iaith argued that setting and reaching such a target is more important than ever in this sector.
The call comes after the Welsh Government announced last month that they would be offering free Welsh language lessons to 16 to 25-year-olds, teachers and teaching assistants living in Wales from September.
The registration fee of up to £90 to enrol on a year-long course with the National Centre for Learning Welsh will be covered by the Welsh government.
Education Minister Jeremy Miles said: “This is another step towards giving a chance to everyone to speak Welsh and help us reach our goal.”
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