Last week, the Health Minister announced that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board was being put back into special measures as a consequence of serious and ongoing concerns. Very disappointingly but perhaps not surprisingly the health board has not made the progress it should have done and that the people and communities of North Wales deserve. The decision to put the health board back into special measures comes after Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, Audit Wales and Welsh Government officials met in November 2022 and January 2023 to specifically discuss serious concerns about service delivery, quality and safety of care and organisational effectiveness at the health board. Serious concerns have also been raised about the performance and governance of the board and about the leadership and culture in the organisation. People will continue to use NHS services in North Wales as normal and I want to take this opportunity to invite any constituents that have concerns or questions to please get in touch with me. Moving forward, I will not only be raising this with colleagues in the Senedd but engaging with the workforce at BCUHB as well as local communities. There is no doubt that fundamental change is needed but this needs to done with those who provide the services and those who use them.
Back in 2018, the Welsh Government established the Fair Work Commission, which was tasked with identifying the best ways to encourage fair employment practices across Wales, and the commission made a number of key recommendations in 2019. Since then, the world and work as we know it has changed – the Covid pandemic has had a major impact on people’s work lives – but, despite these challenges, we have taken significant steps forward on the commission’s recommendations and last week I published a progress report for the first time ahead of giving an update in the Senedd.
In the past year alone, we have made significant progress in three key areas – promoting trade unions, embedding our social partnership approach and spreading the real living wage. In our work to promote trade unions we have demonstrated the value of being part of a trade union to workers, workplaces and Wales, something which was a key part of improving employee relations, and coupled with the foundations we have put in place for social partnership and fair work in sectors where there are longstanding and recognised concerns about working conditions, this goes a long way to improve the world of work for people across Wales. We have taken the concept of the Social Care Fair Work Forum and applied a similar approach to the retail sector, with a social partnership forum bringing together partners from across this particular sector to develop the Retail Action Plan. This model can be deployed in other sectors and represents what is possible through the levers we have in Wales. On the real living wage, whilst it is not the defining factor of fair work it is important in providing a baseline for an hourly rate aligned to meeting the basic costs of living. The Welsh Government has shown leadership in implementing our manifesto commitment to introduce the real living wage in social care, providing £43 million to local authorities and health boards this financial year to fund a real living wage uplift and have committed an estimated £70 million in the coming financial year. But as always there is more to do.
During the half term recess, I spent a couple of days in Belfast at the Titanic centre for the Labour Relations Agency Conference, which brings together employers, HR professionals, trade unionists and others to explore how we can create a framework to make good employment relations a key part of any organisation’s success. I delivered a talk with Shavanah Taj, General Secretary of the Wales Trade Union Congress, entitled Fair Work in Wales and we discussed how the Welsh Government is making employment relations a key part of policy and how, in Wales, we’re breaking new ground with the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill, introduced by me as Deputy Minister for Social Partnership. It was a very interesting discussion and it was also great to visit such an iconic building right in the heart of the Northern Irish capital.
As always, if you would like advice and/or support, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on any of the following contact details – 52 High Street, Mold, Flintshire, on 01352 753464 or by email email@example.com You can also keep up to date via my Facebook page – www.facebook.com/hannahblythynMS Constituents are, of course, welcome to contact my office to arrange an appointment to see me, you don’t need to wait until an advice surgery.