CHILDREN LEAD THE WAY ON CLIMATE CHANGE

On Friday September 20 thousands of people gathered to express clearly their concern that time is running out to mitigate climate change, and that governments across the world are too slow to tackle the crisis which is upon us. These Events were part of the Global Climate Strike, which is linked particularly with Greta Thunberg, but is led by children and young people in every Country. Although the Wales TUC arranged part of the event in Cardiff, children and young people were the principal speakers in every meeting, expressing themselves articulately and passionately in Welsh and in English.

In Cardiff, a full day of activity began in the City United Reformed Church with a Prayer Meeting arranged by Christian Aid, and then profound but joyful speeches and protests in front of the Castle, on the steps of the National Museum and outside the Senedd. Staff members from Christian Aid and Cytûn were present, along with a large number of ministers and church members. Christian Aid was also very visible in Bangor, and similar events were held in Swansea, Carmarthen, Aberystwyth, Brecon and many other towns across Wales.

On the same day, a series of reports was published by the Science Advisory Group of the UN Climate Action Summit 2019. These substantial documents underline the severity of the situation, especially the report of the World Meteorological Organization, which says that emissions and their effects are accelerating beyond earlier expectations.

There is an opportunity for Cytûn members and all who wish to discuss this further to respond in a special conference in Newport on October 14 with Christian Aid, One World Week, A Rocha UK, Size of Wales and several other organisations. See pages 7 and 8 of this Bulletin and the Cytûn website for further details and how to book your place.

BOTH PARLIAMENTS RECALLED TO DISCUSS BREXIT

On Monday September 9, an attempt was made to suspend the proceedings of the Westminster Parliament by the Queen’s proroguing it on the advice of the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Many MPs opposed this fiercely (pictured left). On September 24, the Supreme Court ruled that the actions of the Government had been unlawful, and that Parliament had not been prorogued. Arrangements were made for Parliament to reconvene on Wednesday September 25.

The initial decision to prorogue was criticised by the bishops of the Church in Wales when they wrote to the Prime Minister to Express their concerns at leaving the European Union without an agreement, as many believed that promoting such an outcome was the Prime Minister’s motivation in advising the Queen as he did. (The Supreme Court made no ruling on Mr Johnson’s motivation). Parliament succeeded in passing the European Union (Withdrawal) (no. 2) Act prior to the unlawful ‘prorogation’, in the hope that this Act would prevent a withdrawal without agreement on October 31 and postpone it until at least January 31 – although the consent of the other members of the European Union would be required to achieve that result.

Cytûn’s Wales and Europe Working Party, before hearing about the attempted prorogation, had signed an open letter to the Prime Minister along with a number of Cytûn member churches and 84 church and other third sector organisations from across the British Isles, expressing similar concerns about the effects of a no-deal withdrawal. The letter expresses concern about a lack of preparedness for such an exit and at the possible effects on poor and vulnerable members of society.

The National Assembly for Wales had been recalled to discuss the situation on September 5. There were three hours of at times fierce debate, although a few AMs opposed the recall on the ground that the Assembly had no responsibility for these matters, and stayed away. The debate was introduced by Mark Drakeford AM (Welsh Labour, pictured right), First Minister of Wales, and there were several notable contributions. Amongst the two most remarkable were the call by Delyth Jewell AM (Plaid Cymru, below left) for another referendum or to stay in the European Union and consider independence for Wales, and the speech by David Melding AM (Welsh Conservative, below right) immediately after her calling for immediate action to approve a Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union, which would involve compromise, but be the only way to keep the United Kingdom together and keep the liberal values of the Conservative Party alive. The whole debate can be seen on Senedd TV. These two speeches start at 0:57:20, and the editor of the Policy Bulletin recommends watching both – amongst the best speeches in the Assembly’s 20 year history.

There was also a short debate in the Assembly on the day of the Supreme Court judgement, and that debate can be viewed here. In this debate, there was discussion about the possibility of calling a Constitutional Convention or in some other way ensure discussion of the role of all the parliaments of the United Kingdom in our constitution.

WELSH GOVERNMENT LEGISLATIVE PROGRAMME 2019-21

At the end of the summer session of the Assembly, the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, announced the Welsh Government’s legislative programme for the remainder of the fifth Assembly, which ends in April 2021. The measures announced were:

  • Local Government (Wales) Bill, which will strengthen regional provision of services such as transport by local authorities working together; reform local electoral law, including votes for those aged 16 and 17; change arrangements for accountability and governance of local authorities; and introduce a general power of competence for local authorities and the larger community councils to enable them to do more than they currently can. Cytûn has responded to previous consultations leading up to this bill.
  • A General Practitioners Indemnity Bill to cover GPs in Wales.
  • Social Partnership (Wales) Bill, which will aim to strengthen the partnership between businesses, trades unions and government. Cytûn will keep an eye on this bill to see how it might affect the role of community organisations such as churches.
  • A Housing Bill, which will increase the period of notice landlords must give to their tenants to repossess their property, where the tenant is not at fault. This will be implemented at the same time as the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, passed by the fourth Assembly but not yet commenced. This will affect all residential landlords in Wales, including churches, and Cytûn has been in correspondence with the Minister for Housing and Local Government.
  • Public Transport (Wales) Bill, to change the arrangements for bus regulation. The proposed changes to regulation of taxis have been postponed to the next Assembly.
  • Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, which will introduce the new schools curriculum for Wales from September 2022. Cytûn is still at the heart of the discussions about this new exciting opportunity, and monitoring especially closely changes affecting Religious Education and Relationships and Sexuality Education.
  • A bill to establish a Tertiary Education and Research Commission, which will be responsible for higher and further education in Wales.

Welsh Government is still considering how to proceed with Brexit related legislation. Bills before the Westminster Parliament when it was unlawfully prorogued (see page 2), such as the Agriculture Bill and the Fisheries Bill, include powers for the Welsh Government and Assembly to act in these areas after Brexit. The Supreme Court judgement that Parliament was not prorogued means these bills can still be considered. Unless they are passed, some devolved powers to make the necessary arrangements in these areas will be lacking.

The Assembly is still debating some measures which began in the previous session:

  • The Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill, which passed Stage 1 (acceptance of general principles) on September 17. A number of Christian organisations support this change in the law, and others are opposed. Cytûn is monitoring the measure and is happy to give advice to our members on the legislative process.
  • The Health and Social Care (Quality and Engagement) (Wales) Bill. This will introduce some changes to Health Board procedures, and place a new duty of candour upon them. It also abolishes the current Community Health Councils and puts in its place a new national Citizens’ Voice body. The Bill is under consideration by Assembly committees prior to the first plenary debate. Cytûn and local churches have expressed concern at losing the Community Health Councils and whether the proposed Citizens’ Voice will be effective.  
  • The Wild Animals and Circuses (Wales) Bill, which will prevent the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Wales.
  • The Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill, introduced by the cross-party Assembly Commission (rather than the Government). This will reduce the voting age in Assembly elections to 16, change the name of the Assembly to Senedd, and make some other changes to the Assembly’s electoral arrangements. Amendments to the bill were discussed on September 18, and the Stage 2 plenary debate will be held on October 9.

Our Future Wales:
The Future Generations Commissioner’s national conversation

To help inform her 2020 Future Generations Report the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales launched a National Conversation in May 2019 and held four workshops in Bangor, Wrexham, Carmarthen and Ebbw Vale. The Commissioner talked about her work in delivering the Well-being of Future Generations Act and those who attended shared their stories and experiences and told us what kind of Wales they would like to see in the future.

1) Our Future Wales Workshop – Thursday 3 October, Llandrindod Wells: The next workshop will take place in Llandrindod Wells Fire Station, 13:30-16:30 Thursday 3 October when you will have an opportunity to share your stories, experiences and suggestions. If you would like to attend this event please register on SurveyMonkey.

2) Organise your own events: We would love you to hold your own events, to help you do this the Commissioner has prepared a ‘toolkit’ and resources that you can use in your own events or usual meetings and conversations to feed back to us to inform the 2020 Future Generations Report.

3) People’s Platform – online survey: We are also collecting stories, experiences and views electronically (as many times as you like) via the People’s Platform and you can complete the online survey. If you would like to be more involved in this project and help us to collect stories and ideas please complete our Expression of Interest form or respond by email. We want to involve as many organisations and people as possible who can help extend our reach especially to those within our communities who are seldom heard. 

4) Big Ideas Campaign: The CommissionerWe have also recently launched a ‘Big Ideas’ campaign which is your space to suggest your innovative ideas. These big ideas could be things you’ve seen whilst abroad, something you’ve thought of yourself or simply something innovative in your own community. We want to ensure Wales is continually learning and that we are capturing these exciting ‘Big Ideas’.

FIVE WEEKS IS TOO LONG TO WAIT

Christian charity Trussell Trust, which provides the majority of local food banks which are supported by the vast majority of churches and faith communities in Wales, is campaigning using the hashtag #5WeeksTooLong for the UK Government to shorten the period that claimants must wait before receiving their first payment of Universal Credit. At the moment, claimants have to wait five weeks before receiving any money. Some can apply for payments earlier than this, but they must be repaid. Trussell Trust’s experience is that many are obliged to use food banks during this period, and that some have to borrow at high interest rates which they then find hard to pay back.  

Trussell Trust statistics for Wales show an increase of 15% in the use of food banks in 2018-19, with a third of the food going to children. Susan Lloyd-Selby, Wales Operations Manager for the Trust, says, Wales has the highest child poverty rates in the UK and if we are to end hunger in Wales, we need to make sure everyone is anchored from being swept into poverty. The Government needs to ensure benefit payments reflect the true cost of living and work is secure, paying the real Living Wage, which would help eliminate the need for a food bank parcel altogether. While it’s great to see the Welsh Government committing funding to tackle holiday hunger through their School Holiday Enrichment Programme, food provision cannot, and must not, be a long term solution to poverty.”

FAITH IN AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Jonathan Hughes leads the Housing Justice Faith in Affordable Housing project in Wales, acting as a broker between churches, housing associations, local authorities and third sector organisations in negotiations to unlock and encourage the sale of surplus church land for development of new genuinely affordable housing.

‘Working in housing is a kind of vocation for me,’ he says. ‘It was there when I was working for housing associations, and now I am trying to do something more meaningful.’

‘At the time the role came up, I was asking how could I take my professional expertise, my personal commitments and wrap it around faith in action? It all fit together well, the right thing at the right moment.’

Before coming to Housing Justice, Jonathan worked in housing association and local authority regeneration in Wales for 25 years, most recently as Director of Development (West) for Pobl Group, one of the largest housing associations in Wales.

‘Even as a child in the 70s and 80s I’d go up to Liverpool to see relatives and saw the scale of the physical and social destitution there. It sparked something in me – something I needed to do.’

On Homeless Sunday on 13 October, Housing Justice Cymru is encouraging churches to create space in their worship for experience of homelessness, and to reflect on the impact that volunteering has on the volunteer. Volunteers of all kinds have an immense impact on provision for people experiencing homelessness. It’s an opportunity to highlight the value of the work of volunteers in each congregation. Most derive personal satisfaction from helping others, and a greater appreciation for others’ experience.

Prayers, an order of service, stories and a briefing paper on homelessness in Wales can be found on the Homeless Sunday website. Here is the Homeless Sunday Prayer, which Cytûn encourages churches to use on Sunday October 13.


The importance of organ donation decisions

Welsh Government has launched the next phase of its organ donation campaign – starting with an initial burst of TV and radio in September, with ongoing digital adverts and social media. The brief was to look at more positive aspects of donation, with a call to action to make a decision, register it and tell your family. The concept is that “organ donation shouldn’t be a guessing game” – it’s important to talk to your loved ones about your choices and register your decision online so there’s no confusion down the line.

The TV plays out several scenarios of families/ friends playing guessing games (charades etc) and the social media ads (attached) play around with this idea a bit more. You can watch the TV advert at: https://youtu.be/8qEn1LanVpA (English) / https://youtu.be/57kalPseb9I (Welsh)

Survivors invited to contribute to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

More than 4,000 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in England and Wales have shared their experiences with the Truth Project, part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Information gathered in Truth Project sessions will mean the Inquiry can get a better picture of the past to help create a safer place for children in the future.

Meanwhile, new statistics from the Inquiry have found over three quarters of victims and survivors believe they were stereotyped after speaking out about their abuse. Based on a poll of 116 survivors from the Inquiry’s Victims and Survivors Forum, the findings revealed that more than half did not report the abuse because of concerns over how they would be seen by those around them. The Forum gives survivors of child sexual abuse the opportunity to meet, discuss and contribute to the Inquiry’s work.

  • 95 percent said that encouraging a more open conversation about child sexual abuse would help stop the stereotyping of victims and survivors
  • 81 percent said they have felt stereotyped as a victim and survivor of child sexual abuse
  • 69 percent said they did not speak out about the abuse due to fears of being stereotyped

The Inquiry is calling for a more open conversation about child sexual abuse and asking survivors to come forward to contribute to its work.

Survivors of child sexual abuse who would like to share their experiences in writing, over the phone or in person can get in touch with the Inquiry’s Truth Project at www.truthproject.org.uk or by emailing share@iicsa.org.uk. Find out more about the Victims and Survivors Forum by visiting https://www.iicsa.org.uk/victims-and-survivors/attend-forum

CONTACTING CYTÛN’S POLICY OFFICER
or subscribe to the Bulletin by email

Parch./Revd Gethin Rhys – Swyddog Polisi/Policy Officer

Cytûn – Eglwysi Ynghyd yng Nghymru/Churches Together in Wales

58 Richmond Road, Caerdydd/Cardiff, CF24 3AT 
Tel:  029 2046 4378  Mudol/mobile: 07889 858062
E-bost/E-mail: gethin@cytun.cymru           @CytunNew

Hapus i gyfathrebu yn Gymraeg ac yn Saesneg. Happy to communicate in Welsh and English

Publication date: 24 September 2019. The next bulletin will be published on 20 November 2019.