6. Debate on the Equality and Social Justice Committee Report, 'Actions, not words: towards an anti-racist Wales by 2030'

– in the Senedd at 3:36 pm on 12 June 2024.

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Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 3:36, 12 June 2024

(Translated)

Item 6 today is a debate on the Equality and Social Justice Committee report, 'Actions, not words: towards an anti-racist Wales by 2030'. I call on the committee Chair to move the motion—Jenny Rathbone.

(Translated)

Motion NDM8602 Jenny Rathbone

To propose that the Senedd:

Notes the Equality and Social Justice Committee report, 'Action, not words: towards an anti-racist Wales by 2030', laid on Friday 15 March 2024.

(Translated)

Motion moved.

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour 3:36, 12 June 2024

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. The committee kicked off this inquiry just over a year ago, by consulting community champions from across Wales. We met both online and in person, in the Pierhead building, appropriately in the heart of what used to be called Tiger Bay, one of the oldest multicultural communities in the UK and the world. Many stakeholders spoke of consultation fatigue. They didn't want to go on repeating their lived experience, they now wanted to see what was changing and what impact their advice to public bodies was having. They were clear: they wanted our inquiry to focus on action and delivery.

Today virtually every community in Wales is enriched by people from different parts of the world, a fact that we should all celebrate. However, racism is an all-too-familiar part of the day-to-day lived experience of far too many of our citizens. All the evidence we took confirms there is widespread support for the ambitious aim of an anti-racist Wales by 2030. We agree wholeheartedly with the closing sentences of the Welsh Government's guide to the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan':

'Without action nothing changes. Indeed, now we need action, not words.'

This requires the Welsh Government to lead efforts to resist rather than resign us to racial discrimination: a time for action not words—the title of our report. We are anxious this compilation of good intentions will struggle to make meaningful progress unless the complexity of the governance arrangements are simplified and the role of partner organisations are better explained.

So, the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan' rightly touches on all the activities of Government, as racism can impact every aspect of people’s lives. Our report confines itself to three strategic areas—leadership, collaboration and monitoring—and three specific operational challenges, in health, education and criminal justice. It doesn't include other policy areas, like housing; that does not mean that everything is rosy in the garden, and we may wish to come back to those issues at a later stage.

On leadership, the action plan articulates the Welsh Government’s vision for an anti-racist society. Yet too many organisations told us they did not understand how the plan would be implemented, and were unclear about who was responsible for what actions under the plan. ColegauCymru’s Yusuf Ibrahim said

'leaders need to be held...accountable for, "What are they going to do?", "How are they going to measure it?", and, "How will we know that they are successful?"...what are we doing about it if they're not getting it right?'

He said

'it's a privilege to be working in the public sector...it is not a right and it's not an entitlement, and, frankly, if people are not going to lead this well, then I think that we need to look at who's leading it across all sectors.'

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour 3:40, 12 June 2024

Recommendations 1 and 2 set out how we would like to see the Welsh Government fine-tune its enhanced leadership role. This includes narrowing and then eliminating its own ethnicity pay gap by 2025-26 and conducting a rapid review of structures to support the plan. In the committee’s view, the structures and governance arrangements set up under the plan are far too complicated and risk being overengineered. Yes, the Welsh Government has sought to clarify this, and we're grateful for that. However, in the evidence we received was the need for clarity about who is responsible for doing what. It remains to be seen whether this message has been understood.

Health and access to language interpretation is a key issue. It remains the case that family members are still being relied upon as translators due to lack of access to interpretation in medical settings. This is completely unacceptable. We heard a very powerful example from Shanti Karupiah, appearing on behalf of the Royal College of General Practitioners, and poor communication through a family member indicates how much this is a breach of a person's human rights. We cannot be expecting a child to be interpreting on intimate female history, which was probably neither clearly communicated by the woman in question in front of her child, nor was it possible for that child to be interpreting it. And it was only her prompt action to examine this person that enabled her to send this woman in the right direction. Now, it really is a breach of a person's human rights not to have that proper interpretation, and despite raising concerns in a previous report, it is clear that insufficient progress has been made.

With modern technologies, it must be possible for the Welsh Government to ensure equitable access to language interpretation for all. The Government's accepted in full recommendation 6, but it's unclear what the timeline is for implementing the HEAR 2 report, and nor does it mention the key people, the key gatekeepers in this, in health, who are the receptionists who book the appointment and should be able to ask somebody whether they wish for an interpreter if they think that is something that the patient might need. 

Just going on to monitoring the reporting of racist incidents, it is extraordinary that—. With over half our doctors and nurses being born in another country, it really is unacceptable that racism is far too often manifested in the day-to-day operations of public services. The Royal College of Nursing referred to its 2019 employment survey, where nearly half of Asian respondents, and roughly the same number of black respondents, had experienced bullying from colleagues, in comparison to only 38 per cent of white respondents, which I think is a significant figure. And Race Council Cymru told us that many people from ethnic minority backgrounds don’t have confidence that education settings have effective policies to prevent racist bullying or micro-aggressions, and that these are dealt with effectively when they do occur. Many education institutions in Wales do not have anti-racism policies or escalation mechanisms. So, recommendations 7 and 9 call on the Welsh Government to improve the system for reporting and monitoring of racism and racist incidents in healthcare and education settings. The Welsh Government has accepted in full the one regarding health, but only in part with regard to education.

In healthcare, all racist incidents are reported to Datix Cymru and there is a consistent, pan-Wales approach. For schools and colleges, however, the Welsh Government is committed only to exploring mechanisms needed to produce a consistent reporting format of racist incidents and harassment. If it is possible to have an all-Wales approach to healthcare, then we would like to see the same for schools and colleges in Wales and urge the Welsh Government to implement this, whilst appreciating that school governing bodies are independent operators and are responsible for individual school practices. Nevertheless, we really do feel that there ought to be an all-Wales approach to racism throughout our education system.

I look forward to hearing other people's comments and the Minister's response. 

Photo of Altaf Hussain Altaf Hussain Conservative 3:45, 12 June 2024

I would like to place on record my thanks to the Chair of my former committee, the excellent clerking team and all the witnesses who made this inquiry possible. When the Welsh Government introduced this anti-racist action plan, I made it clear that, while I supported the vision of an anti-racist Wales, the plan was not going to deliver it. It appears that I was not alone in my concerns. 

I want to make it clear at the outset that I don’t believe that Wales is a racist nation. We are one of the most tolerant nations on the planet, but racism does, sadly, still exist. It is not the overt kind that is prevalent in our nation; it is the more covert structural racism. I say 'structural racism' because I agree with Reni Eddo-Lodge. She chooses the term 'structural' rather than 'institutional' racism, because she thinks it is built into a space much broader than in our more traditional institutions. Structural racism is impenetrable and goes unnoticed. It is not just about personal prejudice, but collectively affects our bias. It is the kind of racism that has the power to drastically impact people's life chances. We are the most racially tolerant country in the English-speaking world and only slightly behind Sweden and Brazil in terms of tolerance. But when we think that true racism only exists in the hearts of evil people, when we think that racism is about moral values, we ignore the fact that it is really about the survival of the systems of power. The hidden nature of structural racism means it is often difficult to tackle.

The Welsh Government’s anti-racist action plan has made it mandatory to teach black, Asian and minority ethnic histories and experiences as part of Welsh history lessons. Yet only a tiny percentage of teachers are from BAME backgrounds. Last year, only 0.2 per cent of the newly-qualified teachers were black. Just 44 out of the nearly 1,500 newly-qualified teachers had a BAME background. How can we possibly hope to put an end to racism, discrimination and, ultimately, hate crime via education and celebrations of diversity if our teachers are not representative? But it goes deeper than that. Witnesses told the Equality and Social Justice Committee that schools and educators appear oblivious to their obligations to work towards an anti-racist Wales. Just over a quarter of teachers were aware of the work undertaken by Professor Charlotte Williams in this field, and fewer—one in five teachers—were confident they understood how anti-racism will fit into the curriculum. It’s not good enough. 

Welsh Government are great at planning, but abysmal at delivering upon those plans. I urge the Welsh Government to accept all the recommendations of this report in full, not just in principle. Without tangible data, targets and deliverables, the anti-racist action plan will do nothing to address structural racism in Wales. Diolch yn fawr.

Photo of Sioned Williams Sioned Williams Plaid Cymru 3:49, 12 June 2024

(Translated)

Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in Wales face serious and unacceptable challenges and disadvantage. And for too long, they have been hearing that there will be a change in this regard, through action plans and statements from the Welsh Government. But they told us very clearly that they don't feel or see that change is happening. This was clear from the evidence that we heard as a committee. Although we agreed with the aspirations and aims of the anti-racist action plan, it was absolutely clear that there was an action gap, and that progress was too slow to ensure that people in Wales do not experience racism and the impact of race-based prejudice and inequality in their everyday lives.

While change is needed at all levels and in all parts of society to achieve this, one of the main messages of our report was that we need better leadership, dedicated funding and better evaluation of progress by the Welsh Government if we really want to see a difference. I'm therefore disappointed that the Government, although accepting our recommendation to try to ensure that its own workforce is, for example, more diverse, says that restrictions on the available budget are having an impact on opportunities to recruit. The Government must do more to start at its own feet in leading by example.

A lack of funding is also seen by organisations that are absolutely fundamental to ensuring action, such as the local government association and health boards, as a barrier, and it's frustrating that the Government cannot provide an analysis of the resources available to support the plan, in line with our first recommendation.

I think it's worth quoting Ceri Harris from Betsi Cadwaladr health board, and this is what she told us about the need for additional resources to support an action plan:

Photo of Sioned Williams Sioned Williams Plaid Cymru 3:51, 12 June 2024

'We are expecting a lot from people for nothing, and so we need to value that time. If we want to take this seriously, then you do need to put your money where your mouth is on this one. And so if we want to achieve an anti-racist Wales by 2030, then we need to have those resources.... I've been working in equality for 20 years. I literally have to beg, steal and borrow money to do different initiatives. I pay for initiatives out of my own pocket because it's important to me.'

Photo of Sioned Williams Sioned Williams Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

As a committee, we saw in particular the need to focus firmly on and drive robust change in the areas of education, health and criminal justice. I would now like to focus for the rest of my time on the final recommendation, which is that the Welsh Government should establish a criminal justice observatory for Wales and seek further opportunities to collaborate with the academic world in the context of the action plan.

The reason behind this recommendation is one of the clearest signs of systemic inequality based on race and racism, namely the fact that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are over-represented at all levels of the criminal justice system in Wales. Based on the most recent statistics that we have, in 2021, 51 out of every 10,000 black people in Wales were in prison, compared to 14 white people, and more black people were also under the care of the probation services. The length of sentences is also longer for black people than white defendants. In the same way, the limited data available confirm high levels of disproportionality in the use of stop and search by Welsh police forces.

Thanks to the innovative and vital research of Dr Robert Jones from the Wales Governance Centre, a clearer picture of the disproportionality in terms of race in the criminal justice system has been highlighted, and this emphasises the need for the Welsh Government to pursue an anti-racism agenda in this area. Freedom of information requests had to be used to obtain much of this information, and there are difficulties that arise from the fact that the data are not available. Indeed, if you read the special publication The Welsh Criminal Justice System: On the Jagged Edge by Dr Robert Jones and Professor Richard Wyn Jones, you will understand why. It is entirely related to the fact that the criminal justice system is not under our control.

It's a disgrace that Yvette Cooper has today stated clearly that there won't be a change in that regard under a Labour Government in Westminster, running counter to a long list of reports, the stated opinion of the Government and the evidence that we heard as a committee about the injustice and harm that this causes to, for example, black, Asian and minority ethnic groups. I'd like to know whether the Cabinet Secretary condemns those comments.

We have to accept in principle the need to support and develop work in this area in terms of data gathering, and the Government accepts that in principle. But I'd like to ask, to finish, for a specific update on what the Government is doing to promote and support this essential research, and ask for a commitment from the new Cabinet Secretary, with a change in Government more than likely by July, as to the case that she will be making to Keir Starmer on ensuring that policing and justice powers are devolved. Do you agree that the current situation is unsustainable—

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 3:55, 12 June 2024

(Translated)

Sioned, you need to conclude now, please.

Photo of Sioned Williams Sioned Williams Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

—yes, this is my final sentence—unjust and inconsistent in terms of the creation of an anti-racist Wales?

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour

Jane Dodds. No, Jane, you’re still muted at the moment. Now you can go.

Photo of Jane Dodds Jane Dodds Liberal Democrat

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Thank you so much. I’d like to start by expressing my gratitude to members of the committee and also to those individuals and organisations who took part and gave such valuable evidence to me and to us as a committee. I’d like to also acknowledge the harsh reality that racial inequality persists here in Wales. Despite pockets of progress, people from ethnic minority backgrounds continue to face disparities in housing, education, employment, healthcare and, as we’ve heard, in the criminal justice system. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has noted areas of positive change, but we cannot rest on our laurels. The Welsh Government’s anti-racist action plan sets forth an ambitious yet necessary vision of achieving an anti-racist Wales by 2030, one that we all welcome, because it needs to be about dismantling the racist framework that Wales has currently.

Complacency remains the enemy of progress and the committee’s report highlights the formidable challenges that the Welsh Government needs to surmount when it comes to decisive leadership, active collaboration and detailed monitoring. It is therefore disheartening to read the Welsh Government’s response to the committee’s recommendations, which seemingly seeks to downplay its leadership responsibilities in its willingness to accept our recommendations either in part or principle without following through on key actions. For example, the outright rejection of recommendation 3 is a missed opportunity. By stating that the responsibility lies solely with EHRC as the regulator to improve strategic equality plans, the Welsh Government appears to be abdicating its role in proactively driving progress on this front.

Furthermore, regarding recommendation 4, the decision by the Welsh Government to rely solely on the resource collection on gov.wales rather than a dedicated stand-alone microsite will limit the accessibility and visibility of these crucial resources and hinder transparency.

I would like to just focus my brief contribution upon the education sector, which we all heard remains a critical battleground in the fight against racial inequality. As the children’s commissioner highlighted in their report last November, there is an urgent need for clarity on how schools should handle racist incidents, and a concerning lack of consistency across local authorities in logging and reporting incidents. The report further paints a picture of schools as hostile environments where bullying is rife, with many ethnic minorities lacking confidence in the effectiveness of policies to prevent racist bullying and micro-aggressions. This reality is totally unacceptable and it undermines the very principles of an inclusive and equitable education system. It is therefore troubling that the Welsh Government’s response to recommendation 9, which calls for a consistent national system for reporting incidents, lacks the urgency and conviction that this crisis demands.

By rejecting the need for concrete timelines and binding commitments, the Government further undermines confidence and risks allowing this blight to fester. I therefore urge the Cabinet Secretary to provide reassurances that the Welsh Government is serious about tackling this issue and work with the Cabinet Secretary for Education. We need also to look at data, and, as you’ve heard from my former colleague Altaf Hussain from the committee, and from Sioned Williams, I’d like to hear more from the Cabinet Secretary about what consideration the Welsh Government makes towards the creation of comprehensive systems to collect data, particularly around school exclusions, tracking ethnicity to identify patterns of discrimination, and review schools with high exclusion rates.

I would like to finish by quoting the late Nelson Mandela, which I believe has a particular resonance when it comes to the role education plays in anti-racism: no-one is born hating another person because of the colour of his or her skin, or his or her background, or his or her religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes naturally to the human heart rather than its opposite.

I hope that the Welsh Government will demonstrate the leadership that we need to take action to root out this hate. Thank you. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour 4:00, 12 June 2024

I would like to begin by congratulating the Equality and Social Justice Committee on its report and those who engaged with the committee in this work, and, obviously, those who gave evidence. I would like to highlight the Gypsy, Traveller, Roma community, Dirprwy Lywydd, because I think their voices are often unheard when we discuss prejudice and discrimination. If we are to move forward to an anti-racist Wales, we need to combat discrimination against all sections of our society here in Wales, very much including the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma community. It still seems to be the case, unfortunately, that some people feel able to discriminate against those communities, whereas they wouldn't do so with regard to other minorities. We need to tackle the underlying issues that make that reality possible.

Education, as ever, I think is absolutely clear, and the Children's Commissioner for Wales has found that there's an unacceptable level of bullying with regard to Gypsy and Traveller children, and the level of exclusions is way beyond what we see for the rest of the population. That community is not represented amongst teaching staff, or, indeed, resources, largely, that are used in school. There's a real job to be done to educate children generally in our schools, so that they are not prey to these attitudes and this discrimination. So, there is much to be done in the field of education if we are to tackle the cultural situation that faces our Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities.

I very much welcome the fact that I know Welsh Government did provide extra funding recently to local authorities to combat some of these issues, but, clearly, an awful lot more remains to be done. Another aspect of the problems faced is around housing. The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 provides a legal duty on local authorities to assess the accommodation needs of the Gypsy, Traveller communities, but, recently, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales found very worrying failures in Welsh Government to properly discharge its own duties and to ensure that local authorities are discharging theirs. In the last financial year, we saw nil expenditure from the Welsh Government pot of money that is there for local authorities to provide sites for the Gypsy, Traveller community. It's another clear example, I think, of how we are letting down these people—

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour

Yes, indeed, Gareth.

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies Conservative

Obviously, in north Wales, and I've raised it particularly in the past, in Denbighshire, for example, the Welsh Government rules stipulate that it's got to be within a certain radius of major road routes, so, in Denbighshire, the issue has been because Denbighshire is the only local authority in north Wales that doesn't have a Gypsy and Traveller site within the county, because in Denbighshire you've got a 6 mile belt to choose from, which, actually, in geographical terms, doesn't encapsulate the whole county. So, because the A55 basically runs through the middle of the county, or more in the north of the county, it doesn't bring that level of fairness that would have been maybe the case in other counties, because the A55 only runs through a very small part of that county. So, in those terms, would you accept that, sometimes, maybe a more regional approach could be adopted to encapsulate some of those geographical realities around that, on a sort of logistical level?

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour 4:05, 12 June 2024

No, I do not think I would, actually, Gareth, because it's a responsibility and, indeed, as I say, a legal duty on all local authorities in Wales—all local authorities—not on a regional basis, but all individual local authorities to properly assess the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers and to provide for them. What we see all too often, I'm afraid, is stigma, discrimination and prejudice coming into play and, obviously, we do not want to see that in any part of Wales.

Dirprwy Lywydd, I hope you'll give me—

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour

I'm going to give you an extra two minutes, because it took two minutes.

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour

Thank you very much. A further example, I think—and again, it's allied to housing—is the way that the planning system operates. There is real prejudice, again, and discrimination, unfortunately, in the way our planning system works. And that's the case with regard to larger sites and the responsibilities of local authorities, but also smaller sites. And many members of the Gypsy, Traveller community own land, which they would like to develop for their own housing needs, and they're small sites. Very often, they do pose fewer challenges than the larger sites, which are often not ideal for the Gypsy, Traveller community, nor indeed for the local authority and neighbours, because of the nature of the sites. And very often, I must say, those sites—and there's an example here in Cardiff, isn't there, on Rover Way—are sited in the most inappropriate places, where I don't think any of us would like to live, but nonetheless, the Gypsy, Traveller communities are expected to reside there.

So, with regard to the planning system and those smaller sites, I think one very important way forward would be to look at how the planning system works, to make sure that there's no prejudice, no discrimination, no stigma at all involved in the operation of that planning system, and to look at these smaller sites particularly, because I know from my own engagement with the Gypsy, Traveller community, through the cross-party group on race equality, which I chair, and also from chairing committees here in the Senedd, very often it's those smaller sites that the community would really like to see being developed and being allowed right across Wales. Diolch yn fawr, Dirprwy Lywydd.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:07, 12 June 2024

(Translated)

I call on the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and Social Justice, Lesley Griffiths.

Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour

Diolch, Deputy Presiding Officer. I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to respond on behalf of the Welsh Government regarding the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan' inquiry, and I very much welcome the Equality and Social Justice Committee's report, 'Action, not words: towards an anti-racist Wales by 2030', and I very carefully have considered the recommendations. I really want to thank my predecessor, Jane Hutt, who's in the Siambr listening to this debate, for her unwavering commitment to the action plan and I look forward to continuing her work with equal passion to ensure a truly anti-racist Wales.

Our 2022-23 action plan annual report shows that, whilst the impact of the plan may not yet be as apparent in the lived experiences of black, Asian and minority ethnic people as we would want, significant structural foundations have been laid for long-term change, and tangible progress has been achieved. The action plan is significantly different from previous ones, both in its development and its implementation. It was co-produced with black, Asian and minority ethnic people and right at the heart of it is the governance structure that is going to be the external accountability group. That's co-chaired by the Permanent Secretary and by Professor Emmanuel Ogbonna, and comprises 11 black and minority ethnic diversity representatives and eight race experts. This focus on lived experience makes the plan stronger, I think, than any previous plans to tackle racial inequality.

The group holds Welsh Government directly to account through external accountability group meetings and active roles in policy sub-groups. Our regional forums will add a further layer of monitoring and accountability, as they will directly link Welsh Government to grass-roots ethnic minority communities and individuals impacted by policy changes.

A refreshed reiteration of the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan' is under way, covering 2024-26. It will refine existing goals and actions to strengthen implementation and measure impact, and it signals the bold vision of achieving an anti-racist Wales by 2030, with goals and actions spanning the whole of Government. The race disparity evidence unit was established in January 2022. It's developing a framework to measure and evaluate the impact of the action plan across the Welsh Government and the wider public sector meaningfully, and I think the point that Jane Dodds made around—it really does need to be a collective endeavour, and I don't think that that just means across Government; absolutely, it is with every Minister and Cabinet Secretary in the Welsh Government, but also in collaboration with our public bodies.

The unit I've just referred to does represent the Welsh Government on the criminal justice in Wales anti-racism plan's data collection and performance work stream. Promoting access to disaggregated justice data does remain a priority for the Welsh Government, and that work complements and builds on the work that Sioned Williams referred to, delivered by Richard Wyn Jones and Rob Jones, who've highlighted the value of transparent and accessible data on the justice system in Wales. Moreover, the Welsh Government has developed interactive data dashboards to compile and disseminate Welsh justice data, and a youth justice dashboard has been published with more to follow. These dashboards present publicly available data from the Ministry of Justice in a very accessible and impactful way.

In health and social care, the establishment of an implementation and challenge board, chaired by Judith Paget, the chief executive of NHS Wales and director general of the health and social services group here in Welsh Government, has provided strong and robust governance and accountability to accelerate the action plan's implementation. I think what this demonstration of leadership at the highest level has ensured is that anti-racist actions retain a very high profile. The board has invited external partners and stakeholders to present the barriers and challenges that they face with the action plan's implementation, and to act as a critical friend. The Welsh Government is also working closely with Social Care Wales to ensure diversity in their public appointments through their current board recruitment exercise, and the Welsh Government's social services directorate is reviewing the membership of all stakeholder groups to set high expectations of representation from ethnic minority communities. 

Wales is the first country in the UK to make the teaching of black, Asian and minority ethnic histories mandatory in the Curriculum for Wales. It's important for our educational practitioners and young people to understand that these histories belong to us all. The Welsh Government is also fully considering the Children's Commissioner for Wales's recommendations in her spotlight report on children's experiences of racism in secondary schools. For example, we are strengthening our existing 'Rights, respect, equality' statutory anti-bullying guidance for schools, and this will be done by updating the current guidance to advise education settings on effectively addressing prejudice-related bullying and harassment, and that includes racist incidents. Schools and educational settings have a vital role in actively creating anti-racist conditions to ensure that the experiences and opportunities of today are not marred by the inequalities and racism of the past.

I have already responded to the committee's recommendations, and I want to emphasise our ongoing work to refresh the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan'. We are fully committed to enhancing future iterations and addressing the gaps that Sioned Williams referred to, and that have been identified by the committee. My immediate focus is on publishing the refreshed plan this year. Our next annual report will look at the impact made across various policy areas within the Welsh Government. Strengthening collaboration with partners across the wider public and third sectors in Wales is also a key priority.

Our purpose is clear: to make meaningful and measurable changes to the lives of black, Asian and minority ethnic people by tackling racism; in fact, to all communities that experience racism and prejudice, and John Griffiths very eloquently identified Gypsy, Traveller—

Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour

Can I just finish this? John Griffiths very eloquently identified Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities, which absolutely do face that. Yes, I'll take an intervention.

Photo of Sioned Williams Sioned Williams Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

Thank you, Cabinet Secretary. I just wanted to go back to the point, you mentioned the work and the efforts of the Welsh Government, and your officials, as well as your partners, within the justice blueprints, for example, to tackle what the report describes, but do you accept that the current constitutional arrangements, in the words of Dr Robert Jones, are a significant threat to the vision of the anti-racist action plan?

Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour 4:15, 12 June 2024

I think it's really important that we work collaboratively. I'm not aware of the specific words that you referred to, but I think it is really important that we work together. You can say this about many aspects of policy development: the Welsh Government can't do this on their own. And I hope I've described and explained the work that we're doing is not just across Government, it's with all our public bodies. Everyone has a part to play in relation to this. I'm committed to tackling systemic and cultural racism in all forms as a priority. What we need to do is absolutely use every lever available. We all need to take a leading role in eradicating racism here in Wales.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour

(Translated)

I now call on Jenny Rathbone to reply to the debate.

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour

Thank you very much. First, I just want to thank the clerks and the research service for the excellent support they gave to the committee. I also want to thank all members of the committee for their commitment to social justice, including the three Members who have left the committee since we published this report, and they are Ken Skates and Sarah Murphy, who obviously are not in a position to contribute to this debate today, and Altaf Hussain, who is a wonderful advocate of anti-racism. We've been very grateful for Altaf Hussain and hope to work with him as an ongoing thing. I also want to pay tribute to Jane Hutt, who's been a tireless advocate of equality and social justice, and who has been leading on this until very recently. 

Altaf Hussain talks about structural racism, which is impenetrable and goes unnoticed. Yes, we're one of the most tolerant countries in the western world, and only marginally behind Sweden, but that doesn't mean to say we haven't got to work even harder to achieve the anti-racist Wales that the plan foresees, because not to do so is to not have the full support of all the talent that is in Wales. It impacts on our economy, on our education and every other aspect of our cohesion in our communities, so this is a really significant issue for all of us. 

I think Altaf highlights a really serious issue, which is the fact that only 0.2 per cent of our teachers are black, because, realistically, how can we address racism that children have brought into the schools, learnt from the adults in their lives? No child is born racist. In fact, they are completely blind to difference of any sort when they're two, three, four or five, but, later on, they start to hear and adopt the attitudes of other people in their lives, and it's only in school that we can really address this. So, it's absolutely vital, particularly when so many teachers as a profession lack the confidence to call out racism in the classroom, which is, obviously, where it occurs.

This is something that absolutely has to change, and can change, because we used to have a huge amount of misogyny and gender-based violence in the language that people were using in schools. There's a lot less misogyny going on now, because everybody's recognised that that is something we need to tackle. But we obviously have to change the whole culture of our teaching and learning if we're going to reap the benefits of the new curriculum, particularly around relationships, values and ethics, which we must embrace if we're going to achieve an anti-racist Wales.

Jane Dodds also spoke about the importance of tackling the suffering by children and cites the evidence marshalled in the children's commissioner's report around bullying and microaggression. Clearly, it is urgent for the Cabinet Secretary for social justice, I think, to discuss with the education Cabinet Secretary how we're going to address this. Complacency is the enemy of progress, and we really have to address it.

I'm so delighted that John Griffiths stood up and spoke about the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma community. What a champion you are for action on discrimination against the community that has the worst outcomes on educational attainment and the highest numbers of exclusions, as also indicated by the children's commissioner. We really do have to act on this. No child should be excluded from school, because that is an absolute guaranteed pathway into the criminal justice system at secondary school level, or into the mental health pathway. So we cannot go on like this.

On housing, we have to come back to this. I note Gareth Davies's report, and I'm sure we'll want to look carefully and forensically at why it is that Denbighshire does not have a Traveller site. It can't just be to do with the A55 only being in—[Interruption.] I'm not sure I've got time.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:20, 12 June 2024

I'll give you time, don't worry.

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies Conservative

The issue I was highlighting was a constituency issue that was in St Asaph in 2018. They tried to make progress in terms of trying to get that, and I would urge you to do some research on some of the local activity. As that constituency Member for St Asaph, whose job it is to be here and represent the views of my constituents, that was the issue I'm trying to highlight, in that the geographical reality of Denbighshire makes that a challenge. It’s nothing about the issue. It's more of a practical and logistical argument I'm trying to make.

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour 4:21, 12 June 2024

We need to take a forensic look at this, either in the Equality and Social Justice Committee or in the Local Government and Housing Committee, because we cannot go on like this, not spending the money that has been allocated for addressing the housing needs of this particular community.

I applaud Sioned for her equality campaigning for 20 years. We definitely have to put our money where our mouth is, particularly around housing. But I'm very grateful to Sioned for raising another important issue I didn't have time for in my earlier remarks, which is around the systematic discrimination and over-representation of ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system, at all levels of the criminal justice system, which is truly shocking and is not unrelated to the levels of exclusions that I mentioned earlier. Exclusion is most definitely a guaranteed passport to either mental illness or the criminal justice system, because you are basically turfing kids out of school and saying, ‘There is no future for you’. And Dr Robert Jones's evidence and statistics are there in plain sight, so nobody can say we didn't know.

I just want to highlight recommendation 10, which is around the need to establish an observatory to pull together all the research of all nine universities, because in all of them there are people doing work related to criminal justice, and it seems to me that we need to have a dashboard where we can refer to the best available evidence on this really important subject.

Lesley Griffiths, you were very clear, and you gave good evidence, that there are very high-level people leading on the on the task and finish group, leading on the health services, and that you are paying special attention to the children's commissioner’s points, and how we are going to address and respect the rights of all groups in our society. We are delighted, I'm sure, to hear that your next annual report will look at impact, because that is absolutely what we want to see, and that is what our stakeholders told us they want to see. So, we really look forward to that, and sharing it and discussing some of the challenges that no doubt that will throw up.

In closing, I want to emphasise the title of our report, which is ‘Action, not words’. There's nothing inevitable about progress. It requires hard work, bravery and determination. We all support the aim. We absolutely all support the aim, across all parties. But we need the Welsh Government to plot the route we are due to travel. If we are to achieve this by 2030, which is only less than six years away, then each of us will need to be active, not passive, in this endeavour.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:24, 12 June 2024

(Translated)

The proposal is to note the committee's report. Does any Member object? No. Therefore, the motion is agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.

(Translated)

Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.