The Welsh Language Commissioner and the Third Sector
Many have been asking what are the possible effects that change in legislation will have on the third sector in Wales.
The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011:-
- Gives the Welsh language official status in Wales
- Establishes the role of the Welsh Language Commissioner.
- Makes provision about standards relating to the Welsh language.
Welsh Ministers are in the process of drafting the standards, and they are expected to be in place by the end of 2014. In due course these standards will replace statutory Welsh language schemes.
How will standards affect the third sector?
The Welsh Language Commissioner recognizes the third sector’s role in promoting and facilitating the Welsh language. Third sector organizations often work directly with the public therefore it’s vitally important that they offer bilingual services in order to communicate effectively with the public. Some third sector organizations are named in the Measure as bodies which will have to comply with standards. Other third sector organizations will have to comply due to the fact they are receiving over £400,000 of public Money, or if they are acting on behalf of another organization which has to comply with standards. Traditionally, third sector organizations are innovative in indentifying their service users’ needs and operating inclusively. Many third sector organizations operate bilingually even though there is no legislative pressure on them to do so. They understand that there are many advantages to offering bilingual services.
- It conforms to their national identity
- It’s good practice
- They want to provide a Welsh Language Service in order to respect the user’s language choice
As more Welsh speakers feel confident in asking for Welsh medium Services, there will be increasing pressure on organisations to provide billingual services. The Welsh Language Commissioner aims to promote the third sector’s voluntarily use of the Welsh Language and to encourage Welsh speakers to make use of those services. The commissioner will need to complete a gap analysis to gain a better understanding of any support that the sector might need.
The Welsh Language commissioner is eager to work in partnership to avoid duplicating work in a difficult economical climate. The commissioner will also provide training for organisations to prepare them for the change in legislation.
The Commissioner’s third sector unit is in the process of preparing a work plan which will demonstrate how the Welsh Language Commissioner intends to work with the third sector in Wales 2013-2015. The Commissioner is eager to gain responses to the work plan, and will be advertising how you can have your say on its contents in a future issue of Network.