The work of ensuring compliance with the Standards is coordinated at The Electoral Commission in Wales, with support and input from colleagues and teams across the organisation. In accordance with Standard 152, we have prepared this report to demonstrate our compliance with the Welsh Language Standards during the 2019-20 financial year. This provides a valuable opportunity for us demonstrate our organisational commitment to the Welsh language, and its importance to our work in Wales.
Service delivery, policy making and operational standards
In the 2019-20 period, the Electoral Commission Wales Office had six full-time members of staff, with two members of staff fluent in Welsh. An audit of the Welsh language ability of all staff working for the Electoral Commission in Wales was conducted recently, with staff assessing their own language ability.
Levels range from 0 to 5 (0 = no knowledge, 5 = fluent), in three categories (listening and speaking; reading and understanding; writing). Individual members of staff are not identified, but are referred to by number.
|Staff member||Listening and speaking||Reading and understanding||Writing|
All members of staff can greet others through the medium of Welsh and do so when answering every phone call. They can also refer stakeholders or members of the public to our Welsh-speaking staff and our Welsh-language services.
As well as the six full-time members of staff, two temporary members of staff were employed between November and December 2019 to work on the helpline for the UK Parliamentary General Election (UKPGE). Both employees were fluent in Welsh and were therefore able to provide a Welsh-language service to anyone contacting us using the helpline number.
Staff in Wales have the opportunity to attend Welsh-language lessons with the organisation’s support, and are encouraged to improve their skills.
We have approximately 140 members of staff working across the UK.
No member of staff attended training through the medium of Welsh over the last year. However, in accordance with Standard 124, members of staff are aware that training courses offered internally are available in Welsh if desired.
Over the last year, we advertised the roles of:
- Senior Communications Officer (full-time post)
- Public Information Officer (fixed term)
Both roles were advertised externally and bilingually, with Welsh-language skills noted as being desirable.
The two external, temporary posts mentioned above were advertised with Welsh-language skills as essential, and fluent Welsh speakers were appointed to both positions.
We did not receive any complaints in relation to our compliance with Welsh Language Standards between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020. This includes any complaints regarding service delivery, policy making or operational matters. This encompasses any complaints made directly to the office of the Electoral Commission in Wales or to our other offices in the UK.
This report covers the period 1st April 2019 to 31st March 2020. Early in the next reporting period, we received notification of a complaint to the Welsh Language Commissioner about our application of the Welsh Language Standards in our handling of a party registration application. Shortly afterwards, we also received a pre-action letter on possible judicial review proceedings in relation to our decision on the same application. Having considered the points in the letter, we decided to consider the registration application afresh to ensure all proper process and considerations were addressed, and are in the process of doing this. Therefore no judicial review proceedings were brought. As you will be aware, the Welsh Language Commissioner is conducting an investigation into some issues raised in the complaint and we are keen to provide him with every assistance and to work with him on any changes we need to make to our processes.
We have put measures in place to ensure that members of the public can submit their complaint through the medium of Welsh, and that any responses to complaints received in Welsh are made in Welsh and that submitting a complaint in Welsh will not lead to delay.
There are measures in place to ensure that all correspondence with stakeholders in Wales is issued bilingually. In addition to this, there are measures in place to ensure that all correspondence we receive in Welsh is answered in Welsh.
We record the preferred language of stakeholders in Wales, and ensure that communication takes place accordingly. Other stakeholders are asked to indicate their preferred language when this is not known.
To ensure that Welsh stakeholders are greeted in Welsh, Electoral Commission staff in Wales have received training on greeting people over the phone in Welsh/bilingually. There are measures in place to ensure that all members of the public who contact us by email or phone can do so in Welsh and that doing so will not lead to delay. If a member of the public telephones and wishes to communicate in Welsh, they can do so. If a Welsh speaker is not available, the person will be given the choice of a call-back as soon as a Welsh speaker is available.
We have a designated Welsh-language phone number that transfers directly to a Welsh-speaking member of staff.
All publicity and advertising material targeted to Welsh audiences, or containing information relating to Wales, is available and produced bilingually. In addition to this, a substantial amount of publicity and advertising material that does not necessarily affect Wales or that is not necessarily targeted at Welsh audiences is also translated – this is mainly to ensure that our website is bilingual.
All campaigns in Wales, or that relate to Wales, are bilingual. In the year 2019-20, for example, work began on the bilingual ‘Croeso i’ch Pleidlais / Welcome to Your Vote’ campaign aimed at newly enfranchised voters in Wales in light of the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act 2020 extending the franchise to 16 and 17 olds and qualifying foreign citizens for Senedd elections. That campaign is now live.
When we arrange for visitors to attend meetings, there are measures in place to ensure that these visitors receive a service through the medium of Welsh, if they desire, and regarding which they proactively notified. We ask them whether they require a Welsh language reception service and ensure that this will be available if required; we also ask whether stakeholders wish to contribute in Welsh in the meeting. Simultaneous translation is also available. This language choice for meetings is then recorded and maintained, so that those who have chosen Welsh-language provision do not have to request it again before each new meeting.
The Electoral Commission in Wales is a tenant of Companies House and, if they do not have sufficient Welsh speakers to provide a full reception service in Welsh, we ensure that Welsh speakers are available to greet any visitors attending meetings who have indicated that they wish to receive a service through the medium of Welsh.
All posts/tweets relating to Wales or affecting Wales are bilingual on our social media accounts. There is one bilingual Twitter account (@ElectoralWales) that is managed by the Electoral Commission in Wales. Information specifically for the audience in Wales is generated from this account. Tweets are created bilingually, either within an individual tweet or through a separate tweet shared simultaneously.
If anybody contacts us in Welsh through social media, there are measures in place to ensure that they receive a response in Welsh and that this does not lead to a delay.
All guidance and other content that pertains to Wales is made available bilingually, and both English and Welsh versions are published simultaneously so that there is no gap in Welsh-language provision. Where updates are made, Welsh versions are updated at the same time as English versions. Where Welsh-language provision is available, it is proactively promoted, and the option for corresponding Welsh content is displayed clearly on English-language content.
We have produced a policy on the internal use of Welsh in the Electoral Commission in Wales. The document indicates that there are measures in place to ensure that any member of staff working in the Electoral Commission in Wales, if he/she so wishes, can receive services internally through the medium of Welsh.
This document is available to all our members of staff via our intranet. There are also relevant policies relating to the internal use of Welsh in HR sections of our intranet.
On 18 January 2019, we launched a new HR system, which is fully bilingual. All of our human resources policies have been translated and are available bilingually, and there is a specific section on our intranet for Welsh language matters generally, including promotion
To coincide with the launch of the new system, a message was sent informing all of our staff that the system was now available bilingually; and all new members of staff going through the induction process are introduced to the new HR system, and informed that it is available in Welsh.
Information relating to all stages of the recruitment process is bilingual when in relation to the Wales Office.
Information relating to any grants or tenders in Wales are promulgated and promoted bilingually, and those who undertake them can do so in Welsh, if they choose.
Electoral Commission events in Wales are advertised and promoted in Welsh and English, and Welsh language provision is available. In addition to this, information in these events is bilingual, such as leaflets, signs, and so forth.
Policy making standards are contained in our ‘Equality Impact Assessments’ document. This document is available to all members of staff on our intranet. The intention is that the impact of any new policy on the Welsh language is measured through the Equality Impact Assessment procedure.
A review of how this work is undertaken is due in the 20-21 financial year and an update will be provided to the Welsh Language Commissioner in due course.
Further details and good practice
Welsh Language Advisory Group
The Welsh Language Advisory Group is a forum to discuss Welsh and Welsh language electoral matters. It aims to ensure that the Welsh language is treated on the basis of equality in matters relating to electoral legislation and guidance, and supports our commitment to Welsh language issues in the wider electoral community. The group consists of electoral registration officers, returning officers, electoral administrators and members of the Welsh Government and the Senedd.
The group meets two to three times a year. One of the Welsh Language Advisory Group's significant accomplishments has been the creation of the Electoral Glossary. It also works to ensure that Welsh-language electoral services are available and promulgated, including forms and ballot papers.
During the 2019-20 period we provided guidance in Welsh for the unscheduled UKPGE in December 2019; we ensured that relevant information for both voters and electoral administrators was available in Welsh at the same time as the corresponding English-language material. Likewise, we provided guidance and information in Welsh for the May European Parliament Elections in accordance with our obligations.
Terminology and the Electoral Glossary
In addition to the information on the internal use of Welsh policy, we provide useful Welsh terms and sentences to all members of staff. These terms will encourage staff who do not have Welsh language skills to try and greet people in Welsh and use Welsh on a daily basis.
As noted above, the Welsh Language Advisory Group has created the ‘Electoral Glossary’, which is a glossary of Welsh electoral terms that can be used by the entire electoral community in Wales. The glossary will ensure that all those involved in managing and running elections can use the same terminology in electoral documents, thereby ensuring consistency across Wales.
Looking forward and next steps
Our new website was launched on 30 July 2019. While the existing website had already been fully bilingual, the development of a new website provided the opportunity to re-examine the Welsh language pages, ensure that the language and terminology is consistent, and address any accessibility issues in order to provide an enhanced user experience. Welsh content can be accessed by a clearly marked ‘Cymraeg’ option.
The new website also provides an opportunity to increase the use of Welsh language services, as the new system is more accessible and allows users to browse the website more easily through the medium of Welsh. Several members have staff at the Wales Office are able to update or amend the Welsh pages instantaneously, should the need arise.
Our new website aids in:
- increasing the use of Welsh language services
- increasing the accessibility and visibility of such services
Over the next year, language awareness sessions and sessions on how to greet people in Welsh are planned. These sessions will be available to any member of our staff, with those members of staff dealing with the public being encouraged to attend. This is in addition to the incidental use of Welsh (such as greetings) when communicating with English-speaking members of staff, and encouragement to use Welsh in such a way as to foster a continuing awareness of the language.