People who can’t or don’t want to go online should not miss out, says AM

People who can’t, or don’t feel comfortable with accessing the internet should not miss out on essential advice and services, says Rhun ap Iorwerth AM.

Rhun used an individual member’s debate in the Senedd this week to highlight that more and more services are only available online and that this can lead to digital exclusion, and people losing out on deals when it comes to shopping or choosing utility suppliers.

Speaking in the Senedd yesterday, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“This isn’t some old-fashioned opinion; we’re not rejecting new technology. I’m more than comfortable, myself, using online services, and like so many people, technology of this kind has certainly made my life easier in very many ways.

“But as more and more services do go online—banking services, postal services, bus pass renewal systems, even the courts—more and more people are at risk of being excluded. And I do see from casework in my own office that this can cause real anxiety for some people, particularly older people.”

He referred to the recent example by Welsh Government of people having to apply to renew their bus passes online. An unwise decision, says Rhun, especially given the target audience for this.

“It became clear very early on by speaking to constituents, that people were deeply concerned about having to do this online, and many didn’t know where to start. And we heard stories about people losing sleep as they were so concerned about how they were going to renew their bus pass because they were so reliant on buses.

“My office therefore offered to help people to make their online application, and since September, my office has dealt with over 300 bus pass renewal applications through the Transport for Wales website. Three hundred people who either didn’t feel comfortable in making the application themselves or didn’t have access to the internet in order to do that had they not come to my office.”

He also referred to banking services and to the many examples across Wales of bank branches closing, forcing people to do their banking online:

“You will hear the bank saying, ‘Well, don’t worry, people can use the branch in the next town’, but then they’ll close that one too. And in addition to that, you have the situation that we saw with Barclays saying, ‘Well, our customers can’t withdraw funds from the post office either.’ I was very pleased that we had managed to put pressure on them to scrap that particular idea. But it does demonstrate the lack of commitment among the major banks to think about their customers, particularly older customers, and specifically in rural areas.

“That’s why I’m calling on Government to speak with banks, businesses, services and other organisations to make sure that customers are not isolated if only online services are offered.”

Responding on behalf of the Government, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Service Julie Morgan:

“Although we recognise that not everyone is comfortable with the internet, we want to support people to make informed choices about how they participate safely in a world that is increasingly digital. So, we do want to encourage people to use the internet, because we know that the advantages are there, but we must provide for those people who don’t want to use the internet or are not able to use the internet. So, we are taking efforts to encourage the use of the internet: Digital Communities Wales’s digital heroes initiative has trained over 5,000 young volunteers to help older people in hospitals and care homes get online, and another innovative project is the Vale tablet loan scheme, which is allowing residents across the Vale of Glamorgan to borrow internet-enabled but secure iPads from local libraries almost as easily as they would a book.

“I think the key principle of all this is that we should design public services around the needs of the end user, and typically this will mean a service that works digitally but also meets the needs of end users who are digitally excluded, and that is what the Welsh Government wants to do.”

Closing the debate, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“Technology is racing forward. A huge amount of good comes from changing and developing technology, obviously, but there do come some risks too. One of those risks is that people are, from time to time, left behind. We can’t let that happen. So, as I say, I trust our message has been heard here today and we’ll keep a close eye on firmer Government action on this in months and years to come.”

Orthopaedic waiting times – we were facing a crisis but it has gone beyond that now

Rhun ap Iorwerth calls for an urgent government debate to discuss waiting times at Ysbyty Gwynedd

Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth this week asked for an urgent debate in Government time to discuss the very real crisis that exists in terms of waiting times for orthopaedic surgery in Ysbyty Gwynedd, and the concern that that crisis has become something far worse.

Speaking at the Senedd yesterday, Rhun said:

“In May, which was the last time I asked for waiting time figures for orthopaedic surgery at Ysbyty Gwynedd, there were 2,200 people waiting at that point for 110 weeks. Now, since I received that last response from Betsi Cadwaladr health board, over the past few weeks that figure has gone up to 2,900 people with a waiting time of 115 weeks.

“Now, I don’t need to say that that is unacceptable. The chief executive of the health board has apologised in a recent letter to me and has accepted that this is unacceptable. But we’re not looking for apologies, but a system that allows patients in my constituency and nearby constituencies to receive treatment in a fair waiting time.

“There are two surgeons which are to be appointed from January, as I understand it. The truth is that this is too little and too late, and they are now dealing with a waiting list of 700 more people than if the decision had been taken six months ago to appoint when there was a real need for these surgeons. So, can we have an urgent debate on this, because, as I say, we were facing a crisis previously—it has gone beyond crisis now?”

I’ve just had my flu jab. Go and get yours!

Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth is urging people aged 65 or over, carers, pregnant women and those with certain chronic or long-term illnesses to get the free flu vaccine to protect themselves and those around them.

Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory illness, affecting the lungs and airways, and is the result of an infection caused by an influenza virus. As influenza circulates each year in the UK during the winter months (generally October to April), it is sometimes called seasonal flu and results from slight changes to the virus from the previous year which means that some people who encounter the new virus may no longer be fully immune.

Speaking after receiving his flu jab by Community Pharmacy Wales today, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“I urge those in at risk groups to make an appointment with their local GP or go to their community pharmacy and get the free flu vaccine. It takes a minute, lasts a year and could save a life.”

A vaccine is developed for each season which is offered free to some children, everyone aged 65 and over, people in certain ‘at-risk’ groups who are more likely to develop complications as a result of having flu and also those who look after people at increased risk.

For more information about protecting yourself against flu, visit

Ynys Môn AM gets on his bike to promote active travel

Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth joined campaigners from across Wales taking part in a Cycle on the Senedd event today.

They were campaigning to increase expenditure for active travel in Wales to £20 per head per annum and for the Welsh Government to put in place a co-produced, evidence based active travel strategy. The event was supported by a wide range of organisations, including Beicio Bangor, British Heart Foundation, and British Lung Foundation.

Following the cycle, Rhun ap Iorwerth addressed campaigners on the Senedd steps.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“I really enjoyed the cycle to the Senedd today as part of an event to promote active travel.

“We’re already aware of the benefits of active travel – active travel to school can increase concentration by up to 4 hours, for example, as well as health benefits. We must now see an increase in active travel spending to make it easier and safer for people to make short daily journeys on foot or by bike. £20 a head is a very reasonable ask!”

Work experience blog – by Madalen Reid

In June 2016, I had the opportunity to do a week’s work experience with Rhun ap Iorwerth, the Assembly Member for Anglesey. I am a sixth form pupil in Ysgol Tryfan in Bangor, and I live in Menai Bridge, on Anglesey. Although I am not studying politics at school, the politics of Wales, Europe and the rest of the world has always interested me, and I hope to study politics at university, and possibly to go on to work in this area in the future. I wanted to do my work experience with Rhun ap Iorwerth because I was interested in seeing the day to day work of an AM, and to learn more about the world of Welsh politics.

The week of my work experience was an important and interesting week in Welsh, British and European politics. The previous week, the United Kingdom had voted to leave the EU, and most of Wales’ counties had voted for this outcome. Because of this, I saw the more exciting aspects of an AM’s work, as important issues such as the EU were debated in the Assembly.

I spent three out of the five days in Rhun ap Iorwerth’s Constituency Office in Llangefni, where I had the opportunity to write letters to constituents, and to hear their concerns and complaints when they came to the office. It was interesting to see how an AM and their support staff had to deal with a huge range of different problems, from small, easily solved local complaints, to concerns about important issues such as the result of the referendum, to which there were no easy or simple answers. This showed me that the work of an AM in their constituency was important, as well as the more obvious work they do in the Assembly.

I spent the other two days of the week in Cardiff. This was the most exciting part of my work experience week. The offices were busy, and I had the opportunity to meet people whom I had previously seen only on television, including the leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood. I had the opportunity to watch a plenary session in the Senedd, and also a debate on the results of the referendum. It was interesting to see how people different views and opinions could discuss important issues like this in order to try to come to an agreement on what to do next to do the best for Wales. It was exciting to see discussion of such an important matter taking place while I watched, and to see how debates and discussions in the assembly worked. The public gallery was full, reflecting the importance of the discussion taking place, and it was obvious that everyone, including the public, had strong views on the issue.

I also learned more about the way comities and cross-party groups are set up, their purpose, and how they work. This was an aspect of government which I had not thought about very much in the past, and it was interesting to see that debates in the Senedd are only part of what an AM does.

It has been a very interesting and enjoyable week, and I now feel that I know more about the kinds of work that people working in the field of politics can do in Wales, and the experience has made me more certain that it is politics I would like to study in the future.

Ynys Môn AM praises Anglesey athletes in Assembly and asks for support for Island Games bid

During today’s First Minister’s Questions, Rhun ap Iorwerth praised the Ynys Môn Island Games team for bringing 10 medals back from Jersey.  Speaking in the chamber, he said:

“I know that the First Minister will agree with me that sport is an exceptionally important tool in attracting tourists to Wales, and, in that regard, I wonder if the First Minister would agree with me that providing early Welsh Government support for a bid to bring the Island Games to Ynys Môn in 2025 would be an important tourism boost for the island.

“And how could I not, of course, take the opportunity to invite the First Minister to extend the warmest congratulations to the Anglesey team that returned from Jersey just over a week ago with 10 medals?”

The First Minister responded by saying:

“May I join the Member in congratulating the Ynys Môn team? And, of course, I’d be willing to consider any bid as regards attracting the games to the island ultimately.”

Positive response to Rhun’s questions on potential of cruise industry in Holyhead

Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth this week received an assurance from the Welsh Government’s Economy Minister that they are investigating the potential funding opportunities to deliver cruise berth improvements at Holyhead.

This comes following the disappointment when one cruise ship was turned away from Holyhead recently, after which Rhun raised the possibility of a more permanent dock for cruise ships with the Government.

During a discussion on ports in the Senedd yesterday, Rhun also asked the Minister about improvements to the link between the A55 and Holyhead port.

Speaking in the National Assembly for Wales yesterday, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said:

“We agree on the significance of our national ports, and agree that we need our ports be a force for growing the Welsh economy.

“On potential European investment, I welcome the fact that there is a link between TEN-T – the European programme of investment in transport infrastructure – opportunities and the possibilities for the port of Holyhead. I wonder if I can use this opportunity to ask for an update on the work you have committed to do to link the A55 with Holyhead port, which is a very important project in the area.

“There is considerable excitement about the possibilities of the cruise industry in Wales. But questions have been asked in Holyhead recently following the occasion when one ship in particular was turned away.  May I ask whether the Minister has had the answers she was hoping to have in terms of what happened on that occasion, and whether she had been convinced that the future of the industry in Holyhead is safe as it is?  Secondly-and it is a question that I asked the Prime Minister in recent weeks-is she willing to commit to the possibility of developing a permanent site for cruise ships in Holyhead, and possibly towards feasibility work on that?”

In her response, the Minister for Economy and Transport Edwina Hart AM said:

“I think we’ll deal with the very positive point first in terms of a permanent cruise facility at Holyhead. The officials are investigating the potential funding opportunities to deliver cruise berth improvements at Holyhead. We are currently preparing a cruise development strategy for Wales, and this will include recommendations for any future cruise berth and port developments. Officials recently met with Stena, who provide marine charts for the port, which did actually identify a possible cruise berth development, which I think is quite important, and initial feasibility studies would be needed to identify dredging costs in any potential design proposals. So, we’ll continue having those discussions in Holyhead.

“The north Wales economic ambition board has also prioritised a project to develop a visitor welcome in Holyhead for the cruise, and this will be part of a suite of measures that we will be investigating, and which I will be more than happy to report back on. I think the Member, like myself, was very concerned that the Celebrity call was cancelled. Apparently, I am advised that Anglesey Aluminium approached their insurers due to the weather conditions a few days prior, and they would not insure the call. There are other issues, I have to say, with Anglesey Aluminium. Of course, we are all aware that Anglesey Aluminium lease the jetty till 2024, and it’s owned by Stena. Of course, Anglesey Aluminium ceased their operations there, and are hoping to enter into a deal with another company, but this has not yet happened. Of course, this is really affecting some of the issues that we can deal with in terms of the cruise. So, I’m much more attracted now to look at some of the issues about a cruise berth.

“Can I also say as well that it’s important to recognise that the Holyhead development is actually part, strategically, of what we’re doing with the A55? I’d be happy, once I’ve published the national transport plan and various other things, to give more details to Members about how we intend to proceed with all those issues, which will, of course, benefit Holyhead.

“Can I assure you that, in terms of ports, I do see them as a lifeline for Wales? I do see them as a development opportunity, and I do think that, once we have devolution of them, we will be looking at a clear strategy.”

Feelings running high over Haulfre

Feelings were running high in Llangoed on Friday evening (03/07/15) for the Public Meeting at the Village Hall, where around 200 turned up to discuss the future of Haulfre. The public meeting followed the decision by the Council Executive on Thursday to go for option 2 which was to go out to consultation which may result in a closure decision in October.  Both local Plaid Cymru Seiriol Ward members had urged the Council Executive on Thursday to adopt option 1 which was to invest in the home.

Haulfre - cyfarfod cyhoeddus 03 07 15

The meeting was organised by Plaid Cymru was Cllr Lewis Davies and was supported by fellow Seriol Ward Cllr Carwyn Jones and Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth.  Cllr Davies and all three elected representatives addressed the public meeting and spoke out strongly in favour of carrying out the required works as identified by the Council, noting that Haulfre should remain open until the Council have a strategy and a provision in the area.

Senior council officers and the Executive had been invited to the public meeting to explain their vision for older adult care and their decision on Haulfre, however the public were disappointed that they had not turned up to the meeting.

The meeting which was well attended and included various stakeholders, including residents, staff, families, Town and Community Councillors, Healthcare professionals along with many Anglesey residents from across the Island.

Many comments were made and a number of questions were raised, one lady resident at Haulfre stated, that people are finding it hard to sleep with worry and are crying in their beds all the time.  Another resident of Haulfre raised the question whether the Council contacted the Charity Commission because Heulfre was established as the result of a will ‘for charity purposes’?

One dismayed family member called for the Council to explain why money set aside for the lift in Haulfre was spend on another care home instead, and went on to ask how can the council justify spending a six figure sum on repairing the Haulfre clock but not agree to spend money on the home itself?

Much dismay was aired from the floor regarding why have the health and safety and fire problems not been dealt with over the years by the Authority and what was the minimum amount that needed to be spent on the building?

Worryingly healthcare professionals noted they have been unable to refer patients to Haulfre for months, which astounded many as there are 6 unoccupied rooms at the home.

Following the address, the public raised a number of questions which have been put in writing to the Council CEO Dr Gwynne Jones and Director of Social Services Mrs Gwen Carrington to respond within two weeks.

Commenting Cllr Lewis Davies stated:

“A number of questions were raised at the packed out Public meeting in Llangoed on Friday evening.  The citizens and taxpayers of Anglesey require the highest possible level of transparency and detailed responses, and we expect full detailed answers in the next fortnight”

Cllr Carwyn Jones added

“Feelings are running high and Anglesey Council needs to listen to the people, the message is clear, spend money to carry out the required works to keep Haulfre open until a new provision is ready for the area”

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM stated

“Haulfre offers a vital service to the people of this part of Anglesey. We all support the modernising of services, but we can’t do away with the current Haulfre facilities until new care provision is in place – either on the Haulfre site or nearby. The local authority was sent a very clear message from this public meeting.”

Rhun stands up for school Support staff in Senedd

Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth yesterday raised the plight of Anglesey classroom assistants and other school support staff in the National Assembly for Wales.

During a Plaid Cymru debate on the education workforce, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“Plaid Cymru’s proposal is to put in place a national framework, not only for teachers’ pay, but also for the whole school workforce. That framework, I believe, would certainly be a means of avoiding one problem and issue of unfairness that has raised its head, as it happens in my constituency at present, where there is great concern among classroom assistants on the future of their posts as a result of the job evaluation process carried out by the local authority. Of course, I support the principle of the process undertaken by the council to ensure that there is consistency in terms of salaries across the authority — the principle that similar jobs should have similar pay — but, one of the unfair outcomes of that process is that classroom assistants and other support staff in schools have been informed that they are to be treated as part-time workers in future.

“The standardisation of salaries has happened on an hourly pay basis. As the school is only open from 9 a.m. until 3.15 p.m. and that there is more leave for school staff than other staff, because the school is closed for longer periods of holiday, the conclusion was that these support staff should be paid pro rata for the hours that they work, and that, it must be noted, took no account of the additional work that these staff do after school with Urdd activities and so on.

“The upshot of all of this is that professional workers who have committed to a career as classroom assistants, who make an immeasurable contribution to the work of a school, are informed that their career is no longer a full-time career. In that context, I’ve asked the council to review the outcomes of their job evaluation process and to acknowledge that turning these professional posts into part-time posts is entirely unfair. I know that other authorities and other staff in other parts of Wales have gone through similar processes, but that’s the kind of thing that would be avoided by creating a framework for pay and conditions for the whole of Wales, but also for the whole of the education workforce within schools. In order to attain that, we would need the devolution of powers, so, to conclude, common sense and evidence, suggests that it is time now to do that. The time has come, I think, to take that step.”