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More Welsh needed in social care

Created on 03/12/2019 @ 10:08

A huge reason to increase the use of Welsh in the sphere of Adult Social Care is that people revert to their first language due to illness, councillors have been told.

At Powys County Council’s (PCC) Health and Care scrutiny committee, councillors heard anecdotes of loved ones and others who had lost their knowledge of English following strokes or dementia.

The scrutiny committee was looking at the Welsh language “Active Offer” which means providing a service in Welsh without someone having to ask for it.

Adult services, portfolio holder, Cllr Myfanwy Alexander, said: “There are strong practical reasons for this. The neurology of language acquisition means you store your first and second languages in different parts of the brain.

“It’s perfectly possible for someone to have had a stroke or dementia and still be perfectly fluent in their native language but not in one they learnt later in their childhood.

“From my own personal experience my father had a stroke and he taught A-level English for 40 years. But after the stroke, for six months he did not understand a word of English. During that period it was no good planning my father’s care in English.”

Cllr Alexander added: “For us as an authority the wellbeing of our residents and the success of their care depends on their being able to participate in that.”

Cllr Elwyn Vaughan said: “One of the challenges we face, particularly in a Montgomeryshire context, is that we buy so many services from out of county.”

Cllr Vaughan believed that the NHS services for children and stroke patients at both Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals needed to understand the linguistic needs of Powys residents.

“That’s one thing we need to flag up,” said Cllr Vaughan.

Earlier, Adult Services head of commissioning, Dylan Owen, explained that the Active Offer was an idea that originated in the French speaking areas of Canada.

Mr Owen said: “The Active Offer is about aligning staff to service users. If someone is identified as a Welsh speaker, the team manager when allocating the work will provide them with Welsh speaking carer if we can. It means that the work starts immediately and that’s the crux.”

Mr Owen said: “There is an argument, where the percentage is lower that’s where we should be focussing our attention.

“Because in a place like Machynlleth the chances are your carer speaks Welsh naturally so they are higher than they would be in somewhere like Knighton and Presteigne. That’s where we should really be making sure this works.”

The report explained that 18.9% of the population in Powys identify themselves as Welsh speakers and this percentage varies from east to west.

Presteigne and Knighton on the border with England have only nine per cent Welsh speakers.

While Machynlleth, which borders the county of Gwynedd which has the highest number of Welsh speakers in Wales, has 54 per cent saying they speak Welsh.

There are three essential points that need to be address for the Active Offer to be effectively implemented by social services:

·      Discover and record service users’ first language and other languages spoken.

·      Discover and record staff’s linguistic skills in Welsh.

·      Allocate Welsh speaking staff to work with Welsh speaking service users.

By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

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