Today, I present the annual report on our Welsh language strategy—Cymraeg 2050: A million Welsh speakers, for the 2021-22 financial year.
At the beginning of the sixth Senedd, we published our five-year work programme for delivering Cymraeg 2050 during 2021-26. This annual report therefore reports on the first year of that programme and the commitments made in the programme for government and the co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru.
The pandemic continued to affect our normal working arrangements during this period. Although we heard less about leaving the European Union, the effect of the rising cost of living crisis has come to the fore. Despite all these changes, our work, come what may, was to respond to the challenges and opportunities that arose in order to increase the number of Welsh speakers, and more importantly, to increase daily use of our language.
This was another busy year in the area of language policy as we worked across Government and with various partners the length and breadth of the country and beyond. And today, Dirprwy Lywydd, is an opportunity for me to thank everyone who worked with us throughout the year. I must mention our grant partners who worked tirelessly and energetically to support us to deliver Cymraeg 2050. Following a busy period of providing opportunities for us to use the Welsh language remotely, they have all been working to rebuild, have continued to innovate, and have kept many of the best practices developed during the national lockdowns. You will find details of much of this work in the report.
Now I turn to some of the highlights pf the year in question. We consulted upon the Welsh language communities housing plan—an ambitious plan that extends across the entire Government and works alongside other new tax and planning policies.
Next week, I will launch the final plan, and I will share the details with you in due course. However, it’s fair to say that it’s an innovative plan that will make a very real difference to people’s lives, to communities, and indeed to our language, in all parts of the country. The new commission for Welsh-speaking communities will challenge us as we deliver the plan, and will support us to benefit those areas considered to be Welsh-speaking heartlands.
The new 10-year Welsh in education strategic plans came into force recently. Dirprwy Lywydd, this didn’t happen overnight. A great deal of preparatory work was done during the reporting year as we held sessions to support local authorities, worked with them to refine their draft plans, and published guidance on categorising schools according to their Welsh-medium provision. Now, publishing the plans is but a first step; we’ll work closely with local authorities and schools to support them to increase Welsh-language provision across Wales.
During the reporting year, we also announced our intention to provide new funding in order to, first, offer free Welsh lessons to all those between 16 and 25 years old, and the teaching workforce, in order to give everyone a second chance. Some will learn for the first time and others will gain confidence in their skills. And this was done as part of the co-operation agreement, and everyone will contribute to the one million and to doubling the use of the language. Secondly, funding was allocated to extend Welsh language late immersion support for every local authority during the reporting year and beyond. And this will allow so many more children to access our Welsh-medium education system.
In May this year, I announced the Welsh in education workforce plan, and detailed preparation work was undertaken during the reporting year. This is a difficult and challenging area. The plan therefore calls for radical and innovative action by many of us. Towards the end of the reporting period, I announced our intention to set up a company limited by guarantee, called Adnodd. It will work to ensure that sufficient Welsh-medium and bilingual resources are available to support the new curriculum.
During the reporting year, detailed work was undertaken to prepare standards for health regulators. This led to laying the regulations before the Senedd in July of this year, so that they may come into effect on 31 October. I discussed the Welsh language on a British-Irish Council level, with fellow Ministers, and with leaders of the member states at a summit in St Fagans. Hearing national leaders discussing the Welsh language, and indeed using the Welsh language and their own languages at the highest level, was significant and very satisfying.
In February, on Anglesey, I gave a speech under the title ‘Cymraeg belongs to us all’, where I shared my vision for the language, to mark 60 years since Saunders Lewis delivered his famous ‘Tynged yr Iaith’ lecture, in 1962. Here are some of the key messages. I want us to remember that the Welsh language, and the responsibility for acting to protect it, belongs to us all. Everyone has their role, regardless of where they live or how much Welsh they have. I want to see more organisations and public leaders taking responsibility for the language too. Our ‘Leading in a Bilingual Country’ programme is one way of delivering this. And we as a whole Government will ensure that the Welsh language is always considered in the work of each team and department across the organisation. I have established a series of Cabinet meetings over the duration of this Senedd term to discuss with my fellow Ministers what more they can do to contribute to the delivery of Cymraeg 2050 in their policy areas.
Dirprwy Lywydd, in looking to the future, we await the 2021 census results in relation to the Welsh language—before Christmas, hopefully. We will scrutinise the results before adjusting our targets and the trajectory towards a million Welsh speakers as needed. I have spoken today about the global challenges affecting Wales. So now, more than ever, I’m calling on everyone to pull together. We must work together,
We must work together, offer a helping hand when challenges and opportunities arise,and learn from each other. We must welcome everyone from all backgrounds to join us on our journey towards the million. Most importantly, we must remember that all of us have the responsibility and ability—as individuals and organisations—to work together to ensure a prosperous future for the Welsh language. Cymraeg belongs to us all.