Conversations from the Royal Welsh Show 2017

For the second consecutive year, Inspection Wales partners (Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, Estyn, Wales Audit Office and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales) shared a stand at the Royal Welsh show, to engage with the public about our joint and shared working and, to gather the public’s views about the quality of rural services for a future Wales Audit Office report.

I attended on Monday, the first day of the show, and had a number of interesting conversations with members of the public about the work carried out by Inspection Wales partners. As you read this blog, please bear in mind that it represents my account of what I have been told. I have not fact checked what my interlocutors told me. Rather, I have sought to position the issues they raised within a wider context and show how they relate to the work of Inspection Wales partners.

One of my early conversations was with a man who talked to me about plans to regenerate the area of Merthyr town centre around the Pont-y-Cafnau bridge, which is known as the oldest iron bridge in the world [opens in new window]. For him, the end of European Union funding for Wales due to Brexit was a big concern, as it meant the end of a potential source of funding for such regeneration projects.

Brexit is clearly a challenge for the Welsh Government going forward. Under the current round of EU structural funding Wales will benefit from £2 billion of direct funding, and when match funded should, according to the Welsh Government, result in investment of over £3 billion [opens in new window]. The Public Policy Institute Wales finds that Wales has been a net beneficiary from EU structural funds [opens in new window] and that Wales receives substantially more EU funding per head than other UK countries.

In September 2016, the Wales Audit Office reported that the Welsh Government intended to bid for £125 million of EU funding [opens in new window] for elements of the South Wales Metro transport scheme [opens in new window], which has a total estimated cost of around £734 million. The June 2017 Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee report [opens in new window] on the rail franchise and South Wales Metre found that Brexit has raised a question mark about the proposed EU contribution, and that ‘while the UK government has provided assurances that it will honour any agreed EU funding commitments up to 2020, it is impossible to argue that this money is secure’.

The same man also talked about what he saw as the ‘wild claims’ being made about the potential economic impact of the proposed Circuit of Wales racetrack; perhaps his interest related to the proximity between his own home in Merthyr and the proposed location of the circuit in Ebbw Vale. I was able to provide him with a copy of the recent Wales Audit Office report on the Welsh Government’s decision to provide over £9.3 million to support initial development of the Circuit of Wales project [opens in new window].

On the same theme of Welsh Government investment in business, I talked to a number of people from north Wales about the April 2014 Wales Audit Office examination of the public funding and closure of the Cywain heritage, rural life and sculpture centre in Bala [opens in new window]. At the time of publishing, the centre and all its facilities were closed. However, I was told that a cafe is now operating at the site.

Wales Audit Office performance auditors undertook a survey about rural services at this year's Royal Welsh Show
Wales Audit Office performance auditors undertook a survey about rural services at this year’s Royal Welsh Show

I also had a number of conversations with people who told me they had used inspection reports by Estyn and Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales to decide which schools and care homes to use for family members. On a personal level, it felt good to talk to people who were actually using the work of Inspection Wales partners to help them make informed decisions about the futures of their families. I also spoke with people about their experiences of healthcare in Wales, and told them about the role Healthcare Inspectorate Wales plays in regulating and inspecting healthcare services in Wales.

Readers may be interested to note that, although Healthcare Inspectorate Wales does not routinely investigate individual complaints or concerns, it would still like to hear about concerns and it monitors all complaints it receives [opeans in new window]. It uses complaints information as a way of gaining a picture of the overall safety and quality of healthcare services.

About the author

Emma Giles, Inspection Wales Programme Board ManagerDr Emma Giles took over as Inspection Wales Programme Manager in March 2017. Prior to this, Emma was a performance audit lead with the Wales Audit Office.
Emma is an outdoor enthusiast who likes mountain biking and walking.

Her PhD in Criminology looked at how offenders and criminal justice staff understood fairness, and what these differing perceptions of fairness meant for relationships between staff and offenders.

Putting the public into public services

Inspection Wales Programme Manager, Mandy Townsend visited the Royal Welsh Show last month as part of a joint Inspection Wales stand with the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW), Estyn, Health Inspectorate Wales and the Wales Audit Office. In this blog Mandy shares her thoughts on why the show represents a great opportunity to connect with the public we serve.

Since we started Inspection Wales we have talked a lot about our need to collaborate with each other. From joint reports on topics such as education and health, to our collaborative approach to whistleblowing, we can demonstrate the benefits we gain from joint working.

One of the key components to this is the public. As public service watchdogs we are working for the people of Wales to ensure that our Welsh public services are providing them to the best possible standards. So we need to hear from the public on not only how these services can be improved, but also the role they expect us to play in making this happen.

That’s why we all visited the Royal Welsh show last month. Having a presence at this huge event put us in contact with people from all over Wales, of all ages and all of whom get different things from different services.  Exhibiting at our Inspection Wales stand, we spoke to hundreds of people over the four days of the show. They all had interesting things to say to us about service improvement, and it was also a chance for those who perhaps hadn’t heard of us to raise some awareness about our work.

Exhibiting together as Inspection Wales went down well with visitors and reduced costs.
It also strengthened the relationships between the four organisations that make up Inspection Wales. Add to this the addition of some great insight from the Welsh public and I can honestly say the week was a real success.

In the video that accompanies this blog I have borrowed the phrase of the summer from our national football team (you know the one), to sum up the lessons learned from the week and these are applicable not only to that week but Wales as a whole. Despite being considered as a smaller nation we have proved that we are capable of great things. People often say that Wales is a connected nation and we can make it even more so by increasing our collaboration not only from public service to public service but also making that connection with the people we serve in order to complete the circle.

We won’t wait another year until the next show; we will continue our conversations and all get involved in improving services. So the next time you see a consultation from CSSIW, Estyn, Health Inspectorate Wales or the Wales Audit Office please get involved and share your thoughts and opinions. After all like Chris Coleman and his team, we really are ‘Together Stronger’.

About the author

Mandy TownsendMandy Townsend started work as the Inspection Wales Programme Manager in February 2015 and is seconded to the part-time role for two years.

Mandy, who is based in North Wales, spends the rest of her week in her original role as a Health Performance Auditor at the Wales Audit Office.

People walking past marquee's at the Royal Welsh Show

Find out more about Inspection Wales at the Royal Welsh Show

Livestock, farming and forestry aren’t usually part of the work of the Inspection Wales programme. But we’re excited to announce that Inspection Wales will be out in force at this year’s Royal Welsh Show [opens in new window] in Builth Wells, 18-21 July.

Exhibiting together for the first time since the show’s inception, inspectors and corporate staff from Healthcare Inspectorate Wales [opens in new window] (HIW), Estyn [opens in new window], Wales Audit Office [opens in new window] and Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales [opens in new window] (CSSIW) will be talking to visitors about the work they do both individually and together to help public services in Wales improve.

Together, we’ll be asking people how much they know about our work and gathering feedback to help inform our future communication. There’ll also be lots to see and do on our stand. We’ll be showcasing some of our joint working through case studies, displaying our latest projects and there’ll even be a small area for children.

The Estyn team are looking forward to meeting parents, teachers and learners who may be interested to hear about the way inspections of schools and other education and training providers are changing from September 2017.

Healthcare Inspectorate Wales are attending the show for the first time this year and will be raising awareness of the work within the inspectorate and seeking views on people’s experiences of healthcare services. They launched their new website last month and the team are looking forward to meeting visitors and asking for their views.

At the CSSIW stand, people will be invited to meet with inspectors and find out how to get involved in the inspectorate’s work.  Visitors can also learn more about inspection, registration, enforcement and seek advice on choosing care services.

The Wales Audit Office are returning for their second year and looking forward to having conversations with the public about the valuable role they play in holding public services to account and supporting improvement.

So, whether you’re visiting the show with family, friends or colleagues, come and meet the friendly staff at the Inspection Wales stand and learn more about our work.