From Active Offer to Active Delivery: Increasing the Number of Bilingual Health and Social Care Professionals in Wales

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 18 (Juridicum)
Distributed Paper
Christina WAGONER, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
My paper will address the Welsh language within the health and social care sector in Wales, specifically the importance of meeting patients’ language needs and ways in which to address the deficit of Welsh-English bilingual professionals in the sector. Within Wales, Welsh is to be “treated no less favourably” (Welsh Language (Wales) Measure, 2011) than English. Yet, this is not always the case due to an historic power dynamic of inequality where Welsh was seen as lesser than English, thus not given priority. Additionally, there is a common belief that bilingual services are unnecessary, because Welsh-speakers speak English anyway. However, the literature contradicts this idea, illustrating the importance of communicating to patients through their own language. Consequently, the Welsh Government and Welsh Language Commissioner have formed policies/standards to help redress these barriers to bilingualism. Within health and social care, the policy More than Just Words (2012) recognizes the importance of language need through introducing the Active Offer. The Active Offer will take the onus off service-users requesting Welsh language services and will transfer the responsibility to service-providers to actively offer those services. The Welsh Language Standards will enforce these policies and additional mandates from 01/04/2016. However, there is a shortage of Welsh-English bilingual health and social care professionals, which leads to the question: how can the policy be realized and an Active Offer happen if there are not enough bilingual professionals to deliver it? Hence, there needs to be an increase of the bilingual infrastructure within the sector. How can this be done? Using interviews with key players within health and social care in Wales, this paper describes the importance of bilingualism within the sector and suggests solutions within the short, mid, and long-term to increase the number of bilingual professionals, thereby allowing the Active Offer to become Active Delivery.