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Reflecting on the Frontline Network Wales’ First Year of Activities

Reflecting on the Frontline Network Wales’ First Year of Activities

Reflecting on the Frontline Network Wales’ First Year of Activities

Friday, December 10, 2021

Frontline Network Wales are delighted to publish their Year One report, which provides a summary of the Network's activities in its inaugural year. In this blog, Gareth Lynn Montes, Research Officer and Frontline Network Wales Coordinator, reflects on the year.

At Cymorth Cymru, we are very pleased to be celebrating our first year delivering the Frontline Network in Wales in collaboration with St Martin’s Frontline Network. These last thirteen months have been enormously challenging. Local lockdowns were followed by a major lockdown around the turn of the year, with a gradual return to ‘normality’ from March 2021. In these trying, difficult circumstances, frontline workers have nonetheless continued to deliver services. The Frontline Network Wales regional meet-ups have provided frontline workers with the opportunity to engage with peers and share grievances. Throughout this period, we at Cymorth have been advocates for frontline workers, and have strived to influence policy on their behalf.

The first few months were occupied with raising awareness of the Network, followed by a launch event attended by the Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James MS, and a special thank you message from Welsh actor and activist Michael Sheen. From the very beginning, the Frontline Network Wales has worked to create channels of communication between frontline workers and elected officials. This has been reflected in our most recent round of regional meet-ups, which gave frontline workers the opportunity to ask nine MSs from the three major parties in Wales questions and hear their responses.

Feedback from frontline workers has been very important in the running and direction of the Network. The topics of the first and second round of regional meet-ups: staff health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic, and changes to the work environment post-lockdown, were chosen by the frontline workers themselves.

It has also been important to be aware of current events and opportunities when planning Network activities. An example was the third round of meet-ups, held a month after the May 2021 Welsh Parliament election, where frontline workers were asked to consider what the priorities of the new Welsh Government should be.

On the back of each round of meet-ups, we have produced a report reflecting the views of frontline workers and offered a series of recommendations to the Welsh Government, commissioners, local authorities, and service providers. To date, two of these, Lessons from the Frontline #1: Staff health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic and Lessons from the Frontline #2: Changes to the Work Environment Post-Lockdown have been published.

It has been a primary aim to demonstrate to frontline workers that the Frontline Network Regional meet-ups are not just a talking shop and that they result in action being taken. Some of the event feedback is evidence of this - “You feel that your views are being listened to and will be taken on board. Makes me feel that my opinions are valued.”

In this period, Cymorth Cymru has successfully campaigned on behalf of frontline workers in the following areas:

  • Recognition of homelessness and housing support workers as ‘key workers’ and, therefore, their qualification for PPE and childcare places.
  • Inclusion of homelessness and housing support workers in the Welsh Government’s Statutory Sick Pay Enhancement Scheme to support workers during the pandemic.
  • Inclusion of homelessness and housing support workers in vaccine priority group 2.
  • Inclusion in the second iteration of the Welsh Government’s £500 bonus scheme.
  • Commitment from the new Welsh Government to include homelessness and housing support workers in the living wage commitment for social care workers.
  • Increase of £40million to the Housing Support Grant in the 2021/22 Welsh budget and pay increases for many workers for the first time in years.

At Cymorth, we are extremely excited about the potential of this second year and what it could bring. The Welsh Government has committed to paying housing and homelessness workers the Real Living Wage and there are talks about the professionalisation of the sector. We will be eager to hear from frontline workers to see what they think can be done to best implement this. In addition, we will continue to respond to frontline worker feedback in an effort to develop the best possible Frontline Network for them.

To get involved in future Frontline Network Wales activities, please get in touch with Gareth at gareth@cymorthcymru.org.uk or sign up to the mailing list.

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