The news may be full of European Elections but here in Wales we have a National Election. For me the elections are close to home as my wife, Debby, is standing as an Independent in Monmouthshire. I have been forced to put leaflets through doors and risk the bites of small dogs on steroids lurking behind certain doors. Debby and one of her volunteers have been bitten, but so far I have avoided the gnashers.
So why are the Welsh Elections important for those of us living in Wales? I think they are vital because a strong Welsh Government can make a difference, and in fairness since devolution I believe life in Wales has improved.
Some years ago Wales was the worst place to live if you had a drug problem. The head of the NTA, was very clear that Wales simply did not match up to the treatment system and outcomes in England. In a 10 year time span, I believe, not only has Wales caught up with England, it has surpassed it in many ways; The fall in drug related deaths in Wales, in contrast to significant increases in England is an example of that. The approach in Wales which supports agencies invested in the country has also meant in Wales, unlike other parts of the UK we have local agencies working with their local communities to support people with drug and alcohol problems. In Wales there is an understanding that drugs and alcohol are the symptoms of loneliness, mental health issues, deprivation and a lack of social cohesion rather than a lifestyle choice that can simply be rectified by criminal sanctions.
Wales has a different approach to social care and education which is slowly emerging. In England the market is seen as the key to force through improvements, whilst in Wales the emphasis is with a collaborative approach in delivering public service. The definition of public service, is not simply the Public Sector but in services helping the public good. Academi Wales has both a summer and winter school which promotes the idea that public service is a dynamic activity that benefits by joint working and uses the event to bring leading researchers and business leaders to speak. In Wales we are challenged to work together and share expertise. At Kaleidoscope we are part of a new initiative, Sebra, in sharing central services with partners from Drug, Alcohol and Mental Health charities. Our plan is not to surrender our identity as independent charities but to maximise co-operation and to save costs to focus our resources on the front line.
Wales still has a number of challenges. It has a lot to do to build a more vibrant economy, the education system is improving but it is not world class and our health service, like other areas in the UK is struggling with the demands.
The role of Welsh Government is set to further increase because of the desire by the UK to further devolve powers. We need a strong Welsh Government to take our country forward. So do not forget to vote and when you do so vote for a candidate who will sustain what is good in Wales but push forward vital changes to make the country to be an even better place to live.