Asghar: Speech Equality & Human Rights Commission Wales Annual Review 2014-2015

I am grateful to the Equality and Human Rights Commission Wales for this review of progress made towards creating a fairer Wales.

In my response I would like to say a few words on some of the challenges identified by the Commission as the most serious inequalities we face in Wales.

The Welsh Government has, rightly, made tackling poverty one of its key priorities.

The “Tackling Poverty Action Plan” states that the best route out of poverty is through employment.

It is encouraging therefore that unemployment in Wales is currently falling faster than in any other country of the UK.

There are some thirty thousand fewer people unemployed in Wales today than there were in 2010.

But we cannot be complacent.

More needs to be done to improve the skills of the Welsh people to boost employment and to tackle exclusion, particularly digital exclusion.

A recent report by the charity Go.On UK revealed that over a third of the Welsh population do not have the five basic digital skills to prosper in the digital era.

Wales has the lowest levels of internet access and places like Merthyr Tydfil are amongst the poorest in the UK.

There is a clear link between the lack of skills and poverty and exclusion which needs to be addressed.

On domestic abuse I welcome the work done to increase the number of workplace policies in the public and private sector.

Recognising the signs is vital if we are to tackle the scourge of domestic abuse in Wales.

The College of Policing has issued new guidance and specialist advice on how to spot patterns of domestic abuse.

It advises senior officers about the need for specialist staff to deal with cases of abuse and ensure victims receive the best possible support.

This is a huge step forward in helping the police to recognise and understand the complex nature of domestic abuse and coercive control.

The police are also training more officers to deal with slavery in Wales.

The number of slavery victims in Wales has doubled in two years.

This could be due to increased publicity and awareness of slavery which may have resulted in more victims coming forward.

I applaud the four Welsh police forces on holding Wales’ first anti-slavery week to highlight this problem.

It aims to raise awareness about modern slavery and encourage members of the public to be vigilant in case it is happening in their communities.

We must do all we can to stamp out the evil of modern slavery in Wales.

The same is true of hate crime.

Hate crime in England and Wales has risen by eighteen per cent in the last year.

Of these crimes, more than eighty per cent (80%) were classed as race hate crimes.

According to the Home Office, likely factors for this increase include improved recording of crime, greater awareness and improved willingness of victims to come forward.

I very much welcome the news that the UK Government is to make it a legal requirement for all police forces to record Islamophobia as a separate category of crime.

This move brings Islamophobia in line with anti-Semitic attacks which have been recorded separately for some time.

The benefits of this move could be crucial in reducing Islamophobia and in providing victims with the support they deserve.

Deputy Presiding Officer.

Once again, I welcome this review and thank the Commission for all it is doing to promote equality in Wales.