Wales’ Mentrau Iaith are calling on the Welsh Government to provide them with a realistic level of funding, to ensure that key elements of the Government’s Welsh Language Strategy can be delivered.
The Mentrau operate throughout Wales, providing a wide range of opportunities for children, young people, adults and learners to use the Welsh language.
The call for additional resources follows the publication of a Government funded report into their work, which found that the considerable contribution made by the Mentrau should continue and expand, but that the Mentrau are under-resourced at present – and are too small to be able to achieve the far-reaching results needed to promote the use of Welsh in their communities across Wales.
Penri Williams, Chair of Mentrau Iaith Cymru, explains why further investment is needed: “In Wales we have rapidly expanding Welsh-medium education and a range of initiatives which seek to increase the numbers of Welsh speakers and learners, but at the same time we need more investment in the opportunities to use the language. The Mentrau provide services and activities that Welsh-speakers really enjoy using in their own communities across Wales.” He added: “The work of the Mentrau Iaith therefore contributes to the First Minister’s and the Welsh Government’s desire to see an increase in the use of the Welsh language”.
“The report confirms what we have known for many years, that although the Mentrau have a crucial role to play in promoting the use of Welsh, they have been under-resourced for far too long”.
“We fully recognise that we are currently experiencing a challenging economic climate, however we must also recognise that the Welsh language continues to face serious challenges. It lives alongside one of the most dominant languages in the world. If Welsh loses ground as the language of families, communities and young people, the challenge of restoring it to those spheres of life will be very difficult, if not impossible.”
The report is published at a time when the Government has faced criticism that it hasn’t responded well enough to the 2011 Census results and its Gynhadledd Fawr / Big Conversation event, where the First Minister led a debate about the future of the language.
Mr Williams added: “A positive response to the report would provide a much-needed boost for the Mentrau and for the Welsh language on a community level across Wales. It would also demonstrate the First Minister’s and Welsh Government’s support for the language”.
The Mentrau are calling for funding of £4.8m, to be provided by the Welsh Government which equates to around 16 pence per week for each Welsh speaker. The Mentrau also call for further investment from Wales’s local authorities in the near future as the Welsh Language Standards come into operation.
“This is, indeed, a substantial increase”, added Mr Williams “especially during a time of financial austerity. However, the increase comes about as a result of significant under-investment in the Mentrau Iaith over many years. With the challenges highlighted by the Census, the time has come to invest”.