The family of Carl Sargeant have welcomed changes announced by the Welsh Government to provide more support to ministers who are removed from their posts.
Alyn and Deeside AM Mr Sargeant, 49, was found hanged at his home in Connah’s Quay, Flintshire, on November 7 2017, four days after he was sacked from his job as Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children following “bombshell” claims he groped and touched women.
In July, senior coroner for North Wales John Gittins ruled his death was suicide, but also issued a report for the prevention of future deaths after raising concerns about the support available for ministers who lose their jobs.
He said, “I’m concerned that not enough has been done by the Welsh Government to ensure that in the future, regardless of who is First Minister, consideration is given to providing clear channels of support and help to persons who lose their positions from office and whose removals will attract significant media interest and intrusion into their private lives.”
Mr Gittins found no official arrangements were put in place to support Mr Sargeant despite the probability that then-first minister Carwyn Jones knew he was vulnerable in relation to his mental health, having previously been diagnosed with depression.
In a response to the coroner’s report, current First Minister Mark Drakeford said he planned to add a new section to the Welsh Government’s Ministerial Code to provide “an explicit and public recognition of the pressures that ministers can face and a commitment to support them personally”.
He said he had consulted Mr Sargeant’s family as well as current and former ministers before reviewing the code.
During the inquest at Ruthin County Hall, Mr Drakeford’s predecessor Carwyn Jones denied lying about the pastoral care provided to Mr Sargeant before his death.
Mr Drakeford said he would develop protocol for the appointment and dismissal of ministers and take particular care to consider the well-being of a departing minister if the circumstances of their departure were “difficult and high-profile”.
New measures will include information packs with reminders of support services and details of a named official to act as a liaison point.
Following the conclusion of the inquest, Mr Sargeant’s son Jack said he felt his father had been “let down” by Mr Jones.
He said: “All too often politics have been at play with the sole aim of blackening a dead man’s name to protect another.
“Where has been the humanity in that?”
Following the announcement, Jack Sargeant said on behalf of the family, “it is clear to us that the current First Minister is taking his responsibility to promote and safeguard the welfare of ministers seriously and in such a way that was not in place at the time of Dad’s death.”
“We hope that Mark Drakeford will now be the guardian of a kinder type of politics.”