MAY 6, 2019, marked 20 years to the day since the first elections were held for the National Assembly for Wales.

Since then the Assembly gained primary law-making powers through the Government of Wales Act 2006 before Wales voted again in 2011 to unlock further powers from Westminster.

Wales Acts in 2014 and 2017 have seen the Assembly's responsibilities widen further to include tax-raising powers for the first time in almost 800 years.

Landmark laws passed by the Assembly include adopting a system of presumed consent for organ donation and minimum staffing levels on hospital wards, while a petition calling for a ban on single-use carrier bags led to a 5p charge which has greatly reduced their use and been adopted across the UK.

But two decades on doubts still remain among Welsh voters about how much devolution has achieved. A recent poll for the S4C politics programme Y Byd yn ei Le revealed that doubts remain about how much devolution has achieved. Only a third of voters (34%) were positive that the country is doing better than when Wales was run by a Welsh Office answerable to Westminster. A quarter (25%) are certain that it hasn't improved how Wales is governed.

"The National Assembly for Wales is still a relatively young legislature and a lot has changed in those two decades," says Hannah Blythyn AM, who was elected to the National Assembly for Wales in 2016.

"At the outset of devolution in 1999 the Assembly had very limited powers, but now it has full law-making ability in a wide range of areas that matter to all of us wherever we live in Wales.

"In many way, Wales has and continues to lead the way - we were the first to bring in the carrier bag charge, something which Westminster later replicated in England, we're number one in the UK when it comes to recycling and the opt-out model for organ donation, which was first brought in here in Wales is now also being adopted in England. We were also the first nation in the UK to have a living wage in the NHS and are taking forward votes at 16 and 17 for both Assembly and local government elections."

Ms Blythyn styles herself as a proud North Walian who is from Connah's Quay, went to school at St Richard Gwyn in Flint and now lives in Mold. After leaving school, she studied at De Montfort University in Leicester and has since worked throughout Flintshire, Wales and the UK. Much of her time is dedicated to driving greater numbers of decent jobs, opportunities and inward investment to North East Wales, but with 53% of those polled saying they think the Assembly is too Cardiff focussed, she agrees there needs to be more of an effort to engage voters across regions like Flintshire.

"I believe devolution has made a difference and I would not be an Assembly Member if I didn't, but I know all too well the distance and feeling of disconnect between our corner of the country and Cardiff Bay," she says. "As a proud North Walian, I've always been clear that I'm in the Assembly to be a strong voice, not solely for my constituency, but our area as a whole. I set up the first Cross Party Group for North Wales and next month I will host my second North East Wales Day event in the Senedd itself, shining a spotlight on our area to make sure our agenda is on the Assembly agenda.

"A lot has been done in the last 20 years and I'm pleased that we now have a Minister for North Wales, but in the next 20 years, devolution needs to have more of a regional focus."

Another issue raised by the poll was the fact that 43% of those questioned think that the Assembly is too dominated by the Labour Party. The most recent election in May 2016, saw the biggest ever change in the Assembly's composition with Labour dropping from 30 to 29 seats, and Plaid Cymru moving from 11 to 12 seats. The Conservatives lost three seats, moving from 14 seats to 11, while the Liberal Democrats dropped from five to one seat. UKIP, who had not previously had representation, gained seven AMs.

"Welsh Labour has been continuously in power - predominantly in coalition governments - because the people of Wales have predominantly voted for Welsh Labour," counters Ms Blythyn. "It is not by virtue of chance, but by a democratic decision of the Welsh people. It's an absolute privilege to be in this position."

Health takes up roughly half of the Welsh Government's £16 billion budget, but 29% of voters think the NHS has got worse since devolution and Ms Blythyn is clear where the Assembly's priorities lie over the next 20 years.

"A major challenge that cuts across everything is the impact of austerity on our public services and an ever decreasing budget from Westminster to Wales," she says. "At the outset of devolution 20 years ago we had the finances but not the powers. Now we have the powers but significantly less money. The challenge is to continue to make sure devolution works well for the whole of Wales against this backdrop, as well as the division and uncertainty of Brexit.

"The NHS currently takes up over half of the Welsh Government's budget and with our ageing population in Wales, providing social care that ensures people have the dignity and peace of mind they deserve in later life is a challenge for both today and more so in the future. The Welsh Government has already raised the capital allowance a person can keep if they go into residential care to £50,000, but going forward we will need to find innovative and radical solutions when it comes to social care.

"The Welsh Government also recently declared a climate change emergency. In the future, I want Wales to be a fair work country and a sustainable nation, maximising on our natural resources for both environmental and economic benefit."

Turnout in an Assembly election has never been higher than 46%, with just 34.8% of voters turning out to polling stations in 2016 in the Alyn and Deeside constituency.

"Many people still remain unsure about what we have responsibility for now here in Wales and what powers are still at Westminster," says Ms Blythyn. "That's why since being elected for the first time in 2016, I've been keen to work with schools and other community organisations to increase understanding of our devolved democracy. In addition, in this anniversary year I am hosting a range of events and activity to both raise awareness of what is devolved to Wales and also to shape the next 20 years of devolution.

"We also have a weak national media here in Wales," she continues. "Most of us get our main news via the UK-wide programmes which regularly fail to acknowledge devolution and different policies across the UK nations. This is made even more acute in our area by both the media in Wales focussing all too often on what feels like a 20-mile radius around Cardiff and many people getting the North West of England news at home, not BBC or ITV Wales."

Prior to being elected, Ms Blythyn led on political and policy work for Unite Wales, active in a number of successful campaigns that led to legislative action and positive change both in Wales and across the UK. She is also a former co-chair of LGBT Labour and was active in the campaign for equal marriage. On December 13, last year she was appointed Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government and she remains passionate about the benefits the Assembly has brought.

"I was only ever going to stand to be an AM and not just an AM for anywhere, but for the area where I grew up, went to school and where my family is from," she adds. "Before being elected I worked for a trade union and during this time I played a key part in shaping leading legislation, including action on blacklisting, ethical procurement practices, protecting the pay and conditions of agricultural workers in Wales when the Agricultural Wages Board was axed in England and ensuring the NHS in Wales was the first in the UK to pay at least the living wage.

"I thought if this is what I could do from the outside, imagine what I could do from inside the Assembly itself?"