Y Pwyllgor Cydraddoldeb a Chyfiawnder Cymdeithasol
Equality and Social Justice Committee07/02/2022
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Jane Dodds MS|
|Jenny Rathbone MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Ken Skates MS|
|Sam Rowlands MS||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Altaf Hussain|
|Substitute for Altaf Hussain|
|Sarah Murphy MS|
|Sioned Williams MS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Heledd Morgan||Arweinydd Ysgogi Newid, Swyddfa Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol Cymru|
|Lead Change Maker, Office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales|
|Sophie Howe||Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol Cymru|
|Future Generations Commissioner for Wales|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Angharad Roche||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Rachael Davies||Ail Glerc|
|Sam Mason||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:30.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 13:30.
Prynhawn da. I'd like to welcome everybody to the meeting of the Equality and Social Justice Committee. If, for any reason, I fall out of this meeting, Sarah Murphy will take over from me. The public items for this meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv. and there're simultaneous translation from Welsh to English. Do any Members have any declarations of interest that are relevant to what we're discussing today? Thank you.
I'm very pleased now to go on to welcome Sophie Howe, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, and Heledd Morgan, the lead change maker. So, welcome, both of you, and Jane Dodds is going to ask the first question.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, and welcome. Good afternoon, commissioner. Good to see you. I'm going to start by framing my first question in relation to your 2020 report, 'A More Equal Wales', and I just wonder if you could just help us out here: could you outline any changes that you have seen in from public bodies, including indeed the Welsh Government, in the light of the recommendations from that report? Thank you.
This is the 2020 report. Is that right?
Thanks. You're talking about 'Inequality in a Future Wales' rather than the future generations report. I just wanted to check that. So, in terms of 'Inequality in a Future Wales', it wasn't published that long ago. It was—
No, I think—. Sophie, I'll just stop you. I think it's the future generations report.
Okay. I thought it might be.
For 2020, yes.
Apologies. Yes, 'The Future Generations Report 2020'.
That's no problem at all. We have seen significant policy changes, which are really welcome. So, I suppose the headline positive policy changes are some significant shifts in transport. So, you'll be aware that my office has been heavily engaged over a number of years in work in transport and also made some specific recommendations in the future generations report. As a result of that, we've seen changes to the Welsh transport appraisal guidance. We've seen a new transport strategy. We've seen a 45 per cent target for modal shift. And, really interesting, in this year's budget, from our analysis, it appears that the infrastructure investment plan has shifted from two thirds of the infrastructure investment being in roads two years ago to a third being invested in roads in this year's budget, so that's a significant shift. We've seen the curriculum action plan being aligned around the five ways of working in the Act, which is promising, and a review around Qualifications Wales around the qualifications and assessment framework, but we'll wait to see how that develops. We've seen changes to the national development framework and 'Planning Policy Wales'. We've seen a new economic strategy centred around a well-being economics model, and, obviously, we've seen a pilot around—I won't call it a universal basic income, because it's not universal—a basic income for care leavers. So, those are some of the headlines from a policy perspective that really continue to support my assessment that there's been a marked change in political priority and actions in line with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 in the last couple of years.
However, I remain concerned about some of the issues around the machinery of Government. Chapter two of my future generations report really outlined a number of concerns and areas where the machinery of Government was not necessarily fully embracing the future generations Act, and we think that there is still some significant changes there where I wasn't particularly impressed with the response that I've had to the machinery of Government recommendations, and I'm going to be undertaking some further work in that area this year, therefore.
I wonder if I can have a really quick question, as I know we've got lots of questions. You've talked a lot about the Welsh Government response to some of those policy issues. Are there any other public bodies that you feel have engaged in some of the key issues from that report? Just very briefly, it'd be lovely to hear. Thank you.
Yes. Again, on transport we're seeing—and this is a partnership between Welsh Government and local authorities, in the main—big investment, increased investment in active travel, in local communities, which is really promising. We're seeing some shifts in health boards to different ways of thinking, particularly around prevention. So, I can give you an example, a recent one: just a couple of weeks ago, the Swansea bay health board used the future generations Act approach—instead of selling off land for development, they're actually turning that land into a community growing project, and so restoring nature, working to address food poverty in communities.
I think it's fair to say that, particularly in terms of health boards in the last couple of years, we haven't done a huge amount of engagement with them, and that's really due to the pandemic, because they've had enough to be dealing with. But, over the last couple of months, we're having renewed engagement with health boards in particular, and I'm quite encouraged by some of the new approaches that a lot of them are starting to consider to address health inequalities. So, for example, Hywel Dda health board is talking about reinvesting budgets into community-based partnership approaches, which is exactly the sort of national wellness system-type approach that we recommended in the future generations report. I don't know if my colleague Heledd has got—. She could probably give you lots of other examples at her fingertips, because we've been collating many, and I'm happy to share some of those with the committee rather than taking lots of your time in terms of—. I know you've got other questions to get through.
Yes, thank you. We'll move on, but if there's anything you can send us through, I think, Chair, we'd appreciate that. Thank you. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Okay. Sarah Murphy, you wanted to come back in on this one.
Thank you, Chair. Thank you, Heledd, and thank you, Sophie, for being here today. I just wanted to drill down a little bit more into the discussions that you've had with Welsh Government. Overall, are you satisfied with the Welsh Government's response to the report? I know you mentioned about the machinery of Government. Are there any other areas, any points of contention, that you're finding with the Welsh Government as well, please? Sophie, I don't know who wants to come in first on that.
Yes, there are a number of—. I'm breaking up, I'm not sure if you're adequately able to hear me. Can you hear me? Yes, okay. Sorry.
So, there are a number of areas where we remained concerned. So, performance frameworks are still a challenge. Again, I've got some sympathy in terms of health in particular, but we've been talking about amending performance frameworks to longer term preventative and outcomes-based frameworks rather than short-term performance measures for some years, and that still hasn't happened. Now, obviously you've got the pandemic in the middle of that, so messing around with performance frameworks during that time is possibly not the right thing to do. However, what I would say is that if those performance frameworks had been changed five, six, seven years ago, then perhaps we might have been seeing some better progress in terms of tackling health inequality and perhaps not some of the very stark issues that we've seen during COVID.
The other issue that we're particularly concerned about is the continuation of adding complexity to an already complex landscape. I know this is something that this committee has considered in the past—the fact that often—and we still think that this is the case—public services boards are being bypassed in terms of prioritisation, in terms of funding packages, in terms of support and so on, and new layers of governance are being created. So, the newest layer of governance now, of course, is the corporate joint committees. It's still not clear how all of that interaction between CJCs, PSBs, RPBs and so on will all happen.
We recommended in chapter 2 a focus on well-being budgets, and you know there has been some—. If you look again at the big policy commitments, there have certainly been some shifts, some positive shifts, in that direction, but we still don't think that there's a real coherent approach across Government. I could say the same in term of prevention—some progress and focusing on getting to the root causes of things, and particularly preventing problems from occurring or from getting worse. So, for example, we clearly recommended that we shouldn't be building any houses that weren't low carbon. We were doing that a few years ago. Now in this budget, the 20,000 affordable homes will be low-carbon affordable homes. So, there has been some movement in that regard.
And, finally, I guess this is the biggest concern in terms of the future generations Act, which is around the implementation gap. So, there is still a tendency to push policy out, or policy, legislation, regulation, without understanding how that's going to land on the ground and whether that can be adequately resourced. So, the review that I've recently conducted into procurement is a really good example of that, where we've got all of the policies, the frameworks and so on you could ever wish to have, but still, back last year, I looked at 363 Sell2Wales contracts and not a single one of them required carbon reduction as part of their contract. We've just done a similar exercise now. I think we've looked at about 50 so far, and still no requirements around carbon reduction. So, it's that gap between aspiration and reality on the ground. And what public bodies were telling us is that it's not more tools, frameworks, guidance and so on that they need; they need practical hand-holding, they need people—experts—to be walking with them as their policies are developed, and they need that level of intensive support.
Fantastic. Thank you so much. And I'm good, if you didn't want to come back in, Heledd. No. Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.
Very good. I just wanted to ask you about public services boards. Obviously, they were one of the key organisations set up under the Act. I was looking at the list of organisations that have approached you for support, and I can see Wrexham and Powys; I can't, at the moment, see any of the others, and I just wondered how you think PSBs are working to have that collaborative, joined-up and long-term approach.
Again, Chair, we've discussed previously with this committee this anomaly in the legislation where I provide advice and support to public bodies on setting their well-being plans and, at the moment, they're going through their well-being assessments, so we're doing some quite specific work with them there, but there are not these sort of ongoing duties to monitor and assess what they're actually doing. So, in terms of that ongoing assessment, that's not something that we have done. We have, however, worked with them—PSBs and individual public bodies—particularly around futures planning and thinking, and we're seeing some quite interesting developments there. So, there's some really good analysis coming from Gwent in terms of how they're applying future trends and scenarios and the consequences, or potential consequences, of their work as a result of those future trends and scenarios. We're seeing some really interesting things similarly from Ceredigion in that regard. RCT, Cwm Taf, are yet to publish their well-being assessment, but they've done some really good work with involving young people and using futures techniques around their well-being assessments. So, I think some of that is quite promising.
I also think that, as I mentioned in response to Sarah, we still have this concern around the prioritisation of PSBs: concern about the complexity as to whether they can hold money as an entity themselves or whether it's individual constituent parts that hold money; and the fact that money is often directed elsewhere—the transformation fund, for example, through the regional partnership board, rather than through public services boards. There's all of that and the lack of dedicated support. So, some of the feedback that we're getting at the moment in terms of well-being assessments is that it's very much being landed in the lap of local authorities to deliver those well-being assessments. And, okay, again, you can have some sympathy because of COVID and people's attentions are directed elsewhere, but on the flip of that, actually, local authorities are under a huge amount of pressure due to COVID as well and so it's not right that this just lands on the lap of local authorities. And they have never been properly resourced to meet the obligations, even the process-based obligations that they've got around well-being assessments, developing well-being plans, doing that in a way that applies the five ways of working, undertaking all of the analysis around future trends, involving citizens. All of those sorts of things take a long time, and they've never been properly resourced to do that. So, I still think that there's a lot of potential, but I think, sadly, the environment that they're operating in is not a supportive one, either in terms of the resources or in terms of the way that policy decisions are taken and prioritised elsewhere.
Okay. You could be directing resources from above, but that isn't going to get you the joined-up thinking and the collaborative working that is what we're hoping to see from the PSBs. Is there anything specifically, very briefly, that you think the Welsh Government could or should do to improve their performance?
I think there are a few things, again, that were referenced in the future generations report. I think that there needs to be a more clearly directed understanding, centrally, of what the role of Welsh Government representatives on PSBs is. Are they part of the PSB? Are they there to break down the barriers between the things that the PSB rightly wants to do, and whether there might be barriers in Government? Are they there to share best practice across the rest of Government about what's going on in PSBs? Are they there to ensure that Welsh Government policy is developed with the recognition of local well-being plans? We're certainly not seeing any of that actually happen. This is what I'm trying to get to—some of these issues around the machinery of Government. So, you've got these representatives on PSBs, but how is that actually influencing what happens back at the Welsh Government ranch, if you like? The issue is around real clarity around how they hold money and what money they can access.
I totally agree with you that what we're not talking about here necessarily is new money, project-based money, and so on. But that money does exist and it is going elsewhere. And by the very nature of what happens in public services, leaders in public services follow the money. So, if there's a chunk of cash going into a regional planning board, you will get your chief executives and your chairs, and so on, turning up to that regional planning board to make sure that they are involved in the decision making on how that money's being spent. If it's going into the PSB to do the work around how are we going to start aligning our existing resources, and so on, that's a more difficult sell. I'm not saying that that shouldn't happen; in fact, that is exactly what should happen, but sometimes it needs that pump priming. The transformation fund is quite a good one. It's moved from being a two-year bit of cash that's gone into regional partnership boards, and now what is happening with it is that it is moving out to a five-year funding source, with 50 per cent coming from Welsh Government and 50 per cent having to come from the regional partnership board partners. If there was that sort of thing in public services boards, I think we would start to get some really interesting things coming from them.
That said—and this is my final point—I think that the PSBs and the relationships that have developed since their inception have been a really important part of the quite different pandemic response that we've seen here in Wales—so, the partnership around procurement of personal protective equipment, the partnership around test and trace, and so on, and that collaborative working environment, which I don't think has existed in the other UK nations. So, they might not be meeting the high aspirations that I think we set for them because of that range of environmental and policy factors, but I think we can't underestimate the importance of them in forming those relationships and how then those relationships have come to the fore in terms of dealing with the pandemic.
Okay. Thank you very much. Obviously, all that's very interesting. We'll have to come back to that another day. I'd like to now welcome Sam Rowlands, who's substituting for Altaf Hussain. I was remiss earlier to say that we've received apologies from Altaf Hussain, who cannot be with us today, but we're very happy to have Sam Rowlands substitute for him. So, Sam, over to you.
Thanks, Chair. There are some big boots to fill there with Altaf. It's very good to see you this afternoon, Heledd and Sophie. I hope you're having a wonderful Monday so far. Just coming in on the back of the Chair's comments in terms of PSBs, I had the privilege of sitting on one for a few years as leader of a council. I think a number of the comments you've made, commissioner, are entirely fair, and are quite interesting. But in the context of your role with PSBs, of course, the Public Accounts Committee in their inquiry made a couple of recommendations. I was reading two that jumped out there relating to your role. It said that you and Welsh public bodies should ensure they develop constructive relationships, and that the inconsistency in your relationships has limited the impact of your work. The other recommendation there, recommendation 4, was that you should prioritise supporting public bodies and public services boards to deliver this legislation. So, I'm just wondering what changes you have made in light of those recommendations from the Public Accounts Committee.
Thanks for the questions. It's interesting to hear your reflections as well from your time on a PSB. The Public Accounts Committee, I think, were absolutely right in terms of the support that is needed for public services boards, and indeed the individual 44 public bodies that are covered by the Act. However, that is set against a backdrop of massive resource challenges for my office.
Just to recap on that, I'm the lowest funded commissioner of all of the four commissioners. I don't begrudge him a single penny, but I get less than half the money that the Welsh Language Commissioner gets, and less than half the resource of the Welsh Books Council, for example. The public services ombudsman gets £6.4 million, and my budget is £1.5 million. So, whilst the aspirations of the Public Accounts Committee are exactly right, supporting 44 public bodies and 16 public services boards with 365 well-being objectives set between the 44 public bodies—. I don't have the number of objectives set on well-being plans at my fingertips, but that across all policy areas, considering both now and into the future, is quite an impossible task. I think the reality is that I've had to make some tough decisions, and with my limited resources, I've had to work out where do I use that limited resource to get to the thing that's going to have the biggest impact. The thing that will have the biggest impact—not the sole impact, I completely accept that—is getting the policy context right from the top, getting the kind of performance management arrangements right from the Welsh Government, challenging them in terms of how they're delivering their budgets down to these individual PSBs and public bodies and so on. That's the decision that I've taken.
However, in the last six months, in light of the PAC recommendations, what I have done is established what we're calling a point-of-contact team. I was able to do this through some underspend that I'd accrued. The reason why I accrue underspend is because we always take a partnerships-first approach to our budget. So, during the last number of years, I'd brought an extra £1.7 million into the operations of the future generations commissioner's office, and so, we've been able to generate some underspend. We put that underspend to setting up a regional point of contact for each of the public services boards and individual public bodies. That has been really interesting. Without doubt, there's a huge demand for support. Forty-nine per cent of the public bodies told us that they want really specific and tailored support, really directed at their individual organisation, rather than perhaps sectorally. They want help in applying tools and resources, rather than just receiving tools and resources. They want help and support from the outset of a programme or a project being developed right through its development, and constructive external challenge from us on that. Since that point-of-contact pilot has been in place, our requests for support from public bodies have gone up by 179 per cent. So, you can see the kind of demand that exists.
This year, I have asked Welsh Government in my statutory estimate to increase on a permanent basis my budget to allow me to continue undertaking that support for public bodies, but so far, that request has not been approved. So, there are some significant challenges there, and I will have to terminate the point-of-contact work if that doesn't happen.
Thanks. If I may just carry on a bit further, Chair, in all of our roles in life, there's stuff that's more interesting and there are things that are boring but absolutely essential. Do you think that there's a risk at times that you could be accused of focusing on the things that are more interesting and not necessarily focusing on areas that are, frankly, quite boring sometimes but are really important to get stuck into in terms of the nitty-gritty of Welsh public life and your role in that? Do you think there's a risk that you could be accused of sometimes?
Well, I don't know. I've waded through 'Planning Policy Wales' and the new criteria for the WelTAG assessment, so I'm not sure I could be accused of doing the sexy stuff. None of that stuff is particularly exciting, nor is wading through detailed impact assessments of spend on carbon reduction. So, we do get into the nitty-gritty, and that is why we've seen some of the significant changes that we have seen—so, for example, a really technical report and advice around the financial modelling around decarbonisation of homes, which, in this year's budget, has seen a huge increase from Welsh Government in funding decarbonisation of homes. The knock-on consequence of that, if the Government do that correctly, will be the potential, in communities across Wales, for 26,500 new jobs, and for the 155,000 people that there were—and there will be many more in light of recent issues around cost of living—living in fuel poverty to be taken out of fuel poverty, those people not going into the hospitals in our local communities because they're not in fuel poverty. So, this is the approach that we've taken. Yes, we're being quite challenging on some of the more progressive policies, policies that perhaps hadn't been considered previously—a reduced working week, a basic income and so on—but we're also absolutely rolling our sleeves up and getting stuck into the nitty-gritty of the stuff that is quite detailed and technical.
Thanks for that response; I appreciate it. In terms of your earlier response as well, you talked about the number of public bodies that are subject to the Act in terms of the review, and the recommendations the inquiry looked at, which were accepted by Welsh Government, that that list of public bodies should be reviewed, what are your thoughts on that? Are you involved in that review in terms of those additional bodies covered by the Act? I'm not sure if you heard that.
Sorry, I didn't. Chair, could you please bear with me a second? I'm just going to try and switch to a different Wi-Fi network, because it's really buffering. If you would bear with me a second.
All right. Heledd, is this an area that you'd be able to respond to?
I can certainly start, yes, while we're waiting for Sophie to rejoin. We are involved in this review of additional public bodies. So far, Welsh Government have requested some information from us to provide some of the cost implications of adding public bodies to the duties of the Act, notwithstanding some of the things that the commissioner has just run through about the challenges for our team of doing that. We understand that Welsh Government are going to be applying similar criteria to what they applied when the Act came into force in 2015 for these additional bodies. We have heard from Welsh Government some of the bodies in scope. Some of these were named by the auditor general's 2020 report, and some of them, we understand, are bodies that have come into being since 2015. At last count, there are possibly 74 additional public bodies within scope of this review, which would have a massive impact on us as a team, of course, and our ability to respond to requests for support and to monitor and assess these additional bodies. Four corporate joint committees have already come into place who are subject to the duties of the Act. We're still uncertain, I think it's fair to say, how Welsh Government are taking into account this potential huge resource strain on our team, which the commissioner was just covering. Sorry, Sophie, I was just starting to answer the question. I've just run through our involvement so far and the fact that we think there might 74 additional public bodies.
Heledd has answered the question very well. Is there anything you want to add to what Heledd just told us?
Yes. I'd possibly be more direct than Heledd has been. So, public bodies are being added to the Act with no additional funding, and that's already happened with the corporate joint committees. New public bodies will be added, we're told, by April 2023, and Heledd has already mentioned that we don't know the exact figure, but it could be in the region of 74 public bodies. The discussions that I'm having with Welsh Government at the moment are that I will have to lose a number of staff if the budget doesn't increase, all of the point-of-contact work, and that's at a point when new public bodies are coming on board. And we know from the transition, or lack of transition, if you like, when the Act first came into force—so, I took up post at the beginning of February and 44 public bodies were covered by the Act on 1 April—that there's a lot of work that needs to go in in that transitionary year to get these public bodies—. So, we're talking about the potential of housing associations, higher education, further education, Welsh Government-sponsored bodies like the development bank and those sorts of entities. They need support, awareness raising, training packages, all of these sorts of things, to get them geared up to apply the legislation when they're covered by it. And the last conversation that I had with Welsh Government, they said that they're going to have some conversations with them over the next year to see what support they may want. Well, my point-of-contact team, the public accounts committee and the auditor general have already done that work with the existing public bodies and I doubt it will be much different. So, to me, it feels just a bit like kicking it into the long grass and refusing to fund something that is absolutely necessary if we're going to avoid an implementation gap that I've talked about with these other public bodies.
Okay. Thank you for that frankness. Ken, would you like to pick up the conversation?
Thanks, Chair. Commissioner, I'm going to ask a few questions, actually, about the Welsh Government and how they've set their budget. I think in the past, you've been critical of Welsh Government not paying full regard to the Act in shaping the budget, but do you think that that approach has changed, and do you think that the Welsh Government has become far more adept at ensuring that the budget is set in alignment with the Act?
Yes. There's been some really promising progress. The fact that we've seen a record increase in funding for the climate emergency is really, really significant in terms of applying the principles around the Act. So, a 329 per cent increase in direct funding for the climate and nature emergencies in the last two years—so, from £140 million to £600 million. We've seen active travel go from £27 million in 2019-20 to £103 million in 2023-24. The housing retrofit programme, which, again, based on a number of my recommendations, go from £19 million up to £92 million in 2024-25. And we've seen quite innovative things like the freelancers pledge—only £7 million but important in terms of protecting our creative freelancers from the effects of COVID and so on. So, in policy terms, there have definitely been significant shifts, positive shifts, in terms of the budget.
There are still a few areas that we're concerned about. So, we'd question the extent to which the definition of prevention that was agreed a number of years ago is really being applied across the Welsh Government. So, again, we can see how some policy coming out does have a preventative lens, but we can't see their workings. Did you use the definition of prevention to develop that policy? Is that the right approach? Is there a better approach? And how are you applying that definition of prevention across the board? In fact, prevention is only mentioned seven times in the budget narrative, which—. I suppose you can't take a lot from that, but that gives a bit of an indication. And then the actions identified under the budget improvement plan on prevention are fairly limited—so, referring to COVID response and so on, rather than getting to some of the root causes of issues. So, yes, there's progress, but I think there's probably still work to do there.
To what extent do you think the Government has shaped its plans for the recovery from the pandemic with due regard to the Act? Do you think that the Act has been central in planning the recovery?
Yes. We are very pleased with the reconstruction mission. We think it's largely based around, or aligned with, the five-point plan that I published for recovery. Of course, you'll be aware, because you were responsible for developing this, but to have an economic strategy with well-being economics at its centre and an equal green and prosperous recovery—. Okay, they are words, and the actions are more important, but, in terms of the rest of the world, having that approach centred around well-being economics is really quite revolutionary, and there are lots of countries across the world that are really looking at what we're doing there.
In terms of the five-point plan that I published, it was a focus on housing retrofit, it was a focus on transport, it was a focus on 'something for something' in business—so, particularly, the kind of economic contract—and it was a focus on building in culture into the recovery post COVID. All of those things have been addressed. We can argue about whether they could go further and so on, and of course they probably can. I suppose the only area that I would say I've still got some significant concerns about is around the economic contract and the fact that we're still not necessarily seeing clearly that 'something for something'. So, lots of money has gone out to the private sector in COVID payments and so on during the pandemic. But, again, it comes back to, potentially, the lack of support for those private sector organisations in terms of, 'Okay, we're signing up to upskilling, we're signing up to addressing mental health in our workplace, we're signing up to decarbonisation: how do we go about doing that? Where's the practical support around doing that?' And I think it's an area that the Government could really up their game on.
Okay, thank you. Thanks, Chair. I've got some more questions, but I'll come in later, if I may.
Okay. Fine. Sioned. Sioned Williams, would you like to come in at this point?
I've got it. Yes, sorry, I couldn't find my notes—too many screens.
Prynhawn da, comisiynydd, prynhawn da, Heledd. Cwpl o gwestiynau pellach am eich perthynas chi'n benodol gyda chyrff cyhoeddus a'r Llywodraeth. Rŷch chi wedi sôn eisoes am eich pryder chi am y bwlch gweithredu rhwng polisi Llywodraeth Cymru a'i gyflawni. Felly, beth yw eich prif feysydd pryder o ran y bwlch gweithredu yma? Allwch chi roi enghreifftiau penodol i ni? Rŷch chi wedi sôn am eich adroddiad diweddar i gaffael; efallai y gallwch chi ymhelaethu tipyn bach ar hynny neu ddarparu rhai enghreifftiau eraill.
Good afternoon, commissioner, good afternoon, Heledd. A few further questions on your relationship with public bodies and the Government. You've already mentioned your concerns in terms of the implementation gap between Welsh Government policy and delivery. So, what are your main areas of concern in terms of this implementation gap? Can you give us some specific examples? You've mentioned your recent report into procurement—perhaps you could expand on that, or perhaps provide other examples.
Diolch. Diolch yn fawr. So, yes, I can expand on the procurement example. So, I did a review—I used my section 20 powers to look at procurement last year—and, basically, we found that public bodies were not adequately applying the future generations Act to their procurement decisions, and there were some specific and urgent challenges in that regard in relation to the climate emergency. So, public bodies in Wales, their procurement practices account for between 50 and 70 per cent of their carbon emissions. And, as I mentioned earlier, when we looked at 363 Sell2Wales contracts, not a single one of those required carbon reduction in that tendering process. In that process we saw only 35 references to community benefits, which is quite an old way of considering what additional benefits you can derive from procurement; really, it should be centred around,'How is this contract and these procurement decisions helping us to meet the well-being objectives that we've set?' And we weren't seeing those references.
So, we've gone back in now; we made a number of recommendations there. One was that there should be a centre of excellence set up to co-ordinate procurement activity and to do a lot of this hand holding, sharing of best practice, proactive support for public bodies. That was a recommendation from myself; it was similarly a recommendation from a working group of procurement professionals that had been established. The Welsh Government has not taken that recommendation forward as such yet. Instead, they've issued their own £100,000 contract to ask the same question again around what a centre of excellence should do, when two reports have just told them what it should do. So, there's a fairly high degree of frustration from me and my office about the kind of approach that's being taken there, and that is backed up by the evidence, because when we've gone back in and looked this year, 65 contracts so far—it was more than the 50 I thought we'd got through—three references to the future generations Act, four references to social value, 18 references to community benefit, no obvious requirements around carbon reduction. So, whilst we are procuring consultants to do work that's already been done, millions and millions of pounds-worth of public money is being spent not in line with the Act or not in line with our carbon emissions targets, and that's really not good enough.
I can give you a number of other examples, if we've got time. Sorry, just looking through my list here. So, action plan for social housing building and modern methods of construction in March 2021—very high level, minimal reference to improving equality and diversity of the construction workforce. That's on the back, obviously, of us having, of the Welsh Government having, a race action plan, of having done a gender review, of having an economic strategy based around prosperous, green and equal, so you would expect to see those connections being made.
The social services directorate in Welsh Government published a consultation in January last year outlining changes to drive regionalisation. Again, no—. They were a bit more prescriptive and sympathetic to existing public services board infrastructure, but only passing reference to the creation of corporate joint committees. So, again, we're seeing new stuff come from Welsh Government without us seeing how—you know, it clearly explaining how is it all actually connected together.
So, there's some—. And I've got a whole list here that I could share with you, but this is exactly why I'm really concerned about the insufficient response to chapter 2 of my future generations report, because it's this nitty-gritty stuff, and to go back to Sam Rowlands's point, this is where we're in the real nifty-gritty of what impacts and impedes implementation. We're just not seeing it consistently enough being applied in the machinery of all decision making across Welsh Government, but, as I said, I caveat that with still some really positive policy announcements and programmes coming out. But it's the detail that sits beneath it; it's how the machinery is rolling those policy announcements out.
Diolch. Ie, os byddai modd—. Does dim digon o amser efallai inni glywed yr holl enghreifftiau o ran y meysydd yma lle rŷch chi'n gweld y bwlch gweithredu, felly os gallwch chi anfon y rhestr honno atom ni fel pwyllgor, Cadeirydd, efallai byddai hynny'n ddefnyddiol inni wrth inni ystyried ein hadroddiad.
Symud ymlaen, te, efallai, at—. Rŷch chi wedi sôn am y toreth o geisiadau am gefnogaeth a chymorth rŷch chi'n eu cael, beth yw'r prif fathau o geisiadau rŷch chi'n eu cael, gan bwy, pa fath o gyrff ydyn nhw, ac ydy'r rhain wedi newid dros amser? Efallai y gallwch chi hefyd egluro sut mae eich swyddfa chi felly yn blaenoriaethu'r ceisiadau am gefnogaeth yma ac efallai sôn am faint o'r ceisiadau yma gan gyrff cyhoeddus sydd wedi bod gan Lywodraeth Cymru.
Thank you. We perhaps don't have enough time to hear all of the examples in terms of these areas where you've identified that implementation gap, so perhaps if you could send that information to us as a committee, Chair, that might be useful to us as we consider our report.
And you have mentioned the whole host of requests for support that you receive, so what are the main type of requests for support, and who are those requests from, what kind of bodies, and has this changed over time? Perhaps you could also explain how your office prioritises requests for support and perhaps you could tell us how many of these requests from public bodies have been from the Welsh Government.
Yes, thank you. Diolch. So, in all, we've received, to date, 1,061 requests for support since May 2018, and the scale of these requests, they can be anything from, 'Can you help us revise WelTAG, draft a new transport strategy?', 'Can you help us bring people together to facilitate discussion around how we reach Net Zero Wales in a particular sector?', to 'Can you help us to align how do we roll out the new socioeconomic duty in a way that is aligned with the well-being of future generations Act?' So, a large majority of these requests are not small issues, they're big, meaty subjects.
The number of requests from public bodies in total is 362, a lot of other requests that we get are from third sector organisations, for example, and sometimes from academic institutions that are wanting to do particular pieces of work on the future generations Act and are wanting our advice and support around that, for example. Of those 362, 157 have come solely from Welsh Government. So, this is the challenge that I'm trying to outline in terms of my budget position. The Welsh Government are one public body out of 44, and yet almost half of all requests for support are coming from Welsh Government and, as I said, often in these big, meaty topics and subject areas. Since we've been undertaking the point-of-contact work, as I said, these requests have gone up by 179 per cent, which is showing the kind of level of perhaps dormant demand that has been out there, if you like.
In terms of how we prioritise the requests, we've managed to respond to about 68 per cent of the requests that have been received, which, I think, is pretty good going for a very small team. The criteria that we apply are: does it come within our priority areas of work? Back at the beginning of my term, I set six priority areas with a cross-cutting theme around decarbonisation. We would look at whether there are significant or quick opportunities to deliver against the strategy that we've set. So, what sort of impact could we achieve through that request? Is there a significant risk of us not doing the work? So, for example, whilst aligning the socioeconomic duty with the well-being of future generations Act was not strictly within our work programme last year, if we didn't do that work, the concern would be that it would be poorly aligned and then we would be picking up the pieces with other public bodies who were struggling to make the connections, and that was a message that we'd already heard from them. Then we would look at how the project contributes to the development of well-being goals and the sustainable development principle. Can we resource the work? Obviously, a key consideration for us. And what is the potential for knowledge transfer? So, those are the criteria that we apply.
However, with the new budget alignment exercise, what that will mean, in effect, is that I'll be hamstrung in terms of not being able to carry over resources that we bring in through other activities. What that means is that we're going to have to move significantly away from providing advice and support back to meeting our core duties of monitoring and assessing, even though I don't think that that's the most effective thing to do.
Diolch. Ŷch chi erioed wedi gwrthod unrhyw geisiadau am gymorth gan Lywodraeth Cymru? Ac os ŷch chi, beth oedd natur y ceisiadau?
Thank you. Have you ever turned down any requests for support from the Welsh Government? And if so, what was the nature of the requests?
Yes. I'm just trying to—. We have definitely declined requests from Welsh Government. I don't have the details of what they were in front of me, but that's certainly something that we can share with the committee.
Ocê, diolch yn fawr. O ystyried wedyn eich bod chi wedi'ch penodi a'ch swyddfa wedi'i hariannu gan Lywodraeth Cymru, allwch chi esbonio sut ŷch chi'n sicrhau eich bod yn parhau i fod yn annibynnol? Rŷn ni wedi clywed lot o annibyniaeth barn y prynhawn yma, ond os allech chi egluro efallai'n fwy eang. Beth yw'ch barn chi hefyd ynglŷn ag a ddylai penodiadau i'r rôl yma yn y dyfodol gael eu gwneud gan y Senedd yn hytrach na'r Llywodraeth, a beth ŷch chi'n meddwl fyddai effaith hynny ar annibyniaeth y rôl?
Thank you very much. Now, given that you are appointed and funded by the Welsh Government, can you explain how you ensure that you remain independent? We've heard a great deal of independence of thought this afternoon, but if you could perhaps explain to us. Could you also tell us what are your views on future appointments to this role, and should they be made by the Senedd rather than the Welsh Government, and what do you think the impact of that would be on the independence of the role?
Okay. Diolch. Well, I suppose, going back to my original appointment and some of the questions as to whether I could be independent, I hope that I've proved the critics wrong and, actually, I'm fiercely independent and not afraid to call things out when they're not right.
I would say the biggest threat to my independence is the poor budget settlement, which is impeding my ability to do the work that needs to be done. That is particularly the case in this coming financial year. So, commissioners, other commissioners, myself included, have always kept an amount of money in their budget to carry over each year for the purposes of statutory reviews, because you can never completely plan for when you might need to do a review. I established that principle around the time when the M4 was a live issue, and whether I would need to go in and use my statutory powers to review in that instance. So, I've always kept £100,000 in reserves. It's the case now, with the new budget alignment exercise, that commissioners will no longer be able to keep that money in reserves, and we have challenged this quite vehemently with the Welsh Government, officials in particular, to say, 'Well, this is severely compromising the independence of commissioners; how do we resolve this situation?' The answer that we got back is, 'If you need to do a review, you will have to make a request to the Welsh Government for resourcing to do that review', and obviously what we put back is, 'Well, what if we want to review the Welsh Government?' There's a clear compromise to our independence there, and that position has not shifted. So, that is still the position that we're in. Commissioners are being asked to go to Welsh Government if they need to resource a review that is above and beyond their annual work programme. That surely can't be a sensible approach to take, and it's a real concern to me. I don’t speak for my other commissioner colleagues, but it's a concern across the board.
In terms of appointments and, I would say, in particular budgets, the appointment process when I was appointed, it was a cross-party panel of Assembly Members, as they were at the time, who made a recommendation to Government. Other than specifically making the appointment by the Senedd, that was a sensible route at the time and guaranteed some of that independence, I believe. However, I do think—and, again, I know Sally Holland has expressed this view in particular—that it would make sense for commissioners to come within the remit specifically of the Senedd rather than the Government, and then we wouldn't be having these quite difficult conversations about independence, and when independence may or may not be compromised.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Diolch, Cadeirydd.
Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.
Okay, thank you. Before I go on to ask you about the proposed section 20 review, I just want to throw in a question: we're a population of just over 3 million, how is it possible that we have this proliferation of organisations, when I remember, in the Public Accounts Committee report, one of the things we said was, 'No more organisations until we've culled some of the existing ones'? What can you do to somehow bring this under control?
Well, I can issue recommendations to Government, which I've done, and specific ones on that. You might recall in the future generations report that we had some policy recommendations, process recommendations, and then we had a series of things that Government and others should stop doing and start doing, and one of the things we said they should stop doing is adding to the already complex landscape with new bodies, institutions, layers of governance. They should be seeking to remove that complexity rather than adding to it.
However, if there's an absolutely cast-iron case for creating a new layer of something, or a new institution, it should clearly set out what the obligations of that institution or organisation are in terms of the future generations Act, how they align to other connected sets of governance infrastructure, and be really clear on that from the outset, which is not necessarily something that we've seen, which is where we get these challenges between disconnection, between, for example, what the RPB is doing, what the PSB is doing and now what the corporate joint committees will be doing. So, I don't think there are any more people who can make—. You know, PAC have made those recommendations; I've made those recommendations; I know this committee have expressed concern, but still they come, and someone somewhere—.
So, is it cowardice, exhaustion or just not wanting to—? You know, it's like poking a beehive or a hornet's nest.
My honest reflection is that it's easier to fiddle with governance than it is to get to the root cause of some of the issues around implementation, around relationships, around how we do different funding streams, around how we support and resource the implementation of things. So, it's really easy to set up a new structure, rather than doing that stuff. And, if you go right back to the Beecham report, which would be, what, 25 years ago, or possibly even more now—I think it was 1999, wasn't it, so just less than 25 years ago—these were all issues that were talked about in Beecham, and they're issues—. The thing that was focused on in response to Beecham was to create new infrastructure—at the time, local service boards and so on. The stuff that has never been focused on is the leadership, the support for implementation, the changes to culture, policy and practice, and that's the stuff that is critically important. And that's exactly why I'm doing a section 20 review into the machinery of Government to try and get underneath the skin of some of that.
Okay. So, is this the main driver, then, behind your proposed section 20 review, to really try and hack into the undergrowth of why we continue to expand on the alphabet soup, rather than reduce it to something that the public can understand?
Yes. So, there are a number of reasons, and the kind of integration approach is just one of them. I suppose the reasons are set out in chapter 2 of my future generations report. So, how things are integrated; how, when we develop policy, have we considered the long-term impact of the things that we're doing. I and my colleagues in the office sit on a multitude of Welsh Government advisory boards and groups, and the first thing that we say whenever we go to the first session of the disability task force, of the budget advisory group—name any potential group and we've probably had an invitation to it—is: what future trends are you using to consider the policy area that you're looking at in depth, and what analysis have you done in terms of what's going on in the rest of Government that might impact on the things that you're doing? And, hardly ever do we get an adequate response to those questions.
Some of that is really quite simple, some mapping across Government in terms of what's going on. For example, we've done quite a lot of work with economic advisory boards. We had to introduce the economic advisory board to the green recovery advisory board. We had to introduce them to the fact that there had been a gender review and that a race equality action plan was in development, and that's not something necessarily that my office should be doing, but no-one else is doing it. And so that's where we really want to get underneath the skin, and we're going to look at a particular policy area—we're going to look at the roll-out of policy and skills and the 125,000 apprenticeships—to pose those questions: how is that aligned to the equality action plan in Welsh Government; how is it aligned to the net-zero Wales plan; how are you considering the long-term trends here; how is your policy for 125,000 apprenticeships considering where the skills gaps are for those green industries and getting upstream; how are you working collaboratively with the regional skills partnerships and the skills providers, and so on, to get upstream of this issue; and how is that policy happening in Government and what advice is being provided to Ministers to enable them to identify the critical integration, long-term-type issues and take action on it?
Okay. Ultimately, this is the job of the First Minister and the Permanent Secretary, to knit together the activities of different departments. The First Minister is not known for his lack of grasp of the detail. Why do you think that we persist in having this problem that you seem to be constantly having to identify?
Well, the First Minister can't be everywhere, can he? And, again, I would go back to the fact that we are seeing better integration at a strategic policy level and better application of the future generations Act at a strategic policy level than we have ever seen before. So, that's hugely encouraging, and I think that the First Minister can be commended for that. When it gets down into the system, however, it is the detailed implementation, and it's that detailed implementation that people out there, the various local authorities and various regional structures, and so on, have to deal with, that is not just necessarily joined up. So, that's the issue that we're trying to get to. And, yes, it is an issue for the Permanent Secretary, and one of the reasons why we're undertaking this review is that some of the evidence that the last Permanent Secretary gave to the Public Accounts Committee on implementation of the Act gave us real cause for concern. So, when she was asked, 'Is there ever an occasion where you've had to advise Ministers differently, or challenge Ministers in a way that they may not be applying the future generations Act?', her answer was 'no'. If that's the case, then I would question the quality of advice coming to Ministers.
Okay. So, you've already undertaken a section 20 review into procurement, and you've got some very sharp things to say about that in your paper. What have you achieved or do you expect to achieve from the section 20 review of procurement?
I mentioned the further work that's being done on the centre of excellence. That is progress. It's not that they've ruled that recommendation out; they're doing further work on it. I don't think that it particularly needed further work; there was enough information and evidence there for us to just crack on with it, but they are going in that direction, so that's positive. Obviously, we've got the social partnership and public procurement Bill that is expected to be laid in the Senedd shortly, and that will have a renewed focus on procurement. There's still, again, a lot of the devil in the detail around how will the requirements around that Bill not just add another layer of complexity to regulatory or legal statutory requirements around procurement, but how will it align with existing ones, for example the future generations Act, but also fair work, also equality and a range of other things.
We have provided input and feedback on the Welsh procurement policy statement, and that is now improved and it does align with the five ways of working. The Welsh Government's action plan shows that they've considered the well-being goals. However, there's not an explanation of how the Welsh procurement policy statement principles contribute to the well-being goals, so it's there again in a high-level way, but perhaps not in the detail that we would like to see. This is one of the reasons why we're now going back in to do this further work on procurement, to see what has changed as a result of the review that we've done. And I've given you the emerging headlines from that, which is 'not enough', but there's still some further work that we need to do, and that will be one of my priorities for the coming year. Sorry, Chair, you're on mute.
We'll be having our own stab at this when we scrutinise the social partnership and public procurement Bill. So, thank you for all that information. I'd now like to call Sioned who wanted to ask the next question.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Ie, dwi eisiau gofyn yn benodol ynglŷn â'r cerrig milltir newydd. Beth yw'ch barn chi ar y cerrig milltir a'r dangosyddion cenedlaethol diwygiedig arfaethedig? Ydych chi'n gallu cynnwys yn eich ateb ble rŷch chi'n meddwl bod angen newidiadau a/neu welliannau?
Thank you, Chair. Yes, I wanted to ask specifically about the new milestones. What are your views on the proposed new milestones and revised national indicators? And in your answer can you tell us where changes and/or improvements may be needed?
Diolch. So, in terms of the milestones, the Government have consulted on those milestones and they've been widely welcomed, so that's good. We had submitted a response, and I suppose the main thing that we had said, which we think is important across all of the milestones, is that there should be interim milestones because, yes, the milestones reflect the long-term nature of what we're trying to achieve through the well-being of future generations Act, with them being achieved by 2050, but actually, really, in order to hold people's feet to the fire and really drive progress towards these 2050 milestones, there need to be interim milestones, and we haven't really seen that change. The only one that has that interim milestone is the children's healthy behaviours milestone, which is a 2035 interim target. So, we think that—.
None of us may be here in 2050. In fact, a lot of us probably won't be here in 2050. Well, I mean, we might be on the planet but we probably won't be scrutinising the Welsh Government's milestones. It was therefore really important that there were those key points at which we're able to track progress. We also wanted to see a commitment to setting milestones in relation to people's happiness and well-being and to incorporate cohesive communities and a sense of community, as the current set of milestones and indicators are predominantly framed through a kind of individualistic lens. The future generations Act is all about this kind of societal approach, and we haven't seen any change there.
So, we don't think that they're a bad set. A bit disappointed that they didn't take on board the comments that we've made, but, again, sometimes—. You know, I can be quite challenging of the picture in Wales, as we all can, but, actually, the fact that we have this set of quite progressive milestones is the envy of many other countries in the world, so I don't think we should beat ourselves up too much about it.
Sioned, were you going to go on and just briefly ask about the retrofitting paper?
No. I think that's Jane. Diolch. Absolutely. Diolch, Gadeirydd.
Sorry. Thank you. Jane.
Thank you, Chair. So, I'm just going to ask one question, but there are two bits to it, on this really important issue around retrofitting housing and decarbonisation. You talked about affordable housing and that the 200,000 new builds are going to be green, but could you just say a little bit about what you think needs to be in place for retrofitting at the required scale and pace? And just the second half is: we know that part of this is around skills, so could you just say a little bit about what you think needs to be in the Net Zero Wales skills action plan, and also whether you are part of that—whether you're involved in that? Thank you very much. Diolch, again.
Sophie, I think you want to be fairly brief on this, because obviously we're seeing you next month when we're doing our fuel poverty inquiry.
Yes, no worries. So, the headline figure that we said needed to be invested over the next 10 years was £14.75 billion, and that that should be through a combination of funding from the UK Government, the Welsh Government and the private sector. Now, we think that there could have been a significant opportunity around all of the approaches to the post-EU funds and the whole levelling-up agenda. What we would have liked to have seen is some kind of Wales-wide investment from the UK Government, in partnership with the Welsh Government, towards something like addressing the housing retrofit challenge, because of the knock-on positive consequences that that has to jobs, to health and decarbonisation targets and so on.
We do think that the Welsh Government, to be fair, have made some significant progress in this area, so the optimised retrofit programme, as I said, going up from £90 million in 2019-20 to £92 million in 2024-25. So, that's significant investment. But whilst this is happening, obviously the world around us is also changing in terms of the cost-of-living crisis. So, UK estimations just in the last few months at UK level: 4 million people in fuel poverty up now to 6.5 million people in fuel poverty. So, I have a lot of sympathy for the Welsh Government there. It's a huge, huge challenge in terms of financing. They're not necessarily getting that real co-ordinated investment at a UK Government level, and meanwhile, the demand is growing, or the problem is growing, if you like. So, they're doing pretty well, but it's not enough, sadly.
Overall, just finally, it's a short but very pertinent report that you did with the New Economics Foundation. What has been the response from various stakeholders to date to that report?
The housing associations and RSLs seemed to welcome the report. I think there was, potentially, a little bit of a stand-off where RSLs were sort of thinking that Welsh Government should fund the whole thing, and Welsh Government were sort of pushing to RSLs, and I think this report came to a sort of compromise in the middle. The Welsh Government are consulting on some of the specifics that I've got in my report. One of the things I'd particularly like to see is a Welsh energy services company established to co-ordinate all of the housing retrofit challenge, linking with the skills agenda and so on, making sure that there are standards. I don't know if you saw the Politics Wales show yesterday, but there were reports into some of the real problems of past retrofit issues in Caerau, but also in other parts of Wales.
So, we think that there needs to be a co-ordinating body to work out how that is done, done well, done with maximum benefit to health, economy, environment and so on, and how it is done across the public RSL and private sector in a way that gets us to meet those carbon emissions targets that we've set.
Okay. Thanks very much. We'll come back to that next month. Sarah, you're wanting to come up with the small subject of inequality in a future Wales.
Thank you, Chair. Just a small subject. Commissioner, can I ask you your views on the Welsh Government's current equality impact assessment?
Yes. So, again, just in terms of the sort of broader policy context, this is an area where, again, sort of, the sand is shifting post pandemic, and we've seen Chwarae Teg's report published today—the gender pay gap's increased; for example, we've still only got 29 per cent of councillors who are women and so on. My feeling is that in terms of gender, perhaps the recommendations of the gender review have perhaps got lost somewhere. I think that the race equality action plan is excellent in terms of its aspiration; I think that the way in which the Government is setting up a race disparity unit is really progressive, and I think that it's almost a kind of model that we need for some of the other challenges that I've talked about with the future generations Act—an organisation who's going to be doing that analysis on future trends, on cutting the data in different ways and so on, and supplying that in a timely fashion to inform policy. So, there are some really good things happening.
Areas where we've got concerns: so there's a lot of lack of clear integration between the draft budget and Net Zero Wales in the way that they don't sufficiently consider equality. Now, obviously, it's not necessarily about the money, it's about how the policy sort of flows through, but we do think there's going to need to be some specific interventions, for example on the skills gap in the green economy and in science, technology, education and mathematics for women, for black, Asian and minority ethnic people, and for disabled people. We're not necessarily seeing that as yet. And then just in terms of the—. Sorry, did you want me to talk about the impact assessment process as well, or is—?
Yes, that would be great, and also, because you've kind of answered my next question anyway about the Net Zero Wales plan, so that's really helpful, but if you could also just include—. I just wanted to come back—. When you said about gender getting lost somewhere in it, can you just explain to us what you meant by that as well?
Well, it seems to not have the same level of priority that it had previously. The fact that the pay gap has gone up is perhaps an indication of that. As I said, the sand is shifting and so things like violence against women during the pandemic have become an even bigger problem than they were before, and so it perhaps needs some renewed focus. And from the perspective that we've looked at things, which is the green economy in particular and the skills gap there, the future trends and scenarios around care and changing demographics in particular, there really needs to be work ongoing now to prevent that becoming a huge problem in the future. So, again, some good policy announcements from the Welsh Government—the living wage for care workers who, of course, are predominantly women, which is a significant—. And speaking to what I was saying before, the policy announcements are good, but we don't seem to necessarily have that real, detailed in-depth understanding of the equality implications—gender implications I'm talking about here in particular—right throughout all of our policies.
That's really helpful. Thank you. I'm going to hand back now, because I know we've got some questions about universal basic income. I don't want to miss out on those. Thank you, commissioner. Thank you, Chair.
Thanks. Ken Skates.
Thanks, Chair. Commissioner, just a couple of questions on universal basic income and a shorter working week. First of all, are you able to share the key findings of your research into a shorter working week, and have you had an opportunity to present those findings to Ministers and any ministerial advisory boards?
We're publishing the report on the reduced working week next week, but I can share with you some of the headlines for that. Like UBI, there's a high level of public support for a shorter working week in Wales. Our polling shows that about 62 per cent of the Welsh public would ideally choose to work a four-day working week or less. Seventy-six of the Welsh public would support the sharing out of work, so that everyone can have a work-life balance. Fifty-seven per cent of the Welsh public would support the Welsh Government piloting a scheme to move towards a four-day working week.
What our research is showing is that a reduced working week can offer a range of benefits in line with the well-being of future generations Act—so, significant improvements from a public health perspective, a reduction in work-related inequalities, more time for community engagement. Really, what we're talking about here is futureproofing. The working week has not changed in the last 100 years, and yet the world of work has completely transformed. If you apply, I suppose, a purely economic model to that, you might get a different response to applying what we're aiming to achieve here in Wales. We're aiming to have social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being, and reducing a working week can help with a number of those elements. Even in terms of the economy, there's quite a number of research papers that suggest that productivity actually improves.
We're not saying that we're going to publish a report and then overnight the whole of Wales should move a reduced working week. There's a huge number of things to work through and a different range of complexities in different sectors, for example. But what we're asking for is for the Government to support some pilots of willing employers and organisations across the public, private and third sector, and then, in the same way that they're doing with universal basic income, to evaluate, across the well-being goals in the future generations Act, what the outcomes of those pilots have been.
Great. Thanks. Has there been any response so far? I don't know whether you'd be able to share any confidential discussions that you might have had with Ministers or advisers, but is there anything that you could share with us that would indicate what the Government's response will be to the research?
I think that the Government are looking forward to receiving the—. Well, officials have received a copy of the report. I think the Government are quite open to a discussion about this. I know that the First Minister had some discussions with Scotland, and I think with the Finnish Government, when he was in COP, and this issue was discussed. I think that they're awaiting with interest and could be persuaded that a pilot might well be something that they would want to support in Wales. I don't think we're talking about any massive resource commitment. The sort of thing I'm talking about is support for willing organisations to work through, potentially with experts in this field, how a reduced working week could work in their organisation, and then support for an evaluation of that, which we could take from however many organisations wanted to be involved in that, and corral to what, then, does that look like in an overall Wales picture.
Great. Thank you. And then, finally, on universal basic income, the pilot that the Government is funding will come at a cost of £20 million if the budget for it is used in full. It's not exactly what you were proposing, nonetheless it is a pilot. It should provide a sound evidence base concerning a subject where there are various views as to the benefits, or otherwise, of introducing such an innovative scheme. How do you think that the pilot actually compares with what you were proposing? Do you think there will be enough evidence from it to really answer the critics' questions over universal basic income? Are there any key actions that you think the Welsh Government should be considering during the implementation of the pilot?
Again, this is a progressive policy move. You're right, it's not necessarily the more comprehensive pilot that I wanted to see, and it's more the testing of a basic income for a particular group—a group that, according to all of the data and evidence, have some really significant challenges. So, if you think from the Government's perspective, they might not be able to fund a wide-scale pilot, where could they potentially have the biggest impact in tackling poverty, addressing inequality, socioeconomic disadvantage, poor health outcomes and so on and so forth? This is a well-deserving group.
I think the challenge with it, however, is that you are testing one particular group and then not necessarily from your evaluation being able to see, 'Okay, what would the benefits of the universal basic income be to a single mum living on benefits? What would the benefit be to a pensioner couple?' for example. And that is the whole concept, of course, of a universal basic income. Our modelling suggests that there could be some really significant wins for those different population groups. Depending on the level that the basic income was set at, taking the one level that we proposed would lead to a 50 per cent reduction in child poverty, moving up to complete eradication of child poverty, and similarly for pensioner poverty. We're not going to be able to test that.
I don't know exactly how the Welsh Government are taking forward the plans for evaluation. I have comfort in the fact that they are in active discussions, I understand, with someone called Guy Standing, who is an internationally acclaimed expert in this field and has been involved in most of the evaluations in other countries across the world. I think the Welsh Government are well aware that there is a real appetite to try to get as much more widely applicable evaluation from this pilot as possible, but I don't know, yet, the details of how they're going to do that.
Okay. Thank you. Do you think it's fair to assert that, by limiting it to a specific cohort rather than introducing a pilot across a community, we won't necessarily see, through the pilot, the sort of cultural change that takes place within a population, the behavioural change and so forth, that a wider pilot might have been able to demonstrate?
I think that's exactly the issue, really, and mapping that out is, I suppose, the really interesting stuff. There are some countries where a lot of the focus is on whether it improves people's chances of getting jobs or those sorts of things, and that's quite a narrow way of looking at it. If you look at some of the Finland pilots, for example, there's an increase in physical and mental well-being across a population—how, then, do you map that across the long-term cost savings, potentially, to the NHS? Pilots have seen increases in entrepreneurial activity, and certainly, we did a number of focus groups and that came out as a really strong theme: 'It would give me that safety net'.
Across the whole community, what could that mean to the economic improvements, if you like, in that community? What could it mean, potentially, to this sense of community? I think the whole approach to furlough has been really interesting there—a form of basic income, I suppose. And, okay, there were a particular set of circumstances in terms of the pandemic, but what we saw then—and the well-being in Wales survey backs this up—was that, prior to the pandemic, 52 per cent of people in Wales thought that there was a sense of community in their area, and last November when the study was done, that had gone up to 74 per cent.
That is potentially huge in terms of a cultural change, and I think that a lot of that was because people were around in their communities, they were checking on their neighbours, they were doing all of those sorts of things. When you start trying to map that interesting analysis, or potentially interesting things that are coming out of the UBI across some of the other things that I've been talking about, such as the challenge that we've got in terms of an ageing population, what's that going to mean to how we care, how that impacts on people's work, particularly women's work and potential increases in equality there, you can start to see where a comprehensive pilot could really start mapping out some of those intricacies and connections in a really interesting way, which we won't necessarily get from this smaller scale one.
Great. Thanks, commissioner. Chair, that's all from me.
Excellent. I'll just pitch in as well on the back of that to say that surely the main problem in what you want to do in testing the UBI is that we don't control the tax and benefit system, and the UK Government, as yet, doesn't indicate it wants to do this sort of thing.
Yes, that is the main problem, and we recognise that in the report. Because there's been this interest from Scotland, and obviously this interest from Wales, what we think needs to happen is there needs to almost be a bit of a Celtic alliance to keep pressing the case. I think that, as I keep saying, the sand is shifting in lots of ways. The cost-of-living crisis that we're seeing now, is a UBI across the UK potentially a response to that? I don't think that we can necessarily continue to fiddle with individualised mechanisms to address specific problems as they emerge; I think now is the time for us to be looking holistically at how we provide a safety net for everyone and address those long-term consequences of poverty. So, yes, the appetite is not there at the moment, but never say never, and the world is changing. There wasn't an appetite for a minimum wage, was there, and yet, the current Government has—well, recent Governments—moved in terms of substantial increases in the minimum wage. So, when you set a progressive policy agenda and you build a movement behind it, I think anything's possible.
Thank you. On that positive note, unless you've got anything further either you or Heledd wanted to add—. We've covered a great deal of ground linked to your annual report and the other important reports that you've published in the last year. So, thank you very much indeed. We'll send you, obviously, a transcript of your contribution, and you should take the opportunity to correct anything that's been inaccurately captured. So, thank you very much indeed—a very interesting session, and keep up the good work.
Diolch, Chair. Diolch, committee. Thank you very much.
There are three papers to note. Is there anything that any Member wants to raise in relation to any of them, or can we just agree to note them? Okay. Thank you very much.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42 (vi) a (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42 (vi) and (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
We'll move to private session, unless anybody objects to excluding the public from the rest of the meeting. Thank you.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 14:58.
The public part of the meeting ended at 14:58.