|Gareth Bennett AM|
|Jack Sargeant AM|
|Jenny Rathbone AM|
|John Griffiths AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Cathy Madge||Gwneuthurwr Newid Arweiniol, Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol Cymru|
|Change Maker Lead, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales|
|Sophie Howe||Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol Cymru|
|Future Generations Commissioner for Wales|
|Chloe Davies||Dirprwy Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau||1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest|
|2. Craffu ar waith Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol: Craffu Blynyddol||2. Scrutiny of the Future Generations Commissioner: Annual Scrutiny|
|3. Papurau i’w Nodi||3. Papers to Note|
|4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i Wahardd y Cyhoedd o Weddill y Cyfarfod||4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to Resolve to Exclude the Public from the Remainder of the Meeting|
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.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:17.
The meeting began at 09:17.
May I welcome everyone to this meeting of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee and wish everyone a happy St David's Day, to begin with? Item 1 on our agenda today is introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. We've had apologies from Bethan Jenkins and Siân Gwenllian.
Okay. Item 2 on our agenda—. Oh, sorry. First of all, let me welcome Jack Sargeant to the committee this morning. It's very good to have you with us, Jack. And I'd also like to thank Mick Antoniw for his service on the committee before Jack replaced him in our membership.
Item 2, then: scrutiny of the future generations commissioner and annual scrutiny for this committee. I'm very pleased to welcome Sophie Howe, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, and Cathy Madge, who is the change maker lead, which is quite an interesting title. Welcome to you both. Thanks very much for coming along. If it's okay with you, we'll move straight into questions.
Could I begin, then, Sophie, by asking, in terms of the work of your office and you as commissioner to date, what would you say have been the highlights of your time so far?
Well, I think that there have obviously been some more higher profile interventions, and the M4 is probably one of the highest profile interventions that I've made. Of course, we don't know what the outcome of the public inquiry is going to be, as yet, but I think that was an important intervention to make, to challenge the interpretation that was being put forward by the Government's lawyers in that regard, regarding the interpretation of the Act. There's quite an important point within that, which is that the Government's lawyers were suggesting that the Act, or their duty to meet their well-being objectives, doesn't necessarily apply to individual decisions. But, actually, they should have to demonstrate how they're meeting their well-being objectives across the board. So, that's not our interpretation of the legislation at all. I believe that the Act does actually have to apply to individual decisions. So, I think it's important that we were challenging there. I am considering my position further on that, and I'm in the process of taking legal advice. I'm not able to say any more at this stage about where that will go and, obviously, as I said, we don't know the outcome of that.
One of the things, however, that that has led to—to say something positive in terms of the Government's approach—is one of the key challenges that I made as part of that intervention, around the fact that the WelTAG guidance, which is the transport appraisal guidance, didn't actually reflect the changes that have been made from the future generations Act. So, to be fair to the Government, they, and officials, have worked with us very closely to actually completely revise that WelTAG guidance. I think that that's something that is really positive that has come from an area where we perhaps have been in a sort of conflict, or there's been a challenge. It's not clear the extent to which—indeed, if at all—that will affect the M4 decision, and those are some of the areas that I'm taking legal advice on. But certainly, going forward, there is a completely different slant and approach on the guidance that the Welsh Government and all of our local authorities who are thinking about transportation schemes will have to follow. So, I think what I can show is that there is a kind of positive outcome through a high-profile intervention.
Some of the other areas that we've been working on are around the Welsh Government budget, and I can give some—. I'm assuming that, at some point, you might want to ask about the budget, and I can give more information on that. We've also been engaged in a lot of work with the health department and the integrated medium-term plans. We've been able to work with the Welsh Government to revise the guidance to health boards on how they use the future generations Act within the context of setting their IMTPs, and that has been positively received and we're starting to see some changes to that. For example, in terms of Powys Teaching Local Health Board, because of the work that we've been doing with them and the Welsh Government, they started off with what were quite narrowly focused and a traditional set of objectives. My team have been engaging with them, and they have now transformed their objectives to ones that are far more integrated, far more focused on a range of preventative actions, perhaps outside of the health service and not just focused on a health service, that could be taken.
So, I think we have a number of positive examples. One of the more recent ones is around an intervention that I've made with Natural Resources Wales in relation to environmental permitting. That is an issue for which, I think, as I told the committee last year, I've set a number of priority areas and criteria for areas that I will intervene in, which are linked to the priority areas I've set. But I also give a commitment to members of the public because, as you can imagine, I get written to about a whole range of different issues and I can't intervene in them all. What I committed to do, though, was to identify, through contacts with members of the public and correspondence and the like, any potentially systemic issues that were emerging through public bodies. We identified, through that process, that there was potentially a systemic problem in the way that Natural Resources Wales were taking forward environmental permitting decisions. There are a few high-profile cases, which I'm sure you're aware of—the biomass plant in Barry, HAZREM, and so on. I'm currently engaged with NRW, looking at reviewing how they're taking their environmental permitting decisions in line with the Act. I haven't yet seen how they're doing that. So, I can't give you any more details, but I think that will be an area that potentially may lead to some significant change and, hopefully, reassurance to members of the public that the Act has been applied.
Thanks for that. We will come back to some of the specific items you mentioned in due course, but, before we do, I wonder if you could tell the committee, commissioner, to what extent you believe there are—even if they're only early indications—signs of transformative change in Welsh Government strategy and policy, and perhaps, as you mentioned the budget, to what extent we've seen that change that should be taking place reflected in the budget setting.
Okay. I often explain that the Act is—. Just by legislating, it doesn't mean that, overnight, anyone's going to start doing things differently. We're on a journey. I think, if you think of the journey from starting off as kind of business as usual, the next phase that we would want to be seeing is people developing an understanding of what the Act actually requires. The next phase would be starting to develop new approaches to addressing challenges in developing policy, and then finally—where we actually want to be—is this sort of transformative change.
Perhaps I could give you a few examples through Welsh Government policy where I sort of pinpoint where I think they might be on that journey. So, I've talked about the transport team and the WelTAG guidance in particular. I think what that is showing is that they're starting—they've moved beyond business as usual. They've developed an understanding and they're starting to develop new approaches. Now, just by having the WelTAG guidance change—that doesn't mean that the whole of the transportation system and transport policy is going to be changed and, indeed, recently we've seen some stats in terms of active travel where investment in active travel is actually comparably low, compared to Scotland in particular. But I think they are starting to develop new approaches, and if the rest of the transport department could embrace the same approach as the team that have been working on WelTAG, I think that that would be really positive.
In terms of the NHS planning team, I think that they are moving towards developing new approaches. We've seen that through the work that we've done as I said with the IMTPs, but there are some significant challenges in health, which perhaps I'll mention in the context of the budget as well, in terms of making the shift to long-term planning and preventative ways of working and, indeed, collaboration as well. But in terms of the thinking and the guidance around what the Government are issuing to health boards in terms of how they have to plan, I think that is moving towards developing new approaches.
We've done quite a lot of work with the decarbonisation team. Again, I would say that they are moving beyond just developing their understanding to developing new approaches. We have worked with them to get them to understand that, when they're developing their decarbonisation plan, they need not just to focus on the goals, say, of a resilient Wales, which is the most obvious area that you'd focus on in terms of decarbonisation—probably that and a prosperous Wales—but actually to be using the five ways of working and the seven well-being goals in how they're thinking about the action plan that they're developing. So, the sorts of things that they should be looking at in terms of actions coming out of their decarbonisation plan are what's going to have the biggest benefit. If you think of things like retrofit of energy-efficiency measures in terms of housing, that obviously has benefit in terms of reducing carbon emissions, it has a benefit in terms of the potential to give work, employment opportunities, contracts to local SMEs, it has a benefit to people in communities in terms of reducing heating bills, keeping people warm, it has a benefit to health in terms of keeping people out of hospital due to cold weather conditions and the like. So, we're starting to see them thinking in that broader context in terms of how they're taking that work forward, which I think is really positive.
Those are some specific areas within Welsh Government where those things are starting to happen. I think there are still areas—and I think the budget documents and narrative highlight the areas that are perhaps a bit less positive in terms of how they're thinking about the future generations Act, and I would say that some of those departments are probably still in the business-as-usual category.
Education: we saw very little reference through the budget documents to any consideration of the well-being of future generations Act. We did see some examples within the broader health department. I've talked about the work we've done on IMTPs, but, within the narrative in terms of the health department in terms of the budget, what we saw there is a number of references to the way in which they've considered the well-being of future generations Act, but I think that we would probably say that a number of those were using the words but perhaps missing the point in a way. So, for example, the health department, in their budget, talked about the procurement of—. They talked about using a long-term way of working:
'NHS Wales, with support from Welsh Government, has also taken action to improve the sustainability of the procurement of clinical and administrative supplies'.
Now, okay, obviously we want them to improve the procurement of clinical supplies, but it's not really the long-term thinking that the Act is trying to get at. The long-term thinking that the Act would be wanting to get at in terms of the NHS is: how are we reforming our workforce to recognise the fact that we need to embrace digital within the NHS? How are we using those opportunities to think about the big increase in ageing population that we're going to have and how our workforce are going to meet those needs? So, the procurement of clinical supplies is not really the issue that the long-term way of working within the Act is trying to get at.
I think, in terms of the budget as well, there were clearly some areas where the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 was a key consideration in the budget decisions that were taken, and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance has identified the decision to invest £50 million in a new station and park-and-ride facility at Llanwern as one of those, and some additional funding for the health capital programme and twenty-first century schools programmes, where reducing carbon footprint is a key element of those.
But if we think about—. There are two parts to the budget. There's where you allocate your money, and then there's the way in which your money is spent. Now, if we're looking at where we allocate our money, I think there are some key issues for the Government to be considering, and this is an area I'm going to be particularly focusing on in the next year, around—for example, it's a fact that the health and well-being of a nation, only 10 per cent of the health and well-being of a nation is actually reliant on healthcare services, i.e. the NHS, and yet the Welsh Government budget allocates around 49 per cent to healthcare services. So, if we think about it in that kind of macro level, I think that there are some significant questions to be asked.
Now, of course we all understand the pressures within the NHS, but I am not yet seeing the shift that we need to see towards preventative spending, and I don't just mean preventative spending in terms of the NHS perhaps intervening earlier to provide a hip replacement or perhaps intervening earlier—one of the examples I gave in the budget was around post-exposure drugs for HIV. Clearly, that is prevention, medical prevention. What we're talking about here is: how do we prevent the obesity crisis that is looming? Those sorts of interventions that would prevent that are more likely to be outside of the NHS, and we're not yet seeing that, so, if you look at that example in terms of that spend, there's a real mismatch there that I think the Government needs to start addressing.
Yes, of course.
Where do you think the levers of change are going to come from? Because half our budget is spent on the health service, and 90 per cent of that is spent on secondary care. There are lots of vested interests marshalled in those health boards to maintain the service as we currently have it. How is the well-being of future generations Act going to make its leverage felt, do you think, in that situation where they're juggling to keep the emergency department working?
I think that there are some opportunities, and I've recently written to the Cabinet Secretary for health around the transformation fund that he announced, the £100 million. Obviously, that, in the greater scheme of things, is a drop in the ocean, but it's my firm belief that any new money that is going into the NHS should only be able to be spent in partnership with other public bodies on a prevention approach. So, if we think about the opportunities around the public services board table there is—we pick up very regularly this frustration that other partners around the public services board table are very willing to perhaps not allocate new resources, but to start shifting their services into things that will benefit in terms of health prevention, but it's not very often that health actually contributes resources to doing that. There is a definite level of frustration out there that, meanwhile, more and more money is going into the health services, and I think it feels to me, and I think to lots of people, that it's a complete bottomless pit, and I think it's a false investment for us to be investing in keeping services that really only deal with a crisis level of demand going, because, by the time we get to 2036, when there are double the number of over-65s, it's just completely unsustainable. So, I do think that any new money going into the NHS—and there is new money that goes into the NHS every year—should only be able to be spent on preventative actions, in partnership with others. So, that could mean, for example, that the money does not go to the A&E department, or the hospital, but it goes to keeping the leisure centre open, or it goes to investing in community activities and facilities that prevent loneliness and isolation, because we know about the health impacts of that. So, I think that the Government have got to be taking some brave decisions around that.
Okay. So, what do you think is the lever of change, because, clearly, the public are ahead of the health boards? The 'Stay Well in Wales' survey showed that people were saying 'Get on with it', that they wanted these preventative measures to be taken. So, where's the change going to come from, given that the third sector is but one voice on the public services boards, rather than a range of voices?
My belief is that leadership needs to be shown at Government level. What we see consistently, and it's quite interesting in a way, because we see other public bodies, local government, saying, 'Stop telling us what to do', and then, in very many cases, you get them sitting there going, 'Well, the Welsh Government haven't told us what to do, so we're not—. It's a bit flippant; I don't mean they're not doing anything, they're doing lots of things. But I think that there is—. A lot of those public bodies out there, and, clearly, the health boards, do what the Welsh Government tell them they need to do. So, Welsh Government needs to be taking some bold decisions in terms of the budget. It needs to be taking some bold decisions in terms of the performance measures by which it measures the performance of health boards. That's why we started with the integrated medium-term plan process, to try and get the context of that right, in terms of how they set their plans, and I think that there are opportunities around that public services board if the clear direction is, and the money is following, that this can only be done in partnership and has to be focused on prevention. I think there are opportunities there.
Clearly, it's a step in the right direction towards getting us to shift from spending on primary and secondary—well, secondary care in particular—towards more preventative spend. But I think you've got to start somewhere, and let's start with that new money.
The integrated medium-term plans—
So, how do they get scrutinised? Is the Government scrutinising the health boards?
Yes. I'll ask Cathy to come in because she's been working directly with the team. So, they all get scrutinised by the health department in Welsh Government, which is why we've been doing some specific work with that health department: (1), to get the guidance on the IMTPs, in terms of what they're actually going to put in them, right, and reflecting the future generations Act, and (2) to develop understanding throughout the health department in Welsh Government of what they should actually be looking for, in terms of when they're scrutinising those IMTPs. And they're a really important driver because getting your IMTP signed off is getting your finances signed off, really. So, Cathy, do you want to say a little bit more about the work that we've been doing there?
Yes. I think they're quite a difficult ask of health boards, the IMTPs, because they're about the strategic vision for the future of health in particular areas. They're about the operational performance measures, and they're also about the finance. So, health boards have to get all of those right to get their plans signed off. And I think that that is—. It's quite a barrier to us trying to think about working differently, because they can be doing some quite interesting things about long-term vision, but, if they can't balance the books, they don't get any of that recognised. So, we've heard—. We've been working directly with the team in Welsh Government, but also with a number of the health boards, and there's a bit of a disconnect between the good stuff that's happening, but, if it doesn't tick the main boxes, the main priority boxes, in terms of finance and performance, it isn't really recognised.
We're also working with Welsh Government in terms of how officials across the health department then, when they get the first draft of IMTPs in, say what should be different, and then they go out again and they get a final draft by the end of March. So, we're trying to ensure that that feedback that goes back to health boards is framed in the five ways of working. But, then again, across the health departments, different bits are in different places. The parliamentary review of health and social care is having a different impact in different bits of the health department as well. So, the level of transformation that's needed by that as well is being taken into account. So, this week, actually, we're going to get some feedback about how they are then feeding back to the health boards on their IMTPs.
Okay, thanks very much for that. I wonder if we could deal with just a few more technical questions at this stage, commissioner, if that's okay? The Welsh Government's well-being objectives, and whether you feel that equal consideration is being given to all of the well-being goals.
It's important to note, first of all, that the Welsh Government are the only public body who have reviewed their well-being objectives. So, they set their first batch of well-being objectives in November 2016, and then they revised them when they were developing the 'Prosperity for All' strategy in September 2017. My view is that the second batch of objectives are probably more integrated. Before, what we were tending to see is there was one on prosperity, one on education, one on resilience and so on. So, I think that's positive. However, it's quite clear—and the Welsh Government have done their own analysis, which I've got here somewhere, where they identify which objectives contribute to which goals, and it's very clear that prosperity is one that comes up very frequently.
'Resilient Wales' is one that comes up much less frequently in terms of the objectives that they've set. One of the concerns that I do have in terms of the new set of objectives—. There was a change to one that related to transport in particular, and—I'm just trying to find the original one. Where's that one gone, Cathy?
Yes. So, the original well-being objective was to connect communities through sustainable and resilient infrastructure, so that would include transportation infrastructure. The new one was to deliver modern and connected infrastructure. Now, a bit of a subtle change; the sceptic in me might suggest that that subtle change was designed to reflect the position that the Government was putting forward in respect of the M4, because, indeed, one of the arguments that they're making is that they've identified building an M4 as a step that they need to take in order to deliver modern and connected infrastructure.
Now, one of the arguments that I may well make is that 'deliver modern and connected infrastructure'—that objective—when looked at in the round with the other objectives actually needs to go back to the statutory definition within the goals, which is, if you're looking at prosperity,
'An innovative, productive and low carbon society which recognises the limits of the global environment'.
And, obviously, the definitions around resilience: focus on low carbon, protection of biodiversity, ecological resilience and the likes. So, I feel that that well-being objective is a shift away from that, and I don't think it's perhaps by coincidence that that was done at the time around my challenge on the M4.
Very interesting. We'll come on to the M4 in just a second, but, before we do, just one other issue, and that's the milestones to accompany the national indicators. Do you now have a clear idea as to when they're likely to be published by Welsh Government?
We don't yet have a clear idea on when those milestones are likely to be published. The team developing them have engaged with my office. I understand that they want to consult on the draft milestones this autumn and then publish them next year, but I don't think that that's set in stone at the moment.
I think, to be fair to them, they are wanting to do a kind of robust piece of involvement around what those milestones should be—that's certainly what they've told us—and, if they are going to do that, then I think it's worth taking the time to get them right. So, they're in the early phases and my office is continuing to engage with them on that.
Okay, thanks for that. Jack, I don't know if you wanted to come in at this stage.
Yes. You've mentioned a lot there, especially the M4 road intervention and various other things. I particularly like this Act itself; I think we need to do more to ensure that we do implement it, and the Welsh Government needs to do more to make sure we do going forward. At present, do you think that you've got the right resources to implement what the Act envisages to its full potential?
The resources that my office have got are very limited. We've tried to use them in an innovative way. So, we have a large number of shared posts, and a number of different organisations have allocated funding to shared posts so that we are able to draw in the expertise. I'll give you a flavour of some of those organisations who are working jointly with us. We've got United Welsh housing, we've got BT, we've got the Wildlife Trusts, Public Health Wales. All of those organisations and more are actually giving us resources to help us implement the Act. However, when you look at the obligations that I have—so to monitor and assess well-being objectives, of which there are 342 out there, and my budget is £1.4 million, my core staff are 18, and that's not counting the additional resources that we're trying to bring in. Just to give you a flavour of comparisons—and I gave evidence to this effect to the Finance Committee, who were looking at the regulatory impact assessments and the kind of financial modelling that were taking forward when the future generations Act was going through the Assembly, and one of the things that I highlighted there is the fact that they'd basically said 'commissioner', therefore a commissioner should have the same budget as other commissioners, without actually looking at what the different obligations and duties were of the different commissioners.
So, I've essentially got pretty much the same budget as the older people's commissioner and the children's commissioner, but when you look at my obligations around those 342 objectives—monitoring and assessing those, advice and support for 44 public bodies, plus 19 public services boards—you're sort of up to 63 different public bodies. If you take one of those as being Welsh Government, with its multiple departments and multiple different complex challenges, and you compare that perhaps to some other organisations who are trying to do similar things—. So, they have 250 staff in the Wales Audit Office; I've got 18. The Welsh Local Government Association has got a budget of £3.1 million and 60 staff, which is almost three times my budget and staff.
So, I guess the point that I'm making is that I think the budget is very constraining in terms of the ability of my team, across those 63 different organisations/entities, to really drive the change that is needed. That's why we're focusing down on specific areas, but it's really important that the Welsh Government are using the resources that they allocate out to other public bodies to be driving the change that the future generations Act requires as well. So, how, for example, are the Welsh Government, in the budget that they allocate to the WLGA, requiring the WLGA to work on the implementation of the Act? It's not to say that they're not doing anything. We've done some pieces of work with them around scrutiny around the Act and so on and so on, but I wouldn't say that it's core business. How, for example, are the Welsh Government ensuring that Academi Wales, which is the public sector leadership organisation that develops a load of public sector leadership programmes and training for the public sector workforce and leaders, in particular—what are they being required to do in terms of the future generations Act when they are having allocations of funding from Welsh Government?
So, I think what we need to be looking at is, across the board—everyone, the whole of the Welsh Government, need to be pulling in the right direction, and all of their funded bodies need to be doing that as well. Because expecting one commissioner with a tiny budget to bring about this transformational change across the public sector on our own is completely unrealistic.
Okay, thanks very much for that. Jenny, perhaps we might return to the M4 and Natural Resources Wales, which were mentioned by the commissioner.
Okay. I think one of the biggest concerns I have is that we're not comparing the impact of this investment in relation to other possible investments. We're just comparing the black route against the blue route rather than the investment forgone in public transport. So, I just wondered, because that seems to me a fundamental problem of the Government's approach—that we don't know what the alternative ways are of spending £1.5 billion to resolve the identified problem of congestion on the M4. So, what role does your office have in trying to rectify that fundamental problem?
I completely agree with you, and we did actually do some work with stakeholders on looking at an alternative investment of—well, it was £1.2 billion, I think, when we looked at it, and obviously it's going up now. We didn't just look at transport solutions, actually. We looked at things like: what if you invested that money in terms of retrofitting energy-efficiency measures in housing—what would that generate across each of the goals? I don't have that analysis with me, but I can certainly send it on to you.
I'm thinking about doing a further analysis around transport in particular and what alternative mechanisms there might be in terms of spending that money that would better contribute to the seven well-being goals, but we haven't done that work as yet. The reason why we haven't done that work as yet is because we focused on the public inquiry, and that wasn't an issue that was being considered in the public inquiry. So, the public inquiry is basically looking at which route, if indeed any route, and not: if you've got £1.5 billion to spend, how would you best spend it? But I completely agree with you. I don't think—. It's a different conversation, isn't it, in terms of, 'Should we have this route or that route' or 'What are the spending priorities of the Welsh Government?'
I think, going back to the discussions that we've had in terms of the budget, that's probably one of the biggest issues in that strategic budgeting context. You know, why have we taken the decision that we want to spend that £1.5 billion, and I think I've got a role in challenging that and asking the questions. The legal advice is quite clear that I'm not a politician and I can't say that this decision is—you know, I can't change a decision or say whether a decision is right or wrong, but I can ask some fundamental questions, and that's what I'll be doing in the coming months.
Can I just ask at this stage, Jenny—when you provided your further evidence to the inquiry, commissioner, there was a fairly what I would call 'robust' response from the Welsh Government's legal representative, which I have here. He said:
'I do not agree with the Commissioner that all decisions must improve all four aspects of well-being. This is not what section 2 of the Act says or means.'
Well, what the Act says is that public bodies have a duty to undertake sustainable development, and 'sustainable development' is defined as the process of improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. I've also had legal advice, as you can imagine, and believe that my interpretation of that provision is robust. There have been some interesting ways of looking at that. I think the important word is 'improving'. So, that doesn't mean that, if you're going to undertake a particular project or spend a particular amount of money, you couldn't have a situation where the economy massively benefits and, say, the environment only benefits in a minimal way. In my view, that sort of decision would be allowed; it wouldn't be contrary to the Act. If, however, you have a decision whereby the economy benefits massively and the environment is massively negatively impacted, so therefore it's not improved, I think that would be contrary to the future generations Act.
Okay. Just picking up on analysing the impact of one decision over another, one of the biggest concerns I have is the failure to focus on the public health emergency over air pollution. So, the M4 relief road is, by the Government's own admission, going to increase the number of vehicles coming into places like Cardiff. I mean, this is something where the Welsh Government has been obviously taken into the High Court and has admitted that it's illegal for them to have plans that aren't addressing this issue. What's your role in highlighting this, given that we are killing more people from air pollution than we are through road traffic accidents?
I think that's an area that will form part of the—or a point that will form part of the work that I'm intending to do, the further work on the M4. Being honest, I set my priority areas, which included housing, transport and energy, and then skills, adverse childhood experiences and alternative models of healthcare, so the air pollution issue, and the fact that the Government have been taken to the High Court and so on, is not an area that my team have focused down on, purely due to resource limitations. But, certainly, it is a factor. When you think about the decision on the M4 across each of those seven well-being goals, and, indeed, across each of the Welsh Government's well-being objectives, I think it becomes increasingly difficult to justify—obviously, that one on the basis of objectives around health. So, their objective is to promote good health and well-being for everyone. I'm not clear how—. It seems completely at odds to me that that decision is taken when we have that objective. So, that is part of the narrative that I'm looking to construct around this.
As I said, the focus initially has been around the public inquiry. I followed with interest the political debates that are taking place in respect of the M4, and you will know better than me, but I'm feeling that the narrative is shifting. I've noted the fact that, in a number of contributions that have been made in Plenary, my interventions have been referenced in those contributions—by people those who were clearly opposed from the outset to the M4, but even newer voices who are expressing a level of concern. And that's where I think that the intervention that I've made, in terms of not just whether it is right or wrong, but, actually, 'Is it applying this groundbreaking legislation that you've legislated for, Government?'—I think that's where this is sort of coming in.
On Natural Resources Wales, and some of its permitting decisions, then, commissioner, I wonder if you could say a little bit more about your specific concerns in terms of the interpretation of the Act and those permitting decisions.
I'm afraid I can't say a great deal about my specific concerns about the permitting decisions because I've been in discussion with NRW for the past few months. At the point that I think we had the sixth different issue of where environmental permitting was a kind of thread, and a review of my correspondence, that triggered us to identify that there was this kind of common thread, and to ask NRW to identify to me how they were applying the future generations Act in their permitting decisions. They haven't yet provided me with the information that will enable me to make an assessment as to whether there's a problem or not a problem. You have to assume that there may be a problem, given the level of concern that has been raised.
I had a useful meeting with the chair and the new chief executive, and their legal teams and environmental permitting teams, this week. What we agreed was that, by tomorrow, they would provide me with six case studies, if you like, or decisions that had already been taken, and demonstrate to me how they had applied the well-being of future generations Act in that decision-making process. There's then to be a further meeting next week with our respective teams to talk through that.
So, until I have that information, I'm not able to say what the specific concerns are. However, the fact that I haven't been able, in the last three months, to get to the bottom of actually being provided with this information obviously does raise a level of concern in itself.
Okay. Well, thanks very much for that answer.
Gareth, if we move on to public services boards, and we have a number of issues on public services boards, commissioner. I wonder, Gareth, if you'd like to begin this questioning.
Yes. Could I just quickly ask something relating to what Sophie said earlier? Would that be—?
It is to do with health. You were saying that you have an aspiration now that new money should be better spent on preventative spending because of this problem of the bottomless pit, as you called it, which I think is a very sensible idea. So, I just wondered how far you've got in pushing that goal with the health department, and with the Government in particular, and are you hopeful that that will become an aspiration that the Government shares?
I've recently written to the Cabinet Secretary for health specifically in relation to the £100 million transformation fund that he has announced. That's a new amount of money that's going in, and I think that there are some real opportunities around that. I haven't yet had a response from him. However, what we have notified—. I also met recently with the director of the NHS and his senior team. I have told them that I expect to see some significant shift in this next budgeting round in terms of health prevention, and I won't rule out using my statutory review powers if we don't start to see that.
One of the issues that we've got, however, is that—and this might be an issue that the committee might want to flag—there's not, actually, within Government, an agreed definition of prevention. I know that a number of other Assembly committees have raised this as a concern in previous sessions. There is some work being done by a third sector partnership group who are looking at what definitions of prevention might be. Cathy actually had a meeting with the NHS team. On the prevention definition, we're talking across Government, but I'm particularly focusing in terms of NHS. Cathy had a meeting with the senior team this week as well, and I'm going to be writing back to the Cabinet Secretary and the director of the NHS in terms of some dates by which we want a definition of prevention nailed down. If I'm honest, if there's not a definition of prevention nailed down by the Government, with advice from stakeholders, in time for this year's budget round, I will do the work myself and identify a definition by which I will assess the Government's budget proposals, because I don't think we can keep going round this circle of, 'We haven't got a definition, so anything can be prevention', and be satisfied with that. So, there are a number of things playing into this, but I think that that definition is important, and the response of the Cabinet Secretary in terms of the £100 million transformation fund.
Can I add something really quickly?
I've also met with the strategic budgeting team about this this week, because Mark Drakeford, who was sort of the lead on our work with finance—they're the core team we're working with on the different bits of the budget. I think that the comments they made were symptomatic of the way the Welsh Government is resourcing the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act. They don't have one core team that does all of the work on WFG, which I think is a really sensible thing to do because it helps mainstream through departments, but I think we do have some concerns that, on some of the more challenging ways of working—so, particularly on long-term thinking, using futures, using foresight, and also on prevention—there's not a sort of single place we can go, and a single contact. So, it does sometimes feel as though we ask a question and we get directed through so many different bits, we don't really get a clear answer. So, I think that's one thing that is becoming a bit clearer to us, that we can't just look—. Health is a really good place to start on prevention, obviously, but it's not just about health, because a lot of the levers that actually will prevent problems don't actually exist within the health department. It's not just about strategic budgeting because they are maybe towards the end of the decision-making process. It's about policy change earlier on. So, the fact that we are sort of struggling to almost pinpoint a place to go to is a real challenge for us.
Yes. There was also a ministerial reshuffle—and you were on about active travel earlier, which could be part of the preventative spending—and active travel, I think, got shifted into a different ministerial portfolio. I wasn't clear what the reason for that was, strategically. There might have been some political reason for it, of course, but do things like that help in what you're doing? They're going to add confusion, presumably, when you get things switched from one portfolio to another. Again, you're dealing with different people.
Well, I suppose, for us and the rest of the commissioners and the third sector, there's always a challenge when portfolios are shifted, because you've built relationships with particular people and then you have to start all over again. I suppose that's a sort of necessary challenge within the system.
Yes, I suppose you have to. Public services boards: how are you progressing with their well-being plans, which are due for publication this May? And have the PSBs reported any challenges in preparing their plans?
I have a statutory duty to advise public services boards on the preparation of their well-being plans, and we've done a comprehensive piece of work around that. It wasn't just a case of them sending us their well-being plans and then we had a kind of eight-week period to send them a letter back. We did a lot of prior engagement in the run-up to how they were thinking about their well-being plans. A number of them sent us not necessarily draft plans, but vaguer ideas, and we've worked with their teams to try and put some better form around them. We also held a conference for all public services board members and leads last July to give them an opportunity to share learning and develop their thinking.
So, what we've tried to do is understand the context within which the public services boards are working. We have provided face-to-face advice, telephone support and had various to-ing and fro-ing of correspondence. Just to give an example of some of the feedback to their assessments and advice on draft objectives, as you know, I've got a priority around adverse childhood experiences. We have been really pleased to see that the work we've done on promoting that more generally and through the specific advice that we've given to PSBs means that now 16 of the 19 PSBs have had adverse childhood experiences or issues relating to them as one of their priorities. So, I think that's a demonstration of the impact that we've made there.
We've also seen our advice make changes to the draft plans that were coming forward from when we first started the discussions with them to the final versions or the versions that've gone out to consultation. The Vale of Glamorgan and Torfaen changed the objectives that they were proposing in their plans following our advice so that they're now looking at far more integrated objectives, which will make more of a contribution to the national goals. Powys PSB took advice that we gave them on the long term and are now setting a 2050 vision within their plans. Cardiff PSB, again whom we've given advice to, have refined their plan around Cardiff Today and Cardiff Tomorrow, and I think that some of the things that they're putting in there in terms of that thinking to the future, 'What is Cardiff going to look like in the future, and therefore, what actions do we need to take now?' is probably one of the better plans that we've seen. And, Monmouthshire, then, following our advice around involvement, they were originally not going to involve people other than the PSB members in the development of well-being objectives, and they've now done that; they've done a big involvement piece around it.
So, we think that the advice is starting to have some impact. There is an anomaly in the legislation, which is worth flagging, which is that I have a duty to advise public services boards on their well-being plans but not to monitor or assess them on what they then actually do to deliver those plans. I don't have a duty to advise individuals, or a power to advise—I suppose I can issue advice, generally, but not specifically in relation to the setting of the well-being objectives in relation to individual public bodies—but I have a duty to monitor and assess them. So, the legislation feels to me to be a little bit back-to-front in that regard, and I think there are some issues in terms of who, then, is monitoring the public services boards' delivery. Now, we've been giving some thought to that within our teams, and, obviously, I do have duties around monitoring the individual public bodies who sit on the PSBs so we can get at the PSB through that route, if you see what I mean, but the legislation isn't very clear in how we go about doing that. I just wanted to flag that as a bit of an issue.
Gareth, you asked about PSBs reporting any challenges in preparing their well-being plans. I guess we have some concerns about how some of them have gone about it and they have flagged some concerns to us. In terms of our concerns, there are some of them who are treating this as a kind of compliance exercise. So, they're so focused on writing a plan and going through the consultation process and so on, they're sort of missing the point of what the plan is trying to achieve, and perhaps the focus is that rather than getting on with the doing. I think there are issues around how some of the PSBs are actually working. Some of the better ones—and we're seeing an increasing number of these types of things happening—are doing sessions with all members and bringing in some other interested parties, if you like, on specific themes. So, 'How do we tackle childhood obesity?'—put that in the middle of the discussion, take away what it is that we already do and let's work that through. Those are some of the better PSBs. Some of the not-so-good PSBs are tending to run PSBs like another local authority committee, where you turn up to a meeting once a month with a long agenda and a series of presentations, and perhaps you go away not having reached any particular decisions that are going to change anything. So, I think there are some issues there.
In terms of who scrutinises the PSBs, the duty is on PSB scrutiny committees, which are scrutiny committees within local authorities. We've recently done some joint sessions with the Wales Audit Office's good practice exchange team to look at how we can develop a better understanding with those scrutiny members of what the obligations are under the Act. We're also developing a toolkit, a checklist of questions, if you like, and challenges that scrutiny committee members could use to challenge the PSBs. But we're talking about how PSBs are working and, in some areas, there's some development need, perhaps, there, and that is equally the case in terms of the scrutiny. So, there are those two things that aren't—. I think that there's a need for me and the Auditor General for Wales to work out how we're going to jointly use our powers in an innovative way to get to the PSB scrutiny. And those are some of the things that we're discussing with them.
In terms of the concerns that they've raised, they've raised things like the cultures that are very different between different organisations, and sometimes that makes it difficult to collaborate. They've also raised issues around resourcing. That was quite a big issue at the outset—you know, 'Who's going to provide the resourcing for secretariat, research work, analytical work and so on for the PSBs?' And, I think one of the key things that we identified through the well-being assessment work that we did is that there's a really big issue in terms of the deterioration of the corporate centres and policy teams within our organisations. So, within local authorities, for example, those sorts of teams were the first to go in terms of local authority cuts and the like. That's not a criticism; I understand that, because they're not seen as front-line services. What that has meant is that the capacity of those individual organisations, and then in terms of feeding into the kind of collaborative work of the PSB, is quite significantly undermined, so they are struggling, really, with that kind of policy and analytical capacity, and we certainly saw that through the approach that they'd taken in terms of identifying long-term trends in their well-being assessments and really getting to the root causes of prevention and so on. So, there are some challenges around that.
On the upside, we've seen a number of them look at some really good innovative collaborations to try and address some of those challenges. Cwm Taf PSB, which is the Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr PSB that have merged, have done some work around joint consultations on an information sharing platform. So, they recognise that, as individual public bodies, they were all going out, doing their consultations, asking the same people sometimes the same things. So, it was an ineffective use of resources and, quite frankly, it was probably irritating the people who were being asked the same things again and again. They've come together to try and provide a common platform where, for example, if the PSB wants to do something or the local authority wants to do something and health have already got a consultation that they've done that might provide some insight, that is now readily accessible on a shared platform. And they're looking at better ways in which they can actually to do joint consultations in the first place. So, that's really positive.
The Gwent public services boards, who work together quite well, generally have been doing some work around trying to look at a happiness index. They've been working with an organisation called Happy City, and we're keeping a watching brief on that because we think that that could provide some useful insight for other PSBs. So, I think that there are positive signs. There are still some, as I said, who are running it as a kind of corporate compliance, local authority committee-type exercise, but there are those—I talked about that transformational journey—who are in that kind of developing understanding and moving towards the next phase as well.
I'm going to bring Jenny in in a minute. Before I do, commissioner, I wonder if you could say a little bit about how open and transparent you think the PSBs are. For example, if, in Gwent, they're doing this work around happiness and happy cities, to what extent would that be out there? Would communities, and even organisations that might have an interest, not know about it?
Well, as I understand it, with the Gwent work, part of the index that they're developing is actually an online survey. Now, I want to say that they're also going out and consulting with community groups, not online, but in person, but I couldn't be a 100 per cent sure about that. But there's a survey basically asking their residents to rate their happiness across a range of different indexes. So, I don't know the extent to which they are using channels that are really getting out there into the community, but I think they are making attempts to do that. There are other PSBs, Monmouthshire for example, who are quite proactive in webcasting and those sorts of things. And I think most of them now do have their own PSB websites, where you can see the agendas that are coming up, the issues that are being discussed. I suppose we're still in a kind of fairly traditional format, but, if we think on the basis that, I suppose, local authority committees that have been around for, and full councils that have been around for, very many years, are still only getting to the point of webcasting, these are relatively new bodies and still kind of finding their way. I think they're trying to learn from where things have worked in the past, but I think they do recognise that there's more to do.
I just wanted to raise an issue that both you and the children's commissioner have raised, which is around PSBs using different measures, proxy measures, to determine baselines around core issues like levels of poverty. And I just wonder if you could explain why that is, given that we have a core set of indicators that all PSBs are going to have to work to, and, in terms of being able to measure progress, we do need some commonality in the way we're measuring something as relevant as poverty.
Yes. I think it is a big challenge. So, obviously, each of the individual seven goals gives a kind of descriptor, and we have the 46 national indicators, which link back to the seven well-being goals and those descriptions. We've been trying to be quite clear with public bodies and PSBs that they shouldn't necessarily take those 46 indicators as performance indicators for their own PSBs because they're just 46 that are kind of a snapshot across Wales. And, actually, if they were going to meet their well-being objectives, and the goals, they would have to be doing many more things. The challenge that we've got is: you've got the national goals with the descriptors, you've then got objectives set by the individual public bodies, and, indeed, the PSBs, which don't link back clearly to one goal or another—and, in fact, nor should they in a way, because they should be integrated. So, it's quite—. I think this is the reason why they've got these different indicators, because the objectives are all different, so there's not necessarily one common measure that they can use across the board.
One of the things that we've recognised is—. There are two things that my office are doing in respect of this. We have a programme that is called 'art of the possible', and the first piece of—. This is the collaborative programme with this range of stakeholders who have come in on shared appointments. One of the first things that we're doing—in fact, they've got the first session with a range of partners to do this next week—is to identify what are the no-brainers, in a way, which all public bodies and public services boards should be doing. Now, there's a number of ways of cutting that. You can't cut that across 342 objectives. We've actually chosen the seven areas for change in the legislation, so that's things like procurement, workforce planning, budgeting. What are the no-brainers that you should be doing at a very basic level for each public body across those seven core areas in order to meet the seven national well-being goals? And we're hoping to get that piece of work out fairly quickly. That would give us almost like a bar, or an indicator of, as I said, the no-brainers that—we would have to be asking some serious questions if public bodies weren't complying with those. And we're then developing a further piece of work with Cardiff University, which is going to look more in-depth at that, in terms of the no-brainers, to what would 'making progress' look like, what would 'good' look like, what would 'brilliant' look like in one area, and the area that we're looking at there is one of my priority areas, which is around jobs and skills for the future. There are, I think, 27 individual public bodies who have got objectives set on jobs and skills or in that sort of territory. So, the idea is that Cardiff University are going to work with us through the public value business school that they've got there to use international evidence to try and help us to identify what those things would be in that skills area. And then the idea is that we would use those to develop a similar methodology across the other priority areas.
Okay. So, are you saying that, if PSBs don't all have a common way of understanding what child poverty looks like, it's not so much of a concern, because there'll be other ways of—? Because we do need to know which are the poorest children in Wales, or are there pockets of child poverty that need additional attention.
I think the challenge is is that they don't necessarily have an objective on, 'We will tackle child poverty'. It's an objective on, 'We will give every child the best start in life now', for example, and that's what a number of them have. So, the measures that you choose for that could be a vast range of different measures. So, because their objectives are integrated across the board, I think it's more complex. They could, of course—. Giving every child the best start in life, obviously, child poverty would be an issue, so they could be using child poverty as a measure in that, but it's not as simple for them as just saying, 'Well, that's the one measure—
Okay. So, are you saying that the numbers breastfeeding is a better indicator?
Well, it could be. That's the challenge that they've got.
Could I ask you in—? You know, there's been quite an intense debate in terms of whether Welsh Government should have an overarching tackling poverty strategy and action plan to provide focus and to enable Welsh Government to be held to account as to whether sufficient progress is being made. Would you have a view on the desirability of such a strategy and action plan?
I think in some areas it might be useful, but it would have to—. I would say that any strategy or action plan that is developed would have to apply the seven well-being goals. So, what we would want to avoid is quite a narrow approach to looking at child poverty. So, we should also be looking for—. You know, the sorts of things you would be thinking about if you were looking across each of the seven well-being goals is the extent to which children living in poverty are also living in areas where there's poor air quality, the extent to which children living in poverty also have—. You know, what access do they have to public open space, the extent to which, children living in poverty, there's an impact in terms of different equality groups. So, what they would need to is to take each of the seven well-being goals and not just focus, I suppose, on narrow measures of income, I suppose, and I know they're a bit broader than that now. But the challenge of the future generations Act is to look broadly and holistically across each of those seven well-being goals. So, if they were able to do that and clearly link that back to meeting the Welsh Government's well-being objectives, then I can't see any issue—in fact, it would be welcome to have a real focus around that, but it would have to be in that broad context, in my view.
And what you've described in terms of child poverty would equally apply throughout the age ranges in terms of tackling poverty.
Okay. Gareth, did you want to continue with the public services boards?
The PSBs, yes. Do you feel that there's enough public awareness of the PSBs, and are they doing enough to engage with the public to promote themselves and what they're doing?
I think I'd probably have to answer 'no'; I think that's an honest answer. Do people know that they exist? If you ask the average person on the street, I'm sure that they wouldn't know that they exist. I'm sure that they probably wouldn't know that I exist. A large number of them have a challenge even in identifying the name of the First Minister, so actually getting that kind of public awareness I think is quite challenging. They could be doing more to engage. There are two types of engagement around are we going out asking broad consultation questions, and asking people to respond to consultations, or asking people to watch our webcast meetings or come along in person to our webcast meetings, and I think, in those sorts of scenarios, you tend to get people who are already engaged and interested. The thing that I'm more interested in public services boards doing is what mechanisms do they have for understanding the lived experiences of the people that they're trying to develop policy for. So, if there is a PSB, for example, who was looking to tackle childhood obesity, what understanding do they have of why children become obese, what's going on in their lives, what sort of things would actually press the buttons in terms of making the change? And I don't think that you necessarily get all of the answers through a public engagement consultation. You might get some, but I think they need to be looking at the specific issues that they're dealing with and working out how they engage with people in identifying, as I said there, the realities of their lives.
There are some public bodies who we're seeing who are attempting to do that more, so, there are a number of health boards who start each of their board meetings, for example, with a patient who comes along to tell them their story—sometimes good, sometimes bad—and the reports that we've had back from those boards is that it completely shifts the discussion that then ensues in those board meetings. Not that I'm saying they don't care about the risk register or the IMTP sign-off, or what have you, of course they do, but, actually, it brings you back to, 'Why is it that we're all doing this? What are we here for?' Those patient stories are actually the thing that frames that debate, and I think that that's something that a number of public bodies could benefit from.
Yes, there's a phrase that we tend to use in the Assembly, 'the usual suspects', which means the usual stakeholders come along, so I suppose that is a problem—how you get public bodies to actually engage beyond the usual suspects and get down to the level of the user's experience. So, is there a way—? Obviously there's good practice—you just described it. Are you trying to get good practice more widely used by the public bodies and are you having any success with that?
The different mechanisms in terms of involvement were outlined in the advice that I gave to all of the public services boards and that's the statutory advice. We've also pointed them—. What we've tried to do is to point them in the direction of resources that would be useful to them, point them in the direction of other public services boards or bodies who are doing good things in those particular areas. Obviously they're still in the process of setting their plans and I outlined some of the challenges that we've got in terms of scrutinising PSBs because of the quirks of the legislation. But it is an area I'm interested in and will be continuing to look at.
Gareth, I wonder if I might just ask one further question on the PSBs before we move on quickly to other matters. Well, it's you, commissioner, and the PSBs, in fact, and whether you should be subject to the Wales-specific equality duty in the same way as other public bodies, which has been suggested in evidence from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
I should probably declare an interest at this stage, Chair, because I'm a member of the Wales committee of the EHRC, but if you're happy for me to—
—answer the question on that basis.
I certainly wouldn't be opposed to either myself or the PSBs being covered by the public sector equality duty. However, I think, because we already have the goal of an equal Wales, and actually I've being doing some work—. We developed something called the 'future generations framework, which is, essentially, a tool for PSBs and other public bodies to use in thinking about, 'How do we apply the Act to a decision making process?' And we worked with Equality and Human Rights Commission to identify the prompts and questions that they should be asking as part of meeting the goal of an equal Wales, and that that links back, because we wanted to make sure that linked back to the public sector equality duty.
I guess one of the challenges with the range of different duties—and I think, for example, the Welsh Government has got 27 different impact assessments that they are supposed to use in terms of decision making processes—. I think there's an issue about layering more and more process—which is trying to be helpful, don't get me wrong—tools and process, onto public bodies. And I think the real danger in doing that is that, because of the scale of that—imagine filling in 27 different impact assessments, often by people who haven't necessarily been given the relevant training, don't necessarily understand what the different implications of them all are—I think there's a real risk that you just force almost a process compliance response in doing that. I think there's some work that needs to be done and, indeed, the Welsh Government are looking at this. This is one of the reasons why we developed our future generations framework. I suppose I would say this, wouldn't I, but I think the future generations Act can provide that overarching context for a range of different issues that are currently covered by the 27 different impact assessments. So, I would say that that's probably a more sensible approach, rather than layering new things on.
Just quickly, six local authorities have decided to merge with other local authorities in the way they deliver their PSBs. The Cabinet Secretary for Local Government is saying clearly that 22 local authorities is not sustainable, and we've got to do something different. So, how much do you think that the PSB ways of working are an enabler to make people feel comfortable about working in broader structures?
I think that they're certainly part of the picture in terms of enabling that. There are other structures. The city deal structure, for example, is another one. Just on the city deal, I went to their joint cabinet a few months back and, from the time that I spent in local government in Welsh Government, where it was very difficult to get people to collaborate, having 10 local authority leaders round the table in some quite difficult contexts of where money's going to go, and actually coming to be on the same page, I think there was some significant progress, or there has been some significant progress made there.
Local government reorganisation is a nut that we haven't be able to crack. I think that perhaps the PSBs make it more of a pistachio nut, with a bit of an open shell, if you like, to actually deliver that kind of collaborative working. In terms of the PSBs that have merged, we see that they're working well. The Gwent PSBs who haven't merged but have always had this really good tradition of working together—there is a very different sense there. I was talking to the chief constable of police there recently, and those relationships are very good. At an officer level they're coming together. They've done all this work on the happy cities together, and a range of different things. So, I just think it makes complete sense if we could get a footprint that was sensible to them all, and I think that PSBs are probably facilitating people to move in that right direction.
Other public bodies generally, commissioner, and their reaction to the legislation: is there anything in particular you'd highlight in terms of best practice and where it seems to be progressing well?
Sorry, did you say 'with other commissioners'?
The public bodies and how they're responding to the legislation and changing their approach.
We've got a number of examples where public bodies are responding well. I'll just find the right papers. So, shall I give you some examples of specific ones? We've got the Vale of Glamorgan PSB, and their draft plan, for example, was to reduce poverty and tackle inequalities linked to deprivation, and then the step that they said they were going to take with that is to work with local residents to identify and deliver an environmental project recognising the opportunities for community participation and the links between environment, physical activity and well-being. They actually, as a result of our advice, changed that to developing a co-ordinated approach to tackling fuel poverty and recognising expertise and the contribution of registered social landlords towards achieving the goal. Now, what that shows to us is that they were originally thinking about it in quite a narrow focus. They're now thinking about it in a much more integrated way.
We've also got some other examples. Natural Resources Wales in terms of their approach to carbon reduction—so, they are looking to be a carbon-positive organisation. They've done a huge amount of work on identifying where their carbon emissions are coming from, and they're doing things around different modes of travelling to work, they're procuring electric fleet, they've done a range of different things there, which have been driven by their well-being objectives.
There's some interesting work going on in terms of tackling adverse childhood experiences in Bridgend, which is again part of meeting the objectives of the public services board and of Bridgend council. There, they have a programme working with the police service. It's called an early help hub. Essentially what they're doing—police and a representative of the local authority are on a weekly basis screening referrals either to social services or to the police to identify where adverse childhood experiences might be occurring. What they talk about is the fact that a large number of those cases are not cases that would go into a kind of safeguarding remit, if you like, because they don't meet the threshold. But they're actually then doing joint interventions on those cases that otherwise would not have had any support until they escalated and became a lot worse, and they're actually intervening to try and prevent the ACEs from escalating.
So, they give a really good example of a young boy who was increasingly being identified as someone who was involved in anti-social behaviour. Attendance at school was poor. He wouldn't have met any threshold for any sort of social services-type intervention at that point. The early help hub intervened. They worked with mum to help her to better manage him, they identified some activities that he could be doing over the school holidays, which prevented him from engaging in anti-social behaviour, they did some work with the high school that he was about to transition to, and there have now been no further incidents of anti-social behaviour with that young man, and his attendance at school has rocketed. Now, that is the sort of thing that we're wanting to see across the board in terms of how the different public services around the public services board table are working together.
Again, we've seen, albeit at a higher level—the Vale PSB are going to move to setting up a multi-agency safeguarding hub, bringing together all of the partners to again identify where there might be safeguarding issues, on a joint basis. I think we are starting to see those changes, but the trick for us now is to be capturing the best practice from where those things are working and really trying to encourage other public bodies to adopt them and other PSBs to adopt them. There's lots of work going on in my office and with partners to try and do that.
Okay. Thanks very much, commissioner and Cathy, for your evidence today. You will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy in the usual way. Diolch yn fawr.
Thank you. I hope you all get home safely.
Okay. The next item we have today is item 3, papers to note. We have a number of papers, from 1 through to 10. Papers 1 to 9 relate to rough-sleepers in Wales, and paper 10 relates to follow-up work on the post-legislative inquiry into the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015. Are committee members content to note those papers? Okay. Thank you very much for that.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Item 4 on our agenda today is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting today and also from the meeting next week. Are committee members content so to do? Okay, thank you very much. We will move into private session.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:39.
The public part of the meeting ended at 10:39.