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Y Pwyllgor Cydraddoldeb, Llywodraeth Leol a Chymunedau

Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee

07/11/2019

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Caroline Jones AM
Dawn Bowden AM
Huw Irranca-Davies AM
John Griffiths AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Leanne Wood AM
Mark Isherwood AM

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Marie Brousseau-Navarro Cyfarwyddwr Polisi, Deddfwriaeth ac Arloesi, Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol Cymru
Director of Policy, Legislation and Innovation, 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

Catherine Hunt Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Chloe Corbyn Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Yan Thomas Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

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 09:30.

The meeting began at 09:30.

1. Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau
1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest

Welcome, everyone, to this meeting of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee. Our first item today is apologies, introductions, substitutions and declarations of interest. We have no apologies, although Leanne Wood is running late and will join us in due course. Are there any declarations of interest? No.

2. Craffu ar Adroddiad Blynyddol Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol Cymru
2. Scrutiny of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales Annual Report

We will continue to item 2 on our agenda today, which is our scrutiny of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales annual report. I'm very pleased to welcome Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, and Marie Brousseau-Navarro, director of policy, legislation and innovation. Welcome to you both. Thanks for coming in today. I think it is useful now that we're more aligned in terms of our scrutiny on your annual reporting cycle. Was there anything you wanted to say initially, commissioner, or are you happy to go straight into—?

I'm happy to talk about—or to just go straight into questions. I'm sure most of what I would want to say will be covered in questions.

Yes, sure, okay. Well, let me start off with some general questions, then. The first one, really, is to ask you to outline the main focus of your work in the six months since you last appeared before the committee. What have been the main challenges during that period?

Okay. We've undertaken a substantial amount of work in the last six months, and, indeed, the six months prior to that—so, the annual reporting period. The main focus has been on finalising our guidance, which has been part of a programme that is called Art of the Possible. The reason it was called Art of the Possible is that what we were trying to do was explore and explain what each of the well-being goals mean in practice, and really try to encourage public bodies, through practical illustrations—simple changes that they could make, things that they could do that would be more adventurous, and things that they could do if they were being ambitious, and what sorts of things those would be to reach each one of the goals. So, we publish the final journey—. We're calling them 'journeys' to each of the goals. We published the final one yesterday, on the goal of a 'healthier Wales'. So, there are seven comprehensive resources there on the goals and one on involvement. So, we're hoping that those will be useful resources for public bodies.

We've completed our first round of statutory monitoring and assessing of around 345 well-being objectives, just picking up on your point on the challenges. I think that has been a significant challenge. I'm not sure, when the legislation and the role of the commissioner was constructed, and, indeed, resourced, that consideration was given to the fact that there might be 345 well-being objectives that need to be monitored and assessed, which are as wide-ranging as the well-being goals are. So, that has been a significant challenge and I can go into more detail about that later if that's useful.

We've started preparation for our future generations report, which I have to publish by next May. That is a substantial piece of work, which will cover a look back over the progress that's been made to date, and then a set of recommendations going forward. It's timed in the legislation to land a year before the Assembly elections, I think with the intention of it potentially influencing manifestos. So, we're well into the work on that.

I've started to scope use of my section 20 review powers, which I haven't used as yet, but this year we are scoping the use of them in two areas—one on procurement, because we remain concerned that public bodies aren't using the principles of the future generations Act on procurement; and potentially a look at how the health system is working, particularly the Government's interaction with the health system and whether that's acting as a barrier or a support in terms of influencing the future generations Act.

We've been working with Treasury officials around the budget and the definition of prevention, also scrutinising on decarbonisation, and there'll be some substantial work in the upcoming budget round there. You might be aware that I've published a 10-point plan on funding the climate emergency, which is part of that work. We have produced a report, 'Fit for the Future: Education in Wales', which calls for a relook at the approach in terms of GCSEs, to align them with the new curriculum. We've reformed land-use planning, and we've established a future generations young leaders' academy, which is just getting up and running this month.

09:35

Okay, thank you very much for that. We'll return to a number of those matters in due course.

First of all, I'd like just to ask you about the priority areas that you've identified, really, in terms of the rationale and the process that led to the identification of the particular areas, and whether they will persist throughout your tenure, or whether they'll be reviewed at some point.

Okay. So, the way that we approach setting my priority areas—. Well, I suppose the starting point was that the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 covers absolutely everything, and there's no way that we can get involved in every issue. So, we had to try to identify those areas that we felt, if we got those areas right, would have the biggest impact across each one of the well-being goals. So, I look at it in a way of doing what we're asking public bodies to do, which is setting objectives that maximise your contribution to the well-being goals.

We had a substantial engagement exercise—online consultations but also a series of meetings across Wales with experts, community groups and so on. We also brought together round-tables of academic experts and experts in particular fields. We worked with the New Economics Foundation, which was then able to analyse all of the information that we got from the series of meetings, and also bring that together with the evidence of where the biggest challenges lie.

Sometimes, there is a disconnect between perhaps what the people see as priorities and what the evidence actually says are priorities. I think the climate crisis—although that's very live in the public's mind now, if we went back five or 10 years ago, perhaps it wasn't such a big thing, and yet the evidence is telling us that it really is a substantial issue that needs to be addressed. So, the New Economics Foundation helped us to combine all of those different inputs, if you like, with the evidence and helped us to rank which were the areas that we thought would have the biggest contribution to the goals.

We originally set three priorities, therefore, more on infrastructure, and three, I suppose, more on people. So, on infrastructure: housing, energy and transport. Then, on people: jobs and skills for the future; better ways of keeping people well—so this is health system reform, really; and adverse childhood experiences. The intention was to—[Interruption.] Sorry? [Inaudible.] Yes, jobs and skills for the future; I said that. The intention is to keep those priorities for the whole of my term. But what we realised as we got into the priority on energy, in particular, is that the Institute of Welsh Affairs were doing a substantial piece of work around energy. We felt, therefore, that we would probably be duplicating, and we worked with them—we helped alongside them, with that work. So, we thought that we didn't need to really focus on that. Alongside that, we were getting a substantial number of complaints, both from Members of the Assembly, councillors, members of the public, around the planning development control system. So, we changed on that basis. We removed a focus from energy and changed to a focus on planning.

As I said, the intention is still to keep them for the term. I will, however, have a look again following all of the input that we're getting on the future generations report. Whilst I can't say for definite, because we haven't finished our consultation on the future generations report at the moment, there are key issues that are coming up quite regularly there, with people in particular, one of which is around mental health. Lots of people are raising jobs and skills, and lots of people are raising climate change and decarbonisation, which we are focusing on as a cross-cutting theme. But post my future generations report, I will have another look as to whether we need to, perhaps, with our focus on better ways of keeping people well, refocus that in terms of mental health, for example.

Thank you, Chair. One of your challenges is that people expect you to cover absolutely everything, and they're disappointed when you don't. I know, myself, I've met with you and lobbied on issues, and I am sure that other committee members have, and communities throughout Wales have. And that's a real challenge for you, but we have, like you, been out listening to people on what your priorities are. We've also done it with stakeholder groups, and we've sat down with them, and one of the common themes that has come across has been, whilst there is a focus on climate change and decarbonisation—and we understand why that is—that, actually, nature and biodiversity and environmental services and all of that is missing or played down. How do you respond to that? Because, clearly, a lot of the focus over the years is we switch from biodiversity to climate change to this, to that, whatever, and actually it's all within the same stuff, and, yet, they would say that within the detail of this, within priority areas, within the 'resilient Wales' goal there, it doesn't feature enough—that wider all-encompassing nature/environment angle.

09:40

Well, I recognise the concerns and the criticisms and, to a certain extent, I have to say I have to set priorities, and the way in which I set priorities were looking at those areas which would have the biggest impact on meeting the well-being goals. And I think the priorities that I've set, particularly in terms of the infrastructure ones, but also in terms of some of the others, so the way in which we build houses, the way in which we use our planning system and development control, and, to some degree but a lesser degree, transport, have—. But those first two have a really critical impact on nature and biodiversity.

What's quite interesting, for example, is some of the good examples that are coming through from the housing innovation programme, which we've been involved in. There's one programme around creating a biophilic community, which is potentially really interesting. So, this is where we create a community for people alongside a community for nature. So, we think that there are lots of possibilities in that area.

To respond specifically on—. And what I would say is, and I've got examples from other areas, I think the goal of a 'resilient Wales' is possibly—I don't know whether I would say the least understood, but the most misinterpreted, I think perhaps I would say, because resilience means different things to different people. Resilience is about what the emergency services do, it's about resilience in terms of mental health, it's about the resilience of children. What it actually means in the Act is the resilience of ecology, our ecosystems, nature, and it does reference acting on climate change as well. So, what we are—. There is a challenge I think, in terms of the understanding. Yesterday, I was engaging with black minority ethnic communities. They were talking about resilience of their community as meeting that resilient goal, for example.

So, what we've tried to do, through my Art of the Possible programme, and this was a programme that was in partnership with a range of different organisations—I seconded someone from Wildlife Trusts Wales into my office to lead the work on the goal of a 'resilient Wales.' We've produced a journey, which is guidance, on how public bodies would meet the goal of 'resilient Wales'. It covers four topics: biodiversity and soil, green space, knowledge of nature, water and air quality—sorry, five topics—and using natural resources.

We've also then tried to make the links in other journeys, so, for example, in the journey to a 'healthier Wales' we talk about placemaking, which is designing communities with nature, health and well-being, which is exactly what this biophilic community project is all about. We have tried to address that, and Alison, who is the goal convenor from Wildlife Trusts Wales, engaged with a huge number of organisations to draw down some really solid examples of the sorts of things that we should see public bodies doing. And I have to say, we're nowhere near where we need to be, but I think that there are some encouraging signs. So, Swansea health board, for example, are using the work that we're doing and using the goal of a 'resilient Wales' to work with the National Botanic Garden of Wales, and in a number of their sites across their area they're creating sites for nature. One of the things that we recommended is a set of simple changes that could be done, in terms of biodiversity, is to stop cutting the grass and instead plant wild flowers. And we can see that, for example, in the Vale of Glamorgan, there's been a significant increase this year in the number of grass verges they've stopped cutting and instead planted wild flowers.

So, we think that the guidance that we're issuing is making an impact. Without doubt, you've only got to read the state of nature reports—it's not enough, but I think that our focus, as well as the focus in the 10-point plan on nature-based solutions, is addressing the issues that have been raised.

Okay. I think that's a very honest answer, I have to say, and it's reassuring that you are focusing on this and you've taken practical steps to resource some of these areas and to show examples of how this should be enacted in light of the future generations Act. So, that's helpful, but I think we'll continue to keep an eye on that as a committee, because the concern, when you were set up, was who would give that focus on the wider environmental, nature and natural service side. 

Can I turn to one of the other things that has come out from the stakeholders group, which is whether you should be focused, and your main priority, on culture change and promotion of the Act, some of which you've touched on, and, in a sense, the Art of the Possible feeds into that—how you promote that cultural change and show best practice—rather than getting bogged down in specific issue work? Now, I'm going to contradict myself here in a moment, but that's the criticism that's come from the stakeholders—they want to see more of doing that cultural change and proving that the cultural change has happened, rather than individual issues, because, as you said, you've got so much to cover. Which issue do you pick?

09:45

Yes. I think you point to a challenge that we grapple with every day. The point of us setting those priority areas—. What I would say is that we have four purposes, which are to highlight the big issues and challenges facing future generations, to support and challenge public bodies to think about the long-term impact of the things they do and meet the aspirations of the Act, to build a movement for change, and to walk the talk. So, that's what we do internally. So, those are the ways that we work. The purpose of the priorities is to say, 'Okay, when we get involved in a particular issue, we will get involved through the lens of this particular priority.' So, for example, on transport, we've been involved in changing the Welsh transport appraisal guidance. We've then been involved in a series of events, trying to train and upskill highways and transportation consultants and a range of others on what this actually looks like in practice. How do you change the culture away from, 'I'm a highways engineer and, therefore, my response to congestion is highways', and so on?

One of the emerging areas of work that we're really focusing on around that kind of culture change is this programme of work that we're calling Live Labs. So, we've tried the first one in Cwm Taf with the public services board there, which is basically working with them over an intensive period of time, for three days initially, taking one of their objectives—their objective in that case was 'the right services at the right time'—and really challenging them around what that actually means—'Set aside what services you're delivering at the moment, what does that actually mean? How are you going to change the culture to change delivery in these areas?'

So, can I just clarify here? Are you getting involved in issues in order to highlight how you can effect cultural change?

Yes. It's not—

So, you're not picking and choosing issues because some group, somewhere, is shouting loud and saying, 'You have to get involved.' I'm putting words in your mouth, but I'm looking for your affirmation or otherwise. You are strategically picking issues, like the WelTAG process, in order to say, 'This is the way we see it through the lens of the future generations—it should work.'

Yes, that's what we're doing. We use the six priority areas, with decarbonisation as a cross-cutting theme, to try to change culture. And, sometimes, we work out—. We use a model called OSCAR, which stands for outcomes, situation, the choices that we could make, the actions that we could take, and then we review. So, in every scenario, we would look, if it's a priority to change the way that transportation is done or planning is done, or what have you, how do we reach that outcome and what are the options available to us. And, inevitably, in every single option, culture change is critical. Sometimes, you've got to change the policy first, because you can't change the culture because the policy they're working to is at odds, but we then flow down through to culture change.

I think that's quite helpful for the committee, because what you're making clear is this is not some random involvement that you have in issues—you could pick 101 of these—but you are strategically thinking, 'Where do we need to intervene to effect—?' Right.

Can I just turn to one final question, Chair, which is quite an interesting one that has come up? It's not a constituency issue for me; it's a neighbouring constituency. But it's not the issue itself, and it's really down to the granular stuff here. Neath Port Talbot—the well-known example of a school there that was facing closure. I'm not expressing a view on this, but it was interesting that the Act that underpins the establishment of you and your way of working was cited in defence by residents, as, 'This is a reason—future generations and the well-being of this community—why this school shouldn't close.' And, actually, Mrs Justice Lambert, the High Court  judge, made clear that the 2015 Act,

'Is deliberately vague, general and aspirational and...applies to a class rather than individuals.'

So, the hopes that a group of citizens had in a particular community were dashed, and it seems from the High Court judgment that, pretty much, citizens in Wales should know that they should not be using the Act as a defence on individual cases. 

09:50

It was not a judgment, as such. It was a preliminary hearing to know if there was a case to be listened to by a court. So, it has to be put in perspective. 

So, our view is that the Act could apply to a class of people in terms of being able to judicially review using the Act. We think that it's probably right that, in terms of applying to an individual, it doesn't assert or give rights to individuals. We chose not to intervene in that case because it was a preliminary judgment, and so on, but we don't think that the judgment was completely accurate. 

That holds out the possibility that you may get involved—. Again, I'm parking that individual case, but you may choose to get involved in certain future cases in order to test the full extent of your powers in the law and how that affects classes of people. Do you have any of those in your mind at the moment?

Not at the moment, but I certainly haven't ruled that out. And I looked very closely at whether these might be the right cases to intervene in, and there were a number of ways that, potentially, I could do that. Having looked at the case, we didn't think that the merits of the case were helpful in terms of making the particular legal arguments that we wanted to make. 

So, are you then looking for an opportunity to actually clarify the law in this aspect?

Well, work that we're doing at the moment, which we have been doing for about the last year or so, is currently to-ing and fro-ing with Welsh Government officials to try to agree a common understanding between us and Welsh Government, because—dare I refer to the M4—

—I don't think there is a common understanding, really, in terms of us having one position and the Welsh Government lawyers advocating a different position. Whether the Government would continue to advance the position its lawyers were putting in the M4 inquiry is a matter for them to consider. What I think would be useful is if we could reach—and we're, I think, nearing that point—a common understanding between ourselves and Welsh Government. That doesn't rule out—. I haven't got a case in mind that I'm going to intervene in. I'm not saying that I'm intending to do that, but I'm not saying I would rule it out anyway. My duty is to promote the sustainable development principle and to act as the guardian of the interests of future generations, and I need to have flexibility in how I do that, and if that means I need to intervene to promote the sustainable development principle and take the law as far as I think it should go, then I'm not ruling that out. 

Okay. Just on that, commissioner, in terms of the Act itself, there are issues and anomalies, then, that exist within the legislation. Do you feel that an amendment might be required in terms of the Act itself, or—?

There are some anomalies in the legislation and I think some of the significant ones are around the—. There are some challenges in terms of my duties and the Wales Audit Office duties. So, my duties are to monitor and assess the extent to which well-being objectives are being met. As I said, there's a bigger challenge there around how a commissioner with a budget of about £1.4 million monitors and assesses 345 well-being objectives. That's a huge challenge. It's very difficult for me to monitor and assess well-being objectives without looking at how public bodies are applying the five ways of working, and that's the duty of the Wales Audit Office. Now, we try to get around that by working together. So, when we're undertaking our monitoring work, the question in hierarchy that we're using is also being used by the Wales Audit Office. We've attended joint visits and assessment visits with the Wales Audit Office, and so on, and I think, in reality, we both recognise that they can't do their job without my input and I can't do my job without their input. So, it's working reasonably well on the ground, but I think the Act could have been better clarified.

Where I think we both have concerns is around issuing advice on the setting of well-being objectives to public services boards and public bodies. So, the anomaly there is that I have duties to provide advice to public services boards on the setting of their well-being plans, but no duties to monitor and assess their progress. Conversely, I have duties to monitor and assess the progress the public bodies are making against their well-being objectives, but no duties to advise them on setting those objectives in the first place. So, it's kind of back to front, in a way, and what we're seeing at the moment, in terms of the well-being objectives set by public bodies, is the quality of the well-being objectives in many cases is not that good. And, sometimes, the quality of the steps that they're saying that they'll take to meet those well-being objectives is not that good, and yet no-one has duties to advise them on what those should be.

Now, I will be doing that in my future generations report. That's the sort of mechanism that enables me to give that advice, because, in setting their objectives the next time round, they have to take into account the advice that I've given in my future generations report. But we're in this period now, between the start of the Act and the future generations report, which has to be published in 2020, where there are those anomalies.

09:55

So, do you think amendments to the Act are necessary or—?

If we were going to amend the Act, well, it would've been helpful, actually, to get it right in the first place. But I think the future generations report should address these issues.

There is still the issue, however, of who scrutinises public services boards because that's neither a duty on me nor a duty on the Wales Audit Office. Now, the Wales Audit Office, as you know, has done an examination recently and made some conclusions on that, but they don't have to do that. The main scrutiny arrangements for public services boards are the local authority scrutiny committees.

Yes. Okay. Just to return briefly to public bodies and public services boards in terms of changing policy and approach, before we move on to some further questions on PSBs, are you able, do you think, commissioner, to show that there has been that direct link between your work and changes in policy and approach by the PSBs and public bodies? And how do you assess that and demonstrate it?

So, we made a number of recommendations in the report 'Well-being in Wales: the journey so far', and, in those areas, we can see that there have been a number of changes for PSBs. So, for example, I called on PSBs to engage unusual suspects in their work. So, Ceredigion PSB set up a delivery group where they had non-traditional leads leading particular delivery groups. So, for example, the lead from the fire and rescue service was leading on the delivery group around looking at the early years. I think what that tends to bring is a different kind of perspective, and I think that that's really useful.

I called for PSBs to set a long-term plan and vision. Powys PSB set a collective vision to 2040. Swansea PSB, I asked them to review their governance structures because we saw that some PSBs were really being run almost like a local authority committee. Swansea PSB changed the governance structures and had the chair of the health board, then, chairing the PSB.

We advised that PSBs should really take steps to try to understand the lived experiences of people—so, kind of, walk a mile in my shoes—and Cardiff, Wrexham, Swansea and Torfaen have adopted that. They're doing that through the lens, also, of the other organisations. So, they are doing intensive looks at what the operations in the fire service look like, and what goes on in the, sort of, police world, to try to develop that better understanding of each of the partners.

We advised them that they needed to reflect, in their annual reports, more qualitative as well as quantitative information, and we can see that that's happened in a number of the annual reports. We haven't reviewed or finalised our review, and I'll caveat this with, you know, we don't have a duty to review the annual reports of public bodies; we're doing this because it's useful intelligence. We haven't finalised our review of that as yet, but some of the early findings from the work that we've done so far in looking at the annual reports of the public services boards, we can see that there's some really good work going on in Cwm Taf around adverse childhood experiences, in Caerphilly around place-based working and the PSB partners have come together around Lansbury Park in particular, and we can see that Torfaen is working across the Gwent area as well around looking at a green grid and how they map green infrastructure. So, we can see some promising things starting to emerge, and I suppose the anecdotal intelligence that I get from speaking to PSB members quite regularly is that a number of them are starting to turn the corner now, away from just turning up at another meeting and another committee to actually trying to make some—. You know, the relationships are now there, where they're able to make some different decisions.

10:00

Yes, good morning. To play devil's advocate momentarily, I'll quote some of the evidence given to us orally by stakeholder groups a couple of weeks ago here: that your report focuses on activities not outcomes, and that the outcomes mentioned often don't add up because you're not measuring what's happening on the ground through public engagement or surveys with local authorities and public bodies to see what's actually happened. We heard that it's a struggle on the ground for public bodies and PSBs to understand how everything links up, such as gender equality, and, although public bodies are using the language of the Act, 'is this just window dressing?' And finally, we heard that there's patchy engagement by the commissioner with local authorities via things such as journey checkers, but how does guidance and understanding regarding the five ways of working actually trickle down to different departments and local authority offices? So, they were raising very much practical issues based on their experience.

I think that's fair, but I think it's important to recognise that it's not my job to change the culture of how every public body operates in Wales. It's my job to support that, but that has to be a whole-system approach. And one of the particular concerns that I've had is that there has been a lack of resourcing from Government to actually support that cultural change. In terms of the resourcing for the change in culture required under this legislation, it was absolutely tiny in comparison, for example, to the resourcing that was put in to implement the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, which was significantly more substantial.

We engage with public bodies and PSBs on a regular basis, as we do with third sector partners and a range of other private sector partners, and so on, but the breadth of the legislation is such that, of course, there's always going to be criticism that we haven't engaged with some group that has an interest or someone who has an interest. But I meet quite regularly with the 44 chief executive officers. We have worked with public bodies to design and develop the tool that we use for monitoring and assessing the progress. It was a self-reflection tool, and we've had lots of positive feedback in terms of how useful that tool was. I have to say, initially, public bodies were saying, 'It's another assessment or audit that we've got to go through', but, once they'd actually gone through it, a number of them said, 'It was really useful and we're going to be using that tool next year'.

I can give you some quotes from people, which you might not have heard. Monmouthshire council said that it's great that they can have honest conversations with the team at the future generations commissioner's office, that it's perhaps not the same relationship with other regulators and that the self-reflection approach demonstrates that. The national museum felt positive that the tool was reflective and that having time to think is a good thing. South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said that they looked at their strategic priorities in a different way this year and that the self-reflection tool has really helped them with that and that they're thinking differently. Ceredigion council said that the way they're setting up their annual report this year will be different because they've had this tool and that it's been real learning.

So, I appreciate that we can't change the mindset of every single person operating in public services. That would be a lot easier to do if there was intensive support and resourcing for cultural change from Government, and sometimes that there weren't conflicting messages, and so on. But the scale of the task is absolutely huge. We're not just changing the habits of one lifetime here; we're trying to change the habits of very many lifetimes, and I think that we're making a good job of doing that.

10:05

Okay. I'll keep it until later. It's activities versus outcomes.

Dawn has a number of questions on PSBs, and we have an awful lot of questions yet to get through, and not an awful lot of time left, so we need to press on. Dawn.

Thank you, Chair. I think, to be fair, you've answered quite a lot of what I was going to ask you, anyway. So, I'll just try and drill down a little bit further. You talked earlier on about the scrutiny of public services boards, and you felt that that lack of scrutiny was probably a problem because they were just basically self-scrutinising. So, can you, perhaps, just give us some of your own thoughts on how that could be done more effectively and who should do it? Where should those checks and balances lie?

I suppose the simplest way to do it would be to mirror what's in the legislation now, but add public services boards in there, so give powers to me and the auditor general to monitor their performance—

Yes, so, what I would see would be happening there is that it would clear up this issue of—. I've got a duty to advise public services boards on setting their well-being plans. I would then have a duty to monitor and assess how they're getting on with delivering those well-being plans. Likewise, the Wales Audit Office would have the same duty that they have with public bodies, in terms of monitoring and assessing how public services boards are using the five ways of working. As I said, I possibly, if I'd been establishing the legislation, would have done it slightly differently in terms of putting in place some clear requirements around working arrangements between the future generations commissioner and the Wales Audit Office. But, in practice, we put those arrangements together anyway, and I think they're working reasonably well.

And we are in discussion with their office, as well, as to what solutions we could put forward, but we intend to do that next year, possibly, in the future generations report itself.

Okay. That's fine. So, we'll keep an eye on how that goes, and we'll look forward to seeing that in your report, as well. Again, following on from something you said earlier, that you do express some frustrations, I think, in terms of the way in which your advice or interventions are either sought or not—. Certainly, the Wales Audit Office seems to be saying that your advice is not always—. I'll quote what they said: the

'advice of the Future Generations Commissioner is not always valued or acted upon’.

What's your response to that and is that your sense of what happens, or are you happy that, actually, in most cases, it is valued and acted upon?

Well, as I said, in terms of PSBs, we're still looking through the annual reports, and I just pointed earlier to a number of examples where they've taken on board things that I've recommended. PSBs asked for a personal and pragmatic approach to my response on their well-being assessments and draft objectives, and we put in a significant amount of work in terms of trying to balance high-level things that we want the PSB to do with a number of examples, resources and so on to actually help them, point them in the right direction of, 'These are policies that work. Here's the research report that evidences particular approaches that you could take here.'

I think that, probably, public services board members were, in some cases, perhaps overwhelmed by that. I can't remember the exact quote, but if anyone thinks that doing this is simple, or they think they've found a simple solution to it, the solution is probably wrong, because it is a really complex piece of legislation. It's trying to integrate seven goals across all areas of policy, and it's not the way we've ever asked public bodies and public services to work before. They find that really challenging, and so we're seeing things like—. We've got a local authority—I'm talking about a local authority, rather than a PSB, but we see similar things in PSBs—and they've got an objective to improve housing, as one of their objectives, and an objective to reduce carbon emissions, and they haven't made the connection between how they improve housing is actually also how they could reduce their carbon emissions. This is the kind of silo mentality that has operated within our public services for very many years. We are trying to intervene to provide specific guidance and specific advice in a supportive way around how they can look to do those things differently, but it takes much more than an office of 15-odd people to actually be driving that. It's got to come from Government and it's got to come through in the guidance and the funding that comes from Government, because that's the sort of thing that really drives that change.

10:10

And there's no obligation on them to take your advice.

They have to take the advice on setting the objectives in the future generations report when that's published.

So, it comes back to Huw's earlier point about, then, if that doesn't happen, what's the remedy?

Well, I can review, and then there is a process by which they have to respond to the recommendations in my reviews, and so on. In areas where I'm particularly frustrated about the lack of progress, particularly with health boards and particularly on procurement, that's why I'm looking at using my review powers in those areas.

Okay, that's helpful. We were talking about scrutiny and feedback and so on, and it's a two-way street, I guess. Do you seek feedback from public services boards yourself in terms of the advice and the work of your office?

Yes. So, we use the five ways of working ourselves in everything we do. So, we don't just seek feedback from them once we've done something; we actually work with them from the outset. For example, in terms of the self-reflection tool, that was co-designed with the public bodies and, indeed, some third-sector organisations. In our engagement and dialogue with them they asked for a set of resources on tools that will help them to apply the Act. We developed three future generations frameworks—one on infrastructure, one on service delivery. There was then a call for how scrutiny committees could be using the Act, what sort of questions would they be asking of their local authorities as a PSB scrutiny committee. So, we developed a scrutiny toolkit to enable them to do that in collaboration, and we've promoted that and had sessions training people and helping people to use that, in collaboration with the Wales Audit Office. So, we're responding to the things that they've asked us to do.

My feeling about what was said in terms of the Wales Audit Office report is that undoubtedly they are struggling with the scale of change that this requires, particularly during times of austerity when demand is increasing, and the stuff, I have to say, the information that comes from Government is really quite challenging in terms of actually supporting the legislation. So, for example I'm going to give you some quotes here:

'Yes, we're not hearing it loud and clear in health bodies, so if you could help us more with that. Their masters'—

we questioned that, and they said Ministers—

'need to be saying, "Five ways of working, Well-Being of Future Generations Act" in everything they do, and then they'd sit up and take notice. Even using slightly different language in guidance, legislation and funding, like 'A Healthier Wales', means that it's seen as the new thing and starts to cancel out the WFG Act'.

Another one:

'Yes, the guidance for integrated medium-term plans has changed to encompass more about well-being, but I'll send you the guidance for annual reporting for the NHS, and there's just no space for well-being. It means I'm producing two different reports before I produce an annual equality report and all of the other things that Welsh Government ask us to do'.

So, the challenge that we have here is that we're asking public bodies and PSBs to do this, to think in new ways and to employ new ways of working, resourcing and so on, and then what they're being required to do from Government is at odds with that.

They really haven't got capacity is what you're saying. So, does that—

Sorry, could I just bring Huw in very briefly on this point?

Really quick, because I know we're running out of time here. You're consistently raising the issue about resources within the commission itself in order to drive some of this change. But can I just put the argument back to you: you could take another approach here, which is that you are lean as an organisation, you need to get meaner, and you need to demand of different Welsh Government Ministers, public bodies, and others to get on with it—'We're showing you for a certain period of time, and then you need to do it.' I'm not saying this because you shouldn't argue for more resources; everyone should. But maybe you should just be a bit more aggressive, assertive, pointing at them.

So, I'm inclined to agree with you there, and probably what you won't have seen is that I had some feedback last week that the civil service are certainly feeling that my interventions are ramping up. You will see in the budget process that I will be significantly calling out the Government in terms of how they're funding the climate emergency. There are two areas, main areas, that this Government has responsibility for: agriculture and transport. And those are two areas where carbon emissions are going up. I'm not seeing how the climate emergency is being funded. I'm asking them how they are identifying the carbon impact of their spend. I've just written to Rebecca Evans, asking her to give me the carbon impact assessments for the Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan, which has just been published, and so far I haven't had any satisfactory responses. So, I can assure you, I will be calling the Government out. 

10:15

Yes, just following on from my previous question about the capacity, does that mean that, in reality, some of the goals are being given a higher priority than others, so they're not all being treated equally, that the PSBs are looking at something as, 'Actually, if we do that, that might get us some quick wins, that might be easier to do', and that might have a greater priority? I don't know. Are you getting a sense of that?

I wouldn't say that, as such. I think it's more that they're missing opportunities to make the connections. So, the housing example that I gave you is a good example of that. I think some of them are starting to, and what's been quite interesting and encouraging, I think, with the PSBs and the new ways of working is I think, although we're still in really dire straits in terms of the climate emergency and biodiversity, the conversations that are happening around the public service table now are far more taking into account environmental aspects, where they hadn't before. So, the example that I gave you of Swansea health board—a health board taking into account nature and biodiversity and working with botanic gardens would not be something, I think, that would have happened before this Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. There are other examples in Cardiff and beyond, but I still think that there are areas where they are missing making the connections.

So, one of the things that I've challenged and highlighted in terms of my paper on education, 'Fit for the Future'—. A large number of well-being objectives on skills, and that's fine, that's understandable—what they're doing is failing to make the connections between objectives on skills and objectives on environmental resilience by saying, 'There's a real opportunity here. We've got a climate emergency, we're going to have to rapidly decarbonise, we're going to need skills in green jobs, renewable energy, housing retrofit and all of these green methods of construction and so on, why am I not, in my objective of skills, therefore, focusing in those areas that would also have a benefit to my objective on environment and decarbonisation?' And that's the challenge in terms of them not necessarily making those connections. And I think some of that is about the different—. Julie James, I'm pleased, is doing a partnership review, because the landscape out there is so complex: regional skills partnerships, public services boards, regional collaborative committees, regional partnership boards, health boards on different footings—geographical footings—and so on. It's incredibly complex for them to make these links, and we don't make it any easier for them.

No. And one final question, Chair, which is just about adding to that complexity, really, because it's not a public services board, it's not a standalone body, it's part of Welsh Government, but dealing with all of the issues that you are responsible for is the work of the Valleys taskforce—a piece of work there, covering a population that's more than a third of Wales, and I've not seen any specific reference to your commission's work. 

Right, okay. Well, that's something that we can definitely pick up and make sure that they have our guidance, and so on. I actually think it's a really interesting example of, potentially, what a mechanism could look like to bring all of this together. I suppose the problem is—and I can understand the reasons for this—it's not on a formal footing—

No, no. It's a Government committee, isn't it, basically?

But I think, you know—. I think that that's potentially an interesting model, but I'm really hoping that the partnership review that Julie James is conducting is going to clear some of the landscape here and just make things less complex, because people, instead of actually focusing on how do we change our culture, how do we get and build the relationships that are going to help us do that, are focusing on attending and reporting to multiple different layers of multiple different boards. 

Yes, and then it all gets lost, yes. Okay. Thank you, Chair. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Regarding communication and engagement, obviously to raise awareness of your Act, visibility and communication, effective communication, is of paramount importance. And I wonder if you could tell me how you involve the third sector in your work, please.

10:20

Yes. So, the third sector are involved in all elements of our work; I can give you lists and lists of all of the engagement that we've done with third sector. So, they've been engaged directly by actually joint secondments into my office through the Art of the Possible programme. On decarbonisation, we've worked with third sector, contributing to their conferences and events. We've organised with the third sector—co-organised and co-delivered—Zero Carbon Wales workshops, in partnership with Wales Council for Voluntary Action, WWF, the Centre for Alternative Technology. We've involved third sector in the work that we've done around transport, and particularly the 'Transport Fit for Future Generations' report. We held a round-table on informing the low-carbon housing inquiry with third sector representatives. I've just launched a future leaders academy, which is in partnership with organisations like the Urdd and the Scouts. We engage them at all levels in our work. Can I say that we have engaged every third sector organisation that has an interest in our work? No, I probably can't, but there is a huge number of them out there.   

So, you've given a couple of examples of how you're engaging with the third sector, but what sort of level of people, what sort of level of audience, do you attract? Do you go personally, or is it parts of your team that go? How is this communication being—? How are you delivering to the third sector, then? 

It's a mixture of both. Obviously, I've got a team of about 15, so that's 15 lots of engagement that can happen, but I engage directly myself as well. We have established quarterly meetings with a range of third sector colleagues who represent each of the goals. The WCVA are co-ordinating and facilitating that. I've also—. I think that there's a gap in terms of my advisory panel. It was established in the legislation so I don't get to choose who's on it, but I've recently written to the First Minister because I think there's a gap in terms of a third sector representative on the advisory panel. So, I've asked him if he will include one.  

So, once you've engaged with—[Interruption.] So, once you've engaged once with an organisation, do you think that it's important to keep in contact with that organisation so that there's a flow and there's consistency there? 

We try to do that in terms of our specific pieces of work, and then we're trying to do that at a more strategic level by establishing these quarterly meetings with the WCVA and the representatives of each of the goals there. We've also—. We now do a newsletter that goes out to a huge range of people to try and keep people updated with the work that we're doing. Can we keep every third sector organisation up to date with every piece of work that we're doing? It's not physically possible. 

So, looking at the experiences, obviously, that you've had with the third sector and moving forward, is there anything you want to change in the future? 

Well, I think it would help if there was a third sector representative on my advisory panel. As I said, we've made that request. We are establishing a memorandum of understanding with WCVA to identify some areas each year that we can specifically work on, because I think probably that the engagement that we've had to date, although we've been engaging directly with third sector organisations, it's possible that the WCVA, through their co-ordination, could have given us better reach. So, if we're doing a piece of work on housing or transport, or whatever it might be, we've engaged directly with a range of different third sector organisations, but the WCVA will obviously have a whole range of organisations that they're aware of, and will be able to facilitate that engagement. So, I think that's why we're wanting to establish—

So, you've said about them changing their organisation, but you haven't said about your approach. Is there anything you'd change regarding your approach to the third sector?  

No, that's what I'm saying. So, we'll change our approach through working directly with the WCVA rather than going direct to particular third sector organisations. Because what I recognise is, in going directly to some third sector organisations, we might not be aware of others that exist who might be able to have contributed to our work effectively and, therefore, we'll use the WCVA as a conduit through the memorandum of understanding. 

10:25

Can I ask you a question on this? Because it's clear from your answers that you are not convinced that you're doing this as well as you possibly can at the moment. And I understand that you met with some non-governmental organisations earlier this year, and they've expressed concerns with you about engagement. Now, having a person on your advisory panel from the NGO sector might go some way to allaying some of those concerns, but last time you were here I asked you about the closing of the Climate Change Commission for Wales, and we didn't really get to the bottom of why that was closed, and I think that this is the key question, in terms of engagement, because previously NGOs had a direct voice through the climate change commission that they don't have now. So, if you didn't know before, I wonder if you've had time to establish, since the last time that we saw you—whether or not you can confirm today whether that decision was taken by Welsh Ministers or it was taken by you, because it must be one or the other, and whether or not you regret that decision being taken.

Well, it was something that was established by Welsh Ministers that ceased to exist when the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 came into force. 

I'm assuming that it was, therefore, a ministerial decision. I could, I guess, establish a committee or a working group or something along those lines on climate change or indeed any other issue that's covered by the— 

Do you accept the NGOs have concerns and do you understand what they are?

What I would say—I mean, I would hope that the NGOs would have updated you since the meeting that I had with them, with the WCVA. And the agreement that we've reached is that we will have these quarterly meetings with the NGOs, not just on climate change, which, of course, is an important issue, but actually the Act covers a whole range of different issues. The WCVA will co-ordinate who the main point of contact or the representative person for each of the goals is, who will come along to that meeting; we'll establish a memorandum of understanding with the WCVA around how we work with them on an ongoing basis and what particular pieces of work they can contribute to and we can contribute to in terms of them, in terms of their work. They've worked with us on the establishment of the future generations leaders academy. I'm meeting Ruth Marks this afternoon to talk some of this through. The MOU is very near to being signed, and we've got a third sector meeting coming up—I want to say in the next three or four weeks. 

Okay. I think at this stage we're going to have to move on to infrastructure. Huw. 

Yes, and I can summarise a couple of these, because some of these have been covered, Chair, already. I just want to turn to what the M4 decision tells us about other major infrastructure decisions. Let me ask, first of all: how do you respond to the M4 inspector's findings, his thoughts, that the proposed scheme is not contrary to the Act, was in line with the Welsh transport appraisal guidance process, which the commissioner helped revise, and also that, in relation to well-being goals, giving them equal weight is simply unrealistic in a real world situation? Now, I'm not revisiting the M4 decision, what I'm asking is: what are your views on those views expressed, and how does that affect other infrastructure projects that you might choose to intervene in and express a view on? 

I think the fundamental issue, in terms of the M4, was that what we were seeing from the Government, in terms of—when they initially took the decision to proceed with the M4, before it went to the public inquiry, I asked to see the assessment that they had undertaken around the future generations Act. After some deliberation they were able to show me an assessment across the well-being goals, which I suspect was probably done at a later date. They weren't able to show me an assessment against the five ways of working. So, to me, what that illustrates is fundamentally at odds with the legislation, which is that you should use the legislation to help you form an approach that you will take, rather than to justify something that you've already decided to do. So, I think that we should be starting from the point that the Government had decided to do this and then the WelTAG that they filled in was trying to justify their position, and I don't think that it's right. 

It's my view that in meeting the well-being of future generations Act there is an expectation that the Government should be able to demonstrate a comprehensive consideration of alternative schemes that would have had a greater impact of meeting the well-being goals. So, I always talk about the future generations Act being about the what you do, should we build—you know, 'We've got a problem here, what's the solution that has the biggest contribution to the goals?' Should we build—is that a road, is that public transport, is that looking at the whole of that region in terms of transportation strategy and so on? And I don't think it was applied to the 'what'. There's then a second phase of it, which is, if you've done that consideration, you should then be applying it to the 'how'. So, if you've decided to build a road, or if you've decided to go with the public transport active travel option, you should be looking at doing that in a way that maximises the contribution to the goals.

10:30

Okay. I'm currently involved in a WelTAG process myself—quite a significant one. I've seen the stage 1 WelTAG, which did go back to basics and said, 'What are you trying to achieve, what were the different ways of doing it—even things that you're not considering.' So, that was quite reassuring. But can I ask you, this issue of giving equal weight to all of the goals, which he said was unrealistic in a real-world situation—do you agree with that?

So, what I said is that equal consideration should be given to all of the goals, and that all pillars—. So, what I said to the inspector is—and I clarified this in a letter to him:

'All decisions must improve the economic, social, environmental, and cultural well-being of Wales, which is the duty to carry out sustainable development under the Act. Within these decisions, achieving best balance should be favoured.'

Okay, that's quite interesting, because equal consideration is quite different from equal weight being given—it does, as you've now expressed it quite clearly, allow for a considered evaluation of the balance between those goals in a certain situation, on a certain given infrastructure project. Now, that's quite interesting. Okay, thank you.

I just want to ask one other, which is to do with decarbonisation—because we've covered a lot of the other ground I think, Chair, although I know you'll correct me if I've missed anything. You brought forward a very ambitious 10-point plan in terms of countering the climate emergency; there were some real heavy-duty asks—they came with price tags on them. Have you met with the Welsh Government, have you discussed these with them, talked about how—? You touched on this slightly earlier: have they given you commitments that they're going to put their money where their climate change, climate emergency, mouths are?

I think the simple answer to the last question is 'no'. I am attempting to meet with the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, alongside the First Minister. We had a date in the diary; unfortunately, yesterday, that was cancelled, so I am seeking another date. I am on a round of ministerial meetings, meeting every Minister, however—I think that there are four Ministers that I'm meeting next week. And I will be asking each one of them about what their department is doing in terms of decarbonisation. On 19 October—. I'd already sent a letter on 15 August regarding the 10-point plan, asking them what they were going to do about the 10-point plan. I sent a follow-up letter on 19 October, with the following questions:

'Building on the actions set out in the low-carbon delivery plan, what are the key opportunities for decarbonising investment in relation to your portfolio, and how do these relate to revenue and capital spend? What is your assessment of the allocations identified in my 10-point plan? And if you disagree with my suggestions, what are your proposals? How are you assessing how much you're spending overall on decarbonisation actions, and do you have a method for classifying decarbonisation spend? And on the basis of the points above, what specific changes will there be in the 2020-1 budget?'

So, I'm awaiting responses to that letter.

And when, in your broad-reaching remit, a Welsh Government Minister says to you, 'Look, we happen to agree with all of this—we'd love to throw all this money at it, but we're going to have to draw it from somewhere else'—that will affect some of the other things that you consider important as a commissioner.

I think that—. And to be fair, Rebecca Evans had a similar—I had a similar conversation with her around, 'So what would you prioritise in terms of this spend?' So, using the principles of the future generations Act, I would look for the things that had the best contribution to each of the well-being goals. And there are particular areas in that 10-point plan—and I point to housing retrofit, for example, so £67 million of savings to the NHS; the £350 saving on your average fuel bill, taking people out of fuel poverty; about 10,000 jobs created by investing in housing retrofit. I think that should be a priority. Public transport and active travel—I set out in my 'Transport Fit for Future Generations' report the benefits to the health system, and those in socioeconomic disadvantage and so on there. So, I think those are key areas where it's really easy to demonstrate multiple benefits by making those sorts of investments, whilst also getting towards your decarbonisation targets.

10:35

Thanks. Just to follow on from some of the questions that Huw asked there, part of your role is to form a position and advocate a position on high-level policy. Can you explain the process that you use for arriving at a decision? I know you consult, but is it ultimately your judgment? Some issues—. For example, the Severn barrage—there are green arguments for and against the Severn barrage. How do you come to a conclusion on a project like that? [Inaudible.] Sorry? [Inaudible.] I can't hear you.

The barrage I meant—the controversial one that was ditched eventually.

So, first of all, we don't form a position on every project that there is, simply because we just do not have the capacity to do that. Our starting point is—and this is one of the other reasons—. I think you missed one of the earlier questions where I was talking about how I set my priorities, but one of the reasons why we set priorities is because we use that as part of the criteria of issues that I'll potentially get involved in. So, the six priorities are housing, planning and transport, and then jobs and skills for the future, better ways of keeping people well, and adverse childhood experiences. We then look at whether there is still an opportunity to influence a decision. We look at whether the issue is a systemic issue, so it highlights a significant problem. As an example, that is the reason why I intervened in terms of the M4, because it was highlighting a systemic issue of jumping immediately to road-based solutions rather than looking at others. We'll look at issues as to whether it has a significant impact on the population of Wales, so the kind of reach of the issue or decision, if you like. And going through that criteria, then, yes, we form a judgment.

So, major energy projects wouldn't form part of that, then?

Well, energy is not within one of the priority areas that I've set.

I did give an explanation before you were here as to why that was.

Okay. I'm going to move on to other aspects of your responsibilities now. Are you seeing sufficient scale and pace of progress of embedding the Act within the health sector, and can you outline the work that you've undertaken to accelerate progress in that area, please?

I think the short answer to that is 'no'—we're not seeing significant pace and scale of change. We are seeing that health boards are considering the Act very much as a kind of sideline issue. Some of them were reporting it almost as a kind of separate thing. That has started to change; they're now integrating their reporting. Some health boards, back probably about a year ago, were not even meeting the bare statutory requirements of the Act, which was to set objectives and then set out the steps they were going to take to meet those objectives. They are now doing that, but—I'm just trying to give you a flavour of the extent to which health is embedding the Act or thinking from an early stage about it. I'm not sure if you were here when I was giving some quotes about what the health bodies are saying.

No, okay. So, let me start first with some of the things that we have done in terms of this healthcare system. We've worked closely with the Welsh Government NHS planning team to revise the guidance around setting of the integrated medium-term plans, because the guidance made no reference to the future generations Act at all. This is part of the challenge that we're seeing. And, Mark, I want to pick up on your point a little bit in this answer as well around the outcomes. We are spending a huge amount of our time having to unpick a system that is at odds with the future generations Act. So, before we can almost even start to get to cultural change, the guidance that is required, on WelTAG, on planning policy, on IMTPs in this case, is at odds with the future generations Act. We're working with the Government and others to try to get that guidance fit for purpose. We've now got that guidance fit for purpose, but it's still not working.

So, we've worked with a number of health bodies, attended their boards, done development sessions with them to try to get them to embed the Act, we've collaborated with Public Health Wales on a number of projects, we've written to the Minister for health to flag concerns. Yesterday, I published the journey to a 'healthier Wales'. Do I think that this is changing the day-to-day business in the NHS? Unfortunately, no, I don't think that that's changing the day-to-day business in the NHS. Because what we're met with is Government who are consistently doing things that are at odds with the future generations Act. So, if I give you an example: we had 'A Healthier Wales', which was from the parliamentary review. The starting point of that—I don't disagree with any of the principles in it. You could argue, 'Well, it wasn't telling us anything that we didn't already know.' It was, however, using slightly different language to the future generations Act, which means that you have people potentially going off in two different directions, or being confused by language. You then get a transformation fund that is established to meet the aspirations of 'A Healthier Wales'. And I wrote to the Minister and said, 'That transformation fund should go to public services boards to be spent on the wider determinants of health', because if you're going to shift away just from a medical model of treating illness, which, actually, as much as we all love our national health service, counts for only around about 10 per cent of the health inequalities in terms of what the determinants of health are. So, about 30 per cent of what determines our health and well-being are things like living conditions, housing, air quality, access to the environment, and so on. About 25 per cent area about social relationships, community cohesion and so on. So, why would you put that money to transform a system, towards preventative approaches, to the health service who are just going to spend it in the same way. I'm sad to say that that is exactly what the Government have done and I think it's a huge missed opportunity.

So, when we have a piece of legislation that is telling health boards, 'You have to do this', but then their day-to-day interactions with Government is telling them that they have to do something different—a quote here:

'The need to respond to short-term operational issues can be a further challenge, with the capacity to create space, to think and act differently, being constrained by the need to deliver day-to-day matters.'

Another one:

'The general posture of the health service remains that of responding to demand. This is global in Wales NHS and it's important that health services are able to respond to demand. But responding to demand without corresponding detailed knowledge about needs and predictively tackling these will not make the NHS sustainable.'

Another one:

'The timing was really poor because the Welsh Government moved the IMTP deadline to the end of January, so November and December were out. There was no room for it on the agenda of the board. It's going to the board at the moment. It's ironic, because the senior team are focused on budget setting, but really they should be using stuff like this to inform their thinking.'

That's what health boards are telling us in terms of messages that they're getting from Government.

10:40

This is a perennial problem, isn't it? I want to ask you about ACEs as well, because it's the same—. I remember working as a probation officer, right, and with all the will in the world, you want to work on preventative work, or you want to help people overcome ACEs. But you can't because you're firefighting day to day, and all public servants, whichever public body they're in, are dealing with the day-to-day crisis, whether that's in homelessness, in the probation service, in health or education. So, the idea that there's spare time on a Friday afternoon to start planning this stuff—. It doesn't exist, does it, in the real world, and after 10 years of austerity—? I was a probation officer 15 years ago, so I can't imagine what it's like now. It must be loads worse.

I wanted to ask you about transformative change in the field of ACEs. What have you seen in terms of the Welsh Government, public bodies, local authorities, other organisations, in terms of working together or individually to tackle ACEs?

So, there is a significant focus in a number of public services boards on multi-agency working and the working of organisations across the board. It's not always with the sole purpose of focusing on ACEs, but ACEs are issues that they are picking up within it. So, for example, Caerphilly PSB are having a really place-based focus around Lansbury Park, where they're doing a whole range of things, working with mums around building confidence and women building confidence. Through that, they're picking up issues of domestic abuse. They've got really good relationships because of that working arrangement, then, with the intervention services that could come in there. So, that's a really good example.

Cwm Taf: my office has been doing some direct work with Cwm Taf on an objective that they've set, which is the right services at the right time. We're trying to use the lens of that and ACEs to say, 'Well, okay: setting aside your current services, how would you look at this differently if you were trying to tackle adverse childhood experiences?' They are now, as a result of that work that we've done with them, in the process of developing an action plan. We haven't seen it yet, but the feedback that I've had from that session has been incredibly positive. I think the work that's been done, particularly with policing and public services boards, has been interesting. So, 5,000 police officers across Wales have now been trained to identify and spot adverse childhood experiences and are then working with other services. So, rather than—this would've been your world, I guess—routing traumatised young people into the criminal justice system, they're actually taking the trauma-informed approach to how they respond to it, working with other agencies.

10:45

But on that, are they trained as well to take into account mental health, autism spectrum disorders and all of that? Because there are lots of people going through those systems and there's no assessment, from what I can see, to divert those.

I think that that's a fair point. I think that mental health, broadly, would be picked up in the ACE awareness training. Autistic spectrum—I don't think it is, but I'd have to come back to you.

Okay. We've reached the end of our allotted time, unfortunately, although we have a number of questions we haven't reached. Perhaps we can write to you, commissioner, with further questions following this session. But thank you, both, very much for coming in this morning to give evidence to the committee. You will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy. Diolch yn fawr.

Thank you. Thank you, all.

3. Papurau i’w Nodi
3. Papers to Note

The next item we have today, then, item 3, is papers to note. Papers 1 and 2 are correspondence relating to the Celestia development in Cardiff Bay. And we'll be returning to fire safety on 21 November, when the Minister comes before us once again.

Papers 3 and 4 are correspondence from the Minister for Housing and Local Government to Kevin Foster MP and Robert Buckland MP regarding the proposals to enable prisoners in Wales to vote—just informing them of the position thus far.

Paper 5 is a briefing paper from the Wales Fiscal Analysis, following our meeting on 23 October, providing further information.

And paper 6 is correspondence from the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales—again, follow-up information from the recent annual scrutiny session that we conducted.

Are Members content to note those papers?

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i Benderfynu Gwahardd y Cyhoedd o Weddill y Cyfarfod
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to Resolve to Exclude the Public from the Remainder of the Meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

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.

Motion moved.

Item 4, then, is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting. Is committee content? I see that you are. We will then move into private session. Thank you.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:47.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:47.

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