22 March 2016
Article by Chloe Corbyn, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act will come into force on 1st April 2016. The Act aims to improve the social, economic and cultural well-being of Wales by placing a duty on public bodies to think in a more sustainable and long-term way. This blog post outlines the key aspects of the Act and what it means for the public sector in Wales.
The Act puts in place seven well-being goals that public bodies must work to achieve and take into consideration across all their decision-making.
To measure progress towards achieving the goals, Welsh Ministers must set national indicators, and accompanying milestones.The final set of 46 national indicators were published on 16 March, following a commission to the Public Policy Institute for Wales to advise on development of the indicators, and a consultation period that ran from October 2015 to January 2016.
In the Act, sustainable development means:
…the process of improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales by taking action, in accordance with the sustainable development principle, aimed at achieving the well-being goals.
When making their decisions, public bodies need to take into account the impact they could have on people living in Wales in the future. There are five things that public bodies need to consider in order to demonstrate they have applied the sustainable development principle:
- Long-term: The importance of balancing short-term needs with the need to safeguard the ability to also meet long-term needs.
- Prevention: How acting to prevent problems occurring or worsening may help public bodes meet their objectives.
- Integration: Considering how the public body’s well-being objectives may impact upon each of the well-being goals, on their other objectives, or on the objectives of other public bodies.
- Collaboration: Acting in collaboration with any other person (or different parts of the body itself) that could help the body meet its well-being objectives.
- Involvement: The importance of involving people with an interest in achieving the well-being goals, and ensuring that those people reflect the diversity of the area which the body serves.
Which public bodies does the Act include?
The Act covers public bodies in Wales, specifically:
- Welsh Ministers
- Natural Resources Wales
- Local Authorities
- The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
- Local Health Boards
- The Arts Council of Wales
- Public Health Wales NHS Trust
- Sports Council of Wales
- Velindre NHS Trust
- National Library of Wales
- National Park Authorities
- National Museum of Wales
- Fire and Rescue Authorities
The Act places a well-being duty that the public bodies will be expected to carry out. The duty states:
Each public body must carry out sustainable development. The action a public body takes in carrying out sustainable development must include:
- Setting and publishing objectives (“well-being objectives”) that are designed to maximise its contribution to achieving each of the well-being goals, and
- Taking all reasonable steps (in exercising its functions) to meet those objectives.
How will we know if public bodies are making progress towards achieving the well-being goals?
Pubic bodies must publish a statement when setting their well-being objectives explaining why they feel the objective will help them achieve the seven goals and how it has applied the sustainable development principle. They must also publish an annual report showing the progress they have made in meeting their objectives. Where the Future Generations Commissioner has made recommendations to a public body, it must publish its response.
Twelve months before an Assembly election Ministers must publish a Future Trends Report that shows predictions of likely future trends in social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales and any related analytical data and information that the Welsh Ministers consider appropriate.
Public Services Boards
The Act establishes Public Services Boards for each local authority area in Wales. The Members of the Board must include the local authority, the Local Health Board, the Welsh Fire and Rescue Authority and Natural Resources Wales. In addition, each PSB must invite the following people/organisations to participate on the Board who become ‘invited participants’ if they accept the invitation:
- Welsh Ministers
- The Chief Constable for a police area
- The Police and Crime Commissioner for a police area
- Certain probation services, and
- At least one body representing relevant ‘voluntary organisations’.
It can also invite other people who carry out public functions.
The role of the PSB is to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of its area by assessing the state of these aspects of well-being and setting objectives that are designed to maximise the PSBs contribution to the well-being goals. They must so this in accordance with the sustainable development principle.
Each PSB must prepare and publish a Local Well-being Plan setting its objectives and the steps it will take to meet them. The plan must state why the PSB feels its objectives will contribute within its local area to achieving the well-being goals and how it has had regard to the Assessment of Local Well-being in setting its objectives and steps to take. Each PSB will carry out an annual review of the plan showing its progress.
The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
The Future Generations Commissioner’s role is to act as a guardian for the interests of future generations in Wales, to support the public bodies to work towards achieving the well-being goals and monitor progress in achieving objectives. The role is supported by an advisory panel, including the other Wales Commissioners, the Chief Medical Officer for Wales, a representative of Natural Resources Wales, Wales TUC and Welsh businesses.
The Commissioner has a number of roles and responsibilities:
- Reporting: The Commissioner must publish, a year before an Assembly election, a report containing an assessment of the improvements public bodies should make to achieve the well-being goals.
- Advice: The Commissioner can provide advice to public bodies and Public Services Boards on working towards meeting their well-being objectives.
- Research: The Commissioner may carry out research including into the well-being goals, the national indicators, milestones and the sustainable development principle.
- Carry out reviews into how public bodies are taking account of the long -term impact of their decisions, and make recommendations based on the findings.
The Auditor General for Wales (AGW)
The AGW may carry out examinations of the public bodies to assess the extent to which a body has acted in accordance with the sustainable development principle when setting well-being objectives and taking steps to meet those objectives. The AGW will work with the Future Generations Commissioner to ensure that public bodies are working to achieve the well-being goals for Wales.