Future Generations Commissioner for Wales calls for long-term policy ideas to protect against future cost of living emergencies
The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales says the Well-being of Future Generations Act should be used to future-proof against further cost of living emergencies.
Sophie Howe is setting out five policy ideas for tackling the crisis long-term, from free public transport for under 25s to expanding the basic income pilot to pay more people enough to meet their daily needs.
The commissioner said she recognises the difficult financial challenges on Welsh Government and that exploring these policies could help avoid a ‘sticking plaster’ approach to protecting people in Wales from increasing hardship.
Welsh Government has warned Wales is facing a new era of damaging spending cuts because of some UK Government economic decisions, which they said is likely to affect public services and lead to job losses.
The commissioner praised recent announcements from Welsh Government on plans for a new energy company for Wales, using land owned by Welsh Government to generate clean energy with profits going back into the public purse as an example of the long-term and innovative thinking needed to ensure Wales meets its climate targets and has energy security.
Ms Howe welcomed steps the Welsh Government were already taking on energy, investing in public transport and in housing retrofit in social housing, but urged the Government to consider ways it could go further in these areas as a means of short and long-term protection against the cost of living and the climate and nature emergencies.
The commissioner’s policy proposals, many of which are echoed by several organisations in Wales, set out a way for policy-makers to respond to the cost-of-living crisis centred around longevity and well-being, to protect communities from this type of crisis recurring.
Ms Howe recently worked with Public Health Wales and Futures Literacy researchers (FLiNT) to publish Communities and Climate Change in a Future Wales, to help under-represented people in Wales who are at greater risk of the effects of the climate and nature emergencies be involved in decisions that affect their future.
The project revealed the interconnected way people viewed the climate and nature emergencies alongside their local environment and access to green space, with many participants sharing their concern of being left behind by services such as transport, as Wales takes the necessary steps to reduce air pollution.
As the first and only Future Generations Commissioner in the UK, Ms Howe is tasked with ensuring Wales’ public bodies act today for tomorrow, under the Well-being of Future Generations Act. The legislation requires that the way Wales gets to net zero also improves long-term well-being.
The commissioner is suggesting a range of policies are considered in Wales as long-term measures:
- An extension of free public transport starting with people under 25.
- An expanded housing retrofit programme.
- A long-term national food strategy.
- A long-term vision for every home in Wales to be self-sufficient for its energy and heat needs.
- Long term financial planning to roll out the basic income pilot.
Ms Howe has consulted with organisations including members of the Third Sector Partnership Council, and said while actions in response to the cost-of-living crisis must help people now, it’s vital they also help prevent crises like this to resurface again in the future.
“Inequalities are deepening, with the disproportionate impact of the cost-of-living crisis on women, Black and Ethnic Minority people, migrants, older people and disabled people,” she said.
“In Wales, we’re in a unique position to make real change for the communities of today and of our future generations – using the Well-being of Future Generations Act to make every investment work harder for now and for later. The UK Government could learn from this approach in Wales and work more closely with the Welsh Government to invest in long-term solutions which work for current and future generations
“Those hardest hit by the crisis have to be involved in solutions and the cost of living, nature and climate emergencies require a long-term response so we can adequately protect our communities from even worse harm in the future.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Sustrans recently reported that more than half of households face transport poverty in all but two of Wales’ local authorities and the commissioner joined calls for free transport for people under 25.
Sophie Howe’s 2021 report, Homes Fit for the Future – the Retrofit Challenge found fuel poverty could be eradicated by 2030 with a £15bn investment plan by both Wales and UK’s governments, and could be used to create new industries, skills and up to 26,500 new jobs, said the commissioner.
The commissioner said her long-term vision is for every home in Wales to be self-sufficient for its energy and heat needs, with people having a say in local renewable energy generation and district heat systems to prevent a future cost of living crisis caused by our reliance on fossil fuels.
On food, she is suggesting a long-term food strategy beyond next year to promote healthy and sustainable diets, the free school meals holiday programme and cross sector local food partnerships. She said Welsh Government could look at integrating many of its progressive interventions in the food system by producing a national food strategy, fit for both current and future generations.
Wales’ ground-breaking basic income for care leavers pilot launched this summer, paying £1,600 per month to care leavers, and Ms Howe hoped for a longer-term roll-out that would protect even more people from rising costs. Ms Howe reiterated her findings that a basic income could halve poverty in Wales.
Sophie Howe will be attending COP 27 in Egypt this November. For more information, contact Claire Rees and Rachel Everington.