Response to Welsh Government’s Well-being of Wales Report 2022
The Well-being of Wales Report is Welsh Government’s assessment of the progress against the seven national well-being goals set in law by the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
This year’s report is published at a particularly difficult time for our communities across Wales- and the importance of data collection and analysis is key. A cost-of-living crisis exacerbates the inequalities in our society, and collectively we must do more to harness the data collected and transfer statistics into solutions.
Tackling these big challenges requires every government to work together. The Well-being of Future Generations Act provides that framework and vision for Wales, but the efforts of our government and other public bodies in Wales are being hampered in areas such as broader economic policy, support for the cost-of-living crisis, and funding decisions through programmes like the levelling up and shared prosperity funds.
Behind these statistics are real people – and I hear their voices in the data throughout the report. They echo with the concerns and lived experiences of so many across our communities. We mustn’t lose sight of these stories in the analysis of this report.
Welsh Government and public bodies across Wales must renew their efforts to address repeatedly reported areas of concern. While I welcome the progress in the report, I am deeply worried that several areas continue to be highlighted.
Others and I have previously flagged areas which require urgent action. The report highlights, once again, the need to address;
- Rising poverty rates in the face of the cost-of-living crisis
- Declining biodiversity and climate emergency
- Unequal life expectancy and growing inequality
- Young people’s well-being and loneliness
The percentage of people living in relative income poverty has been stable in Wales for over 15 years. We are facing our communities being plunged into poverty, risking existing inequalities being exaggerated. This is particularly worrying as we know that poverty is the biggest determinant of health.
The Report shows:
- Before the cost-of-living crisis, 11% of adults were classed as ‘materially deprived’ (unable to afford certain things such as keeping the house warm enough, making regular savings, or having a holiday once a year). This is higher for females (13%) than males (9%).
- Nearly half (49%) of single parents were in material deprivation
- 2% of households said that they had received food from a food bank
- An estimated 196,000 households (14% of households) were living in fuel poverty in October 2021, though the effect of the increase in domestic energy price cap in April 2022 is expected to have increased this substantially despite interventions to mitigate the impact
- In the most deprived areas in Wales, the age-standardised mortality rate of deaths registered due to COVID-19 was 74% higher than that in the least deprived areas
- New data on housing affordability shows that for the latest financial years for which data is available (2017-2020) 19.4% of households spend 30% or more of their income on housing costs
- There was a 27% increase in households threatened with homelessness seeking support from their local authority during 2021-2022.
Perhaps these figures are not surprising; the aftermath of the pandemic is still having an impact on communities and the rising energy and food costs are squeezing families further.
This report must culminate in radical, progressive, and long-term solutions that consider our future generations. I urge Welsh Government to:
- Commit to a comprehensive housing retrofit programme and invest in renewable community energy ownership to reduce energy costs, reduce household emissions and create new green jobs.
- Act quickly to help households now by making public transport affordable and inclusive, and announcing a long-term commitment to the free school meals holiday programme
- Go further on the basic income pilot. The Pilot should include heavy industry workers as part of a green & just revolution.
- Commit to a National Wellness System, tipping the balance from acute to preventative care to keep our communities well and our NHS afloat.
- Commit to a long-term Food Partnerships programme in every Welsh local authority
I will expect to see a significant response in Welsh Government’s budget, due to be published on 12th December.
I do feel encouraged by so many of the positive interventions I’ve already seen to date in the areas that require more urgent action and I applaud the Welsh Government’s;
- Commitment to the Universal Basic Income trial, providing a safety net for care-leavers
- New national transport strategy and roads review which will aid the shift to more sustainable modes of transport and will reduce emissions
- Creation of a Climate Ministry, combining the transport, environment, energy, housing, and planning portfolios for collaborative action on the Climate and Nature Emergencies
- Social prescribing strategy, lessening the pressure on GPs
These are all important but relatively new initiatives of which impact will not be instantaneous, however it is clear that we are moving in the right direction.
Moreover, I am pleased to see that there have been clear impacts on our national well-being in several areas, for e.g.;
- An increase of 4% of people who feel they can influence decisions in their local area to 30%. This is also up considerably from 19% in 2018-19
- 36% of people now speak Welsh, with 11% now fluent – moving us closer towards a Wales of thriving Welsh language and goal of 1 million Welsh speakers.
- An increase in recycling, with nearly two thirds of municipal waste recycled, reused or composted in 2020-21
- In 2021, we can see an increase of working age adults in Wales that are qualified to the level 3 threshold from just over 50% in 2011 to 62.5%
I welcome the introduction of revised indicators and the narrative on progress towards our newly established milestones. This is a report which seeks to better align with the ethos of the Well-being of Future Generations Act. However, I would also like to see Welsh Government take bold action to support people in Wales on increasing action to help with global issues. We are proud of our aspirations to become a globally responsible nation, and in light of continued international challenges and escalation, we can do more do to elevate our national awareness and mobilization on these issues.
I encourage all parts of Government, Public Bodies, Public Services Boards and others to use this information in setting priorities, budgets and making policy decisions.