Section 20 Review
Welcome to the webpage on my review into how the Welsh Government implements the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
As the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, I want to ensure the world leading Well-being of Future Generations Act is used to its full extent and encourage public bodies to make policy decisions which are sustainable and positively impact on the day to day lives of current generations and those yet to be born.
I believe what policies are created depend on how the policies are developed. How they are delivered matters too. I believe the machinery behind the scenes, (often overlooked) is essential to applying the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
The Act is one of the greatest cultural change programmes the Welsh public sector has ever undergone. This cannot be achieved unless the internal workings of public bodies – their processes, including their policy development and delivery; and their workforces – are acting in accordance with the sustainable development principle and are promoting and enabling sustainable development throughout their organisations as required by the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
I am pleased to share the final report of my Review into how Welsh Government implements the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
This review was undertaken using my powers set out in section 20 of the Well-being of Future Generations Act. This section allows me, as the Future Generations Commissioner, to carry out reviews into the extent to which a public body is safeguarding the ability of future generations to meet their needs. This is the second section 20 review that I have undertaken as Commissioner.
This is one of the core mechanisms I can use to assess how the Well-being of Future Generations Act is being implemented by public bodies, including Welsh Government.
This section 20 review into how Welsh Government implements the Act was started on 31st January 2022, and accompanied by a Terms of Reference. My team undertook extensive research and evidence gathering, with a literature review and an analysis of Welsh Government materials, supplemented by over 40 evidence sessions with Welsh Government Ministers, civil servants, representatives of public bodies and others.
The First Minister and I were both committed to a collaborative approach in line with the ways of working in the Act. This has enabled me to identify the areas which require improvements and the good practice that should be amplified.
Section 20 Review findings
- The WFG Act and the extent to which it has been embedded in the DNA of Welsh public policy development and delivery continues to be world leading
- The reach of the Act, enthusiasm and commitment for what it aims to achieve has extended beyond those organisations who are covered by the legislation
- Its success to date has resulted more from leadership and commitment than embedded processes.
- Clear leadership, continual communication and constant review will be needed for the Government to move successfully to the next phase of implementation
I have set out the structure of this review around three key features – People and Culture, Process and Public Sector Leadership.
People and Culture
1. There is a sense of pride and enthusiasm in this world-leading legislation, but there is some discrepancy between the level of enthusiasm and commitment and a detailed understanding of application.
2. There is a plethora of learning materials around the Act – while some material is good, the Government should seek to better understand what works and build on innovative approaches being adopted in some parts of Government.
3. There are concerted efforts to embed long-term thinking across government, but the need to respond to multiple crises and capacity are often seen as barriers to civil servants fully applying this way of working.
4. The WFG Act is driving changes in the ways policies are being developed, designed and implemented but it is not yet being consistently applied in a way which embeds all aspects of the Act, or across the whole organisation.
5. There are a range of accountability mechanisms to provide Ministers and senior colleagues that the WFG Act is being embedded and implemented in how the Government works, but they are not all utilised effectively.
Public Sector Leadership
6. There is untapped potential for Welsh Government to work with the Welsh public sector and beyond to deliver the Well-being of Future Generations Act to mobilise, promote good examples, create resources, and share learning.
My recommendation to Welsh Government is:
Welsh Government should continue to take action to continually improve how the Well-being of Future Generations Act drives its work to support Welsh Ministers deliver their well-being objectives, act in accordance with the sustainable development principle and, by doing so, maximise their contribution to the national well-being goals. In doing so, Welsh Government should publish a plan, setting out the improvements they will make, which address the findings and areas of improvement outlined in this Section 20 Report.
This should include timescales for the delivery of actions and arrangements for reporting annually, monitoring, and reviewing progress, and how it will collaborate with others (including the Commissioner’s office) to ensure that Welsh Government can remain at the forefront of the well-being of future generations agenda. Welsh Government should work openly with the Commissioner to monitor the progress of this plan. Welsh Government should report on the progress of this plan alongside their annual report.
I hope other public bodies and organisations both inside and outside of Wales will be encouraged to develop their own commitments to sustainable development and work towards protecting the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
As part of the review, my team has also worked with Welsh Government and other stakeholders to develop a maturity matrix to help all organisations interested in applying the Act assess where they are on their journey towards sustainability. I hope this tool helps self-reflection on progress and provides the steps needed to implement the Act.
While there are areas for improvement which require Welsh Government’s attention, I am assured that Wales’ ground-breaking Well-being of Future Generations Act is having impact and influence across Wales and the world.