The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed deep structural inequalities in our economy and society in areas such as work, job security, food poverty, health, well-being and racial disparities. At the same time, climate and ecological breakdown is escalating, and we risk exacerbating all of these challenges if we go back to the way things were.
Many countries are looking for opportunities to reshape policy, as well as how people will live and work in a world changed by coronavirus. In many cases, it is cities and regions which are leading the way with innovative and ambitious responses.
Wales has the opportunity to be at the forefront of this progressive movement. Our recovery from the pandemic is a once in a generation opportunity to enact change and build back better. We need bold, collaborative, integrated thinking and political courage and investment that will address the short-term recovery as well as longer-term challenges. And we will also need to respond to the opportunities in how we now live and work, in ways which help tackle many of these challenges.
Using our unique Well-being of Future Generations Act as a framework, we must grasp the opportunity and demonstrate how it is driving profound and real change on the ground to a future based on well-being.
What I've focussed on
In May 2020 I outlined my priorities for recovery in a Five-Point Plan. Since then my office have been working with stakeholders through a range of advisory groups and forums to develop further detailed proposals and ensure we are making the most of any investment of policy changes for all aspects of wellbeing. For example, I have:
- Ensured stronger links and better integration between the various ministerial groups and networks focused on the response and recovery to the recovery, e.g. I led a roundtable for the Chairs of pandemic recovery groups and networks in September 2020 to encourage better integration and collaboration between the various workstreams.
- Shared my insight (to date) of the Covid-19 recovery work across Government and beyond, and potential solutions to how we can help address the short-term recovery and longer-term challenges of Covid-19 through the way in which we work.
- Outlined what I believe are key opportunities for investment and delivery to Welsh Government, as well as highlighting the areas where we must do more in relation to ‘how’ we work in Wales.
- Contributed into various Ministerial Advisory Boards, forums, partnership council and other groups, and gave evidence to the Economy Infrastructure and Skills Committee on 4th November 2020.
- Worked with a range of stakeholders to develop further detailed proposals and ensure we are making the most of any investment to contribute towards all aspects of well-being.
If we are smart in how we do this, we have the best chance of ensuring multiple benefits for our communities and the most effective use of public (and private) investment.
Showcase positive examples
I am also looking to showcase positive examples and highlight the opportunities for us to build upon this movement and create a new normal for our society, once we recover from this crisis. We would like you to share your experiences with us so we can build a picture of the effects of Covid-19 on our communities and public services. This could include examples of good practice/innovative ways of working, or any challenges/concerns you experience, that in meeting the unprecedented pressures of today, it may be putting in place ways of working which would divert us from the positive vision we have for the future.
Please send any information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unfortunately, at this point, we are unable to respond to individual requests for support, however we will use the information sent to us to inform the direction of our work, and to raise with relevant stakeholders at appropriate times.
Working with public bodies during the pandemic
The broad scope of the Act has given me a unique insight into Covid-recovery work across several Ministerial portfolios, and on various themes.
I know there will be many questions about priorities and process for public services and the ways in which we all respond. My team and I will continue to support public bodies and have paused our monitoring work for the time being to give public services the space they need to focus on responding to the impact the virus is having.
At the beginning of the pandemic I paused the section 20 review into procurement, which I triggered on 9th March 2020. However, I am currently working with those subject to the review to obtain further information from them to identify how they can improve their approaches. Whilst being mindful of the many challenges public bodies are facing currently, ensuring they are effectively using the power of their public spend to support a green and just recovery is critical.
In terms of reporting duties on public bodies, we are not expecting public bodies to produce annual reports on their progress whilst they are dealing with this crisis.
While we will be giving public bodies the space to deal with the current emergency, it has become clear thinking long-term has never been more vital.
Examples of some of the positive examples and opportunities taken to build a better future post COVID-19
Berlin has trialled a temporary widening of two cycle lanes, arguing it would help cyclists keep the required 1.5 metre distance apart while car traffic was down. The pilot scheme was a success as cyclist safety improved while not hindering traffic.
New Zealand’s prime minister believes the introduction of 4 day working weeks and increased number of public holidays will stimulate the economy and encourage domestic tourism. The pandemic has highlighted people’s flexibility and ability to adapt to different working conditions and increase of productivity. This will also have a positive effect on people’s mental health and wellbeing following the pandemic.
Seattle has permanently closed to cars 20 miles of city streets so residents can use them for biking and walking.
The city of San Francisco has leased trailers and hotel rooms to quarantine homeless people showing signs of infection. It’s also moving some of the 2,000 people in its shelters to new locations throughout the city, so they aren’t crowded together.
In Uganda, a manufacturing company began addressing the PPE shortages by melting plastic waste and creating face shields. In a country where an estimated 600 tonnes of waste plastic is thrown away daily – more than half it uncollected and less than 5 percent recycled – the effort is also helping battle plastic pollution and dirty air. The manufacturing company, Takataka Plastics, have 14 staff and have produced 1,200 of the recycled plastic face shields since March. To make the face shields – a two-day process – workers sort, clean, shred, melt and mould the waste plastic. Then they attach an adjustable strap, sometimes made from slices of old bicycle innertubes.