Future Generations Commissioner for Wales says well-being law has to work harder

WALES needs to up the scale and pace on delivering its future generations law, says the Future Generations Commissioner, as he launches his new strategy, Cymru Can.

Derek Walker says that despite increasing good practice, the legislation needs better implementation and that without urgent change, Wales won’t meet crucial targets, for example around climate change and nature.

Cymru is the only country in the world with a Well-being of Future Generations Act and Mr Walker is the second ever Future Generations Commissioner – with a job to support and challenge public bodies, including councils, health boards and Welsh Government, to protect the future as they tackle today’s problems.

The commissioner has launched Cymru Can and has put his team’s focus on five mission areas:

  • Ensuring the legislation is working harder and having impact in people’s everyday lives
  • Responding to the climate and nature emergencies
  • More action to prevent ill health
  • A well-being economy
  • Protecting and enhancing culture and the Welsh language.

Wales’ seven well-being goals under the Act have already created change from the scrapping of a £1.4bn motorway that would have torn through a nature reserve, leading to a new transport plan; a progressive school curriculum and a new way to define prosperity – valuing green, low-carbon, fair work over a rise in GDP. The approach has inspired everyone from the UN to countries from Ireland to Japan.

But the commissioner, who took up the job in March 2023, says more needs to be done so that improving well-being for current and future generations is the central principle to how public services are delivered. His top mission, therefore, will be to “ensure the implementation of this legislation fully lives up to its potential, to close the gap between aspiration and delivery. This will be our core mission and will underpin everything we do”.

He’s spent the last eight months speaking with people from across Wales about where his role can have the most impact, and the result is his seven-year strategy, Cymru Can, which he says represents the potential for significant change between now and 2030.

The commissioner, who acknowledged that these are challenging times for public bodies, will shift his team’s resources to increase the advice and assistance for public bodies, but will carry out reviews when progress is too slow.

An accompanying Cymru Can video sees people from Llanrwst to Barry, Machynlleth to Merthyr Tydfil, calling for an upscaling of this unique law, for the benefit of everyone in Cymru.

Derek Walker appears in the film, at Câr-y-Môr, Wales’ first community-owned, regenerative seaweed and shellfish farm, in Pembrokeshire. Câr-y-Môr is an example of how people wanting to change the world are using the WFGA to challenge and break down barriers. The community benefits society based in St David’s used the Act to appeal a short-term marine license. The appeal was successful and now they have a 20-year license to produce sustainable Welsh seaweed and farm native oysters and mussels off the coast at Ramsey Sound.

The short film references Wales’ well-being goals and asks a series of questions including “why can’t we stand up for the people and wildlife that live on our planet?” and “why can’t we ensure young people can stay in their communities?”, with the answer to each question the same – Cymru Can.

Derek Walker said, “People are proud of the Well-being of Future Generations Act and our well-being goals – but we must push harder to ensure they’re better implemented to make more positive change in people’s daily lives, now and in the future.

“We need urgent and transformational change, with joined-up and long-term solutions to problems like the climate and nature emergencies, inequality and poverty and it’s not happening at the pace and scale we need it to – it’s my job to work with others to find better ways to support that change.

“Cymru can do so much more to increase everyone’s well-being and involve more people in building new positive futures – we have the permission and legal obligation of this unique law to do better things, and there are great examples of where that’s happening which can be spread across Wales.”

The commissioner has selected the food system as a focus area of Cymru Can, and will continue advocating for Welsh Government to develop a long-term food strategy so that Wales can have a plan for feeding ourselves amidst growing global food insecurity and climate instability.

Mr Walker said everyone and every organisation needs to play a part, and called on public services in Cymru to be even more inclusive and imaginative in the way they involve people in solving challenges.

He added, “We will not achieve our vision for Wales unless everyone is included, and systemic inequality is dismantled.”

Samantha Egelstaff co-founded Llanrwst Flood Action Group, in the wake of devastation to her community by 2020’s Storm Ciara. She appears in the film, Cymru Can, asking “why can’t we have affordable connected public transport, that works for people wherever they live in Cymru?”

The group previously produced a powerful poem: Ymgodi o’r Gaeaf/Emerging from Winter, with the Future Generations Commissioner’s Poet in Residence, 2021-2022, Taylor Edmonds. Read by Ysgol Bro Gwydir pupils, it highlights the plight of flooding upon our communities and the collaborative effort to protect them.

Samantha said, “When the valley floods, the train line here often closes, further impacting on people trying to travel. We’re losing people from our rural areas. They shouldn’t have to move away.”

Natalie Evans is Campaign Co-ordinator working within the four Trussell Trust foodbanks within Rhondda Cynon Taf, where her volunteering team involves people with lived experience of food poverty.

Natalie, who features in the new Cymru Can film, asking “Why can’t we support communities and help families access affordable, local food”? is running a campaign aiming to secure free school meals for all children with no recourse to public funds. She said, “Schools have informed us of children pulling out a carrot as their packed lunch, taking bread and butter as a meal and taking food home from school for their siblings. We can do better than that.”

Esther is a foodbank volunteer. The mum-of-three, including 10-year-old Samuel, moved from Nigeria to Treforest in 2020 and is one of thousands of people with no recourse to public funds, living in RCT. The NRPF condition prevents a person subject to immigration control from accessing a range of welfare benefits except in a very limited number of cases. This condition means many people with NRPF are forced to use food banks.

Over the course of one year, the four foodbanks within RCT have fed 1173 people with NRPF, 529 of them are children.

Esther, who studies project management at university, said, “I want to be a part of the community, I want to contribute to society, but there are so many barriers in the way.”

Yusuf Ismail, the co-founder of UNIFY, a Welsh creative studio with a mission to make the creative industry in Wales more inclusive and accessible, also features in the film at the new mural he and his team created in Cardiff city centre.

UNIFY work with buildings in the capital to promote inclusivity, including My City, My Shirt, depicting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic residents in the Cardiff City FC shirt. One of their latest creations is a collaboration with Cardiff Council and the UK Home Office, as part of a Safer Streets campaign that seeks to tackle violence towards women and girls.

The Well-being of Future Generations Act requires public services in Wales to work together to tackle problems, and includes goals in culture and cohesive communities. Unify transformed a neglected underpass surrounded by busy roads opposite Cardiff Castle, having lighting installed and brightening the tunnel via a celebration in paint, of women who make and enjoy music.

Visit the website for the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

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