Wales’ Equality and Well-being Duties Working Together

24th January 2020

Well-being and equality should be mutually reinforcing ideas – if we were to stop hate crime, we’d improve well-being, and if we were to improve the environment, we stand a chance of improving equality – to paraphrase Margaret Atwood: ‘when the climate goes, everything goes’.

However, these links are not always made within governance procedures – equalities is often situated with HR teams and well-being with health or community engagement.

The first phase of the Gender Equality Review (GER) recognised the connections between Wales’ progressive well-being and equality duties and called for research and engagement to assess how they might operate more effectively with better alignment.

To consider how to do this, a collaborative working group was formed, comprising the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC, Wales), the Future Generations Commission (FGC) and the Welsh Government. The resulting report mapped the aims, legislation, statutory duties and scrutiny mechanisms of the Welsh Specific Equality Duties and the Well-being Goals.

The full report lays out the thinking behind our recommendations, Here I highlight 7 steps to join up well-being and equality, delayer processes and ensure that well-being and equality objectives and interact:

    1. Align timeframes for planning, delivering and reporting: The next set of Strategic Equality Plans (SEP) will run between 2020 and 2024. The Welsh Ministers’ Well-being Statement must be renewed within six months of the next Assembly election (due in 2021) but it, and the WB objectives of public bodies, can be reviewed at any time. Aligning timeframes is the first step to aligning engagement, planning, delivery and reporting. The Welsh Government should choose a point in time at which engagement, setting objectives and creating delivery plans can be aligned.
    2. Incorporate equality and well-being within the corporate plan: The joint incorporation of objectives and strategic plans for well-being and equality within corporate plans (or equivalent guiding document – WFG already suggests this), would situate their aims and outcomes within the core business of organisations. In our research we found that members of the National Public Bodies Sharing Group are already adopting this approach.
    3. Integrate equality into local well-being assessments: The Future Generations Act requires that inequalities are considered within the local well-being assessments. However, our review of well-being objectives shows that there needs to be more thought given to equality. Integrating equality and well-being research information within the local well-being assessments will also help to draw out the information needed on socio-economic inequalities to fulfill both the socio-economic and well-being duties.
      Sport Wales (a member of the National Public Bodies Sharing Group, NPBSG) also suggested that well-being statements and plans should be subject to equalities impact assessment.
    4. Engagement and Involvement: Both the Future Generations Act and the Welsh specific equality duties require engagement and/ or involvement to inform objective-setting. In addition, the well-being duty requires engagement and involvement that reflects the diversity of the areas that the public body serves, in the development of well-being plans. We recommend that the FGC and EHRC issue a combined engagement and involvement framework.
    5. Objective setting: Encouraging public bodies to set mutually reinforcing well-being, and equality objectives could promote more efficient and effective implementation. Setting equality objectives by using the ‘five ways of working’ could enhance integration and collaboration across policy areas and encourage public bodies to set preventative equality objectives which take a long-term approach to tackling entrenched structural inequalities, as well as setting shorter-term objectives.
    6. Well-being and Equality Statement and Plans: If the recommendations for co-produced assessments, engagement/involvement and objective setting are accepted, then SEPs and well- being plans and strategies and can cross-refer. Differences between the legislation in respect of aims, the coverage of public bodies and footprint (PBs, PSBs and RPBs) currently precludes producing one plan to cover all requirements.
    7. Monitoring and Scrutiny: The Working Group also considered that regulators and inspectorates should have a more prominent role in assessing how equality and well-being is being promoted through policy delivery, as well as checking for compliance.Well-being and equality legislation should be normalised within policy development, service design and delivery. Regrettably, they can still be thought of as an ‘add-on’ to ‘business as usual’. These frameworks should be causing public bodies to question how ‘the usual’, creates poor well-being and inequalities.See the reports for further ideas for improving outcomes, beyond aligning compliance processes, including how the new socio-economic duty and well-being duty could interact, new ideas for action-orientated Welsh specific equality duties, and an equality policy development mainstreaming model based on sharing diverse knowledges.

[1] Margaret Atwood, live streamed interview on The Testaments, National Theatre, 10th September 2019

References:

Parken, A., and the Well-being and Equalities Working Group (2019) Improving Well-being and Equality Outcomes: Aligning processes, supporting implementation and creating new opportunities

Parken, A. (2019) Equality Mainstreaming Policy Development Model

See also:

Future Generations Commission – Simple steps on equality

EHRC Wales – Is Wales Fairer?