Consultation on the additional public bodies subject to the well-being duty (Part 2) of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015
We are seeking your views on extending the well-being duty on 8 named devolved public bodies in Part 2 of the Act.
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Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015
The Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015 aims to improve the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of Wales.
Sustainable development means the process of improving the economic, social, environmental, and cultural well-being of Wales by taking action, in accordance with the sustainable development principle, aimed at achieving the well-being goals.
The seven well-being goals show the kind of Wales we want to see. Together they provide a shared vision, and describe the economic, social, environmental, and cultural well-being outcomes that will make Wales a more sustainable nation.
Sustainable Development Principle
The sustainable development principle means acting in a manner which seeks to ensure that the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This means thinking about the future in what we do.
The principle is made up of 5 ways of working that public bodies are required to take into account when applying sustainable development. These are:
- looking to the long term so that we do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs
- taking an integrated approach so that public bodies look at all the well-being goals in deciding on their well-being objectives
- involving a diversity of the population in the decisions that affect them
- working with others in a collaborative way to find shared sustainable solutions
- understanding the root causes of issues to prevent them from occurring
Individual Well-being Duty on public bodies
Certain public bodies in Wales have a legal duty to carry out sustainable development; this is the well-being duty in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act. In carrying out this duty public bodies must set and publish objectives designed to maximise their contribution to achieving each of the well-being goals and take all reasonable steps in meeting their objectives.
Collective well-being duty on public services boards
Each public services board must improve the economic, social, environmental, and cultural well-being of its area by contributing to the achievement of the well-being goals. This must include assessing the state of well-being, setting local well-being objectives, and taking all reasonable steps to meet those objectives.
Well-being duty on community councils
Some community and town councils have a duty to take all reasonable steps towards meeting the local objectives included in the local well-being plan that has effect in their areas.
National Well-being Indicators and Milestones
To help us know whether progress is being made towards the seven well-being goals we have 50 national indicators. The national milestones are a series of measures against the national indicators that set out our expectations of what the indicators should show in the future.
Introduction to the Well-being of Future Generations Act
In Wales we are doing things differently. We have a law in Wales that helps us all work together to improve our environment, our economy, our society, and our culture. For people, for our planet. For now, and for our future.
This is called the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 (from here on referred to as ‘the WFG Act’). Wales is the first country in the world to legislate for the well-being of current and future generations in a way that ties in with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The WFG Act is designed to facilitate positive outcomes for the people of Wales and our planet, for current and future generations.
The WFG Act is about improving the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of Wales. The WFG Act provides us with 7 well-being goals which aim to build a more equal, prosperous, healthier, resilient, and globally responsible Wales with more cohesive communities and a vibrant culture and Welsh language.
Well-being duty on individual public bodies
The WFG Act places a duty on each public body to carry out sustainable development.
Public bodies must, when they are carrying out sustainable development, set and publish their well-being objectives. The well-being objectives must be designed to maximise the contribution of the public body to achieving each of the well-being goals.
Certain public bodies will have greater capacity and capability to contribute to achieving some or all of the well-being goals than others. However, the duty relates to the contribution that a public body can make. The WFG Act gives flexibility to public bodies when setting well-being objectives to do so in a way that suits their role and functions.
Public bodies are required to take all reasonable steps (in the exercise of their functions) to meet the well-being objectives they set. There will always be a limit to the amount of finance, people, time, and assets that are available to take the necessary action. But the consideration of these factors needs to be reviewed through the 5 ways of working provided by the sustainable development principle balanced with the contribution made by the well-being objectives.
Further details regarding the specific requirements placed on public bodies can be found in the statutory guidance.
Which public bodies are currently listed?
There are 48 public bodies currently listed in section 6 of the WFG Act and are required to meet the well-being duty. These are as follows:
- Local authorities (the 4 Corporate Joint Committees established in 2021 have been included since December 2021)
- Local Health Boards
- Public Health Wales NHS Trust
- Velindre NHS Trust
- National Park Authorities
- Fire and Rescue Authorities
- Natural Resources Body for Wales (Natural Resources Wales)
- the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill establishes a new Commission for Tertiary Education and Research as an arms-length body, and dissolves the Higher and Education Funding Council for Wales)
- the Arts Council of Wales
- the Sports Council for Wales (Sport Wales)
- the National Library of Wales
- the National Museum of Wales (National Museum Wales)
- the Welsh Ministers
What have public bodies been doing under the WFG Act?
The Future Generations Commissioner has been collecting case studies of how the WFG Act is being implemented on the ground across Wales. The Future Generations Report 2020 prepared and published by the Commissioner also provided examples of bodies and other organisations working to deliver sustainable outcomes.
Brecon Beacons National Park Authority
Involved people in new innovative ways – Shaping My Brecon Beacons – through Minecraft, adopting a 20-minute neighbourhood local development plan.
Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service
Have introduced hydrogen powered vehicles and electric bikes to encourage staff to walk, cycle or take public transport through incentives like ‘Healthy Travel Charters’.
Have teamed up with health boards to have art in pandemic field hospitals, adopt social prescribing for example offering museum collections for dementia sufferers.
Hywel Dda University Health Board
Has looked at the potential environmental and community benefits of their estates and a new hospital.
Source: Future Generations Commissioner for Wales Performance Report 2021 to 2022 Summary.
Review of the public bodies subject to the WFG Act
Why are we reviewing the list of public bodies subject to the WFG Act?
Since the WFG Act was passed into law, the public sector landscape in Wales has changed and it is right that we assess whether additional public bodies warrant designation to be subject to the Act.
The decision to conduct a review has been informed and promoted by:
The Auditor General for Wales’ report So, what’s different? Findings from the Auditor General’s Sustainable Development Principle Examinations (May 2020), which noted that new public bodies have been established since 2015 but have not been designated under the WFG Act and that other pre-existing bodies (such as the Wales Ambulance Service NHS Trust) may also warrant designation.
The Public Accounts Committee’s (5th Senedd) report Delivering for Future Generations: the story so far (March 2021). Recommendation 7 of the report states “The Welsh Government must carry out a review of the public bodies that are subject to the Act. The findings of that review should be implemented in sufficient time for any newly added public bodies to receive their funding allocations and associated remit letters for the 2022-23 financial year.”
The Welsh Government has accepted the recommendations from the reports above and in late 2021 committed to undertake a review of the public bodies covered by the WFG Act.
Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill
This review is taking place alongside the development and introduction of the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill (“the SPPP Bill”) introduced in the Senedd on 7 June 2022 and provides for a framework to enhance the well-being of the people of Wales by improving public services through social partnership working, promoting fair work, and carrying out socially responsible procurement.
The SPPP Bill places a new Social Partnership duty on certain public bodies and on Welsh Ministers. Certain public bodies will be required to seek consensus or compromise with their recognised trade unions or (where there is no recognised trade union) other representatives of their staff, when setting their well-being objectives and delivering on those objectives under section 3(2) of the WFG Act.
The bodies that will be subject to the proposed Social Partnership duty will be those bodies subject to the well-being duty listed in Section 6 of the WFG Act.
The SPPP Bill will make an amendment to the WFG Act to replace the reference to “decent work” in the “A prosperous Wales” well-being goal with a reference to “fair work”. As a result, all public bodies subject to the WFG Act, including the Welsh Ministers, will need to consider fair work in pursuing the “A prosperous Wales” well-being goal. The Explanatory Memorandum for the SPPP Bill proposes non-statutory guidance on fair work, which is currently not defined.
Criteria for adding new public bodies
In reviewing the list of public bodies, we have considered the reports and recommendations identified above. We have also considered the response to the consultation on the SPPP Bill.
Public bodies who are enabled by the well-being duty (part 2) of the WFG Act were selected on the basis that their remit or functions have the greatest impact on the economic, social and environmental well-being of Wales, and those who have the strategic policy and corporate planning functions.
As set out in the revised Explanatory Memorandum for the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill, the public authorities that are subject to the provisions of the WFG Act were identified following consideration of a set of four criteria covering funding, impact on well-being, functions and whether they are auditable.
An updated criteria has been used for this review which reflects the inclusion the statutory test in Section 52 of the WFG Act, and whether the Auditor General as the authority to audit the bodies.
Only bodies that have public functions may be added to the list.
The authority is over 50% public funded.
Impact on Well-being:
The authority undertakes functions or activities that impact on the economic, social and environmental well-being of Wales or their local area.
The authority has strategic functions.
The Auditor General for Wales has the authority to audit the body.
Power to change the list
Section 52 of the WFG Act enables Welsh Ministers to amend the list of public bodies. This includes adding or removing a public body or amending the description. Only bodies that have public functions may be added to the list.
Proposed list of public bodies
We have worked with policy officials across Welsh Government to undertake an initial assessment of which organisations meet the criteria set out in paragraph 6 above. This looked at new devolved public bodies established since 2015. We has identified 8 new bodies to which we propose to extend the well-being duty (Part 2) of the WFG Act.
|Proposed list of public bodies||Year|
Social Care Wales
Health Education and Improvement Wales
Welsh Revenue Authority
Transport for Wales
Centre for Digital Public Services
Digital Health and Care Wales
Other bodies proposed:
- Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust.
Advisory bodies and inspectorates
Advisory bodies, tribunals and inspectorate bodies are not included as they do not have executive functions and are not considered to pass the functions test of having strategic functions relevant to the WFG Act. This includes Estyn, Care Inspectorate Wales and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales.
Higher Education Institutions and Further Education Corporations
HEI and FECs are excluded because they are Non-profit institutions serving households independent of government control and they are not auditable.
The Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill (“the Bill”) provides for the establishment of a new Commission for Tertiary Education and Research. The Commission for Tertiary Education and Research will be the regulatory body responsible for the funding, oversight and regulation of tertiary education and research in Wales. The Bill provides for the dissolution of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales which is one of the existing public bodies subject to the individual body well-being duty. These duties will transfer to the new Commission.
In addition, the Bill creates a duty for the Commission to promote the pursuit of a civic mission by tertiary education providers in Wales that are institutions within the higher and further education sectors. “Civic mission” is defined in subsection (3) as, “action for the purpose of promoting or improving the economic, social, environmental or cultural well-being of Wales (including action aimed at achieving any of the well-being goals in section 4 of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 (anaw 2))”.
Registered Social Landlords
Registered Social landlords are not included because of the varied level of public funding they receive.
Many of the organisations referred to above have embraced the Well-being of Future Generations approach in their work and we will continue to look at ways in which this practice can be shared and upscaled across Wales. We are asking views through this consultation on what the opportunities are for these organisations to make their contribution to the well-being goals and making sustainable development their central organising principle.
We propose that the new bodies would be subject to the well-being duty from 1 April 2023, and that bodies would be expected to set their well-being objectives within 12 months (by March 2024).
Once objectives are set, bodies will be required to review these on an annual basis. After the publication of the first well-being objectives, public bodies may decide they want to change one or more of their well-being objectives. There is no deadline or fixed point in time by when this should happen.
Public Services Boards
The extension of the well-being duty (part 2 – individual public body duty) to the 8 new bodies does not change the statutory membership of a Public Services Board, nor does it change the list of bodies the Public Services Board must invite to participate in the activity of the board. However, we would encourage these new bodies to engage in the work of Public Services Boards where it is relevant to the achievement of the well-being goals.
Arrangements for adding bodies
This consultation seeks views on the bodies we want to extend the duty to in April 2023. As new public bodies are not automatically added to Section 6 of the WFG Act we will ensure that when new bodies are developed that we consider at the relevant time whether they pass the above tests and should also be subject to the WFG Act.
Supporting new public bodies subject to the WFG Act
The Welsh Government will continue to lead the change and support public bodies in carrying out sustainable development.
It will do this through the many levers and relationships it has with public bodies, and on a national level convene the Well-being of Future Generations National Stakeholder Forum to provide advice on the continued implementation of the WFG Act.
Since the WFG Act was introduced, the current public bodies have developed their understanding and knowledge of the requirements of the legislation.
The Welsh Government has also published and developed a range of guidance documents alongside the ongoing work of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales to support and monitor the existing public bodies’ implementation of the WFG Act’s well-being duty.
As there is a lot of learning and experience within the existing public bodies the Welsh Government will convene bodies together to share best practice, connect colleagues up and share learning. We are inviting existing bodies to share their experience and lessons in transitioning to the well-being duty when it first came into force in April 2016.
Through the One Welsh Public Service, the WFG Act provides for a legal-binding shared purpose and common ways of working and values that will help us improve the well-being of people and our planet.
Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
Given the change needed in how public bodies work to embed sustainable development as a central organising principle, it was recognised that an independent source of support was needed to help promote sustainable development, share good practice, and inspire the transformation needed. In recognition of these challenges a new institution was established under the WFG Act – the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales.
The Commissioner’s role is to be the guardian of future generations. This means helping public bodies and those who make policy in Wales to think about the long-term impact their decisions have. Their general duty is to promote the sustainable development principle.
You can find further information about the role of the Commissioner on the GOV.WALES website as well as on the Commissioner’s website.
The Future Generations Commissioner, through her Annual Reports and the Future Generations Report has detailed the improvements public bodies should make in carrying out their duties.
Auditor General for Wales
The Auditor General for Wales, through their individual examination reports, and reports to the Senedd have identified good practice and areas for improvement in how public bodies discharge their duties. This draws on their examination duties. Audit Wales also delivers a programme of shared learning events (Good Practice Exchange) on topics that are common across public services and which are underpinned by the ways of working and well-being goals in the WFG Act.
Sustainable Development Coordinators Cymru Plus
SDCC+ (Sustainable Development Coordinators Cymru Plus) is a network of policymakers and practitioners embedding sustainable development in our public sector organisations, responding to the WFG Act.
The well-being goals cover a range of policy outcomes which public bodies may require expert advice on. Public bodies will be able to draw on national policy and existing sources of evidence to support their work.
For example, the Wales Centre for Public Policy collaborates with leading policy experts to provide ministers, the civil service and public services with high quality evidence and independent advice that helps them improve policy decisions and outcomes. This includes working with public services to access, generate, evaluate and apply evidence about what works in addressing key economic and societal challenges.
Centre for Digital Public Services
The Centre for Digital Public Services plays a key role in the delivery of the Digital Strategy for Wales. Digital service standards that are common across all public service organisations in Wales will embed user centred service design and deliver better services and outcomes for users. The Centre ensures that these standards are designed, adopted, promoted and sustained. The standards are used to help organisations consider all the elements that lead to better services for the people of Wales. The first of these standards is to focus on current and future well-being of people in Wales.
There is a leadership challenge for people across the public service in Wales to think about the long term and lead the way in working differently both within the spirit and letter of the WFG Act. Academi Wales’ programmes and masterclasses are underpinned by the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. Academi Wales supports future and current public and third sector leaders across Wales through a wide range of leadership development interventions, including its annual One Welsh Public Service Summer and Winter Schools, a ‘Leadership for Future Generations’ masterclass, and Learn and Share events delivered through its All Wales Continuous Improvement Community (AWCIC).
Future Generations Xchange
The Welsh Government runs exchange events to bring together practitioners across the public sector and others to share examples and learning on putting the WFG Act into practice. We will be holding a dedicated Xchange webinar for the new bodies listed above during the consultation period. For further details please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Impact on new bodies
The WFG Act requires the public bodies to which it applies to carry out sustainable development, which is an ongoing duty shaped to ensure that sustainable development is the central organising principle.
Public bodies must consider the well-being goals as an integrated set to ensure the fundamental links between improving the economic, social, environmental, and cultural well-being of Wales are recognised. Where it appears that a course of action is consistent with one goal but may not be consistent with other goals, applying the sustainable development principle will help to find a solution which strikes an appropriate balance between the goals and other relevant factors.
In following the sustainable development principle, public bodies must follow the five ways of working by taking account of the factors described in the Act (the five ways of working). A duty to take account of matters is a duty to consider them alongside other matters before taking a decision.
A public body’s duty to take account of the importance of those ways of working does not dictate the decision they must reach in any given situation: it sets out factors they must consider before making a decision to which the well-being duty applies. Public bodies taking such decisions need to ensure they have a clear documentary record of their considerations, setting out a narrative of how the factors were considered and the conclusions the bodies reached, having weighed up the factors against each other and any other factors relevant to the decision. Failure to take account of these factors may lead to a judicial review challenge on the grounds that the public body failed to take relevant considerations into account.
Relationship with other duties
The WFG Act’s well-being duty and the sustainable development principle do not displace or override public bodies’ duties and powers under other legislation, such as local authorities’ duties relating to development control planning, education or social services or local health boards’ powers and duties over delivery of healthcare. Instead, the provisions rely on and assume the existence of public bodies’ existing powers and duties and put a structure around how public bodies use those powers and duties to seek to meet their objectives
Central organising principle
To make sustainable development the central organising principle of public bodies in Wales, the WFG Act provides for three essential building blocks to ensure that sustainable development is at the heart of how public bodies operate and how they exercise their functions. These building blocks are:
- what an organisation is focused on
- how an organisation works
- communicating the difference made
The benefits to organisations in acting in accordance with the sustainable development principle in what they do and how they work includes:
- resilience: organisations will be better prepared and able to respond to and recognise threats
- shared contribution: improved understanding of where their impact may overlap with those of other organisations, recognising that public sector delivery is more than the sum of its parts, fostering collaborative arrangements; Improved risk management – better identification of the long term risks that may emerge to the delivery of public services
- efficiency: promoting preventative spend
- reputation: safeguarding and enhancing the reputation of organisations, and in particular the opportunities that may arise from a clear commitment to sustainable development
- integrated reporting: fostering the conditions for organisations to better integrate their reporting arrangements in order to communicate how they are contributing to the well-being goals in the short and long-term
- better transparency: leading to better performance and better relationships with stakeholders and organisations
- accountability: recognising that the audit profession is increasingly embedding sustainable development thinking into their practice
The Public Accounts Committee (5th Senedd) held an inquiry into the barriers to the implementation of the WFG Act. As part of this inquiry, the Committee asked public bodies whether it was clear to them what good implementation of the WFG Act looked like in practice. Their report, Delivering for Future Generations: the story so far, found that overall public bodies did have this clarity. It also made several recommendations to address the barriers to implementation which the Welsh Government is responding to.
Future Generations Commissioner for Wales monitoring and reviewing
The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales’ role is to act as a guardian for the interests of future generations in Wales, and to support the public bodies listed in the WFG Act to work in a more sustainable way – as defined by the sustainable development principle.
In delivering this purpose they will monitor and assess the extent to which well-being objectives set by public bodies are being met. The Commissioner can provide advice to public bodies and Public Services Boards and promote and encourage them to work to meet their well-being objectives.
The Commissioner may conduct a review into how public bodies are taking account of the long-term impact of their decisions and make recommendations based on the findings. The Commissioner can make recommendations to a public body about the steps it has taken or proposes to take to set and then meet its well-being objectives.
The Commissioner must publish, a year before a Senedd election, a Future Generations Report containing the Commissioner’s assessment of the improvements public bodies should make to achieve the well-being goals. The Annual Report by the Commissioner may also include the Commissioner's assessment of the improvements that public bodies should make in order to meet their well-being objectives in accordance with the sustainable development principle.
The WFG Act does not dictate a decision a public body should reach in any given situation and does not confer rights onto individuals. The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales is not a regulator of individual decisions by public bodies subject to the WFG Act. The Commissioner does not investigate complaints or provide financial support to individual seeking remedy for their specific cases. It is not an extra layer of appeal on specific issues. It is designed to stimulate discussion, support, and drive improvements to how things are done in Wales so that sustainable development is the central organising principle that guides what bodies do and how bodies work.
Auditor General for Wales examinations
Bodies added to section 6 of the WFG Act would be subject to sustainable development principle examinations by the Auditor General for Wales under Section 15 of the WFG Act.
The Wales Audit Office may need to charge fees to cover the cost of sustainable development principle examinations, however, generally, its current practice is that examinations are absorbed into existing programmes of work without additional fees being charged. This is particularly the case where the Auditor General’s existing audit duties include a requirement to be satisfied that the body has made proper arrangements for securing value for money in its use of resources. However, not all bodies are subject to such existing duties, and there is consequently an increased need to rely on the willingness of the Senedd to allow funding from the Welsh Consolidated Fund in place of fees. It is not therefore possible to guarantee that the Wales Audit Office will be in position to avoid charging fees for examinations over the longer term.
Integrated Impact Assessment and Regulatory Impact Assessment
The revised Explanatory Memorandum, published for Stage 2 of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill’s passage through the then National Assembly for Wales in February 2015, set out the regulatory impact assessment for the WFG Act, along with the assessment of impact documents that accompanied the Bill.
We recognise there will be modest additional costs for the Future Generations Commissioner if we increase the number of public bodies. We will continue to work with public bodies and the Commissioner to consider and refine the potential costs of extending the well-being duty to additional public bodies. This work will inform the explanatory memorandum which will be published and available for scrutiny if we bring forward secondary legislation to extend the WFG Act’s well-being duty to further public bodies.
The impacts of extending the well-being duty to additional public bodies will be carefully considered. We will publish details of the integrated impact assessment if we bring forward secondary legislation to extend the WFG Act’s well-being duty to further public bodies.
What are your views on extending the well-being duty to the additional public bodies listed in this consultation document?
Questions for the proposed additional public bodies
What guidance and support would you need in preparing for, and discharging, the well-being duty in your organisation?
What do you anticipate the resource implications will be in preparing for, and discharging, the well-being duty in your organisation?
Questions for existing public bodies – learning from others
We are keen to use this consultation to gather insight on the experience of public bodies in embedding the WFG Act in their day-to-day work.
What are your key lessons learned in both preparing for, and discharging, the well-being duty that you would want to share with new public bodies subject to the WFG Act?
What guidance and support did you find helpful in carrying out sustainable development?
What are the opportunities for sharing experiences between bodies currently listed in the WFG Act and those proposed to be included?
We would like your views on the possible effects that extending the WFG Act’s well-being duty could have on the Welsh language, specifically on:
- opportunities for people to use Welsh
- on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than English
Please also explain how you think extending the WFG Act’s well-being duty could be undertaken so as to have:
- positive effects or increased positive effects on opportunities for people to use the Welsh language and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language
- no adverse effects on opportunities for people to use the Welsh language and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language
Do you have any other views on extending the WFG Act’s well-being duty in relation to Welsh language considerations?
Do you have any other comments on extending the WFG Act’s well-being duty to the proposed bodies listed in the consultation?
How to respond
Submit your comments by 20 October 2022, in any of the following ways:
- complete our online form
- download, complete our response form and email Sustainable.Futures@gov.wales
- download, complete our response form and post to:
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Further information and related documents
You can view this document in alternative languages. If you need it in a different format, please contact us.
- Well-being of Future Generations
- Shaping Wales’ Future Blog
- The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015
- The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill: Explanatory Memorandum
- Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
- Public Accounts Committee: Delivering for Future Generations: The story so far (March 2021)
- Audit Wales