Lessons on Wellbeing: Facilitating Learning between Wales and Northern Ireland

March 29, 2019

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By Dr Victoria Winkler, Director of the Bevan Foundation

Last week, we had the privilege of coordinating a study visit to Wales by a delegation from Northern Ireland.

The two-day event, which was commissioned by Carnegie UK Trust, gave delegates the opportunity to engage with Welsh policy makers and politicians and find out about how the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 has enabled Wales to improve the wellbeing of citizens.

Viv Sugar, Chair of the Bevan Foundation, welcomed visitors to the Wales Millennium Centre, before introducing the Future Generations Commissioner to talk about Wales’ ground-breaking well-being legislation.

The Commissioner highlighted the challenges and opportunities of the Act, and the advantage Wales and other small nations and states share in having both the space and scale and the passion and practical tools to lead the way.

A panel discussion followed, with Neville Rookes of the WLGA, Vanessa Young of the Welsh NHS Confederation and Valerie Billingham of Age Cymru. Neville talked through an ‘Early Adopter’ programme to support local authorities in embedding the principles of the act into their work, Vanessa set out the Welsh Government’s ten-year vision for health and social care in Wales explaining how the plan is underpinned by the Act, and Valerie highlighted some of the implications the Act has for older people.

Following lunch at Tŷ Hywel, Hefin David AM talked to the delegation about the approach to wellbeing in his constituency, Caerphilly, before introducing the Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford AM, to talk about how the Welsh Government have incorporated wellbeing to deliver ‘The Wales we want’.

The First Minister emphasised the impact of greater equality on wellbeing, an ambition at the heart of the Bevan Foundation’s mission, saying:

‘More equal societies deliver benefits for everybody in them… More equal societies have a bigger pool of talent on which to pull… More equal societies teach you that the things that matter in your life are the ambitions of the people you live amongst.’

After a tour of the Senedd, visitors headed back to the Wales Millennium Centre to hear some, at times quite challenging, insights into partnership working. Dr James Downe, Director of Research at the Wales Centre for Public Policy, provided an overview of the history of partnership working in Welsh local government. Next, Gareth Newell, Policy, Partnerships and Research Manager for Cardiff Council, gave an insight into how the Cardiff Public Services Board members have worked together to develop the city’s first Wellbeing Plan and are now delivering public service reform in key areas of ‘collaborative advantage.’

Speaking after Gareth, Police and Crime Commissioner for south Wales Rt Hon Alun Michael said:

‘Our priority is to keep our communities safe – early intervention and improving the wellbeing of all our communities by working with partners to pool our knowledge, strengths and resources is key to this.’

The group then had a chance to hear how Wales audits and measures wellbeing, with Sue Leake providing some background to the development of the National Indicators for Wales and Well-being of Wales report and Dr Scott Orford of Cardiff University giving an insight into the soon-to-be-launched Welsh Places portal, before Tim Buckle of the Wales Audit Office brought us full circle by talking about their approach to auditing ‘change’ and embedding sustainable development.

Visitors had a chance to speak with more Welsh guests over an informal evening dinner at the Radisson Blu, where Chair of the Embedding Wellbeing in Northern Ireland Advisory Group for the Carnegie UK Trust, Aideen McGinley, praised the Bevan Foundation team’s organisation of the visit and said:

‘The Trust is committed to learning from best practice where we find it, and Wales is an international leader in improving wellbeing through legislation.’

On Friday 22nd March, we were delighted to escort the delegation to Usk, to hear what Monmouthshire County Council are doing to build sustainable and resilient communities, including how they engage volunteers. Chief Executive Paul Matthews, explained:

‘We’re not a hand-out council; we’re a hand up council. We’re about giving people independence.’

His team then went on to talk about how they’ve engaged a large community of ‘contributors’ to deliver their purpose.

Visitors were then taken to Chepstow Community Hub to see how the co-location of services has allowed more agile and responsive public services.

The feedback from the delegation has been overwhelmingly positive, with many new connections made, visitors inspired to take action, and many new Welsh cakes fans born.

We were delighted to have the opportunity to organise and coordinate this study visit. Societal well-being is at the heart of the Bevan Foundation’s project themes and we look forward to continued collaboration with the Carnegie UK Trust.