Today for Tomorrow: Supporting the Future Generations Bill

October 30, 2019

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by Hannah Ormston, Policy and Development Officer, Carnegie UK Trust

Last week, Lord John Bird introduced a new Future Generations Bill in the House of Lords. The Bill strives to ensure that public bodies act responsibly and in a way that observes the Future Generations Principle, setting wellbeing outcomes and focusing on prevention.

As an organisation who has worked for over 100 years to improve the wellbeing of the people in the UK and Ireland, the Carnegie UK Trust welcomes the introduction of the Bill. Our work on wellbeing frameworks – a term we use for legislative and non-legislative policies that seek to put sustainable development into policy practice – has shown how outcomes focused policy making can make a profound difference to people’s lives. Our research has found that Wales and Scotland are the rising stars when it comes to outcomes based policy-making, leading the way and focusing on principles of collaboration and inclusivity, and putting long-term, strategic thinking at the heart of their approaches.

The introduction of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the appointment of Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner has undoubtedly already had an impact in Wales, particularly in terms of safeguarding the interests of the people who will inhabit our planet in the future. Perhaps the most powerful example of this to date is the rejection of the M4 relief road, which was turned down based on its neglect for consideration of more recent trends in transport.

Yet, as well as utilising the learning from the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, what is most exciting about the UK Bill is the potential to build on the evidence not just from Wales, but from other jurisdictions too. Scotland was the first of the three devolved legislatures to place wellbeing at the heart of their approach to governance and the National Performance Framework has increasingly been linked to policy-making for inclusive growth. Meanwhile, across the water in Northern Ireland, there has also been steady changes being made. Despite the political vacuum, there has been a clear move towards outcomes-based management at local government level; wellbeing outcomes are at the centre of the Draft Programme for Government Framework (2016-21).

The Trust’s work across the UK has shown the unique power of peer-to-peer relationships; of sharing learning across jurisdictions; and of best practice across the UK. From convening roundtables on Measuring What Matters in Scotland to hosting study trips from Northern Ireland to Wales and New York for our Embedding Wellbeing in Northern Ireland programme, we have found that wellbeing can be enhanced by ‘unusual friends’ from both different sectors and jurisdictions, working together to solve complex problems.

There is clear appetite for change, to both protect and improve the wellbeing of people living in the United Kingdom today, and for future generations to come. The Trust is looking forward to learning more about the Bill as it is discussed and debated in the House of Lords and House of Commons over the coming months. Wellbeing is a key driver for a new way of governing for complexity, and we are enthused by the possibilities that the Future Generations Bill might bring.