Y Pwyllgor Cydraddoldeb a Chyfiawnder Cymdeithasol
Equality and Social Justice Committee21/11/2022
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Altaf Hussain AS|
|Jane Dodds AS|
|Jenny Rathbone AS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Ken Skates AS|
|Sarah Murphy AS|
|Sioned Williams AS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Derek Walker||Yr ymgeisydd a ffefrir gan Lywodraeth Cymru ar gyfer rôl Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol Cymru|
|Welsh Government's preferred candidate for the role of Future Generations Commissioner for Wales|
|Mark Isherwood AS||Aelod dros Ogledd Cymru|
|Member for North Wales|
|Natasha Asghar AS||Aelod dros Ddwyrain De Cymru|
|Member for South Wales East|
|Tom Franklin||Cymdeithas yr Ynadon|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Angharad Roche||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Rachael Davies||Ail Glerc|
|Sam Mason||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:30.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 13:30.
I'd like to welcome everybody to the meeting of the Equality and Social Justice Committee. There are no apologies, because all Members are present. I just wondered if there are any declarations anybody needed to make. No, there are not. This is a meeting in public and, obviously, there is simultaneous translation available from Welsh to English. You can watch this on Senedd.tv, if you need to refer back to it.
The first item today is our further session on the experiences of women in the criminal justice system. I'm very pleased to welcome Tom Franklin, representing the Magistrates Association. Altaf Hussain is going to start off the questions. Altaf.
Thank you very much, Chair. Good afternoon, sir. It's good to see you.
It's good to see you too.
My question is about the blueprint. The blueprint was published in 2019. Can you outline what measurements have been used to determine if this has been successful, what is working well and not well, and what has been its most notable achievement? Thank you.
Thank you. I'd like to start off by saying, as I think some of your other witnesses have said, that the blueprint is to be commended for its succinctness and its clarity, and taking a whole-person approach to the issue of female offenders. Obviously, the bit of the blueprint that is particularly relevant to magistrates is the section on courts and sentences, which is of particular interest to me and to the Magistrates Association, where it refers to the importance of increasing knowledge and the confidence of courts through training and awareness.
In preparation for today, we did a small snapshot survey of our members in Wales, to find out what they thought about some of the issues that you're looking at. That was quite interesting, actually, in terms of some of the things that they came back and said. The first thing to say is that only about 50 per cent of the magistrates who responded said that they knew about the blueprint—so, half did and half didn't. And I think that shows that there's still some way to go in really communicating what the blueprint is about to the whole of the magistracy in Wales. There's some distance to go with that. And I have to say, even talking at fairly senior levels within the Magistrates Association, the level of knowledge about it is not what I think you would probably hope, and I do wonder whether there's more that needs to be done in terms of involving our representatives in the work on the blueprint. We're certainly more involved—. There's work that's going on around looking at youth justice, for instance, and we feel that we're more involved there than we've been involved with the blueprint in terms of women offenders, and I think that may be something that needs to be addressed, to make sure that all the channels are being used to get the information across to magistrates about what it's about.
Having said that, I think there is some positive news that's coming through. Firstly, if we look at the issue of pre-sentences reports, there was a strong feeling that these have improved in recent times, with two thirds of those coming back saying that they thought that they were either 'good' or 'very good', and some of the comments that we had were, 'There's been a vast improvement in PSRs across all offender areas over recent months, which was long overdue.' Having been a magistrate for some 25 years, the quality and standard of these reports has vastly improved. Over the past few years, we've seen much more detailed PSRs, which give a clearer understanding of the issues that the offender may have, or are experiencing. It's no longer a cut-and-paste report that we now see, and the detail, in my view, assists the bench when we discuss sentencing options. Now, obviously, I don't know whether that's all to do with the work that's come out of the blueprint, but it's certainly in line with what was wanted with the blueprint, which is very good.
Having said that, when asked about the pre-sentence reports specifically to do with female offender specific services, the feeling there was less positive: about a third rated them as 'good' or 'very good' and two thirds 'okay' or 'poor'. It's clear that there's still an issue there about provision. There were comments about 'little provision', 'not aware of anything in my local area', which were very frequent as far as the detail of the feedback. And around about three quarters were unaware of any local women's centre in their local area as well. So, it shows that there's still room to go. Having said that, it shows that there have been some improvements over the last few years, which is encouraging.
Thank you very much, and I'm sure that the other Members will have many questions about the blueprint. Could you say whether enough is being done to intercept and divert women away from the criminal justice system in Wales? For example, the women's pathfinder whole-system approach, out-of-court disposals and revolving door pilots. What are your thoughts about those?
I think that, for some of those areas, we're not necessarily the best people to ask, because we're very much—. Our members are sitting in court, and they are hearing cases that come before them, and they are dealing with the sentences and so on, so I think that there some elements there that aren't so relevant, insofar as we are not qualified to speak on them.
Out-of-court disposals do play a useful role, and they have been around for quite a long time, and there have been moves to try and improve the way that they are working. What I would say with them is that it is very important that there is consistency in the way that they are used, as far as the offences that they are used for, and also the nature of the out-of-court disposals as well.
We have some evidence that that hasn't been happening as much as it should do, and also that there needs to be proper scrutiny of out-of-court disposals as well—that there should be a consistent way of them being monitored and scrutinised to make sure that they are working well with other parts of the justice system. We actually have a report coming out on out-of-court disposals, based on some research that we have done, in December, and I'd be happy to send the committee a copy of that report when we publish it as well, if that would be helpful.
The area that, for us, is absolutely key in diverting women offenders from custodial sentences is to have viable options that sentencers have confidence in. That, I think, is the area, above all else, that I would like to say is absolutely key—to make sure that that is the case. The information that we have is that that is patchy, depending on the locality.
Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you. Sioned Williams.
Diolch. Prynhawn da. A ydych chi â'ch clustffonau ymlaen? Dydw i'n methu â gweld.
Thank you. Good afternoon. Do you have your headphones on? Can you hear? I can't see.
I'm not getting a translation yet.
Can you go and just—? One second, Sioned. I think that the interpretation may not be set up correctly.
Ah, I was on the wrong channel.
Go ahead, Sioned. I think it's working now.
Iawn. Diolch yn fawr. Gwnaethoch chi ateb fanna mewn ffordd—. Roeddwn i eisiau holi a yw’r glasbrint wedi arwain at gynnydd mewn hyder ymhlith dedfrydwyr o ran y mesurau amgen i gael eich carcharu am gyfnod byr. Roeddech chi’n awgrymu fanna yn eich ateb i Altaf Hussain fod peth gwella wedi bod yn sgil y glasbrint, ond bod yna ffordd bell i fynd. Rŷm ni, yn amlwg, wedi clywed tystiolaeth fod y dedfrydau byr yma yn dal yn cael eu rhoi. Fe aethon ni ar ymweliad ag Eastwood Park, er enghraifft, a 42 diwrnod oedd y dedfryd ar gyfartaledd fanna, a rhai ohonyn nhw—gwnaethon ni glywed tystiolaeth am ddedfrydau pobl yn llai nag wythnos yn cyrraedd y carchar. Felly, mae’n amlwg bod yna rywbeth mwy angen ei wneud, felly hoffwn i ofyn i chi gadarnhau nad yw’r glasbrint wedi sicrhau’r cynnydd yna mewn hyder, ac felly beth mwy dylid ei wneud?
Okay. Thank you very much. You did respond there in a way—. I wanted to ask whether the blueprint has led to an improved confidence among sentencers, in terms of alternatives to short-term custody and remand. You suggested in your response to Altaf Hussain that there has been some improvement in terms of the blueprint, but that there's a long way to go. We've obviously heard evidence that these short-term sentences are still being given. We went on a visit to Eastwood Park, for example, and there were sentences of 42 days on average, and we heard some evidence that some people's sentences were for less than a week on arrival in prison. So, there clearly needs to be more done, so I’d like to ask you to confirm that the blueprint hasn’t led to that increase in confidence. What more should be done?
I repeat, really, in a sense, the key is through the pre-sentence report, both in terms of what it contains, understanding the needs and the particular circumstances of the offender, and of the options that are available. The more that is there on both of those counts, then the more that can be done to make sure that the sentence is as suitable as possible to the particular context of the offence and the offender. Magistrates work within very strict guidelines that are set down by statute, and there are detailed guidelines from the Sentencing Council for England and Wales, and they set out for each case how to go through it in terms of deciding the sentence, and that is looking at the nature of the crime, the impacts, the culpability of the offender, and then looking for mitigating or aggravating circumstances in that particular case. So, each case is dealt with very much as an individual case and the pre-sentence report is absolutely crucial to make sure that magistrates are able to get a sentence that is right. So, the best way to ensure that we can move forward with non-custodial sentences is to make sure that there are appropriate alternatives to custodial sentences, and we’ve come some way with that, but there’s quite a way to go.
It seems as if, on the issue of the needs of the offender, there have been significant improvements, but the area where things are weaker is what’s available as realistic alternatives, and that’s the area that could be strengthened. I think one area that I would mention is community sentence rehabilitation treatment orders as one area where the availability is very patchy. Some of the other non-custodial options are more limited, and there are factors there that I think particularly affect women. So, for instance, unpaid work in a situation where all that’s available would mean that women would be going into a situation where it is largely men in a particular group doing unpaid work, then that can be a particular challenge, and it can also be a challenge with some other areas of non-custodial sentences as well, and the options available there. Fines are also an issue very often in relation to the situation that many women offenders are in as well, and so it’s just thinking about how the number of options can be extended so that there are those alternatives to the custodial sentence as well. And I think it’s also about making sure that we’re doing everything we can to provide training and awareness to magistrates, so that they know the different options and they’re asking the right sorts of questions in court.
Okay. Can I next bring in Jane Dodds and then I’ll come back to you? Jane.
Jest cwestiwn i ddilyn ar ôl rhai Sioned, os yw hynny'n iawn, Sioned. Rydyn ni wedi clywed data bod 60 y cant o fenywod o Gymru yn mynd i garchar am lai na chwe mis. Dwi jest eisiau clywed eich ymateb, os yw hynny’n iawn. Ydych chi’n meddwl bod hynny’n broblem, neu ba fath o sefyllfa, yn eich barn chi, fyddai’n gwella hynny? Hynny yw, bod menywod o Gymru—dyna pwy rydyn ni’n canolbwyntio arnyn nhw yn y pwyllgor yma—ddim yn cael y profiad o fynd i garchar am lai na chwe mis. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Just a follow-up question to those that Sioned asked, if that’s okay, Sioned. We’ve heard data that 60 per cent of women from Wales are going to prison for less than six months. I just want to hear your response, if that’s okay. Do you think that’s a problem, or what kind of situation, in your opinion, could be an improvement on that? That is, that women from Wales—that's who we're talking about in this committee—don’t have the experience of going to prison for less than six months. Thank you very much.
I mean, custodial sentences should be only passed when they are unavoidable, and that is something that is in the guidelines that magistrates have to follow. And in so many cases, short sentences and also sentences for women don't help the situation in the long run. So, we know that prison generally has poorer outcomes for people who are more vulnerable. The more vulnerable they are, the poorer the outcomes. And we know that, for women offenders, they are very often vulnerable in multiple ways as well. So, in multiple ways, they're in a situation where prison will very often lead to poor outcomes, and so we are very much supportive of the general move to reduce short custodial sentences and reduce custodial sentences as well. That's why we're very much in favour of more options being available and more information being available to the bench, so that there are other options other than custodial sentences that are available.
Can I just follow up on what Jane was saying, because when we went to Styal prison, the governor told us that she was astonished that a magistrate had sent a woman to prison for seven days, which included Christmas day—a mother? So, could you describe why it was not possible to provide an alternative to that very, very harsh sentence, which would have had, obviously, very severe consequences for the family? What was the purpose of that?
It's very hard for me to comment on that, and it wouldn't really be appropriate for me to comment on an individual case, an individual situation, because I wasn't there and I don't know the details of that. I do take your point, and, as I say, it is about working to ensure that there are those alternatives, that magistrates are aware of those alternatives, that they're recommended in the pre-sentence reports as well, so that we can do everything we can to reduce the situation where women are sent into custody for short periods of time.
Okay, thank you. Sioned, back to you.
Diolch. Fe wnaethoch chi sôn yn un o'ch atebion chi am bwysigrwydd cysondeb. Felly, jest eisiau holi ydw i, o ran yr hyn rŷch chi'n gwybod, pa gamau sy'n cael eu cymryd i sicrhau dull cyson o ddedfrydu dros Gymru. Fe gawsom ni ffigurau gan y Prison Reform Trust oedd yn sôn am y ffaith, yn yr achosion o fenywod sy'n cael eu dedfrydu am lai na chwe mis, roedd yna amrywiaeth o 55 y cant yn ardal heddlu'r de, o'i gymharu â 93 y cant yn Nyfed-Powys. Felly, mae'r rheini'n awgrymu bod yna amrywiaeth fawr. Felly, allwch chi daflu unrhyw oleuni i ni ar sut mae hyn yn cael ei edrych arno i sicrhau cysondeb dros Gymru?
Thank you. You mentioned in one of your responses about the importance of consistency. So, I just wanted to ask, in terms of what you know, what actions are being taken to ensure there's a consistent approach to sentencing across Wales. We heard figures from the Prison Reform Trust that said that in the number of cases in which women have been sentenced for less than six months, there was a variation of 55 per cent in the South Wales Police area, compared with 93 per cent in Dyfed-Powys. So, those figures suggest that there is quite a variation. So, could you just shed some light on how this is being looked at to ensure that there is consistency across Wales?
Again, it will come back to the problem that, in different localities, there will be different options that are available and that that makes a very big difference. I just want to stress that custody should always be the last resort. It should always come last, and we recognise that short sentences do little to prevent further reoffending as well, and the outcomes are very often poor as far as custodial sentences are concerned. So, there are those discrepancies, but the more that is done as far as making sure that there are those alternatives locally, the better the situation will be.
Okay. I just wanted to come back to pre-sentencing reports, which you mentioned in your initial comments. Under what circumstances would a magistrate sentence a woman without having a pre-sentence report?
Generally, that should not happen, and there should be a pre-sentence report in all cases. There are some exceptions to that. For instance, if a pre-sentence report had been done fairly recently and there was agreement that things hadn't really changed from that time, but generally there should be and, if need be, there would be a delay in the sentencing until one was produced. If a pre-sentence report is produced and there are questions that are unanswered, then the bench is able to, and does, ask for those questions to be filled in. Very often, that might be, for instance, by—. There might be a probation officer that's there in the court and can be asked verbally to fill those in, or it might be that there's a probation officer within the building and actually they're able to then contact the probation officer who wrote the report and fill in the gaps from there. But, essentially, the sentencing should happen with the pre-sentence report. I hope this is where things have improved, and what our members say is that those pre-sentence reports are coming through in a more timely way than was the case in the past, and that's very good. It's more about making sure that they have all of the information that should be there. But we do everything as well to emphasise with magistrates the importance of those pre-sentence reports and understanding them.
You mentioned the variability of the quality in the pre-sentence reports. You're presumably able to push back on—. You presumably can have discussions with the Probation Service if there are consistently poor reports being provided to the courts, and you can adjourn the sentencing until you've had a satisfactory report, can you not?
Yes, that's right, and that does happen as well. But, as I say, sometimes it is possible to answer the questions there and then, but other times that's not the case. I also think there is something about—. In terms of what is available and the different options, sometimes there may be things that are available that magistrates don't know about as well, so there's only a certain—. In terms of pushing back, it's partly to do with the knowledge that is there in the bench, as far as pushing back for further information as well. But it is possible to delay. I think one of the swings and roundabouts of the greater work being done in the pre-sentence reports is that, sometimes, when information is needed in a short time span, that can be harder to access. I'm thinking particularly about remand hearings and so on, as well, which may have suffered a bit because of the work that's going into producing more comprehensive pre-sentence reports for the hearing, the sentencing stage.
So, are you saying that these pilots, the 12-month pilots that have been instituted by HM Prison and Probation Service, which include Swansea and Cardiff, that there have been no additional resources provided to focus on these particular pilots?
I'm not sure about that and I'd need to have a look and come back to you on that one. I'm not sure about whether there are additional resources, but I can try and find out, and come back to you.
Okay. So, what impact do you think these pilots have made, from your observations?
I don't know; I will need to come back to you as far as those are concerned.
Fine. Okay. Thank you very much. Back to you, Sioned.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Un cwestiwn olaf: jest eisiau gofyn eich barn chi am effaith deddfwriaeth Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol ar niferoedd y menywod sy'n cael eu hanfon i garchar. Rŷn ni wedi cael tystiolaeth ysgrifenedig ar hyn, yn sôn am ffactorau fel cynyddu pwerau dedfrydu ynadon, a hefyd, wrth gwrs, Deddf yr Heddlu, Troseddu, Dedfrydu a'r Llysoedd ddiweddar. Mae'r Howard League yn dweud bod cynyddu pwerau ynadon i fedru mynd o chwe mis i flwyddyn, er enghraifft, yn mynd i effeithio'n anghymesur ar fenywod. Felly, hoffwn i jest wybod eich barn chi am yr elfennau hynny a'u heffaith nhw ar niferoedd y menywod sy'n cael eu hanfon i garchar.
Thank you, Chair. So, one final question: I just wanted to ask your opinion on the impact of UK Government legislation on the numbers of women being sent to prison. We've had written evidence on this, mentioning factors such as increasing the sentencing powers of magistrates and also, of course, the recent Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. The Howard League says that increasing the powers of magistrates to go from six months to a year, for example, is going to affect women disproportionately. So, I wanted to hear you opinion on those elements and their effect on the number of women being sent to prison.
We don't believe that the increase in the sentencing powers for magistrates should have any impact as far as the numbers of women and, more generally, of offenders receiving custodial sentences. In effect, what's happened is that there are certain cases that would have gone to the Crown Court that now may stay within the magistrates' court. But, in terms of the sentencing guidelines, they stay the same through both. The new powers have been introduced and they're now in place, and it will take a while before we see whether there have been any long-term trends or changes to that. But what I can say is that, so far, as far as I can see, according to our members, there doesn't seem to have been much impact in terms of the sentences being handed out and any changes as far as that's concerned. What it should do is, because there is less of a severe problem with backlog in the magistrates' court compared to the Crown Court, it should mean that it will help with the backlogs in the Crown Court. And I think that will help as far as justice is concerned, because we know about the very, very long delays in the Crown Court, including on cases involving crimes against women and girls as well, where there are quite horrific delays in some of those cases being heard as well. So, so far, we're pleased with the way that that change has come about and been introduced, and I think magistrates are very pleased to be able to play their part in helping with the situation with the backlogs.
Thank you very much. Can I bring in Sarah Murphy now?
Thank you very much, and thank you for being here today as well; I know it's not always easy being on a panel on your own. I want to ask a few more questions about the community sentences and the alternatives to custody. We've touched on this a little bit in terms of needing more alternatives to be able to offer, for women, but I just wanted to get your view as well on whether or not you think that it's affecting magistrates across Wales differently as well, like the actual locations and services that are available across the whole of Wales. Is that having an impact on this, do you think?
Can you say a bit more about what you mean?
Yes, of course. So, in the assessment, the planning and design of the evaluation for the women's justice blueprint, it found that the availability of alternatives to custody was improving, but it also raised the issue of how sentences vary across Wales and questioned whether this is affected by the availability of community alternatives or sentences—awareness of them. So, are you seeing a difference, I suppose, in the different locations, different parts of Wales, different areas of Wales? Is it better in some parts and not in others?
Yes, I think there is a difference in different parts, and I think, as a very general comment, I would say that the situation in north Wales seems to be worse than in south Wales, and that's both in terms of the options that are available but also as far as the involvement of the level of training, for instance, that's taken place as well. So, I think that that is the general pattern. But, in a sense, I come back to the thing that custody is that last resort, and if the options aren't available, then, in more cases, the last resort will be resorted to. And I think that that is what we see as to the differences, the discrepancies between different areas, when it comes to what happens with sentences. So, the one thing that would make a big difference to that is making sure that there are those viable alternatives as well across the board. Somehow, there needs to be that mapping exercise done to make sure that there aren't those gaps in the geography—that they are all covered. And I know that's very difficult in a country like Wales with the geography that's here as well, to make sure that that happens, but that is the thing that I believe will make the biggest difference as far as outcomes for this.
That's very helpful. Thank you very much. So, speaking of something that has been suggested, then, are you aware of the planned provision of a residential women's centre in Swansea, and do you have a view on this, really, in terms of whether there is a value to this model as an alternative to custodial prison sentences, and what difference you think this could have on sentencing? So, exploring concerns that, potentially, some people think it could ramp up community sentences. What actions need to be in place to ensure that it will have a positive impact on sentencing and reduce the number of women going to prison? Sorry, I know that that's a lot, but, overall, it's what your awareness is, I suppose, of the purpose of it, and how you think that will be viewed by magistrates when they are making these decisions.
My understanding is that there are still a lot of unanswered questions as far as the residential proposal is concerned, so there is a lot that we don't know about the impact that it will have. What I would say, and I think I probably indicated it, is that I'm a big fan of the concept of the women's centres as a way of diverting potential offenders but also helping offenders as well to get to the core issues, the pathways into offending, in that collected, holistic way. But, what I also know is that the patchy nature of the provision and also the precariousness of the funding for some of these centres has an impact on what is on offer. I know that some, for instance, have crèche facilities, but for others it's very difficult, and it's been withdrawn in some cases because of funding and so on, and that, obviously, has an impact on the confidence of sentencers with regard to the model.
I think it's for others to decide—it's not for us to say, but it's for others to decide whether the best use of the funding that is planned for the residential centre is best for that or is best to be used on more traditional women's centres. Obviously, every opportunity for non-custodial options would be welcomed, and I'm sure would be used, but it's really for others to decide whether that's the best option or whether the money might be spent in other ways.
Thank you. That's really helpful. It kind of brings me on to the question I was going to ask next, which is, what further options do you think are available to Welsh Government and partners to enhance the community options? The women's centres is one of the things that has come through very strongly. So, it would be helpful for us, from the magistrate's perspective, really, what is the view of the women's centres and what is the best practice? And any further opportunities that you could share with us, like the problem-solving court model, for example, if you have any insight into that.
Again, I think, from our perspective, there are probably other people who might be better at talking about the particular model for women's centres and the best way that they can work. I think there are so many pilots that are ongoing within the justice system, and there's a very good case for pilots. What it does mean is that the pattern is very confused and confusing in terms of what is out there and so on, and that is an issue, I think, and it comes back to the thing about the postcode lottery about what is available as well. But, in terms of the concept of the women's centres, and certainly as far as the outcomes are concerned, I think there is a lot of consensus around the importance of them.
We're also very much in favour of promoting, in a sense, trying out things like problem-solving courts. I believe that Manchester is the furthest forward as far as these are concerned, and they've been up and running for a while, and have been shown to be successful. Again, it's dealing with issues in that different way, which, I think, fits with the issues that many of the women who find themselves in the criminal justice system are facing, and it is also the collaborative approach and looking at issues in that different way, which is very welcome. So, we would be very much in favour of that.
But, as I say, I think the other area is about treatment requirements and making sure that those are consistently available. There have been promises about extending those; that hasn't been our experience in that, in so many areas, members tell us that they're not available and they're not recommended, and that's something else that could make a very, very big difference.
The other thing that came through from our survey was on criminal justice liaison services as well, and we asked about those. And, actually, the figures there were very low: more than half either didn't really know about them, or considered them very poor as well, and only 14 per cent thought that they were good or very good, as well. And, again, it's an issue that affects England and Wales, but it clearly affects Wales as well. So, I think there is a lot that could be done. There's a sort of consensus about the need to do everything that we can to move away from custodial sentences and particularly short-term ones, but, actually, there's a lot that could be done to improve the options that are available instead and make it easier for those alternatives to be taken.
I agree. I think you've answered my next question, so, just to end, I wanted to ask, you said at the beginning that it would be good if you could be more involved, on behalf of your members, with the blueprint, for example. Do you think that it would be helpful as well if you were involved in more of these discussions around the alternatives and the substance misuse and the rehab facilities and all of these different community sentences that would be helpful?
I think we certainly do everything that we can. I think, in a sense, it's playing to our expertise, and so there are certain elements of that that will be outside of our particular expertise as well. I also think it's really important that, wherever possible, there is feedback to magistrates about what works and what doesn't as well, and the context of this, because the more that magistrates understand, the better job they will do when it comes to sentencing. And we see ourselves as playing a big role in helping magistrates understand that context. So, we have a magazine that goes out every other month, and I've just signed off the latest version, and there's an article in there, actually, about sentencing women as well, which is talking about many of the things that we've talked about today. We've had all sorts of other articles, which impact on women offenders as well. So, the more that we can help magistrates understand what's happening, what initiatives are going on, what's working and what's not working, I think the better job that magistrates will do, and also the more that we're involved, the better job we can do in then communicating with our members.
Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.
Before we move on to focus on speech and language difficulties for young people, and their involvement in the criminal justice system, I just wanted to pick up on the issue of consistency in sentencing. When you look at the Prison Reform Trust statistics on different areas, 88 per cent of people in Gwent get short sentences compared with 55 per cent in South Wales. Now, these are adjacent areas, so how does the provision of alternative services inform that? Or is it just simply that people in Gwent are making more use of short sentences? How would you describe what is a statistically significant difference?
I don't know, actually. It's the first time I've heard these specific statistics, and I think that it does need more looking into to understand. Hold on one second. It may be that there are other factors in terms of demographics that might make a difference—I don't know. But it certainly does need to understand—. I think the other thing that would be very helpful is more Wales-specific data as well, in terms of understanding the situation. Very often, we find that some data is aggregated as a whole across England and Wales, and it would be useful to have more data that was disaggregated as well. I think that would help.
In a sense, it's all part of an issue that we feel very strongly about, which is open justice. Open justice isn't just about being able to go into a local court and see what's going on—that's a very, very important part of it—but it's also about being able to study the data at a meta level that come through and see where those discrepancies are, and then be able to provide an answer to those as well. The concept is open data as part of open justice. And the more we have on that, I think the more that we can understand what is happening at a local level.
Okay. Perhaps you could write to us about the disparity between those two areas. That would be useful.
Moving on now, Jane Dodds, would you like to come in on our second area of interest, which is communication and language difficulties with young people?
Diolch yn fawr iawn, a diolch yn fawr iawn hefyd am ateb cwestiynau ynglŷn â phobl ifanc sy'n cael profiad o'r system droseddol sy'n dioddef problemau llafar ac iaith. Mae yna ffigwr arall, os mae hwn yn iawn: data sy'n dangos bod 60 y cant o bobl ifanc sy'n cael profiad o'r system droseddol yn dioddef o broblemau llafar ac iaith—mae hynny'n uchel iawn yn fy marn i. Felly, y cwestiwn yw: a ydych chi'n hyderus bod pobl fel eich hun yn adnabod ac yn deall pobl ifanc sydd efo problemau iaith a llafar, sy'n dod i'ch llysoedd? Sut mae hynny'n digwydd? Ym mha ffordd ydych chi'n hyderus bod pobl fel chi yn deall pobl ifanc sy'n cael y problemau hynny?
Thank you very much, and thank you for answering the questions on young people who have experience of the justice system, who have problems in terms of language and communication needs. There is another figure and data that shows that 60 per cent of young people who have experience of the justice system suffer from speech, language and communication difficulties—that's very high in my opinion. So, the question is: are you confident that people like yourself do recognise or identify and understand young people who have these speech and language problems who appear in your courts? How does that happen, and in what way are you confident that people like you do understand young people with those problems?
So, I think the first thing to say is that magistrates who sit in the youth courts are experienced magistrates. So, they need to sit within the adult court to start with for a period of time before going into youth courts. And then they receive very, very specific training in terms of children and young people. And, in particular, that training highlights the fact that children are inherently vulnerable because they are children, let alone with other issues as well. And they're also, within that, taught on communicating with children and really placing children at the heart of that system. So, there's good training that happens, and there's also training that takes place, both that the Judicial College does, but also that we do at the MA with the Judicial College, on children who face particular issues around exploitation, being care experienced, et cetera.
I do wonder, though, whether there may be a gap as far as the training that is provided on this particular issue of children with communication needs, and I'd be interested in the report that you produce, and that may help as far as identifying that gap and what we need to do to take that forward and to fill it. I think your inquiry is raising questions that we need to look at.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, mae hynny'n helpfawr iawn. A gaf i ofyn, ydy'r hyfforddiant dŷch chi wedi siarad am yn orfodol? Oes rhaid i bawb fynd ar yr hyfforddiant yna pan mae nhw yn y llysoedd i bobl ifanc?
Thank you very much, that is very helpful. Could I ask you, is the training that you've mentioned mandatory? Does everybody have to have that training when they are in the young people's courts?
Yes, it is mandatory. So, there's mandatory training that takes place for magistrates when they want to sit in the youth courts, and then, there is also a mandatory requirement for continuous training as well. In addition to that, there's also a lot of work—and this is particularly, I think, at the MA level rather than the Judicial College level—that's done around the context of issues that magistrates will come across in the courts, both the adult court and the youth courts as well. I mentioned some of that previously, but that's also the case as far as young people are concerned as well. Again, we had an article in the last magazine that we produced for our members around how to increase the voice of children in courts as well and the way to do that. And, so many magistrates actually take part in that sort of non-mandatory training and learning and development as well, and that's very heartening.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. A'r cwestiwn olaf gen i yw: o'r ochr arall, hynny yw, profiadau’r plant a'r bobl ifanc sy'n mynd i mewn i'r llysoedd, pa fath o gefnogaeth dŷch chi'n gwybod am sydd ar gael i bobl ifanc sy'n cael profiad o'r llys, ac sydd yn dioddef problemau llafar ac iaith? Pa fath o gefnogaeth sydd iddyn nhw, os gwelwch yn dda?
Thank you very much. And the final question that I have is: from the other side, that is the experiences of the children and young people who do go into the court system, what kind of support do you know about that is available for young people who have court experience and who do suffer with speech and language problems? What kind of support is available for them?
Well, as I say, I don't know so much in terms of the specifics of children with speech and language difficulties and communication difficulties, and that may be something we need to look at specifically with that. In terms of for children in general, as I say, I've explained the work that's done as far as ensuring that magistrates are better able to communicate and hear children in courts.
I think there is an issue about legal professionals in courts as well. It's something that we have argued for for quite a long time, because at the moment advocates in youth court aren't required to undertake any specific training on communicating with young people, and we see that as a gap, and our members say that that can be an issue at times, and it's something that we have argued for, and we would be very supportive of developing standards for advocates in youth court. I think that is a gap.
There are also some examples of—. We were talking about problem-solving courts, and there are some examples of those sorts of things in the youth court as well, including getting the young people and magistrates and others together after sentencing to discuss what happened as well, and I think that sort of thing is a really interesting approach. We would be very interested in more of those sorts of things being tried out, to bring the young people and magistrates together to discuss what happened and what the experiences of children and young people were. There is nothing like, I think, the magistrates hearing the lived experience of young people, as far as them understanding what it's like.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Okay. Can I just quickly ask what involvement would you expect your magistrates to have with the Children's Commissioner for Wales, obviously whose job it is to articulate the wishes and needs of children in Wales?
I'm not aware of anything specifically in terms of the children's commissioner. The partner that we work closest with in this regard is the Youth Justice Board Cymru, and they are a very good partner and they help us out a lot, and we're in very, very close contact with them, and actually there is an all-Wales grouping looking at youth courts and youth court issues that we sit on, and that's chaired by the director from the Youth Justice Board Cymru as well. So, they are our key partner as far as this is concerned in terms of understanding, and they help us a lot with training and understanding.
Thank you for that clarification. Can I bring in Ken Skates now?
Thank you, Chair. So, by law, custody should be reserved for those children whose offending is just so serious that no other sentence can be justified and it should be the sentence of last resort. Do you think that we've got the balance right in terms of punishment and support, particularly for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs?
Well, I think the thing to emphasise to start with is that it's different in youth courts from adult courts. In youth courts it is about two things in particular: the welfare of the child and the prevention of offending by children. The punitive element—it's not that it's not there at all, but it is very, very much down the pecking order in terms of the priority of what happens in court. It's a very, very different set-up and philosophy from the adult courts in those sorts of ways, really. So, I do think the balance is right, and it is very clear that, for all children, that that is the case, that it is about looking at what can be done in the best interests of the welfare of the child as well. As I say, on the specific issue of children with communication needs, I think that is something to explore, to see whether there is more that needs to be done particularly for that group.
Okay, thanks. Sometimes, judges and magistrates are criticised for giving custodial sentences for repeat offending, rather than for the seriousness of the specific offences, and that's because there's a belief sometimes—or at least the criticism is that there is a belief—that a custodial sentence for repeat offending will somehow deal with the persistence of a young person's offending. Do you think that it's a fair criticism?
I think we should always be open to reflection on what magistrates do. I think never say that, actually, practice can't be improved and that we shouldn't take what people are saying and look at that very carefully as well. But what I would say is I would just come back to the thing that, in all cases, the priority is the welfare of the child, whether that's for the first offence, or whether that's for the umpteenth offence, and that is what is drummed into magistrates who sit in youth court, that that is the philosophy and the way that they should work.
Okay, thanks. To what extent do you think information about a young person's speech, language and communication needs influences the options for sentencing for a particular young person? Do you think information is available about a young person in every instance?
Again, that should be provided in terms of, again, it's about the individual needs of that child, and it's certainly the case that that is provided when we're talking about all sorts of issues around neurodiversity, issues to do with ADHD, autism and so on. I'm not aware of any specific issues to do with children with communication difficulties, and it's something that hasn't been raised, but, as I say, I'm interested in this inquiry and to see what comes out of this, as to whether there is more that we need to look at with that, which might be around training, it might be around awareness and understanding, or it might be to do with the information that the court is getting as far as those children are concerned. But I'm open to hear more about that and we can then follow up in terms of your report.
Thanks for that. And do you think that some young people with speech, language and communications needs may struggle to understand the requirements of their community sentence, and do courts actually take this into account when making decisions on custodial sentences for any breaches of orders?
What courts should do, and good practice, is to absolutely make sure that the children are understanding the process and what is happening all the way through, and to make sure that it's also going at a pace that is right for the child as well. That may include factoring in consistent breaks as well to make sure that there's enough time for the child to have a break, to go away from it, and then to understand as well. So, that should be the case in every case, as far as children in youth courts are concerned.
It should apply equally to children with communication needs. There is a thing called the Equal Treatment Bench Book, which is basically about ensuring that there is equality of treatment right the way across the courts system, but that doesn't mean that everybody is treated equally, because, again, it comes down to each case; each person is an individual, and their individual needs need to be considered. And that's true right the way across, and it is absolutely true as far as youth courts are concerned as well.
So, again, the more that there is that understanding of the issues, the more that we can make sure that things are tailored for those particular young people as well. And it's right at the core of what the youth court system is all about, which is about the welfare of the child and stopping reoffending—intervening to stop reoffending.
Excellent. Thank you. Thanks, Chair.
I think, just finally, I want to follow up on the—. I think at least twice you've used the words 'should be provided', and a lot of this depends on who is supporting that young person. The team around the child—some of them are more assiduous than others. Sometimes, you'll hear instances of teachers coming to court to give evidence on behalf of the child; they're not obliged to do that, but, if they are committed to that child or young person, they do that. The same would apply to all the other professionals who may get involved if a young person is accused of breaking the law. I just wondered how much effort is put into ensuring that inequity isn't just being burnt into the system. The person who's got a family with resources behind them is obviously going to have the very best legal representation, whereas the individual with no resources is going to have the solicitor on the taxi rank. So, how do the magistrates take this into account when they're assessing the level of the seriousness of what the child is found guilty of?
So, I would say our key partner with this is the youth offending services, and the experience of magistrates generally is that they are very, very good as well, and extremely helpful in terms of providing information and supporting both the magistrates, but also the children and young people as well. I think that they are absolutely key as far as this process is concerned in making sure that there is that team around the young person as well, and that there is that equity as far as the support that they're given, and that it is not just favouring some and not others.
As I say, I think there is more that can be done, particularly around advocates as well, to make sure that they are also of an equal standard as far as that's concerned, but, actually, what we get from our members is that there is, because of the youth offending services in particular, actually a lot of confidence as far as that's concerned and the support that they're giving the whole system.
Jane Dodds wanted to just come back in. Jane.
Yes, thank you. I'll ask a question in English. Just to follow up on that, as well, yes, youth offending teams, that's their job, in essence, and it's good to hear that, in your experience in Wales, they are doing a good job. I just wondered if you had any really good practice, or any organisations, particularly voluntary organisations, that might be in a pilot or an exemplar court that provide that support to young people who, for example, are in the care system or are particularly disenfranchised or have a number of other issues or problems. Is there anything that we should be looking at that helps us see good practice in relation to young people in the court system, particularly those with language and speech needs?
If it's okay, I'll take that away and give it some thought and then write to you with—. I'll see if I can find some examples that would be helpful to you. The other thing that I would mention is the 10-point plan for children in the care system—that's used a lot, as far as courts are concerned. It's used by magistrates, but used more widely through the justice system for children and young people, and I can, again, send you a link to that for you to look at. But, again, that is something that helps to ensure good practice across the board for children with care experiences.
There's plenty that needs to be done—. Sorry, Jane, go ahead. Go ahead, Jane.
Final question. A final question, honestly. It all sounds really good and encouraging. I suppose my only question is: how do you measure and how do you ensure that your magistrates are meeting those statutory requirements, like the 10-point plan, like focusing in on children first, et cetera? What are the quality standards that make you confident that magistrates across Wales are actually coming up to that level?
So, magistrates have to go through quite a rigorous process, firstly, as far as becoming a magistrate and then becoming a youth magistrate as well, and that involves having a mentor, it involves being observed in courts. That's then when you become a presiding justice. So, there's a bench of three, and there are the two wingers and then there's the presiding justice. And, again, there is that same rigorous process in terms of making sure that you are up to the standard. That also is continuous as well, so there's continuous assessment as far as that is concerned, with observations.
The other thing I'd say is that, because it's a panel of three, that is really important, because it means it's not a magistrate on their own, just working on their own. It's always that there are three, and it's about reaching agreement and making sure that there is that sort of triangulation, if you like, between the three. Magistrates will sit with different benches of three at different times as well. So, again, all that time, there's peer work going on there for checks and balances between the three.
Can I ask quickly—? Sorry to interrupt, but I know we're running out of time. Can I just ask how often are they assessed? I get there's a rigorous process at the beginning, but how often after that are they assessed and monitored? Is it every three years, every five years? What's the time span?
I'll have to come back to you on that. I think it's different for different types of magistrates as well. Regular appraisals take place for magistrates to ensure there is that consistency as well. I'll come back on exactly, for different types of magistrates, how long.
Thank you. Thanks, Chair.
We have run out of time. Thank you for agreeing to come back on the few points that you've indicated. In that shopping list of things that you're going to come back on—. There's plenty of work to be done on ensuring that all public services are trauma informed, particularly when it comes to young people; I just wondered if you could reflect on what would be the one innovation that magistrates would like to see to improve the way we support and handle young people, particularly with communication difficulties, who come before the criminal justice system. Because I appreciate that it's not something you can just pull out of a hat.
I would say that it is ensuring that there is awareness training available specifically on the issue in terms of communication issues for young people. There is already very good training, but again I think there's more work to do to understand, because there's a lot that—. As I say, I think it's quite groundbreaking, the report you're doing here, because I don't think there's anything similar that's been done before on this. But I think that there is something there around ensuring that there is that level of awareness for magistrates across, in terms of specifically the issues faced by children with communication difficulties.
Thank you very much indeed. We will send you a transcript of your evidence. Please use the opportunity to correct anything that has been misheard or misinterpreted. Otherwise, thank you very much for your evidence today, and we'll obviously ensure that you get a copy of our report.
Both our reports, in due course. Thank you.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 4, 7, 8 a 9 o'r cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 4, 7, 8 and 9 of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
We're now going to take a short break. We'll be resuming in public at 3 o'clock with our pre-appointment hearing for the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales. So, anybody who's in the public gallery who'd like to come back at 3 o'clock, you're very welcome. Otherwise, I'd like to ask Members to agree a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to exclude the public from the next item as well as items 7, 8 and 9 of today's meeting. Is that agreed? Thank you. We'll now move into private session and be back at 3 o'clock.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 14:34.
The public part of the meeting ended at 14:34.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 15:07.
The committee reconvened in public at 15:07.
Welcome back to the Equality and Social Justice Committee. I just want to introduce the Members who've joined us from the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee. We're joined by Mark Isherwood, Natasha Asghar and, hopefully, Rhianon Passmore in due course. We've had apologies from Jane Dodds. I'd just like to declare that I'm a member of the Co-operative Party, which is a sister party of the Labour Party. Sarah.
As am I, Chair—I'm a member of the Co-operative Party.
Thank you. I would like to very much welcome Derek Walker for this pre-appointment hearing for the very important job of well-being of future generations commissioner, because, obviously, the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 is one of the most prominent pieces of legislation that the Senedd has ever passed, and the profile of the commissioner is very high. I wondered if you could just tell us, as an introduction, why you think you have the skills and experience to be suitable for this role.
Thank you, Chair, and thank you for inviting me to come along today. As you say, I think the future generations Act, and the role of the future generations commissioner, is a crucially important role, and it's crucially important now and to the future generations in terms of our well-being.
I think I would do a good job in this role because of the skills and experience that I bring to the job. Cwmpas is the organisation that I'm the chief executive of at the moment, formerly called the Wales Co-operative Centre. The organisation has very much been about sustainable development, and the kinds of businesses that we are supporting are sustainable development businesses by their definition—they bring together economic, social and environmental aspects, and, often, cultural ones as well. So, I've got a good knowledge of sustainable development and how to deliver sustainable development in a number of areas.
The commissioner role is also an important one in terms of influencing public bodies, of course, and supporting public bodies to implement the Act and the well-being goals, and the ways of working. I believe I have good experience in that area as well. I can perhaps talk more about some of that later on, but, for example, one of the pieces of work my organisation has been doing in recent times is looking at social value and procurement and how you can think more broadly about maximising the social, environmental and economic benefits from public spend.
The third point I would say is that hopefully you can see, from my experience and from my CV, but also in the kind of jobs that I’ve chosen and in the way that I’ve behaved in public life, that I illustrate the sort of values and behaviours that you would expect of a commissioner and someone in such a high-profile role. By demonstrating those sorts of behaviours and working with experience in the area of sustainable development, I would hope to be an authentic and genuine commissioner for the future generations commissioner's office.
Thank you. Can I bring in Altaf Hussain at this point?
Thank you, Chair. I have a concern: is there a risk that your appointment will be seen as highly political, given your background in the Labour Party? What will you do to reassure people that this will have no bearing on your willingness to hold Ministers to account?
I think that’s a really important question. I think it’s not without precedent, with other commissioners in other areas having political backgrounds when they’ve gone into their office. I think it’s crucially important that I’m not just independent but I’m perceived to be independent in the role. To be able to do a good job in the role, you need to be able to work with all parties and none, and all bodies and none, and that needs to be perceived to be independent. You need to work without fear or favour in terms of the advice that you give, in the best interests of applying the Act. I noticed, when my appointment as the First Minister’s preferred candidate was published, that my Labour Party membership, which I declared in the usual way, did get picked up a fair amount, and as a result, I have given up my Labour Party membership in order that that wouldn’t be an issue going forward, should I be appointed.
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you. Sarah Murphy, you wanted to come in.
Thank you. Thank you for being here today, Derek, and answering our questions. I’m going to wrap them all up as much as I can, because we need to get through as many as possible. In terms of what you’d intend to do if you got the role to begin with, would you intend to keep any of the previous commitments and priorities of the outgoing future generations commissioner? Would you do a scoping exercise to find new ones? Who would you talk to in that case? And do you think that that would also include a skills assessment and reassessment of the staffing in the commissioner’s office?
Thank you. Should I be appointed, I would go forward in the spirit of the five ways of working and in the spirit of the Act. I think it would be good to start by undertaking a review and a consultation exercise to involve and engage those people who you will be working with, including young people, public bodies and other key stakeholders, to understand what their priorities are, what their experience has been of working with the office, and what really makes the biggest impact in terms of the support that the commissioner can provide. I would start from that point of looking at evaluations, looking at feedback, reviewing the work of the commissioner’s office, to understand how I would take it forward. That would then result in a work plan and resources accordingly to deliver against that work plan. I don’t want to go ahead of that. I would anticipate that some of that would mean change to what was being delivered and what was prioritised, and some of that would mean continuity, but that would be dependent on the review exercise. I have some of my own ideas already, which I've talked about through the recruitment process, but this needs to be really tested with the people receiving the support and with young people, and I would intend to engage with young people in all aspects of the commission's work, should I be appointed.
Thank you. And just my second question, again tying a couple together, but the social partnership boards that we have and advisory boards, and the potential council that's coming up, I believe that this is something that the future generations commissioner has been involved with, so I was just wondering what your thoughts on that are and what you would see your role in that being.
Second of all, it is something that's commented on quite a lot, I think, mostly by the public, but maybe understandably, that the previous future generations commissioner did do a lot of overseas travelling, a lot of travelling to promote the Act, to promote Wales, to promote the future generations commissioner's office. Is this something that you see as a priority too, or would you maybe consider having targets or limits to that, I suppose?
To answer the first bit first of all, absolutely, I think it's very important that the commissioner engages in the social partnership arrangements that we have in Wales, but also applies the social partnership arrangements that we have in Wales within the office of the commissioner, so working with employees and partners to deliver the work of the commission and to do it in the spirit of social partnership. I do appreciate that there are a huge amount of calls on the commissioner's office and time, because it's such a broad and important piece of legislation, but that does mean you get pulled in lots of different areas, and it will be important to prioritise certain pieces of work in order to have impact. For me, this is about implementation and making sure that we are not just proud in Wales of the legislation itself—the groundbreaking legislation—but also that we're proud of the implementation right across Wales, so that we see that make a difference for people and communities right across Wales, and it makes a difference to everyone's lives.
The point around overseas travel is a good one. The general principle I would put is—and I heard this from the young people when I had the stakeholder interview discussion with the future generations academy representatives—they were very proud, and I know friends of mine are very proud to see Wales on the world stage talking about the Act and sharing our learning, but also learning from others. I have always thought that that was very important in the job that I do at the moment. So, I've just come from a Cooperatives Europe conference that we're holding at Techniquest, where we brought young co-operators from across Europe to think about how we engage young people, and we will learn a lot in a two-way from that. But, you know, many of that activity can be done remotely through Zoom, and increasingly without the need to do a huge amount of travel. So, I would be very cautious about only travelling when it was essential to do so, but I wouldn't want to hold back on Wales and the world, and, as we know, one of the well-being goals is about being a global Wales. But, there are ways of doing that that don't require always to travel, of course.
Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.
Okay. Sioned Williams.
Diolch yn fawr. Mae hwnna'n mynd â ni'n dwt iawn, yr hyn roeddech chi'n ei ddweud am Gymru fyd-eang—. Fi'n siŵr wnaethoch chi weld dros y Sul yr Athro Calvin Jones, er enghraifft, yn dweud ei fod e'n teimlo bod gweithrediadau'r Llywodraeth yn ymwneud â Qatar ddim mewn gwirionedd wedi'u halinio gyda'r math o Gymru fyd-eang sy'n cael ei hymgorffori o fewn y Ddeddf. Felly, jest eisiau cael eich ymateb chi i hynny a beth rydych chi'n teimlo y mae Cymru fyd-eang yn ei olygu a beth ydy'ch gweledigaeth chi ynglŷn â hynny.
A hefyd eisiau gwybod, yn fwy eang, o ran sut rydych chi'n mynd i sicrhau bod swydd a swyddfa'r comisiynydd yn rhywbeth sydd yn gallu cael ei ddal i gyfrif gan y bobl, gan y Senedd, a gan y pwyllgor yma. Dŷn ni wedi clywed sawl tro, pobl yn y gymuned, mai Deddf y bobl ddylai fe fod, a phobl yn teimlo eu bod nhw'n cael eu gadael i lawr yn sgil sut mae'r Ddeddf yn cael ei gweithredu, pobl yn dweud bod dim dannedd i'r Ddeddf, a'r adolygiadau barnwrol yn taflu allan achosion pan fydd yna gymunedau yn ceisio defnyddio'r Ddeddf i herio penderfyniadau yn eu cymunedau. Felly, jest eisiau cael eich safbwynt chi ar hynny hefyd. Diolch.
Thank you. That takes us very neatly, what you said about global Wales—. I'm sure that you saw over the weekend Professor Calvin Jones, for example, saying that he felt that the actions of the Government relating to Qatar aren't really aligned with the kind of global Wales that is incorporated in the Act. So, I just wanted to have your response to that, and what you feel a global Wales means and what your vision would be for that.
Also, I want to know, more broadly speaking, in terms of how you're going to ensure that the role of the commissioner and the commissioner's office is something that can be held to account by people, by the Senedd, and by this committee. We've heard several times, people in the community, the fact that it should be the people's Act, and that people feel that they've been let down in the wake of how the Act is being implemented, people saying that it is toothless, and that judicial reviews throw out cases where communities are trying to use the Act to challenge decisions within their communities. So, I'd just like to get your views on that as well. Thank you.
Thank you. Sorry, I'm hearing feedback.
I didn't hear Calvin Jones over the weekend but, obviously, I did take a close look at what was going on at COP and was, like I guess many of us, very disappointed with the results of COP. We weren't seeing the urgency that's required on climate change agreed by governments around the world, and that was disappointing. That does not mean that we can't move at pace in Wales, and that we have to move at the pace of the slowest. I know there are very difficult decisions, but they're very urgent decisions. It's very urgent that we take those decisions in Wales to tackle climate change. There is no bigger issue facing current generations and future generations if we don't move fast and deep in terms of tackling climate change. It follows on from the previous question in terms of the global Wales aspect of that. I think it's important that Wales is engaged in those conversations, is participating on the world stage to encourage others to go faster, to learn from what others are doing, and to share our good experience. We are a nation that is open to the world and we have got a lot to learn from experience elsewhere. So, as I mentioned previously, that would be the way that I would approach that.
In terms of being held to account, I agree, actually, in terms of this is such an important job. In doing the job, I would not just be accountable to the Senedd and this committee or to Welsh Government, but to the people of Wales, in terms of making sure that I was doing a good job in delivering and, as I say, implementing the Act, so that it makes a difference, so that people right across Wales can see the difference the Act is making to their everyday lives, and we can demonstrate the real traction that the Act is having. And, as a result, in order to do that, I think it would be very important that I behaved in line very much with the spirit of the Act and the spirit of the Nolan principles, and was open and transparent about what the commissioner and the commissioner's office were doing, what the priorities were, had SMART objectives and reported against those objectives, so people could see whether we had been successful in terms of what we'd set out to do, but that we also made use of the experience of academics, like Calvin and other people, to evaluate what can be done and what more can be done. So, hopefully, that answers that question. I don't think I've missed anything.
Okay. Sioned, did you want to come back?
Ie, jest eisiau gofyn yn glou. So, pan fo rhywbeth yn gwrthdaro â hynny, pan fo Llywodraeth Cymru, er enghraifft, yn gweithredu ar y llwyfan byd-eang mewn ffordd sydd ddim yn teimlo neu, yn eich tŷb chi, ddim yn cyd-fynd â nodau y Ddeddf, sut ydych chi yn mynd i'w herio nhw er mwyn dangos y tryloywder yna, er mwyn dangos i'r bobl bod gan y swydd yma ddannedd?
Yes, I just wanted to ask you, briefly. So, when something does conflict with that, when the Welsh Government, for example, is acting on the international stage in a way that doesn't feel or, in your opinion, isn't aligned with the well-being goals in the Act, how are you going to challenge them in order to show that transparency, and to show people that this office does have teeth?
I think, as I mentioned earlier, I would undertake this role in a way that was independent and was able to act and say what was important in line with the Act and in line with the goals, and I would have no hesitation in raising important issues—that's the job of the commissioner, to ensure public bodies, not just Welsh Government, are acting in line with the Act. And if they weren't, then I would be making my views known, but also doing that backed up by evidence and information, and be doing that in a constructive way for all public bodies, so that I'm providing information about how things could perhaps be done differently so that they were in line with the Act. But, certainly, it would be my job to highlight these because you wouldn't be doing the job, you wouldn't be working on behalf of future generations if you weren't flagging up these important issues, internationally or nationally, should they arise.
The Senedd committees that I've been involved in have written reports that have been critical of the current commissioner spending too much time supporting the Welsh Government on how it implements its own Act, and not enough time on supporting the other 45 bodies mentioned in the Act. There is likely to be another eight joining the list of organisations that are going to be bound by the Act. So, I wondered what your approach will be to ensuring that you're even handed in your approach, and particularly leaving the Welsh Government to get on with implementing its own Act.
Yes, I've read as many of those reports as I can in preparation for today. I think the recommendations that have come out of the committee reports, and other reports, about how you support and advise public bodies, are very interesting, and I think it requires a relook at a new model of how you deliver advice to public bodies across Wales. I've read some of the criticism, not just in terms of more of the advice being given to Welsh Government over the public bodies, but also in terms of the huge demands on the commissioner's office for advice. And when that advice is given, it's been valued, and certainly the team have developed, it seemed, a huge amount of experience in terms of implementing sustainable development practices.
My approach would be—similar perhaps to what the Auditor General for Wales did—to look and work with public bodies—all public bodies—to understand how that advice is provided. There is a limited budget to provide that advice. There is no way on earth that the commissioner is ever going to be resourced to provide all public bodies in Wales with all the advice that they need. So, we need to put in place clear criteria for when that's provided, how that's provided, and who that's provided to, and co-produce those rules with the public bodies so that they understand that.
But I think I would put more time and effort also into increasing the capacity and the expertise within the public bodies. Including Welsh Government, but others as well, they need to develop their own capacity internally to understand how they implement the Act, and there would be a job for the commission to work with perhaps champions, or a variety of champions, within public bodies, to support those champions to develop their own expertise. I think, from my own background in the third sector, there's a huge amount of expertise within the public, the private and the third sectors that we can harness to support public bodies in the delivery of the Act and the well-being goals.
So, in summary, I guess I'm saying that—and I think the commissioner is already looking at this—there needs to be a new model for using the resources available, that is more equitable across public bodies, but also does it is a way that's sustainable, so that public bodies are developing their own expertise and become less reliant on the office of the future generations commissioner.
Okay. I've got a couple of Members who want to come in, and I want to come back as well. Ken Skates, and then Natasha Asghar.
Thanks, Chair. Just briefly going back to the Qatar question because it's a fine example, I think, of a very emotive and principled issue where you might have a difference of opinion to Government, and where you might find it difficult to communicate to Government your principled position. How would you have gone about it? If you were future generations commissioner right now, how would you have gone about expressing your concerns to Ministers? Would it be formally—and purely formally, in the form of written correspondence—or would you be tempted to pick up the phone to Ministers to express what you feel about our presence in Qatar?
At the world cup?
Yes, okay. I guess one of the points that I would say in response to that is the breadth and the remit of the future generations Act is what it needs to be, but I can imagine the commissioner gets called in to give a view on lots of different subjects, which they may not be an expert in or may not be able to add value to. That doesn't mean we don't need to develop a breadth of expertise, as the commissioner's office has currently done, but that does mean that—. Just because you're asked your opinion on anything doesn't mean it's the job of the future generations commissioner to give a response.
I think, in this case, you could take either approach, really. I think it's important that the commissioner is independent and is able to express their view publicly, but also, if I was asked privately, I might give my view. But I'm not 100 per cent sure that the role of the commissioner is to comment on the Welsh Government's position with regard to attending the world cup in Qatar. The job of the commissioner is to support public bodies with the delivery of the Act, and to be very clear where things should be improved and should be better, but it's not, in my view, the role of the commissioner to take Government decisions or to comment on all aspects of its work.
Okay. Natasha Asghar.
Thank you so much, Chair. In a number of questions that you've already answered, you've mentioned things such as joined-up working, you've mentioned cost-effectiveness, you've mentioned the Nolan principles, which I know is music to a lot of people's ears, but I'd like to know, if you are successful, once you are in position, what are going to be your KPIs, because, as you mentioned, there will be a lot of joined-up working. There will also be a lot of autonomy within the position itself. So, what KPIs, or key performance indicators, are you going to have in place for yourself, to ensure that you actually meet the targets of the organisation, of this particular role, so that hopefully this won't lead to any issues going on further down the line?
Yes, I think this is a really important question, and it comes back to the scrutiny and accountability of the office of the future generations commissioner. As I said at the beginning, I think the first piece of work is to consult and review what the work of the commissioner is doing, and put in a new work plan. Depending on what that work plan looked like, that would mean there might be different KPIs. Without having that work plan in place, it's difficult to say specifically, but just to give you an example, perhaps, the advice to public bodies is going to be a key part of the work—obviously a key part of the work. How that is received, how that is valued, the feedback from public bodies about the quality of that work, and also not just the advice but the impact of that work and what has that led to in terms of the changes to public services or to delivery for people, are going to be crucial, and I would set that out at the beginning and be open about that not just with you at the Senedd, but with the public as a whole, so that people could see the progress or not that we were making in certain areas. I think that the spirit of openness and honesty and transparency would be one that I would want to embed in the work of the commission. That doesn't mean I'm going to get everything right, should I be appointed. I'm sure things won't work out in all areas in the way that I would like, but that's about being honest about that and perhaps failing fast and rectifying things quickly, and I think that is a principle to apply across the public bodies in terms of how we're meeting well-being objectives and delivering against the Act. There will be good practice, but there will also be bad practice, and we can learn as much from the bad practice as we can from the good.
Sorry, Jenny—just a sub-question to that. I'm from the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee, and I know one of my colleagues, my Chair, from that particular committee is here with me today. We like our numbers, and I'm sure a lot of people in this committee like their numbers too. So, moving forward, how long would you need to make the plan that you've just spoken of? You said if you get in, you're going to need a certain period of time to create this plan. So, three months, six months, nine months—what is going to be your time frame to create this plan, going forward?
Well, I would expect that needs to be done in around six months. I do think it needs—. I need to meet public bodies, I need to meet young people, I need to go around across Wales. It doesn't need to take forever, but within the first six months of the role, we need to have a clear plan in place and to be allocating resources accordingly. So, I would estimate around six months would be the timescale.
In the meantime, the UK Government has issued an autumn statement, which indicates that there's going to be less money for the public sector, and that will include for Wales, too. How are you going to use the role of the office of the future generations commissioner to enable public bodies to learn from each other, both good practice and bad practice, and to make them more efficient and effective and make what are likely to be smaller budgets go further?
Yes, I think there's no more important a time than now, because of the pressures on public budgets. Public bodies will inevitably have huge challenges, and the danger is that they are distracted by those, rather than looking at the Act. But, actually, what the Act says and what the goals and the ways of working are about are very much crucial in helping public bodies address these challenges. They're more important now than ever in terms of addressing these resourcing challenges. So, this is about integration, this is about a collaboration, this is about prevention, this is about involving people to understand what is most important in terms of the services they receive so that you can make priority choices. It's more important now than ever, and my job would be to make that very clear: that the Act can help public bodies in these challenging times, but also to demonstrate not just in terms of case studies and anecdotes, but in terms of evidence and facts and figures about what applying these principles can do in terms of improving public services to our citizens and making savings. Some people remain to be convinced about the Act, unfortunately, and it will continue to be my job to demonstrate the value of the Act and how it is making a difference, how it can be applied and how it can continue to make a difference. So, it's an essential task in this time, and it's essential to be able to be in that position to share that good practice.
The thing that I haven't mentioned and I think is made good use of and could continue to be made good use of is the commissioner's ability to convene. It's not in the Act, technically, but the commissioner, under the auspices of the office, can bring people together, can bring organisations together to look at common issues and common problems, potentially, and help them to work together or to assist them to work together to resolve those. It's not the commissioner's job to do, as that's the job of the public bodies, but they can convene and advise and give advice, and that's a very important task.
Okay. So, while you're writing your plan—your six-month plan—you're going to have all these organisations wondering how they're going to deliver the same services, or not deliver those services, with the same amount of money and increased energy costs, et cetera. So, I think it's really—. Tell us a bit more about your skill set that will enable you to influence organisations to make good decisions amidst the challenges that they're definitely going to be facing.
Yes, well, to some extent this is the kind of work I do now at Cwmpas, and to make change happen and to make—. There are standard processes, really, for influencing change and making change happen, and I think the first part in the way that you do this is to understand the priorities of public bodies and what they need to be doing and what their objectives are, and to be presenting opportunities and ideas and suggestions and evidence and examples of how they can achieve those objectives for their citizens, but do it in the spirit of the Act. So, you've got to be making the case for change that needs to be backed by evidence, and then you need to be supporting that case for change with ideas and resources where possible, in terms of advice and exchange of good practice. One of the tools that we've used very effectively at Cwmpas is to set up communities of practice, where people on the ground working on particular issues are able to talk in live terms about the issues that they're working on and to share that experience, and that can have a real difference in terms of supporting people to make change happen and to implement the things that they want to implement.
Okay, thank you. Can I bring in Ken Skates at this point?
Thanks, Chair. I have a number of questions, I'm afraid, so I'll get through them as quick as I possibly can. The first concerns the public awareness, and awareness across the public and third sectors of the commissioner's role. Would you be seeking to find out, ascertain, whether there is a difference in the level of awareness across Wales of the work that you will be doing? Are you aware of any research that's been conducted to date? We've heard from other commissioners that there are quite significant differences in terms of the casework that comes from different local authorities, and there seems to be a correlation between the physical location of commissioner offices and the amount of casework from those areas where they are based.
Yes, I think that's important. It goes back to what I was talking about, really, in terms of the review and looking at how advice is provided and how that's done—not just advice, but how services and support are provided in an equitable way, and co-producing that with the public bodies that receive it.
I think, as part of that exercise, I would need to speak to and understand why people are accessing support and why others are not. What is behind that? Maybe it's because they've got the support in-house, maybe it's because they're not aware of the information and support that is available—and addressing that. The role of the commission is for the whole of Wales, and the support, wherever the commission's office is based, needs to be provided to the whole of Wales. So, my approach to that would be to take very much an evidence-based approach. When I was working at the Big Lottery Fund, we had a similar initiative in that we were looking at where our grants were going, and which areas were coldspots in terms of the grants, and so we undertook work to understand what was going on—was it because there wasn't an interest, because they didn't know about the funds that were available? Usually, it was about because they didn't know what was available, so we stepped up efforts to raise awareness in those areas so that they were able to access the funding that was available. And I think this is a similar example—if that is indeed the case and there are public bodies that are not accessing the support of the commission's office in the way that they would like to, or should be, then we need to understand why that is and address that.
Okay, thank you. And have you considered how you might work with other commissioners in an attempt to generate budget savings? We're about to enter a pretty grim period in terms of public finances, and it's incumbent upon us all, I think, to make savings wherever we can. Have you considered whether back-office savings could be made through collaboration and co-working?
Yes. Can I just say something very generally on the budget, to go back? That is absolutely right; there is such huge pressure on public sector budgets, it's very difficult perhaps to see big increases, or any increase, in the budget of the future generations commissioner. So, it's about using those resources as effectively and as smartly as possible, and if that requires looking at how we work as commissioners together in terms of shared functions, then absolutely I'm open to that. I say that bearing in mind that there is a staff team that are employed at the moment and working for the commission's office, and so that's not a decision that I've taken; that would need to be done in consultation, obviously, with the other commissioners, who I haven't spoken to about this. But if there are opportunities for doing that, absolutely, and that is incumbent on anyone spending public money. If that can be done and make savings whilst having more impact, or putting more resources to the front line, then that's absolutely something that we should look at.
Thanks. Just two more questions, what tangible difference or differences do you think you will be able to demonstrate in the way that you work compared with the outgoing commissioner?
The outgoing commissioner and her team have done a very good job; they've done a huge amount to raise awareness of the Act, not just in Wales, but on the global stage. The team are a great team, I've met some of them over the years, and they do excellent work. They have developed a real expertise in applying sustainable development approaches. So, I'm not comparing myself to the outgoing commissioner—we're different people.
But we're also in a different phase, I think, in terms of the Act. So, there was a big job to do in terms of talking about the Act and raising awareness about what that meant and how it could be delivered. I think, because of the work that's been done in that area, there's got to be now even more of a focus—I know that there is a focus already—on implementation and making sure that the Act is applied and is making not just a difference in terms of us policy people, but it's making a real difference to people on the ground, so that we're doing things that are preventing problems down the line; that we're seeing partnership working automatically, without being mandated; that we're seeing people involved in the design and delivery of public services as a default position, rather than happening occasionally; that we have models—this is my background, of course—in terms of businesses that involve people, co-operative, social enterprises that are democratic business models that are involved in the supply chain for public bodies. This is the difference that we want to make. We want people to be able to come to Wales and very clearly see the difference that the Act is making, because they can see different public services delivered in a sustainable way.
Thanks, and just one final question regarding working relationships, have you considered any ways of working that could change in order to address the concerns and, as you've already identified, the criticism of potential close political affiliation to Government Ministers? For example, have you considered whether you might adopt a no-informal-communication policy, or whether you'd allow freedom of information rules to be applied to all devices? Are there any changes to the ways of working that you've considered in order to address a criticism that you've highlighted?
I haven't given that as much thought, but I would certainly give that a lot of thought, because—. I go back to the point that there have been other commissioners who've had political backgrounds, and I don't think that that has got in the way of their ability to deliver the work. I've given up my political party membership, but I wouldn't want anything to get in the way of me being able to do an independent job and to be able to speak without fear or favour about the Act and how it's being implemented by public bodies. Those types of methods, so that there could be no perception that there might be those relationships, would be absolutely things I would consider.
Thank you. Thanks, Chair.
Thank you. Can I turn to Mark Isherwood, as Chair of the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee?
Thank you, and, yes, I note I've been unmuted. So, obviously, Derek, I've worked with you, as you know, on a number of occasions during your various roles in my time in the Senedd, and certainly always found you very fair and objective. But, in the role of the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee, as I'm sure you're aware, we will have oversight of the future generations commissioner in respect of the effectiveness and efficiency with which the commissioner uses public resources and, again, the efficiency of the internal administration of the organisation as a sponsored public body.
We've heard already during questions a number of points raised about how you will seek to prioritise the resources you have on achieving the goals you identify. But, imagine you were sitting in front of the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee in terms of those specific points rather than your operational role, how will you be able to prioritise those matters in order to address the sorts of questions and concerns that we might raise with you, where we would no doubt wish to see that the budget you have was very much outcome focused rather than looking internally?
Yes, I think this all stems from the approach—and this is the approach I tried to take at Cwmpas. Resources need to be allocated to where they can make the most impact and to priorities identified by myself as the commissioner. I think, in a usual process for doing this, as I would at Cwmpas, I would be putting together a work plan and priorities and the KPIs that we've talked about previously, and allocating those resources very clearly in an open budget for the public accounts committee to see, so that you could see where resources are going in order to know are they aligned to priorities or are they going to other areas, and are they being dealt with efficiently.
I think there are opportunities, with limited resources, to leverage in other resources to meet the objectives. We've talked about working with the other commissioners, but I've also mentioned working perhaps with the third sector and private sector, building up expertise within public bodies so that they have their own centres of expertise around sustainable development. There are a lot of different ways in which you can make these resources work harder and to deliver more for citizens. I'm not sure if I've quite answered the question, but what I mean to say is that, with a clear work plan, clear objectives, clear KPIs and a transparent budget, as the public accounts committee, you would be able to clearly see how money was being spent and in what areas.
Mark, can I just interject here? What would your relationship be with Audit Wales? How are you going to ensure that it complements rather than duplicates?
There are really interesting parallel roles in these terms. I've been very impressed with what I've been reading in terms of how the audit office has taken its approach to audit and has focused on single steps, I think they call it, within organisations. This is where I was inspired by the idea of co-producing the service around advice in the future generations commission, because that's what happened with Audit Wales. They spoke to public bodies and really thought about how the role of the auditor could be used effectively to support public bodies, and they took this single-issue approach that's worked well.
I think there would need to continue to be a very strong relationship between the future generations commissioner and the audit office. They have similar but different roles. It would be important to make sure that we were sharing from each other and make sure that we weren't duplicating resources, so that we were sharing information about what's good and what's bad. I can be promoting that work as future generations commissioner and sharing that good practice, but also making sure that we weren't trying to do the same thing. I think there could be a danger of some of that if those communication channels aren't open. But, there's plenty of work to go around, isn't there? This is an ambitious and important piece of legislation and it covers 48 public bodies, I think, at the moment across Wales. There's a lot of work and support to do and I think that that can be managed effectively.
Thank you. Mark, do you want to come back?
Just very briefly, just summarising what you said, how would you ensure that you were working in the engine room rather than the PR department?
Of the commissioner's office?
Right. There is a role for the commissioner to be raising awareness around the Act, but, to be able to do that with authenticity and knowledge, you need to understand how the organisation is working, and you need to understand what impact is being made and what's making a difference. I've always found, in the roles that I've done, that it's important. You don't want to be doing and duplicating the jobs of your colleagues who can do a good job, but you do want to understand how they're doing it. And one of the ways that I have done that is by working closely alongside colleagues. When I first started this job, I spent time going out on visits with my colleagues to understand what they were doing, and I've continued to try and do that ever since. So, being alongside and understanding the ins and outs and the work of the commissioner's office enables me to understand how things should be prioritised, how things should be focused, what things should be dropped and what things should continue, and to be able to speak with a voice that's informed.
But, as I've being trying to say, my priority is very much about implementation, implementation, implementation. This Act needs to continue to bite; I've seen that happening in my current role. I really think that, in the last few years, we're really seeing some significant changes coming about because of the Act. Certainly our work in social value has really taken off because of the Act, and I would continue to make that my focus: supporting public bodies to implement and make a difference for people.
Okay, thank you. Thank you, Chair.
Okay. I'd just like to throw the Williams commission at you. I think it was in 2018 that Sir Paul Williams said:
'radical change is needed for public services to survive in a viable and sustainable form'.
So, I wonder how much you think things have changed from that very large report, which highlighted huge differences in the cost of delivery of particular areas between comparable local authorities. How would you use the office of the future generations commissioner to ensure that the best was replicated by the laggards?
It's such an important role for the commissioner to do this. I think one of the opportunities you have as a commissioner is to be identifying this good practice in a way that perhaps public bodies don't have the time to do themselves, or are not networked to be able to do that. You have a helicopter view as commissioner to see what's good and what's bad that's going across Wales. I think you need to understand the evidence of that so that it's not just anecdotal; you need to understand what is the real difference that that's making. But then you also need to understand how that is not just communicated, but people are supported to be able to deliver on that change. So, it's not going to be good enough to say, 'This is great practice in that local authority, why don't you just do it over there?' It's not as simple as that. Organisations need to understand how it can be applied to their particular circumstances, whether there are unique circumstances over there that can't be replicated over there, and to be supported through the process of delivering that. I think it's not the job of the commissioner to do, but it is the job of the commissioner to advise, help and support and to convene. And I think by bringing people together in a particular subject area, that's one way that you do that.
One of the things that we haven't talked about, and I think I would make more use of if I was to be appointed, is the commissioner's power to undertake reviews. I think there have been two; there's a second review being completed at the moment. Those reviews can look at particular issues in more depth. And if you choose those reviews of the basis of some clear criteria in terms of strategic impact, benefit to a number of public bodies, not just one, you can come out with constructive and useful advice for public bodies on a particular subject in more detail, and that, I would hope, would provide more practical guidance on how public bodies could go forward. That's not the only way, but I think that that is an important power of the commissioner, and I would seek to use it constructively.
Okay. And I suppose, lastly, what do you think has been the most successful piece of work by the outgoing commissioner? And what would success look like at the end of your seven-year tenure, were you to be appointed?
If I start with the second bit first, if that's okay, I think success—. There are national milestones and national indicators, there are KPIs that I would put in place for my office, and it would be on the basis of the evidence of success in those areas that I would judge my success. I think the types of things that you would expect to see, if I was to be successful, are the types of things that I've talked about previously. We want to see Wales preventing problems happening before they arise; that isn't happening in other parts of the country. We'd want to see partnerships happening, collaboration happening, that's saving money and making sense of services for the public in a way that is automatic. You'd want to see service users and people with lived experience involved in the delivery and the design of public services not just because they're being told to, but because that's the way we do things in Wales, and, as a result, you would see higher performing public services in Wales in this spirit.
The job of a commissioner is obviously very public and open and transparent, and I know commissioners get criticised and they get praised. I think the current commissioner has done a very good job, as the first commissioner in post, and, certainly, in terms of raising awareness and developing expertise within the team about applying sustainable development practices. But what I think is, rather than point to any particular report or particular service—in that I haven't been doing the job, so it's difficult to look at some of the detail—I would point to the fact that I am now seeing, as a chief executive of a third sector organisation who works very closely with public bodies, that the Act is being applied and is being referenced and is being used when decisions are being taken about public spending in public bodies, and that is making a positive difference. And now, you can attribute some of that to the commissioner, you can attribute obviously some of that to public bodies themselves, but, over the last few years, my personal view is that we're starting to see some momentum, and that's a lot down to the commissioner. But it would be my job, should I be appointed, to continue that momentum, because we need to be impatient for change, and the delivery, the implementation, of the Act needs to mirror the ambition of the Act, and that would be my focus.
Okay. Thank you very much indeed.
Diolch yn fawr.
Thank you very much for being candid and clear in answer to our questions. So, unless there's anybody with a burning question who's joined us online, thank you very much indeed for being with us today. And—
Diolch yn fawr. Thank you very much, Chair.
—we'll obviously be doing a short report, which has to be delivered to the Welsh Government within two days.
Okay. Thank you very much, Chair.
We'll now move back into private session under Standing Order 17.42, unless anybody objects.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 16:04.
The public part of the meeting ended at 16:04.