Wales can ‘lead the way’ on tackling UK poverty

Big Issue founder Lord Bird wants a UK-wide equivalent to the Future Generations Wales Act.

The Big Issue founder and Editor-in-Chief John Bird MBE at Worcester-based Sanctuary Group

Big Issue founder and crossbench peer Lord Bird says Wales can show the way to rest of the UK in taking the fight against poverty to Parliament.

Lord Bird (pictured) cited the findings of the UN report into UK poverty to back his bid for a nationwide equivalent to the Future Generations Wales Act – passed by the Welsh Assembly in 2015.

Bird was addressing an audience at Cardiff University this week with Sophie Howe, the first Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, on the need for “urgent action” to address poverty.

Last month, both Bird and Howe addressed a 40-strong group of peers and MPs at the House of Lords about how to extend the preventative approach from Wales to the rest of the UK.

Bird backed the Future Generations Act in announcing his intention to build an all-party campaign in the UK Parliament for similar legislation to be implemented across the rest of Britain.

The Act requires all public bodies in Wales, including the Welsh Government, to take decisions in a way which “today’s needs” without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.

There is also a requirement for public bodies in Wales to demonstrate how they are planning for the long term, preventing problems from occurring (or getting worse), integrating their decisions, policies and services, collaborating with other bodies and with other sectors, and involving local people in decision-making.

Stats show around one in four people in Wales live in relative poverty and it costs the Welsh public purse around £3.6bn.

Bird said: “Following the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, here is a clear and urgent need to tackle the root causes of poverty across the UK.

“Sophie’s approach is shining example of proactive policy-making which champions long-term and sustainable ways of working.

“Looking ahead, I’ll be calling on Parliamentarians from all parties to join forces in planning how, at a UK-wide level, we can learn from Sophie’s work and ensure that the golden thread of preventative thinking is woven into all levels of policy-making.”

Howe said: “I hope our visit to the UK Parliament, and Lord Bird’s visit to Cardiff  show that we are striving for a better future, the Well-being of Future Generations Act provides the permission and opportunity to deliver that vision.

“This ground-breaking legislation allows public bodies to work differently. One of its key aspects is to create policies and deliver services that take a preventative approach – this means developing long-term solutions to issues like poverty, ill health and low-quality jobs.

“I have been working with the Welsh Government over the past year and have succeeded in getting them to agree a definition of prevention.

“I will expect to see how prevention will be integrated into decisions, including spending decisions, and creating the right conditions for the requirements of the Well-being of Future Generations Act to be met.”

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