Public Services Boards must rise to the challenge of decision-making for future generations
"Public Services Boards must rise to the challenge of decision-making for future generations and the Welsh Government must raise their level of support and ambition for them to do so", says the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
Responding to a review of Public Services Boards (PSBs) conducted by the Wales Audit Office three years after their set up, the Commissioner said an outdated and ‘business as usual’ mindset and a focus on process rather than integrated planning and service delivery was hindering the ability of some Public Services Boards to deliver for current and future citizens. And for those who were trying to work differently the lack of clarity around governance, funding arrangements and competing priorities from Government served as a barrier to progress.
The Commissioner called on the Government to bring clarity to complex governance arrangements at local and regional level which ‘at best causes confusion and at worst hampers delivery’ and to allocate funding in a way which recognises the importance of what the organisations sitting around the PSB tables can deliver for their communities when they work plan and resource services together.
“There should be a more explicit role for Welsh Government representatives who sit on Public Services Boards in breaking down policy and governance boundaries which inhibit them, and Ministers should drive cross Government policy commitments through these boards in a more coherent way.
“The response of the Government is often to establish more and more boards to do different things on different footprints often without considering existing structures. This means that instead of planning and jointly funding policy is often just delivered in different siloes with confusion over what’s happening where or where best to invest their time and energy.
“This has to be addressed in order to allow Public Services Boards to reach their full potential. I have seen some brilliant work in many of them. The Cwm Taf Public Services Board are working collectively approach to tackling adversity experienced in childhood, seeking to break down artificial divisions between services and intervene earlier.
In Caerphilly all partners are taking a coordinated place-based approach to focusing services and regeneration in areas of high poverty such as Lansbury Park and in Pembrokeshire, children and young people have been invited into the PSB meetings to discuss their priorities, they are involved in the decisions of the board and are represented on sub-groups of the board.
“There are some promising programmes in Torfaen which are being co-funded by partners and projects like the ‘Gwent Green Grid’, which has the aim of making the most of natural resources, supporting biodiversity and seeking to tackle threats to our environment across the region.
“In Cardiff, we are seeing a completely different approach to transport through a public health lens focusing on improving air quality, getting people out of their cars and onto the City’s new hire bikes and using new cycles super highways; as well as GP’s being able to issue bikes on prescription to those who would benefit from increased physical activity.
“This is what you get when through the PSB you start bringing different perspectives to age-old problems like congestion and poor health, which are often dealt with by different departments or organisations.
“But for some, the level of ambition is not high enough. We are in the midst of a climate emergency, increasing and unsustainable demands on our health service due to preventable illnesses and a rapidly changing economy and some PSBs need to up their game in responding to this. This should not be aspirational but should be part of how they are planning and delivering services now preparing for a future which is not that far away.”