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Written Statement - Increasing diversity on Public Sector Boards Progress Update December  2014

Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty

I  wish to update Assembly Members regarding the Welsh Government’s continued commitment to increasing diversity on our Public Sector Boards.  

The Welsh Government believes public bodies should have board members who reflect Welsh society - to help them understand people's needs and assist in better decision making.

Diversity ensures boards of public bodies are credible and command public confidence because they reflect the people they serve.

Our Programme for Government clearly sets out our ambition to ensure we deliver a more representative pool of decision-makers in Wales. We will continue in our efforts to challenge and change the status quo and create diverse and representative Boards.

In December 2012, we published the good practice Sport Wales public appointments case study which highlighted the actions which had been taken by the Chair and Board to increase the number of women on their Board. This good practice was shared with Chairs of Public Sector Boards at a seminar in July 2013 where they were encouraged to consider this approach in their own public appointment exercises.

A Cabinet discussion in September 2013 reaffirmed Ministers’ commitment to this work. Following this, Ministers wrote for a second time to Chairs urging them to continue in their efforts to increase diversity on their Boards and to provide progress reports detailing the actions they had taken.

I was pleased to host a second seminar for Chairs of Public Sector Boards last month, where I outlined the continued commitment of the Welsh Government to increasing diversity on our Public Sector Boards in Wales.  

It is important we bring Chairs of Public Sector Boards together in this way to share good practice, learn more about the barriers they are facing and explore ways in which we can work together to increase diversity.

It is clear the actions we have been taking have resulted in progress.

For Welsh Government Advisory Sponsored Bodies, we have seen an increase in female representation from 32% in April 2012 to 50% on 1 October 2014. For Executive Sponsored Bodies, we have made only a little progress, from 35% in 2012 to 36% on 1 October 2014.   Some Local Health Boards are also making progress with female representation for three Boards at or over 40%. For some other individual Public Sector Boards, we are seeing a 50:50 gender balance and in some cases, Boards with more women than men.

However, we are still noticing little change or, in some areas, a decline in the number of appointments of disabled people and people from an ethnic minority. We are determined to continue to focus on this agenda. If we do not, we risk changing nothing or, worse still, going backwards.

The good practice demonstrated by Boards has been very encouraging. It has also shown us non-legislative methods can work in increasing diversity in public appointments. Chairs must continue to do all they can to ensure greater diversity on their Boards. This includes their determined efforts to increase the pool of applicants in their areas of work through programmes of engagement, mentoring and shadowing opportunities.

To support this, I was pleased to formally launch a pilot programme of training, development and support for under-represented groups in November this year.

The Welsh Government is working with the NHS Centre for Equality and Human Rights to deliver this programme which aims to increase people’s chances of a successful application to a public body as an Independent Board Member and/or a potential Independent Interview Panel Member.

All Health Boards/Trusts will be participating in the pilot programme which will be available for up to 18 people from under-represented groups across Wales and will begin in early 2015.

Diversity of representation brings diversity of thought, fresh ideas, new perspectives and a better understanding of our communities. Boards which reflect the face of modern Wales will make a real difference to both people and communities and to the quality of public services they receive.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.