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His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, 10 June 1921 to 9 April 2021

Read about the arrangements following The Duke of Edinburgh’s death

Foreword

This is our final annual report of this Senedd term – a term unlike any in the 20 years since devolution.

Since this government was formed in 2016, we have faced a series of unprecedented challenges.

Brexit and our new relationship with the European Union will have far-reaching implications for our society, economy and our place in the world. A decade of UK government-imposed austerity has fuelled inequality and damaged the lives of a generation, particularly the most vulnerable. The climate emergency continues to be a global challenge, which needs urgent action if we are to secure the future we want for our children and grandchildren.

The scale of the challenges this term have been unlike anything we have seen in the history of devolution. We have had to take difficult decisions – and the pace and importance of these has only intensified over the past year as the coronavirus pandemic has threatened the lives and livelihoods of people across Wales, while turning every aspect of life on its head.

I am proud of our response to the pandemic – it has been built on openness, partnership and collaboration. We placed our trust in our public services and social partners and they have delivered. In the NHS, in local authorities and in all parts of society, we have witnessed the dedication, commitment, hard work and kindness of critical workers. As a government, we thank you all.

In spite of these challenges, we have delivered on the pledges we were elected on. We have delivered on apprenticeships, implemented our Childcare Offer, cut taxes for small businesses, more than doubled the capital limit for those moving into residential care, provided £100 million for school standards and delivered a New Treatment Fund.

We have delivered for Wales and will go on delivering for Wales. We will continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and deliver the largest vaccination programme Wales has ever seen, while ensuring our NHS is protected, our economy has a platform on which to rebuild and the people and families most severely affected can draw on our support.

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Mark Drakeford MS
First Minister of Wales

Delivering on our government pledges

Welsh Labour’s manifesto included 6 key pledges. We have delivered these over this term of government, improving the lives of people across Wales.

DELIVERED: Free childcare for working parents

We rolled out the Childcare Offer in September 2017, providing free early education and childcare for children aged 3 and 4. 14,600 children benefited from the offer in January 2020.

DELIVERED: Tax cuts for all small businesses in Wales

We introduced a permanent Small Business Rates Relief scheme in April 2018. As a result of the scheme, half of all businesses in Wales pay no rates at all.

DELIVERED: 100,000 quality apprenticeships for all ages

We met this target in 2020, helping thousands of people learn new skills while earning a wage. 57% of these apprenticeships were undertaken by people aged 25 and over.

DELIVERED: A New Treatment Fund for life-threatening illnesses

We launched the New Treatment Fund in January 2017. It now takes an average of just 13 days for newly-approved medicines and treatments to be available on the NHS. It used to take 90 days.

DELIVERED: Doubling the capital limit for those going into residential care

We doubled the capital limit for residential care to £50,000 in April 2019, 2 years earlier than planned. This is the most generous scheme in the UK.

DELIVERED: An extra £100m to improve school standards

We have invested £100 million to boost standards, including reducing infant class sizes, establishing the National Academy for Educational Leadership and improving Welsh language teaching and learning.

Introduction

This is the final annual report of this Senedd term, setting out the progress we have made towards our well-being objectives under the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

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Our well-being objectives

We identified 12 well-being objectives in 2017, included in Prosperity for All: the national strategy. These are the areas where our work will make the greatest contribution to the national well-being goals.

We have also identified 8 cross-cutting priority areas, where coordinated activity across government is required to deliver the best possible outcomes for people in Wales.

These are:

  • early years
  • housing
  • social care
  • mental health
  • skills and employability
  • decarbonisation
  • biodiversity
  • poverty

Protecting the people of Wales and securing a better future

The combination of the coronavirus pandemic, EU transition and the impact of a decade of climate change has had a profound impact on people, families and communities, which will be felt for some time to come. The climate emergency and the pandemic have intensified deep-seated inequalities in society, which we are determined to address.

Despite these challenges, we have acted this year to safeguard, consolidate and build on progress against the well-being objectives. We have invested in our communities and used the voices and ideas of people in Wales to help mitigate the extraordinary threats we are facing and move forward with hope and compassion. Our COVID-19 Reconstruction: Challenges and Priorities report, published in October 2020, highlights how we are preparing for reconstruction.

How this report is structured

This report outlines progress against the well-being objectives for the year ending September 2020. This is the last report of this government term so it also reflects the progress we have made over the whole term.

We have also set out progress against the well-being objectives under the themes Prosperous, Equal and Green. This shows how we are taking an integrated approach to the objectives, ensuring our work comes together in a way which creates the best possible future for Wales. The report highlights some of our specific achievements and actions in key areas, which have a particular impact on people in Wales.

2016 to 2021: COVID-19, Brexit and constitutional change

The past 5 years have been marked by unprecedented changes and challenges across Welsh society and our economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned people’s lives upside down throughout Wales and has dominated the work of the Welsh Government and public services in Wales – just as it has in the other nations of the UK and across the world. Every lever at our disposal has been used to protect lives and livelihoods as we have done everything in our power to keep Wales safe in the face of a public health emergency on a scale which none of us have experienced in our lifetimes.

During this term, we have had the Brexit referendum and we have left the European Union. Much of this term has been consumed by preparing to leave the EU, including making sure our laws operate outside the EU. For a very long time, we have been working to mitigate the very real threat of a no-deal scenario, which would have been catastrophic for Welsh businesses and the Welsh economy.

This Senedd term has also seen significant constitutional shifts, including the Wales Act 2017 and the introduction of the Welsh Revenue Authority to manage devolved taxes in Wales.

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in Wales

Since early 2020, the Welsh Government has mobilised its resources to respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic. It has been an unprecedented event, with huge impacts on the lives of every single one of us.

The Welsh Government has been almost entirely responsible for handling the pandemic response in Wales, working in partnership with the 4 nations whilst leading on our substantial devolved responsibilities. This has been a challenge unprecedented in the 2 decades of devolution to date.

Ministers have taken far-reaching decisions, balancing the need to protect lives, with the need to protect livelihoods. At every step, we have engaged with the Welsh public, explaining clearly and honestly the very serious situation we face as a nation. When we have had to place restrictions on people’s lives, we have followed the science and set out why these are necessary, to protect the NHS and save lives.

The scope and scale of the pandemic has had an impact on every part of the Welsh Government’s work. Our NHS and care system has responded magnificently to the biggest challenge in its history, saving lives and protecting health. But this has come at a tremendous cost. Frontline staff have faced extreme pressures in very difficult circumstances over many months and routine treatment has had to be postponed.

The NHS has been allocated over £1.5 billion in 2020 to 2021 to ensure it has the funding it needs to deal with the health impact of the pandemic. This includes additional funding to develop NHS Wales Test Trace Protect, to puchase PPE at an unprecedented scale and to rollout the biggest vaccination programme the country has ever seen.

Our local authorities have been at the forefront of the crisis response, working hard to keep the services we all rely on running. We have made more than £1 billion available for local authority services to help sustain provision for those who need it most.

The Welsh economy, like that of the UK as a whole, has been profoundly affected by the pandemic. We have put in place the most generous package of business support anywhere in the UK, including specific and tailored support for sectors worst affected, such as hospitality and tourism. Overall, we have made more than £2 billion available to support businesses, including establishing our bespoke Economic Resilience Fund, which has helped to safeguard jobs.

The pandemic continues to affect every single one of us. Helping people has been at the core of our response as a government. We have provided a £13.9 million boost to the Discretionary Assistance Fund to help families suffering financial hardship during the lockdown; over £50 million to provide free school meals throughout the year, including during school holidays and £8.5m to extend mental health support, including for children experiencing increased stress or anxiety as a result of the virus. We have ensured that everyone has a place to stay during the pandemic by allowing local authorities to claim additional funding - on average £1.6 million is being claimed from this fund each month to help some of the most vulnerable people in Wales. Since the start of the pandemic, over 5,000 people have been supported into accommodation, an achievement we are truly proud of.

Test Trace Protect was established at an unprecendent pace and scale as part of our response to COVID-19. Staff were re-deployed and recruited, sampling and testing infrastructure established and an all Wales digital contact tracing system developed in a matter of weeks. Our Test Trace Protect system has successfully contacted over 145,000 positives cases (a 99% success rate) and 333,000 close contacts to date. This is testament to our partnership approach in Wales with localised contact tracing teams in place that understand the geography and needs of our communities.

In support of the third sector and volunteering, we launched the £24 million Welsh Government Third Sector COVID-19 Response Fund. We established an expert Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic COVID-19 Advisory Group to reduce risks to communities which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and to promote fairness and equality across Wales.

An enormous amount of work has been done quickly and effectively this year to ensure people in Wales have been supported through this difficult and turbulent time. This could not have been achieved without the unprecedented level of collaboration between people and partners, as well as the bravery and resilience of people across Wales.

By following the rules, looking out for vulnerable people in our communities and simply being kind and compassionate, time and time again, people in Wales have helped to control the course of the pandemic and have helped to save lives. Since March 2020 nearly 23,000 people have volunteered on the Volunteering Wales website. We are particularly thankful for their contribution and the efforts of all critical workers who have made a profound contribution to the wellbeing of the nation in this extraordinary year.

Brexit

The EU referendum took place just a few weeks into this Senedd term. The outcome had an immediate impact on our work as a government as we began the work of preparing Wales for a future outside the European Union.

The UK’s membership of the EU ended on 31 January 2020.

We have always sought to work constructively with the UK government since the 2016 referendum – on the negotiations with the EU, on preparing for the various no deal scenarios and on effective governance and collaboration within the UK.

Preparing for a future outside the EU has required significant change to Welsh legislation to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

This work has been complex and demanding, and the UK negotiating approach has resulted in a vast amount of cross-government energy and resources being placed into contingency planning.

We have also had to contend with the UK government’s repeated refusal to properly recognise devolved boundaries in both its policy‑making and legislation around EU exit, including in the Internal Market Act, which represents a serious threat to devolution.

To defend the Senedd from this attack on its competence, we have now issued formal legal proceedings to seek permission for a judicial review.

Now a trade deal has been agreed, crucial work has been undertaken to reflect the implications of the agreement in our End of Transition Action Plan. Although we have a deal, Welsh businesses, in particular, face significant change, which will be further compounded by the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

The end of transition and the implementation of the deal will be felt in the months ahead – there is ongoing work to be done and we will continue to work with the UK government wherever there are shared interests. We will also continue to push the UK government on areas of devolved competency where more support is needed to ensure we can deliver the best outcomes for Wales.

Our local authorities have been at the forefront of the crisis response, working hard to keep the services we all rely on running. We have made more than £1 billion available for local authority services to help sustain provision for those who need it most.

The Welsh economy, like that of the UK as a whole, has been profoundly affected by the pandemic. We have put in place the most generous package of business support anywhere in the UK, including specific and tailored support for sectors worst affected, such as hospitality and tourism. Overall, we have made more than £2 billion available to support businesses, including establishing our bespoke Economic Resilience Fund, which has helped to safeguard jobs.

The pandemic continues to affect every single one of us. Helping people has been at the core of our response as a government. We have provided a £13.9 million boost to the Discretionary Assistance Fund to help families suffering financial hardship during the lockdown; over £50 million to provide free school meals throughout the year, including during school holidays and £8.5 million to extend mental health support, including for children experiencing increased stress or anxiety as a result of the virus. We have ensured that everyone has a place to stay during the pandemic by allowing local authorities to claim additional funding - on average £1.6 million is being claimed from this fund each month to help some of the most vulnerable people in Wales. Since the start of the pandemic, over 5,000 people have been supported into accommodation, an achievement we are truly proud of.

Test Trace Protect was established at an unprecendent pace and scale as part of our response to COVID-19. Staff were re-deployed and recruited, sampling and testing infrastructure established and an all Wales digital contact tracing system developed in a matter of weeks. Our Test Trace Protect system has successfully contacted over 145,000 positives cases (a 99% success rate) and 333,000 close contacts to date. This is testament to our partnership approach in Wales with localised contact tracing teams in place that understand the geography and needs of our communities.

In support of the third sector and volunteering, we launched the £24 million Welsh Government Third Sector COVID-19 Response Fund. We established an expert Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic COVID-19 Advisory Group to reduce risks to communities which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and to promote fairness and equality across Wales.

An enormous amount of work has been done quickly and effectively this year to ensure people in Wales have been supported through this difficult and turbulent time. This could not have been achieved without the unprecedented level of collaboration between people and partners, as well as the bravery and resilience of people across Wales.

By following the rules, looking out for vulnerable people in our communities and simply being kind and compassionate, time and time again, people in Wales have helped to control the course of the pandemic and have helped to save lives. Since March 2020 nearly 23,000 people have volunteered on the Volunteering Wales website. We are particularly thankful for their contribution and the efforts of all critical workers who have made a profound contribution to the wellbeing of the nation in this extraordinary year.

Constitutional change

We have seen many important constitutional changes this term, changing the context under which we deliver our work.

The Wales Act 2017 changed the devolution settlement for Wales so the Senedd could legislate on matters not reserved to the UK Parliament instead of on matters devolved to it. The Act also gave the Senedd and Welsh Government new responsibilities, including for Senedd and local government elections in Wales. In this year’s Senedd elections, the first under the aegis of the Welsh Government, the franchise has been extended to 16 and 17-year-olds and qualifying citizens from overseas.

The Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act 2020 renamed the National Assembly, as well as Acts of the Assembly, and various bodies and offices relating to the institution. As of 6 May 2020, the parliament for Wales is now the Senedd, ‘Senedd Cymru’.

This has been one of the busiest terms since Wales gained primary law-making powers, with 17 Acts receiving Royal Assent and a further 2 expected by May 2021. We achieved this despite facing unprecedented pressures on our legal resources.

We met the incredible legislative challenge presented by Brexit, as highlighted elsewhere in this report.

The pandemic has also had a major impact on our legislative programme. Since the crisis began, we have made more than 120 pieces of subordinate legislation to protect public health and to enable our public services to continue to operate in these changed circumstances. We have:

  • Ensured our planning system enabled field hospitals to be set up quickly
  • Put protections in place for tenants who are struggling to pay their rent
  • Relaxed curriculum and assessment requirements so schools can focus on supporting pupils’ learning
  • Enabled democratically-elected bodies to continue to hold meetings and engage with their residents remotely

Despite these unprecedented challenges, we have used our legislative powers to great effect across the term, focusing on changes which make the biggest impact for people.

The devolution of taxes in Wales marked an historic moment in Welsh political history. After the Wales Act 2014 devolved taxation to the Welsh Government, we have created and then worked with the Welsh Revenue Authority to design and implement Welsh taxes, which reflect our distinctive circumstances. Welsh taxes are essential to help fund the vital public services on which so many people rely.

Land transaction tax (LTT) replaced stamp duty land tax in Wales from April 2018 and is collected by the Welsh Revenue Authority. This means we can set tax rates that reflect the nature of the housing market in Wales, ensuring they are fair and effective. Wales is the only country in the UK with a starting threshold for LTT higher than the average price of a home. This means the majority of homebuyers do not pay tax when buying a home. This is an example of our progressive approach to tax – making sure that tax burdens fall most on those with the broadest shoulders.

In 2019, the Wales Act provided the Welsh Government with the ability to vary the rates of income tax, giving us an additional degree of independent financial power and flexibility. Our approach to Welsh Rates of Income Tax is to set rates which make sense for Wales and reflect the circumstances of our specific Welsh tax base.

We have delivered on the Welsh Labour manifesto commitment not to raise income tax in this term, ensuring a fair deal for the people of Wales.

Our response to the pandemic

£1.5bn of additional resources for the NHS in Wales £2bn of support available to businesses
 
Protecting 100,000 jobs through our Economic Resilience Fund Funding free school meal provision in the school holidays and until 2022
£1bn of additional funding for local authority services Boosting the Discretionary Assistance Fund by £13.9m Establishing the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic COVID-19 Advisory Group More than 100,000 video consultations with health professionals
A £500 payment for social care workers Extending mental health support with £8.5m of funding 133,000 laptops for children learning at home The £24m Third Sector COVID-19 response fund
580m items of PPE for the health and social care sectors £50m to transform homelessness services Working with the Shadow Social Partnership Council Supporting 5,000 people into temporary accommodation
£450m of support for the hospitality sector 14,500 extra counselling sessions for children and young people Over 145,000 cases reached through contract tracing teams Surveying 23,700 children on their experiences
The £63m Cultural Recovery Fund Supporting and advising 20,000 people through Working Wales Our £40m proactive jobs and skills package £90m of support for students and universities
£130m extra to deliver our Covid Commitment to education, employment and training Providing essential childcare for 9,600 children over the spring and summer £1.5m more to help victims and survivors of domestic abuse to Live Fear Free Over 1,000 IT devices supplied to 580 care homes

 

Highlights against the priority areas this term

Over the course of this Senedd term, we identified 8 cross-cutting priority areas. Key achievements include:

Early Years

Shaping and improving the lives of every child in Wales

  • Providing free early education and childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds through our Childcare Offer since September 2017
  • Supporting more than 36,000 children in disadvantaged areas each year through our Flying Start programme
  • Providing childcare for 9,600 children through the Coronavirus Childcare Assistance Scheme

Housing

Ensuring everyone can have a good quality, affordable home

  • Delivering on our goal of 20,000 affordable homes, with the majority of these being social housing
  • Building 1,400 homes through our Innovative Housing Programme, and confirming funding for another 400
  • Supporting 5,000 people into temporary accommodation since March 2020

Mental health

Providing the right treatment at an early stage

  • Increasing ring-fenced funding for mental health by 12.5% to more than £700 million
  • Using our Whole School Approach to provide counselling support for around 11,500 children each year
  • Helping over 8,000 people during the pandemic with new online and phone support for mental health issues

Social care

Embedding compassion and giving people dignity and autonomy

  • More than doubling the capital limit for residential care to £50,000
  • Increasing funding to support integration across health and social care by £192 million
  • Providing a £500 payment for social care workers during the pandemic

Skills and employability

Giving people the skills to secure fair, rewarding work

  • Creating 100,000 high quality all-age apprenticeships, with increases in higher level and STEM qualifications
  • Establishing Working Wales and delivering employability advice and support to 50,000 people since March 2018
  • Investing an additional £130 million to deliver our Covid Commitment to education, employment and training

Decarbonisation

Supporting a clean and healthy environment for everyone

  • Declaring a Climate Emergency and legally committing Wales to a pathway for decarbonisation
  • Meeting over half of Wales’ electicity needs from renewable sources
  • Maintaining our position as a world leader in recycling, increasing our recycling rate from 5% in 1999 to 65% today

Poverty

A whole government approach to tackling poverty

  • Ensuring 220,000 housesholds pay no council tax at all through our Council Tax Reduction Scheme
  • Providing social welfare advice to help people claim £20 million of benefits they are entitled to
  • Becoming the first government in the UK to provide funding for Free School Meals during school holidays and extending this to 2022

Biodiversity

Reversing the decline in our environment for future generations

  • Launching our National Forest programme, designating 14 sites and funding over 40 projects to encourage tree planting and woodland management
  • Planting 25,000 native trees, 55,000 bulbs and 5 hectares of wildflowers through our Green Corridors initative
  • Creating 388 community gardens through our Local Places for Nature programme, bringing nature to people’s doorstep

A prosperous Wales

People throughout Wales have faced unprecedented challenges this year. The pandemic has threatened the strength of our economy, the wellbeing of our communities and the livelihoods of people across Wales.

At the same time, this year has underlined the resilience and bravery of people working in Wales, particularly in the everyday economy. Critical workers have helped to keep people safe; they have provided essential services and made sure our public services are available every day for everyone.

This year has also shown how strong our communities really are – in villages, towns and cities across Wales, people have come together to protect and support each other and to care for the most vulnerable.

We have built on our achievements to do everything possible to safeguard Wales’ prosperity against the greatest peacetime challenge in our history. We have continued to support our communities, our economy and our public services to ensure that we will emerge from this difficult time as a confident, prosperous and successful nation.

Protecting businesses and livelihoods

We have taken unprecedented action this year to support businesses in Wales through the pandemic, to ensure that once restrictions are lifted they will be able to trade again. Our £2 billion business support package means companies in Wales have access to the most generous offer of support anywhere in the UK. This is in addition to the wage support schemes available from the UK government during the pandemic.

Our support builds on the foundations laid by the Economic Action Plan, published in 2017, which sets out our vision for inclusive growth and productive regions.

More than 13,000 businesses have benefited from £300 million of support from our Economic Resilience Fund, protecting 100,000 jobs which might otherwise have been lost. In October 2020, we provided a further £300m of support in the third phase of the fund.

The Development Bank of Wales was launched in 2017 and has played a crucial role in helping firms grow, survive and thrive across the term. The Bank reported a record 457 investments totalling £103.3 million in 2019-20, creating or safeguarding almost 4,000 jobs across Wales. To help grow firms and provide jobs faster, the Bank also launched an updated fast track loan this year – loans of up to £25,000 are now available with a decision made in just 2 working days.

Including the Help to Buy Wales scheme, the Development Bank of Wales now manages over £1.2 billion of Welsh Government funds.

Business Wales has maintained its crucial support to Welsh businesses. Business Wales’ schemes have created 12,700 jobs since January 2016, helping to create 3,805 new enterprises and generating more than £33.7 million of exports. This success has continued this year: the Accelerated Growth Programme created more than 1,660 jobs between October 2019 and August 2020.

We are providing more than £230 million of non-domestic rates relief to businesses and other ratepayers through our range of rates relief schemes. Since 2017-18 we have provided additional relief for retailers and businesses on the high street. Our rates relief schemes mean that 3 quarters of all ratepayers across Wales have received rates relief this year, with more than 70,000 businesses paying no rates at all.

The pandemic has had a particular impact on the hospitality sector and we have taken quick action to support this important part of our economy. We have provided a total £450 million of support for the sector – the most generous package of support in the UK. This includes 100% rates relief for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £500,000 or less and a sector-specific £180 million fund as part of the Economic Resilience Fund.

The food and farming sector is a crucial priority for Wales, directly employing 24,000 people and a further 229,000 people in the wider supply chain. Industry figures for 2019 show that we surpassed our target of growing the sector by 30% since 2014 with Welsh food and drink firms making a record-breaking £7.5 billion of sales. We provided expertise and support across the term, including through our BlasCymru events. BlasCymru 2019 was a tremendous success, generating nearly £8 million of potential new business opportunities.

Fair and decent work for all

This year has demonstrated the value and importance of our foundational economy – the everyday goods and services such as care, housing, food and high street retailers, which we all use and need. This year we expanded our Foundational Economy Challenge Fund, providing an additional £1.08 million for innovative projects to help grow this important sector of the economy. The fund has provided more than £1 million to social care providers, supporting 52 projects including an apprenticeship scheme in Monmouthshire and a specialised autism centre in Nantgarw.

It has also bolstered the success of our Valleys Taskforce, providing more than £2.2 million of funding to 27 projects in the South Wales Valleys. The supported projects including turning a disused department store in the Rhondda Valley into an enterprise hub to support local businesses and revitalising Tonypandy town centre.

The Valleys Regional Park project showcases the very best of the Valleys, using our natural and cultural heritage to deliver sustainable social and economic benefits, including through a new education centre at Bryngarw Country Park. Funding to manage the regional park is now in place until 2023.

Our partnership with unions and employers remains fundamental to our work as a government, helping us ensure that Wales remains resolute in its ambition of being a fair work nation. Building on the learning from the landmark Fair Work Commission in May 2019, we have established a dedicated department for Social Partnership and Fair Work. This year we consulted on proposals for a Social Partnership Bill, which will drive greater social equality for Welsh workers across the economy. We have involved our Shadow Social Partnership Council throughout our response to the pandemic, working collaboratively to take action to protect the lives and prosperity of the people and businesses in Wales.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of ensuring people working in sectors of the foundational economy including social care, food and retail have access to fair, decent and secure work. To help achieve this we have established the Social Care Forum and Health and Safety Forum, which bring together social partners and expert stakeholders to improve outcomes for staff. In December 2020, we launched a workplace rights campaign alongside social partners to provide workers and employers with the knowledge, tools and support to ensure employment rights are respected.

We have continued to deliver the Economic Contract, which was launched in 2018, to promote fair work and to drive social benefits through the power of the public purse. We have agreed some 480 full Economic Contracts with businesses, encouraging them to take a responsible and sustainable approach to jobs and the environment. A further 13,000 businesses have now committed to the principles of the Economic Contract through our business funding support.

Skills for the future

We published the Employability Plan in 2018, setting out the fundamental role of employability and skills in driving our economy. This approach is more relevant than ever before. In July 2020, we invested £40m to boost our Jobs and Skills Package and our Covid Commitment to ensure anyone over 16 in Wales can access advice and support to find work, pursue self-employment or to find a place in education or training.

Our Community Employability Programmes, delivered in collaboration with local authorities and the Department for Work and Pensions, have supported more than 54,000 people since 2015 with training, essential skills and work placements, with more than 20,000 gaining employment. The programmes were adapted this year to provide continued outreach in our most deprived and vulnerable communities. Since April 2020, 6,620 people have been supported to improve their skills with nearly 3,000 entering employment.

Working Wales has supported more than 20,000 people since April 2020 with advice, guidance and support across a range of programmes, including free online learning for workers on furlough.

Apprenticeships are a crucial part of our economy, enabling people to develop skills while earning a wage. We have achieved our target of creating 100,000 high-quality apprenticeships in this Senedd term and continue to offer incentives of up to £3,000 to support apprenticeship recruitment. We have also piloted Degree Apprenticeships focusing on skills gaps in Digital/ICT and Advanced Engineering. Over this Senedd term we will have allocated £575m for apprenticeships and traineeships.

Since 2014, we have helped 26,700 people into work and supported 112,800 qualifications through £861 million investment from the EU structural fund programme. The Employability Support Programme, first launched in 2016, reached more than 1,800 participants over the same period, with 745 of those entering employment. The national rollout of the Personal Learning Account Programme, which launched in September 2019, employment in areas of skills demand.

Our ReACT scheme helps people who have been made redundant, or have become unemployed for another reason, through subsidised wages and job‑related training. We expanded the scheme this year, and since April 2020 ReACT has provided nearly 2,000 vocational training grants for learners and awarded wage subsidies to almost 300 employers.

In November, we celebrated 20 years of the Wales Union Learning Fund, which has supported more than 5,000 people with accredited and non-accredited learning, advice, and guidance on essentials skills and career progression since April 2020. The Flexible Skills Programme has delivered priority training to more than 2,000 employees to increase the digital talent base and support workforce skills in key sectors such as advanced engineering. This complements our £12 million investment in the world’s first compound semi-conductor cluster in Newport, putting us at the forefront of world-leading technology and employing 1,500 people.

Our In Work Support Service has been pivotal in supporting people to stay in work through physiotherapy, psychological therapy and occupational therapy. Since September 2015, the Service has supported 7,200 people including 3,800 with musculoskeletal issues and 3,400 with mental health conditions. Our Out of Work Service has also worked with more than 13,000 people, helping some 2,700 to achieve a work related certificate or qualification and 1,000-plus people into employment.

Digital infrastructure, access and strategy

The pandemic has highlighted the essential role of digital in our lives – it has provided a crucial lifeline to many during the challenges of lockdown. Digital infrastructure and services have played an essential role in helping people across Wales live, work, and learn this year – as well as staying connected with each other and accessing health care services.

We launched the Centre for Digital Public Services in June 2020 to act as a catalyst for learning and transformation based on user needs. This is helping us build on the transformational shift we have seen in response to COVID-19.

We have also drawn on experiences from the pandemic in our Digital Strategy for Wales, which we are developing using an innovative crowd-sourced approach through our Digital and Data Blog. The Digital Strategy will help ensure that we provide modern, efficient and streamlined public services, stimulating innovation in the economy and supporting outcomes for future generations.

We have invested more than £120 million in education technology, transforming infrastructure in schools and providing 133,000 laptops for children in the past 12 months. In response to COVID-19, we committed up to £3 million to support digitally excluded learners in maintained schools where there was no existing provision in place from the school or local authority. We have funded 10,848 MiFi devices, as well as 9,717 software licences to repurpose existing school devices across Wales.

A report by the Education Policy Institute highlighted how Wales “led the way” in providing IT and online learning to pupils at home – including using our relationships with local authorities to deliver laptops and internet routers faster than anywhere else in the UK.

Never has access to fast and reliable broadband been more important. We invested a further £30 million this year to increase the number of homes and commercial properties, which can access superfast broadband, despite broadband being the responsibility of the UK government. This builds on our Superfast Cymru programme, which has provided more than 733,000 homes and businesses with access to fibre broadband since 2012. We have also launched the £10 million Local Broadband Fund to deliver new and innovative ways of connecting whole communities, working with local government and social enterprises. The Superfast Business Wales programme provides free support to help businesses make the most of online technology. The programme has already supported more than 5,500 small and medium enterprises, helping them to adopt digital technologies, reach more customers and improve their finances.

Creating strong, supportive communities

Our communities are a key part of our prosperity, and this year people have come together to support each other like never before. Volunteering Wales, which launched its new online platform in 2018, has continued to raise the profile of volunteering and has played a crucial role during the pandemic – including supporting work like the Friend in Need scheme we launched with Age Cymru to help vulnerable people find support and friendship in their community. In April 2020, we provided £24 million of support for the voluntary sector as part of our initial response to COVID-19 – in recognition of the ongoing crisis we provided an additional £2.5 million in December 2020.

We launched the Voluntary Services Recovery Fund in August 2020, helping charities and the third sector to expand and adapt their services to meet the challenges of the pandemic.

This builds on the support we have delivered across the term to make town centres as prosperous and vibrant as possible, including investing £800m in town centres since 2014 and adopting the Town Centre First principle that ensures town centres are the default for future government funded sites. In January 2020, we announced our Transforming Towns initiative with a package of support for town and city centres which is now worth nearly £110 million.

In response to the pandemic, we announced £5.3 million to help adapt town centres, support traders and improve public safety. The Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government established a Ministerial Town Centre Action Group, providing independent and comprehensive expertise so that we can take decisive action to support the prosperity and vibrancy of town centres in both the short and long term.

We have also invested £3 million of Valleys Taskforce funding to enhance small town centres in the Valleys region. These short-term actions will have a lasting positive impact on the look and feel of town centres in the area.

Helping culture and the Welsh language to thrive

We have made substantial progress on our goal of a million Welsh speakers since launching Cymraeg 2050 in 2017. Our Cymraeg 2050 Annual Report 2019-20 sets out achievements including progress on teaching and education as well projects to increase the use of Welsh in our communities. This year, we published Cymraeg. It belongs to us all, our new internal strategy for the use of Welsh, which sets out a vision of achieving a bilingual Welsh Government organisation by 2050 and the actions we are taking to achieve this.

We established Prosiect 2050, a new language planning unit to co-ordinate our route towards a million Welsh speakers. It is driving an integrated approach to Welsh language across our work, creating initiatives which will double the use of Welsh. We took part in UNESCO’s International Year of Indigenous Languages, raising the international profile of Welsh as a modern and vibrant language. We also provided funding to the Urdd, the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol and Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, supporting them through this difficult period. Innovative events such as Eisteddfod T and AmGen have helped to bring together Welsh speakers from all over the world despite the challenges of the pandemic.

The cultural sector is an essential part of both our economy and our society, and support for this sector is crucial both now and for the future. In January 2020, we launched Creative Wales to drive the growth of the creative sector in Wales, build skills at all levels and promote equality and diversity across the sector. Building on this, we launched the Cultural Recovery Fund as part of our response to the pandemic and extended it to £63 million in November 2020. This fund provides support for institutions like music venues, libraries, museums and heritage organisations, as well as including a dedicated £10.5 million fund for 4,200 freelancers working in the creative sector in Wales.

Across this government term, our Major Events Strategy has supported events like the 2017 UEFA Champions League Final, matches in the 2019 Cricket World Cup and the Focus Wales international showcase festival in Wrexham. In 2019, the last year where data is available, Event Wales supported events generating £33.35 million for the Welsh economy as well as boosting our international profile. This year, the Cultural Recovery Fund is supporting venues to help ensure they are ready to host major events once it is safe to do so.

We have invested £40 million in the sports and leisure sector since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, including the £17.7 million Spectator Sports Survival Fund announced in January 2021, recognising the importance of sport to our culture, economy and wellbeing.

An outward-facing, globally responsible Wales

With the end of the European transition period, Wales’ place in the world has fundamentally changed. It has never been more important for us to build on our growing international reputation as an outward-looking nation ready to work and trade with Europe and the rest of the world. In January 2020, we launched our International Strategy for Wales, which set out how we are raising our international profile in a post-Brexit world, establishing Wales as a globally responsible nation and growing the economy through exports and investment. It also highlights sectors of our economy such as cyber security and compound semi-conductors where Wales is recognised as a world leader. We have continued to build on the award-winning Cymru Wales brand to promote Wales as an authentic, creative and vibrant nation, including through launching the Study in Wales website and publishing our Welcome to Wales tourism plan.

We have now launched a series of international action plans showing how we will deliver on the goals of the strategy, taking account of the challenges of both COVID-19 and Brexit. This includes our Export Action Plan, which sets out the comprehensive support we are putting in place for exporters to recover, rebuild and adapt. Since September 2019, we have provided support for firms, which has resulted in £33 million of new export orders as of January 2021. This year we have adapted our support in response to the pandemic, including through virtual trade missions and a new online Export Hub.

We have expanded our international office network by opening new offices in Montréal, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Paris and Doha, increasing our engagement with these regions, such as our Wales in Germany 2021 programme. Our overseas networks have also played a crucial role in the pandemic. Our China offices helped to secure manufacturing equipment for a firm in Cardiff, which now produces up to a million surgical facemasks a day, as well as securing supplies of PPE for Wales at the start of the pandemic when the world was experiencing global shortages.

Our Wales and Africa programme has continued to build mutually beneficial partnerships with communities in more than 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This year we launched the Wales and Africa Action Plan for 2020-25, which includes an ambition to plant more than 3 million trees a year – one for every person in Wales – as part of our Mbale Tree Planting Scheme in Uganda, building on the 10 million trees which have already been planted through the scheme. In June 2020, we provided 26 grants to help the African partners of Welsh groups respond to COVID-19, including PPE, handwashing stations and training for health workers.

An equal Wales

This year, it has been more important than ever to deliver government services for everyone while ensuring we prioritise and meet the needs of the most vulnerable in Wales. This year we have gone further than ever to eliminate disadvantage and to ensure everyone in Wales has the support they need regardless of their circumstances, both now and in the future.

We spent £10,929 per person on public services in Wales in 2019-20, which is 14% higher than the equivalent spend in England. Between 2016-17 and 2020-21 we will have provided local government with revenue funding of more than £25 billion to deliver services for people in Wales, protecting local authorities from the excessive cuts seen in England. This figure excludes the further £1 billion we have made available for local government services and rate relief schemes this year as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Providing essential support for children and families

The Welsh Government has always put children and children’s rights at the heart of everything we do, ensuring every child has the support they need to thrive. In 2011, Wales became the first country in the UK to make the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) part of domestic law. We were the first country in the UK to guarantee provision to all children eligible for free school meals throughout the summer holidays and we have now guaranteed this up to and including Easter 2022. The Child Poverty Action Group said children in Wales received the most generous cash alternative to free school meals in the UK during lockdown.

Throughout the pandemic, we continued to offer important services, such as our flagship Flying Start programme, which benefits children under 4 who live in some of our most disadvantaged areas. Based on the latest data available (up to 2018-19), more than 36,000 children benefited from the scheme each year in this Senedd term, receiving help such as enhanced health visiting, funded part‑time childcare and parenting support.

We launched our Childcare Offer in 2017, providing 30 hours a week of early education and childcare to families with children aged 3 and 4-years-old, for up to 48 weeks a year. In January 2020, more than 14,000 children were attending childcare provision funded through the Offer.

The pandemic has affected some of these services, but we have responded to this by delivering support virtually and by adopting alternative approaches. To ensure families had the support they needed during this challenging year, our Coronavirus Childcare Assistance Scheme has provided essential childcare support for 9,600 pre-school vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. We provided £1.6 million of funding to support childcare and play opportunities over the summer holidays, helping to ensure vulnerable children and their families had the support they needed. In recognition of the challenges facing the childcare sector we introduced our Childcare Provider Grant, as well as offering full relief from non-domestic rates to all registered full-day care providers until March 2022.

We launched our Baby Bundle pilot to benefit the very youngest people in Wales and their families. 200 bundles are being delivered through the pilot, providing valuable support for parents as well as a ‘welcome to the world’ gift for children born in Wales. We also provided £3.5 million to address developmental delay resulting from COVID-19 restrictions in children under 5 through the Child Development Fund.

We have invested up to £2.26 million this year to support children’s rights through funding for the office of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales and Children in Wales. This year we have worked in partnership with the Children’s Commissioner, Children in Wales and the Youth Parliament to hear the views of more than 23,700 children and young people during the pandemic, helping ensure our policy decisions met the needs of children across Wales.

The Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Act protects the rights of children and helps to ensure that physical punishment for children becomes a thing of the past. It received Royal Assent in March 2020, and will become law in March 2022.

By March 2021, we will have invested more than £1.7m in the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Support Hub, first announced in 2017 to provide expert advice and support on the impact of ACEs and how to tackle and prevent them. The hub has delivered comprehensive training to more than 600 schools and more than 1,100 housing officers. Training has also been given to some 300 ACE ambassadors, 140 Estyn inspectors and challenge advisors and 120 youth workers.

Support for learners of all ages

We have continued to provide high quality education and support to learners of all ages in Wales this year, from the early years to further and higher education. Education spending in Wales in 2019-20 was £1,382 per person, 5% higher than in England and we will have delivered an extra £100 million to improve school standards over this Senedd term.

We have continued to provide funding for free school breakfasts for primary school children, and our funding for free school meals over the school holidays includes an additional £1 per child per day to ensure children can have a decent breakfast as well as lunch across the year. We are continuing to invest unprecedented amounts – more than £100 million this financial year – to improve outcomes for our disadvantaged learners through our Pupil Development Grant. To help families meet the cost of the school day we launched Pupil Development Grant – Access in 2018, providing up to £200 to some children to help meet the costs of school uniform, equipment, sports kit and kit for activities outside of school. Since its launch, we have more than doubled funding for PDG-Access to £10.4 million.

We launched the Whole School Approach to Mental Health in September 2018, providing counselling support for around 11,500 children in schools each year. We doubled the funding to £5 million in 2019-20, including funding for the mental and emotional support for children younger than year six. We provided a further £1.25 million for school counselling in response to the pandemic, which has helped local authorities to provide an estimated 14,500 additional counselling sessions reaching more than 3,100 more children and young people.

We introduced the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill in July 2020, taking an important step towards a new curriculum which will support higher standards of literacy, numeracy and creativity and ensure that learners are more digitally and bilingually competent. We have invested more than £650 million on our 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme, improving the quality of school facilities and transforming schools and colleges into hubs which can be used by the whole community. Over 90,000 learners across 176 settings have now benefitted from the Programme since 2016.

We have continued to support the teaching workforce, including through an 8.48% uplift to the minimum point of the teacher main pay scale from September 2020. Initial indications show that more than 200 more students accepted offers to study to become secondary teachers in August 2020 than in August 2019.

This has been a uniquely challenging year for further and higher education providers and we have taken action to provide stability for the sector including bespoke operational guidance. We launched the most generous student support package in the UK in 2018, and we are the only country in Europe that offers equivalent living costs support to full-time undergraduates, part‑time undergraduates and post-graduates. Around 58,000 students are currently benefitting from access to our enhanced maintenance support.

In response to the pandemic, we have provided £81 million to support universities and students, including funding for mental health support and student unions. This also includes a dedicated £40 million support package, announced in January 2021, to support students facing financial hardships and to help ensure that students can access high quality learning online.

Essential services and support for everyone

We have continued to support vulnerable people in Wales through our Discretionary Assistance Fund, which helps those in need to pay for essentials like food, energy and clothing. Since its launch in 2013 more than 457,706 awards have been made, totalling over £75.6 million in grant funding to the most vulnerable. This year we made an extra £13.9 million available through the fund as part of our response to COVID-19. We have now also launched our Self-Isolation Support Scheme, which provides £500 of support to people on low incomes who are self-isolating and who cannot work from home. This includes parents of children who have to self‑isolate because of an outbreak at their school.

As part of our response to COVID-19, our Essential Food Box Scheme in Wales delivered more than 2.1m essential food boxes to people who were shielding. The success of this scheme is built on our strong relationships with local authorities and other partners who have delivered work on the ground. Local authorities have been able to provide support for people who are shielding or self-isolating as well as maintaining essential services such as waste and recycling, supported by more than £500m of funding from our Local Government Hardship Fund.

We have continued to deliver our Council Tax Reduction Scheme to help people make ends meet. Each year since the beginning of this Senedd term, we have given £244 million to local authorities to fund council tax reductions under the scheme. This has resulted in annual council tax bills being reduced for around 280,000 households. Most of these households – around 220,000 – pay no council tax at all. To make council tax fairer this term, we have exempted care leavers from council tax until the age of 25, removed the sanction of imprisonment for the non-payment of council tax and improved access to discounts for people with severe mental impairments.

We want everyone in Wales to have access to all of the benefits and services they are entitled to. Building on work done this year, we published our Child Poverty: Income Maximisation Action Plan in November 2020. The plan outlines practical actions we are taking now to help maximise the incomes of families living in poverty in Wales and reduce essential living costs. In January 2021, we commissioned a marketing campaign to promote awareness of welfare benefit entitlements and other financial support that people in Wales can access.

We are committed to funding information and advice services. From 2016 until 2019, annual funding of £6 million has helped organisations to deliver social welfare advice to more than 80,000 people each year. Building on this, our Single Advice Fund went live in January 2020 to help the people who need it most to access quality-assured advice and support. From January 2020 to September 2020 more than 82,000 people received help from Single Advice Fund Service. The benefits advice services we provide have helped people claim more than £20 million of welfare benefits, helping people receive everything they are entitled to.

Housing for the future

To help ensure that everyone in Wales can live in an affordable, safe and sustainable home, we will have invested £2bn in housing over this Senedd term. We have continued to make progress against our target of 20,000 affordable homes and expect to surpass it by March 2021. This year, we have delivered a further round of the Innovative Housing Programme, supporting the green recovery as well as investing in Welsh businesses and jobs. The third year of the scheme provided £33 million of funding and delivered 600 new homes in 19 local authority areas. In November 2020 we announced a further £35 million for a 4th year, which will deliver 400 new Modern Methods of Construction affordable homes, adding to the 1,400 homes funded by the programme to date. This includes an exciting project to build 100 new social homes across North Wales using Welsh timber.

We published our Social Housing Building Strategy in February 2020, and we continue to support local authorities to build Council Houses with the number of completions increasing during 2019-2020. As part of the work of the Valleys Taskforce, in 2019 we launched the Empty Homes Grant to bring empty properties back into use across the Valleys region. The original allocation of £10 million has been increased to £12 million in response to demand. As of January 2021, there have been more than 500 successful applications, with each project including £5,000 for energy efficiency measures to ensure we are doing everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint and the energy bills of householders.

This year has also seen a transformation in our approach to homelessness. We published our Homelessness Strategy in October 2019, outlining our ambition to end homelessness, making it rare, brief and un-repeated. We have used the strategy and the work of the Homelessness Action Group to inform our response to the pandemic. Our inclusive approach of ensuring no one is left without accommodation, has resulted in some 5,000 people being supported into temporary accommodation since March 2020. In July 2020, we announced £50 million for the next phase of our response, to help local authorities ensure that no one in Wales has to return to the streets. This funding has enabled the beginning of a transformational step-change towards our goal of ending homelessness in Wales.

An equal Wales for everyone

This has been a monumental year in terms of both recognising and addressing systemic inequalities in society. The vital work of the Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted the overt and institutionalised racism faced by the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community globally and here at home. We are committed to addressing this as a key government priority, and we have brought together an array of experts to work on our Race Equality Action Plan. The Plan, which will be published later this year, will set out comprehensive action to address the inequality faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people and to create a fairer, more equal Wales.

In response to the pandemic, we established an expert Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic COVID-19 Advisory Group to examine ways to reduce risks to communities which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The group’s work led to the development of self-assessment risk assessments for health and social care, and they are also contributing to the Race Equality Action Plan.

Ahead of the Action Plan, we are implementing a Race Disparity Unit for Wales alongside further mechanisms to urgently address race inequality in Wales. This work builds on the Strategic Equality Plan for 2020-24, which lays out how we are tackling inequality and seeking fairer outcomes for all of our citizens, including actions on Fair Work and the learning from the 2018 Gender Equality Review.

An an independent audit of how Wales’ past is commemorated, including statues, monuments, buildings and street names has been completed. It revealed that people connected with the slave trade are often shown without any accompanying interpretation to address matters of contention. The important evidence from this audit will help us take forward further work as we seek to honour and celebrate our diverse communities.

We commissioned a working group to advise on teaching of themes relating to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and experiences in the curriculum. An interim report, focusing on learning resources, was published in November 2020, and the final report is due in the spring.

The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act‘, which gained Royal Assent in January 2021, will extend the right to vote at local elections to 16 and 17-year-olds and all foreign citizens legally resident in Wales, helping to ensure people of all ages and backgrounds feel they are part of Welsh society. The 2021 elections will also be the first time 16 and 17- year-olds can vote in a Senedd election.

We launched Action On Disability: The Right To Independent Living in September 2019, providing a framework to address key issues for disabled people, promote equality of opportunity and improve access to support and resources. In November 2020, we launched a white paper consultation on a new fund to support disabled people seeking elected office, which will be piloted for the 2021 Senedd elections. Our Employability Plan, published in 2018, contains a commitment to promote employability for disabled people, and we are employing a network of disabled people employment champions across Wales to work with businesses to improve access and opportunities.

We are aware of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the lives of disabled people in Wales. We have commissioned a report, due in the next few months, which will help us to understand the full extent of this impact and outline options for a better way forward for disabled people in areas such as health, care services, education and the economy. As part of our response to the crisis we have funded a £3 million scheme to make 600 laptops available for disabled people through local authorities, and more than 10,000 disabled people have received employability mentoring support.

Since the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) Act was implemented in 2015, we have helped more than 156,300 people through our 24/7 Live Fear Free helpline and delivered training and education on VAWDASV to 180,000 professionals and 154,000 children. This year we piloted our National Survivor Engagement Panel, supporting 12 survivors to inform our forthcoming National Strategy, and published new good practice guidance to help non‑specialist public service staff work more effectively with perpetrators.

Providing support to people affected by VAWDASV has been particularly crucial this year, and we have provided an additional £1.5m for vital support services. Live Fear Free continues to provide support by call, text, live chat, and email 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The launch of our Home Should Not Be A Place Of Fear campaign in May 2020 led to a 10% month-on-month increase in contact with the helpline, including a 94% increase in live chat support.

We have continued to prioritise the needs of older people, including through our work with the Ministerial Advisory Forum on Ageing. This year we asked Age Cymru and other stakeholders to gather the voices of more than 1,000 older people in Wales, helping us understand their experiences of the pandemic and their thoughts about how Wales can prepare for the future. This has fed into Age Friendly Wales, our strategy for an ageing society, which has been published for consultation.

We provided £3.1 million of funding through our Period Dignity Grant, ensuring there are free sanitary products available in every school and college in Wales and we are developing a Period Dignity Strategy Action Plan for Wales to tackle stigma and to bring period poverty to an end.

We have continued to press forward on LGBT+ issues. In July 2020 Ministers published a joint statement setting out our support for Wales’ trans communities and the right of trans people to self‑identify. We believe that trans women are women, trans men are men and that non-binary identities are valid.

In December 2020 we made the decision to lift the ban on men who have sex with men donating blood, moving towards a more individualised assessment which should be implemented this year. We are developing an LGBT+ action plan to build on the progress we have made and to further safeguard the rights of the LGBT+ community.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we have maintained our support for key events such as Windrush Day, White Ribbon Day, International Day of Older Persons, Pride Cymru and Armistice Day. Looking forward, we have also continued to lay the foundations for enacting the Socio‑Economic Duty, which will come into force in March 2021. It will improve outcomes for people experiencing economic disadvantage, supporting the most vulnerable for generations to come.

Safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the nation

This year has been incredibly challenging for everyone involved in health and social care, and we remain incredibly thankful for the bravery, professionalism and kindness of staff across Wales. Despite the challenges of the pandemic we have continued to deliver crucial health and social care services.

Digital transformation has played a key role in helping us maintain services. More than 100,000 video consultations have taken place across the NHS Wales Video Consultation Service as of January 2021, providing access to to GPs and medical professionals throughout the pandemic. Over 12,500 users have been enabled for the Service and 207 care home teams have been trained to use the programme. To ensure everyone can access the health services they need, and to maintain crucial family connections, Digital Communities Wales has provided more than 1,000 IT devices to more than 580 care homes.

In 2018, 2 years earlier than planned, we doubled the capital limit for residential care to £50,000 – the most generous level in the UK. We maintained the cap on charges for care services that people get in their own homes to a maximum of £100 a week so there is fairness across Wales. People on low incomes pay much less or nothing at all for their home support services.

Social care has played a particularly crucial role this year, helping people live independent lives and reducing pressure on the NHS. We have provided a £500 payment for social care workers to reflect the incredible contribution the social care workforce has made during the pandemic. We also delivered our Care Homes Action Plan, setting out the rapid action we have taken to support care homes through this extraordinary period. We have now published a consultation document on Rebalancing Care and Support, which outlines how we intend to improve social arrangements further and strengthen partnership arrangements to improve the wellbeing of people across Wales.

The Integrated Care Fund has continued to deliver integrated health and social care services across Wales. In 2019-20, the fund supported projects to provide care at or close to home, promote self-help and to integrate health and care services to support children and adults with complex needs. It has been an essential part of our response to COVID-19, supporting 56 projects to reduce the urgent pressures on our hospitals. Innovative services such as our Choose Pharmacy Common Ailments Scheme have also helped to relieve pressure on frontline health services.

Unpaid carers make a vital and often unrecognised contribution and we have acknowledged that by promoting a Carers’ Rights Awareness campaign and launching a new National Carers Plan to get better services for carers. We continue to fund 3 major charities for carers with over £3 million in grants and another £1 million to support hardship claims. The Third Sector Covid-19 Response Fund has also helped boost local support for unpaid carers.

Building the health and social care service of the future

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we have continued to work towards creating an integrated, preventative and supportive health and social care service as set out in our landmark A Healthier Wales strategy published in 2018. In 2019-20, spending per person on Health and Social Services in Wales was £3,190, 9% higher than in England. Between 2015-16 and 2019-20, Health and Social Services spend per person in Wales increased by 9% in real terms, a bigger increase than in either England or Scotland, and we will have invested £37 billion in our Welsh NHS over this Senedd term to improve these vital services for everyone in Wales.

We have continued to deliver our unique Single Cancer Pathway, which has provided a more accurate way of reporting on cancer performance since 2019. It is an ambitious platform for transforming cancer care, helping the clinical community come together to agree on new optimised pathways for cancer care.

Our innovative New Treatment Fund, which launched in 2017, has provided more than 260 life‑improving and life-saving new treatments, reducing the average time it takes for newly-approved medicines and treatments to become available to patients. Health boards are now making medicines, which are newly approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence or All Wales Medicines Strategy Group, available in an average of 13 days.

Since 2016-17, we have increased the ring-fenced mental health budget by 12.5% to more than £700 million in 2020-21 – it is the single largest area of spending in the NHS budget. We published a revised Together for Mental Health Delivery Plan for 2019‑22 in January 2020, outlining the cross-government action we are taking to improve the mental health and wellbeing of people in Wales. We have significantly reduced the number of children and young people waiting longer than 4 weeks to access treatment, tackled the stigma around mental health through our Time To Change campaign and reduced mental health hospital admissions through an emphasis on more support in the community. We have also implemented new community perinatal mental health services in all areas of Wales with in-patient provision being available from Spring 2021. We have launched the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat to improve the multiagency response to people in mental health crisis.

In response to the pandemic, we provided additional funding to maintain essential mental health services and provide support for people when they need it. We have helped over 8,000 people during the pandemic with new online and telephone based support for low level mental health issues. A new Cabinet post, the Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Welsh Language has been created to strengthen our commitment to building good mental health and resilience and treating mental illness.

We allocated an additional £10 million this year for Primary Care Clusters, giving clusters a total of £20 million each year to invest to meet the specific health and wellbeing needs in their areas. We extended the HPV vaccine to boys in the 2019‑20 academic year, providing additional protection against oral and throat cancers. We have completed 5 Integrated Community Health and Social Care Centre projects this term, improving and modernising primary care environments across Wales.

We announced an extra £4.7 million to redevelop and expand the All Wales Adult Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Centre at University Hospital Llandough, increasing the number of beds available and supporting improved facilities. We provided £1.5 million for a new Children’s Therapy Centre in Cardiff, which will help the charity Cerebral Palsy Cymru to provide specialist physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy to around 100 more children from across Wales. We have delivered a £9.71 million scheme providing a new 7-bed Transitional Care and Special Care Baby Unit in Singleton Hospital, Swansea to improve the quality of care for mothers and babies.

We introduced the minimum unit price of alcohol in 2020, tackling harmful drinking and protecting the health of the Welsh population. We launched our Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales strategy in 2019, which takes a preventative approach to reducing obesity and promoting healthier choices, building on the 17 Healthy and Active Fund projects. We published our first ever Loneliness and Social Isolation Strategy in 2020 to create a more inclusive and connected society, helping people across Wales build stronger social connections and improve their health and wellbeing.

Investing in health and social care staffing

Our staff are the backbone of our health and care services, and we are immensely thankful for the incredible skill, bravery and compassion they have shown this year. Over the past 5 years, nurse training places have increased by 72% and training places for midwives have increased by 97%.

With the support of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic COVID-19 Advisory Group, we developed and implemented the COVID-19 Workforce Risk Assessment Tool to safeguard, support and empower our workforce. We extended our Health for Health Professionals Scheme to provide independent support to all NHS staff during the pandemic. We launched our Health and Social Care Workforce Strategy in October 2020, which sets out a long-term vision for how we will value, motivate and develop our staff.

The effective provision of social care depends on the quality of the social care workforce. In 2015, we announced that all domiciliary care workers in social care will be registered, implementing this in April 2020. More than 21,500 domiciliary care workers have registered, showing that they have the skills to provide good care and support to people in Wales. In 2020-21, we provided an additional £40 million to address workforce pressures in core social services, recognising the demand on the sector and the importance of effective staffing.

We have increased funding to support health professional education and training in Wales for the 6th consecutive year, providing a record level of £208.90 million for education and training programmes. In 2021-22 we will increase this by a further 8.3% to £227.9 million. We also launched the Allied Health Professions Framework, recognising the value of staff such as paramedics, radiographers and occupational therapists and helping them improve outcomes for patients.

We have extended the NHS Wales Bursary until 2022-23, supporting the next generation of Welsh NHS staff. We announced our plans to extend the Nurse Staffing (Wales) Act to include paediatric inpatient wards by April 2021, helping ensure there are more nurses in more settings in Wales.

200 GP trainees were recruited in 2020, well above targets and an increase of 7% from 2019. The Train Work Live campaign, which launched in 2016, has helped us recruit record numbers of GPs for 3 years running.

A greener Wales

In 2019, we were one of the first governments in the world to declare a Climate Emergency. We have remained focused on the importance of the climate crisis in the midst of the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Tackling the climate emergency requires serious and sustained action and collaboration here in Wales and at a global level.

This year we have continued to make Wales a green, resilient and socially responsible country. We are working to reduce our carbon emissions, promote more sustainable transport use and ensure our natural environment can flourish.

Responding to the climate emergency

In 2019 we published our Low Carbon Delivery Plan, presenting a comprehensive assessment and analysis of greenhouse gas emissions in Wales and bringing together a set of cross-government policies to reduce emissions. In 2021 we will bring forward regulations to set in law a target date for Wales to reach Net Zero emissions, making us the only part of the UK to secure an earlier, evidence‑based target to reach that goal.

Renewable energy has a key role to play in our response to the climate emergency. The Energy Generation 2019 report, published as part of our 2020 Wales Climate Week, shows more than half of Wales’ electricity needs were met by renewables last year, up from 43% in 2016. It also highlights that there were 72,841 renewable energy projects in Wales in 2019 – 3,841 more than in 2018.
We have worked with all regions of Wales on Regional Energy Strategies, which will set out actions to adopt low carbon energy sources and make the most of opportunities for clean growth in each region. We created the Welsh Government Energy Service in 2018 to help create a net zero public sector by 2030. Since it was created, the service has helped to develop 83 energy projects which will save 259,000 tonnes of CO2 over their lifetime, as well as saving the public sector £118 million.

We have approved the Pembroke Dock Marine Swansea Bay City Deal project business case, which will create a world-class centre for marine engineering with an immediate focus on low carbon energy. The project is expected to generate more than 1,800 jobs in the next 15 years and £73.5 million a year for the regional economy.

The amount of municipal waste recycled in Wales has increased from 5% in 1999 to 65% today, exceeding our statutory target. As of March 2020, we are the best nation in the UK, 2nd in Europe and 3rd in the world for household waste recycling. In September 2020, we launched the Be Mighty, Recycle campaign, taking us a step closer to our goal of becoming a zero waste nation by 2050.

We have made more than £40 million of Circular Economy Funding available, supporting innovative projects to reuse materials and reduce waste in every part of Wales.

During the pandemic we have worked with FareShare Cymru to expand its operations in Wales, ensuring surplus food is redistributed to those in need. We have provided funding to Repair Café Wales, bringing communities together to learn and share skills of repair. In December 2020, we announced an innovative digital trial of a Deposit Return Scheme in Conwy and we are consulting on a Circular Economy Strategy which sets out the next steps towards becoming a zero waste, net zero carbon nation.

We published an Agriculture white paper in December 2020, outlining our long-term approach to agriculture in Wales and paving the way for an Agriculture (Wales) Bill in the next Senedd term. It sets out how we will work collaboratively with farmers to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity in Wales and fight global climate change. It proposes a new Sustainable Farming Scheme, which will reward farmers appropriately for producing non-market goods in a sustainable way – such as improved soil or clean air, over and above the levels set by regulation. It will also provide advice and support for farmers and farm businesses.

Safeguarding and improving our communities and homes

In November 2019, we published our climate change adaptation plan for Wales: Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales, setting out how we are protecting our environment and adapting our homes, communities, businesses and infrastructure to deal with the impact of climate change.

We have invested £390 million in flood risk management from 2016 to 2021, reducing the risk to more than 45,000 properties across Wales. In response to the devastation caused by Storms Ciara and Dennis, we were able to provide support of up to £1,000 for each household affected, alongside £2.5 million of support for businesses hit by flooding and £4.4 million for flood repairs. We have made equivalent support available for households affected by Storm Christoph in 2021.

Work started on the £30m East Rhyl Coastal Defence Scheme in April 2020. The scheme, which includes 128,000 tonnes of rock armour and 600 metres of new sea defence wall and promenade, will reduce the flood risk to 472 properties. We provided £2 million of funding for 10 natural flood management projects across Wales, managing flood risks to property and reducing pressure on hard flood defences by restoring and expanding woodland and wetland habitats. One scheme in Neath Port Talbot will reduce the risk for up to 250 homes and more than 150 businesses.

We have continued to take urgent actions to improve coal tip safety, including establishing the Coal Tip Safety Task Force and commissioning the Coal Authority to undertake ground checks on high risk tips. Following our repeated calls, the UK government has provided £9 million to support coal tip maintenance works. We continue to work with the UK government to agree a long-term settlement recognising the full legacy issues involved. In March 2020, the First Minister launched a new free-phone Coal Authority helpline enabling the public to report any concerns about coal tips.

In August 2020, we published our Clean Air Plan, which sets out the actions we are taking to improve air quality and reduce the impacts of air pollution on human health, biodiversity, the natural environment and our economy. It draws on the positive impact of the pandemic. A white paper consultation towards a Clean Air (Wales) Bill has started, which will enable ambitious air quality targets and measures to ensure that all areas of society play their part in reducing air pollution.

In January 2021 we launched a white paper consultation on reducing emissions from domestic burning, protecting people from fuel poverty and improving air quality.

In August 2020, we launched the Optimised Retrofit Programme, an innovative and comprehensive new approach to decarbonising Welsh homes. This programme takes into account complex factors like the fabric and materials our homes are made from, the way we heat our homes and the way energy is supplied so we can upgrade homes well at an optimised cost. In November 2020, the scheme was expanded from £9.5 million to £19.5 million to fund more of the exceptional projects submitted for funding.

We published our Tackling Fuel Poverty 2020-35 plan for consultation in September 2020, outlining how we will continue to help people struggling to meet the cost of their energy needs. We continued to invest in the Warm Homes Programme, which has improved the energy efficiency of more than 61,400 homes and provided advice and support to more than 144,800 people since 2011.

Green, sustainable transport for the future

We have seen a huge change in how people use transport this year, creating challenges and opportunities in the sector. The pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges for public transport in 2020-21 – in response we have allocated £140m to local authorities through our Bus Hardship Fund and Bus Emergency Scheme, helping critical workers get to work and ensuring that bus operators reshape services to put passengers first.

Over this Senedd term, we will have invested £1.3 billion on supporting rail services and delivering rail infrastructure improvements. Despite rail infrastructure not being devolved, in 2020-21 we committed more than £200m of capital funding to bring forward the delivery of the South Wales Metro and North East Wales Metro along with delivering other rail infrastructure improvements to benefit passengers.

Llwybr Newydd, our new draft transport strategy for Wales, outlines our long-term vision for an accessible and sustainable transport system, which is good for people, the environment and for Wales. The final version will be published in March 2021.

Transport for Wales, which was established in 2015, has expanded the scope of its work this term to support a truly integrated public transport system across Wales. It has continued to deliver essential rail services this year as well as driving forward improvements to train stations. This includes improvements to 13 stations between Wrexham Central and Upton, and new ticket machines with improved facilities for Welsh speakers and people with visual impairments. We have also started work to turn space in stations into vibrant community hub facilities.

Borders rail franchise would be brought under public control as a result of falling passenger numbers because of the pandemic. The move will secure the future of passenger services in Wales and the Borders area, protect jobs and maintain Welsh Government’s ambitious plans for the South Wales Metro.

We invested more than £95 million in active travel schemes across this Senedd term, and in July 2020 we announced £38 million of grants to local authorities across Wales for active travel and road safety schemes – the largest ever investment in local active travel improvements. This includes 25 large-scale Active Travel Fund schemes and 22 Safe Routes in Communities projects to create safe walking and cycling routes to schools.

We have continued to reduce the carbon impact of our roads, taking steps such as upgrading street lighting to more energy efficient systems and procuring Ultra Low Emission Vehicles for our Traffic Officers. We accepted the recommendations of the 20mph Task Force Group, which found that a 20mph default speed limit for restricted roads would reduce collisions and encourage active travel. We also accepted the recommendations from the Pavement Parking Task Force Group, taking steps towards saving lives, particularly for people with visual impairments, and rebalancing our environment in favour of pedestrians.

We have provided nearly £1.9 million to local authorities this year through our Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle Transformation Fund, supporting schemes such as an electric vehicle charging hub in Carmarthenshire, park and ride charging provision in Anglesey and charging points for taxis in Cardiff. There are now more than 1,100 electric vehicle charging points in Wales, almost doubling those available in June 2019. Funding has also been used to transition towards a zero emission bus and taxi fleet. We launched a trial of a new public transport service, Fflecsi, in May 2020. This collaborative scheme replaces several scheduled local bus services with more flexible services that can pick up and drop off in a service area by request rather than at fixed bus stops.

In June 2019, we decided not to go ahead with an M4 relief road, putting Wales’ communities and natural heritage first and safeguarding the future of the Gwent Levels wetlands. Instead, the South East Wales Transport Commission was set up to look at sustainable ways to tackle congestion on the M4 around Newport. Its final report was published in November 2020 with 72 recommendations, and we are establishing a delivery unit to comprehensively address these actions.

The dualling of the A465 Heads of the Valleys Road, a key part of our strategic road network, will help to draw traffic away from the M4, as well as creating immense social and economic benefits for Wales. Construction on sections 5 and 6 of the road will begin in 2021.

Our Green Corridors initiative has invested £1.5 million to improve biodiversity and to protect and restore the natural environment around our strategic trunk road network. This includes planting 25,000 native trees and shrubs and 55,000 bulbs, sowing 5 hectares of wildflowers and actively managing a further 13 hectares of road verges to benefit pollinators and provide attractive landscapes. We are committed to ensuring that trunk road and motorway improvement schemes minimise their impact on the environment.

As work on the A465 Section 2 Gilwern to Brynmawr nears completion, evidence suggests that measures to establish 24 hectares of deciduous woodland have helped preserve bat numbers over the 5-year life of the project.

Restoring and revitalising our natural environment

Wales has a huge variety of habitats supporting many species of international importance. Access to quality green spaces for exercise or simply to experience nature has been particularly important during lockdown, especially for those without gardens. However, we have seen that biodiversity is in decline with potentially irreversible consequences for our unique and treasured natural environment. We have taken action across this term to ensure that Wales’ flora and fauna can thrive for many generations to come.

With our exit from the European Union, we have an opportunity to consider an integrated fisheries policy, which meets the needs of Welsh fishers and our coastal communities. We will build on the views provided in the Brexit and our Seas consultation and continue to work, in collaboration with our key stakeholders, to deliver our Future Fisheries Policy.

The Welsh Fisheries Monitoring Centre was operational ahead of the end of the European transition period, ensuring Wales carries out new and continuing responsibilities as part of an independent coastal state.

Hundreds of community groups across Wales have benefited from our new £6.8 million Local Places for Nature programme, which is transforming everyday access to nature and investing in the quality of local green spaces in our communities. As of December 2020, Local Nature Partnerships are delivering 47 projects to restore and enhance nature across Wales, and Keep Wales Tidy have helped community volunteers to create 388 butterfly, wildlife and community growing gardens and a further 13 larger projects across Wales. Our new collaboration with the National Lottery Heritage Fund has already jointly funded 20 more community nature projects. The first grants have now been awarded to groups across Wales to create places for nature in their own community groups from the £1.5 million Community Woodlands Scheme.

In September 2020, we announced £4.7 million for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty which will be invested in green infrastructure and restoring natural assets such as peatland and woodlands. We awarded a further £1.76 million to improve Wales’ network of footpaths and bridleways, improving access to nature across Wales. We continue to fund the Wales Coastal Path, the first path in the world to follow a country’s coastline in its entirety.

Through the work of the Valleys Taskforce we have invested £7 million in the Valleys Regional Park Discovery Gateway initiative. The 12 Discovery Gateway sites across the South Wales Valleys region are bringing green spaces up to a benchmark standard – they will help to support health and wellbeing, green prescriptions, volunteering activities, promote cultural and industrial heritage and the environment and provide a destination for both local communities and visitors.

We celebrated the launch of the National Forest, which will be a connected ecological network of woodland running the length and breadth of Wales. The forest will be a boost to biodiversity and to tourism, building on the success of the Wales Coastal Path. The £1.5 million Forestry Industry Recovery Scheme, which we launched this year as part of the National Forest programme, is funding more than 40 projects which will support tree planting and sustainable harvesting.

We announced a further £10 million of Glastir Woodland creation and restoration funding this year to increase tree planting across Wales, moving us closer to our goal of planting 2,000 hectares of trees a year. Our Timber Business Investment Scheme has continued to support businesses and invest in the potential of our forests, and in 2019-20 we funded the replanting of 1,500 hectares of trees to restock existing woodland.

We have taken action to support the restoration of Natura 2000 sites, havens for our most valuable and threatened species and habitats.

Fifteen projects across Wales have been allocated £2.6 million of funding to protect endangered species and enable sites to adapt to the effects of climate change. The Sustainable Management Scheme has continued to support nature-based solutions which improve the resilience of our natural resources and delivers benefits to rural businesses and communities.

We have also launched the National Peatlands Action Programme, which aims to deliver 600 to 800 hectares of restoration a year. This will manage existing peatlands, restore many to their earlier condition, slowing and reversing the decline in their loss. Our metal mine remediation programme has supported the development of remediation works at 11 abandoned metal mines, some of which have been leaching dangerous pollutants into Welsh rivers for centuries. Wales is recognised as a world leader in this complex type of river habitat restoration.

Review of the well-being objectives

We have reviewed our well-being objectives in light of the extraordinary events Wales has experienced this year, as well as the resilience and strength people and communities have shown in the face of these profound challenges. These include:

  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected all aspects of society and culture, highlighted systemic disadvantages and meant that many families in Wales have faced devastating losses this year
  • The end of the European transition period, which has fundamentally changed our place in the world
  • Continued UK government austerity, which restricts our ability to provide public services and tackle the causes of inequality
  • The climate emergency, which we continue to address as a matter of urgency
  • The impact of flooding, which has had a devastating impact on communities in Wales this year
  • Our increasingly digital world, which has been accelerated by the pandemic

Following our review, we are content that these are still the right well-being objectives for Wales. Similarly to last year’s annual report, as well as the context above we have considered the review of our well-being objectives in the context of the 5 ways of working and 3 overarching themes of prosperous, equal and green. The table below outlines how each of the objectives are captured by and reflected in these themes.

Our 2020-21 Budget demonstrates how we are continuing to embed the Act through an integrated approach which focusses on the areas where together we can have the greatest impact over the longer term.

Well-being objective More prosperous Equal Greener
1. Support people and businesses to drive prosperity dot dot  
2. Tackle regional inequality and promote fair work dot dot dot
3. Drive sustainable growth and combat climate change dot   dot
4. Deliver quality health and care services fit for the future   dot  
5. Promote good health and well-being for everyone dot dot dot
6. Build healthier communities and better environments   dot dot
7. Support young people to make the most of their potential dot dot  
8. Build ambition and encourage learning for life dot dot  
9. Equip everyone with the right skills for a changing world dot dot  
10. Build resilient communities, culture and language dot dot dot
11. Deliver modern and connected infrastructure dot dot dot
12. Promote and protect Wales’ place in the world dot   dot
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