Jane Hutt MS, Minister for Social Justice
Our Equality and Inclusion Programme has long been at the heart of our work in this area, providing support and service for diverse communities and key groups through representative organisations with appropriate expertise. We have provided significant investment in this way and intend to continue doing so.
The current E&I programme commenced in July 2016 to support our Equality Objectives for 2016-20. It funds seven organisations to provide support to individuals and communities across Wales in relation to gender, disability, Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, refugees and asylum seekers, sexual orientation and gender identity, race and hate crime. It was due to end on 30 September 2021.
A consultation seeking options to tackle all forms of disadvantage and discrimination and show that equality is for all was launched in February 2021. Analysis of the consultation responses and accompanying engagement with stakeholders has been undertaken and will be published shortly. This will inform the direction of a successor programme to support the new Programme for Government, maximising opportunities to drive out inequality and address the negative impacts on people with protected characteristics which have emerged through the course of the pandemic.
There has been strong support for many of the proposals which were set out in the consultation document. This includes support for:
- A longer term for the main programme, up to five years, to provide greater continuity of service, retention of resources to deliver activities and reduce costs and uncertainty associated with short term funding
- Continuation of some services currently provided by the programme, where there is evidence of effectiveness and value for money.
- Aligning the new programme with the Welsh Government’s Strategic Equality Plan, and related gender, race, nation of sanctuary, disability, LGBTQ+ and action plans, as well as our Community Cohesion programme.
- Increased focus on partnership working, collaboration and intersectionality, including achieving a better all-Wales coverage.
Some respondents identified issues which they thought merited greater support from the programme. These included inequality related to poverty; the impact of Covid and Brexit; rural inequality; linguistic inequality and translation services. We will be considering all of these responses further as the new programme takes shape.
The new funding arrangements will demonstrate the Welsh Government’s commitment to the principles of fairness and equality and to the strengthening and advancing of equality and human rights in Wales.
We are aiming for long-term funding for this programme and will confirm the duration as soon as possible. We will also consider what provision there could be for shorter term funding opportunities alongside the main programme. It is clearly vital that we allow sufficient time to design, commission and implement the new arrangements, ensuring they are aligned to the Programme for Government and the Welsh Government’s Strategic Equality Plan together with our associated action plans. I have therefore agreed a further, six-month extension to the current Equality and Inclusion Programme to 31 March 2022. This will provide continuity of support for people while the new programme is being developed through the currently funded organisations. My officials will work with them to ensure services and support continue until the new programme starts on 1 April 2022.
Further details of the new programme will be made available as soon as possible and I encourage organisations to consider how they might work in partnership with each other to achieve the geographic coverage and intersectional approach we are seeking. I expect formal application processes to begin by September.