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Appendix A: Well-being for Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 – Further details

Table of contents

Key features of the Well-being for Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 (the Welsh Act) creates (or strengthens) a series of commitment devices designed to protect and improve the wellbeing of current and future generations (Boston et al., 2019; Davidson, 2020). These devices include:

  • the establishment of various statutory principles and goals;
  • a requirement for public bodies to “carry out sustainable development” and to do so in accordance with specified “ways of working” (see Table 8);
  • a requirement for ministers to set wellbeing objectives and regularly assess their performance; and
  • the creation of new institutional mechanisms to provide advice, monitoring and reporting.

Essentially, the Welsh Act is about ensuring that the decisions taken today are not at the expense of the wellbeing of future generations, and that those generations will be able to meet their own needs (Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, 2020).

The Welsh Act defines seven wellbeing goals for improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of Wales. It also details the ways public bodies need to work to ensure they take into account the impact of their decisions on people living their lives in Wales in the future.

Table 9 Guidance for public bodies on wellbeing work

“Ways of working”


Pursue wellbeing goals

Support prosperous, resilient, healthier, more equal, globally responsible and cohesive communities; and a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language.

Acting in collaboration

The Welsh government created 19 local public service boards made up of local public bodies, to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural wellbeing of their localities.

Objectives need to be integrated

Decisionmakers need to consider the impact of decisions on the seven goals and on other public bodies.

People being served need to be involved

Public services boards are required to conduct assessments of wellbeing in their area. They need to involve people interested in achieving the goals, and those people reflect the diversity of their area. These boards create local wellbeing plans that set out the priorities and actions for the next five years to improve the economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing in their area.

Decisions need to safeguard the long term

Decisions made today need to safeguard and enhance wellbeing in the future.

A focus on prevention

Actively work to prevent problems from getting worse or from appearing in the first place.


The Welsh Act requires public bodies to explain, in their annual reports, why they feel their objectives will help them achieve the wellbeing goals and show progress in meeting their objectives. The Act also provides for a Future Generations Commissioner (Commissioner) to advocate for future generations.

Future Generations Commissioner

The Welsh Act sets up the role of a Future Generations Commission and Commissioner. The Commissioner is appointed by Ministers of the Government in power and is responsible for promoting sustainable development, acting as a guardian for future generations, encouraging public bodies to think in the longer term, and monitoring and assessing the objectives of the Welsh Act. The Commissioner helps public bodies to think about the long-term impact of their decisions by providing advice, reviewing how they are taking account of the long-term impact of their decisions, and making recommendations following a review (Welsh Government, 2015b).

The Commissioner’s mandate for implementing intergenerational equity is explicit in the Welsh Act and in the position’s stated purpose. The Commissioner is supported by an office (Office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales) with a staff of approximately 25. The responsibilities of the Office include monitoring the Welsh Act, publishing annual reports, and supporting and challenging public bodies in the execution of the Act.

The Commissioner is also supported by an advisory panel, which provides advice on the exercise of the Commissioner’s functions.


A comprehensive assessment of the impact of the Welsh Act and its implementation, including the influence of the Commissioner, has not been possible as part of this inquiry. However, we set out below some of the positive impacts that have been reported by others, to provide some insight into how the Act has started to influence policymaking, culture, mindsets and ultimately decisions.

  • According to Boston et al (2019), even after only three years, the Act contributed to some innovative thinking in a number of policy areas (for example, in relation to the nature of “prevention” and how a focus on prevention, as required by the Welsh Act, can be incorporated into budgetary policymaking). The Commissioner and her Office have established themselves as a significant contributor to public debate in Wales.
  • In her most recent Annual Performance Report, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales (2022) highlighted the progress that has been made with organisations outside of the public bodies, such as businesses who are also embedding wellbeing in the everyday decisions they make. She noted there are fewer frustrated champions, and the wellbeing goals are seeping into the DNA of those working in the public sector. But she also commented on needing “to fight against the status quo and our learnt norms of how the World should run” (p. 4).

Other examples of the influence and impact of the Commissioner mentioned in the Annual Report (ibid.) include:

  • producing the first comprehensive evidence base in Wales for how a Universal Basic Income could eliminate poverty and help Wales to reach its wellbeing goals. This informed the Welsh Government’s commitment to pilot a basic income for caregivers;
  • along with others, calling for the review of General Certificates of Seconday Education (GCSEs) in Wales – reflecting the challenge that the examination system needs to be redesigned in line with the Welsh Act and long-term trends; and
  • influencing policy and budgetary decisions on the Welsh Government’s Net Zero Plan. The new budget included increased spend on climate change. The Commissioner’s advice and challenge contributed to the declaration of a nature emergency in Wales, new decarbonisation targets, and the establishment of a new Climate Ministry.

In their review of the implementation of the Act, the Welsh Parliament Public Accounts Committee (2021) commended the positive public profile that the Commissioner and her office had developed, and the expertise on sustainable development and the support and advice they provided to public bodies and the Welsh Government. But the Committee also commented on the lack of resourcing for the office. The review found tangible progress and much goodwill, but it identified 12 areas in which implementation of the Welsh Act could be improved.

  • Public bodies did not do enough to build awareness and understanding among their service users of the shift to sustainable development across the public services.
  • Public bodies did not do enough to change the culture of their own organisations to align with the principles of the Welsh Act.
  • There was not enough investment by participating organisations in the capability and culture change needed to support the model and make the most of contributions by the community sector.
  • The lack of dedicated (additional) funding for the administration of public service boards limited their effectiveness.
  • Separate and misaligned organisational funding cycles and approaches, and a lack of dedicated resources for actions, have constrained wellbeing plans.
  • The Commissioner role was not sufficiently resourced to facilitate the model.
  • The public service boards need to be aligned and consolidated with other collective impact bodies in the system.

According to Siebert et al. (2022), a central takeaway from comparing different countries’ attempts to enhance wellbeing economy policies, including the Welsh example, is that the impact depends on:

  • the legal basis it builds on, the national political context and the power and agency of different institutions involved in the decision, and
  • the strength of the connection between institutions and citizens.

Overall, there was a strong sense in the review that the model is worth pursuing, but there are some pointed lessons about the need to fully fund and support the model; to ensure there is a clear authorising environment for investment shifts; and to have patience and commitment in realising the returns (Review into the Future for Local Government, 2022). The Welsh Government has since provided a response to the Public Accounts Committee, as well as to the Commissioner and the Auditor-General (Welsh Parliament Public Accounts Committee, 2021).