Equality and human rights legal framework – Welsh Government assessment
The Welsh Government has committed to strengthen the equality and human rights legal framework, but evidence of sustained positive outcomes for people in Wales is limited. Within its devolution settlement, the Welsh Government has made plans to commence the socio-economic duty, as well as consider how to strengthen the Public Sector Equality Duty and further incorporate human rights treaties. However, some commitments remain outstanding and there has been an uneven approach to implementation.
- Although the Coronavirus Act 2020 includes provisions which weaken human rights protections in Wales, including removing the duty on local authorities to meet the needs of adults who need care and support, the Welsh Government did not consent to these extending to care and support for children. Following consultation, the Welsh Government has suspended the modifications to the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 in the first quarter of 2021.
- Though the Welsh Government has published statements explaining how any human rights interferences in the Coronavirus health protection (Wales) regulations are justified, it has not produced sufficient equality impact assessments (as required under the Equality Act 2010 (Statutory Duties) (Wales) Regulations 2011) or children’s rights impact assessments (as required under the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011).
- There is no human rights monitoring mechanism in Welsh Government to monitor progress and ensure implementation of UN recommendations.
- In January 2019, the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services agreed with the sentiments behind the Older Person’s Bill on strengthening the rights of older people in law, but did not agree with taking what she described as a “piecemeal” approach to legislation.
- The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 set an aspirational framework to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales and consider the long-term impact of decisions. There is potential for it to enhance the existing human rights framework, but the Act did not strengthen individual redress for rights or establish human rights issues to take action upon. The Future Generations Report 2020 finds that most public bodies are progressing with implementation, but the Act needs to be further embedded.
- The Welsh Government incorporated due regard of child rights within the Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011. Research in 2018 concluded that the Measure has had an impact on how children’s rights are considered in policy development, but there is still a lack of understanding across the Welsh Government and among Welsh ministers on the obligations of the Measure, resulting in a patchy approach to implementation. There have also been no successful legal cases using it as a ground to challenge decision-making in Wales.
- Though it is too early to fully assess the impact of the Welsh Government’s guidance for public bodies to prepare for implementation of the socio-economic duty under the Equality Act 2010, there are concerns that a number of public bodies in Wales still lack clarity about the relevance of the duty and how to take it forward.
- Following the Gender Equality Review in 2019, the Welsh Government has committed to taking forward recommendations to strengthen human rights and equality protections in Wales.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on the equality and human rights legal framework.