John Bird delivers annual Future Generations lecture in Cardiff

The Big Issue founder is calling for the long-term thinking approach pioneered in Wales to be rolled out across the rest of the UK

Lord John Bird has called for Wales’ Well-being of Future Generations Act to be introduced in the rest of the UK.

The Big Issue founder underlined his intention to launch an all-party campaign to do just that in the UK Parliament next year when he delivered the annual Well-being of Future Generations Commissioner for Wales annual lecture at Cardiff University tonight.

Lord Bird in support of the act, which calls on all public bodies in Wales to take decisions that meet both today’s needs but do not compromise future generations’ ability to meet their own.

The legislation forces a focus on prevention, integrating decisions, policies and services, collaboration with other bodies and involving local people in decision-making.

The act came into force in 2016 and has had an impact on long-term issues like poverty, ill health, poor air quality and low-quality jobs.

In the past, efforts to tackle these problems have focused on quick fixes rather than prevention. And that approach has led to a situation where one in four people in Wales live in relative poverty, costing the Welsh purse £3.6 billion a year.

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Lord Bird, founder of The Big Issue, said: “Following the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, here is a clear and urgent need to tackle the root causes of poverty across the UK, and Sophie’s approach is shining example of proactive policy-making which champions long-term and sustainable ways of working.

“Looking ahead, I’ll be calling on parliamentarians from all parties to join forces in planning how, at a UK-wide level, we can learn from Sophie’s work and ensure that the golden thread of preventative thinking is woven into all levels of policy-making.

“What Sophie is doing is gold dust: it’s equivalent, but even more astute, than the founding of the welfare state. I want our friends in England, Ireland, Scotland and across the world to benefit from the same revolutionary thinking. We need a Future Generations Act for the UK.”

Lord Bird has already started the process of drumming up support for a UK version of the act. The Crossbench Peer and Future Generations Commissioner Sophie Howe spoke to a 40-strong group of peers and MPs at the House of Lords on November 27.

“I hope our visit to the UK Parliament, and Lord Bird’s visit to Cardiff today, have shown that we are striving for a better future,” said Howe. “The Well-being of Future Generations Act provides the permission and opportunity to deliver that vision.

“I have been working with the Welsh government over the past year and have succeeded in getting them to agree a definition of ‘prevention’. I will expect to see how prevention will be integrated into decisions, including spending decisions, and creating the right conditions for the requirements of the Well-being of Future Generations Act to be met.”

Images: Louise Haywood-Schiefer