Delegates from across local government and the NHS will meet today to champion how the creation of a fairer Wales can remain a priority during tough economic times.
As the third joint annual conference delivered by the health and local government sectors in Wales, the event brings together local councillors and equalities practitioners from across Wales to discuss how a continued focus on equality will be essential within the increasingly austere future faced by public services in Wales and the UK.
With public services in Wales expected to face a potential funding shortfall of £2.6billion by 2025, the conference offers a vital opportunity to explore how the increasingly complex needs of local communities can continue to be met at a time when the finances available to deliver local support services will be reduced significantly.
Reverend Aled Edwards OBE, Chief Executive of Cytûn – Churches Together in Wales and conference chair said:
“Today’s theme ‘luxury or necessity’ offers a vital opportunity to dispel the myth that creating equality and fairness is an aspiration that can only be achieved or aimed at during a period of economic health and plenty.
“Public service organisations, along with their partners in the private and third sectors, have a vital role to play in protecting and meeting the needs of local communities in Wales, and this event offers a real opportunity to explore how we can collectively continue to do that while meeting the financial challenge. Far from being a luxury or a burden, the drive to create a fairer Wales should be seen as a vehicle for allocating our reduced financial resources more wisely and effectively.”
Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn (Ceredigion), WLGA Spokesperson for Equality said:
“We all know the value that should be placed on creating fairness and equality, but we also know that we are living in extraordinarily challenging times. Today’s event highlights that equality can’t be considered in isolation and that efforts to create a fairer Wales must play a central role in shaping how local public services are delivered in Wales in the future.
“Local councils have had to make a range of difficult decisions to budget for a collective £290m spending shortfall during the next financial year, and they are already involved in a desperate balancing act that weighs public demand for services against the money that is available to fund what is required.
“In the face of such economic challenges, we must remember that our role as public leaders is to enhance the lives of everyone in our communities. We know that if we genuinely understand the needs of individuals and communities we can reduce cost and improve effectiveness, and we must explore new and innovative solutions that will allow us to allocate our limited financial resources in a way that makes the most difference to the lives of people in Wales.”
Paula Walters, Director at the NHS Centre for Equality and Human Rights said:
“Welsh public sector bodies are facing serious financial challenges and the demand for them to reduce costs, whilst at the same time improve services, can mean equality is seen by some as a luxury that we can’t afford.
“We hope today’s event will help to dispel this myth, demonstrating how agencies must remain vigilant, taking into account the impact of service changes on equality and how this can deliver fairness for the people of Wales along with cost savings, service improvements and a fairer, sustainable workforce.”
9.30 Registration and refreshments
The Reverend Aled Edwards OBE, Chief Executive: Cytûn – Churches Together in Wales
10.10 Equality: Luxury or necessity?
Jeff Cuthbert AM, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
10.30 Equality & austerity: Challenges & solutions
Professor Steve Smith, University of South Wales and Chair of the Newport Fairness
11.00 TEA & COFFEE BREAK
11.20 Panel discussion: Can duties, strategies and impact assessments help us change the world?
Dr Alison Parken (Cardiff University),
Cllr David Phillips (City and County of Swansea Council),
Debbie Sigerson (NHS Scotland)
Rhian Davies (Disability Wales)
1.00 Why optimism wins
Mary Keightley, Mind Associates
2.00 Facing the challenge: perspectives from health and local government
Will Mclean (Monmouthshire County Council)
Shane Mills (Cardiff and Vale University Health Board)
Julian Baker (Cwm Taf University Health Board)
3.00 TEA & COFFEE BREAK
3.15 Why equality matters to me
Nigel Owens, Welsh International Rugby Union Referee