A fairer Wales? Part III of Constitutional Convention plans

Should powers over ‘Welfare’ be devolved to Wales? Lee Waters invites you to help shape the design of the Crowd Sourced Constitutional Convention

Lee Waters is Director of the IWA.

The third stage of our Crowd Sourced Constitutional Convention will focus on the issue of ‘Welfare’.

Just as we are ‘crowd sourcing’ the funding to try and help us hold this innovative experiment in deliberative democracy, we are also ‘crowd sourcing’ the design of the debate.  This week on Click on Wales we are posting the working drafts of our plans for each of the stages of the eight-week project for you to shape.

After considering the purpose of the UK and how we create a more prosperous Wales in the initial phases, we’ll move on to the issue of fairness. In the debate surrounding the Smith Commission in Scotland the debate has been reduced to the short-hand term ‘Welfare’. This is an imperfect term but should be seen to refer to the future of the Welfare State rather than simply a question of dependency or benefits.

There is a noticable nervousness about tackling the issue of ‘Welfare’ in a Welsh context with concerns ranging from its complexity, the fear that it will expose our dependency on the UK wide benefits system, and the political fear that it is a ‘trap’.  Nonetheless, we feel it is important that we attempt to confront the subject, not least since the changes set out in the Smith Commission report mean that the UK Welfare State is about to change. Our choice is to be paralysed by fear and allow others to shape a debate that will impact on us, or to try and engage in shaping the system in way which which responds to Welsh needs.  Our ambition for this phase of the debate is to start a debate about what that means.

As with all the themes four cross-cutting themes have guided the design of our questions:

  • Performance to date
  • Barriers to progress
  • Capacity and calibre
  • Do we need more powers to identify these problems?
Here is our plan for the phase:
Stage one: What is meant by ‘welfare’?
  • What is the budget (information sheet / infographic)

  • What did the Smith Commission say?

  • How does it work in Northern Ireland?

Stage two: Why is everyone so nervous of welfare devolution?

  • Explore nervousness around devolving to Wales: expose our poverty – financial costs & risks too great

  • Case study – lessons from devolution of Council Tax benefit

  • Advantages of unified approach –  Social Union / Single Labour market

Stage three: What are the opportunities to do things differently?

  • Explore criticism of welfare reform and pose alternative approach linked to already devolved policy areas (If you don’t like it why don’t you change it?)

  • Housing benefits: ‘Bedroom Tax’ : 40% of Welsh tenants under-occupying so Wales is worst hit by ‘Bedroom Tax’. Can we mitigate this?

  • Attendance Allowance

  • Work Programme

  • Other Smith Commission areas

Stage four: ‘Powers for a purpose’

  • Biggest public spending budget, should Welsh Government have greater control?

  • How strong is the case for devolving some areas in stages?

    [* The expert group we consulted on the design of the first and fourth stage included Mark Parkinson (Secretary of the Silk Commission], Tamsin Stirling, Sioned Hughes, Jess Blair and Lee Waters]

 

We’d value your input to try and shape this attempt at engaging the public in a debate about our country’s future.  Also if you are able to make a financial contribution to help us reach the potential of this initiative please donate here.

While you’re here, we’ve got something to ask you: will you join us?

We’re working every day to bring the right people together and generate the ideas to make Wales a world-leading force.

We’re independent of government and political parties. We provide a much-needed space for open, transparent debate about the ideas that can make Wales better.

To continue to do this, we need people like you to join us.

Join us today and you’ll be supporting vital work that’s making our country better than ever.

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