Celebrating diversity and eliminating inequality: rhetoric or reality?

Published 22/09/2023   |   Reading Time minutes

This is the seventh article of our ten-part series looking at the Welsh Government’s progress in delivering its Programme for Government. Here, we explore the objective to “Celebrate diversity and move to eliminate inequality in all its forms”.

There are 9 specific commitments beneath this broad Cabinet-wide objective, which the Welsh Government has given an update on in its PfG annual report. There are also relevant Ministerial commitments.

Browse our full #ProgrammeforGovernment series, published to date.

Compared with the UK average, the Welsh population is older, poorer, in worse health and has lower educational attainment and skills.

Successive Welsh Governments have committed to reduce inequality and celebrate diversity. The Strategic Equality Plan 2020-24 set out the previous government’s aims to support those at greatest risk of discrimination, including bold ambitions to tackle gender inequality.  

One of the ‘well-being goals’ of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act (2015) is “a more equal Wales”, which requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions.

Despite some progress, the pandemic exposed the persistence of deep-rooted and systemic inequalities, and the limits of past policies that had been designed to improve outcomes.

Are targeted action plans working?

To achieve the objective of a more equal Wales, the Welsh Government has developed several action plans. The First Minister has stressed the need for practical action:

…strategies are not a substitute in the current context for a focus on the things that actively can happen and make a difference to people who are struggling every day.

However, research commissioned by the Welsh Government highlighted the persistence of an ‘implementation gap’ between the aspirations of equality and human rights legislation and policy in Wales, and the lived reality for individuals, social groups and communities. 70% of stakeholders who took part in the research said there is a lack of resources to support implementation.

The Anti-racist Wales Action Plan

In June 2022 the Welsh Government published the Anti-racist Wales Action Plan. The plan promised to “do something different about racism in all the areas in which the Welsh Government has control or influence” and “take radical action, rather than the ‘small steps’ of the past”.

According to the Welsh Government one of the early successes of the plan is the introduction of free diversity and anti-racist professional learning (DARPL), available to all education professionals. But some with a lived experience of racism have expressed concerns that this training is not compulsory and is therefore not viewed a priority.  

In March 2023, the Senedd Equality and Social Justice Committee met with stakeholders from the public and third sector (including race equality organisations) to discuss the implementation of the plan. Stakeholders shared their concerns about progress so far and said that in key policy areas actions had not yet been taken. The Committee agreed to hold an inquiry in the autumn term to examine the implementation and delivery of the Plan.

The actions set out in the plan are ambitious. Racial inequalities continue to be pervasive across society; a recent survey of race inequality in the UK by the Runnymede Trust concluded that “Britain is not close to being a racially just society”.


To achieve its ambition of “making Wales the safest place to be a woman”, in May 2022 the Welsh Government published the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) Strategy 2022-26. Since publication the Welsh Government has developed six workstreams (as set out in its Blueprint (high level action to the strategy).

Implementation of the strategy has included the provision of the Live Fear Free helpline for all victims and survivors of VAWDASV, launching campaigns to tackle misogyny and violence against women and setting up a crisis fund to support women who have no recourse to public funds.

The Blueprint approach is based on collaboration between government, non-devolved bodies and the public and private sectors. But allegations about sexism, misogyny, homophobia and racism in the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) highlighted the limits on what the Welsh Government can do to ensure organisations’ are working to make the “strategy live across the whole of Welsh society”.


An action plan to support the LGBTQ+ community was published in February 2023. An update in June sets out the progress made against several of the actions outlined in the Plan, including setting up a working group to advise on proposed actions to ban LGBTQ+ conversion therapy.

However, it is not clear what progress the Welsh Government has made on its commitment to “seek the devolution of any necessary additional powers” to ban conversion therapy. The UK Government has committed to publishing a draft Bill on banning conversion practices, but in May 2023 the Welsh Government confirmed it had received no information about what the draft bill contains.

The Programme for Government (PfG) also stated that it will seek devolution of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (which allows trans people to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) to have their gender recognised in law and reflected on their birth certificate). However, under current devolution rules, only the UK Parliament can change the law on gender recognition in Wales and the UK Government has said that the transfer of powers is "not going to happen".

Disabled people

In May 2022 the Welsh Government published the Learning Disability Strategic Action Plan 2022 to 2026 which seeks to address key issues identified by the Learning Disability Ministerial Advisory Group (LDMAG). While welcoming the plan, Learning Disability Wales expressed ‘caution’ and said it lacked detail on “how the Welsh Government is planning to achieve its goals”.

An update in June 2023 highlighted many areas where progress was being made, but some actions, including work on the provision of guidance and advice in respect of friendships and sexual relationships for people with learning disability had not yet commenced.

The Welsh Government has also established a Disability Rights Taskforce and said it “aims” to publish a Disability Rights Action Plan in March 2024.

The PfG annual report refers to progress made to “ensure our public transport is more accessible”. However, in its report looking into the cost of living, Disability Wales reported that disabled people are cutting back on expenses like transport. They say this has left people socially isolated and not being able to access warm hubs and hospital appointments.

In terms of employment, the ‘disability employment gap’ in Wales is higher when compared to the UK average, despite a commitment from the Welsh Government to close this gap.

The Welsh Government has also not outlined how and when it will meet its  commitment to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People into Welsh law, a move long called for by disability organisations.

Does Welsh society celebrate diversity?

The Welsh Government has provided funding in several areas aimed at celebrating diversity. As part of the Anti-racist Plan it’s provided £4.5m worth of investment to support the delivery of the culture, heritage and sport goals.

It has also expanded the Grassroots Pride Fund to include more rural areas and smaller towns and “help to support events create a safe and welcoming LGBTQ+ environment”. This funding has been welcomed by organisations, including Race Council Cymru and Tai Pawb who are delivering projects like the multicultural hub in Wrexham.  

However, despite funding actions to celebrate diversity, reported hate crime has risen.

In response to protests by anti-immigration and far right groups over the housing of asylum seekers and refugees a leading academic warned that extreme views are “much more mainstream” and that “far-right rhetoric was on the rise in Wales”.

The Minister for Social Justice acknowledges issues related to the rise of the far right and has said that Wales “is not immune to the hatred and intolerance we've seen elsewhere”.

How far can the Welsh Government “eliminate inequality”?

The Welsh Government (and the Senedd) can direct and influence equality through legislation and policy. But Schedule 7A of the Government of Wales Act (GoWA 2006) largely reserves legislation on ‘equal opportunities’ to the UK Parliament. This means that in some areas (for example banning gender conversion) the Welsh Government doesn’t have the legislative competence to make any changes.

In some reserved policy areas, like immigration and criminal justice, the Welsh Government and Senedd have disagreed with UK Government legislation relating to the treatment of specific groups (including asylum seekers and Gypsies and Travellers). But despite opposition, an increasing number of UK Bills have passed without Senedd consent.

However, the Welsh Government can still provide leadership on equalities. It has provided cost-of-living support by investing in the Discretionary Assistance Fund and Single Advice. It has also provided support to low income households through its Fuel Support Scheme. The basic income pilot for care leavers also highlights its willingness to take a new approach to tackling inequalities.

As demonstrated through its action plans, the Welsh Government has the ambition to tackle inequalities and celebrate diversity. But how much it can reduce inequality depends on how it addresses the “disconnect between policy and practice” identified in the research into strengthening and advancing equality and human rights.

Explore the Programme for Government, its objectives and commitments

Article by Dr Claire Thomas, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament