An image of a group of people in a circle with arms across each other’s shoulders. The group, diverse in nature, appear happy.

An image of a group of people in a circle with arms across each other’s shoulders. The group, diverse in nature, appear happy.

The path to an anti-racist Wales: closing the implementation gap

Published 11/06/2024   |   Reading Time minutes

People from ethnic minority backgrounds face significant disparities in housing, education, employment, and healthcare. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says there’s been areas of positive change in reducing racial inequality in Wales. However, the Senedd’s Equality and Social Justice (ESJ) Committee believes there’s still a lot to do to ensure people in Wales don’t experience racism and discrimination in their daily lives.

Eliminating racism has been a long-standing objective of various Welsh Governments. The current Welsh Government’s Anti-racist Wales Action Plan (ArWAP) sets a new direction in tackling racism and discrimination, calling for zero tolerance against racial inequality.

Ahead of the Plenary debate on the Equality and Social Justice Committee’s report ‘Action, not words: towards an anti-racist Wales by 2030’ on 12 June, this article explores the steps key stakeholders say should be taken to create a discrimination-free Wales. Our October 2021 article set out the driving forces behind the ArWAP.

An ‘anti-racist’ approach: What’s different about the Plan?

Traditional approaches to equality of opportunity attempt to ensure individuals are given a fair chance and opportunities to participate in society (for instance, by anonymising a job application). Similarly, traditional approaches to the promotion of diversity and inclusion actively promote the inclusion of people from different backgrounds.

Anti-racism goes beyond both approaches and is a pro-active stance. The Wales Centre for Public Policy (WCPP) argues that anti-racism is a more comprehensive approach.

The ArWAP explains that anti-racism involves:

… actively identifying and getting rid of policies, systems, structures and processes that produce radically different outcomes for ethnic minority groups. It requires us to acknowledge that even if we do not see ourselves as ‘racist’ we can, by turning our eye away, be complicit in allowing racism to continue.

The ArWAP aims to achieve an anti-racist Wales by 2030 and sets out the policy goals and actions that will be taken between 2022 to 2024 to achieve this.

Between March 2023 and February 2024, the Equality and Social Justice Committee held an inquiry into the implementation of the ArWAP and concluded further work is needed if the Welsh Government is to achieve its vision of an anti-racist Wales. Organisations who shared their views with the Committee endorsed the Plan’s vision and comprehensive scope. But most raised concerns about the implementation and rate of progress.

The Equality and Social Justice Committee report

The ArWAP Annual Report 2022-23 acknowledges the need to close the “policy-practice gap” which it agrees has “marred the implementation of previous equality and diversity initiatives”. While the Equality and Social Justice Committee’s report identified operational issues in three policy areas: health, education and criminal justice, its focus was on the overall implementation of the ArWAP. Through its work the Committee identified three strategic areas where action is needed to ensure the successful implementation of the ArWAP.

Figure 1: Key areas to ensure successful implementation of the ArWAP – identified in the Equality and Social Justice Committee report

Image shows three key areas (leadership, collaboration and monitoring) to ensure successful implementation of the ArWAP – identified in the Equality and Social Justice Committee report


Source: Equality and Social Justice Committee and Senedd Research

Leadership: is Welsh Government leading the way?

The Welsh Government is responsible for the overall delivery of the ArWAP.

However, several organisations, including Natural Resources Wales and the NHS education provider Health Education Improvement Wales said the Welsh Government also needs to ‘lead by example’ and act as a role model to other organisations.

The EHRC and Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, questioned whether the Welsh Government had led by example and met its own targets to increase the diversity of its workforce. The Welsh Government accepted the Committee’s recommendation to intensify efforts to diversify its workforce, however it caveated this by noting that progress would depend on organisational budgets.

Organisations also questioned whether the Welsh Government is providing the necessary funding to implement the plan. The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) claimed that financial uncertainty has led to local government holding off progressing with “resource intensive” actions like training until the “Welsh Government’s own position becomes clear”.

The Committee recommended the Welsh Government publish a breakdown of funding and resources available to support the ArWAP in each forthcoming year. However, the Welsh Government has said it’s “impossible” to do so as the plan cuts across many policy areas.

Collaboration: Who’s involved in delivering the Plan?

The ArWAP highlights the joint effort that is needed to make a meaningful difference to people’s lives. It states the Plan is for “all public services, and other sectors wherever we can influence them”.

However, several organisations, including Community Housing Cymru, Swansea Council and Monmouthshire County Council have said they are not clear about their role and responsibilities in delivering the actions in the ArWAP. The Welsh Government said it would make this clearer by ensuring every action has a designated lead and clearly sets out which organisations will provide support.

Monitoring: How do we know if progress has been made?

The ArWAP sets goals and actions but doesn’t include key measurable targets to help determine whether progress is being made. Some organisations involved in delivering the Plan have said they are unsure about what monitoring they are required to carry out. Betsi Cadwalader University Health Board said “arrangements for the monitoring of the plan are as yet unclear”.

The Race Disparity Unit (RDEU) is one of three data units established by the Welsh Government to inform public policy. It will play a key role in collating data which can be used to monitor the progress of the ArWAP. However, several organisations have said they are unclear about what data the RDEU had collected. The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) said they are “not aware of any specific progress made by the Race Disparity Unit in collating data as it relates to, or informs higher education”.

The Welsh Government has confirmed that progress in this area has been made and the RDEU has developed an evaluation framework with a report expected by October 2024.

Next steps?

As the ESJ Committee concluded, the scale and vision of the plan is welcomed but the Welsh Government’s efforts to achieve an anti-racist Wales by 2030 will be undermined if the Plan:

  • doesn’t bring together all those who can drive change;
  • doesn’t provide the resources needed to make a difference; and
  • doesn’t set targets to measure the progress being made.

Responses to the Committee’s inquiry suggest that further work is required to better set out how the Welsh Government will achieve the ambition. The ArWAP Annual Report (2022-23) acknowledges “there is much work to do and challenges ahead” but says the Welsh Government’s “commitment to promoting anti-racism remains strong”.

The next iteration of the ArWAP, covering 2024-26, is underway. We’ll then see how the government intends to respond to concerns raised.

You can watch the debate on the ESJ Committee’s report live on Senedd TV on 12 June.

If you have been effected by any issues raised in this article and would like help, please note that free, confidential assistance is available via the BAME helpline Walesor visit Hate hurts Wales | GOV.WALES

Article by Claire Thomas, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament