Response to Welsh Government’s Draft Budget 2024-2025 by Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales and Wales Women’s Budget Group
While we appreciate that this year’s Draft Budget has been developed in extraordinarily challenging financial and economic circumstances, we believe that more could be done to support those most affected by the difficult times ahead.
Due to persistent gender inequality, women – particularly single mothers, disabled women, ethnic minority and racialised women – are being hit harder by rising costs and are more likely to be employed in and rely on public services. In this context, we welcome the Welsh Government’s commitment to protect frontline public services. We are concerned, however, that the allocated funding will fail to meet the cost pressures facing providers and will inevitably result in cuts to provision, which will disproportionately impact women in Wales.
We are disappointed that not only is childcare not included in the frontline public services to be protected, but its funding is in fact being cut. As rising costs of childcare continue to push women into unemployment and their families into poverty, lower-than-expected uptake forecasts are more indicative of inadequacies in the Welsh Government’s childcare offer than reductions in demand. The need for accessible and affordable childcare in Wales remains critical, with many parents and carers struggling to find childcare that meets their families’ needs. In this context, the decision to reprioritise childcare funding, rather than accelerating work towards meeting the needs of families in Wales, is highly regrettable.
The decision to rationalise funding within the Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights Budget is also alarming. Third sector organisations in Wales play an indispensable role in scrutinising policies and advocating for the most disadvantaged in our society, and funding decisions should reflect this. To prevent further loss of expertise and to support women and other vulnerable groups in Wales, the Welsh Government should take urgent action to protect the sustainability of a rapidly contracting third sector in Wales.
We were pleased to see continued improvements to the Strategic Integrated Impact Assessment, which contained more detail on the impacts of budgetary reprioritisations for 2024-25. However, more information is needed regarding the progress and evaluation of the Welsh Government’s gender budgeting pilots, which were conducted in 2022-2023. Moving forward, we would like to see plans to mainstream gender budgeting tools across government in future budgets.
We look forward to examining the Draft Budget in more detail over the coming weeks and will continue to work constructively with the Welsh Government to integrate thorough impact assessment and equalities analysis into the budgetary processes.
Hannah Griffiths, Wales Women’s Budget Group Coordinator and Policy Assistant
Jessica Laimann, Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales, Policy and Public Affairs Manager