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Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Third Special Report



  (HC 365-I and II)

Letter from Edwina Hart AM MBE, Minister for Finance, Local Government and Communities to the Chairman of the Committee

You may be interested to hear about work that is progressing on those recommendations of the Welsh Affairs Committee Report into Social Exclusion in Wales that were for consideration by the Welsh Assembly Government.

There were 37 recommendations for consideration by the Assembly. The attached sets out progress to date in relation to each recommendation. I have also written to my Cabinet colleagues and invited them to examine the recommendations that fall within their portfolios and consider what additional action, if any, is necessary to progress these further.

The recommendations were recently discussed by our Local Government and Housing (LGH) Committee. Committee Members welcomed the progress which had been made on implementation. However, they felt that, particularly in relation to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and Welfare Benefits, more work could be done by the UK Government to help ensure that we tackle these problems more effectively.

The Assembly has on several occasions expressed concern about the quality of housing in the private rented sector, particularly those properties which are in multiple occupation. Tackling poor quality HMOs is one of the Assembly's Housing priorities but action which can be taken on this issue is severely resticted by the absence of legislation for local authorities to introduce mandatory licensing of such properties. This proposal has been the subject of consultation and received overwhelming support. Legislation has been promised but is not yet in the programme. The Assembly is urging the UK Government to bring this forward.

We are aware of the Private Members Bill recently introduced by Dr. Des Turner, which will require local authorities to create mandatory Registration Schemes. The Assembly Government supports this legislation as it represents an important step towards full mandatory licensing to which the UK Government remains committed.

The report of the Community Fire Safety Working Group which I established has recommended that a programme of fire safety measures including smoke detectors and sprinkler systems should be targeted at HMOs where the chances of a fire fatality is 15 times greater than other domestic properties.

In relation to Welfare Benefits, the LGH Committee members felt that there was an opportunity to increase the legitimate incomes of those living in Wales's most deprived areas, by providing them with more information on the levels of benefits that they may actually be entitled to. We would like the UK Government to ensure that Benefits Advisors are given the necessary training and guidance so that they are able to provide benefit claimants with all the relevant information about the full range of types and levels of benefits at the time they make an initial claim.

I would be grateful for your continued efforts to emphasise the importance of these issues to the UK Government as we consider them vitally important for overcoming poverty and social exclusion in the most deprived areas across Wales.

16 January 2002

Responses to the recommendations of the Welsh Affairs Committee report on

Social Exclusion in Wales

Paragraph 4

It has not been our purpose in this inquiry to scrutinise what is being done by the Assembly; it would neither be appropriate nor useful for us to do so. We wholeheartedly welcome the Social Inclusion Action Plan drawn up by the National Assembly.

Noted. The Social Inclusion Action Plan has since been supplemented by the Assembly's Annual Report on Social Inclusion.

Paragraph 10

We ask the National Assembly to consider how best to ensure the local authorities meet their responsibilities for housing women experiencing domestic violence, as part of an overall strategy for tackling this unfortunately increasing problem.

The National Assembly supports measures for the prevention of domestic violence and the provision of help for its victims. Grant aid is currently provided under both children and families and housing legislation, which provides core funding for Welsh Womens Aid and revenue funding to support the work of local refuges and supported housing in the community. The Assembly also has policy involvement in the effects of domestic violence on children and in measures to protect women from violence while using public transport. We have worked closely with the Home Office ( which has lead responsibility for this subject from the criminal justice perspective) in publicity campaigns, most recently "Break the Chain" in 1999, which involved distribution of leaflets and posters (in English and Welsh) providing advice to victims of domestic violence. There has also been close consultation with Home Office over grants to Welsh projects under the Crime Reduction Programme.

In March 2001 the National Assembly introduced an Order extending the duties of local authorities to meet the housing needs of homeless people in priority needs groups to include people fleeing or threatened by domestic violence. Statutory guidance already emphasises that local authorities should not refer victims of domestic violence to another authority if that would place them at risk of violence, and that authorities should work closely with local women's refuges in providing access to emergency accommodation and more permanent housing.

We also strongly support the development of inter­agency working at the local level to combat this problem and are pleased at the rapid growth of domestic violence forums across Wales. The Assembly considers that all these various policies need to be drawn together into a more coherent strategy and is presently considering options for taking this forward.

Paragraph 16

We welcome the issue of guidance by the National Assembly on effective ways of tackling bullying in schools, and homophobic bullying in particular.


Paragraph 17

We welcome the work done by the National Assembly to address the high rate of teenage pregnancy in Wales in its Sexual Health Strategy, and we look forward to its implementation.

Progress on the sexual health strategy continues:

×  Health Authorities and Local Health Groups across Wales are producing their Local Sexual Health Strategies

×  New guidance on accessible sexual health services for young people was issued in July 2001 as a Welsh Health Circular

×  A public awareness campaign about the risks of sexually transmitted infections will be launched in December 2001

×  The Family Planning Association received Assembly funding to provide training to address the needs of local authority, health and voluntary sector staff involved in working with looked after children on sexual health matters. The training was fully evaluated and a report produced for the Assembly in August 2001. Copies of the report will be sent to all local authorities, Health Authorities and Children's voluntary organisations.

Paragraph 18

We suggest that all local authorities—and, more particularly, the children in their care—could benefit from an independent Children's Rights Service similar to those already in operation in parts of Wales.

The Welsh Office provided funding for a range of advocacy and children's rights services in response to the Adrianne Jones Report in 1996. The National Assembly continues to provide funding, through the Children and Families Services Grant Scheme, to local authorities and agencies providing advocacy and children's rights services. Additional funding has been made available through the Children First programme to support further developments in these services.

The Children and Families Services Grant Scheme is currently under review. The Assembly will consider the future development of children's rights services in the light of that review, and in consultation with local authorities, service providers and the Children's Commissioner for Wales.

Paragraph 19

We ask the Assembly to ensure that local authorities provide proper support and aftercare for children leaving care.

The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 amends the Children Act 1989 to introduce new duties to extend local authorities' responsibilities to safeguard the welfare of children who leave care. The Act seeks to ensure that local authorities act as a responsible parent would towards these young people. It aims to delay discharge from care until the young person is properly prepared and ready to leave and to improve preparation and planning for leaving care. The new arrangements will be in force on 1 October 2001. They are supported by the Children First Development Fund, which is distributing a total of £11.7 million to local authorities this financial year.

Paragraph 20

We urge the Government and the National Assembly to ensure that young carers are given proper support and due recognition.

This fully accords with the Assembly's policy. In its "Strategy for Carers in Wales Implementation Plan" published in July last year young carers are identified as one of five priority areas for action. The commitment is reinforced in the updated plan: "The First Report". The Assembly has commissioned two pieces of research into the needs of young carers which it expects to receive shortly. Further research has been conducted by the Social Services Inspectorate for Wales. This will inform future action to meet the complex needs of young carers.

Paragraph 21

We ask the National Assembly to develop a strategy to meet the needs of children suffering as a result of domestic violence.

The Assembly is developing supplementary guidance and draft protocols for Area Child Protection Committees on the child protection aspects of domestic violence.

Paragraph 22

We ask the National Assembly to consider commissioning research on the extent and nature of disability in Wales.

A great deal of data already exists on people with long standing health problems and disabilities. Before considering the commissioning of further research, the Assembly is planning to undertake more detailed analysis of these data with the aim of producing a statistical profile of people with disabilities in Wales.

Paragraph 27

We welcome the additional funds allocated by the Assembly to the resettlement programme for people with learning disabilities and hope that this will lead to a rapid completion of the resettlement programme.

The extra funding will allow both the completion of existing resettlement plans and will support the development and of a comprehensive resettlement programme for the remaining long stay hospital at Bryn y Neuadd. The Assembly aims to complete the programme as quickly as possible consistent with the need to ensure that people are properly prepared and supported in their resettlement into the community.

Paragraph 29

We must face the fact that people from ethnic minorities, though long established in Wales, are excluded from many important aspects of Welsh life.

The Assembly agrees that people from ethnic minority communities in Wales are excluded from many important aspects of Welsh life and is tackling this issue on a number of fronts (two of which are explained in 12 & 13 below). The Assembly has committed itself, in the Government of Wales Act, to have due regard to the issue of equal opportunities in all its business. It has also decided that equality will be one of its main themes of Better Wales, the Assembly's strategic plan.

Paragraph 32

We welcome the recent publication of a research report by the Commission for Racial Equality and the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association on the care needs of black and minority ethnic elders, and we ask the National Assembly to respond positively to this report.

The Assembly has worked closely with the Commission for Racial Equality Wales office on a number of issues. The Assembly was also supportive of the establishment of AWEMA (the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association).

We recognise that the issue of ageing and ethnicity is an important one. The Assembly will therefore be looking to take forward further work in this area through Age Concern Cymru - which will be working with black and minority ethnic older people in Wales. In agreeing a Business Plan for 2001­2004 with Age Concern Cymru to support grant funding, the Assembly have set clear objectives in respect of ageing and ethnicity. The Assembly have told Age Concern Cymru that they want to see effective joint working with the black and ethnic minority groups in Wales in fulfilling a programme of work over the next 3 years. Year 1 will involve research and scoping as a basis for the development of an action plan for Year 2 and 3.

Paragraph 34

We urge both the UK Government and the National Assembly to ensure that the views of those from ethnic minorities be taken into account across the whole range of government activity in Wales, and that projects designed to build the capacity of those communities be properly funded. The commitment to an inclusive and multicultural Wales must be more than mere rhetoric.

As highlighted above, the Assembly was supportive of the establishment of All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (AWEMA), a body that aims to facilitate communication and consultation between the Assembly and the Black, Minority Ethnic (BME) community on a variety of issues and how they may affect BME communities in Wales. Funding has been provided for the secretariat for the organisation, and other funding has been provided for specific projects which support the aim of AWEMA. The Permanent Secretary also meets regularly with individuals from the BME communities to seek their views and advice on how the Assembly is striving to achieve a diverse workforce. This Group also provides advice and assistance in spreading information on the work of the Assembly to develop and further race equality issues in Wales.

The Assembly is committed to progressing race equality both across Wales and internally to this end, recently commissioned a report on institutional racism in the Assembly. The subsequent Action Plan will set out in detail the work to be undertaken to fully implement the recommendations. The Assembly wishes to take a lead on inclusitivity by ensuring that the needs and experiences of the BME communities are identified and addressed in Wales.

Paragraph 36

It is essential that all public services in Wales be available in both Welsh and English.

The National Assembly agrees that this is an important aim of social inclusion. The Assembly wants to see public services which respect the linguistic preference of individuals, rather than simply the administrative convenience of public bodies themselves. The framework for this is the adoption of Welsh language schemes, approved by the Welsh Language Board, under the 1993 Welsh Language Act. Subordinate Legislation made in the summer of 2001 brought an additional 25 bodies under the requirements of the 1993 Act. The way is now open to the Welsh Language Board to request these organisations to prepare Welsh language schemes. A new Welsh Language Scheme for the Assembly' s own services to the public is also in preparation.

Paragraph 37

We would ask the National Assembly to consider the adequacy of interpretation facilities for people from ethnic minorities in their dealings with public authorities.

We are about to begin work to develop a policy on the use of minority languages in the Assembly; although mainly intended to provide advice on the translation of publications, the policy will also provide guidance on the circumstances in which interpretation facilities should be provided. (Similar guidance has already issued on access to Assembly information for people with disabilities).

Paragraph 39

We welcome the growing awareness of the extent of social exclusion in rural areas. It is vital that funding of services, from both UK Government and the National Assembly, should reflect the needs of rural areas.

Noted. The Rural Partnership Council has increased the awareness of social exclusion issues in rural areas and provided a basis for a cross cutting approach to tackling them. In addition, the new Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation is more sensitive to rural issues and allows more frequent updating because it is less dependent on Census derived information. This Index will become an important tool for determining policy and targeting resources at those areas most in need.

Paragraph 42

We share the Government's view that "Equipping people with the education, skills and opportunities they need to succeed at work and in life more generally is the key for preventing social exclusion and tackling disadvantage at source". Education and training are crucial in combating social exclusion.


Paragraph 47

We ask the National Assembly to study and adapt best practice from other countries in the provision of skills training. The WDA and Council for Education and Training in Wales might benefit from examining the projects we visited.

We agree that it is important to learn from good practice in other countries. The Wales Skills Task Force in its report published last year made a similar point, although it also warned of the dangers of attempting to transfer experience from one economic, social and institutional context to another. The Assembly has taken this recommendation forward in its draft Skills and Employment Action Plan which proposes that ELWa­National Council should publish a report by July 2002 drawing lessons from good practice outside Wales in developing workforce skills. Some study visits have been made ­ for example a party of National Assembly and Employment Service officials have made a study tour of the Republic of Ireland and the former Chief Executive of South East Wales TEC reported last year on a visit to Scandinavia. In its remit letter, the Assembly has asked ELWa to "promote and judge all that it does by world­class standards for learning". It must be prepared to innovate and promote radical ideas in support of the drive for excellence across Wales where the need for change can be demonstrated.

Paragraph 48

We ask the National Assembly to ensure that skills­building is at the heart of its Objective 1 strategy.

The Objective 1 Single Programming Document gives prominence to developing adaptable and specific skills across the region. "Developing people" is one of the 7 priorities and will be supported by 468m Euros.

Paragraph 67

We recommend that the UK Government conduct a comprehensive national benefit take­up campaign, with local office and telephone line support. The voluntary sector advice agencies must be involved in the planning and delivery of this campaign. If this is not thought sufficient, the National Assembly might also consider its own campaign within Wales.

See response to paragraph 68 below.

Paragraph 68

We ask the National Assembly to ensure that all local authorities in Wales provide an effective welfare rights service.

Noted. The Assembly has made a commitment to delivering a £2m scheme over 3 years to fund welfare rights workers in Primary Care. The scheme will enable GPs to refer patients requiring benefits advice and social care services to expert advisers. The primary objectives of the initiative are:

×  improving the up­take of unclaimed benefits;

×  improving income levels for some poorer people and;

×  reducing the time GPs spend resolving non­medical queries.

The Welfare Rights Initiative entitled Better Advice: Better Health provides a significant opportunity for local, co­ordinated provision of generalist and welfare rights advice in partnership between the National Assembly and the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux Wales co­operating with primary health care teams across Wales.

It is intended that 8 projects will be piloted in the first 6 months to ensure that the outcomes are met and the implementation programme is effective. These will be selected on the basis of client need and of the readiness of the local Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) and primary health care teams to deliver the service including building on work already initiated in some areas. It is likely that initially these will be in the Vale of Glamorgan, Powys, Wrexham, Newport, Ynys Môn, Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Caerphilly

CAB propose to offer a broader range of service delivery options, including:

×  services in GP surgeries;

×  services in community hospitals;

×  home visiting services;

×  services delivered in CAB premises and;

×  services delivered via the telephone.

Paragraph 87

We believe that the Post Office should fulfil a very valuable role in the development of the credit union network, with the local post office providing a base for the community credit union and, in some cases, with the postmaster or postmistress carrying out a management function. We commend the decision of the National Assembly to give £3.8 million to the development of the credit union movement in Wales over the next three years. We welcome the expression of support for credit unions by both the UK Government and the National Assembly, and the provision of money for community finance initiatives from the Phoenix Fund. We urge the Government to publicise the value of credit unions and develop a strategy for fostering their growth.

The strategy for developing the Credit Union movement in Wales was devised by the movement itself. It is a sound strategy, founded on the grassroots knowledge of the realities facing the movement in Wales, and the Government of the National Assembly for Wales supports it wholeheartedly. As the Committee has noted, the movement's development strategy is underpinned by a £3.8 million project.

The Government of the National Assembly welcomes the recent creation of a Credit Union/Local Government forum and believes that considerable mutual benefits are likely to arise from the forum in the future. It urges all local authorities in Wales to join the forum.

Work continues on proposals to use Post Office premises to become collection points for Credit Union savings in the context of the Rural Recovery Plan and the Wales Co­operative Centre has been commissioned to prepare a report for the National Assembly.

Paragraph 99

In considering its approach to community regeneration, the National Assembly might usefully look to experience in the United States.

The Communities First programme is designed to tackle poverty and social exclusion in the most deprived areas in Wales. It has been informed by a review of Best Practice on Community Regeneration from around the world, including the United States. The guidance on Communities First is currently has been published and takes account the review.

Paragraph 109

Funding for social exclusion projects needs in most cases to be for a minimum five year period. Pump priming is not enough: in many of the more disadvantaged areas project funding will be required on a permanent, or at least long­term basis.

We agree that social exclusion projects require long term funding. Under the Assembly's Communities First programme we acknowledge that a concentration of effort is needed over a significant period if we are to see sustainable change.

Whilst we cannot give a commitment to the precise level of resources beyond 2003/2004, we have made a long term commitment to tackling social deprivation through the Communities First programme.

Paragraph 110

It may be that we need to learn from the private sector and accept a degree of risk in our social investment.

We accept that there is a degree of risk in our social investment. Our aim is to manage the risk effectively.

Paragraph 111

There is a strong case for simpler, broader funding schemes for voluntary sector projects.

Agreed. The need for greater clarity in funding streams was addressed as part of the strategic review of funding for the voluntary sector undertaken at the request of the Voluntary Sector Partnership Council. We are currently in the process of implementing the recommendations of that review.

Paragraph 112

We suggest that it is inappropriate to make the funding of social inclusion projects dependent on the achievement of swift outcomes. And outcomes must be defined very carefully so that projects do not waste time and effort in pointless box­ticking.

Agreed. Communities First funding is not dependent on the achievement of swift outcomes. It is a long­term programme aimed at tackling the root causes of poverty in Wales's most deprived communities. We will be assessing how the Communities First programme can be evaluated effectively.

Paragraph 113

Evaluation must be built into project planning from the start, and the lessons of that evaluation must be shared. Across Wales, communities are succeeding in regenerating: others must be encouraged to follow their lead.

The Assembly's approach to social exclusion has recognised the importance of building in evaluation and learning lessons about 'what works' from the outset. As evidence of this, the interim evaluation report of the People in Communities pilots has enabled lessons to be learnt when implementing and developing Communities First.

The Assembly has developed strong links with the University of Glamorgan which has provided expertise via secondees. These advisors have helped develop the Assembly's knowledge base of community regeneration, and along with research staff in the Assembly, developed an innovative approach to evaluation involving key stakeholders including members of the communities themselves.

Underpinning this approach is a recognition that promoting evidence based practice relies on a wider acceptance that evaluation should provide lessons about what doesn't work as well as about good practice. A strategy for evaluating the effectiveness of Communities First is under consideration.

The Assembly is also developing its approach to evaluation at a corporate level in a way which will ensure that cross cutting themes including social inclusion are taken firmly into account when appraising plans or evaluating outcomes of initiatives across policy areas.

Paragraph 114

We have been very impressed by the reports produced by the Social Exclusion Unit: while the Unit's formal remit extends to England only, their conclusions have much relevance for Wales. It is perhaps too soon to say whether these reports have had a real impact on the problems which they have addressed, but the Unit has certainly been successful in bringing different Departments together to consider problems which cross departmental boundaries.

The National Assembly is maintaining these links with the Social Exclusion Unit in England.

Paragraph 115

We understand that the Assembly is to publish an annual report on progress in tackling social exclusion. This will provide a useful opportunity to publicise good practice within Wales as well as a spur to maintaining the impetus of the social inclusion strategy.

The first National Assembly for Wales Annual Report on Social Inclusion in Wales was published on the internet in June 2001. We are currently developing the next report to be published in Spring 2002.

Paragraph 120

It may be time to reconsider the merits of Wales forging its own policy on business rates.

The primary legislation governing the rating system in England and Wales is the Local Government Finance Act 1988.

Under the Act each country has a national rate multiplier. The rate revenues are paid into a national rate pool for each country, and then redistributed among the local authorities of each country.

The Act limits annual increases in the multipliers to the rate of inflation, except at revaluations when they must be adjusted to offset the impact on total rate yield of changes in total rateable value (the Welsh and English multipliers have never been the same, reflecting the different impact of revaluations on the two countries).

The National Assembly has control over those parts of the Welsh rating system contained in subordinate legislation, such as transitional relief schemes to phase in the changes in individual rate bills following revaluations. Such schemes were introduced in 1990, 1995, and 2000. For 2000 the Welsh scheme for the first time diverged from the English and instead of giving relief to ratepayers of all sizes, gives relief only to small ratepayers.

The National Assembly have recently completed a consultation exercise on changes to the rating system, including the possibility of allowing local authorities to levy their own supplementary rates. The supplementary rate income would be retained by the councils for use locally on matters agreed with their business communities. The extent to which the Assembly will have control over the implementation of any changes to the rating system will depend on the extent that any new primary legislation allows scope for implementation through secondary legislation.

Paragraph 122

We commend to the Assembly the evidence we have received on housing and on homelessness and ask them to address the very real problems raised.

The Homelessness Commission was established in November 2000 to advise the Assembly on the continuing problem of homelessness in Wales. The Commission was Chaired by Peter Black, Deputy Housing Minister, and included senior Assembly Members as well as representatives from the statutory and voluntary sectors working with homeless people. The Commission was a "task and finish group" which submitted its report to the Assembly in August 2001. The report has been welcomed by the Minister, and was considered by the Local Government and Housing Committee on the 24th October. It will be debated at a plenary session on 20th November.

The report contains a wide range of recommendations on how the Assembly and other statutory and voluntary organisations can reduce homelessness in Wales and help homeless people gain better access to essential services.

In particular the report advises the Assembly on guidance for local homelessness strategies, and how homelessness can be reduced by joining up services to enable homeless people to establish sustainable tenancies.

Paragraph 123

We would particularly ask the Assembly to consider the disadvantages experienced by tenants in the private rented sector.

There are two particular issues that need to be addressed, problems with Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO's) and the insecurity and lack of rights in the private sector.

Problems with HMO's can be attributed to poor standards, inadequate facilities, over­crowding and refuse, but also more abstract issues such as anti­social behaviour by tenants and landlords. In many areas with a comparatively high concentration of HMOs, other residents can feel that their presence is making the neighbourhood less attractive and may even feel threatened by the presence of HMO's and their occupants. Local authorities already have enforcement powers to tackle problem HMOs. They can issue grants for improvements or for conversions into self­contained units. There have been cases where local authorities have teamed up with registered social landlords to acquire run­down HMOs and convert them into family accommodation. The proposals for revising the current private sector renewal legislation will, if adopted, provide much greater flexibility for local authorities to improve and upgrade HMOs. Authorities will be able to tailor their strategy to reflect local needs and priorities, under guidance to be issued by the National Assembly.

On the question of insecurity and lack of rights in the private sector, this issue has been recognised by the Government, and the Law Commission have been asked to conduct a review of the law on tenure. This review will address issues relating to security of tenure, tenants' rights and the need for a simplification of the law in this area. The Assembly will be involved in this review and will take account of problems experienced by tenants in the private sector when contributing to this review

Paragraph 123

We ask the Assembly and the UK Government together to consider whether further legislation is required to control the activities of unscrupulous landlords and to ensure decent and affordable housing within the private rented sector.

The Housing Act 1996 introduced new HMO registration schemes, which extended Local Authorities' powers to insist on better standards of condition and management. Local authorities are encouraged to make use of these enhanced powers.

Local authorities already have enforcement powers to deal with problems in HMOs and can also give grants to improve their condition or for conversion into self­contained accommodation.

The Government is also committed to introducing a national mandatory licensing scheme, which aims to provide safe, acceptable living conditions without reducing the supply of private rented accommodation. The licensing proposals include changing the legal definition of an HMO to bring many more properties into the ambit of registration (including most student accommodation). The proposals will be introduced at the earliest Parliamentary opportunity. The primary legislation will be on an England and Wales basis but the National Assembly will have the opportunity to influence the direction of licensing through its secondary legislative powers.

The Assembly is about to consult on proposals for selective licensing for other parts of the private­rented sector. There will be discretionary powers for authorities to licence other private sector properties in certain circumstances.

Paragraph 124

It is essential that there be close co­operation between the Home Office, the National Assembly and local authorities in tackling "criminal justice" aspects of social exclusion in Wales

The Assembly and the Home Office manage a joint Crime Reduction Unit with a Crime Reduction Director appointed by the Home Office and the support staff provided by the Assembly. The unit jointly reports to the Home Office and the Local Government and Housing Committee of the Assembly.

The unit works closely with the 22 Crime and Disorder Partnerships in Wales with membership of the partnership leadership groups and working with practitioners. The partnerships are led by the police and local authorities.

A Wales wide Crime Reduction Leadership Group has been set up consisting of the police , local authorities, health, probation and senior Assembly Civil Servants together with the crime reduction director.

The Chief Constables, Police Authorities, Fire Service meet the Minister for Finance and Local Government on a quarterly basis to discuss cross cutting issues. Similar meetings also take place with the Probation Service and Prison Service. A major area of work centres around social deprivation and the links to crime ,disorder, youth offending and drugs.

The Assembly is represented on the 4 Area Criminal Justice Committees.

Paragraph 125

We ask the Assembly to work with local authorities and the voluntary sector to standardise the social exclusion statistics compiled in Wales and to ensure that data is provided at the lowest possible level.

The Assembly is working in collaboration with the Office for National Statistics to develop the Neighbourhood Statistics Service. This service was an outcome of the PAT18 report in England but will be developed, in partnership, to include Wales. The first phase of the service is up­and running and includes some ward­level data for Wales. The new Local Government Data Unit in Wales will assist the Assembly in enhancing the range of small area data available and we will be consulting with voluntary and community sector representatives about our plans for developing neighbourhood statistics for Wales.

Paragraph 128

People experiencing social exclusion and poverty must be fully involved in developing policy to tackle those problems.

We agree. The central tenet of the Assembly's Communities First programme is that solutions to community problems should be community led.

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Prepared 12 February 2002