What is an SIIA and how does it affect you?
SIIAs, or Strategic Integrated Impact Assessments, to give them their full name, can affect everyone in Wales.
The Welsh Government publishes SIIAs alongside its draft budgets to show how funding allocations will affect particular services or sections of society.
An SIIA could show the impact a particular health programme is expected to have on young people, or how money dedicated to a work programme will benefit people from poorer areas affected by poverty.
In 2015-16 the Welsh Government consolidated a number of different types of impact assessments into one. An SIIA assesses the impact of budget decisions on:
Concerns have been raised in previous years about the quality and detail of impact assessments, which is what prompted a concurrent inquiry by three National Assembly committees.
Among the concerns was a belief that, in some cases, there is a lack of clarity about what has actually been assessed. The Welsh Government also only publishes the results of impact assessments but not the detail conclusions are drawn from.
There are further concerns the current process is the ‘wrong way round’, with factors such as children’s rights and equalities appearing to be used as tools to justify spending, rather than demonstrating how those factors influenced decision-making.
The Children, Young People and Education Committee, Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee and the Finance Committee looked at how the Welsh Government plans for future spending and how it assesses the impact of its budgetary decisions.
The Committees jointly concluded that the Welsh Government should go back to fundamental principles. That the focus should be ‘what approach will be most effective’, rather than ‘which element of the assessment is the most important?’
The Committees agreed the Welsh Government needs to be clear about why it conducts an assessment, who uses it and what they hope to understand from it.
They believe for impact assessments to have any value, they must meaningfully inform how funding is allocated to which areas. The Committees did not believe that there was sufficient evidence of this happening at the moment.
The Committees also want to see a transparent account of the negative, as well as the positive impacts of budget allocations, so a full picture can be considered. They stated that honesty about the difficult trade-offs that have to be made is essential for public confidence in decision-making, especially in the current economic climate.
The three Chairs of the Committees, Lynne Neagle AM, John Griffiths AM and Llyr Gruffydd AM said
“In recent years each of our committees has had something to say about budget impact assessments. We felt the time had come to work together to shine a joint spotlight on this, with a particular focus – given our respective remits – on the impact of budget decisions on equalities, children and young people.
“We believe SIIAs should be used to inform, steer and influence change. We are concerned that they appear to be used currently to reflect or justify decisions which have already been made.
“Furthermore, we are concerned by what appears to be a growing tendency to pass responsibility for impact assessments to local bodies such as health boards or local authorities, for which there is no legislative basis.
“We recognise that assessing the impact of budget discussions is no mean feat, but for impact assessments to have any value, they must meaningfully inform financial allocations – as things stand, it is not clear to us that the way in which they are undertaken delivers that aim.”
The Committees’ report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.