|Food Policy, Devolution and Wales|
Page 8 of 8Contribution to public policy and devolution
Relevant Ministers have been supportive of our long-standing contribution. In particular we wish to record our thanks to Jane Hutt AM, when Health and Social Services Minister, who has understood our contribution and been especially supportive since our inception. Opportunities to influence government have been good, for example, through membership of the 'Food in Schools' and the Chief Nursing Officer 'Hospital Food' working groups, the National Service Framework for Older People, the FSA Food and Wellbeing Implementation and Monitoring Steering Group, and our success in representing the views of 368 older people to the 'Quality of Food' consultation. We were also one of the few Welsh organisations who contributed to Cabinet Office Food Security Inquiry, although they managed to ignore our central message about growing malnutrition in an ageing society.
On the whole, for an organisation of our size, we have had considerably more access than would have been the case in England. However, given the large amount of voluntary effort over a ten year period, we acknowledge that the results of our efforts have not been what we could have reasonably expected - see above. In particular, with nutrient standards in school meals being a central aspect of public health policy, it would have been better if this aspect had remained in Westminster. Devolution has made it possible to make changes in food education within the National Curriculum beyond that achieved in England. That said, if changes proposed in 1999 had been acted upon, we could have influenced a whole generation of pupils. Important aspects of food policy failed to occur in a timely manner not through the absence of devolved powers or the absence of new primary law making powers. The requirements were political will, a thorough debate and then action to prioritise resources available for this purpose within the Westminster block grant.
Wales Food and Health Policy Council
Although we are prepared to concede that progress may have been made in respect of food policy over the past ten years our experience has not been impressive. Our view is that devolution has had the effect of strengthening existing well-organised and politically influential interest groups. This has detracted from the importance of improved nutrient quality in public sector catering.
Currently, no forum exists to discuss this and a whole range of other food policy issues in an informed manner with various stakeholder interests. In our response to the Food and Wellbeing (2002) and the Quality of Food (2007) consultations we proposed a Wales Food and Health Policy Council. This should start with a consideration of the classic Toronto Food Policy Council model and could possibly be funded by diverting funding currently spent on the Assembly funded Nutrition Network. We note with interest that DEFRA has established a Council of Food Policy Advisers (2008).
The necessity of UK wide partnership working and collaboration
Although local health, social care and wellbeing strategies provide an important opportunity to address, for example, growing malnutrition in an ageing population, on certain strategic issues, at another level, we also need to operate across the UK. This is illustrated with the attached self-financed citizens UK agenda and questionnaire. This will span: varied sector skills councils, UK headquartered food retailers, and professional health and social care regulatory standard setting bodies. Whatever the outcome of the Convention we would value a clear statement of the importance of working across the four UK countries, with inclusive mechanisms to improve collaboration and partnership working on issues and concerns for the common good.
Food Policy Adviser
Final: 9th February 2009
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