Welsh Government set to ditch flagship Communities First program
Communities First the flagship Welsh Government programme aimed at boosting deprived communities is set to be ditched the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children confirmed today.
In a statement to the Welsh Assembly, Carl Sargeant AM said he was “minded to phase out the Communities First programme”
“While Communities First has supported people in some of our most deprived areas over the last fifteen years, I am not convinced that continuing to focus on 52 small areas is the most effective way to deliver for Wales.
[miptheme_quote author=”Cllr Christine Jones” style=”boxquote text-left”]I am very angry at this proposal. It will affect hundreds of residents, children & adults , in our deprived communities in Flintshire. Communities First in Deeside & the other areas of Flintshire do a marvellous job. Their work includes running job clubs, food co ops, food banks, training, & development schemes, educational courses, dementia cafes, apprenticeships for our young people to gain employment, to name but a few. The scheme has been a great success in Flintshire & is served by a great team of dedicated people. I urge Welsh Government to reconsider this proposal for the sake of the people who live in the most deprived areas in Flintshire. We are moving ever closer to the closure of John Summers High School in Queensferry, which in itself is a massive loss to the area, and now we are faced with this loss as well. The scheme has been a success in Flintshire & there is evidence of this. Please reconsider leaving the Deeside area cluster of Communities First alone. Cllr David Wisinger & myself work really closely with this team & can assure you how much work they have done in Queensferry & Sealand & the benefits they have provided for our residents.[/miptheme_quote]
Over £300m has been spent on Communities First since it’s launch in 2001.
The program had come under fire from some members of the Deeside community for its apparent lack of support in key area’s.
The Queensferry Campus-based Communities First project initially set out to support the Higher Shotton community.
The project was later given a wider remit to cover most of Deeside, this drew fierce criticism from residents in Higher Shotton who claimed they had been abandoned by the project.
One resident told Deeside.com they felt the project had become an ‘admin unit’ for the council choosing to favour entrepreneur programs over its core aims of narrowing the economic, education skills and health gaps between our most deprived and more affluent areas.
Responding to the announcement made today Welsh Conservative Shadow Secretary for Communities, Mark Isherwood AM, said:
“It is gratifying to see the Welsh Government proposing a re-think on the Communities First programme the reform of which Welsh Conservatives have long called for.
With one in four people in Wales still living in poverty, it is clear the programme is not fit for purpose; has largely fallen short of its stated aims, and has been the target of concern for many of Labour’s own AMs.
If the Welsh Government is serious about making up for its past failures then it should give serious thought to delivering locally-led regeneration schemes, which would strip away bureaucracy while delivering targeted and effective support, while saving tens of millions.”
Carl Sargeant said he will take a fresh look at how the Welsh Government can support resilient communities who are empowered and engaged and offer children the best start in life.”
Mr Sargeant also said:
“On Employment, I want to see communities that have access to jobs and people with the right skills and support to fill them. We have made a major commitment to Lift and Communities for Work, and I can confirm these important employment programmes will continue as planned.
“For Early Years, we can do more to protect children from the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences which are a major threat to well-being and economic prosperity.
“I am inviting organisations to join with us to develop Children’s Zones for Wales which will see organisations collaborating seamlessly to improve the lives of children and young people and, along with Flying Start and Families First, will support them to get the best possible start in life.
“In terms of Empowerment, I want resilient communities to have strong local infrastructure and strong and inclusive leadership. Local Authorities and Public Service Boards (PSBs) must now step into this leadership role. I will engage, challenge and support them to deliver success.”
The Communities Secretary said he would be seeking views on how to engage, support and strengthen communities through the new, proposed approach.
“We cannot duck the new and serious challenges we face. Rather, we must find fresh ways to respond. Beginning now, we will engage internal and external stakeholders on our future approach, including the proposal to phase out Communities First and how we continue to deliver Communities for Work and Lift.”
Welsh Local Government Association supports Welsh Government proposal to review Communities First.
The WLGA supports Welsh Government proposals announced today to review and possibly replace the Communities First programme with a new approach to meet Wales’ future challenges.
Commenting on the announcement, WLGA Leader Cllr Bob Wellington said:
“Although it has evolved over the years, Communities First has been in existence for 15 years. Whilst it has made a positive impact in many areas, Wales’ communities and public services now face a wider range of challenges and it is therefore timely to review whether Communities First remains fit for purpose and explore the establishment of a new approach.”
“Communities First was a clear attempt to try something different in areas experiencing some of the most difficult economic, social and environmental conditions in Wales. It resulted in some positive outcomes in many communities but also ran into problems in key areas. With the Well-being of Future Generations Act now in place, there is a framework for public bodies and their partners to support people living in the areas targeted by Communities First as part of a more integrated approach that, crucially, considers linkages with areas of growth and opportunity.”
“Regional development efforts across Wales are driving a more comprehensive approach to economic development and regeneration and have the potential to deliver better results than the targeted, area-based interventions that characterised Communities First. This is particularly the case when it comes to dealing with Adverse Childhood experiences which requires a more dedicated policy approach.”
“We particularly welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s commitment to engage with partners in this review. It is important to learn lessons from the Communities First programme and, in particular, to recognise the progress made in terms of involving communities – one of the key requirements of the Well-being Act. It is also important that the dedication, skills and knowledge of the Communities First teams across Wales are recognised and that their experience is used to inform and support new approaches that will be needed – especially as many of the problems that Communities First was designed to tackle still remain.”
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