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Written Statement - Lift Programme Update

Jeff Cuthbert, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty and Vaughan Gething Deputy Minister for Tackling Poverty

Members will wish to be aware of the following update on the Lift Programme.

Tackling Poverty is one of the Welsh Government’s highest priorities, as reflected in the revised Tackling Poverty Action Plan - Building Resilient Communities launched on 3 July 2013.  The Action Plan draws together actions from across every Welsh Government portfolio, in support of the three key objectives of preventing poverty; helping people into work; and mitigating the impact of poverty.  

Workless households are strongly linked with severe and persistent poverty and higher rates of child poverty.  Wales has higher rates of workless households than most other parts of the UK, with some 200,000 households currently workless.  There are particular concentrations of workless households in the 52 Communities First (CF) Cluster areas across Wales.

The Tackling Poverty Action Plan includes a cross-Government commitment to offer 5,000 training or employment opportunities to people living in workless households by the end of the 2017 calendar year.  

The Lift Programme is not intended to work with people who are temporarily out of work. Rather, it will focus on those who have spent more than six months out of work or training and who face greater barriers to becoming employed, such as young single parents; adults with few or no formal qualifications; people with poor employment records and individuals with disabilities.  Research shows that people in households with these characteristics are much less likely to gain employment than others.

Lift is a distinct programme which is building on the existing Communities First infrastructure and adding value to CF Cluster teams.  Lift is being delivered in eight CF Clusters across Wales:

Mon Cluster – Anglesey
Carmarthenshire Cluster – Carmarthenshire
Swansea North West Cluster - Swansea
Afan Cluster – Neath Port Talbot
Taf Cluster – Rhondda Cynon Taf
Cardiff East Cluster – Cardiff
Caerphilly Basin Cluster – Caerphilly 
Tredegar & Ebbw Vale Clusters – Blaenau Gwent

We are also considering the possibility of an additional area in North East Wales.

The Lift Cluster areas will all have “employment brokers”, funded through the CF Programme, who will work to identify local people from workless households who could benefit from the Programme. They will establish the reasons why a person may not be in work, such as a lack of qualifications or health issues, and work with that person to overcome those barriers and take up training or employment opportunities.  

The Lift model will allow participants to progress as quickly as possible, with training or employment opportunities offered at every stage as appropriate.  Intensive support for households with more significant barriers and needs will be embedded in the model.  The brokers will also maintain contact with participants after they begin training or employment to ensure issues are resolved and the training or employment is sustained.

The Lift Cluster areas will be supported through the development of a package of interventions.  Each Welsh Government portfolio has been asked to contribute to this by identifying appropriate training, work experience or employment opportunities.  This work is ongoing, but possibilities already identified include opportunities in the health service and social care sector, as well as volunteering opportunities which lead to qualifications and, potentially, employment.

Additional Jobs Growth Wales placements, funded through CF Programme resources, are being targeted at CF Clusters across Wales with a particular focus on people from workless households in the Lift Programme areas.  

Work is also being undertaken to encourage wider engagement in and support for the Programme, including other parts of the public sector, the private sector and the Third Sector, and also with DWP to identify possible constraints imposed on participants through the welfare system.

The Lift Programme therefore combines three main elements:

  • work across the Welsh Government and with partner organisations to identify opportunities for people from workless households;
  • work in the Lift Cluster areas, through the dedicated brokers and supported by the wider CF Teams, to identify Programme participants, work intensively with them to overcome barriers and “match” them with suitable opportunities; and
  • work to overcome potential problems, for example with benefits rules.

The Welsh Government’s Lift team will act as the interface between these elements

The Programme is now fully operational in Anglesey, Carmarthenshire, Swansea, Cardiff and Blaenau Gwent.  We expect Caerphilly, Neath Port Talbot and Rhondda Cynon Taf to follow over the coming weeks.

Lift is still in its early stages, but we have already seen some excellent work, for example a work experience project in Blaenau Gwent run by the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service.  We expect to see numbers increase over the first year of the Programme, with outputs levelling out over the following three years.  

Lift is intended to be an innovative Programme which will seek to learn over time what works well and what is less successful. The intention is that experience gained from intensive work in the Lift Cluster areas will inform wider efforts to reduce the number of workless households in Wales.  

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish us to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns we would be happy to do so.