People need a broad range of skills in order to contribute to a modern economy and take their place in the technological society of the twenty-first century.
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The development of people’s proficiency in basic and key skills is now a central plank of government policy in Wales and in other parts of the United Kingdom. In Wales, basic and key skills fall within the Welsh Assembly Government's aim to ensure that everyone possesses a wide range of essential skills.
Basic skills are defined by the Welsh Assembly Government as 'literacy in English and/or Welsh and numeracy (in both Welsh and English), as well as English as a second language'.
Poor literacy and numeracy skills have been identified as being among the barriers to social and economic regeneration in Wales. The Basic Skills Agency (BSA) has estimated that over three-quarters of a million people in Wales need varying degrees of support to enable them to develop their basic skills (BSA,2001). Moreover, research has highlighted the links between a lack of basic skills and economic deprivation, social exclusion and crime. Individuals with limited basic skills are more likely to be long-term unemployed or employed in low-skilled jobs, to live in substandard housing and to suffer ill-health.
The National Basic Skills Strategy for Wales states that ‘The Assembly’s vision is of a fully literate and numerate Wales; a place where no one lacks the basic skills most of us take for granted’.