Jeff Cuthbert, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
I am providing this Written Statement to provide Members with information regarding the continuation of the Communities First (CF) Programme.
From April 2012 the Communities First (CF) Programme was relaunched as a Community Focussed Tackling Poverty Programme. Further information about the programme can be found online.
There are 52 CF Clusters across Wales, each one focussed on the most deprived communities in Wales (as defined by Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation 2011). Funding for the new Programme was initially committed until March 2015.
The aim of the Programme is to narrow the economic, health and education and skills gaps between our most deprived and more affluent citizens by working with individuals and communities in the most deprived areas across Wales. The Programme is closely linked with a number of Welsh Government priorities and is a key element of the Tackling Poverty Action Plan.
The new Programme commenced formally in 2012 and funding for the last Cluster was approved in January this year. Recent indications are that the new arrangements are working well. A more strategic approach, combined with increased engagement from across Welsh Government have given the programme renewed credibility and impact. However, there is a risk that uncertainty regarding the future of the programme may impact on the confidence of communities, CF staff and key partners at this critical stage when we need to embed the new arrangements and drive work forward in all Clusters.
I will be providing the Key Note Speech at the CF Annual Conference on 13 November 2013 at the Liberty Stadium Swansea. I intend to reaffirm the Welsh Government’s commitment to the Programme going forward and announce that the Programme will continue beyond March 2015 for the life of this Government.
I am clear that there will be further decisions to make next year regarding future funding of individual Clusters. Current financial constraints mean that there is also inevitably some uncertainty regarding the Programme budget. An evaluation of CF will be undertaken next year and there may well be lessons to be learned from that which could help to shape the future of the Programme as well as particular funding decisions. I am, however, keen to emphasise today that our commitment to tackling poverty needs to be long term and I am committed to the work of Communities First.
At the conference, I will also announce that there will soon be a new ‘Community Facilities Programme’ grants scheme which will incorporate the Community Facilities and Activities Programme (CFAP) and the Post Office Diversification Fund (PODF). This new all-Wales scheme will support capital projects closely aligned to tackling poverty and I will announce details early in the New Year.
Our Programme for Government makes it clear that we will continue to invest in our most deprived communities to develop a flexible and responsive programme which seeks to tackle the impacts of poverty as well as the longer term causes of poverty in Wales. Through continued investment in the Communities First programme and complimentary grant schemes, we can come together to achieve this.