Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
I wish to update Assembly Members on the Communities for Work programme. Today, EU funds of £18 million have been confirmed to support economically inactive and long term unemployed individuals over 25 years of age with complex barriers to employment, to re-engage with the labour market. This approval, as part of a total investment of nearly £30 million matched by the Welsh Government and DWP Job Centre Plus, will support over 6,000 individuals and represents the first phase of this three-year programme of work, to be delivered alongside complementary youth activity (16–24 years) which I will bring forward at a later date.
The Communities for Work Programme will operate alongside Communities First, (CF) providing support for unemployed people to return to work. It also aligns closely with the Welsh Government’s Tackling Poverty Action Plan and Child Poverty Strategy for Wales.
Supported by EU funds, Communities for Work is an advisory service working with people in the most deprived communities, including the 52 CF areas across Wales, to increase the employability of economically inactive and long term unemployed adults who have complex barriers to employment. It combines the experience and best practice from previous successful programmes such as Want to Work and other programmes which have been supported through CF, such as the Parent Employer Adviser Shared Outcome Initiative and the Lift programme.
The programme will support the shared strategic objectives of Welsh Government and the European Social Funds (ESF) Structural Funds to reduce poverty. Communities for Work will proactively engage with participants furthest from the labour market, who are likely to have low skills and other complex barriers and will have a high number of people from workless households. By building on the infrastructure of CF, we will build on a trusted programme reaching those in greatest need of support. Communities for Work will provide intensive job seeking guidance, balancing participant aspirations against local labour demand.
Communities for Work is also building on the best practice of the Welsh Government’s Lift programme, specifically aimed at supporting individuals from workless households. However, whereas Lift is being delivered in nine areas, Communities for Work will expand similar support to all 52 Clusters. It will dedicate specialist mentors to provide the intensive support these participants require. The programme is co-sponsored by Job Centre Plus, who will be supporting both Parent Employment Advisors and Community Employment Advisors working in Clusters throughout Wales.
In addition, as part of the ESF funded provision, I am developing a proposal for an “Innovation Fund”, to support and trial new and innovative ideas for tackling poverty, possibly from organisations not traditionally working in this area.
I am committed to continuing to support the most deprived communities in Wales, building on the success of programmes already delivering, ensuring we spread the benefits of these as wide as possible and making best use of EU funds to help tackle poverty. I want Wales to develop a model of employment support which supports individuals to help secure their future. This will help to reduce poverty and support people facing challenges in their lives.
Communities for Work represents a significant step forward in employment support in our poorest communities and a commitment to our continued support for the poorest people, in our most deprived communities in Wales, offering a real opportunity to help people achieve their aspirations and escape from poverty.