The WLGA supported the Cabinet Secretary’s decision to review Communities First (CF) when the announcement was first made by Welsh Government back in October 2016 subject to assurances around seeking ongoing employment for those involved in delivery.
Councillor Bob Wellington, Leader of WLGA, said: “We have seen some excellent examples of community support under the CF programme and we have some very experienced staff across Wales working on the programme. It is important that we learn from the CF experience and continue to draw on the skills and knowledge of the staff involved wherever possible. We now need to ensure that the communities we have been supporting under CF continue to receive the assistance they need so that the exciting economic development opportunities emerging in each of the regions are accessible to them and help to improve their well-being”.
It is important to acknowledge that there have been many examples of success associated with CF. However, it is also sensible to review large scale programmes after a period to ensure they are still fit for purpose. There have been significant changes over the fifteen years of the Programme’s operation, not least the emergence of collaborative approaches to economic development and regeneration across each of the regions of Wales. These regional development initiatives are taking a comprehensive approach, looking strategically at areas of need and areas of opportunity and seeking to make connections that will improve links between the supply and demand sides of the labour market.
There will continue to be a need for support and assistance in the most disadvantaged communities where some residents need help with basic skills, and health and care issues. The Cabinet Secretary’s announcement indicates that some areas of support that have been provided under CF can be continued and decisions about this will be made at a local level with the communities involved. There will be opportunities to continue to provide support alongside other ongoing programmes such as Families First and Flying Start and all of this is welcome. There is also recognition that some of the improvement we need to see will necessarily be long term, taking place over generations. The focus on children and avoiding adverse childhood experiences (ACES) is very welcome and is an attempt to ensure the upcoming generation has the best possible start in life and development.