There are concerns over the future of a Welsh Government scheme to tackle poverty in Wales' poorest communities - what next for the Communities First programme?
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Tonight on The Wales Report: What next for Wales' poorest areas?
We speak to Communities Secretary Carl Sargeant about his plans
after scrapping the Communities First scheme.
Is there a bright Brexit future on the horizon?
We'll hear from the leader of the Welsh Conservatives,
And Aileen Richards, the first female to sit on the
board of Welsh Rugby Union, tells us how she
thinks you can get more women into public life.
Good evening and welcome to The Wales Report.
First tonight, what next for Wales' poorest areas?
Remember you can join in the discussion tonight ?
When it was launched in 2001, Communities First
was the Welsh Government's big plan to tackle
poverty in Wales' most deprived areas.
But the programme has been mired in controversy
and concerns that it doesn't deliver.
Communities Secretary Carl Sargeant confirmed in the Senedd yesterday
that the scheme would be phased out.
With EU funding also at risk, that announcement
has left many wondering what support will be left for those communities
to help people out of poverty and into work.
In some of Wales' most deprived areas, local Communities First
projects provide a lifeline to those struggling with benefit changes and
poverty. You will notice it is getting dry so
what we're going to do is add the egg.
The programme here helped 120 residents into work last year,
teaching a range of life skills. People say it has helped them build
confidence. I was on the cookery course. I was
in a group for postnatal depression funded by Communities First. We were
offered this as an add-on for a qualification. If it wasn't for
Communities First I wouldn't have been able to afford to be able to do
the qualification or have childcare that they have paid for. It has
given me confidence for getting out there and doing it.
Those involved in the scheme say it is not just about finding people
work. Often more complex support is needed to help them turn things
around. Employability is key but only one
piece of it. People have low self-esteem and low confidence and
you just think they really, really need intensive intervention to help
get back on their feet and back into work and this is what we are doing.
And what we would like to carry on doing.
But despite pockets of success like this, Communities First has faced
huge criticism. Since it was launched in 2001, it has been mired
in concerns about the misuse of funds and even some high-profile
fraud cases. Most importantly, it has made no change to the overall
picture of deprivation in Wales. After 15 years and ?300 million of
investment, almost one quarter of people in Wales are living in
poverty. It depends on how we judge
Communities First. If we judge it as a poverty eradication programme,
let's be honest, it has failed. By and large, the poorest areas in
Wales are at the same. It is over 15 years since the programme was
introduced. I think we look at it as a poverty mitigation programme and
then it has had enormous successes. You have to ask what some
communities would be like without it.
It was confirmed that the scheme was to be phased out. People working in
the scheme and the people they support have already faced a long
period of uncertainty. The problem is when you make an
announcement as has been done, it already has effects. People are
already looking for other jobs which means that some of the services are
disintegrating already. My concern is that this is quite urgent because
I can tell you there is a lot of nervousness around at the moment.
Many of the same areas that are supported by Communities First also
received funding from the European Union. While it is true that those
two sources of funding that have -- have failed to lift Wales out of
poverty, the question marks hanging over them are causing concern.
A huge source of funding would disappear from the EU and from
Communities First. Parts of Wales could have their -- have core parts
removed. What will happen to those communities?
I think Communities First has been a success in many areas but it is
temporary Reef fresh. He announced your phasing it out and
the money will come to an end next April. What next?
We will look at interventions and other programmes. Communities First
could never be the only poverty programme. I am looking forward with
optimism to tackling poverty. What about the cookery course we
saw? Well that carry on? We will have a ?6 million revenue
fund and a ?4 million capital fund where local authorities can pick up
the best local programmes that are having a good effect. There are some
effective programmes but the poverty trap is stubborn and we have to do
something about it. A lot of projects were listed by our
speaker that said it was a sad day. There is no long-term vision for
tackling poverty. I don't agree with you. We are very
keen on making sure that all our policy interventions from government
and making sure that we're tackling poverty head on. The fact is that...
Why did you run backbencher described it as a sad day?
That is a matter for him and I think he is just misunderstood. He doesn't
agree with me but that is nothing new in any party. We have
opportunities to make sure communities across Wales are
tackling poverty and we will do that.
But you are more or less washing your hands of this. You're seeing to
local communities, it is up to you, you can carry on with the projects
or not. That is not the message. You're
working with them. 100,000 apprenticeships, the best childcare
anywhere in the UK. We are seeing that --... Let's not make this a sad
day for communities. What I don't understand is that of
the pot of money was available to amenities by Communities First, does
that no get spread through communities or is there a specific
poverty part? If you look at the whole Communities
First budget there is around ?3 million of savings. We will be
making stronger interventions in those other programmes to make sure
they link up better. One announcement yesterday was a ?12
million project that didn't receive much coverage. It will fund projects
similar to those in your VAT and those things that work we will
continue to do -- similar to those in your video.
It is not great timing for these projects due to coming out of the
EU. They are already facing uncertainty.
You are right. It is important that we plan for the future and that is
what we have done. Brexit and welfare reform have had to stabling
effects on our communities and we need to get a grip of this and
tackling poverty is one of this government's main priorities. We
have got to do something different. Do the same and you get the same
effect and we are not doing that. Britain's journey towards the EU
exit door is progressing. The House of Commons took the big
step of backing the triggering of Article 50 last week
and now the debate moves So we're a step closer to Brexit
but what will it mean for Wales? One politician who's full
of optimism about life outside the EU is the leader
of the Welsh Conservatives, How do you think the Brexit process
is going? Quickly enough? I think it is going well. The
detractors wouldn't say that but if you look at what Theresa May has
done around the negotiations, she has set up various ministries and is
going to bring forward a bill to consolidate all the legislation to
be done in tandem with the negotiations. He has stuck to her
guns and want article 50 in focus by the end of March.
What about the voice of Wales in that? None of the devolved regions
feel that their voices are being heard. Why do think that is?
I don't agree with that. The Prime Minister has shown her intention to
engage with devolved administrations. I think it is a bit
rich for Labour ministers to talk about not being heard when you look
at the First Minister was the actions and refusing to talk to me
even though I have offered to work with him. Theresa May has not taken
that approach and has had the First Minister of devolved regions around
the table and making sure all that feeds into the process.
You are not part of the white paper for the Welsh Government but where
would Common ground be with Carwyn Jones?
I think there could be a lot but I'm not just talking about Carwyn Jones.
The common ground would be about the transitional arrangements when we
come out of the European Union, how the United Kingdom will operate, in
particular around issues that might bring more responsibility to this
institution. The tape of landscape that we want on structural funds and
the Common Agricultural Policy for the UK. I believe that we could find
common ground. Let's look at funding because Wales
has been dependent on funding and you have said before the referendum
that you could guarantee that money would still come to Wales. David
Cameron was more cautious but you said you would guarantee that a UK
Government would get that money to Wales. Are you still guaranteeing
that? That money will be there to
distribute around the United Kingdom, without a shadow of the
doubt. Every ?2 and we only get ?1 back. A damning indictment is that
Wales still requires huge amounts of this money because successive
governments have failed to lift a GDP figures.
You see it as they are to be distributed around the UK but he
can't guarantee it will come here. Those are the political choices we
can make. Well your government make those
choices? Of course because we have a
government governing for the whole of the native kingdom, not a
government like the Labour administration here. We have created
a record number of jobs and increase prosperity levels. What we haven't
got regrettably in Wales is a government here.
Let's focus on Brexit. Whether the money will be the same. You cannot
guarantee. That money is there. It is the
political choice. People bought at the ballot box to see what type of
government they want. There will be a general election in 2020.
You will be in power. When we come out, there will be a general
election in 2020 and it will be manifested in what those parties
seek to do. It can bring that money into wheels. You will campaign to
bring that money here. But there will be less money coming from the
European Union if we had stayed in because all the indicators were
saying that that money was going east to the succession countries
rather than coming over to the countries that have historically
been in the European Union so less money would a comment.
You mentioned farming. We know that many Welsh
farmers voted to leave so why will they be better off?
If you look at the average age of farmers in European Union, there is
no way to build a successful industry. I believe that we will be
able to craft the Common Agricultural Policy that has
security and protection of the environment and elements to ensure
we do our bit for global warming and climate change and will be able to
craft that to be fit for the Wales and United Kingdom.
You mean a UK wide Common Agricultural Policy so when it comes
to making a deal with New Zealand you cannot guarantee that Welsh lamb
would be at the top of the agenda, can you? You're missing the point
about key priorities for agriculture so in the government has to sign up
to the idea we need food security and any government recognises the
importance of having food security is part of its policy because we
know there will be water shortages, there is global hunger regrettably
across the planet and any government that does not have food security at
the heart of its planning... Let us talk about Welsh lamb. Welsh lamb is
part of the portfolio. The Welsh ministers said a food trade deal
with New Zealand would be a disaster. This is the same Welsh
minister who said farmers are the best people to run their business.
Who said there is no such thing as UK agriculture. I would not put too
much store by what the Welsh agriculture minister says. You are
confident Welsh farmers will be at the top of the agenda for a UK
minister forming trade deals across the world? Of course. The
Conservatives are the party who stand up for rural Wales and rural
Britain and they will be campaigning to make sure the Welsh voices heard,
making sure we deliver for Welsh farmers to have an industry that has
succession at its heart so we have young people coming into the
industry and food security and environmental goals that the
taxpayer once. You said it is not right that some Welsh farmers, up to
80% or 90% dependent on EU subsidies but they need that money, there is
no guarantee they will get that money after Brexit. Good security at
the heart of your decisions, you have to put the money on the table.
Who puts the money on the table? The Treasury. The UK Treasury sends
money to Brussels and Brussels sends the money back. You are saying that
a UK Government after Brexit would still give those subsidies to Welsh
farmers? Those dependent will still get that money? Any government worth
its salt has food security at its heart. To underpin agriculture
because we have a Common Agricultural Policy... Yes or no?
You will need to continue to subsidise agriculture but we need to
move to a position where you get more money from the marketplace.
Every farmer I speak to want that goal and because of the way the
Common Agricultural Policy works we have not moved in that direction and
have become more dependent on subsidies. No farmer in Wales will
be worse off? That is the guarantee you made. Farmers in Wales have had
an extra ?30 million on the table because of the Brexit vault because
of the devaluation of the pound against the euro. Exports are
booming. I have not heard any of the detractors say we have got our
calculations wrong. People saying we would have economic collapse, record
unemployment and the country would go to the dogs. We have not had
that. Let us have some apologies from them because I stand by every
word I said and I will be heard to account. Let us have some apologies
from people who misled the Welsh public and that referendum. Plenty
of people cannot wait for Brexit and you are one of them. There are those
who have doubts that it is more complicated than they thought and
perhaps if there were to be a second referendum they would thought
different make. What would your message be to people who maybe have
regrets? The vote was 52-48. You cannot discount 48% of the
electorate who voted to remain and we have to take as many people along
this journey with us so we have a successful negotiation. We have a
successful exit from the European Union. I believe we can do that but
we must remember, especially from the Assembly point of view, that
will voted out, and we have a Assembly that by is in denial of
that result. You had Labour backbenchers castigating their own
constituents for voting out. You had other Labour members standing up and
seeing people would be slashing their wrists. Is that the language
people should be using? No. The referendum was fought on June 23.
Let's move on. We will deliver Brexit. Let us not look at our feet.
Let's grab the great opportunities ahead. On immigration, Carwyn Jones
has written to today's me to the decision to cut the numbers of
unattended migrants and children travelling here. Do you agree with
Theresa May or do you -- do you think there are too many children
coming here? I believe in immigration and that it supports us
culturally and economically. The referendum was about giving power
back to politicians in this country to make the decisions that control
immigration on our borders. We could well through the ballot box get a
government that says we will take everyone. You back Theresa May? It
is a wonderful thing called democracy. Theresa May of the Prime
Minister of this country who has to make the decisions on immigration
and she has made this particular decision. Do you back it? We are
putting over ?1 billion into the Middle East to support refugee
camps. We have a very good record and we have to make sure people stay
as close to the country they have been displaced from so that
eventually they can go back. Do you back her decision? The UK Government
has a very good record when it comes to supporting refugees and making
sure we are a home and sanctuary and we will continue to make sure that
we offer those solutions and put the resources in place to support
refugees. Do you back her decision when it comes to unattended
children? I back her decision when it comes to the immigration choices
she is making because it is for the whole country and we are putting
money on the table to support refugee camps and are taking
refugees and I believe immigration is positive economically, socially
and culturally. Positive discrimination, quotas,
all-female short lists, twinning, zipping -
they've all been a part of the debate on how to encourage
more women into In Wales' top 100 businesses, only
2% of chief executives are women. In Westminster, of Wales' 40 MPs,
just nine are women. Two years ago, in an
attempt to address this imbalance, the WRU appointed its first
female board member. Former businesswoman
Aileen Richards has told us of her experience
and how she would go about I joined in 1995 and it was a very
different world. We had 10% of managers female. 25 years later it
was 50%. That tells you about the level of change that is going on
driven by what was the good organisation who recognised that you
can run a better business and have better business results if you have
a diverse set of leaders. Typically whether it is in sport, Parliament,
business, there is still an underrepresentation but the good
news as it is much greater than it was before but there is still some
way to go. The board of Welsh rugby union is a board I sit on. I am a
woman. There was some scepticism from the board members when I
joined. Late in any new job you have to prove yourself, demonstrate you
add value and make a contribution, and that leads to acceptance over
time. It takes time because if you are going to develop females up,
whether it is through a club or through an organisation or politics
or whatever you have to create opportunities for them, give them
experiences, give them development, and with women you have to give them
confidence, mentoring and encouragement, because we know, all
the research shows that women are less confident at standing for
positions. In whatever field that is in. The belief of the WRU is that
you have to have the right skills and we have recently done a big
exercise in school profiling and the skills we need to be bored and where
we are going to get them from and recognition that will be including
women. That is absolute commitment that we have to drive a skills
agenda, drive the diversity profile, not just women, and that has to lead
to more women being represented on the board. The first thing, you have
to persuade people, is that it is the right thing to do. There has to
be belief that we will run a better board, business, Parliament,
whatever, because it is more diverse. We have to take them with
us through the power of persuasion because that is the right thing to
do. I'm joined now by Cerys
Furlong, the Chief Executive of ChwaraeTeg, a charity that
promotes women's equality. How big a problem is this? I would
agree with almost everything that Aileen said about behaviour change
needed. Our concern is that the pace of change is too slow. It has taken
134 years to get the first female onto the WRU board. The problem is
across the board, whether it is in politics, chief executives, and on
boards of companies in the private sector. Why? In the NHS 77% of the
workforce are women and in management it is 10%. Why is there
that block? There are a range of factors but simply put we conceive
of leaders and leadership in the way that we are used to seeing it. If
the current leaders are classic white male in the -- middle-aged we
are predisposed to think of future leaders in the same model. What to
do about it? Aileen suggesting it is about persuasion rather than the
stick. Maybe it is not about quarters or all women short lists of
twinning and slipping as some parties have done. What do you think
of these mechanisms to promote women? There is no one silver bullet
and no one intervention whether from the government or voluntary is going
to make the breakthrough. I agree we need that behaviour change and we
need to make the argument but we have been making that for decades
and have not seen the change. We would support things like quotas as
the necessary legislative nudge but hopefully as a short-term measure
and when we get that mass of women representing the public and private
sector that will not have to remain. They often cause rows, all women
short lists, within the Labour Party for example, some of those women
might feel they are only there because they had help, if you like.
It is all about skills and women should compete on their skills base.
You are saying that is almost utopia and we are not there yet. Yes, I do
not buy that. Women compete on their skills but unfortunately when we are
assessing those skills and looking for future leaders we are situating
that within narrow mindset that is within our existing perception of
what good leaders should be. Is it historical or is there sexism? There
can be sexism but our research has shown that there sexism, we are not
seeing that certainly in the work we have done around public
appointments. We think we could get gender balance in this Assembly with
some concerted effort around this. It is working with boards so that
they aim for gender diversity explicitly and that might be around
quotas but it is also about building a bigger pool of talent because we
need to give women the confidence in their skills to be able to do it.
What do women bring to a boardroom? Why do we need these skills? They
are 50% of the population. No one woman is ever going to speak for all
women. It is about increasing diversity across the piece but this
is something we can do. We know it works. We know it increases the
representation and we make better decisions for the people we work
for. Is the political leadership there? We used to have 50% Assembly
women leaders. The political drive is there but too often we are at the
end not the means and if we want to get to the end we have to put the
effort in and put the steps in place to get there.
If you'd like to get in touch with us about what's been discussed
tonight or anything else, email us at
[email protected], or follow us on social media
where the discussion continues - the hashtag is #TheWalesReport.
Every night, about 40 people find themselves sleeping rough
Bethan Rhys Roberts presents. There are concerns over the future of a Welsh Government scheme to tackle poverty in Wales' poorest communities - what next for the Communities First programme? Plus what can be done to encourage more women into public life in Wales?