A key Welsh Government-funded programme to help people most disadvantaged in the labour market into work will be expanded in 2023, following the winding-up of two existing EU-funded programmes, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, has announced today.
The Welsh Government is stepping in to fund the expansion of the Communities for Work Plus (CfW+) employability programme following the UK Government’s failure to honour repeated promises Wales would not be a penny worse off following the UK departure from the EU.
Under the EU Structural and Investment Funds, the Welsh Government invested funds in a range of schemes led by the public, HE/FE, third and private sectors, including those to help people into work.
Two of those schemes are Communities for Work (CfW) and Parents, Childcare and Employment (PaCE). Since 2015, £135m has been invested in the schemes which have, to date, provided intensive community-based employment support and training to 41,000 individuals with complex barriers. Over 17,500 of these individuals have been helped into employment.
The UK Government had pledged to replace and “at a minimum match the size” of former EU funding in each nation of the UK. However, the UK Government’s actions for replacement EU funding means the Welsh budget is more than £1 billion worse off.
At the same time, the UK Government is deliberately overriding Welsh devolution by directly allocating replacement EU funding, at a dramatically diminished level, through the UK-wide Shared Prosperity Fund – which means the Welsh Government now has less say over less money.
This means the Welsh Government and other institutions across business, higher and further education and the third sector who have used EU funding to support vital investments in Wales’ economy and labour market, including support for vulnerable people, will need to make difficult decisions about how budgets are spent.
In response, the Minister has today confirmed the Welsh Government is stepping in to fund the expansion of the Wales-wide CfW+ programme from April 2023. The expansion will see a doubling of its original £12m annual budget.
The CfW+ programme has been hugely successful, having already provided intensive employment support and training to over 30,000 individuals with complex barriers to employment, with over 13,000 being helped into employment.
The Minister also announced the Welsh Government has secured an extension of the delivery of the EU-funded CfW and PaCE to 31 March 2023 to ensure a smooth transition to the enhanced CfW+ programme.
Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said:
“Despite the promise made by the UK Government that Wales would not be worse off from the UK leaving the EU, the reality is we are facing a loss of more than £1 billion in un-replaced funding. The Welsh Government cannot fill the massive hole the UK Government has created in the Welsh budget, which means we and our Welsh partners – who have previously benefited from EU funding – will need to take tough decisions on what to fund in future.
“This Welsh Government is determined to help people into and remain in good quality jobs. That’s why we’re taking action to fund a new Wales-wide programme to support people to do just that. By funding this expansion of Communities for Work + and focussing on people who are under-represented in the labour market and those who face disadvantage and inequity in accessing work, we will create a more equal Wales – a society that enables people to fulfil their potential no matter what their background or circumstances.
“While UK Ministers talk about “levelling up” the UK, it’s this Welsh Government that’s delivering for people across Wales by funding transformative programmes that help to change their lives for the better.”
The Welsh Government’s new Employability and Skills Plan, launched in March 2022, confirmed employability support will focus on those most disadvantaged in the labour market, and on improving labour market outcomes for disabled people, Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic people, women, young people, older workers over 50, carers and those with low skills.
The expanded CfW+ programme will align with ReAct + and Jobs Growth Wales +, to meet the Plan’s commitment of delivering a single operating model of Welsh Government employability support from 2023.