Edwina Hart, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport
Following a commitment made in Plenary on 6 May 2015, during a discussion on underrepresented groups, I offered to make a statement on some of the work my Department is undertaking to tackle poverty.
There is a clear relationship between economic growth, jobs and tackling poverty. Secure, well-paid and sustainable employment offers both a route out of poverty and protection against it, not just for the individual, but also for their dependents and indeed their wider community.
Supporting jobs right across Wales is therefore key to the tackling poverty agenda, and I am driving forward a wide range of actions to support job creation and retention. I am also taking action to address some of the barriers that make it difficult for people to take up opportunities, including the promotion of flexible working arrangements and the availability of childcare provision.
It is important that we take action to ensure opportunity for all in the ability to access employment, and this is particularly important for underrepresented groups.
- We are working with the anchor companies to plan an event to promote employability programmes. This will provide an important opportunity to highlight a broad range of initiatives to businesses, and to explore the potential for the private sector to support initiatives such as the Lift (Tackling Workless Households) Programme.
- We have in place the Anchor Company Autism Employment Programme (ACAEP), which proactively communicates the benefits of employing people with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC). The Programme delivers ASC awareness raising training to anchor companies and identifies specific opportunities for individuals, including apprenticeships, work experience, open employment and training.
- Working with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), we are delivering the Construction Futures Wales (CFW) programme. Through participation in the programme, an organisation’s level of commitment to embracing the diversity of the workforce is confirmed. In addition, work is also being undertaken with the CITB to target underrepresented groups within the construction sector. The intention is to promote construction as an industry that is attractive, in particular to women, and to provide practical support such as bursaries for individuals.
- We have considered underrepresented groups during the Business Wales procurement process, recruiting entrepreneurs to act as new role models to inspire young people and ensuring that the role model network is representative of the demography in Wales. Contractors are encouraged to recruit high calibre entrepreneurs from all sectors, increase participation of Welsh speakers and ensure the diversity of the network to proactively challenge perceptions and increase participation in entrepreneurship by underrepresented groups.
- The Sirolli EFFECT Project, currently being tested in Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr, Torfaen, Bridgend and north Powys, supports enterprise, entrepreneurship and self employment as a viable alternative to employment for people from the local community. This includes supporting minority groups to have the means and the willingness to start their own enterprise.
- We have also worked with the Prince’s Trust, grant funding a targeted project in the Swansea area to provide training and work placements in the retail sector to young people living in workless households. Through this scheme we have enabled intensive support to be provided to a hard to reach group, addressing their specific needs and barriers to progression as part of a bespoke approach.
- Through a pilot year of Pioneer Areas, we are establishing an evidence base for the most effective cultural interventions on key priority areas, including educational attainment, skills and health. These Areas will focus on helping individuals, families and communities engage with heritage and culture to support learning and develop important skills.
- We are investing to provide an affordable and effective transport system to increase connectivity and access to opportunities. For example, the introduction of a targeted young persons concessionary fare scheme from September 2015 will reduce fares for young people to help them access employment, education and training.
These and other activities being taken forward by my Department are having a real impact on individuals and communities, and are supporting our actions as a Government to tackle poverty.