1 Mar 2017

Taking some time on St David’s day to reflect, celebrate and explore some of Wales achievements in Europe is important. Although we are leaving the European Union, Wales will always remain a part of Europe. It is important that we do not lose sight of this and the links that we have built over the years and we work to ensure continued relationships with our European friends and partners


Our vice president Tom Jones, spoke to the European Network for Rural Development forum during a workshop in Brussels. The event brought together organisations from across Europe who work in rural areas and are committed to overcoming social exclusion and promoting social inclusion in rural communities. The event was a real opportunity for these organisations to showcase their work, share their experiences, stimulate exchange and provide inspiration for future work and cooperation.

Speaking at the event Tom, who is also a member of the European Economic and Social Committee, talked about the disparity between rural and urban communities, blaming exclusion as one of the leading factors to this disparity. Tom stated that rural exclusion is 'exasperated by its invisibility' - caused by lack of support services in rural areas.

A clear message from the event was that in order to combat this exclusion, the revitalization of rural areas must be carried out as a common effort across Wales.

Through its vision, its regulation, the promotion of the Partnership Principle and its funding instruments, the initiatives led by the European Commission and in particular the European Social Fund have and can continue to help to build confidence in communities and tackle exclusion.

ESF is about people, its purpose is to promote social inclusion by improving employment opportunities, and investing in skills that enables people fulfil their potential. According to a report by the European Commission, by the end of 2014, at least 9.4 million European residents found a job with support from the Fund. 8.7 million gained a qualification or certificate. 13.7 million participants reported other positive results, such as increased skills levels.

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The European Commission have issued a clear statement that 'the ESF has played an essential role in supporting the modernisation of public employment services and other institutions responsible for active labour market actions. In less developed regions the ESF has supported reforms in the education, judiciary and general public administration. This way, it gave a positive impetus to the business environment and creating more inclusive societies.'

Wales is a net beneficiary of ESF (and other structural funds)*. Third Sector led projects in Wales currently benefit from over £39 million of ESF through projects such as SOVA Achieving Change through Employment and Chwarae Teg's Agile Nation 2.

WCVA also has a long-standing history of delivering ESF projects, such as the ILM and Engagement Gateway projects. From 2007 to 2014, both projects combined engaged over 34,500 participants, achieved over 4,450 job and over 13,000 qualifications. 48% of ILM participants secured sustainable employment. Following the  success of both projects, WCVA was successful in securing further ESF support for the Active Inclusion Fund (AIF).

The project offers funding to organisations from across Wales to support people from some of our most deprived communities and help them in their journey towards sustainable employment. Projects support people to improve their confidence and motivation through practical activities, training and paid supported employment placements.

A real example of the benefit these projects can make to people's lives can be seen here. Read Alice's inspirational story from being blind, shy and unconfident to chasing her dreams to become a rehabilitation officer

Julie James AM said: 

"Wales currently benefits from some £500 million of EU funds annually to support jobs and growth, which includes investments to help increase skills and employment opportunities for thousands of vulnerable people across Wales.
 "Ensuring Wales has the right skills to make the most of existing and future employment opportunities is a key priority of this government and we are committed to helping those in most need to reach their full potential. 
 "This additional funding will make an important contribution to young people's lives and help those who have so far been locked out of the jobs market to gain essential skills and access training and employment opportunities, helping to make Wales a fairer, more prosperous and inclusive society."

*Wales's GDP is lower than 75% of the EU average, thus Wales receives 10% of the UK's total Structural Fund allocation to the UK as opposed to the 7% it would normally receive if it were distributed under the Barnett formula.