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
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
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
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
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
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.