Wrexham Council examination for end of Communities First funding

Reporter:

Jonathan Grieve

Axing Communities First funding could lead to an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour, it is claimed.

Wrexham Council’s scrutiny committee will examine the impact of the end of the Welsh Government’s Communities First programme at a meeting on Wednesday.

An assessment shows six of the services which currently benefit from the funding are classed as at high risk of closure.

The programme has a wide range of examples of where ex-offenders have been supported to rehabilitate and reintegrate within the community.

And without funding to continue these services, fears have been raised it could also lead to increased levels of re-offending.

An assessment of service users carried out after it was announced the scheme was to be scrapped revealed a high proportion of people stated that they did not know where they would go for assistance or felt they would go nowhere.

Plas Madoc Opportunity Centre, Brynteg Community House, The Venture, Gwenfro Valley, The Land and Gwenfro House are all classed as being at high risk of closure.

Luke O’Connor House in Hightown, the Caia Park Partnership and Little Sunflowers Childcare are at a medium risk.

Low risk facilities include the Ruabon Centre of Excellence, Pant Community Centre, Llay Resource Centre, Brymbo and Tanyfron Regeneration Trust and Hightown Community Resource Centre.

Gwersyllt Resource Centre, Rhos Community Cafe, Church of the Nazarene in Penycae, Splash Community Trust, The Stiwt and Brynteg Memorial Hall are also low risk.

The report due to go before the committee states: “One of the most cited responses to our client survey indicates that clients feel that losing the programme would result in an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour.

“The teams also act as a community-based contact for police officers and Police Community Support Officers as they hold a lot of local knowledge and intelligence.

“Reference has also been made to increased likelihood of re-offending. The Communities First programme currently works with a high proportion of ex-offenders and has had good levels of success in effectively engaging with these clients and working with them to achieve positive outcomes.

“This is demonstrated partly by increased referrals to the programme for high risk clients.

“The programme has a wide range of examples of where ex-offenders have been supported to rehabilitate and reintegrate within the community.

“The Communities First programme has worked with a number of clients who are victims of (and perpetrators of) domestic violence and other crimes and provides information to Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference meetings on clients that may need support due to domestic violence and provides Freedom Programme training for victims.

“The Communities First teams have also acted as hate crime reporting centres and pass on local information to the local tension monitoring teams.

“The Communities First teams regularly support people with substance misuse issues including assistance to access appointments with 15 drug and alcohol intervention services including transport, referrals and diversionary activities.”

Communities First was the flagship community regeneration programme of the Welsh Government and since 2001 has been active in a number of communities in Wrexham that are within the top 30 per cent most deprived in Wales as described by the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation.

In October last year, the cabinet secretary for communities and children, Carl Sargeant AM, indicated he was minded to phase out the programme and following a consultation process, confirmed in a statement in February this year that the Communities First programme was to close by March 31, 2018.

This was part of a new approach to building resilient communities, which has seen changes to other Welsh Government programmes.

The matter will be debated in a meeting at the Guildhall which starts at 4pm on Wednesday.

Email:

jonathan.grieve@nwn.co.uk

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