Communities First is the Welsh Assembly Government's flagship programme to improve the living conditions and prospects of people in the most disadvantaged communities across Wales.
It is founded on the principle that poverty and disadvantage are created by a complex number of factors, such as poor educational achievement, poor housing and environments, substance misuse, local job markets, benefit systems, stigma and perceptions about people and places etc. If we want to address poverty and inequalities then we must understand what the causes are. Communities First provides opportunities for people living in areas we term to be disadvantaged, and the agencies that deliver services in those communities, to examine the realities of poverty and to learn and work together to address it. Communities First is about people challenging the barriers, whether they be real or perceived, which prevent residents from fulfilling their own potential and from effecting change where they live. It is about supporting communities, groups and individuals to find their voices and use their skills and experiences to change, challenge, negotiate, persuade and jointly plan for the benefit of their communities.
The programme was launched in 2001 and initially worked with 142 communities comprising of the 100 most deprived wards from the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD) 2000, 32 pockets of deprivation and 10 Communities of Interest (CoI). Following the publication of the WIMD 2005, a further 46 areas identified by the Index as being in the 10% most deprived in Wales and were invited to apply for inclusion in the Programme. There are now a total of 188 Communities First areas, some of which are working with existing Communities Partnerships for inclusion in the programme and other larger areas are establishing their own Communities First Partnerships.
Communities First is now moving forward into a new phase which will include a greater focus on outcomes and on addressing the causes and effects of poverty. Following an evaluation and a consultation the Welsh Assembly Government has committed to continued investment to fulfil its One Wales commitments. The vision for Communities First in its next stage has been summarised as a programme which will mobilise and enable local people to contribute to the regeneration of their communities in practical ways, in line with their local priorities and those of statutory bodies such as the Assembly Government, local authorities and health bodies.