The Welsh Government is providing a further £3 million for projects which support, improve and deliver the everyday goods and services we all use and need.
The foundational economy describes the jobs at the heart of our local communities, across sectors such as care and health services, food, housing, energy, tourism, construction and retail. This part of the economy account for four jobs in every ten and £1 in every £3 spent.
The Welsh Government’s is working to ensure that everybody has access to the basic essential goods and services within this part of the economy and that the people delivering them are properly valued. Last year it invested £4.5m in a new Foundational Economy Challenge Fund which is currently supporting 52 projects that are testing new and innovative ways of making the everyday economy work better for all communities in Wales, and this additional £3m will enable this valuable work to continue.
One project to have previously benefited from the Foundational Economy Challenge Fund is ELITE Paper Solutions, a social enterprise based in Merthyr Tydfil which specialises in document management storage and data shredding. With the help of support from the fund, ELITE Paper Solutions has been able to develop a fully inclusive workplace and is now employing a total of 39 people, many of whom might otherwise have been excluded from the labour market, due to disability, health conditions or long-term unemployment.
Investment by the Foundational Economy Challenge Fund has helped ELITE win three large public sector contracts and respond quickly to the changing needs of its customers due to the Coronavirus crisis, increasing its revenue by £90,000 compared with the previous year. The business is in the process of recruiting six new staff members after its scanning service boomed during the pandemic, amid demand for physical information to be made available online.
ELITE CEO Andrea Wayman said: “Our scanning section is a fantastic place for people who are high functioning on the autistic spectrum, due to the need for attention to detail, supporting them to develop their social skills, which may have been a barrier to employment in the past. Their development has created a tremendous team.”
The Foundational Economy Challenge Fund has also supported Community Care Collaborative (CCC), which is providing a different approach to healthcare in Wrexham.
CCC, which is contracted by the local health board to run three GP practices, recognises the importance of addressing a patient’s social, economic and mental wellbeing as all of these can impact on a person’s physical health. As a result, they have developed a new model of primary care based on helping patients access the support they need when they need it.
CCC invested its Fund grant to recruit an emotional wellbeing team to provide a first point of contact for patients that are in need of wellbeing support. This has seen onward referrals to other mental health organisations reduce by more than 57%.
Operations director Grace Nolan said: “Through working collaboratively at a community level with other agencies and patients themselves CCC has helped ensure the social and emotional needs of patients are given equal priority to their medical needs.”
Feedback also indicates as many as 33% of people supported by the CCC healthcare model may have taken their own lives without it.
The Fund has also enabled the Vale of Glamorgan Council to improve its procurement processes and engage with more than 1,000 businesses since June 2020 as it aims to increase the number of local SMEs delivering council contracts for goods and services. This is resulting in more money being retained within the local economy.
Maddy Sims, who leads the Vale council’s foundational economy work, said: “Conversations with local businesses not only identified barriers to tendering and winning contracts but also allowed the Council to better understand the local supply chain and gaps in the market.
“To help encourage local SMEs we are making case study films featuring some of the local businesses we have worked with, including one who gained confidence in tendering by providing vending machines to us before winning a multi-million pound contract with the NHS.”
Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport Lee Waters said: “The Foundational Economy Challenge Fund has already helped projects which are part of our everyday economy develop and reach their potential for the benefit of local communities.
“Improving and developing these further and sharing information on what works and what doesn’t with other areas of Wales will be crucial in responding the effects of coronavirus and the impact of the UK leaving the EU. We want to see our regional economies develop and grow and our approach to strengthening our foundational economy, and properly valuing the people that work within it will be key to that.
“This additional £3 million funding will scale up the best projects in health, social care, construction and procurement and spread their success so all our communities can benefit.”