As we reach the end of the Active Inclusion Fund’s lifetime, a new evaluation report presents findings on how and what the fund achieved in Welsh communities.
The Active Inclusion Fund (AIF) is, along with other European funded programs in Wales, nearing its end. AIF was funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) to address longstanding challenges in helping ‘hard to reach’ people in Wales engage or re-engage in the world of work: people described by a WCVA Economic Inactivity Panel member as the ‘seldom heard’.
It provided grants for projects that helped disadvantaged people get back into employment or develop the skills to become more employable and improve their wellbeing. Most of all it helped people with a wide range of needs and backgrounds.
BACKGROUND AND KEY CONCLUSIONS
An interim report released last year highlighted the importance of the voluntary sector in delivering employability programmes, and the final report follows along a similar vein.
Key points include:
- AIF supported over 23,000 individuals since 2015, with most participants consistently reporting positive experiences and benefits
- The programme successfully worked with many people in challenging circumstances with an impressive track record for participant outcomes in wellbeing and employment
- The flexibility of WCVA and AIF was widely appreciated by beneficiary organisations in helping them meet sometimes challenging European funding requirements
- AIF was surprisingly flexible and resilient to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially given the vulnerability of some people supported by the scheme
- This adaptability allowed beneficiary organisations to be more innovative, and not only support participants into work, but also support local businesses by growing their workforce
- Often these businesses (and participants) fell outside the typical opportunities for support with other more mainstream employability programmes
- AIF recognised that helping to improve things like wellbeing, confidence and resilience are vital for moving into employment as well as into healthier and more fulfilling lifestyles
- The evaluators calculated that in terms of ‘social return on investment’ for every £1 spent AIF generated approximately £3.37 of benefit
- AIF was important in building and enhancing voluntary sector capacity and expertise in delivering employability programs, which is at risk with no successor funding on the horizon
- AIF funded support for individuals and groups in or outside the most deprived areas. This wide ‘reach’ enabled support for people who might otherwise fall through the net
LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE
It’s important to recognise that the success of Active Inclusion doesn’t just extend to the people it’s helped directly, but also in terms of the template it’s provided for future employability programmes, whoever runs them.
Things to keep in consideration moving forward include:
- Un-coordinated interventions by multiple organisations should be avoided. However, co-ordinated referrals, knowledge and data sharing between organisations should be encouraged
- Participants should receive tailored, continued support for as long as possible. ‘Hard to reach’ people often have the most complex needs, so effective support needs trust and understanding, and to be responsive and sensitive, especially if they find traditional support off-putting
- ‘Soft skills’ like improving confidence and wellbeing are just as important as traditional job skills to gaining employment
- If match funding is required it should be consistent across the country
- Administration should allow for clear accountability but also be proportionate to the amount of funding awarded
- AIF’s resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic can provide lessons not only terms of responding to a crisis, but in ‘business as usual’ situations as well
READ THE FULL REPORT
You can read an executive summary of the evaluation report, and the full report available on request from email@example.com.
You can also read some supplementary information: