Foundational Economy Community of Practice

The foundational economy community of practice started in July 2020 as part of the Welsh Government’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund. Its aim was to share learning and innovation, build relationships and encourage collaboration.

The Challenge Fund provided support to projects looking to try out new ways to address challenges – some emerging, some age-old – faced by foundational economy businesses or those relying on their services.

These included:

  • the recruitment, retention and skills of the workforce
  • the delivery structures and design of services
  • the recruitment, retention and skills of the workforce
  • the delivery structures and design of services

The aim was to explore a range of solutions that could potentially generate viable, adaptable models that could be scaled up and spread to strengthen local economies and community wealth-building.

Staring in 2019 with an initial 52 projects, it was always expected that some experiments would not succeed and conditions were made even more challenging by the impact of the pandemic.

A community of practice was also however put in place to help capture some of the rich learning and insights generated by all the projects taking part. The examples in the case studies below give a flavour of the projects supported by the Fund – their successes, challenges and above all learning, about how best the foundational economy in their area or sector can be supported. The Fund closed in March 2021 but, at the request of members, the community of practice has continued. Its role continues to be to share learning, encourage and expand dialogue and facilitate collaboration.

If you would be interested in joining a session or finding out more, please contact clare@cynnalcymru.com.

Scroll down to read some of our case studies.

Doing the little things in Cardiff on St. David’s Day

This St David’s Day, we are asking organisations across Cardiff to think about the little things they can do to ensure a fair day’s pay for their workers, whether it’s understanding how to become an accredited Living Wage employer, or reaching out to other organisations to encourage them to consider the real Living Wage, or helping us share the positive messages about the difference that paying the real Living Wage can make.

Cardiff Council is currently the only accredited real Living Wage local authority in Wales. The Council and partners are championing Cardiff as a Living Wage city which is having positive impact on the city and its employees. As of 1 February 2021, 45% of Wales’ total accredited employers were based in Cardiff and Cardiff employers had contributed to 69% of total uplifts in pay. Recent research by Cardiff University has shown that real Living Wage accreditation by 124 Cardiff employers has resulted in 7,735 workers receiving a pay rise which has added over £32m to the local economy in just over 8 years.

To hear more about the benefits of the real Living Wage from employers and employees in Cardiff please watch this video.

Leader of Cardiff Council, Cllr Huw Thomas, said:

“The seemingly small things really can make a big difference, and I know the significant impact paying the real Living Wage has had in the lives of our own staff. We’re pleased to be supporting organisations across the city to enable them to do the same for their own employees, and this St David’s Day I would encourage any Cardiff business interested in paying the real Living Wage to get in touch to find out more.”

Cardiff Council understand the wider benefits that the real Living Wage can bring to individuals and employers, as well as to the City; and they have made a commitment to reimbursing accreditation fees for SME employers based in Cardiff through their accreditation support scheme. For more information about the real Living Wage in Cardiff please visit the website.

Cardiff Council also encourages local employers to provide a Payroll Savings and Loans Scheme to their staff, enabling their employees to save directly from their salaries and if needed, access affordable credit from an ethical provider. More information can be found on this on the Cardiff & Vale Credit Union’s website.

Cynnal Cymru is the accrediting body for the real Living Wage in Wales and are here to help you through the accreditation process. Get in touch, join the movement, do the little things.

We wish you all a happy St David’s Day. Diolch yn fawr!

Doing the little things on St. David’s Day

This St David’s Day, we are asking organisations across Wales to think about the little things they can do to ensure no one in Wales has to work for less than the real Living Wage, whether it’s understanding how to become an accredited Living Wage employer, or reaching out to other organisations to encourage them to consider the real Living Wage, or helping us share the positive messages about the difference that paying the real Living Wage can make.

The real Living Wage is the only UK wage rate that is voluntarily paid by 7,000 UK businesses who believe their staff deserve a wage which meets every day needs – like the weekly shop, or a surprise trip to the dentist. In Wales, there are 278 accredited Living Wage employers, and over 11,428 employees in Wales have received a pay rise as a result of their employers accrediting. At UK level, the real Living Wage enjoys cross-party support.

Despite the huge challenges of the past year, we have seen continued momentum around the real Living Wage in Wales. In 2020, 55 employers across all sectors and industries in Wales took the step of accrediting as Living Wage employers, (compared to 56 in 2019). By taking individual action these employers saw a total of 4,300 workers uplifted to a real Living Wage.

According to the TUC, nearly a quarter of all workers in Wales are being paid below the real Living Wage rate. In some Welsh constituencies that number is 1 in 3.

In a recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation Briefing, it was found that 4 in 10 households in poverty in Wales contain a full-time worker, and over half have someone in work, showing that while work reduces the risk of poverty, it often isn’t enough to allow someone to escape from it.

Paying people a real Living Wage gives people a route out of poverty and means they have more money to spend in their local economies, and on the things that matter to them.

So, as we start to plan our way out of COVID, and ensure we are more resilient for the future, we encourage all employers to consider what little things they can do to make things better. What positive action can you take today? Becoming a real Living Wage employer is a small step that can bring about big changes for your workers, your organisation and your community.

Cynnal Cymru is the accrediting body for the real Living Wage in Wales and are here to help you through the accreditation process. Get in touch, join the movement, do the little things.

We wish you all a happy St David’s Day. Diolch yn fawr!

All figures based on 1 February 2021 data

Living Wage for Wales

Cynnal Cymru works in partnership with the Living Wage Foundation and other leading organisations in Wales to support employers with accreditation and work towards achieving the Living Wage for all workers in Wales.

Organisations that pay the Living Wage have reported significant improvements in quality of work, reductions in staff absence and turnover, and a stronger corporate reputation.

The real Living Wage across the UK for is £9:90 an hour and £11.05 an hour in London. There are over 5000 Living Wage Employers across the UK with 359 Living Wage employers in Wales.



You can find how to become accredited by visiting our new Living Wage for Wales website:

www.livingwage.wales

Celebrating amazing green spaces

265 parks and green spaces in Wales have received the prestigious Green Flag Award and Green Flag Community Award. They include a diverse range of sites, from country parks and formal gardens, to allotments, woodlands and churchyards.

Now in its third decade, the international Green Flag Award is a sign to the public that a park or green space boasts the highest possible environmental standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent visitor facilities.

Wales still holds more than a third of the UK’s Green Flag community sites, which are maintained and run by volunteers.

Welsh Government Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said:

“Our local green spaces have a vital role to play in connecting us to nature. These awards go to prove that Wales’ parks and similar areas are doing a wonderful job in providing quality places to relax and enjoy.

“The standard required to achieve Green Flag status is very high so I want to congratulate all of the sites recognised for providing excellent, year-round facilities to local people and visitors alike.

“It’s fantastic to see we still hold more than a third of the UK’s Green Flag community sites in Wales – especially as the last two years have taught us all of the importance of nature and green spaces on our mental and physical wellbeing.”

Lucy Prisk, Green Flag Coordinator at Keep Wales Tidy said:

“The last few years have really shown us just how important high-quality parks and green spaces are to our communities. With more visitors than ever enjoying our green spaces, I’d like to congratulate the hard work of staff and volunteers who have maintained excellent standards at these sites.”

A full list of award winners can be found on the Keep Wales Tidy website www.keepwalestidy.cymru

Keep Wales Tidy are always on the lookout for new places to join the Green Flag Awards. If you’d like to put your park or green space on the map, visit the Keep Wales Tidy website www.keepwalestidy.cymru for more information.

photo of a house made using hempcrete

Green Drinks with PHG Consulting

On the 14 July we are holding our first in-person Green Drinks networking event with PHG Consulting. Not only are PHG members of Cynnal Cymru who share our values, but last year the building became Cardiff’s second Living Wage building whereby all tenants agreed to pay the real Living Wage to their employees and contractors working on site.

This first event will showcase PHG Consulting and sister company, Wellspring Homes sharing their experience of designing sustainable housing projects helping to reduce the emissions associated with materials and construction processes (aka ‘embodied carbon’). It will also be an opportunity to hear about the innovative methods of construction using solid Hempcrete walls. 

PHG Consulting – structural engineering inspired by nature

Founded in 2013, PHG Consulting is a firm of consulting Civil and Structural Engineers based in Cardiff.

Unlike many firms, they seldom advertise, or aggressively market themselves, preferring to allow their work and reputation to speak for itself, as over 85% of their work is repeat business.

They support many local community and environment causes and are passionate about Engineering, Architecture, Sculpture and the Arts, and promote creativity wherever they can. In particular, they support the promotion of engineering in local schools. 

Wellspring Homes

Wellspring Homes are a property developer established to bring low-embodied-carbon homes to both the affordable and private market. Their vision, to pursue construction-innovation which utilises better-than-zero carbon technology to deliver the next generation of living space.

With a desire to provide homes that are beautiful, practical and beneficial to the environment, Wellspring build with solid Hempcrete walls supported by a sustainable timber frame structure. Made from a mixture of hemp and lime, Hempcrete is ‘a revolution in sustainable living’.

As well as being a natural, better-than-zero carbon product, Hempcrete is breathable, insulating and mould proof. Its breathability allows moisture to pass out of the building, virtually eliminating internal condensation and potential mould growth. Its unique properties help to store and release heat from the building’s walls, limiting fluctuations in temperature and reducing energy use, the monolithic structure ensuring a high air tightness performance.

Lynfi Court in Maesteg, Wellsprings first project, is approaching completion. With its use of environmentally friendly materials, internal area of 3000ft2, air source heat pump and underfloor heating, it delivers a luxurious example of cutting edge, eco-living.

With planning permission granted for eight more homes in Neath using the same methods, Wellspring Homes continue to demonstrate what future-living can look like when the commercial housing industry choose to ‘build-different’.

‘Massive Smalls’ – How RC2 are reducing their dependence on fossil fuels one small project at a time.

Heating and renewable energy installers Heatforce Wales helped Llandaff based RC2 (property & regeneration consultancy) in their journey to achieve “net-zero” carbon status.

Spearheaded by business owner Robert Chapman, RC2 have been on a path towards carbon neutrality for many years, and the project with Heatforce is the latest in a series of investments.

“Over several years now, we have continually invested in Bush House (our head office) as part of our goal to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and to become more sustainable,”

said Robert

These investments have included:

  • Installing 14 Solar Panels
  • Improving the fabric of the property to improve energy efficiency and sound insulation
  • The installation of LED lighting throughout both floors
  • The installation of insulation material in the attic space
  • The installation of smart meters 

However, in 2021, Robert decided to completely remove his dependence on fossil fuel gas to heat the property and began looking at alternatives.

“After a considerable amount of research, I decided that an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) would be the most efficient means of heating the property without using gas,”

said Robert.

“However as this was not a “new build”, I needed to find a company that could retrofit an ASHP, and so began my journey towards Heatforce”, he continued.

He initially found a national firm that could provide the ASHP, however, it became apparent that while they could indeed install the system, they were unable to connect it to the existing heating system in the property.

All looked lost until a chance meeting with Jake Maddocks, Director of Heatforce, gave hope that the project could remain on track.

“Robert had used Heatforce previously, but was unaware we had moved into renewables,” said Jake. “We both share a passion for the environment, so when he explained the predicament he was in, I knew instinctively it was something we could help with,” he continued.

With extensive experience in transferring both commercial and residential buildings across to renewable forms of energy production, Jake and his team were not only able to install the ASHP but also retrofit it to the existing heating system.

Planning was submitted by Robert at the end of July 2021 and within a month, the project was given the green light. Fortunately, the lockdown meant no staff were on-site, so the Heatforce team were able to move quickly.

“We started by upgrading the existing heating infrastructure (installing new pipes and replacing the old single radiators with double radiators) and then installed the ASHP, before connecting it all together,” said Jake.

Once switched on, the system worked perfectly.

Robert was able to remove his dependence on gas to heat the property and thanks to the system installed, he gets 3.86 watts of energy for every 1 watt used.

More importantly, the project fits in with his ethos of “Massive Small.”

‘‘Massive Small responds to the frustration of failed grand plans and vast rollouts,” said Robert, “and builds on the success of distributed ‘small’ projects that model new solutions to old problems. A collection of small projects or small initiatives collectively can have a massive impact’’. 

What is more, the installation has taken Bush House from an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of D to a B – a huge jump.

“If more and more businesses realised the savings they can make from replacing fossil fuels with renewables,” said Robert, “not only would they be better off financially, but using the ethos of Massive Small, we could make huge improvements to the environment at the same time.”

A more detailed case study document is available upon request: robert@rchapmanandco.com

Transform your community with a free garden package from Local Places for Nature

Since the first year of Local Places for Nature in 2020, nearly 800 gardens have been created, restored and enhanced. Community groups and organisations of all shapes and sizes got involved – from disability charities and youth groups to social enterprises and carer groups.

Applications have now reopened, and communities are being urged to get involved early to avoid missing out. The new online application system makes it very easy to apply and review progress, as well as offering resources, guidance and updates from the Local Places for Nature scheme. You can choose from small or larger-scale wildlife and food growing gardens, or for the first time the scheme is offering a new community orchard package.

Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said:

“The pandemic has given us all a greater appreciation of nature and its importance on our health and mental wellbeing.

“I’m pleased to be supporting another year of Local Places for Nature. The programme makes it easy for people from all backgrounds and abilities to get involved, as a community, to create and enjoy nature in the places where we live and spend most of our time.
“Valuing nature and taking small local level actions is so important as part of the collective effort needed to tackle the nature emergency, and support the variety of plants and animals we love to see in Wales.”

Deputy Chief Executive for Keep Wales Tidy Louise Tambini said:

“Over the past two years, people have really appreciated the value of nature and we’re delighted to offer again free garden packs to communities. We know that gardening and being out in nature has a positive impact on mental wellbeing, and it’s a great way to keep fit and meet new people. Through Local Places for Nature, we have created hundreds of new habitats and spaces for nature, which is vital in the current climate emergency and decline in biodiversity.”

“Thanks to the ongoing support of Welsh Government and our partners our garden packs include all the materials and tools you need to create a new space for nature and Keep Wales Tidy staff will be on hand to install the garden.”

The initiative is jointly funded by the Welsh Government, part of a wider Welsh Government ‘Local Places for Nature’ programme committed to creating, restoring and enhancing nature ‘on your doorstep’ and The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

To apply for a free garden pack, visit the Keep Wales Tidy website www.keepwalestidy.cymru/nature

Social Partnership Bill recognises the importance of worker voice in achieving Well-being Goals

First Minister Mark Drakeford has described social partnership as a “uniquely Welsh way of working,” which brings people, businesses and public service together to work towards a common goal.

The Bill places a legal duty on public bodies to engage with workers in decision making related to the Well-being Goals and includes a change to the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 to recognise that jobs in Wales must align with the principles of Fair Work to achieve a Prosperous Wales. As the real Living Wage accreditation partner for Wales, we welcome this change and hope to see increased interest from public bodies in Living Wage accreditation benefitting workers, public sector employers and the Welsh economy.  

The Bill also creates a Socially Responsible Procurement Duty to ensure that spending by public bodies delivers social, environmental and cultural value for Wales in line with the Well-being Goals. We welcome this clear direction to public bodies to measure value in a more holistic way, building on some of the positive work already undertaken by local and national government to ensure fair and ethical supply chains.

“A Socially Responsible Procurement duty will apply to certain public bodies who will be required to seek to improve economic, environmental, social, and cultural well-being when carrying out procurement, to set objectives in relation to well-being goals, and to publish a procurement strategy. Public bodies will also be expected to carry out contract management duties to ensure that socially responsible outcomes are pursued through supply chains.”

Read more about the TUC’s perspective on the Bill. 

Lessons from Scotland on Free School Meals

This commitment has been broadly welcomed but its implementation brings to light many challenges currently faced by local authorities, catering staff, suppliers and others involved in school meal provision. These range from inadequate kitchen and dining facilities in schools not designed with universal school meal provision in mind, to the disconnect between what pupils learn about food and nutrition, and the experience of their school meal.  

To better understand how these challenges might be resolved, Cynnal Cymru is convening a series of roundtables to bring together those working in the different policy and operational areas of school meal provision. Our first, in May 22, was held primarily to learn from the experience of implementing universal free school meals (uFSM) in primary schools in Scotland, where the commitment is for all primary school children to have free school meals by August 2022. 

The speakers were Prof. Mary Brennan, University of Edinburgh Business School and Chair of the Scottish Food Coalition and Jayne Jones, Commercial Manager at Argyll & Bute Council and Chair of Assist FM –a non-profit association working to promote the facilities management services of all member local authorities in Scotland. The roundtable was chaired by Prof. Kevin Morgan from Cardiff University.  

Below is a summary of some key points shared by the presenters and attendees. The full meeting notes are also available. 

uFSM must be seen as a vehicle for multiple policy objectives 

The role that school food has to play in enhancing public health and well-being must be looked at in a context extending far beyond just provision of nutrition and calories. School food matters to many cross-cutting themes and is at the heart of a ‘good food nation’. 

Dining together in schools helps children develop important, but sometimes overlooked, eating and social skills, where new tastes and food combinations can be introduced in a safe environment and norms around use of cutlery and avoiding waste can be set. Social eating also provides an opportunity for relaxation that aids afternoon learning.  Alongside the immediate benefits, these things will also help shape future food and lifestyle choices. 

In terms of the wider school community, the experience in Scotland suggests that universal provision benefits all families including those with time or knowledge constraints, as well as financial ones. 

Universal provision can also provide local economic multipliers particularly if there is investment in building links with local businesses.  It can be a driver for high quality farming and fishing, enhancing animal welfare and supporting and creating new routes to market for food businesses. It can also be an opportunity to trial methods of procurement and production compliant with Net Zero and nature recovery ambitions.  

Mary Brennan argues that what is needed is an annual forensic analysis to understand how uFSM provision is contributing to other policy areas in Scotland but this has not so far happened. 

It is essential to develop systems thinking capacity to understand how school food can deliver across different policy areas 

One of the biggest challenges in Scotland has been getting Ministers and officials to understand the operational realities and challenges that school catering staff face. The school canteen is a relentless and demanding operational environment and staff are usually not employed outside term-time or food preparation/supervision/clean-up times. There is therefore no time or space for strategic thinking to review, reflect or plan. The same is often true with local authorities with very little resource, which can lead to paralysis and a default to doing things the way they have always been done rather than trying to maximise or diversify policy outcomes. 

In Scotland, Assist FM argued for investment in management as well as frontline staff to aid the transition to uFSM in recognition of the need for this thinking and planning time and to ensure they weren’t spreading already stretched management staff too thinly. 

It is not just the food that should be valued  

The key role of dining staff in school has also been recognised in Scottish research. The extent of many of the benefits of social eating in schools – particularly around the amount of time spent eating (and therefore producing less waste) – was found to correlate directly with the amount of dining supervision available, yet the hours and numbers of dining supervisors are often vulnerable to cost-cutting.  

This links to another obstacle in expanding uFSM provision – the recruitment and retention of supervision and catering staff. Scottish research suggests that recognising more overtly the insights and contributions from these staff can expedite successful uFSM implementation, through staff development and providing space for learning and professionalisation of school catering. Attendees agreed that the whole food sector – from farming to catering – needs to be understood and promoted as a career path. 

Conclusions and next steps 

Implementing uFSM may involve complex trade-offs but there is also the potential for multiple co-benefits from a singular investment. In Wales this is a key opportunity to look at food through the lens of the Well-Being of Future Generations Act, incorporating net zero, nature recovery, equality, foundational economy and other aims. 

The clearest outcome from this session was that the ‘cost’ of school food needs to be reframed as an investment in better health and environmental outcomes and an investment in our learners (as opposed to just investing in the learning itself). We hear of redefining ‘value’ in public procurement to include the social and environmental value created from spending public money. With the publication of the Social Partnerships and Public Procurement Bill this shift should now be at the forefront of government’s mind. The provision of uFSM is an opportunity to put this into practise. 

Future sessions will consider how this investment can be made and how other operational challenges raised but not included in this piece can be resolved. These include how to increase flexibility within menu design to be able to cope rising food prices, uncertainty of supply and other ‘what if..’ scenarios; the challenges faced by schools with insufficient or no catering facilities; and how this policy aim can also support a more diverse and progressive food system in Wales, including links with the Community Food Strategy. 

If you would like to join future roundtables or have ideas or comments around this or future themes, please contact Clare Sain-ley-Berry clare@cynnalcymru.com. 

The Three Questions – Supercool

Since 2004 Supercool have been collaborating with ambitious, forward-thinking clients – from big music venues to intimate theatres, global touring companies to local festivals – on websites, digital applications, digital strategy and consultancy, and branding projects.

Who you are and what your organisation does?

Katie Parry – a co-owner and director at digital design agency, Supercool. We craft beautiful, accessible, and performant websites for arts and culture sector clients across Wales, England, and Scotland.

What has Carbon Literacy training done for you and the organisation?

On the personal side, the Carbon Literacy training offered by Sustain Wales has given me a good understanding of – and ability to talk with others about – the basics of climate change. I now feel more confident discussing it with friends and family.

My personal pledge was about eating and drinking more locally/sustainably. Since becoming carbon literate, I’ve reduced the amount of meat I eat, I buy more produce locally, and have switched from supermarket plastic bottled milk to local milk delivery in reusable glass bottles.

As for work, making my ‘group pledge’ related to our work at Supercool is a great motivator to get it done! My pledge was to write a guide to having sustainable in-person meetings, and I’m hoping to get this written and published over the next couple of months.

Thinking about your organisations journey with sustainability. What would your advice be for a business starting down this road? (3 top tips)

1) Work out your business’s carbon footprint – there are lots of online tools that can help you with this

2) Review and reduce your energy consumption – from small things like using LED lightbulbs in the office, to big things like ditching the office altogether.

3) Make sustainability an intrinsic part of your company – we’ve seen business benefits including improved recruitment and retention, and it’s helped us to win new clients too.


“I found the Carbon Literacy course run by Sustain Wales an enjoyable and time-efficient way to boost my knowledge and confidence around climate change, and what we can all do about it.”

Katie Parry

You can find out more about Supercool’s sustainable journey, by reading the following blog posts:

Sustainability Update + 2022 Action Plan | Supercool (supercooldesign.co.uk)

Carbon Footprint Update – 2022 | Supercool (supercooldesign.co.uk)

To find out how Carbon Literacy training can benefit your business, visit our training web page or contact training@cynnalcymru.com.

Grow your Own – The Hywel Dda approach to building local skills and well-being

In 2019 Hywel Dda University Health Board took a bold step to start an Apprenticeship Academy. This was partly in response to the increasing financial costs of using agency staff to make up for the shortfall in employed Adult General Nurses. It was also, however, in recognition of the opportunity that the University Health Board had, as an anchor institution, to improve opportunities and well-being in its local area.

Recruitment had been a long-standing problem. There is no nursing college in the local area and those that have studied elsewhere, and begun to make lives for themselves, often prefer to find work in the same place. Recruitment from within local communities has therefore been a challenge, as even those students originating from the UHB area may not always choose to return once qualified. The UHB was also conscious that recruitment practices that simply attracted staff from other health board areas would just create problems elsewhere. A programme that could nurture and develop skills amongst the existing local population was seen as a more pragmatic, sustainable approach and one that would fit with the UHB’s values. The Apprenticeship Academy was therefore born.

The initial apprenticeship programme included two pathways: Healthcare and Patient Experience. This has already expanded to include many other pathways including areas as diverse as Engineering and Corporate Governance. The Healthcare Apprentice Programme, however, which can develop individuals from entry level to Nurse registration within seven years, remains its flagship. Its aim is to develop a future nursing workforce through targeted skills development, working with local employment organisations, educational institutions and youth organisations to promote and tailor apprenticeship opportunities. 

The establishment of the Academy has, of course, faced challenges, not least in the unprecedented number of applications and onboarding of apprentices. In 2021 alone there were over 600 applicants, with only 40 places on offer. The high standard of applicants, however, did provide the UHB with confidence to increase the places on offer to 57.

A secondary challenge was integrating the apprenticeship programme within the culture and working practices of a large, established workforce. To help navigate this, a ‘Reverse Mentoring’ scheme was put in place that has allowed apprentices to share their experiences and ideas through providing mentoring and guidance to members of the Health Board. Apprentices were also invited, with the Board’s support, to present at the 2021 Nursing and Midwifery conference, in recognition of their achievements. This gave members of the apprenticeship programme another opportunity to share learning first hand with those that might also find themselves working with apprentices, or even be thinking of starting programmes themselves.

One example of the value that this programme has brought was highlighted when the Academy Team was able to offer additional support to the Directors responsible for the staffing and implementation of Mass Vaccination Centres throughout the Health Board area.  Andrew Cavill (Job title) explains that the 2021 apprentices “have stepped up and stepped forward to support the vaccination effort, undertaking additional training to offer immunisation and administrative support to patients across all counties”.

The programme has also contributed to wider and longer-term benefits. The Academy has a principle of not taking on an apprentice unless there is a job available for that person at the end of the apprenticeship programme. This has encouraged services to look at their future staffing needs and start to plan early for how these can be met. On this basis, 100 apprentices have already been taken on with a pledge to deliver 1,000 apprenticeships by 2030 – an ambition that will not only grow local job opportunities but help to provide better health care, training, skills and well-being in the local foundational economy.

Bocs Bwyd – an inclusive career pathway in the Vale of Glamorgan

Bocs Bwyd is a catering enterprise, run by Ysgol Y Deri in collaboration with the construction industry. Funded by the Welsh Government’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund, it provides a vocational learning environment for learners with Additional Learning Needs (ALN), enabling Ysgol Y Deri to develop the Bocs Bwyd Traineeship. The project aims to develop skills, confidence and demonstrate the ability of young people with special needs, helping them develop independence and enter the workforce, from which they are often excluded.

Ysgol Y Deri is the special education school for the Vale of Glamorgan, working with students aged 3-19 across a full spectrum of conditions including higher functioning autism, emotional, behavioural and mental health issues and profound multiple learning difficulties.

The school focusses on catering as a vocational pathway to learners aged 14-19 who have the potential to be economically active. Replicating the work environment, the school has a professional spec training kitchen and on-site barista style coffee shop. Many students leave with industry recognised qualifications in Food Hygiene and Entry Level and Level 1 catering and employability qualifications including BTEC. The school also provides work experience opportunities in catering settings such as Costa and Farmhouse Inns.

However, despite vocational experience and qualifications, many students struggle to meet the entry requirements to access catering courses at college due to their academic abilities. There are also few opportunities for them to receive in-work support from potential employers so that they can engage in the career pathways that Ysgol Y Deri has prepared them for. Thus, despite gaining the competencies to engage in work, many students leave without the prospect of finding real jobs.

In order to address this difficult situation, Ysgol Y Deri applied to Welsh Government’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund and received funding for their Bocs Bwyd project.

Bocs Bwyd is a catering kitchen, launched in 2019, servicing two new school build sites in Barry, both of which are part of the Vale of Glamorgan’s 21st Century Schools programme. Other than a catering manager, the kitchen is wholly staffed by Ysgol Y Deri pupils and their support staff.

With the support of the construction companies Morgan Sindall and Bouygues UK, the physical kitchen was assembled; Morgan Sindall providing the shipping container and Bouygues relocating it at an agreed handover time. Challenge Fund monies were used to support additional staff.

After a delay due to COVID, Bocs Bwyd started service on site in September 2020, in line with Welsh Government’s and Ysgol Y Deri’s COVID secure working. The kitchen is divided into four work stations, allowing pupils to develop skills from service through to prep and wash up, with a focus on quality, value and nutrition.

Bocs Bwyd was something new and innovative for Ysgol Y Deri; a sustainable catering enterprise run by, but with its own separate identity from, the school. This allowed Ysgol Y Deri to create an authentic work environment for learners, who were supported and valued as co-workers, rather than students. In this vein, it was also important for the Bocs Bwyd team that Bocs Bwyd was seen as just a café, rather than a ‘special needs café’. 

Bocs Bwyd has enabled Ysgol Y Deri to address the issue that many pupils cannot access college or employment after leaving them in ways that they could not previously. Areas of focus were developing The Bocs Bwyd Traineeship and to help pupils and their families believe in their ability to enter the workforce. 

The Bocs Bwyd Traineeship combines Essential Skills Qualifications in Literacy and Numeracy linked to Catering and Employability Awards at Entry Level / Level 1 leading to a Certificate size award overall plus City and Guilds Food Hygiene Level 1 or 2. The Traineeship also includes a guaranteed 120 hours minimum work placement at Bocs Bwyd.

Bocs Bwyd has been key in the school developing the traineeship – it not only allows the school to provide a guaranteed work placement, it also allows them to tailor the placement to ensure learners get to experience all aspects of catering and provides additional support where needed. This is a step change to the work experience that Ysgol Y Deri has historically been able to provide to students.

Another benefit of the traineeship is that it prepares and qualifies students for work in catering at a higher level than Ysgol Y Deri has been able to offer previously. Usually, young people working at Entry Level cannot access Foundation Apprenticeships with its  5 GCSE entry requirement . However, the Bocs Bwyd Traineeship provides a unique way to achieve similar vocational qualifications for young people but working at Entry Level, something Ysgol Y Deri has not been able to offer as a package before. 8 learners have now completed the Traineeship. Charlie, a trainee at Bocs Bwyd has been accepted onto a catering course at Bridgend College starting September 2021 while others have also been able to secure places on specialist courses at Level 1 in industry sectors other than  Catering. All have developed a belief in a pathway into paid work which previously  they thought impossible.

The authentic work environment of Bocs Bwyd allowed pupils to develop and showcase their talents out in the world to paying customers. This, and the supported employment model (where learners are supported and valued as co-workers, rather than students) provided a space where pupils could develop their self-belief and confidence in entering the workforce. This was bolstered by Job Coaching, including Person Centred Planning creating a vocational profile and pathways into work.

The project’s success in this area can be seen in the views of pupils, parents and carers.   

“Working in Bocs Bwyd, has increased my confidence when participating in a work environment and improved my interpersonal skills.” Sam, Bocs Bwyd trainee.

All carers and parents strongly agreed that their child became more confident as a result of participating in Bocs Bwyd and agreed or strongly agreed that their child is more hopeful about their future and is positive about getting paid work. Parents and carers also agreed or strongly agreed that they too were more hopeful about their child’s future and more confident of them getting paid work.

Notwithstanding the successes of the project, its innovative nature means some challenges remain unresolved and require more work into the future.

Some of these are governance and constitutional problems around a school running a business. It was important for Bocs Bwyd to be separate from the school for educational reasons outlined above and to create a model whereby Ysgol Y Deri could operate a project such as Bocs Bwyd on a cost recovery basis. However, schools trading is problematic in Wales due to the Welsh schooling system not being academised as in England, where it is easier for schools to convert to being an academy which have less stringent regulations regarding trading. Ysgol Y Deri are supportive of the non-academisation of Welsh schools, however it makes a school running a business quite difficult.

Working with Social Firms Wales, Ysgol Y Deri developed a constitution to run Bocs Bwyd as a Social Firm (enterprise) which functions like a CIC, but instead of being registered at Companies House, is overseen by a constituted committee and governed by robust rules within the school. The long term viability of this solution is yet to be seen as there are questions around liability for the committee which are being addressed by Vale of Glamorgan Council.  If the model does work however, it provides a new vocational education model (which could be used wider than catering) which partly or wholly funds its costs. Currently, the school ‘subsidises’ Bocs Bwyd through back office support and provides teaching staff. However, the team would like to move to costs being covered through grant aid or a service level agreement, with the Social Firm structure allowing Bocs Bwyd to apply for a wider range of grants compared with a school.

Another challenge is the growth and sustainability of the project into the future. The project is running, however project lead Sue Williams recognises that often getting such projects off the ground is done “on a wing and a prayer”, and wants the project to remain functional and to avoid burn out of the project team. For 6 months Bocs Bwyd ran two sites in parallel, straining the team but demonstrating the ability for the project to grow.

Bocs Bwyd are interested in two aspects of their growth; developing a sustainable business model  and the educational impact. Commercially, they wish to become a mainstay of the local construction industry, providing food for construction workers and becoming a material part of the conversation around social values in the sector. Educationally, the team are exploring if they could host self-funded placements and whether they could provide work placements to smaller special schools enabling them to develop their own traineeships or apprenticeships.

Finally, despite the additional skills and qualifications, the route for Bocs Bwyd pupils into work or further education is still not always clear. Sue explains that after leaving Bocs Bwyd, learners will have all the skills they need for the catering industry, the issue being that they require a little extra support in the workplace that the vast majority of employers do not provide. The team are thus exploring partnering with a big public sector organisation, working with them to upskill their ability to support those with special needs and perhaps providing a job coach in return for committing to taking on a certain number of Bocs Bwyd pupils as staff. Bocs Bwyd are also exploring funding a continuation programme for NEETS and eligibility for the DWP Kickstart programme, which pupils are not currently eligible for as they will not have been on Universal Credit when they leave Ysgol Y Deri.

These challenges however do not take away the real positive impact on learners. Sue says she was “blown away by the change in mindset of the young people we had joining us”. A mindset change where work became possible, created in a public facing environment which challenged learners, and in doing so, allowed them to grow.

From September 2021, Ysgol Y Deri are planning to create a designated Bocs Bwyd class with teaching and support staff funded by the school’s core budget. Additional costs from operating the business will be recouped through trading activity.

Projected 12 month trading figures to the end of August 2021 suggest a gross profit on sales – meeting the additional operational costs of running a catering enterprise for Ysgol Y Deri. In collaboration with the private sector, Ysgol Y Deri have created a financially sustainable business providing a unique and holistic vocational learning environment for their pupils .  This in turn has boosted their drive and belief in their ability to work and equipped them with a higher level of skill and qualification than the school has been able to previously.

Photo od the three new members of staff

Cynnal Cymru welcomes three new staff members

In the last month, Cynnal Cymru has welcomed three new employees to support our growing work programme. Our team of 12 sustainability specialists work to support organisations across three core programme areas: (i) low carbon economy, (ii) natural environment and (iii) fair and just society.

To support our Nature Wise training programme, led by Clare Sain-Ley-Berry, we welcome our new Training and Development officer Sara Wynne-Pari. Together they will be helping more organisations in Wales to improve their understanding of the nature crisis and take action to reverse it.

To take forward the real Living Wage in Wales and support Welsh Government’s fair work agenda, we welcome Grace Robinson as the Living Wage Programme Officer and Alys Reid to support with the accreditations. Alys will also be supporting the Cynnal Cymru team in her role as HR and Administraton Officer.


Sara Wynne-Pari

Based in North Wales, Sara joined us in April as our new Training and Development officer. Sara will be delivering Nature Wise eco literacy programme. She has a background in supporting and mentoring environmental volunteer organisations and developing cross sector partnership projects in natural environment, sustainable development and pro-environmental behaviour change. 

Alongside her role at Cynnal Cymru, Sara also works part-time for Llais y Goedwig, the grassroots network organisation for community woodlands in Wales.

In her spare time, she enjoys nothing more than making the most of her backyard in Snowdonia whether that’s exploring, swimming or riding her electric bike.

Grace Robinson

Grace is the newly appointed Living Wage Programme Officer. She was born in Cardiff and has lived here most of her life – the only exception being an undergraduate degree in Swansea. She has a background in human resources and has always been passionate about equality, justice and fair work practices. Grace previously worked on the Living Wage Programme during her master’s degree in HR, which is what made her enthusiastic about this particular initiative. She looks forward to working for Cynnal Cymru and advocating for the Living Wage across Wales.

In her spare time, Grace enjoys being as creative as possible and always has a project on the go (currently a baby blanket for an expecting friend). She also enjoys being active and going for a sea swim when she can.

Alys Reid Bacon

Alys is joining us as a HR & Administrative Officer to provide support on the Living Wage accreditation process and Cynnal Cymru’s human resources. Alys is fluent in both Welsh and English and is currently working on her PhD in Biological Sciences, titled, “The influence of genotype, environment & management factors on yield development, grain filling & grain quality in oats”.

She has experience of dealing with members of the public in different environments, including as a hospital receptionist, administrative assistant and Ward Clerk and as a Youth Worker. She has also been involved in work to promote STEM subjects in schools across mid Wales funded by Salters’ chemistry institute.

Alys is passionate about sustainability and enjoys spending her free time walking, sea swimming, cooking, eating and gaming.

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