Blaenau Gwent Climate Assembly

In March 2021, it will bring together 50 people from the Blaenau Gwent area to address the question:

What should we do in Blaenau Gwent to tackle the climate crisis in a way that is fair and improves living standards for everyone?

The participants will hear evidence, discuss the issues, and produce recommendations for what local public service organisations, communities and individuals can do to address the climate crisis. The recommendations made will be considered by organisations including Blaenau Gwent Council and will help to shape the climate plans of local housing associations.

The Climate Assembly will explore the overarching question through learning about, and discussion of related sub-themes including housing, nature / green space and transport.

Lead Experts will present information on climate change and the sub-themes to provide context for the discussions.

The Assembly is being organised by four housing associations in Blaenau Gwent in collaboration with Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, Electoral Reform Society, Cynnal Cymru.

A Steering Group has been established to oversee the organisation and format of the Assembly.

Find out more >>

Gwneud y pethau bychain ar Ddydd Gŵyl Dewi

Eleni, ar Ddydd Gŵyl Dewi, ‘rydym yn gofyn i sefydliadau ar draws Cymru ystyried y pethau bychain y gallant wneud i sicrhau nad oes rhaid i unrhywun yng Nghymru weithio am lai na’r Cyflog Byw go iawn, boed hynny’n cynnwys deall sut mae bod yn gyflogwr Cyflog Byw achrededig, ceisio annog sefydliadau eraill i ystyried y Cyflog Byw go iawn neu ein helpu ni i rannu negeseuon cadarnhaol am y gwahaniaeth y mae talu’r Cyflog Byw go iawn yn gallu’i wneud.

Y Cyflog Byw go iawn yw’r unig raddfa gyflog yn y DU a delir, yn wirfoddol, gan 7,000 o fusnesau sy’n credu bod eu staff yn haeddu ennill cyflog sy’n cwrdd â’u hanghenion beunyddiol – megis y siopa wythnosol, neu ymweliad annisgwyl at y deintydd. Yng Nghymru, mae 278 o gyflogwyr Cyflog Byw achrededig, a dros 11,428 o gyflogai Cymru wedi derbyn codiad cyflog oherwydd bod eu cyflogwyr wedi’u hachredu. Ar lefel y DU, mae’r Cyflog Byw go iawn yn cael cefnogaeth trawsbleidiol.

Er gwaetha’r heriau aruthrol a welwyd yn ystod y flwyddyn a aeth heibio, ‘rydym yn dal i weld momentwm parhaus o gwmpas y Cyflog Byw Go Iawn yng Nghymru. Yn 2020, roedd 55 cyflogwr ar draws holl sectorau a diwydiannau Cymru wedi cymryd y cam o achredu fel cyflogwyr Cyflog Byw, (o gymharu â 56 yn 2019). Drwy weithredu yn unigol, roedd y cyflogwyr hyn wedi codi cyfanswm o 4,300 o weithwyr i lefel Cyflog Byw go iawn.

Yn ȏl y TUC, mae bron chwarter o holl weithwyr Cymru yn derbyn tâl sy’n is na’r Cyflog Byw go iawn. Mewn ambell i etholaeth yng Nghymru mae’r ffigwr yn 1 o bob 3.

Yn ȏl y ddogfen ganlynol ddiweddar, sef y Joseph Rowntree Foundation Briefing, darganfuwyd bod 4 o bob 10 aelwyd sy’n wynebu tlodi yng Nghymru yn cynnwys gweithiwr llawn-amser ac, yn aml, mae dros hanner o’r aelwydydd yma yn cynnwys aelod sy’n gweithio; mae hyn yn dangos yn glir tra bod cyflogaeth yn lleihau’r risg o dlodi, yn aml nid yw’n ddigonol i alluogi’r unigolyn i ddianc rhagddo.
Mae talu’r Cyflog Byw go iawn yn cynnig llwybr i bobl ddianc o dlodi, ac yn golygu bod ganddynt mwy o arian i’w wario yn eu heconomïau lleol, ac ar y pethau hynny sydd o bwys iddynt.

Felly, wrth i ni ddechrau cynllunio’n ffordd allan o COVID, a sicrhau ein bod yn fwy gwydn yn y dyfodol, ‘rydym yn annog pob cyflogwr i ystyried pa bethau bychain y gallant wneud er mwyn gwella’r sefyllfa. Pa gam cadarnhaol gallwch chi gymryd heddiw? Mae dod yn gyflogwr Cyflog Byw go iawn yn gam bach sy’n gallu golygu newidiadau mawr i’ch gweithwyr, eich sefydliad a’ch cymuned.

Cynnal Cymru yw corff achredu’r Cyflog Byw go iawn yng Nghymru ac ‘rydym yma i’ch helpu chi drwy’r broses achredu. Cysylltwch â ni, ymunwch â’r mudiad, gwnewch y pethau bychain.

Dymunwn Ddydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus i bawb. Diolch yn fawr!

Mae’r holl ffigyrau yn seiliedig ar y data a oedd ar gael ar Chwefror 1 2021.

Gwneud y pethau bychain yng Nghaerdydd ar Ddydd Gŵyl Dewi

Eleni, ar Ddydd Gŵyl Dewi, ‘rydym yn gofyn i sefydliadau ar draws Caerdydd ystyried y pethau bychain y gallant wneud i sicrhau nad oes rhaid i unrhywun yng Nghymru weithio am lai na’r Cyflog Byw go iawn, boed hynny’n cynnwys deall sut mae bod yn gyflogwr Cyflog Byw achrededig, ceisio annog sefydliadau eraill i ystyried y Cyflog Byw go iawn neu ein helpu ni i rannu negeseuon cadarnhaol am y gwahaniaeth y mae talu’r Cyflog Byw go iawn yn gallu’i wneud.

Cyngor Caerdydd yw’r unig gyngor achrededig fel Cyflogwr Cyflog Byw yng Nghymru. Mae’r cyngor a phartneriaid yn hyrwyddo Caerdydd fel Dinas Gyflog Byw sy’n cael effaith cadarnhaol ar y Ddinas a’i gweithwyr. O Chwefror 1af 2021 ymlaen, mae 45% o gyflogwyr achrededig yng Nghymru yn dod o Gaerdydd ac mae cyflogwyr Caerdydd wedi cyfrannu at 69% o godiadau cyflog oherwydd achrediad. Mae ymchwil diweddar gan Brifysgol Caerdydd wedi dangos bod 124 cyflogwr yn achredu yng Nghaerdydd wedi arwain at 7,735 o weithwyr yn derbyn codiad cyflog sy wedi ychwanegu dros £32m at yr economi lleol o fewn 8 mlynedd.

Er mwyn clywed mwy am fuddion achredu fel Cyflogwr Cyflog Byw gwyliwch ar y fideo.

Dyma oedd gan y Cynghorydd Huw Thomas, Arweinydd Cyngor Caerdydd i’w ddweud:

“Mae’r pethau hynny sy’n ymddangos yn rhai bychain wir yn gallu gwneud gwahaniaeth mawr, a dw i’n deall yr effaith sylweddol y mae talu’r Cyflog Byw go iawn wedi cael ar fywydau ein staff ni. ‘Rydym yn falch i gefnogi sefydliadau ar draws y ddinas, i’w galluogi i wneud yr un peth ar ran eu cyflogai hwythau ac, ar Ddydd Gŵyl Dewi eleni, byddwn yn annog unrhyw fusnes sydd â diddordeb mewn talu’r Cyflog Byw go iawn i gysylltu â ni, a dysgu mwy am y cynllun”.


Mae Cyngor Caerdydd yn deall bod y buddion ehangach o’r Cyflog Byw go iawn yn gallu fod o fudd i unigolion a chyflogwyr yn ychwanegol a’r ddinas ac maen nhw wedi gwneud ymrwymiad i ad-dalu ffioedd i fusnesau bach a chanolig yng Nghaerdydd trwy’i chynllun cefnogaeth achrediad.

Am fwy o wybodaeth ar y Cyflog Byw yng Nghaerdydd ewch at y wefan.

Hefyd, mae cyngor Caerdydd yn annog cyflogwyr lleol i ddarparu cynlluniau cynilo a benthyciadau cyflogres, yn galluogi eu gweithwyr i arbed arian yn uniongyrchol o’u cyflogau ac os oes angen cynnig credyd fforddiadwy oddi wrth ddarparwr moesegol. Dewch o hyd i fwy o wybodaeth ar wefan Cardiff and Vale Credit Union.

Cynnal Cymru yw corff achredu’r Cyflog Byw go iawn yng Nghymru ac ‘rydym yma i’ch helpu chi drwy’r broses achredu. Cysylltwch â ni, ymunwch â’r mudiad, gwnewch y pethau bychain.

Dymunwn Ddydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus i bawb. Diolch yn fawr!

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

The Living Wage is an independent movement of businesses, organisations and people who believe a fair day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. The real Living Wage is independently-calculated each year based on what employees and their families need to live. Employers can choose to pay the real Living Wage on a voluntary basis.

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 £9:50 an hour and £10.85 an hour in London. There are over 5000 Living Wage Employers across the UK with 224 Living Wage employers in Wales.



You can find how to become accredited by visiting our accreditation web page or by visiting the Living Wage Foundation website.

Foundational Economy Community of Practice

During 2020-21, Cynnal Cymru has supported a community of practice for organisations receiving funding from the Welsh Government’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund. Its aim is to share learning and innovation, build relationships and encourage collaboration.

The Challenge Fund aimed to support 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 section of this site  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.

‘Collectively we demand change’ – Blaenau Gwent Climate Assembly published recommendations

The Blaenau Gwent Climate Assembly has spent the last four weeks designing and deliberating on proposals to tackle climate change in Blaenau Gwent.

The final proposals were presented and voted on during the Assemblies final session on Sunday (28 March).

Five key recommendations were passed with over 80% of the assembly members support across areas such as transport, housing and green spaces including:

  • The establishment of an affordable, integrated road and rail transport system in Blaenau Gwent with a one-ticket system for bus, rail and cycle schemes
  • Establishing safe and easily maintainable infrastructure for walkers and cyclists
  • New training for local tradespeople, qualifications and upskilling to increase green construction skills across the borough
  • Implementing a programme of woodland preservation and reforestation increasing opportunities for jobs, biodiversity and connecting woodlands.
  • Ensure new housing is developed with the latest sustainable techniques

The final report of the Assembly will be published the week of 18 April 2021. A full list of recommendations can be found here.

Michelle Morris, Managing Director, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council said:

“I would like thank everyone who took the time to take part in Wales’ first climate assembly. The Council and Public Service Board welcome the views of local people and their ideas for dealing with the climate crisis.

“Climate change is a global issue and it’s absolutely vital that we act now to protect our environment for the well-being of future generations and the recommendations from the Assembly are vital for us as the Welsh public sector when we develop our long term plans to shape our approach to tackling the challenges ahead.

“We’re already taking a number of actions as part of our Decarbonisation plan to reduce our carbon impact. The 5 recommendations from the Climate Assembly will help us to prioritise our work in a number of key areas and these will make a significant contribution towards our carbon neutral aim.”

Jess Blair, Director, ERS Cymru said:

“The Blaenau Gwent Climate Assembly shows what happens when you do politics differently – brining a community together and providing them with the space to deliberate on important issues in their local area. . This was Wales’ first climate assembly but we hope it will not be the last.”

“Citizen participation is vital in local decision making, it brings legitimacy, builds trust and shows that, when given the support, ordinary people can help shape their communities and come up with valuable solutions to important issues.

“Now the assembly is has spoken we look forward to seeing how Blaenau Gwent responds to their recommendations.”

Matt, Participant, Blaenau Gwent Climate Assembly said:

“I found the climate assembly a really rewarding experience. I was able to connect with many different types of people from all walks of life within Blaenau Gwent to talk about a common goal.

“Some of the evidence that we talked about certainly shocked me, but it was comforting to know that the solutions are really within our own hands and I’m really looking forward to having our recommendations evaluated, and hopeful some will be taken forward to make a real difference within Blaenau Gwent so that we can really start to see some positive change.”

Sunita, Participant, Blaenau Gwent Climate Assembly said:

“Before taking part in the climate assembly, I was aware of the causes and the effects of climate change and have always been passionate about doing everything that I can to make a difference on an individual level.
“I have learnt so much from my experience as an Assembly Member; from recognising that there is a lack of awareness about climate change on a local and national level, to understanding the level of interest and passion from the people of Blaenau Gwent to make things better.

“Collectively we demand change from our council and our government. We urge the council and the governing bodies to listen to our recommendations that we as an assembly decided on and act upon them.

“We will not stop here. We will continue to learn. We will persist to make sure that our voices are heard. We will strive to make a positive difference in our own lives and in the communities around us.”


The assembly, was the first deliberative democratic event of its kind in Wales, brought 50 Blaenau Gwent residents together with expert speakers to develop proposals to address the climate crisis in their area.

The participants have been selected to be demographically representative of the wider Blaenau Gwent community representing the views and backgrounds of the borough’s residents.

Participants spent four weeks hearing from over 20 expert speakers on a range of issues including housing, fuel poverty, transport, nature and green space, jobs and skills before considering the evidence, make and vote on recommendations.

These will be sent to the Blaenau Gwent Public Service Board’s Climate Mitigation Steering Group, who have made a commitment to respond to the recommendations.

Why saving water matters

Being water efficient not only helps to reduce water wastage but as an organisation, you pay for all the water that passes through your meter – so it makes good financial sense to ensure you are not letting any of it go to waste. Taking simple inexpensive measures can typically reduce your water consumption by up to 50%.

Saving water is also good for the environment and will help to reduce the carbon footprint of your organisation. Cleaning and treating water uses valuable energy and resources, and if water levels fall, the wildlife in wetland habitats may suffer. Also, if you are heating your water prior to use, any reduction in water consumption will also have a positive impact on your energy bills.

Calculate your water usage

As with carbon foot-printing, it is important to understand how much water you are currently using in order to reduce your impacts. The following resources are available to help you in this process:

Water Footprint Assessment

Reduce your water usage

Simple, quick measures to reduce your water usage include installing a water-butt, water-saving taps, and low-flush or dual-flush toilets. More ideas for ‘simple changes’ to help you save water and reduce leaks can be found from Waterwise and The Carbon Trust’s Energy and Water Efficiency’ guide.

Dwr Cymru offer businesses Water Efficiency Audit.

They estimate that most small businesses (or organisations) can typically achieve a 20 – 50% decrease in the amount of water they use.

Their Rainscape project also provides ideas and links to further resources for ‘rainscaping’ buildings; from simple rainwater collection to more ambitious projects such as green roofs. There is also information about ‘porous paving’ which is increasingly required due to recent changes in planning consents.

Why has Carbon Literacy proved to be such a success?

Carbon Literacy is a learning methodology that allows people to engage with the huge, complex and frightening reality of climate change and break the challenge down into manageable personal and organisational responses. Formulated in Manchester, the concept has now spread to over ten countries.

Cynnal Cymru is the official partner of the Carbon Literacy Project in Wales. Still managed in Manchester by Cooler Projects and overseen by the Carbon Literacy Trust, the concept is defined as;

“An awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational basis.”

On the 17th March Cardiff Council announced that it had become the first Welsh local authority to achieve Carbon Literate Organisation status in Wales, and in fact the first council in the whole of the UK. They are also the first organisation from any sector in Wales to meet the standard at a bronze level. Carbon Literate Organisation status goes from bronze to platinum.

Our Carbon Literacy trainer, Rhodri Thomas, shares more about the success of Carbon Literacy as well as his goal to reach six platinum level organisations in Wales and many many more at bronze to gold level over the next four years.

Rhodri was also the first resident Welsh certified Carbon Literacy trainer in Wales and has trained over 400 people and has seen the concept take hold in Wales.

Over to Rhodri…

Why has Carbon Literacy proved to be such a success?

Before answering that question, first let’s review what has been achieved:

  • After initially training the Sustainable Development forum of Museum Wales, we supported initial efforts by the whole museum sector to develop bespoke Carbon Literacy training.
  • We co-founded a consortium of twenty seven housing associations and oversaw the training of around 140 staff including a Train The Trainer programme as well as the development of a dedicated Carbon Literacy course for the social housing sector. Our partners in the consortium are launching a cascade of peer to peer training this spring using their own course.
  • We have just completed a project funded by National Resources Wales to train around 200 leaders and influencers from the organisations that make up the five Gwent Public Service Boards. On this we worked with Manchester Metropolitan University and Great Places Housing group.
  • We recently trained the whole cabinet and executive management team of Newport City Council.
  • We developed an introduction to climate change e-learning course for Denbighshire County Council that will accompany their Carbon Literacy training.
  • We designed a Carbon Literacy for Engineers course in collaboration with the Flexis programme.
  • We have trained Cardiff Council colleagues and cabinet members allowing them to apply for the Bronze Carbon Literacy Organisation accreditation.

So why the interest?

Some time ago, I was challenged with, “why should working class people in the valleys be burdened with this knowledge – they are not the ones causing all the problems.”

As I stumbled for a reply, someone else said, “Why shouldn’t they understand climate change and their part in it?”

That for me sums it up. Climate change – the effects and impacts of global warming – will spare no one. And yes, everyone is responsible although of course some people make a greater contribution to greenhouse gas levels than others. But through Carbon Literacy, this big scary problem becomes the stuff of everyday life.

The injustices of it are exposed but so are the solutions and the co-benefits of taking action, and above all, the awareness of personal agency is developed – everyone can do something to reduce emissions and everyone can do something to protect themselves, their families and their communities from the predicted and current impacts of this problem.

Managers, elected leaders, community workers, volunteers, specialists, skilled and unskilled workers and people looking for work have all been helped by the Carbon Literacy method to unpack the problem and stare the monster in the face.

We now have seven local authorities in Wales who have discovered the benefit of Carbon Literacy within the context of their declaration of a climate emergency and their formulation of complex plans to reduce their own and their county’s emissions.

Decarbonisation and climate change adaptation are two big and complicated challenges. They simply cannot be left for a small group of specialists to solve. When we all work together as a team, sharing our knowledge and insights, taking personal as well as collective responsibility, then we can hope to reach more effective solutions faster.

This is what we hope to see now from Cardiff, Newport, Torfaen, Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Caerffili and Denbighshire – all the local authorities that have so far embraced Carbon Literacy – the use of their Carbon Literacy to develop team work, horizontal and vertical collaboration, everyone speaking the same language and striving towards the same goals.

Climate change caused by global heating will define every aspect of life in the twenty first century. Everyone should understand it and be supported to develop a response. It’s not certain that our social and economic systems will adapt, decarbonise and survive what is already starting to happen but we give ourselves a greater chance if we face the problem and deconstruct it. As far as climate change is concerned, ignorance will be a very short lived and morally questionable bliss.

To stay informed about Carbon Literacy training and other training opportunities, sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Torfaen Council: Supporting the foundations

Like other post-industrial areas, the town of Pontypool suffers from empty shop units, run-down high streets and above average unemployment. These problems have become common following the decline of traditional industry but have been exacerbated in Pontypool by other factors, such as organisations or people with no connection to the area buying up commercial property as investments.

The Council recognised that many people in the town had small businesses, or wanted to start one, and set up shop in the town. Efforts were often hampered however by a lack of appropriate support and a disconnect between what was offered by national programmes and grants and what small, often micro-, businesses needed on the ground.  

The Council applied to Welsh Government’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund to help rectify this and put in place a pilot providing place-based, hyper-local support to small businesses. This included mentoring, test-trading opportunities, meantime space, training, small start-up grants and marketing support.

The pilot project, Foundational Economy Torfaen (FET), began in February 2020 from a new ‘work-hub’ in Pontypool Indoor Market. Despite the impact of Covid it has already contributed to visible positive change in the area.

FET Project Officer Alyson Jones believes that the only way that nurturing and catalyst support can be offered to these small ventures is by really seeking to listen and understand their issues. Her first step was to be proactive in phoning businesses to get a flavour of the community and the support that was needed.

This led to a range of support measure ranging from the ambitious and complex – such as exploring the development of a local procurement system – to the basic but absolutely essential – such as signposting sole traders to the right Council websites.

An early challenge that was identified was the high shop unit rents often commanded by out of town landlords with little motivation to lower prices or to split units into more affordable spaces. Whilst local landlords were more accommodating, FET also provided another solution through offering space in the indoor market at low-cost (£5/day) or, during COVID, no-cost rates.  This proved crucial in enabling several innovative start-ups, such as Woolfall’s 3D Printing, to get off the ground. 

The project has also provided bespoke, one-to-one mentoring to help businesses navigate systems and processes and to build the confidence and capacity to grow.

From support with accessing finance or sourcing local accountants to provide free consultations; to help with business plans, furlough or diversification in response to Covid, FET has sought to provide a tailored approach for each beneficiary. Focussed on ‘making the service work for people’, this has included phone calls to those who are digitally excluded and mentoring at a distance for those who cannot afford to travel or are self-isolating.

A huge range of social media events on marketing, local procurement and Business Doctor sessions have also been organised.

One beneficiary of FET support is High Street Fitness, a community interest well-being and fitness organisation. Set up by a group of qualified trainers and a doctor, it provides a low-cost gym to the community (discounts for those out of work) as well as mental health support and a training and qualifications programme.

FET supported High Street Fitness with start-up mentoring, working with Social Business Wales to provide specific, targeted support in developing a social business.  FET further assisted in financial solutions necessary to fund setup, including finding them space in a unit New Look had recently vacated, overcoming potential challenges with the Local Development Plan which was focussed on retail, and linking the owners up with the Local Education Authority and the NHS, allowing them to take social prescriptions. High Street Fitness is now able to provide a much-needed community resource in the centre of town and is looking to develop a full NVQ scheme that could support more foundational economy skills and jobs in the area in future.

With an eye on this broader picture, FET has also worked with local anchor organisations to help develop local supply chains and explore local procurement, particularly in areas such as decarbonisation where future need is guaranteed.

Work with RSL Bron Afon identified skills gaps as a key issue and FET is now working with the University of South Wales to explore how these could be filled to enable local manufacture of solar panels and heat pumps.   

13 months in to the project, Alyson – FET’s sole dedicated member of staff –  has spoken to over 375 local businesses and worked with a wide range of cross-sector partners. Alyson believes it is the project’s hyper-local, human approach that is the root of its success.

You have to build up relationships and trust with people, you have to become a trusted adviser. It is also not enough to provide support at a national level if local business does not have the confidence or knowhow to access it.” she explains.

Providing this level of human contact – Alyson also phones business regularly just to check in, whether or not the business has flagged they need support – demands enormous dedication and can exert an emotional toll.

One example was hearing from a sole trader who had set up a mobile vehicle-repair business in 2019 to ‘take herself off Universal Credit and make a better life for herself and her children’. As a non VAT- registered start-up without premises, she fell through the gaps in Covid-related support and was left with the stark choice of asking Alyson ‘Do I feed my children or pay my supplier?’

This experience was shared and escalated up through the Council to Welsh Government, adding to the calls for micro-businesses – the lifeblood of Pontypool and many other towns in the county – to not be forgotten in the Covid response.  This trader eventually received support with FET’s help some 3 months after making initial contact.

This example highlights another crucial, intermediary role played by such projects in supporting local livelihoods and the families that depend on them. For Alyson, this – and seeing the ‘massive difference that FET has made’ –  has been the most rewarding aspect of being part of the Challenge Fund community.

The feedback from local business has been amazing – people are so appreciative they have someone physically there they can speak to and who they can get to know.” Alyson explains. It seems the local person is key, the human element providing confidence which a website cannot.

For more information, please see Foundational Economy Torfaen’s social media channels:

LinkedIn 

Twitter     

Facebook  

Environmental Volunteering Toolkit

So you want to help the environment but are unsure how to start?

Environmental volunteering is a great way to support the planet whilst giving back to your local community and there are many opportunities that can fit into your schedule.

There are hundreds of activities you can get involved with but how do you know which ones are right for you?

This toolkit aims to help you decide which aspects of environmental volunteering most appeal to you based on your skills, interests, and circumstances. There are many different themes and example projects included to help you find your perfect role, whether you love feeding your community, are a computer whiz, want to make your street more inviting, care about wildlife, enjoy getting fit, or want to make new friends. Whichever activities you choose you will be helping to improve our environment for now and future generations!

Download the Environmental Volunteering Tool kit.

Greenstream Flooring CIC – 2020 Social Impact Report

During 2020 Greenstream diverted over 51,100m2 of otherwise wasted carpet for the benefit of the community and was also instrumental in providing support to the “Floored Report,” which highlighted the important impact that carpet has on Welsh housing standards.

The report also features the work Greenstream do with eight housing associations as part of its Affordable Flooring project and how it supports people in the local community with low-cost flooring.

With 11 employees in the business and a mission to create opportunities through sustainable employment, the report goes on to include the important work the company does for local people through providing jobs and training through its advocacy work.

Ellen Petts, founder and managing director, Greenstream Flooring CIC, said:

“Reusing and repurposing carpet tiles that are no longer required is the bedrock of how we can continue the success of our business. We all need to play our part in understanding what the circular economy can bring to the future of our planet. Understanding the consequences for our children and grandchildren, if we do not change our ways of disposing of not just carpet tiles, but everything we no longer require, is of vital importance.

“We are looking forward to a year where we can work even more closely in partnership with organisations who share our vision to eliminate waste and to keep products in use for longer.”

Some key facts from the report:

♻️  Diverted over 51,100m2 of otherwise wasted carpet from landfill

♻️  Donated 5,700m2 of material to those in need

♻️  Supported 129 low-income tenants through our Affordable Housing programme

♻️  Held 17 free giveaway days

♻️  Employed 11 people.

To download the report, click HERE

For information on Greenstream Flooring CIC please visit www.findcarpettiles.co.uk

Cash boost to increase tree cover in Cardiff

Cardiff Council will benefit from the charity’s Emergency Tree Fund, set up to encourage local authorities to make trees a central part of their policies, and boost tree cover to tackle climate change.

After receiving a grant of £228,862, Cardiff Council is looking to plant more than 800 hectares of tree cover over the next decade.

Natalie Buttriss, Director of Coed Cadw said:

“Back in October 2020, Cardiff Council unveiled its blueprint to become a carbon-neutral city by 2030, and its ambition to increase urban tree cover from 18.9 to 25%; an ambition which exceeds our own ask for all urban areas to have at least 20% tree cover.

The Emergency Tree Fund aims to help local authorities turn such ambitions into reality.

Whilst tree-planting alone is not a ‘silver bullet’ for tackling climate change, we are pleased to be supporting Cardiff Council in taking action to identify land for trees and to increase canopy cover across the city.”

Among the aims of the Emergency Tree Fund are to boost green spaces for health, plant trees to soak up harmful carbon and combat pollution and create detailed strategies to meet carbon zero targets.

In total, up to £2.9 million will be going to councils across the UK. 

It is a key part of The Woodland Trust’s recently announced ambitious aim to plant 50 million trees by 2025.

Cllr Peter Bradbury, Cardiff Council Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, said:

“Securing this funding from The Woodland Trust gives our plans for a greener Cardiff a real boost – it’s going to make a real difference as we continue working towards our vision for a carbon neutral, One Planet Cardiff.”

“Alongside action on other areas such as transport, energy and food, planting more trees is an important part of our strategic response to the climate crisis. This funding will help us do exactly that, but it’s more than just a numbers game, it’s also about planting the right trees in the right places. That’s why, as well as significantly increasing the number of trees we plant, we’ll also be using some of this funding to help establish a tree nursery to secure a stock of locally grown, native trees we can plant in the future.”

John Tucker, the Woodland Trust’s Director of Woodland Outreach at the Trust said:

“This funding to UK councils has the power to inspire a new generation in tree planting and galvanise the need to treasure trees in their neighbourhoods. The country’s fight against COVID-19 has already shown how communities can come together in a time of crisis.

As the pandemic hopefully abates, getting outside and planting trees will be a way for this spirit to be harnessed once again in a different but a very important way – to tackle climate change.”

To achieve its 50 million tree aim, The Woodland Trust is aiming to create new woods as well as work with landowners, local and national government, businesses and the public. 

More on the Woodland Trust’s 50m Tree Plan available here.

Cardiff the first Welsh local authority to achieve Carbon Literate Organisation status

As part of the accreditation process for the bronze level award a Carbon Literacy training programme has to be created and registered with the Carbon Literacy Project, ready for delivery to staff, and at least one senior member of the organisation at senior leadership level has to have successfully undertaken and passed this training.

Carbon Literacy is defined as ‘an awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational basis.

Following Carbon Literacy Project approved training designed and delivered by sustainable development charity Cynnal Cymru, three Cardiff Council Cabinet members at the forefront of Cardiff’s One Planet Cardiff strategy for a carbon neutral city: Cllr Caro Wild (Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Transport), Cabinet Member for Clean Streets, Recycling and Environment, Cllr Michael Michael, and Cllr Chris Weaver (Cabinet Member for Finance, Modernisation and Performance), and staff from services across the organisation, have all been certified as Carbon Literate.

Cabinet Member for Clean Streets, Recycling and Environment, Cllr Michael Michael, said:

“Training Council staff and becoming a Carbon Literate Organisation is one way we can start to change the way we act, and think about our carbon emissions, not just as an organisation but also as individual residents with a contribution to make as we strive to become a carbon neutral, One Planet city.”

“Statistics show that if everyone in the world consumed natural resources, and generated carbon dioxide at the rate we do in Cardiff, then we would need the resources of three planets to enable us to carry on as we do.

“Something has to give, and I would urge residents, businesses and organisations to join us in making the changes we all need to make if we are to safeguard the future of Cardiff, and the planet.”

Rhodri Thomas, Principal Consultant at Cynical Cymru said:

“We are delighted that Cardiff Council has been recognised as a Carbon Literate Organisation at the bronze level. We provided training for a core group of colleagues and three cabinet members and are supporting the council to roll out Carbon Literacy training for the majority of Council staff. This level of commitment shows that the Council is serious about its declaration of a climate emergency and as more colleagues become Carbon Literate, the easier it will become for the Council to implement practical action and generate new ideas that will safeguard citizens and colleagues while creating a greener, cleaner, healthier and more prosperous city.”

Dave Coleman, Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Carbon Literacy Project said:

“Wales has been at the forefront of thinking on low carbon for some time, recognising the benefits of determined action on climate to education, jobs, and the Welsh economy, but also to the health, lifestyle, and prosperity of current and future generations of Welsh people. Therefore as the first Welsh local authority to be accredited as a Carbon Literate Organisation, its great to see Cardiff at the forefront of this thinking amongst Welsh local authorities, and we look forward to seeing the capital build further on such a positive start.”

For more information on Carbon Literacy and the training opportunities available visit the Carbon Literacy training section of our website.

Flintshire County Council: Investing in ‘micro-care’ to strengthen the foundational economy

Like other counties in Wales, Flintshire faces the interlinked challenges of austerity, an ageing population and a care sector struggling to meet the rising demand for care. With help from Welsh Government’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund, Flintshire County Council has been piloting the development of community-based ‘micro-care’ to help grow the supply of care; create well-paid sustainable jobs; expand choice and deliver high quality care services.

The Covid pandemic has highlighted the importance of social care to vulnerable people and yet, compared to other professions with similar skills requirements, this work is often poorly paid, with challenging conditions and limited opportunities for training and progression. The recruitment and retention of care staff therefore is a challenge, particularly in rural areas.

The Council’s strategic review of the care sector in Flintshire in 2019 highlighted ‘micro-care’ as a potential solution to some of these challenges. Micro-care is defined as care delivered either by a small team or an individual, to a small number of clients, usually at a localised level.

Micro-care offers a number of benefits to both carers and those receiving care services. The smaller caseload allows micro providers to deliver a more personalised, flexible service to those in their care. It also removes the need for lengthy travel times between multiple clients – for which carers are often not paid – making the work less stressful and more financially rewarding.  

Micro-provision also offers an opportunity for self-employment, potentially attracting those wishing to work for themselves – such as informal carers or those in part-time employment- who may not otherwise have thought about joining the care profession.

The Council therefore approached the Challenge Fund to support a 2- year pilot project to grow and support micro-care in Flintshire, with the aim of increasing the number of carers in the county and providing sustainable, well-paid, local jobs to help meet rising care demand.

Funding was awarded in 2019 for a project to directly support micro-carers to start-up, with advice, seed funding and marketing. The grant also enabled the Council to develop networks of micro-providers and to create structures that ensure their practice is safe, legal and high-quality and which will enable the local authority to directly commission services from them.

Micro-care at this scale is new for Wales. While Flintshire County Council was influenced by work undertaken in Somerset and elsewhere in England to support micro-care, because there are differences in legislation and models of care between England and Wales, it was necessary to build a model from scratch that suited the circumstances in Flintshire.

Rob Loudon, one of 2 Micro-Care Development Officers at Flintshire County Council, explains: “In England there is a greater percentage of people needing care who receive a Direct Payment to purchase their own care. In Wales more care is provided by local authority commissioning care agencies. This has influenced how our model has been developed”

The key aim of the Flintshire project was to expand the overall supply of care available. Fundamental to achieving this was to find a way of developing the micro-care market without jeopardising the existing supply of care provided by care agencies and Personal Assistants (directly employed by people in receipt of a Direct Payment).

In England there was evidence to suggest that the growth in micro-care enterprises was creating supply issues for the care agency and personal assistant sectors, as significant numbers of people left those sectors to become micro-carers. This may have been due to a number of factors including a desire to “be your own boss” but also due to significantly higher hourly rates that micro providers were able to charge. 

To address this challenge, and to help ensure the best possible outcomes for all stakeholders, the Council decided to take a pro-active role in micro-care commissioning, setting hourly rates for micro- providers providing care either via a direct payment or a direct commissioning arrangement.

The rate decided upon was £12.63 per hour for 2020/21– well above the minimum rate of £9.50 per hour advocated by the Living Wage Foundation – sufficient to attract new people to the care profession without micro-care jobs being taken exclusively by people already working in other parts of the care sector. Council control over the rates for charging out services also prevented ‘over-charging’ compared to traditional services. This proved a delicate balance between ensuring that micro-carers were paid fairly for their work and not creating such a disparity with wages in other parts of the care sector that there was a mass exodus from one to the other.

A combination of all these measures has contributed to the creation of 14 micro-care businesses in Flintshire, 9 more than initially anticipated. An additional 6 are also in the process of being set up as a direct result of the Challenge Fund project.

As of yet, none of the staff for these new micro-providers have come from other care agencies and, although it is early days for these ventures, Rob believes this is a great sign that the active role the Council is taking in micro-care is bringing more people into the care sector overall.

This in turn is having a positive impact on the people needing care services. As Rob explains “the bottom line is that if we didn’t have these micro-carers in Flintshire there would still be a number of people potentially on our waiting list for care.” In other words, micro-carers have been able to fill the gaps, particularly in rural areas, where care agencies did not have capacity to meet care demands.

The Council is rightly proud that the development of these new enterprises has not only attracted more people to the care profession but has done so in a way that is building local economic resilience through increasing well-paid and sustainable employment options, particularly in rural areas.

Although the project has laid a firm foundation for micro-care in Flintshire, the Council is still navigating challenges in the system – one being the issue of cover if a micro-carer is absent, for example through illness or holiday.

Currently legislation limits the number of people that micro-providers can care for before they need to register with Care Inspectorate Wales as a domiciliary care agency – a step that many small providers are not set up to do. This makes it more difficult for micro-carers to ‘cover’ each other if the number of people that will receive their services, even temporarily, exceeds the registration threshold.

Helping micro businesses develop robust contingency plans is therefore a challenge but one that the Flintshire team are determined to solve through continued cooperation and dialogue with stakeholders.

As the pilot draws to a close, Rob is confident that work will continue to grow micro-care in Flintshire, potentially serving as a model for sustainable foundational economy employment that can be adapted and replicated across Wales.

ELITE Paper Solutions: Building bridges between the public sector and social enterprise

ELITE Paper Solutions is a social enterprise based in Merthyr Tydfil, specialising in document management storage and data shredding.  

As illustrated by its acronym – Equality Linked Into Training and Employment – ELITE aims to provide a fully inclusive workplace to support those traditionally furthest from the labour market, for example due to disability, health conditions or long-term unemployment, to gain skills and jobs. 

ELITE received a Challenge Fund grant to further develop its model to a point where it could deliver larger-scale contracts, which would in turn support more jobs, skills and volunteering opportunities. Part of this included influencing public sector stakeholders to change their procurement practices to allow them to place more contracts with social enterprises. 

The grant was invested in capital and revenue items to grow the team and build organisational capacity. This included an Employment Advisor to work with referral agencies and other support bodies to help individuals access and progress through ELITE’s training and work opportunities. 

These investments not only helped ELITE win 3 large public sector contracts but enabled it to respond quickly to the changing needs of its customers brought about by the Covid pandemic, increasing its revenue by £90,000 compared with the previous year. 

For example, one contract due to start on the cusp of lockdown increased its receptacles order by one third due to a pivot in ways of working which produced far more paper waste than first planned for. With its additional capacity ELITE was able to supply the extra collection bins required. 

At the other end of the spectrum, the move for many organisations away from the office environment, has led to a surge in demand for physical information to be made available online. The rapid rise in uptake of its confidential scanning services has allowed ELITE to hire nine new members of staff to assist its scanning section. 

ELITE is also proud to have increased other contracts, including for the NHS, in response to increased demand for the archive storage service that it provides, to safely store important records. 

Alongside its increasing commercial success, the grant has enabled ELITE to further develop its core activity of supporting those traditionally excluded from skills and work opportunities. Since 2015, the social enterprise section of the Charity, has worked with over 250 people, with a disability or disadvantage and believes that there is a job for everyone, regardless of their support need. 

As an example, ELITE CEO Andrea Wayman says, “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.” 

In this regard, the Challenge Fund project also serves as a demonstrator of the role that social enterprises can play in the foundational economy. Andrea believes that the ELITE model can be adopted by any workplace, including larger SMEs and the Public Sector, to enable more diverse workforces, aid local economies and increase understanding of the contributions that can be made by people who are often overlooked.  

To support Challenge Fund grantees, Welsh Government also operates a community of practice to bring projects together to share learning and challenges. Andrea believes this has been a  

huge benefit for relationship building that has led to multiple new referrals as well as a new client. This has also been an opportunity for ELITE to speak as ‘the voice of social purchasing’ and positively inform and influence those who sit on the purchasing side of procurement. 

Speaking about the Community of Practice, Andrea shares, “I didn’t realise the bonus that the communities of practice would bring to us. I just thought it was something that had been thought about afterwards, whereas it’s been as important to us as having the grant itself.” 

As ELITE looks forward, its goals are to continue growing and promoting its model. This includes gaining more opportunities within the public sector – and paving the way for other social enterprises to follow suit. 

Scroll to Top