I am delighted to be here today as President of P.R.I.M.E. Cymru, and to be able to do so in the gardens of this splendid house which I have had the pleasure to look around today.
When I founded the P.R.I.M.E Initiative in 2000, I very much hoped that it would be able to provide a practical outlet for the skills and experience of older people. Many people had written to me to say that they felt that after the age of fifty, they were on the ‘scrap heap’, and that they faced insurmountable problems in securing a paid job.
In those days it was still possible to reject someone for a job because of their age. Thankfully, those days are gone, but there are, nevertheless, still many myths about the abilities of older people (they will take more time off, won’t be as committed and so on).
I happen to believe that the experience and skills, which people build up over a lifetime, are an invaluable resource, and it is madness for society not to make use of this.
When I started the P.R.I.M.E Initiative I very much wanted to see practical support being made available to older people who might have a good idea for a business. We were able to draw upon the many years of experience built up by my Prince’s Trust with young people. I am very proud that in Wales, P.R.I.M.E Cymru has been able to help over 1,200 older people to succeed in setting up their own businesses, creating 1,800 jobs in the process.
This lovely hotel, established by Mrs Susannah Woods is just one example of the businesses which P.R.I.M.E. Cymru has helped, through its team of advisors.
But there is no reason why we should stop there. P.R.I.M.E has recognised that we face, throughout the UK, a very great problem that large numbers of older people are not able to find work. As time goes on, and if someone continues to be rebuffed, they simply lose confidence and self belief, making it ever harder for them to get back into work.
The experience of the Prince’s Trust has shown that providing support through an unpaid volunteer mentor, who offers someone a sounding board, and who listens and provides advice, can actually make all the difference to helping a person rebuild their confidence, and then to take the steps to get back to work.
I therefore could not be more delighted today, to be able to launch P.R.I.M.E’s volunteer mentoring scheme in Wales. This scheme has been made possible because of the support of the Welsh Assembly Government and the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, whose Active Communities programme is designed to stimulate more volunteering across Wales. P.R.I.M.E will be recruiting a team of volunteer mentors who will use their experience to help other people face and overcome the barriers to getting into work or setting up in business.
I am also very grateful for the support being offered by Stephen Pegge and Lloyds T.S.B., who are enthusiastic, thank goodness, about encouraging their own staff to volunteer, together with the Lloyds T.S.B. Foundation, which is similarly providing financial support.
P.R.I.M.E. is there to help and I hope today’s event will remind people of this. I much look forward to hearing how the scheme progresses over the next two years.