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. PRIME Cymru continues to develop new ideas and approaches, to enable older people to become and remain economically active.

Foneddigion a boneddigesau – diolch am eich croeso heddiw.

I can’t tell you how delighted I am, ladies and gentlemen, to be here today as President of PRIME Cymru and particularly to be in this historic market square of what is now our ‘local town’ in Wales. When I founded PRIME Cymru in 2001, I very much hoped that it would be able to provide a practical outlet for the skills and experience of older people. Many people, can you believe it, had written to me to say that they felt that after the age of 50 they were on the ‘scrap heap’ and they had faced insurmountable problems in securing paid employment.

When we formed PRIME Cymru, I very much wanted to see practical support being made available to older people who have had a good idea for a business. I am very proud indeed that in Wales, PRIME Cymru has been able to give practical support and advice to over 1,400 older people which enabled them to set up their own businesses.

However, it was recognized that self employment was not for everybody, and that there was an enormous demand and willingness on the part of older people to become engaged and find worthwhile employment. PRIME Cymru extended its remit and has helped over 2,000 people into jobs. Whilst working with many thousands of older people PRIME realized that a large number of over fifties were not ‘job ready’ and this has led to the ‘Experience Counts’ and ‘Rural Challenge’ volunteering initiatives and we are here today, ladies and gentlemen, to celebrate the fact that over 1,000 volunteers have been recruited, gained experience, developed skills and improved their self confidence. They have also provided much needed support by volunteering within community, environmental and social enterprises. PRIME Cymru sees its volunteering projects as a stepping stone on the path to returning to work. Over 300 of our volunteers have undertaken further education and training or found employment or self employment.

So, if I may say so, I am thrilled that you will be able to see some of the examples of PRIME’s work here today, as well as have the opportunity to meet volunteers and mentors who are making such a difference to people’s lives by working together. On your left, you can see “The Red Giraffe Studio”. Fiona Walker opened her craft and I.T. business last week with the help of a PRIME mentor. Also here is ‘Maid Perfect’ a cleaning enterprise set up with the help of a PRIME business mentor. Jacqueline Cooling, the owner, is now employing one of our local volunteers in a paid position. This I think shows the way in which PRIME’s different projects and initiatives can work together to make a real difference to people’s lives.

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. PRIME Cymru continues to develop new ideas and approaches, to enable older people to become and remain economically active. In fact, PRIME is the only organization in Wales that exists purely to help older people achieve their ambitions. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, you will understand why it is so important for organizations like PRIME Cymru to continue with this vital work.

I really am so grateful for the support that has been given by the Big Lottery to enable the work with volunteers to take place. I am also very grateful to the Bank of America, the Wales Council for Voluntary Action and Lloyds TSB Foundation who have supported the development of our volunteer mentoring programme.

So, ladies and gentlemen, PRIME is here to help and I hope today’s event will inspire others to join, to support and work with PRIME Cymru to help older people become more economically and socially active in our communities.

Finally, we are also here today to celebrate PRIME Cymru’s 1000th volunteer. Paolo Piana moved to Llanelli last year and signed up as a volunteer. His skills and experience were recognized by PRIME Cymru and it was suggested that he may wish to become a volunteer mentor. He received training and has on-going support. Paolo has subsequently found employment but continues to mentor others and is proving to be a successful and inspirational member of PRIME Cymru’s ever increasing team of volunteers. And to mark the fact that he is the 1000th volunteer, I would like to present him with a very special plaque.