Foneddigion a Boneddigesau, thank you for your welcome this afternoon.
I am grateful to the Welsh Council for Voluntary Action for having the courage to work with my charities in Wales to mount this timely seminar. I am particularly grateful as well to Sue Balsom, both for chairing the event and for her sterling service as Chair of The Prince’s Trust in Wales over the last few years.
I am glad to know that you have had a productive morning as you digest the recommendations of recent Assembly reports. (Having read parts of them, I can only say that certain officials have their work cut out between now and March 2009!)
Ladies and Gentlemen it is extraordinary for me to re-visit the place where it all started. It was in 1968 that I was invited to chair the Welsh committee of “European Conservation Year 1970”. The committee had made such an impact in terms of inspiring people to start tackling environmental problems themselves, rather than wait for others to take the lead, that I thought it might just be worth trying to carry on with the work. Its members, at the end of the day, therefore formed the core of a new group which was re-born as The Prince of Wales Committee in 1971. That, in its term, eventually became part of the remit of The Prince’s Trust and I’m delighted to say that between 1971 and 1996 it managed to distribute £5.6m to some 4,842 voluntary groups to help them undertake projects to improve their environment.
Unbelievably, The Prince’s Trust itself is now over thirty years old. It has a track record of helping over 35,000 young people in Wales, and a large number in the UK of course, get a good start in life and develop some of their potential, despite the challenges they face. Business in the Community is close behind having celebrated a quarter-century and now representing around 25 per cent of the Welsh workforce through its 100 members.
Meanwhile, in the last five years, PRIME Cymru has helped over 1,400 people over fifty to set up new businesses, creating over 2,000 jobs, and in the last year alone they have advised over 3,000 people about volunteering as a stepping stone back to employment.
My Foundation for the Built Environment has an active Welsh arm involved in projects ranging from masterplanning the new settlement of Coed Darcy near Swansea to advising the community in Myddfai on its new Village Hall. Meanwhile, The Prince’s Regeneration Trust is helping communities to breath new life into historic buildings like Cardigan Castle and Dyffryn House, harnessing their, otherwise wasted, economic potential.
My Foundation for Integrated Health is working with the Welsh Assembly Government to celebrate examples of excellent holistic healthcare services, and Arts & Business has just inaugurated a new financial partnership with the Assembly Departments of Economy & Transport, and Heritage.
The newest partnership we have managed to form is the Cambrian Mountains Initiative which I was visiting yesterday. My charities and local stakeholders are working to support a sustainable future for the rural communities of Mid Wales by adding value to the produce of traditional family farms, encouraging tourism and caring for the environment.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you might have noticed that these charities cover a broad spectrum of subject areas, but I hope it is increasingly apparent that what I have tried to do is look at the underlying causes of so many of the complicated problems we face, then tackle them on a number of fronts simultaneously by bringing people together as the Minister has just recommended. Others may judge whether we have had any success or not! I will say, however, that I am very proud of the advisors, staff and volunteers who have worked over the years to make a difference and I am delighted to see many of them here in the audience today.
Since devolution it has also, of course, been increasingly important to understand the nuances of policy context and I would go so far as to identify this as an important (if obvious) challenge for UK-wide charities operating in Wales – the requirement to ensure that programmes are tailored to meet Welsh needs and recognize the diversity that comes with devolution. Strong local leadership is vital and I have been extremely fortunate in Wales to be able to call upon the support and commitment of leaders of the calibre of Ann Beynon, Sue Balsom, Simon King and others, in particular Peter Davies.
At the same time it is surely a positive thing for charities to have links to wider networks and thereby benefit from a broader perspective on best practice and a larger pool of potential funders. If I may mention a recent practical example, it has been particularly encouraging this year to be able to direct a £1million grant from one of The Prince’s Trust’s main supporters, the visionary London-based benefactor Peter Cruddas, to Wales. This remarkable donation has enabled The Trust to start building a partnership that we hope will help many more young people to set themselves up in business, with all the positive consequences that can entail, over the coming years.
This brings us of course to the inescapable challenge of funding. This audience clearly understands the importance of developing a diverse funding base – it is often a hallmark of successful community entrepreneurs like Margaret Jervis of Valleys Kids that they are very good at bringing together support from a variety of sources. However, many charities are still reliant on Government funding in one form or another, and therefore subject to the inevitable cyclical nature of such sources, which can lead to flux in staff numbers, lack of continuity and loss of precious expertise when programmes reach their conclusion. Often, charities must deal with more than one Government department – this can, notoriously, cause complications on all sides, although the recent experience of Arts & Business working with the Assembly Departments of Economy & Transport, and Heritage, shows that it can be done!
So Ladies and Gentlemen, in closing, perhaps you would allow me to reflect once more on the theme of partnership, and perhaps in particular the importance of business engagement. Business in the Community has a lot of experience to offer in this field and I am delighted to know that the organization is working with the Minister’s Department to deliver third sector strategy in Wales. I can only say that I am very keen to see this work progress and will continue to support it through convening relevant groups as best I possibly can – a meeting is being planned for the Autumn, for example, that involves public agencies such as the police force as well as the business sector, as the broader social and economic benefits of this approach are so evident.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, this kind of partnership between Government, business and the third sector seems to me to be the key to true sustainability, at the end of the day, and what an opportunity we have here in Wales to seize its potential. I often cite proudly the fact that Wales is one of the few countries whose Government has adopted a statutory duty towards sustainable development. I hope that the organizations represented here today are just as inspired by that worthy goal and work together in the coming years to make it a reality.
Diolch yn fawr i chi – edrychaf ymlaen at drafodaethau pellach dros ginio yn y Senedd. [Thank you all – I look forward to further discussions over lunch at the Senedd.]