Staff at three Swansea family centres are facing an uncertain Christmas after the Welsh Government announced it is considering the future of its Communities First programme.
Faith in Families relies on the flagship anti-poverty programme for 79% of its funding for the Penplas, Clase and Bonymaen family centres, which it says would be forced to close without Welsh Government support.
Communities Secretary Carl Sargeant has said he is “minded to phase out” Communities First.
Faith in Families CEO Cherrie Bija said: “We are pleading with the Welsh Government to take into account the successful work that is already being done, please don’t close our family centres. All our staff have been issued with potential redundancy notices until we know what is happening.
“Everything the Welsh Government wants to do – build resilient communities through community hubs, tackling poverty, children’s zones – we already do and have done for some time now. We have the buildings, we have the staff, we just want to be able to continue to do the work that we are passionate about, making a difference to the lives of children and families.”
Faith in Families, part of the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon’s Board of Social Responsibility – the DBSR – is currently transforming St Teilo’s Church, above, in Swansea into a £1m community hub. Half the money for that project is being provided by the Welsh Government.
“Our Penplas family centre services grew so big that we have had to extend St Teilo’s Church,” Ms Bija said. “If the funding stops, what will happen to that? We could face the situation of being handed the keys to St Teilo’s and then losing our funding to deliver the services within.”
Faith in Families has now written to AMs, MPs and Children’s Commissioner Sally Holland to seek support for its future.
“We have dedicated, specialist staff who have built trusted relationships within the community for decades,” Ms Bija said.
“We just want to be part of the Welsh Government’s future plans in tackling poverty, whatever they are, as it’s what we do. Please don’t close our family centres.”
Bishop of Swansea and Brecon John Davies said: “Our family centres rely heavily on funding from the much valued and highly respected Communities First initiative. They each bring vital community focus and personal support to families in some of our most socially disadvantaged and needy areas. We cannot afford to lose them or jeopardise the increased self esteem and increased sense of self-worth which they bring to any number of individuals whose lives have been transformed by what is offered.
“If Communities First funding, which is the life-blood of our centres, were to vanish, it would be a catastrophe to those communities and individuals alike. They would surely feel that they were being put on the scrap-heap of life, and that communities, instead of coming first, were destined to come last.
“I urge the Welsh Government to rethink what would be a disastrous proposal.”