Top left: group of people on a field, bottom left: image of a woman smiling wearing a green uniform shirt, top right: image of a woman smiling wearing a red scarf, bottom right image of a boy and lady smiling

Why can’t all places in Wales benefit from strong community infrastructure, high levels of engagement and connectivity?  

As part of our series of blogs in response to the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales’ new strategy, Cymru Can, Eleri Williams from Building Communities Trust, explores the link between community resilience and inequality. Here, she looks at what can be done to ensure that Cymru Can achieve well-being for people now, and generations yet to be born, no matter where they live in Cymru. 

Place-based inequality across Wales is leaving an increasing number of people at risk to the effects of the climate emergency, reducing their exposure to nature and excluding them from accessing the things they need to stay physically and mentally well. 

Pioneering community assets research identifies where this sustained inequality is happening across Wales, and what needs to happen next. 

Building Communities Trust, whose mission is to enable residents to build on the strengths and talents within their communities and take action to make their areas even better places to live, recently published two distinct but linked indexes 

As part of the Wales Community Assets Index, every small area in Wales was mapped, scored, and ranked according to the presence of community assets (for example community shops, pubs and venues), and broader community resilience.  

The data shows that sustained place-based inequality exists in Wales, with 102 small areas categorised as ‘Less Resilient’ due to the dual challenge of limited provision of community infrastructure in addition to high levels of socio-economic deprivation.  

The indexes bring together 20 indicators including human and social, built and environmental, as well as economic measures. This results in a comprehensive assessment of community infrastructure and participation for the entirety of Wales – meaning we can identify discrete actions and responses suitable for small areas and their varied circumstances. This will facilitate informed cross-sector collaboration to support community resilience as set out in the Well-being of Future Generations Act, helping communities to pre-empt and respond to challenges in the short and longer term.  

The Invest Local Programme facilitated by Building Communities Trust is an example of investing in community resilience at a local level. The programme supports 13 communities across Wales to guide their own investment in a range of community facilities and activities, from saving community centres at risk of closure, building new parks and multi-use games areas, to supporting and setting up clubs and activities for local people.  

Anecdotal evidence tells us that community assets are vital not only for individual’s well-being, but also for community well-being, which is a broader collective measure of well-being including how much people participate in their local area.  

The Wales Community Assets Index and the Wales Community Resilience Index, now provide quantitative evidence in support of this.  

The research shows that communities with fewer places to meet, a less engaged and active community and poorer connectivity to the wider economy, experience lower levels of well-being both socially and economically compared to communities possessing more of these assets.  

Community resilience and consideration of place-based inequality will need to be at the heart of delivering Cymru Can.  

Places with lower resilience are likely to be more at risk to the effects of climate change, have less access to nature and be less well-equipped to engage in preventative approaches to health. 

 They enjoy less access to the community infrastructure that supports cultural well-being and may have the most to gain in the shift to a well-being economy.   

To strengthen community resilience now and in the long-term, BCT is recommending that: 

  • Welsh Government distribute resources based on resilience as well as deprivation and ensure, through stronger guidance or legislation, that communities have a simpler process to take over key community facilities.  
  • Welsh Government develop mandatory guidelines to ensure all future housing developments are “future proofed” with good transport access and minimum provision of community assets, like a community centre.  
  • Welsh Government create a ‘Community Wealth Fund’ using the new wave of money to be released under 2022’s Dormant Assets Act, to build community resilience across Wales. 

By creating a supportive environment for community action and sustainable community assets –  which in the long-run save public money and contribute to the prevention agenda – we strengthen community resilience for tomorrow and beyond.  

By investing in community resilience we can ensure that Cymru Can. 

Click for more information on the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales’ seven-year strategy.