£33m Dose of wellbeing to Boost North Wales Economy

A pioneering social enterprise has delivered a £33m dose of wellbeing, health and happiness to keep the wheels of business and industry turning in North Wales.

Ali Thomas, Operational Director for Rhyl City Strategy, SBW Health and Social Care finalist

The news was revealed as Rhyl City Strategy (RCS Wales) prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary, since it was first set up with just two members of staff in 2008 to tackle unemployment in West Rhyl.

The Community Interest Company has now expanded to employ 17 staff at two bases in Rhyl and Bangor. One of their main aims is to combat absenteeism at work through ill-health, which is costing the Welsh economy £500 million a year in lost production.

Over the past decade the organisation has secured more than £10m in funding to support people and workplaces across Denbighshire, Conwy, Anglesey and Gwynedd.

As a result RCS has supported 3,000 people who were battling ill health to keep their jobs, and helped 2,000 more people return to work after sickness absence caused by conditions ranging from back pain to stress and anxiety, in turn saving their employers the cost of further sick pay and cover.

The RCS team has also helped 800 unemployed people to get jobs, and created supported employment opportunities for 560 more.

In addition they have helped more than 48 new businesses set up, and provided work-related training opportunities for over 5,000 people in everything from catering to stress and even sleep management.

They have also supported 900 local SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises) to build their business with recruitment and retention, by creating healthier and more productive workplaces through wellbeing programmes.

The achievements will be marked at a special 10th anniversary celebration on November 22nd where the guests of honour will be Ken Skates AM, the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, and Ceri Witchard, Regulator of Community Interest Companies.

Some of RCS’s pioneering milestones include the launch of its flagship In Work Support programme across Denbighshire, Anglesey, Conwy, and Gwynedd in 2015, the launch of the Boost! work-focused positive psychology programme in 2017, the Taste Academy training restaurant which ran from 2010 to 2015, and the establishment of the ‘Strikers!’ basic skills centre at Rhyl Football Club in 2010.

RCS Operational Director Ali Thomas said: “We are very proud that in a decade of work, we have made a considerable contribution to the local economy of North Wales, and to the well-being of so many local people.

“Our journey over ten years has been a continuous evolution. We were first set up with a grant of £330,000 from the Department of Work and Pensions to lead an area-based programme to tackle unemployment in the most disadvantaged areas of Rhyl.

“From that we established a CIC (Community Interest Company) to take our work forward once the DWP funding ran out. We started out as a two year project – we never expected to still be here a decade on!

“We have always taken a pioneering approach, doing things differently and developing niche projects to fill gaps.  This has taken us from being a tiny agitator with a small pot of seedcorn funding, to a self-sustaining organisation spanning four counties.

Ms Thomas said: “We have always focused on nurturing relationships with key partners to create new opportunities.  We’ve always tried to make sure that our work has a lasting legacy for local people and local communities.

“That might mean changing attitudes towards unemployment, changing the way that services are delivered, or creating new facilities or networks.  That way, our work can have a lasting impact once the funding is gone. We are continuing to expand that ethos across the four counties as we grow.”

Grant funding for RCS projects and services over the years has come from the Welsh Government, DWP, Big Lottery coastal communities fund, Wales Council for Voluntary Action, European Social Fund, and the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS and KESS2).

Ms Thomas added: “Over the years, we have levered over £10m in funding into the area, and created £33m of social value, so for every pound of investment we have generated over three pounds’ worth of social value.”

“In real terms, that means that people’s lives are being changed for the best. It is a privilege to hear people talk about the impact of our services on their lives, how we have helped them get into work after years of unemployment, how we have improved their health, how we have enabled them to be positive role models for their children, how we have helped them stay in work through difficult times.”

“Over the last ten years, we have provided over 10,000 people with work-related training, health or employment support, helping them to enter, sustain and flourish in work.  We want to build on our success and experience to reach even greater numbers of people in our next decade.”

For more information about Rhyl City Strategy visit www.rcs-wales.co.uk, or find @RCSWales on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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