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Creating stronger rural communities in Wales

How the work we do creates employment in rural communities and ensures people can continue to live independently in their own homes

Amy Kordiak and Fran Lowden from Community Catalysts, report on the Rural Health and Care Wales Conference that was attended in November 2023.

We had the pleasure of presenting the impact of our work at the Rural Health and Care Wales Conference in Builth Wells. It was a great opportunity to show the difference we made to people and the community in the Glyn Ceiriog (Wrexham) Valley. We were delighted to be selected to present, as we were one of many other organisations that submitted papers.

The conference set-up

A challenge on the day was getting to the conference! The rain was torrential but when we did finally arrive, it was great to see all hands-on-deck and a real community spirit.

The room filled up quickly. There was a poster display where people could score how project information was presented by theme. It took some time (and coffee!) to get around all of them, but we saw some great posters.

The context

Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services opened the event. She talked about the pressure on unpaid carers and domiciliary care staff – that embracing change and welcoming ways to address the issues – will be key to overcoming shortages.

The Carers Support fund, funded by Welsh Government and administered by Carers Trust promises £4.5m over four years for essential items and is there to take some of the financial burden off unpaid carers. There will also be £9m over three years for short breaks for carers. This funding was welcomed and recognises the challenges unpaid carers face in an overstretched health and social care system. There was also a commitment by the Senedd to the real living wage for care workers and continuous professional development for workers who will need to upskill to meet new challenges.

What others are doing in Wales and across Europe

There was an excellent presentation by Llais who were keen to hear more from rural communities about the issues they face, and to feed this back directly to key decision makers so services are fit for purpose. We learned that Llais has an internal working group specifically looking at rural issues and are continuously gathering feedback from their Community Connectors.

We had the pleasure of sharing our table with one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Veronika Rasik, who delivered a thought-provoking presentation focused on European best practice. Veronika was involved in two projects that had brought the learning together from across Europe: Rural Seeds and the Rural Road to Health blog.

The power of what we do in rural communities

We presented a whistlestop tour of how community micro-enterprises are supporting people into work in rural communities, and paving the way for people to have more choice and control over the support they choose.

We focused on the work in the Glyn Ceiriog Valley, which highlighted how responsive the project was to local need. When a care agency closed in the Valley, we supported eight people to set up as CMEs within a month. This ensured:

  • continuous care for people who otherwise would have had no care or support, and who may have been forced into residential care, giving up their homes and their independence.
  • workers who may have otherwise faced redundancy were able to set up small enterprises, which resulted in increased pay and better working conditions.

As well as paving the way for better support options and employment opportunities, this work contributes to solving the wider recruitment and retention issues that we see in health and social care across the UK.

Final words

After lunch, a panel session discussed the current and future plans of the three health boards across mid-Wales.

It was a great day and refreshing to be out learning and sharing our experiences. Although hybrid meetings and conferences serve a purpose and are vital for rural health and social care professionals, nothing beats being there in person and talking to people one-to-one; conveying the passion of why we do what we do at Community Catalysts.