Communities First have been established in Caia Park, Wrexham, now for a number of years and quite rightly so. Of the 5 wards within the community, two of them are amongst the most deprived in Wales as measured by the index of multiple deprivation, Queensway and Wynnstay. In the last 3 financial years the Welsh Assembly Government have given Caia Park Communities First £2.7 million or thereabouts. Given the high priority that both national, devolved and local government give to alleviate child poverty one would have expected some of the Communities First to have been used in projects to ensure better outcomes for children, and it may well have; but it's difficult to identify those outcomes especially by analysing child protection data from Caia Park.
The following will illustrate the argument; as at 31/12/08, there were 120 children being looked after within Wrexham County Borough, 41% were from Caia Park which has about 10% of the County Borough's population but a whopping 23% of the children in care are from the Queensway ward. What is most damning though is that the situation with children is WORSENING. In 2004, only 14% of the children on the Child Protection Register were from Caia Park by 2008, the figure was 43%.
In 2004, 18% of children in need were from Caia Park by 2008, 26% of children in need were from Caia Park. Even the proportion of those in care has increased from 35%to 41%...all the data show upward trends which is worrying
This begs the question where has this money gone and to what purpose? Some of it no doubt has gone on producing the nicely bound glossy book called The Wisdom of Caia Park...but I can't for the life of me see how distributing this book free of charge to all the houses and Caia Park has helped to provide a better outcome for a single child; and that at a conservative £40,000 cost.
What we really need is an independent review or audit of all Communities First programmes in Wales to ensure they provide value for money and better outcomes for those children and families that are most in need.