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£14 million programme has given people in Wales Life Skills

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Life Skills Project
Release date:
30 1 2015

It stopped Steph reaching breaking point, gave Hywel a new appetite for working life and stopped teenager Chris from heading down a slippery slope to nowhere. Today the Big Lottery Fund can reveal that these three people were among thousands in Wales to benefit from £14 million from the Big Lottery Fund and European Social Funds.

Since being launched in 2009, 5,186 people have been supported by projects that received funding through the Life Skills programme. Some 1,252 participants have been helped back into employment and 2,066 have gained qualifications that will help them in the workplace.

And through the 22 projects funded in Wales, specific groups have benefitted including economically inactive or unemployed people such as carers, care leavers and older people.

Nearly 80 per cent of participants said it had made them more satisfied with life with many citing that their job prospects had improved significantly.

Big Lottery Fund’s Wales Director John Rose said: “We’re delighted with the impact of the programme. To be able to say we have helped over 3,000 people in Wales get back into work or gain qualifications is a huge achievement during a time of huge economic downturn.

“It’s amazing to be able to make a difference to one person’s life but to do it to this number of people, which will have knock on effects on so many others in terms of improving whole families’ happiness and well being and so on, is hugely satisfying.”

Funds, which were distributed through the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO), also helped people find opportunities for training, volunteering and work experience.

The Shaw Trust in Neath received funding for three Life Skills projects, benefitting people who were either over 50 or from economically inactive families. It helped 447 gain employment and over 1,300 people achieve basic or accredited qualifications.

Project Manager Michael Dix-Williams said: “The projects have reached out to groups of people that have been left out in the cold by mainstream employment provisions. The projects have provided an opportunity for people to develop their skills, confidence and potential in a way they would have not been able to otherwise, and having been given these opportunities people have achieved some outstanding outcomes.”

Pembrokeshire Council’s Experience Counts project has supported nearly 400 older people from the area. It aimed to help 60 people gain employment but the success of the scheme meant this nearly doubled to 118.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, Councillor Keith Lewis, said: “The Experience Counts project has been a terrific success in Pembrokeshire and is responsible for changing the lives of many of our older workers for the better.

“As well as helping unemployed and economically inactive people aged over 50 in Pembrokeshire find work, it has also sustained them so that many are still in work after six or 12 months.

“This has been thanks to a dedicated and capable team in the Council’s Regeneration Division, but also due to the financial support of the European Social Fund and Big Lottery Fund.”

Projects in north Wales included NEWVOL which has benefitted 381 carers and former carers, with the majority gaining qualifications or volunteering and employment opportunities.

Here are stories about some of the people who have benefitted:

Learning for Life

Teenager Chris Storer had a chaotic childhood and spent his early teens skipping school and hanging out on the streets of Cardiff until he was placed in local authority care. With nothing to do and no hopes, drive, dreams or aspirations for the future- he was fast heading down a slippery slope to nowhere.


Turn the clock forward and Chris told a completely different story. The young care leaver secured fulltime employment and was brimming with confidence.

Chris was among the hundreds of young people from Cardiff and the south Wales valleys who benefited from the Learning 4 Life Scheme run by homeless charity Llamau. The scheme aimed to provide young care leavers with tailored support and guidance to help them into work and enable them to live independent lives.

“My life was boring until I got involved with this scheme,” says Chris. “I was just out on the streets, hanging around, doing nothing and I had a lot of problems at home.”

After being placed in local authority care, Chris was referred to Llamau by a social worker from children’s services in August last year. He initially took part in a work experience scheme but was keen to gain paid employment on a permanent basis.

Through the scheme, Chris was offered a placement opportunity with AE Insulation Ltd, a Cardiff based company which provides and installs insulation for residential industrial and commercial properties. After just a few weeks of work, he was taken on in a paid capacity.


Hywel Selway felt ready for the scrapheap until a charity helped show him that you are never too old to do a good job.


After retiring early from his previous job of nearly 30 years due to depression and ill health, Hywel was low on confidence and struggled to see himself ever working again.

Three years after taking early retirement, he felt ready to look for a new job. However, being over 50, he thought his age was against him and lacked the confidence and the necessary skills needed to find new employment.

But now, thanks to support from the Shaw Trust, Hywel from Neath Port Talbot has improved his skills, is high on confidence and has even found himself a new job as a courier delivering parcels in the area. As Hywel will vouch for himself, this is a far cry from the person who struggled to leave the house until he walked through the doors of the charity.

“I felt I was no good for anybody and I just wanted to sit in the corner, curl up and cry all the time. And being over 50, I thought my age was against me,” says Hywel.

“I felt there was nothing in life for me at all until I came across Shaw Trust.  When I found out that I had secured a position as a courier I was over the moon because I thought I would never get another job. I now feel worth something.”

“I felt like everything was a battle”

Like any mother, Steph Thielen loves her two children and all she wants to do is keep them happy and safe. But some days she admits her autistic sons have left her at breaking point.

Dylan, ten, has high functioning autism with developmental co-ordination delay, meaning he has difficulties with movement, co-ordination and organising his thoughts. 

His younger brother, Tyler, seven, has autism with global developmental delay which means he is slower to meet milestones than other children. Things like speech and walking have taken longer to develop and he still needs nappies.

Steph admits she was near rock bottom until she discovered Swansea Carers Centre. Its Life Skills for Carers project supports carers in developing their own personal life skills.

“I felt everything was a battle – I was quite an angry person really,” she admits. “I was too busy trying to sort things out for everyone else and automatically put my own needs on hold. Then, I saw a flyer for a first aid course that Swansea Carers Centre was offering and I realised that if something really bad happened, I wouldn’t know what to do.

“I signed up for it and that opened the door to other opportunities. It was while I was at the carers centre getting help that I saw a poster for the Life Skills programme.

“The project have made me feel better about myself in so many ways and given me the opportunity to try new things – it’s given me back to me. I’ve reconnected with myself as a person in my own right which is hard to do when you’re a carer because you are always putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own. A happy mummy means happy kids and people around me react to me differently as well.”

After seeking help from the project, Steph started homeschooling her children and says she has seen a huge development leap and behaviour change in them. She is also a member of Swansea Home Educators (SHED).


Further Information:

Ben Payne - Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 01686 611 720

Out of Hours Contact: 07980 914 898

Public Enquiries Line: 08454 102030                           Textphone:  0845 6021 659

Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available at: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk

Follow BIG on Twitter: www.twitter.com/biglotterywales

Find BIG on facebook: www.facebook.com/biglotteryfundwales 

Notes to editors

  • The Big Lottery Fund is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery.
  • The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in 2004 it has awarded close to £6bn.
  • Around 28% of National Lottery revenue is awarded to projects. Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £32 billion has been raised, and more than 450,000 grants awarded.