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Regional funding change provides opportunity for improved health and well-being in Wales

Published: 13 April 2022

A new report from Public Health Wales examines how a future replacement scheme for EU Structural Funds could be key to improving the health and well-being of people in Wales. 

The study details how a successor regional funding programme to EU Structural Funds programmes presents both opportunities and risks for the health and well-being of disadvantaged areas of Wales. 

Overall participants in the study agreed that existing EU Structural Funds have helped to address social and economic priorities in local areas and have had a positive effect on economic, social and community influences on health, including reducing domestic violence, improving family relationships and addressing adverse childhood experiences. 

While participants viewed the ending of the funds with concern, they identified areas for improvement such as reduced bureaucracy, increased flexibility, and improved connections with local communities to more effectively target the areas and communities they were intended to assist.   

Sumina Azam, Consultant in Public Health at Public Health Wales, said:

“With Wales historically receiving over four and a half times as much EU Structural Funds per person than the UK average, the change in scheme could prove pivotal to the nation’s health and well-being. 

“Targeted funding schemes provide an opportunity to tackle inequality and support marginalised communities.  

“While a number of different methods are used to engage with local communities, including focus groups, surveys and consultations, our study highlights that more could be done to involve the local community in decision-making around regional investment. For example, social media, online surveys and virtual focus groups can help identify how to maximise the benefits from funding. 

To date, EU Structural Funds have formed an important part of Welsh regional investment and have played a key role in shaping the Welsh Government’s approach to economic development, infrastructure investment, community regeneration, research and development and increasing skills levels.  

‘The Health and Well-being Impact of Regional Funding in Wales; Working towards more resilient, equal and prosperous communities,’ aims to support those involved in the allocation and management of future regional funding schemes to improve the health and well-being of people across Wales.  

The report contains key insights on the current importance of the EU Structural Funds for health and well-being of local areas with a focus on different population groups. It discusses the potential impact on health and well-being once the funding ceases and identifies priorities for future replacement regional funding schemes. The report is based on an extensive literature review and insights from local governments, NGOs and industry representatives in two different local areas in Wales.