Working Denbighshire Strategy 2022 to 2027: Working our way out of poverty

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Soon after I was elected as leader of Denbighshire County Council I set out my key priorities and tackling poverty through economic growth and increasing employment was a key theme. To me, economic regeneration is economic growth that works for all of us, for everyone in our community, and that is why my brief will include economic growth as a driver to fight poverty, inequality, and to fight deprivation.

We need to ensure that people across the county are well prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that will arise from our ambitious capital investment and business support programmes. That is why I warmly welcome this new updated Working Denbighshire strategy. We will support everyone who is able to work by helping to address their barriers to employment and progression. It will give young people the support they need to achieve and thrive in the vibrant jobs market we are helping to create.

Our vision is to reduce poverty by enabling people to access a network of services that supports them in their journey towards employment, as well as maintaining their position and progress once in employment.

The Working Denbighshire approach aligns with the regional approach set out by the North Wales Economic Ambition Board and North Wales Growth Deal. It delivers in tandem with our capital investment through the UK Government’s Levelling Up programme, will take advantage of the new Shared Prosperity Funds and dovetail with the Welsh Government’s Stronger, Fairer, Greener Wales: A Plan for Employability and Skills.

This means providing local community-based services that work in partnership with UK Government, Welsh Government, third sector support providers and local businesses to find joint solutions that meet the needs of individuals and communities.

It is about strengthening the networks that have been built between partners and making sure that accessing support is made as easy as possible for the citizen.

The aim is to ensure that work is aligned to an overarching strategic vision and approach to develop and build resilient communities in Denbighshire with a sharpened focus on tackling poverty through sustainable employment.

Councillor Jason McLellan, Leader of the Council

Jason McLellan

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Our theory of change: A virtuous cycle

Our approach is based on a logical theory of change model that presents a virtuous cycle showing where our interventions to improve employability contribute to the wider concept of economic growth. This process is mutually reinforcing with economic growth itself opening up new opportunities for employment growth.

By removing the barriers people face that have prevented them from entering into work and by giving them the skills they need to meet employer's needs we increase quantity and quality of the available pool of labour.

By increasing the numbers who are employed we raise incomes and increase spend in the local economy. This helps businesses to grow and offer further employment opportunities in the future.

By working with employers to help them bring forward vacancies or paid work placements we help to increase the demand for labour.

By helping individuals to find the opportunities that are most suitable to them and by offering pre-screening support for work placements we ensure that applicants and employers are a good fit and the opportunities are sustainable.

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Why we are needed

Throughout Denbighshire many communities, people and businesses thrive and flourish and act as an impressive example to the rest of Wales, the UK and the wider world. Despite this deep rooted and persistent problems blight the lives of others and impact upon the life chances of younger and future generations.

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Deprivation in parts of Rhyl and Upper Denbigh

Denbighshire has communities with a long history of economic difficulties. While deprivation describes a broad range of issues for individual and families including health, community safety, and housing issues it has been the continuation of relatively high levels of unemployment and low income, throughout both the highs and lows of the economic cycle, that has ensured these communities have remained in the 10% most deprived communities in Wales.

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The shocks keep coming

Since these areas were first identified in the original Welsh Index of deprivation back in 2005 there have been good and bad times for the local, Welsh and UK economies. There is a strong correlation between the local and the UK performance. When unemployment rates have fallen and living standards increased at the UK level Denbighshire’s deprived areas have likewise seen improvements. However, the relative position (compared to other areas) of our most deprived communities has been quite consistent. When the UK economic conditions have worsened these communities have been particularly badly affected.

By the mid-2000s the affected communities had recovered significantly from the low point of the early 1990s recession. Since then the ‘credit crunch’ economic down-turn drove unemployment up again through the early 2010s followed by a period of improvement that was disrupted in the period of greatest uncertainty around BREXIT. This was quickly followed by the COVID-19 pandemic that saw unemployment rise rapidly once again. Recovery from the pandemic while initially strong now looks to be threatened by high inflation and the prospect of recession.

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Poverty respects no boundaries

The structural issues identified above are a clear focus of both the Working Denbighshire service and the council’s wider regeneration efforts. However, we offer support tailored to individual needs to people living in any part of the county.

Poverty respects no boundaries and we know individuals, families and smaller communities across the county need our support.

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Promotion: Introduction and allocation

The Working Denbighshire Participation and Engagement plan focusses on finding those who need employability and skills support. This includes working closely with community groups who work with participants who may not yet be ready for work.

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Pre-employment support

Action planning barrier reduction & removal

Working Denbighshire mentors support participants to form action plans to tackle barriers and to map out their journey to employment. Depending on the person’s circumstances this may be as part of pre-employment or employability projects.

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Work experience / Upskill

Skills/Qualifications, Volunteering & Work Experience

In this phase a package tailored to individual needs will be in place. It may include training delivered by Working Denbighshire or training from external providers arranged and funded through the service. A WorkStart Scheme placement may be arranged with a public sector employer or SME or a volunteering opportunity arranged.

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Labour market entry

Job Search, Work Experience, Job Matching

In this phase participant will be supported to find jobs and other workplace based experiences such as paid placements, internships, and apprenticeships.

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In-work support

Sustain Employment / increase skills levels

This phase focuses on those in work and looking to upskills or re-train. Support will help individuals navigate the wide range of available courses and funding packages to find those that suit them best.

There will also be support for people mental and physical wellbeing to ensure those experiencing difficulties can sustain their jobs.

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Working together

There are many studies that list the impact of unemployment on health outcomes1 and community resilience2.

Being employed enhances the life chances of our citizens; it improves life chances in education and mitigates against health inequalities. Children of working families will do better in terms of long term education and employment chances. Work provides a gateway out of poverty, provides self-esteem and makes a positive contribution to mental health. In short employability helps councils with the demands placed on it's services because employability helps local people.3

The Welsh Government's Programme for Government 2021 sets out radical and ambitious commitment over the next five years in order to tackle the challenges that we face and improve the lives of people across Wales. It puts collaboration ahead of competition stating ‘this will be a Wales where nobody is held back and no-one is left behind'. 

  • North Wales Economic Ambition Board
  • Regional Skills Partnership
  • North Wales Employability Working Group
  • Local Authority Employability Leads Group
  • Denbighshire Employment Network (DEN)
  • Denbighshire Employer Engagement Partnership (DEEP)
  • Practitioner Engagement Group

As a Local Authority service we are able to deliver strong and sustainable performance in a sound control environment under strict governance regulations and are able to develop new and innovative ways of working in a flexible way with our partners and stakeholders at a local, regional and national level. Working Denbighshire’s strategic approach and robust infrastructure provides a much needed community leadership role for employability and skills support across Denbighshire. There is significant uncertainty about future funding for employability support and skills training.

We need to create an environment that enables the DWP, Careers Wales, colleges and the various other service providers to work together if we are to ensure that all people who need support into training/employment and out of poverty are provided for. This includes adoption of the ‘Working Denbighshire First’ approach to collaboration and engagement across the council.

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Built around you

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation the causes of poverty are things that reduce your resources or increase your needs and the costs of meeting them. Some of these causes can also be consequences, creating a cycle that traps you. Life events and moments of transition – getting sick, bereavement, redundancy or relationship breakdown – are common triggers for poverty.

The biggest causes of poverty are unemployment and low-paid jobs lacking prospects and security (or a lack of jobs): too many jobs do not provide decent pay, prospects or security. Many places have concentrations of these jobs or do not have enough jobs. Low pay and unemployment can also lead to inadequate savings or pensions. In addition to that low levels of skills or education: young people and adults without the necessary skills and qualifications can find it difficult to get a job, especially one with security, prospects and decent pay.

Working Denbighshire provides a flexible, high quality service, working in partnership with other employability projects and services as part of an integrated ‘Working Denbighshire’.

We work with our residents right in the heart of our communities helping them every step of the way focussing on their potential and not their problems. In partnership, we work with them to understand their needs identifying their strengths and assets and start to build the blocks that help them to break down those barriers and think about their future. Together we create a plan to remove those stubborn barriers; we help them to think about what’s working well and not so well in their life, what is important to them and for them, what it is that they want to achieve and find out what it is preventing them from reaching their goals.

Our flexible approach to designing and delivering employability and skills support, underpinned by our expandable employability model, enables the service we provide to adapt to respond to local need/priorities. Working Denbighshire is helping reduce poverty and ensuring that our local economy and communities thrive striving to ensure ‘nobody is held back and no one is left behind’ through:

  • A robust and sustainable employment and skills support infrastructure that is managed for performance and Value For Money
  • Simplified access to support and employment opportunities available working collaboratively with our partners
  • Services that are reflective of and reactive of need
  • Supporting all young and vulnerable people to achieve their full potential
  • Supporting employers to recruit and retain a diverse range of work ready staff with a range of skills and talent
  • Securing funds for in-work poverty support to close the skills gap, capitalise on the levy, increase diversity and inclusion, and strategies for ageing workforce
  • Asking our communities if there is anything more we can do

"We work with our residents right in the heart of our communities helping them every step of the way."

"Since we started working with working Denbighshire, we have found the whole experience great. We’d have no hesitation in working with them again and taking on more staff through these schemes." Henllan Bakery


  1. The impact of unemployment on health: a review of the evidence - PubMed ( (external website)
  2. How Does Unemployment Affect Communities? ( (external website)
  3. Work it Out, Creating Local Systems of Employability Support – The Association for Public Service Excellent (APSE) (external website)

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Working Denbighshire has received £3,529,632 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a central pillar of the UK government's Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills.

For more information, visit GOV.UK (external website)

Communities for Work Plus logo

Working Denbighshire is part funded through the Welsh Government Communities for Work Plus Programme which supports those most disadvantaged in the labour market to overcome the barriers preventing them from gaining employment.