From humble beginnings as a community group to becoming a major provider of employment services across Anglesey, a lot has changed at Môn CF over the years.
2023 is a major anniversary year for us. 20 years ago, our now CEO, Rita Lyon, and a group of individuals from Holyhead came together with the mission to empower the community and bring people out of poverty.
Spanning various projects, a few different names, changing addresses, and the hard work of a lot of good people have all helped build Môn CF into an organisation that provides essential services to the people of Anglesey.
One thing that has never changed is our mission to create opportunities and stronger communities for the people of Anglesey!
Employment support, small business support, vocational training, and community projects are now at the heart of everything the organisation does.
In this post, we’ll look back at the history of Môn CF, at some of the projects we’ve worked on, and at our favourite highlights from our 20-year history.
Where it all began - The Communities First Years
Back in 2003, The Welsh Government launched a new initiative called Communities First.
Communities First set out to improve the quality of life for millions of people across Wales. By lifting people out of poverty, they could work to create better lives for themselves.
At the time, the best way out of poverty was to get into work and improve household income.
Holyhead became part of Communities First and several wards were set up in the town.
Planned to run over a 10-year period, the initiative worked with local communities to deliver increased sums of public investment. Doing so would help improve the prospects for people living in deprived regions.
The project assigned dedicated coordinators who would oversee all activity in each ward. There was a total of seven wards created across Anglesey.
A first for its kind, Communities First flipped the traditional model on its head and took a grassroots, bottom-up approach to community cohesion.
The innovative approach meant the decisions could be made at a local level. Influenced by the people who would feel their effects the most.
Community feedback was used to plan projects and initiatives that would begin to make positive change.
The feedback highlighted a critical need for services that helped individuals overcome the barriers keeping them from entering the world of work. Things like childcare and having the right vocational training.
The team set out to remove these barriers as best they could.
A transitionary period - Becoming Plas Cybi
In 2005, the Welsh Government made some changes to the Communities First wards.
Two wards covering Holyhead were merged into a single area and became known as Plas Cybi.
The new group would oversee all Communities First activities across a shared area of Holyhead.
Plas Cybi, now in a stronger position was able to continue the work of the two former wards. It took time for the new group to earn the trust it needed in the community, but it soon did, and things began to move forward again.
The merger meant the organisation had a base in the town centre and would have access to the Millbank Community centre.
Despite the changes to the organisation, the priorities and goals remained the same. To work on initiatives that brought people out of poverty. To remove the barriers that were keeping them there, and to create brighter futures.
Childcare was still a major barrier for many and through some effective programmes, Plas Cybi was able to help.
Very quickly, the team noticed another barrier affecting the people they worked with.
While it was easy to show people they’d be better off in work, many didn’t have the skills needed to get the jobs that were available.
There was still an outstanding need for effective training resources that could help create a skilled workforce. The team set its sights on creating vocational training programmes, and courses in various subjects soon became available.
Major Initiatives - KIDZINK, Holyhead Empty Shops, and the TOM's
Projects that help people overcome their barriers have always been at the forefront of Môn CF’s activities.
One of those projects was KIDZINK.
KIDZINK is a major project that stands out in Môn CF’s history, and one that was hugely successful.
Childcare was a recurring barrier on the island. It is still a barrier today and has a significant impact on people’s ability to get back into work.
There was a need for a new initiative that could help remove the childcare barrier and help individuals do more for themselves.
KIDSINK provided affordable, good-quality childcare. It launched to let members of the community return to work or enter training.
It quickly grew and, in time, became a place where people could train for a career in childcare.
The project won an award for ‘Best Social Enterprise’ in the Morgan Foundation Awards in 2009.
Another great project from the early days was TOM’s, or Tripping Out Minni’s.
The programme helped children between the ages of 7 and 11 learn how they could become active members in the community. Encouraging them into volunteering and helping them gain valuable skills.
The TOM’s would do good turn schemes, and for every good turn they did, they got a point. These points would convert into pounds which would go towards trips and activities they wanted to do. Things like camping or going to Alton Towers.
One of the activities they wanted to do was learn how to cook, and they did so, over the course of six weeks on an intensive course run during the evenings at the high school.
The course ended with the Tom's cooking a three-course meal for 100 people!
It was fantastic watching the growth of the kids. When they came in, they could hardly peel a potato, and by the end, they were preparing three-course meals.
They made some delightful caramelised onion tarts, and mini puddings that were all plated up in a row and would not have looked out of place on Master Chef!
One project, which still benefits the community is the Holyhead Empty Shops Initiative.
10 years ago, Môn CF embarked on an initiative to regenerate the high street of Holyhead.
If you’re from Holyhead, you’ll remember what things were like at the time. It was a tale of shuttered shops and to-let signs. Things didn’t look great. Major retailers had long left the town centre, moving to the new out-of-town retail park.
It was clear something had to be done to combat the decline in the town centre.
To bring prosperity back to the area, more opportunities need to be created. The community needs places where local people can create their own enterprises.
We collaborated with the landlords and the agents of the empty shops, to reduce rents and put properties within reach for local business owners.
The initiative was also able to buy some derelict premises. Refurbishment works went ahead to make them suitable for modern business use.
The buildings are still in use today, some by the same businesses that first went into them 10 years ago. We recently spoke to Nashka Ealand, who runs a barber shop in one of the buildings on London Road.
Restoring older buildings and making them fit for modern businesses is an initiative that Môn CF continues to do to this day. Local businesses still benefit from the project, and there are more projects on the horizon that will create even more opportunities.
Alun Roberts still heads our property projects today!
Môn CF today - a picture of the current organisation
The Communities First initiative was a huge part of what we did in the early years.
Today Môn CF has become a go-to organisation for employment support, business support, and vocational training on Anglesey.
Communities First ended in 2017. This meant Môn CF needed to adapt and change if it wanted to continue providing services to the community.
Môn CF would refocus, and chose to specialise in effective Employment Support, the organisation was reshaped into one that could help change people’s lives for the better.
Going from strength to strength over the years, we now employ over 40 staff of our own and offer more services to our community than ever before.
Môn CF has helped thousands of people across Anglesey and North Wales find sustainable, long-term employment.
In 2022 we helped over 500 people find new jobs, changing their lives for the better, and improving their economic outlook.
We’ve proven we can be agile and rapidly respond to employment emergencies when they arise. Supporting people facing redundancies, and those affected by the closure of major employers on the island.
When 2-Sisters announced the closure of their facility in Llangefni, Môn CF set-up a team to support the affected workers. By April 2023, less than a month after the site’s official closure, we’d had helped over 50 former staff secure new employment. Our employment mentors continue to support the former 2-sisters staff, and help in every way they can.
Môn CF is also helping to create enterprise on Anglesey.
Those who want to have more ownership of their futures can come to us for Business Support. We provide advice and guidance to help people start their own businesses, and when it’s available, help access funding that can help them achieve their goals.
What's next for Môn CF - New initiatives and beyond!
The new projects happening at Môn CF are now bigger than ever.
New initiatives from the UK Government will see some major projects occurring across Anglesey.
Môn CF is through to the second round of a new initiative that will allow us to continue delivering Employment Support & Business Support across Anglesey.
The outcome will be announced in the coming weeks and will be shared with the community.
Môn CF was also part of the group that secured ‘Levelling Up’ funding for Holyhead. Working with local groups and the County Council, an investment was secured for Holyhead.
This is one of our biggest projects to date!
We’ve secured £4.9 million for the Holyhead Vacant Property Project.
The project will see two major buildings in the Holyhead town centre undergo renovations to transform them into new business premises and a community hub.
Two smaller buildings will also be renovated and turned into shops suitable for local business owners.
The work will help local businesses employ more local people and make the town centre a place people want to visit. For example, the HSBC building will become home to three businesses, and help create up to 30 new jobs!
The people working these jobs and running these businesses will be completely independent of Môn CF. Our role is to help facilitate their success!
The project will complete by March 2025. We’ll be holding public events so the community can see the plans and meet the team working on them.
You can learn more about the Vacant Property Project in our blog post announcing the project.
A team effort - more than just Môn CF!
None of the success enjoyed by Môn CF would be possible without the hard work of everyone who’s been involved with the organisation over its 20-year history.
The Welsh Government and the Anglesey County Council have backed us all the way, believing in what we do, and without them, we wouldn’t be here today.
The support from the community has been overwhelmingly positive and has helped Môn CF be there for the people of Anglesey.
Lastly, we would like to extend a thank you to absolutely everyone who’s worked with, supported, challenged, partnered, and engaged with Môn CF over the years.
Without the valuable input and contributions of every individual, the organisation would not still be here after 20 years.
Here’s to another 20 years of supporting the people of Anglesey!
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