MORE than 1,000 people in the south Wales Valleys have been helped into work since a programme aimed at turning around the fortunes of the area was launched last year, a report has said.

The Welsh Government’s Valleys Taskforce was launched a year ago with the aim of helping 7,000 people into work, creating jobs, improving public services and strengthening communities.

And now a progress report has revealed more than 1,000 people living in the area have found jobs through Welsh Government-led employment programmes, while advice and support has been given to nearly 1,000 more people and small businesses and more than 100 new enterprises have been created.

But earlier this week director of Welsh think tank the Bevan Foundation Victoria Winckler raised concerns over the effectiveness of the programme, saying unemployment in all areas except for Blaenau Gwent has gone up over the past year .

Saying the taskforce was "not sharply focused", she called for "a wholesale reinvention and rebuilding of an economy ravaged by coal and steel closures and by successive recessions".

"Unfortunately, worthy though they may be, far too many Welsh Government initiatives are good ideas that are simply too small to make a difference," she said.

She added: "Although the taskforce means well it is simply too little, over too large an area, and doesn’t address the underlying problems."

Responding to Ms Winckler's comments in the Senedd yesterday, Tuesday, local government and public services secretary Alun Davies, who is leading the scheme, said: "I share the same frustration.

"I want to see a greater tempo of change. I want to see a greater tempo of delivering very real change to the communities that I represent and elsewhere.

"I think it's right and proper that that sense of impatience underpins a lot of our debate and much of what we say.

"I don't believe for one moment - and I don't seek to make any claims - that all in the garden is rosy, and I don't seek to make any claims that we have, in a little more than 18 months, turned around nearly a century of decline."

The Blaenau Gwent AM added: "One of the real tragedies of recent years is that too many people in the Valleys feel that there is very little hope for the future.

"We need to turn that around, and we need to turn that around not simply by making the physical investments that we need to be able to do - and we must do, and we will do - but also by investing in our people, our culture, our heritage and our environment."

The initial plan published last year defines the Valleys as the area covering Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly, along with Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf and parts of Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot, as well as the northernmost part of Swansea and a small south-western part of Powys.

The area reportedly contains 30 per cent of the population of Wales.

Other elements of the taskforce's plans include the creation of a new Valleys Landscape Park, including walking trails and cycle paths, in an effort to boost tourism to the area, as well as setting up an Uber-style community transport app.