Speaking at the Welsh Federation of Housing Associations' development conference, Mr Law said: 'Many Welsh communities have experienced social and economic decline over a long period, leaving them severely deprived by comparison to the rest of Wales. We have a division between developing and affluent areas that is marked by high unemployment, poverty, ill health and social disadvantage.
'However there is another side to this picture. There is ample evidence of the energy and determination of local people to recover the sense of respect and community which once prevailed. Communities First looks to strengthen this process by seeking to gain the commitment of all those who can contribute to this process of community regeneration.
'Communities First, which we launched on 30 March, purposely does not prescribe a solution but sets out the assembly's vision for the future and a route to achieving it. I keep stressing, and I make no apology for doing so again, that it is most definitely not a new initiative. It is about recognising that, if our vision is to be achieved, there must be a long term commitment towards our most disadvantaged communities and a sustained and focused way in which the problems are tackled.
'Communities which are deprived now could be given the opportunities which we take for granted- opportunities to be included in the economic revival that we are determined to achieve; opportunities to live and socialise in environments that are attractive, secure and non-threatening. This has got to be a goal worth striving for and it is one that I am committed to working towards.'
Responses to the initial Communities First consultation document were requested by 31 May. 150 have been received to date.
Area based discussion groups in each local authority in Wales are taking place, together with community focus groups. These enable people at a local level to share ideas, views and concerns.
A second consultation document will issue in September.
Communities to be targeted will be identified by the end of the year, with the implementation of Communities First at 1 April, 2001.