North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has slammed Labour Welsh Government for severely cutting the Family Fund in Wales, which was set up to support low income families with sick and disabled children.
The administrations in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland have all maintained their financial support for the Family Fund at 2015-16 rates.
However, since 2016 the Welsh Government has chosen to cut their contribution by £5.5million over three years – meaning that over 4,000 families per year across Wales will be unable to receive Family Fund support.
Speaking in a debate ‘calling on the Welsh Government to review the impact of its decision to cut the funding of the family fund, and to either reverse the cuts to the family fund, or establish mechanisms to provide direct financial support to low income families with disabled children at a minimum of at least the same levels previously provided’, Mr Isherwood said:
Families with disabled children have higher costs but lower incomes than other families. Contact a Family research shows that the extra costs relating to a child’s condition can be £300 or more every month, with 84% of families with disabled children having gone without leisure and days out.
For over forty years the Family Fund’s main function has been to help redress this balance by distributing public money across the UK in the form of grants to low income families with sick and disabled children – with families able to apply for an average £500 grant a year.
Welsh Government funding in 2016/17 fell to £900,000, including a one off £400,000, and next year falls to just £499,000, reducing support to an estimated 875 families only.
Further, families in Wales are now only able to apply for a grant once every 4 years – whereas families in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland can apply every year – and they face restrictions on the type of support a grant can be used for in Wales.
Insanely, these cuts will increase the financial burden on local authority and NHS budgets, and run counter to the principles set out in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.
The Welsh Government has made a decision which will have detrimental effects on the very families they claim their policies are designed to support – and by continuing to deflect the issue onto general funding for the voluntary sector, they are failing to acknowledge the direct negative impact their £5.5 million cut in funding is having.
As one constituent told me, “my 6-year-old is disabled and without the family fund we wouldn’t have been able to make him safe in our garden and also afford a tablet to help him with his disability.
A mature Welsh Government would stop doing things just to be different and start doing them better, stop doing things to people and start doing things with them.