- Posted by: Mike Hedges MS
- Categories: Latest News, Press Releases
MIKE HEDGES AM WELCOMES THE FIRST MINISTER’S COMMITMENT TO DEALING WITH CHILD POVERTY.
Speaking from his Senedd Office, Swansea East AM Mike Hedges said…. ‘Child poverty is a blight on our society and it is a situation we all ought to be committed to eradicating. I am pleased with the First Minister’s response; we ought not to need a discretionary assistance fund, but the sad reality is that it has acted as a last resort for a number of people, including many families with young children. It often provides funds for some of the bare essentials for life such as a cooker or a settee. The Welsh Government can take pride that it stands by people in their hour of greatest need and ensures that they can have essential items for their life. I am glad that the First Minister confirmed an ongoing commitment to this fund.’
Mike Hedges AM
What action is the Welsh Government taking to support children in poverty in Wales?
Mark Drakeford AM
I thank Mike Hedges for that question. The major levers for addressing child poverty remain firmly with the UK Government. The Welsh Government is focused on using devolved powers to leave more money in the pockets of families with children, particularly those children living in poverty.
Mike Hedges AM
Can I thank the First Minister for that response? I very much welcome that the Welsh Government has committed to additional funding for the discretionary assistance fund, which has helped individuals and their families during times of crisis and, quite frankly, destitution. To ensure the fund’s long-term future, additional funding will be required. Will the First Minister outline his proposals for the fund in future years?
Mark Drakeford AM
First Minister of Wales
I thank Mike Hedges for that supplementary question. He is absolutely right to point to the success of the decision made here in the National Assembly to have a national scheme. When the social fund was abandoned by the UK Government, here in Wales we decided that we would have a fund that would be run on a Wales-wide basis with no local lottery in it. In England, we know that many local authorities took the money that they were given when the social fund was broken up and provide no service for poor people with it at all.
Here, we have helped 280,000 applications to the fund since its inception. The budget has increased year on year in this Assembly term. It was £7 million in the first year of this Assembly term; it’s £11.2 million in this year. It went up £2 million in this financial year; it will go up by another £1 million in the next financial year. The number of applications has gone up remarkably quickly in an age of austerity: 65,000 applications in the first year of this Assembly term; 160,000 in this financial year, to the end of December; so it’s going to be more than 100,000 additional applicants to the fund.
And not only have we sustained it, Llywydd, by more money to keep the fund available to people, but we’ve extended its scope as well. We’ve made sure that it can respond to the needs of refugees and asylum seekers here in Wales. We’ve made sure it’s available to people who are discharged from prison with absolutely no possessions at all. I wish there wasn’t a need for a discretionary assistance fund. I wish that the social security system provided people with enough to be able to meet their needs without this final safety net of the welfare state. But while it is needed, here in Wales we go on investing in it and making sure that those whose needs are the very toughest in our society have somewhere in Wales that they can go.