Charities Carers Wales, Contact a Family Cymru and Learning Disability Wales are today calling for the Welsh Government to rethink its decision to make £5.5 million of funding cuts that provides vital grants to low income families with severely ill or disabled children in Wales.
National charity the Family Fund distributes grants to thousands of hard pressed families to help them with essentials like furniture and household appliances. The grants enable them to do things that others take for granted, like going on a day out together. The grants can also pay for items that help disabled children learn or play like tablets, computers or specialist toys.
Keith Bowen, Director of Carers Wales said: “Our members, parent carers who look after their disabled children from across Wales, have been contacting us and other charities about their disappointment that they can no longer apply for this funding each year, and the real impact it is having on their children and family life.
The Welsh Government, in changing the way that the Family Fund is funded, seems to have made their decision without considering the impact it would have on the most vulnerable families with disabled children.
The reduction in funding has come at a time when families with disabled children have been hit time and time again by cuts to welfare payments and disability services and also seems to run counter to wider government policy. Ministers need to explain why the choice they have made in responding to challenging budgets has disadvantaged families with sick and disabled children in Wales, and only in Wales.”
Soura Shinton lives in Cardiff, her youngest son, Eddie has Cerebral palsy. Says of the cuts:
"It is such devastating news to hear about the cuts by the Welsh Government for us families who needed it the most. We had two grants of £500 each for two years towards a holiday as there is no way we can afford anything of that sorts. We won't get the Family Fund grant now which means no holiday or any trips out for Eddie. The government is squeezing all the resources on us. It’s so unfair it’s only in Wales".
The Welsh Government was previously providing around £2.5m a year to the Family Fund, which was then redistributed to more than 5000 families in Wales. However, in 2016, the Welsh Government decided to move the funding into a new grant scheme which limited the grant to around £0.5m. Now Welsh families can only apply once every 4 years. Only 1500 families in Wales will now receive the vital grant each year, rather than 5429 in 2015-16. Funding in other nations remains the same, and families in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland can continue to apply each year. Further, Welsh families can no longer apply online, whilst families from the other nations can.
Kate Wyke from Contact a Family added: “Families tell us that the grants provide a lifeline. These are families who are already more likely to be living in poverty due to extra disability costs and the difficulties of juggling work and complex care. What’s so unfair is that if these families lived in Scotland, Northern Ireland or England they could still get a grant because it’s only the Welsh government making the cut to Family Fund funding.”