North Wales MS Mark Isherwood has this afternoon criticised the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget 2024-25 for failing to protect front line support services, including the Housing Support Grant, and warned Ministers that this approach will cost public services more.
Speaking in this afternoon’s debate on the Draft Budget, Mr Isherwood, emphasised that all Governments, including the UK Government, are having to operate within a global Inflationary environment and challenged the Welsh Government over self-defeating cuts in its 2024-25 budget.
“The Welsh Government’s Draft Budget cuts Social Justice funding by £11.6 million, more in real terms.
“Although the Welsh Government has announced a new Child Poverty Strategy for Wales, Barnardo's Cymru has expressed ‘disappointment that the Welsh Government has not listened to numerous recommendations on the need for targets and an action plan attached to the Strategy so that progress can be transparently and regularly monitored', and the Children’s Commissioner for Wales has stated the lack of detail on ‘actions, timescales and deliverables’ means that there was no way of holding the Welsh Government to account.
“This Welsh Government has launched a new Welsh Benefits Charter, but far from being the integrated Welsh Benefits System for all the means-tested benefits the Welsh Government is responsible for, which the sector have been calling for for almost a decade, it is only about developing one, and again without targets and timescales .
“Similarly, the Welsh Government has dodged all calls for interim targets and timescales for their Tackling Fuel Poverty 2021-2035 Plan, despite Statutory obligations and the sector stating Interim targets would ensure that the “Welsh Government is accountable for progress”.
“The voluntary sector has long been emphasising that although they provide a fence at the top of the cliff, rather than an ambulance at the bottom, delivering services that save the public sector millions, they lack sustainable statutory funding.
“Many poverty-fighting services, delivered by the voluntary sector, are also funded by the Housing Support Grant.
“In its 2024-25 Draft Budget Document, the Welsh Government claims that they ‘have protected front line support services including the Housing Support Grant’.
“However, in its response to this Draft Budget, Cymorth Cymru, the representative body for Housing-related Support in Wales, stated ‘The Welsh Government has not increased the Housing Support Grant in the Draft Budget for 2024/25, that in real terms it is £24 Million less than in 2012, and that ‘three quarters of support providers told us they would need to reduce service capacity’.
“By removing early intervention and prevention services, such false economies only increase pressure on the NHS, Accident and Emergency Departments, and blue-light services, as well as housing services, when the Welsh Government should instead be removing the tens of millions of pounds of added cost pressure on statutory services that they cause.”