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4000 low income families with disabled children hit by Welsh Government cuts

by Beth Evans 06 December 2016
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. 
Notes for editors
Since devolution the Welsh Government has maintained an ongoing financial contribution to the work of the Family Fund, whose primary purpose is to distribute government funding as individual grants. 
Formed in 1973 by the UK Government Family Fund is a charity that gives practical help to low income families with severely disabled and seriously ill children under the age of 18. The Family Fund distributes government funding from the Welsh Government, the UK Government, the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive. 
In 2015-16 Family Fund received 6,241 applications and gave grants to 5,429 families in Wales. These grants paid for furniture, clothing, bedding, kitchen appliances, sensory toys, items of technology as well as short breaks. Family Fund grants also supported low income families with the cost of travel to and from hospital to visit children with serious or life threatening illnesses such as cancer and leukaemia. Children and young people must have a severe disability with additional complex needs, or have a serious or life threatening illness and there must be evidence that the child or young person’s additional needs impact on a family’s choices and their opportunity to enjoy ordinary life. To apply families must be in receipt of; Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, Incapacity Benefit*, Employment Support Allowance*, Housing Benefit and Pension Credit.
From April 2016 the amount provided by the Welsh Government to the Family Fund was £2.64. It has now been reduced to £1.5 million over next three years, the equivalent of a reduction of £5.5 million from 2016 to 2019. An additional £400k was provided to cover transition costs in Year 1 2016-17 only.  
Case studies are available.
For more information contact Keith Bowen, Director, Carers Wales. T - 029 2081 1370  
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