North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has described Welsh Government cuts to its budgets for prevention and early intervention services and voluntary sector support as a ‘false economy’.
Speaking in a debate on the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget, Mr Isherwood expressed concern that although budgets for prevention and early intervention, and for voluntary sector support, are key to delivery of its policies - and although they represent just 1.5% of the combined Health and Local Government budgets - Labour Welsh Government has cut them again, to over £7 million below their 2015-16 level.
Mr Isherwood said: “The Welsh Government has rightly prioritised prevention and early intervention, but as this draft budget illustrates, it says one thing and does another.
“Rather than working smarter, this false economy will add additional costs to Health and Local Government services many times higher than the short-sighted cuts imposed.
“So much for the Social Services and Wellbeing Act, promoting the involvement of people in the design and delivery of Care and Support services. So much for the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, making public bodies work better with people, with communities and each other, taking a joined-up approach.”
Referring to the impact of Welsh Government cuts to the Family Fund on the most vulnerable families with disabled children, Mr Isherwood stressed that equivalent funding in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland has been maintained, and referred to other cuts already made by the Welsh Government.
He added: “Of course, Labour Welsh Government has got form for this. When, in September 2014, it announced funding to support front-line advice services Citizens Advice Cymru and Shelter Cymru, it shut out AdviceUK, the UK’s largest support network for free, independent advice centres, with 24 member organisations in Wales, denying people in crisis quick, emergency intervention and trapping them on waiting lists.
“Over the last year it has been the turn of organisations including Disability Wales and Child Contact Centres in Wales, leading to poorer and more costly outcomes for people and families.
“Despite calls by the Wales Disability Reference Group for the devolved Independent Living Fund to be administered in the voluntary sector with Scotland and Northern Ireland, Labour has given this to Local Government.
“When I raised concerns about the shortage of qualified nurses providing Palliative Care in the Voluntary Sector identified by Charity “Together for Short Lives”, this was dismissed – as it was when I highlighted concerns raised by the North Wales Safer Communities Board that too much was being spent on firefighting substance misuse problems and not enough on intervention and prevention, and when I criticised the 10% cut to the Third Sector Supporting Communities and People Budget, emphasising the crucial role the third sector plays in delivering quality services for less.
“Such cuts to ground level support compromise the more user-led, preventative and cost-effective services that the Third Sector delivers – when we should instead be transforming Wales’ public services by embedding co-production.”