North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has called on the Welsh Government to reconsider its funding change which is putting the future of Disability Wales in jeopardy.
As from the 1st of April 2016, Disability Wales, which has been championing the rights, equality and independence of all disabled people in Wales since 1972, will lose 68% of its income after its recent application to the Sustainable Social Services Third Sector Grant Scheme was turned down and risks closure in less than four months’ time.
Raising the matter in the Assembly this week with the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Mr Isherwood said:
“The Wales Council for Voluntary Action has long called for local authorities, health boards and the third sector to work together more imaginatively to develop better services closer to people, more representative of needs, and add value by drawing on community resources.
“However, the Welsh Government has decided to push ahead with replacing core funding arrangements for national third sector organisations with new project-based grant schemes, that mean that third sector bodies that have been delivering projects and programmes, often for decades, delivering improvements to people’s lives, representing causes and saving Welsh Government statutory bodies money, are now faced with closure or demotion to simply delivery agents for Welsh Government programmes, including, of course, Disability Wales, the rights and equality-based umbrella organisation, which no longer fits the criteria. After 40 years as a national voice, Disability Wales has less than four months to ensure its survival.
“As one campaigner in North Wales said, ‘we’ve been attacked enough; this just adds insult to injury’. As the Minister responsible for both equality and the voluntary sector, how will you, at this final moment, intervene, if at all, to enable delivery and design with the third sector, which will improve outcomes and save Welsh Government money, rather than trying to shoehorn them in to shrunken organisations simply delivering your programmes?”
The Minister replied: “They are receiving grant funding from my department, and they’re taking forward one of the key aims in our framework for action on independent living, and that funding will continue.”
Mr Isherwood added: “I know that; I declare that, alongside Aled Roberts, I Co-Chair the Cross Party Group on Disability, which is sponsored by them. This is devastation, this could force their closure and this must not be allowed to happen.
“Of course, they’re not alone. As the Welsh Government’s guidance on the Families First programme to improve outcomes for children and families, particularly in poverty, states, we need good communication between Welsh Government, local authorities and the third sector and multi-agency working.
“However, when I wrote to you after concern was raised by third sector bodies working on this programme over what’s going to happen to core funding for that programme after spring 2016, you came back talking about the timing of the UK Government’s spending review, even though the Welsh Government had already announced its intention to move from core to project funding.
“Now that we’ve had the comprehensive spending review, will you revisit this, as your answer to me implied, and see how this, and other programmes, can be safeguarded, and how the Welsh Government can learn from them how they can help you actually do more with your reduced budgets?”