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Families with disabled children struggle to make ends meet

Families with disabled children are having to go without food and heating due to the high costs of raising a disabled child and cuts in financial support.

That's according to a recent survey by the charity Contact a Family, which asked 210 families of disabled children about their financial situation.

More than half said they were worried about their finances, with forty percent saying they had been forced to take out a loan in the last year to pay for things like heating and food.

Contact a Family is now calling on the UK Government to make changes to the welfare system help families with childcare costs and utilities.

The Department for Work and Pensions say the are committed to supporting disabled people and their families, spending around £50bn a year on disabled people and their services.

"These money worries are putting huge emotional and mental strain on the families we work with. The impact is affecting their health, relationships and in some cases is making their child's condition worse.

– Richard Jones, Manager of Contact a Family Wales
families surveyed have extra costs relating to their child's disability of £300 every month Credit: PA
  1. Nick Powell

£10,000 pay rise for AMs proposed

Assembly members will get a pay rise of nearly £10,000 a year under proposals from the independent body set up to decide their salaries. AMs are currently paid £53,852, due to rise to £54,390 next year. An increase to £64,000 would be implemented after the next Assembly election in 2016.

The Remuneration Board says AMs increased powers in the next Assembly justify the increase but their pension scheme will be made less generous. Even so, the overall package will be worth 10.4%.

AMs' pay was frozen after the last election in 2011 but they will get a 1% rise next year, which is similar to what's happened to Welsh NHS workers pay, although their pay packets are usually a lot smaller.

Credit: PA

The most highly paid politician in the Assembly will remain the First Minister. Carwyn Jones' salary will go up from £135,260 to £140,000 if he keeps his job after the election. The pension cut means that his overall package will actually shrink by more than 2%, as will also be the case for other ministers.

The chair of the Remuneration Board, Sandy Blair, said they felt they couldn't suggest a bigger increase for the First Minister as that would have pushed his salary above the £142,500 paid to the Prime Minister. There will now be a public consultation before the Board makes its final decision. It will then be implemented automatically, following a decision by AMs that they would no longer vote on their own pay increases.

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Welsh Housing Associations contributed £2bn to economy last year

The Welsh Government have set a target to provide 10,000 affordable homes by the end of this Government term Credit: PA

Welsh Housing Associations contributed around £2bn to the economy last year, according to an independent report by Cardiff University.

The report indicates that the sector provided 1,850 new affordable homes, and is on target to meet its target of 10,000 for this Government term.

The housing sector employs more than 8,000 people in Wales.

Against a backdrop of austerity, cuts to public expenditure and the challenges brought about by welfare reform, our sector has continued to invest heavily in the services for tenants and communities and our economic impact continues to grow.

– Stuart Ropke, Community Housing Cymru

Cardiff University secures Living Wage accreditation

Cardiff University has become the first university in Wales to be accredited as a Living Wage employer.

It means all staff will receive a minimum hourly wage significantly higher than the national minimum wage of £6.50.

It is a matter of basic fairness that people should get a wage which is enough to live on.

Securing accreditation as an official Living Wage Employer sends a clear message that we value our staff and we hope we will act as an example to other Welsh employers.

– Professor Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University

Plans show how Cardiff city centre will look in future

There will be a new direct pedestrian route from the Square to the Millennium Stadium which will be known as Millennium Walkway

Plans have been unveiled which show how Cardiff city centre could look in the future, after a multi-million pound renovation.

The development includes over a million square feet of office, retail and residential buildings around a new civic square. It will also feature a new walkway from Cardiff Central Station to the Millennium Stadium.

The development incorporates over a million square feet of office, retail and residential buildings

At the centre of the development is the proposed new BBC Wales HQ, which, subject to planning, is scheduled for completion in 2017.

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Nine out of ten patients seen within target times says Welsh Government

The Welsh Government has responded to claims by the Liberal Democratsthat figures show increasing numbers of patients waiting more than a year for their initial treatment. A spokesperson has said:

Since devolution in 1999, there has been almost a 70% reduction in the number of patients waiting more than a year from initial referral by their GP to treatment.

More people are being treated in the Welsh NHS today than at any time since its creation. Last year, nearly five million patients were seen by the Welsh NHS in a hospital setting.

We expect all patients to be treated in order of clinical priority, within the set target time. The latest figures show the vast majority of patients - nearly nine out of 10 - are seen within target time.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Tories call for Welsh rôle for budget watchdog

Welsh Conservatives are calling for the Office for Budget Responsibility to play 'a full rôle' in monitoring Welsh Government financial decisions when tax powers are transferred to Cardiff.

Welsh Ministers are set to be given control of stamp duty and landfill tax as a result of the Wales Bill which is currently going through Parliament. The Bill also paves the way for devolution of income tax varying powers subject to a referendum.

Shadow Finance Minister, Nick Ramsay, says that when that happens, the independent OBR, must be given a 'prominent rôle' in government scrutiny and financial forecasting for Wales.

With the devolution of taxation powers, the Welsh Government will, for the first time, have to properly account for the money it spends rather than being a spending agency with an annual grant from the UK Treasury.

I welcome initial discussions between the OBR and the Welsh Government and hope that the OBR can have as prominent a rôle as possible to give Welsh voters independent and expert analysis.

We have seen Labour recently reject the expert advice of doctors on an inquiry into the NHS and of nurses on protecting the health budget, but hope that Labour will act to enshrine the involvement of the Office for Budget Responsibility in scrutinising the Welsh Treasury.

For Labour, independent scrutiny and expert advice is not something to be feared, but something which can improve decision-making and ensure that tax levying is fair and effective

– Nick Ramsay AM, Shadow Finance Minister

NHS waits 'a national disgrace' say Welsh Lib Dems

Almost 1,400 patients in Wales are waiting more than a year for the start of their treatment, according to figures published by the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

The party obtained the details from local health boards using the Freedom of Information Act. They break down as follows:

  • Abertawe Morgannwg 545 patients
  • Aneurin Bevan 298 patients
  • Betsi Cadwaladr 61 patients
  • Cardiff and Vale 423 patients
  • Cwm Taf fewer than 5
  • Hywel Dda 63 patients
  • Powys 84 patients, commissioned by the Health Board, have been waiting over a year

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams called the figures 'nothing short of a national disgrace' and repeated her call for a Commission to be set up to defuse political arguments about the NHS.

My concern is that the Welsh Labour Government seems entirely clueless on how to turn things around. Waiting lists are piling up and there is little sign of the situation improving.

This is why we need to establish a Commission to secure a historic and long-term plan for health and social care in Wales. A Commission with cross-party, professional and patient representatives would be able to work together and deal with the strategic problems facing our NHS in Wales. By involving doctors, nurses and patients from the outset, we would ensure that the experiences of those using our front-line health services feed into the efforts to reform our NHS.

– Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader

The Welsh Government has been approached for its response.

The Lib Dem leader also revealed that she'll meet Health Minister Mark Drakeford to discuss the idea of a Commission. She said he invited her to talks which will be held next week.

Welsh Government: Report "reinforces" improvements being made in NHS

The Welsh Government says it welcomes the Auditor General for Wales' report and says the comments reinforce and support the improvements its making.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government says:

At a time when the UK Government has cut the Welsh budget by £1.5bn since 2010, we continue to invest more than £6bn a year in the Welsh NHS. We are investing an additional £425m over the next two years in direct response to the Nuffield challenge, which reflects how vital health spending is to the longer term health and wellbeing of the people of Wales. Overall, the health and social care budget for Wales came in on target in 2013-14, as a result of hard work, prudent financial management and additional funding to manage specific pressures in the Welsh NHS. As the Auditor General and the Nuffield Trust have both identified, the Welsh NHS needs to carry on making changes to the way services are delivered if it is to continue providing quality, effective and sustainable services, free at the point of need to the people of Wales. We continue to work with health boards to make improvements in the plans they develop to ensure they focus on developing the modern NHS the people of Wales need and deserve. The Auditor General’s report reinforces and supports the improvements we are making.”

– Welsh Government spokesperson
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