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Voluntary Organisations

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th May 1993.

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Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth 12:00 am, 17th May 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make it his policy to increase the support provided by the Welsh Office for voluntary organisations in Wales.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

Substantial sums of taxpayers' money continue to be provided and the Government intend to maintain their commitment to a flourishing voluntary sector in Wales.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth

In other words, the Minister will not give any more money to the voluntary sector in Wales. Does not he realise that essential to the health of the community is a strong partnership between local authorities and voluntary organisations, especially youth organisations? That is being undermined because of the mean and petty cuts in the finance made available to local authorities by the Welsh Office. If, because they have to pull back to their statutory responsibilities, local authorities are unable to fund voluntary organisations, the Secretary of State for Wales should provide far more to make up the shortfall. Will the Minister give an undertaking that he will do that?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

I can simply refute the hon. Gentleman's allegations by reminding him that we have increased funding for the voluntary sector by one third in the past five years and threefold during the lifetime of this Government.

Photo of Mr Alex Carlile Mr Alex Carlile , Montgomery

Recently, I wrote to the Secretary of State about funding for the Powys mental health project, which is in the voluntary sector. Is the Minister aware of widespread concern in rural Wales about increasing depressive illness and even suicide among farmers? Will he examine seriously the possibility of funding projects such as the Powys mental health project, which can, through the voluntary sector, be of such great assistance to farmers facing psychiatric illness?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

Yes, I am more than happy to consider the specific project to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred. I seek to reassure him by saying that, in general, funding of the mental handicap strategy in Wales for the current financial year has increased by 15 per cent.

Photo of Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones , Ynys Môn

The Minister will be aware that a number of people in the voluntary sector are becoming active in assisting those with a drug dependency. There have been problems in my constituency recently, as I am sure the Minister is aware. The local branch of Llangefni drugs council within Gwynedd drugs council is seeking funding to develop services for people who have a drug dependency. Will the Minister sympathetically consider its funding application?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

Yes, I will consider that particular application also. On 1 April, the Welsh Office issued a circular to all Welsh county councils reminding them what is involved in support for alcohol and drug dependency services. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the action point that local authorities should plan for continuity of services for alcohol and drug misusers under the new community care arrangements. As a priority, they should ensure that the implementation of social care plans properly reflects the needs of those groups. In general, funding for care in the community has increased by more than £8 million.

Photo of Mr Ron Davies Mr Ron Davies , Caerphilly

The Secretary of State is getting something of a reputation for being demob happy. Given the complacency of the Under-Secretary of State's answer, it is clear that he, too, does not think that he has much of a future at the Welsh Office. Does not the Under-Secretary understand that the voluntary sector depends heavily on local government support? As a result of this year's cuts in local government funding, the voluntary sector, together with vital public services, is having to pay a heavy cost for the Government's failures. Instead of berating and undermining local councils, why do not the Under-Secretary and the Secretary of State get their act together, go to Brussels and make sure that the £75 million of finance that was allocated to Wales this year by the EC —but which has not been taken up—is brought back to Wales, used by local government and allocated to those voluntary sectors that desperately need that money?

Photo of Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones , Ynys Môn

Again and again, the hon. Gentleman blindly ignores the facts. Community care was to be £28 million this year, but has been increased to £36 million. That is the extent of the increase. If anyone is demob happy, it is the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies), who is the third shadow Secretary of State for Wales in the current Parliament—and I guess that the Scottish puppet master is already trawling for the fourth.