A new role – Housing and Regeneration
In the recent cabinet re-shuffle, I was appointed to a new position as Minister for Housing and Regeneration.
One of my responsibilities will be for the Welsh Government’s response to the UK Government’s welfare reforms, and I know many of you may have questions or concerns as Swansea will shortly be moving to Universal Credit.
One of the first things I did in my new role was to write to the UK Secretary of State reiterating the Welsh Government’s concerns and emphasising the devastating impact that Universal Credit is already having on vulnerable families where it has been rolled out – including increased debt, anxiety and homelessness – which is in turn putting pressure on devolved public services here in Wales.
Universal Credit is due to roll out for new claimants across Swansea on December 13th. I recently visited the Job Centre in Gorseinon to hear how staff are preparing for this, and to ensure that the team is well linked in to other local services and charities that can support people through tough times.
There are many local organisations which stand ready to help. Between April and September of this year, the Trussel Trust alone handed out more than 43,000 food parcels across Wales, and they and other food banks across our area are concerned that the situation will worsen in the run-up to Christmas when demand usually spikes. People in work and out of work can access food banks. If you need help, there is help out there; and if you can donate, please do.
Christmas shouldn’t be a time of stress and worry, but for many families it is – especially as welfare reform starts to bite. Gorseinon’s Councillor Kelly Roberts came up with a great way to spread some festive cheer by organising a ‘pop-up shop’ to coincide with the food bank and take some of the pressure off families by providing Christmas gifts. This is a great example of the community pulling together, and there are plans afoot for an Easter pop-up shop, and a Back to School pop up shop too. And, as ever, Tonia and I are here to help.
May I take this opportunity to wish all the residents of Gower a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year.