Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Healthy Start for Bridgend Babies and Toddlers

A new scheme for low income families in Bridgend to give free milk and fresh fruit and vegetables for children and mums to be has been introduced.

The Department of Health’s Healthy Start scheme will give vouchers to qualifying families in Bridgend to buy the nutritious milk, infant formula and food they need to give their children a healthy start in life – as well as free vitamin supplements.

Healthy Start replaces the Welfare Food Scheme – and extends the scheme’s access to pregnant women under 18, whose children are most in need of a nutritious start in life.

This is a great scheme for helping hard working families in Bridgend. Giving our children a healthy start in life is part of Labour’s commitment to end the scandal of child poverty. Every child in Bridgend deserves an equal fighting chance in life and that means making sure they get the healthy nutritious start that all children should get.

The vouchers can be used with registered retailers and I would like to encourage more businesses in Bridgend to take part in the scheme by registering with

Many retailers in Bridgend are taking part in the scheme, but I’d like to encourage food co-operatives, box schemes, markets and farmers markets to start taking part as well as local greengrocers, milkmen, chemists and supermarkets.

Families in disadvantaged areas suffer higher rates of infant mortality, low birth weight, smoking during pregnancy and postnatal depression. This is why this Labour Government’s scheme is so important to help mums-to-be to give their children the healthiest possible start in life.

Mums and dads can also check the website to see if they qualify and get advice on healthy food for them and their families.

The new vouchers will be worth £2.80 each. Qualifying pregnant women and children over one and under four will get one voucher every week, and children under one year old will get two vouchers a week. Vouchers can be spent with participating retailers.

Healthy Minds at Work saves Wales millions

I have been happy this week to give my backing to the Welsh Assembly’s plan to save the Welsh taxpayer the millions of pounds lost each year due to work stress-related illness and days off.

The Healthy Minds at Work campaign has revealed that when people are out of work due to stress, anxiety and depression it costs each Welsh taxpayer £100 a year. The cost of work absences includes the rise in the number of people claiming benefit and the cost to the employers of staff sick pay, recruitment and replacement.

To tackle the problem the Welsh Assembly and local partners are supporting the Healthy Minds at Work campaign which aims to support people in retaining their jobs and reduce stress related costs.

One in five people in Wales, including here in Bridgend are likely to suffer from stress or depression at some time in their working lives. It’s a personal tragedy when someone feels they have no option but to leave work or take time off – and it affects the family, community and local economy.

I am very pleased to back Healthy Minds at Work, it brings together local support organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Health Challenge Wales and Remploy to provide the positive and active support people need to cope with stress and keep their job. The strategies the campaign has developed are proving so successful that many other European countries are following suit.

Healthy Minds at Work is a practical example of what the Assembly and local organisations working together can achieve. It is a European leader in its approach to a serious social and economic problem, and in the way it is tackling these issues.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Good Samaritans

Last weekend, I visited the Bridgend Samaritans office in Green Street to see at first hand the work they are doing helping local people with their problems.

The branch first formed in the early 1970s with the group moving into their current offices in 1988. Staffed by volunteers, the office offers a 24-hour, confidential, non-judgemental emotional support helpline.

I was particularly impressed by the commitment and dedication of the people there who give so freely of their time. Everything is completely confidential and the listening skills of the volunteers encourage callers to talk about their problems and explore the options.

Each branch funds itself and relies on the generosity of local people to remain viable. I would urge anyone who is thinking about donating to a charity to consider supporting Bridgend Samaritans.

There are many people walking around Bridgend today who will be thankful for their services. Unfortunately more and more people are experiencing feelings of distress and despair and more are considering taking their own lives. The Samaritans provide a much needed avenue for people to be listened to and accepted without prejudice.

For more information on how the Bridgend Samaritans can help people please visit: They can be contacted by telephone at: 01656 662333.

Not a Minute More

I am pleased to be able to give my backing to the International Day to End Violence Against Women, Saturday November 25th.

Research shows that in Wales the number of women who suffer from domestic abuse is higher than the UK average and that up to a third of all women in Wales are likely to have suffered some form of violence. A recent ICM survey also revealed that 40 per cent of young people in Wales know girls whose boyfriends have abused them physically.

Last year, the Welsh Assembly Government set aside £5.8 million for 2006-9 for its Tackling Domestic Abuse Strategy. The money is supporting eight domestic abuse projects across Wales, a network of domestic abuse co-ordinators and funding an all year round 24 hour domestic abuse helpline.

We cannot be complacent about this sort of violence which goes on even in Bridgend. We should all be worried about the survey of young people which shows us that many of our young people have views which condone forms of physical abuse.

I am pleased that the Welsh Assembly is taking this issue seriously by funding the domestic abuse helpline – which helps more and more women each year. The helpline is run by Welsh Women’s Aid and by calling 0808 8010 800, support is on offer for all women, men and children who need it.

I will personally be visiting Bridgend Women’s Aid next week and I would like to thank all the local partnership organisations for the important work they do in supporting women in Bridgend who suffer from domestic abuse.

This International Day to End Violence Against Women is an important day to remind us that even in Wales who have a lot to do to counter attitudes which condone violence against women, which is why I am pleased the Assembly is supporting all these important projects.

Home care plans

The Welsh Assembly Government has announced plans to cut the cost of home care services for disabled and older people on low incomes in Bridgend.

Yesterday, First Minister Rhodri Morgan gave details of how part of a £76m fund would help over 10,000 older and disabled people in Wales remain independent in their own homes and that £600,000 would be made available to purchase more motorised wheelchairs.

The Welsh Assembly has also launched a public consultation on its proposals for changing the way local authorities like Bridgend charge for home care so that people on low incomes and the disabled are left with more money in their pocket after receiving their benefits and paying for home care.

I warmly welcome the extra money for the financial support for home care users and for more motorised wheelchairs. These proposals will mean that elderly and disabled people will receive the same support wherever they live in Wales.

By making sure that the elderly and disabled don’t pay for home care out of the income support and other benefits they receive, the Welsh Assembly is guaranteeing that home care users aren’t being punished financially for the using these invaluable services.

These new plans show the Welsh Assembly’s commitment to helping the most vulnerable people in Bridgend get both the home care and financial support they deserve.

The public consultation will run until 5th January 2007 and the relevant documents can be found on the Welsh Assembly Government website:

· The first proposal notes that currently, those on basic income support levels must be left with their entire benefit plus a ‘buffer’ of 25 per cent after they’ve been charged for their care. The new proposal seeks to increase this buffer to 35 per cent.

· The second proposal is to give a disability related expenditure disregard of at least 5 per cent of an individual’s basic Income Support. This additional flat rate relief is on top of the 35 per cent and will ease some of the financial burden of home care for those who already have high outgoings.

· Subject to the outcome of the consultation, The Welsh Assembly Government plans to implement these changes as statutory guidance to local authorities with the changes taking effect from April 2007. This makes sure that service users receive the same financial benefit across Wales regardless of where they live.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Celtic Energy opencast plans hit the buffers

Welcome news - Celtic Energy have withdrawn proposals for an opencast mine in Pyle.

This announcement is good news for the communities surrounding the planned mine. The opencast would have had a hugely detrimental impact on people in the Pyle and Margam areas. There is an alternative to opencast mining at Parc Slip. Celtic can now sink the deep mine as they said they would.

The plans put forward by Celtic Energy were completely unsuitable for the area in which the mine would have stood and campaigners will be very happy that the company has made this decision.

I have been working closely with local residents and campaign groups to ensure that their quality of life was not adversely affected by the proposal. I am sure they will be pleased that our hard work has paid off.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Warmer, Safer Homes Surgery - Porthcawl

Last year Welsh Labour boosted Wales’ Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES) by £10 million. This year Welsh Labour has increased the HEES grants from £2,700 to £3,600 to help pensioners, the disabled, families receiving benefits and other vulnerable groups of people install new insulation measures, heating systems and improve home security with window and door locks.

This week I will be continuing to hold a series of special advice surgeries to help local pensioners and others find out if they might be eligible for help to make their homes warmer and safer. The next surgery will be held on Friday, 24 November 2006 at Porthcawl Community Council Offices at 10am. No appointments are necessary.

I hope that many more local people will come to benefit from this initiative, and I want to do my bit in encouraging those who are eligible to apply for a grant. I had a great response to the surgeries that I held last winter and I am expecting the same, this Friday.

I hope that local pensioners and other eligible groups such as lone parents and families with children under 16 who are entitled to benefits come along to my advice surgery to see if this scheme can help make their homes warmer this winter.

Further details of the scheme can be found at:

Friday, November 17, 2006

Wear Blue Next Friday and Stand By Bridgend Children to Stop Bullying

I will be standing firmly by the side of children in Bridgend in support of anti bullying as Wales prepares to mark Respecting Others Week 2006 (20-24 November) by wearing blue.

Education Minister Jane Davidson announced recently that blue is the colour of the week and ‘bystanders’ are the focus of the campaign – led by the Welsh Anti-Bullying Network and Welsh Assembly Government – which aims to provide advice and support as a way of encouraging young people to speak out against bullying instead of simply standing by.

I want to see Bridgend pupils join schools across Wales to take part in special activities throughout the week, and on Blue Friday (24 November) wear something blue to show their support for Respecting Others Week 2006.

We all need to get the message across in schools that if you stand by and do nothing you allow bullying to continue. Pupils need to learn how to step forward, respect each other and help tackle bullying together – and stop being a bystander.

I’ll be wearing blue on Friday to show my support for this important cause and would like pupils in Bridgend schools wear something blue too - it can be anything from a hat to a sock. It doesn’t really matter what the item is, it’s more a symbol of the fact that we all want to stamp out bullying.

I am very pleased that the Welsh Assembly Government is taking bullying seriously. The Assembly has sent a DVD highlighting 50 ideas on how to tackle bullying to all schools in Wales and I wish all Bridgend schools every success in teaching pupils that standing by on bullying isn’t good for them, their friends or their school.

More information on Respecting Others Week can be found by logging onto

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Train company needs to think again on service cancellation

I believe that First Great Western should think again and reconsider its decision to remove the 5.18pm train from Cardiff Central to Swansea from its timetable.

The proposal, which will take effect from 11 December, leaves passengers travelling west of the capital city with no mainline service between 5.02pm and 5.38pm.

I commute between Bridgend and Cardiff every day by rail and often use that particular service to return home in the evening. It is well used and fills the gap at peak time demand.

I am very concerned that First Great Western has decided to cancel this important service. It will place an impossible burden on later trains which will have to pick up the slack, causing overcrowding and resulting in putting people off using public transport to make their daily journey to and from work.

It does not make any sense at all to be removing one of its best used services when we are doing all we can to encourage commuters out of their cars and on to rail. Over 300 people will be left stranded every night as a result and will be forced to wait longer for a train home.

Both First Great Western and Arriva Trains Wales need to work closer together to ensure that rail services covering Bridgend and towns further west are not adversely affected by these plans. The decision by First to axe a service that is in such demand with no contingency plan in place brings their commitment to passengers into question.

Advice surgery dates for the rest of 2006

My advice surgery dates for the rest of 2006 are as follows:


Friday 10

St Brides Church Hall 4.15 – 4.45 pm
Wick Sports Hall 5.00 – 5.30 pm
Broadlands Llangewydd Arms 6.00 – 6.30 pm

Saturday 18

Bridgend 12 Queen Street 9.30 – 11.30 am

Friday 24

Cefn Cribwr Community Hall 4.00 – 4.30 pm
Pyle Leisure Centre 4.45 – 5.15 pm
North Cornelly Community Centre 5.30 – 6.00 pm


Friday 8

Coytrahen Community Centre 4.00 – 4.30 pm
Aberkenfig Glamorgan Muslim Hall 4.45 – 5.15 pm
Penyfai The Pheasant 5.30 – 6.00 pm

Please ring Helen on 01656 664320 if you require any further information.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Assembly Gives Bridgend Youngsters Flying Start in Life

Bridgend children will be amongst the first to benefit from the Welsh Assembly Government’s flagship early years education plan.

Flying Start is the Assembly Government’s £46m investment in communities like Bridgend to give children aged 0 to three years old a better start in life and prepare them for school and their future.

Education Minister, Jane Davidson AM today announced that the scheme would first target disadvantaged areas in Wales and would help nearly 16,000 of Wales’ youngest children.

This is great news for Bridgend. Young children in the school catchment areas of Afon y Felin will be the first to benefit from this extra money in early years education. Mums and Dads in the area are going to benefit from free, part time high quality childcare for two year olds, as well as more health visiting and parenting support.

Welsh Labour is targeting its early year’s education policy where it matters most.

This Assembly money is going to help families and young mums in Bridgend to stay in work and know their children are getting excellent care and are preparing their children for school and nursery.

Welsh Labour is committed to securing better outcomes for children in Bridgendby giving them a real flying start in life.