Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Warmer, Safer Homes Surgery

On Thursday 1st February I will be holding a Warmer Safer Homes Surgery to explain how Bridgend residents could be eligible for a special grant under the National Assembly run Home Energy Efficiency Scheme, which will make homes warmer, and more energy efficient.

Residents who think that they may be entitled to apply for funding under the scheme, should attend the advice session at 10am this Thursday at Stmary's Church Hall, Ewenny Rd.

No appointment is necessary.


Archbishop McGrath School visit

Today I welcomed 6th Form pupils from Archbishop McGrath Comprehensive on their very first visit to the National Assembly for Wales.

During the visit the pupils were given a briefing on the work, role and responsibilities of an Assembly Member and in particular, how the new powers given under the Government of Wales Act which will begin as from May 2007 will impact upon their work.

After the briefing the pupils were treated to a tour of the Senedd after which they were given the opportunity to watch First Ministers Question Time from the public gallery.

It has been a delight to welcome the pupils here today. Indeed, I was very impressed by their standard of behaviour and in the manner in which they conducted themselves.

What really impressed me was the understanding that the youngsters had of the many issues facing their generation, such as climate change, or having a smoking ban in public places. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting the pupils, and explaining the work undertaken at the National Assembly, and I look forward to meeting with them again in the near future.

In the meantime, I would personally like to wish them the very best for their forthcoming summer examinations, and in their future careers that lie ahead.


Friday, January 26, 2007

School standards higher than ever

Bridgend schools are making progress in just about every area of education and training.

The Annual Report for 2005-06 of the Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales (Estyn) shows that school children and teachers are reaching higher standards than previous years.

Labour Education Minister Jane Davidson welcomed the findings which showed that across Wales the number of primary schools reaching the top two inspection grades increased by 31 per cent and secondary schools were up by 13 per cent.

I am delighted with these results, which are a testimony to the hard work of teachers, support staff and governors in Bridgend schools.

I am particularly pleased for Oldcastle Juniors and Penybont Primary School which have received the top grades and a resounding thumbs up from the Inspectors and everyone involved with these schools should be justly proud.

These results go to show why investing more in our schools helps to drive up standards, and this Labour Assembly Government is making the money available to do exactly that.

Labour is committed to making sure all schoolchildren in Bridgend can benefit from better quality schools. Through the Assembly’s RAISE plan, £32m is being made available to disadvantaged pupils and schools facing particular difficulties.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Free prescriptions for everyone in Wales

FROM April 1st patients in Bridgend and across Wales will no longer have to pay for NHS prescriptions thanks to the Welsh Assembly Government.

I voted for the move yesterday by the Labour Assembly Government that would see all charges for NHS prescriptions in Wales dropped.

This is great news for all patients in Bridgend and will benefit young families and the elderly. But the news is especially important for patients with chronic illnesses such as Asthma and Cystic Fibrosis, who need constant medication.

Making prescriptions free for the most vulnerable patients will see the cost of their care dramatically reduced and will make them more likely to take the medication they need.

Free prescriptions is the best and simplest way of reducing health inequalities in places like Bridgend and ensuring that everyone in our communities can access the healthcare that they deserve.

This Welsh Labour policy is unique to Wales and shows that Labour is delivering on our promise to abolish prescriptions charges. You can trust Labour to deliver for the people of Bridgend but free prescriptions would not be safe in an Assembly led by a Tory coalition, who FAILED to vote for free prescriptions today. A vote for Labour in this May’s Assembly election is a vote to keep prescriptions free for all.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Highlighting emotional and mental health issues facing youngsters

Last Friday I hosted a seminar on behalf of Bridgend Mental Health Matters in the National Assembly for Wales where the guest speaker was the Health Minister Dr Brian Gibbons.

The seminar included participants from Bridgend College and Ynysawdre Comprehensive School who took part in a number of presentations through the use of music, drama and their own writings, based upon their experiences involving emotional and mental health issues, and follows an initial survey undertaken by Bridgend Mental Health Matters.

I was delighted when Mental Health Matters approached me asking if I would help facilitate this meeting. There is no doubt that youngsters growing up in Bridgend today live in a very different environment from the one that I can remember in my youth.

The results of the survey taken by Bridgend Mental Health Matters and presented to me today highlight how important it is to recognise the needs of some of the most vulnerable in society. One of the most striking memories for me was seeing at first hand how the children deal with issues such as self harm, bullying, eating disorders and depression.

It is equally important to realise the pressures that society now places upon our youngsters, especially with the ever increasing expectations that we continually expect of them. Indeed, I was very moved by what the youngsters had to say and in the very high standard and quality of their presentations, and I know that Dr Brian Gibbons was equally impressed.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Devolution of crime busting key to local communities

Devolving crime busting in Wales to local communities like Bridgend will be the key to tackling petty crime, vandalism and binge drinking in our neighbourhoods, Hazel Blears (pictured) said yesterday.

On a visit to Wales the Labour Party Chair said that party proposals to give citizens in Wales a greater say on how crime and anti-social behaviour is tackled in their communities is an important step in the right direction.

A third term Labour Assembly Government would provide greater powers for local people to make their communities safer.

Local people who have to put up with the intimidation, graffiti and boy racers in places like Bridgend will benefit from greater power to tackle these issues in our neighbourhoods.

Labour will give more power to Community Safety Partnerships, so that councils like Bridgend can work with community activists and local people to focus on anti-social behaviour.

Labour introduced the Assembly Government’s Crime Fighting Fund (currently £124 million a year) which will target local initiatives to keep youth offenders from re-offending and give more funding for drug and alcohol misuse projects, targeting a major cause of crime.

As Hazel Blears said during her visit,

‘’Welsh Labour will make tackling crime and its causes a top priority for a third Assembly term. Crime is falling because of the strong partnership between Labour in Westminster and Labour in the Assembly."

"But we need to concentrate more on the kind of petty crime that drags down whole neighbourhoods, such as vandalism and binge drinking."

"We believe local people know best how resources should be targeted in their communities to deal with anti-social behaviour. We want to give people more power to build strong communities they can be proud of."

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Assembly boost for 24 hour domestic abuse free helpline

A 24-hour helpline for victims of domestic abuse throughout Wales was officially launched on Tuesday at the National Assembly for Wales.

The news follows a £250,000 boost from the Assembly Government for the bilingual service, provided by Welsh Women’s Aid.

In Wales, an average of 49 women contact Welsh Women’s Aid every single day because of domestic violence and the extra funding for the helpline will ensure more women, including those in Bridgend can be helped.

We cannot be complacent about this sort of violence which goes on even in Bridgend.

The Assembly Government has made combating domestic abuse a priority and provided nearly £700,000 in funding back in 2004 over three years to help set up the free telephone helpline for 12 hours a day. I am very pleased that we have now been able to provide additional money to make this a round-the-clock service.

By calling 0808 8010 800, support is on offer for all women, men and children who need it. Much of this kind of abuse goes unreported so extending access to the helpline gives more women a chance to seek vital support and advice.

I would also like to praise Bridgend Women’s Aid for all the important work they do in supporting women in Bridgend who suffer from domestic abuse.

The new 24-hour free helpline number for anyone suffering domestic abuse is 0808 80 10 800

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Advice Surgeries - 19 January 2007

Iwill be holding advice surgeries at the following venues on Friday, 19 January 2007:

Community Hall, Pendre 4.00 – 4.30pm
Gilead Chapel Hall, Coity 4.45 – 5.15pm
Community Hall, Brackla 5.30 – 6.00pm
Memorial Hall, Coychurch 6.15 – 6.45pm

Residents who have any issues of concern are invited to come along.

No appointment is necessary.

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Child Trust Funds

This week is the first-ever Child Trust Fund Week, which runs from January 15th to 20th.

Parents in Bridgend are using their £250 vouchers to open an account and ask friends and family to get engaged with their child’s account to build a nest egg for the child’s future.

New figures published this month show that in Bridgend, 3274 Child Trust Fund vouchers have been issued to parents. 2320 savings accounts have already been opened by parents themselves. The remaining 954 are still to be opened or will be automatically opened by HM Revenue & Customs if the vouchers are not used after 12 months so that no child loses out.

The Child Trust Fund is a great way of saving for a child’s future. All parents with children born since September 2002 will have received a £250 voucher to get an account started. The Government will add an extra £250 for families on lower incomes, and there will be further top-ups when children reach the age of 7.

I am very pleased that here in Wales we have gone further than the rest of the UK in ensuring that all children in care also benefit from the trust fund.

I’m pleased that so many parents in Bridgend have already opened an account for their child, but I want to encourage all eligible parents to open an account and get friends, family, grandparents and the whole family involved.

Welsh Labour is committed to tackling child poverty in Wales. This scheme proves our commitment to ensuring a fair start for all children in Wales, whether they live at home or in care.

For more information on Child Trust Funds please visit http://www.childtrustfund.gov.uk/