Family Fund disabled charity grants await cash decision

By Paul Martin
BBC Wales Politics

media captionThe Family Fund normally receives around £2.5m a year from the Welsh government

A charity has had to stop giving grants to poor families with disabled or seriously ill children because of a delay in its funding.

The Family Fund has more than 550 applications in Wales this year and relies almost totally on grants.

The fund in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland has had confirmation of what it has to spend this year.

The Welsh government which gave £2.6m last year and said a decision would be reached "very soon".

'Extremely distressing'

The Family Fund, set up 40 years ago, gives grants for items like washing machines, cookers, fridges, clothing, hospital travel costs and holidays.

Chief executive Cheryl Ward said more than 550 applications from families in Wales were waiting to be approved.

But she said the charity cannot process them until it gets a decision on funding which it had expected in early April.

"Every day that passes sees families waiting another day to get their item," she said.

"These are families on low incomes so they often don't have alternative financial support to cover these costs.

"It's extremely distressing when we get contact from families in significant need.

"We feel quite helpless," Ms Ward said.

Last year the charity helped nearly 5,000 families in Wales.

The UK government whose funding will be spent on families in England is contributing £27.3m, the same as last year.

Ministers in Scotland and Northern Ireland have also agreed to repeat last year's aid of £2.9m and £1.6m respectively.

In an email to the charity last week, the Welsh government said it had a "commitment" to the charity, but was still waiting "ministerial approval" on a proposal to maintain the same funding as last year.

A spokesperson said: "We are in close contact with the Family Fund and a decision about the funding for 2014/15 will be reached very soon."

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