IT is often difficult to convey to people just how varied the average week of an Assembly Member can be, so I would like to take the opportunity in my column to share a part of my diary with you, hopefully giving you a flavour of some of the important events that have taken place across my constituency.
I recently had the privilege to visit two local nature reserves, the Aberbargoed Grasslands, which sustain some extremely rare butterflies, and the Pengam Ecopark, on a former coal tip, which does so much to encourage young people to take a keen interest in a natural environment.
I was impressed by both sites and took the opportunity to raise the topic of urban nature reserves with Environment Minister John Griffiths in a ministerial question. In particular I raised the matter of continuing support for such projects, John agreed with me and talked about the recent announcement of a £20,000 Tidy Towns Grant for the Ecopark.
Another of the most important things I do as the localAMis to hold regular surgeries in my constituency office and venues across the constituency.
These, combined with the contents of my postbag, are a great way of keeping abreast with issues my constituents face.
I am hearing more from young people, who are clearly victims of the economic downturn. It is not just higher levels of unemployment that are hitting the under-25s hard but another problem is that when they do manage to find work it is often not well paid and temporary.
This is why I am particularly concerned with the changes to housing benefit currently being mooted by the Westminster Government, with 95% of housing benefit claimants in work and on low wages. The assumption that they can return to family homes is very concerning and in many cases not true.
Three school visits recently have been particularly enjoyable. The first was to Crumlin Primary, where I joined teachers, pupils and former pupils to mark the school’s 100th birthday. Teachers and pupils dressed in period costume and children gained a lot from looking into their school history.
The second visit was to Waun Fawr School, Crosskeys, to mark the retirement of head teacher Paul Fowler– we are all very grateful for the work Paul has done. The final visit was to a sports day at Abercarn School – it was amazing to see the excited faces of the children.
Finally I would like to remind everyone that it is Blackwood carnival on Saturday, August 4. It is always a fantastic event.