The cost of living crisis is bearing down on families here in Blaenau Gwent and across Wales.

What started this time with cuts to universal credit last autumn is continuing with spiralling inflation leading to hikes in food and energy prices.

While certain causes of this crisis were beyond the UK Government’s control, their failure to anticipate and put enough support in place for the people who are going to be struggling with it was not.

Faced with this perfect storm at a time of year which is already so difficult for so many, the Welsh Labour Government by contrast is taking determined action with a £330 million support package to help people in need.

Because it is utterly shameful that people are being faced with the choice of buying food or heating their own homes, the winter fuel support payment has been doubled and applications are open until midnight on February 28, with more information, eligibility and application forms available on Blaenau Gwent council’s website.

Additional support is also being put in place to help families with the cost of school uniforms and kit, to provide funding for vulnerable people who find themselves in crisis and to help many households with council tax bills.

As well as helping people with the cost of living, we also need to ensure that the services people rely on are available when they need them.

In the Senedd, I have been raising the emergency in terms of access to NHS dentistry in parts of the borough and specifically in Ebbw Vale at the moment, calling on the Health Minister to intervene directly with the health board so that urgent action is being taken to ensure people are able to see an NHS dentist when they need to - as they have every right to expect.

With our transition out of restrictions continuing and the situation with Covid stabilising, we also need to renew our focus on the economic recovery that Blaenau Gwent and valleys communities like ours need.

It is here that the Welsh Government’s £100 million Tech Valleys programme has to be front and centre. This has already seen major developments in the borough, but I have been pressing Ministers for this to be ramped up to ensure it delivers in full and as soon as possible.

Working people and communities like ours have too often paid the price for economic crises we didn’t create in the past and I am pleased to see this Welsh Government taking action to ensure this does not happen again.