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Jones: Achieving social justice in south east Wales

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"What is social justice? To me, social justice is providing equality of opportunity—providing people with the opportunities and the freedom to make the best choices so that they and their families can live the best possible lives. Social justice is the narrowing of the gap in wealth, justice, governance and opportunity.

Why is it that in twenty-first century Wales there are still so many barriers for people wishing to better their lives? Why is it that in twenty-first century Wales we still have such poor housing that those living in it become ill?

Why is it that young people wishing to stay in their communities are forced to move elsewhere due to a lack of affordable housing and of job opportunities? Why is south-east Wales still blighted by crime and anti-social behaviour? Why is it that Wales still does not have an adequate transport infrastructure—the key to a vibrant economy, wealth and opportunity—that enables people to choose where they live, work and are educated?

After seven years of a Labour Welsh Assembly Government, relatively little has been achieved. There has been a lot of talk, but little action. The people of south-east Wales deserve for all of us to be working towards social justice. Social justice should be at the heart of all policies, across all portfolios.

We all deserve to grow up in a country in which the streets are safe, and not in a broken society and communities blighted by drug abuse, family breakdown and high rates of crime. In Wales, there is a clear need to focus on improving health, creating better jobs and skills, developing strong and safe communities and helping more people into work.

If there is one thing that I have learned in my time in the Assembly, it is that we cannot go on pulling the same levers hoping to get a different result. Many areas of Wales unquestionably suffer from deprivation.

In the most recent Assembly social justice report, the Labour Government could do nothing other than concur that too many Welsh families are experiencing the effects of poverty. Phrases such as 'poor health', 'low educational attainment', 'substance misuse', 'benefit dependency' and 'economic inactivity' are uttered in the same breath. These are tough challenges, and we must address them.

Many people do not enjoy the opportunities and freedoms that most of us here take for granted. Wards in Merthyr Tydfil, Newport, Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen feature high in the overall index of multiple deprivation.

It is a fact that there is a concentration of inter-related problems in too many of our communities, such as high unemployment, poor health, poor services, poor quality of environment, inadequate housing and crime. South-east Wales has some of the most disadvantaged communities in the UK. They are deprived communities, where people live in poor housing.

The growing shortage of affordable housing in south-east Wales is preventing large numbers of people from buying a home. The problem is particularly acute in rural areas, where price rises have pushed many properties out of the price range of many local people.

Last year, the biggest house price increases were in Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil, which came top in the Land Registry's property price increase figures for the third consecutive quarter, with recorded increases of more than 27 per cent in both areas.

Housing is one of the key pillars of social justice, but unless affordable housing is made a priority, problems will continue to mount up. Labour has imposed massive cuts on affordable housing, while homelessness, waiting lists for housing, and house prices have increased.

Young people and the elderly in south-east Wales are those least able to afford the quality housing that they deserve. So why has this Labour Assembly Government massively cut funding for social and affordable housing? Why is not more being done to help people to get a foot on the property ladder?

I grew up in south-east Wales and I regularly speak to friends who can no longer afford to live close to their families, in the towns and villages in which they grew up. We need more affordable housing in order to sustain our urban and rural communities.

Our rural communities face many obstacles because of isolation, lack of opportunities and difficulties in accessing the opportunities that are available. Having grown up in rural Monmouthshire, I am well aware of the barriers that are faced in rural communities. We need to tackle this issue through an integrated approach to strategic planning, involving communities from the outset in planning issues.

To do this, social justice must be a key factor across portfolios. For instance, transport plays a major part in regeneration. A good transport infrastructure is the key to a vibrant economy, wealth creation and jobs. Many people in south-east Wales rely on public transport in all aspects of their lives.

Where is the promised rail link for south-east Wales? When is work going to begin? Without it you will not encourage much needed investment in these areas of need. Businesses will not be attracted to these areas, jobs will not be created and education will be limited, as will the provision of services and quality of life.

As one elderly constituent rightly pointed out to me recently, what is the point of the Government giving her a free bus pass if there are no buses to get on? We need to link villages to towns to cities and back to villages. South-east Wales needs investment to enable people to choose where to live, work and be educated, to open up opportunities and to widen access to services and facilities.

Transport still remains one of the biggest barriers for people with disabilities. When it comes to social justice, it is vital that the Welsh Assembly Government places disabled people high on its policy agenda. I am sure that Members would agree that every disabled child should enjoy the same opportunities as any other child. I recently visited Crownbridge School in Griffithstown, which is a special school that has benefited enormously from a generous donation from the Lords Taverners of a trampoline and a minibus.

Those gifts have gone a long way towards improving the lives and opportunities of those disabled people. It is a shame that, in twenty-first century Wales, we have to rely on gifts from charities to provide these vital tools for children's education. Crownbridge school is the only school of its type in the area and I hope that the Torfaen constituency follows other areas in recognising the demand for this type of education and looks to provide this school with the facilities and space that it so desperately needs. We must break down all barriers.

Too many older people in Wales experience financial insecurity, isolation and poor access to services. That means that, although people can now expect to live longer, the quality of life of many in retirement is not satisfying or enjoyable. Poor health, poor housing and a fear of crime can all limit an older person's independence and ability to participate in the life of their communities.

The Assembly takes anti-social behaviour seriously, but I still see the effects of it across south-east Wales far too often. In Bettws in Newport, for example, community leaders were recently calling for closed-circuit television to be installed at a spot where a man was found critically injured.

Tragically, he later died. The whole estate was shocked, and many people are still too frightened to go out in the evenings to the shops. Local people had reported gangs hanging around the area for a long time. Why was not something done? Following the crime, Newport City Council stated that no funding was available to it for the extension of the city's CCTV system. We need to take positive action.

Anti-social behaviour continues to plague south-east Wales. Nearly 4,000 youngsters were arrested in Gwent last year. Why are teenagers in south-east Wales turning to crime, and what is the Assembly doing to help prevent that? Are we providing enough opportunities and facilities for them? Why is anti-social behaviour happening in the first place? Is it due to boredom and a lack of opportunities? Anti-social behaviour is at its peak.

We need to ensure that there is access at every stage of a person's life to learning within his or her own community, or close to where he or she lives, whether academic, vocational or life-skills education. Many barriers still exist that prevent people from taking up working and learning opportunities. Without good education, there cannot be social justice.

The Assembly Government's challenge is to break the cycle of deprivation. There has been some progress, but still too many people in Wales are being born into poverty, are growing up in poverty and are dying in poverty. We need to target poverty and injustice at every stage of a person's life. That way we can stop deprivation becoming a way of life and being passed on through generations.

Since Labour came into power, it has purposely produced a culture that is heavily reliant on the state. There is too much reliance on the state. This reduces opportunity and freedom. Communities are not created from the top down; they are built from the bottom up.

Our communities need to be supported so that they can take more ownership of their own destinies. Clearly, there is a need for joint working and partnership when setting out to tackle poverty and deprivation. It is vital that we work with one another. We must continue to work with the voluntary, community and private sectors and look to enhance the important role that social enterprises play.

We must face the challenges of today's Wales and find solutions to the problems that we face in today's society for the sake of south-east Wales, and for the sake of Wales."

"Beth yw cyfiawnder cymdeithasol? I mi, mae cyfiawnder cymdeithasol yn golygu cyfle cyfartal—rhoi cyfleoedd a rhyddid i bobl wneud y dewisiadau gorau fel y gallant hwy a'u teuluoedd fyw y bywydau gorau posibl. Mae cyfiawnder cymdeithasol yn golygu lleihau'r gagendor o ran cyfoeth, cyfiawnder, llywodraethu a chyfle.

Paham fod cynifer o rwystrau yn bodoli o hyd i bobl sydd am wella eu bywydau yn yr unfed ganrif ar hugain yng Nghymru? Paham fod gennym yng Nghymru, yn yr unfed ganrif ar hugain, dai mor wael sy'n peri i'r rheini sy'n byw ynddynt fynd yn sâl?

Paham fod y bobl ifanc hynny sydd am aros yn eu cymunedau yn cael eu gorfodi i symud oddi yno oherwydd prinder tai fforddiadwy a chyfle i gael swyddi? Paham fod troseddu ac ymddygiad gwrthgymdeithasol yn parhau i fod yn rhemp yn y de-ddwyrain?

Paham nad oes gan Gymru seilwaith trafnidiaeth digonol eto—yr allwedd i economi ffyniannus, cyfoeth a chyfle—sy'n galluogi pobl i ddewis ymhle maent yn byw, gweithio ac yn derbyn eu haddysg?

Ar ôl saith mlynedd o Lywodraeth Lafur Cynulliad Cymru, cyflawnwyd fawr ddim. Bu llawer o siarad ond prin fu'r gweithredu. Mae trigolion y de-ddwyrain yn haeddu inni oll fod yn gweithio tuag at gyfiawnder cymdeithasol. Dylai cyfiawnder cymdeithasol fod wrth wraidd pob polisi, ar draws pob portffolio.

Yr ydym oll yn haeddu byw mewn gwlad lle'r ydym yn ddiogel ar y strydoedd ac nid mewn cymdeithas a chymunedau drylliedig, lle mae camddefnyddio cyffuriau, teuluoedd yn chwalu a throseddu yn rhemp.

Yng Nghymru rhaid cael ffocws clir ar wella iechyd, creu swyddi a sgiliau gwell, datblygu cymunedau cryf a diogel a helpu mwy o bobl i mewn i waith.

Un o'r pethau yr wyf wedi'i ddysgu yn fy nghyfnod yn y Cynulliad yw'r ffaith na allwn barhau i dynnu'r un liferi yn y gobaith o gael canlyniad gwahanol. Yn ddiau mae llawer o ardaloedd yng Nghymru yn dioddef amddifadedd. Yn yr adroddiad diweddaraf gan y Cynulliad ar gyfiawnder cymdeithasol, ni allai'r Llywodraeth Lafur wneud mwy na chytuno bod gormod o deuluoedd yng Nghymru yn profi effeithiau tlodi.

Sonnir am 'iechyd gwael' 'cyrhaeddiad addysgol isel', 'camddefnyddio sylweddau', 'dibyniaeth ar fudd-daliadau' ac 'anweithgarwch economaidd' yn yr un anadl. Mae hyn oll yn her anodd a rhaid inni fynd i'r afael â hi.

Nid oes modd i lawer o bobl fwynhau'r cyfleoedd a'r rhyddid y bydd y rhan fwyaf ohonom yma yn eu cymryd yn ganiatáol. Mae wardiau ym Merthyr Tudful, Casnewydd, Caerffili, Blaenau Gwent a Thor-faen yn agos i'r brig yn y mynegai amddifadedd lluosog cyffredinol.

Mae'n ffaith bod crynhoad o broblemau rhyng-gysylltiedig mewn gormod o lawer o'n cymunedau fel diweithdra uchel, iechyd gwael, gwasanaethau gwael, amgylchedd o ansawdd gwael, tai annigonol a throseddu. Mae rhai o gymunedau mwyaf difreintiedig y DU i'w cael yn y de-ddwyrain. Maent yn gymunedau difreintiedig lle mae pobl yn byw mewn tai gwael.

Mae prinder cynyddol o dai fforddiadwy yn y de-ddwyrain yn rhwystro niferoedd mawr o bobl rhag prynu cartref. Mae'r broblem yn arbennig o wael mewn ardaloedd gwledig lle mae cynnydd mewn prisiau wedi gwthio llawer o eiddo y tu hwnt i'r hyn y gall llawer o bobl leol ei fforddio. Y llynedd, gwelwyd y cynnydd mwyaf mewn prisiau tai ym Mlaenau Gwent a Merthyr Tudful, a ddaeth i'r brig yn rhestr ffigurau'r Gofrestrfa Tir o ran y cynnydd mewn prisiau eiddo ar gyfer y trydydd chwarter yn olynol, gyda chofnod o gynnydd o fwy na 27 y cant yn y ddwy ardal.

Mae tai yn un o gonglfeini cyfiawnder cymdeithasol, ond hyd nes y bydd tai fforddiadwy yn flaenoriaeth, bydd problemau yn parhau i gronni. Mae Llafur wedi gorfodi toriadau anferth ar dai fforddiadwy, er bod digartrefedd, rhestrau aros am dai a phrisiau tai wedi cynyddu.

Pobl ifanc a'r henoed yn y de-ddwyrain yw'r rheini na all fforddio'r tai o ansawdd y maent yn eu haeddu. Felly, paham fod Llywodraeth Lafur y Cynulliad wedi gwneud toriadau anferth i'r ariannu ar gyfer tai cymdeithasol a thai fforddiadwy? Paham na wneir mwy i helpu pobl i wneud y cam cyntaf hwnnw tuag at brynu eiddo?

Fe'm magwyd yn y de-ddwyrain ac yr wyf yn aml yn siarad â ffrindiau na all fforddio byw'n agos i'w teuluoedd bellach yn y trefi a'r pentrefi lle y'u magwyd. Mae angen mwy o dai fforddiadwy arnom er mwyn cynnal ein cymunedau trefol a gwledig. Mae ein cymunedau gwledig yn wynebu llawer o rwystrau oherwydd eu lleoliadau arunig, prinder cyfleoedd ac anawsterau o ran manteisio ar y cyfleoedd sydd ar gael.

Ar ôl cael fy magu yn Sir Fynwy wledig, yr wyf yn llwyr ymwybodol o'r rhwystrau sy'n wynebu cymunedau gwledig. Rhaid inni fynd i'r afael â'r broblem hon drwy ymagwedd integredig tuag at gynllunio strategol, gan gynnwys cymunedau, o'r dechrau mewn materion sy'n ymwneud â chynllunio.

Er mwyn gwneud hyn, rhaid i gyfiawnder cymdeithasol fod yn ffactor allweddol ar draws y portffolios. Er enghraifft, mae trafnidiaeth yn chwarae rhan allweddol mewn adfywio. Mae seilwaith trafnidiaeth yn allweddol i economi ffyniannus, creu cyfoeth a swyddi.

Mae llawer o bobl yn y de-ddwyrain yn dibynnu ar drafnidiaeth gyhoeddus ym mhob agwedd ar eu bywydau. Ymhle y mae'r cyswllt rheilffordd a addawyd ar gyfer y de-ddwyrain? Pryd y bydd y gwaith yn dechrau?

Hebddo, ni fyddwch yn annog y buddsoddi hwnnw y mae ei ddirfawr angen ar yr ardaloedd anghenus hyn. Ni chaiff busnesau eu denu i'r ardaloedd hyn, ni chaiff swyddi eu creu a bydd cyfyngiadau ar addysg, gwasanaethau ac ansawdd bywyd.

Fel y nododd un o'm hetholwyr hyn yn ddiweddar, beth yw diben cael tocynnau bws am ddim gan y Llywodraeth os nad oes bysys ar gael? Rhaid inni gysylltu trefi â phentrefi â dinasoedd ac yn ôl i'r pentrefi.

Rhaid buddsoddi yn y de-ddwyrain er mwyn galluogi pobl i ddewis ymhle y maent am fyw, gweithio a derbyn eu haddysg, cynyddu cyfleoedd ac ehangu'r cyfleoedd i fanteisio ar wasanaethau a chyfleusterau.

Mae trafnidiaeth yn parhau i fod ymhlith y rhwystrau pennaf i bobl ag anableddau. O ran cyfiawnder cymdeithasol, mae'n hanfodol bod Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru yn gosod pobl anabl yn uchel ar ei hagenda bolisi. Mae'n siwr gen i y byddai'r Aelodau yn cytuno y dylai pob plentyn anabl fwynhau'r un cyfleoedd ag unrhyw blentyn arall. Bûm ar ymweliad yn ddiweddar ag Ysgol Crownbridge yn Griffithstown, sef ysgol arbennig sydd wedi elwa'n fawr o rodd hael gan y Lords Taverners, sef trampolîn a bws mini.

Mae'r rhoddion hynny wedi gwneud llawer i wella bywydau a chyfleoedd y bobl anabl hynny. Mae'n drueni ein bod, yn yr unfed ganrif ar hugain yng Nghymru, yn gorfod dibynnu ar roddion gan elusennau i ddarparu'r cyfarpar hanfodol hwn ar gyfer addysg plant.

Ysgol Crownbridge yw'r unig ysgol o'i bath yn yr ardal a gobeithiaf y bydd etholaeth Tor-faen yn dilyn ardaloedd eraill wrth gydnabod y galw am y math hwn o addysg gan anelu at ddarparu'r cyfleusterau a'r gofod sydd gymaint eu hangen ar yr ysgol hon. Rhaid inni chwalu pob rhwystr.

Mae gormod o bobl hyn yng Nghymru yn wynebu ansicrwydd ariannol, arwahanrwydd a gwasanaethau nad ydynt yn hygyrch iawn. Er y gall pobl ddisgwyl byw'n hwy bellach, golyga hyn nad yw ansawdd bywyd llawer o bobl sydd wedi ymddeol yn rhoi boddhad a mwynhad iddynt. Gall iechyd gwael, tai gwael ac ofn troseddu, gyfyngu ar annibyniaeth pobl hyn a'u gallu i gymryd rhan ym mywyd eu cymunedau.

Ystyria'r Cynulliad fod ymddygiad gwrthgymdeithasol yn fater difrifol, ond yr wyf yn gweld effeithiau hyn ar draws y de-ddwyrain yn rhy aml. Yn y Betws, Casnewydd, er enghraifft, yr oedd arweinwyr y gymuned yn galw yn ddiweddar am osod teledu cylch cyfyng mewn man lle daethpwyd o hyd i ddyn wedi'i anafu'n ddifrifol. Yn drasig, bu farw'n ddiweddarach.

Bu'n sioc ddirfawr i'r ystâd gyfan, ac mae llawer yn rhy ofnus hyd heddiw i fentro allan i'r siopau gyda'r nos. Yr oedd pobl leol wedi tynnu sylw'r awdurdodau at grwpiau yn loetran o amgylch yr ardal ers tro. Paham na wnaethpwyd dim? Yn dilyn y trosedd, nododd Cyngor Dinas Casnewydd nad oedd arian ar gael iddo estyn system teledu cylch cyfyng y ddinas. Rhaid inni gymryd camau cadarnhaol.

Mae ymddygiad gwrth-gymdeithasol yn parhau i fod yn broblem yn y de-ddwyrain. Arestiwyd ymron i 4,000 o bobl ifanc yng Ngwent y llynedd. Paham fod pobl yn eu harddegau yn y de-ddwyrain yn troi at droseddu a beth mae'r Cynulliad yn ei wneud i helpu i atal hynny?

A ydym yn darparu digon o gyfleoedd a chyfleusterau iddynt? Paham fod ymddygiad gwrthgymdeithasol yn digwydd yn y lle cyntaf? Ai oherwydd diflastod a phrinder cyfleoedd? Mae ymddygiad gwrthgymdeithasol wedi cyrraedd ei anterth.

Rhaid inni sicrhau bod cyfle i bobl ddysgu yn eu cymunedau neu'n agos i ble y maent yn byw, boed yn addysg academaidd, galwedigaethol neu sgiliau bywyd a hynny ar bob cam o'u bywydau. Mae llawer o rwystrau i'w cael o hyd i atal pobl rhag manteisio ar gyfleoedd gwaith a dysgu.

Heb addysg dda ni ellir sicrhau cyfiawnder cymdeithasol. Yr her i Lywodraeth y Cynulliad yw torri'r cylch amddifadedd. Gwelwyd rhywfaint o gynnydd, ond mae gormod o bobl yng Nghymru o hyd yn cael eu geni a'u magu mewn tlodi gan farw mewn tlodi. Rhaid inni dargedu tlodi ac anghyfiawnder ar bob cam ym mywydau pobl. Felly gallwn atal amddifadedd rhag troi'n ffordd o fyw a gaiff ei throsglwyddo o genhedlaeth i genhedlaeth.

Ers i Lafur ddod i rym, mae'n fwriadol wedi creu diwylliant sy'n ddibynnol iawn ar y wladwriaeth. Mae gormod o ddibyniaeth ar y wladwriaeth honno. Mae hyn yn lleihau cyfleoedd a rhyddid. Ni chaiff cymunedau eu creu o'r brig i'r bôn; cânt eu ffurfio o'r bôn i'r brig.

Mae angen cefnogaeth ar ein cymunedau er mwyn iddynt allu rheoli'u tynged eu hunain. Yn amlwg, mae angen cydweithio a gweithio mewn partneriaeth wrth fynd ati i ymdrin â thlodi ac amddifadedd. Mae'n hanfodol inni weithio gyda'n gilydd. Rhaid inni barhau i weithio gyda'r sectorau gwirfoddol, cymunedol a phreifat ac anelu at wella'r rôl bwysig sydd gan fentrau cymdeithasol i'w chwarae.

Rhaid inni wynebu'r her yng Nghymru heddiw a dod o hyd i atebion i'r problemau a wynebwn mewn cymdeithas er budd y de- ddwyrain ac er budd Cymru."

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