The shadow of child poverty will continue to loom across our country as children across Wales go back to school this week.
Recent research by Loughborough University commissioned for the End Child Poverty Network, a coalition of organisations which includes Children in Wales, Oxfam Cymru, Barnardo’s Cymru and Save The Children, found last year that Wales was the only UK nation to see a rise in child poverty.
Last year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, found that almost one in four people in Wales are living in relative income poverty.
The Welsh Government’s own child poverty report for 2019 showed an increase in the proportion of children living in poverty from 28% to 29% in 2018-19 and despite child poverty rates in Wales being lower than England they are higher than in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Children born today are now at the highest risk of poverty in sixty years. Parents have to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their children. A growing number of adults and children living in the poorest areas have poorer health outcomes and lower life expectancies.
More people in Wales rely on welfare than in England and Scotland. As zero hours contracts, welfare reform, insufficient and expensive childcare and the lack of a real wage pull more people into poverty, particularly impacting women, disabled people and ethnic minorities, we see a growing number of adults and children living in the poorest areas have poorer health outcomes and lower life expectancies.
Queensway in Wrexham was recently ranked the 9th poorest town in Wales with Caia Park having the worst child poverty rates in the whole of Wales. The poverty there is so bad that Mums live off energy drinks so that their children can eat. The estate has faced so many cuts to public services – not just from the Tories but from the Labour Welsh Government too, with the closure of the anti-poverty Communities First scheme in Wrexham.
Meanwhile, Penrhiwceiber near Mountain Ash in the Cynon Valley has nearly half of its children in poverty. Growing up and living in poverty is no longer the exception in Wales. It is the norm.
One of Plaid Cymru’s main policies during the general election last year was to fight and eradicate child poverty in Wales. That has not changed. We still believe that this should be a wakeup call that politics is failing the next generation.
We still believe that this endemic poverty should be part of our past. We still believe that it doesn’t have to be like this. Poverty is a political choice and it is not inevitable.
The truth is, the child poverty crisis we are now in is a direct result of a neglectful Westminster and the impact of the Conservatives’ cruel cuts and changes to welfare coupled with twenty years of inefficient and apathetic governing by Welsh Labour.
The poverty in our communities is a 21st century scandal, and the Westminster parties have stood by and let this happen. But it doesn’t have to be like this.
If you elect a Plaid Cymru government next year, we will make eradicating child poverty one of our main priorities. One way we would aim to do this is to introduce a new Welsh Child Payment for low-income families which has the potential to lift at least 50,000 children out of poverty.
This payment of £35 a week for every child would drastically transform the lives of young people across Wales – taking them out of poverty and providing them with the best start in life they deserve. Because poverty can have lasting impacts long into adulthood – such as increased risk of homelessness, lower earning potential and greater likelihood of limiting illness.
Plaid Cymru would also fight to gain control over welfare payments to free the people of Wales from cruel, systematic cuts to welfare payments. That would include full control of Universal Credit enabling us, for example, to permanently remove the bedroom tax, like Scotland.
Life expectancy is falling, our transport infrastructure’s failing, homelessness is at crisis proportions, and despite being one of the richest countries in the world in terms of our natural resources we are among the poorest regions in Europe as a result of the power and wealth inequality within the UK.
Yes, there is so much in Wales that needs fixing. But it can be fixed. And Plaid Cymru will fix it.
Whilst Labour in Wales don’t even have a specific strategy to tackle poverty nor even a basic definition of poverty, Plaid Cymru will deliver a competent government that can eradicate poverty within a decade – and make it a number one priority to do so. Because abolishing child poverty should be the number one poverty of any credible government.
We won’t just manage problems. We will solve them. We won’t just offer hope. We will implement real change.
Labour can no longer protect us from the Tories or even claim to do so. It’s time for them to step aside and make way for a government that will. Now is the time for them to step aside and for us to take a stand, to prove that Wales will not settle for ignorant and indifferent governance.
That we have had enough of settling for less – be it from the Tories in Westminster or Labour in Cardiff. That whether in our cities, towns, and valleys, or in our rural and coastal communities, no one in Wales should have to live with the indignity of poverty.
No child should go to school hungry and to bed cold. Let’s give a voice and a vote to those without one. To future generations. To our children.
Poverty is a political choice. Plaid Cymru will make sure that Wales will choose differently.
All articles published on Click on Wales are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.
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