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Solving Poverty in Wales: Party Candidate Special with Vaughan Gething AM

October 25th 2018

After a busy summer at the National Assembly with three parties electing new leaders, attention has turned this autumn to the Labour Party. To complete our series of articles, this week the three candidates set out how they would solve poverty if they win.

Having already heard from Eluned Morgan AM and Mark Drakeford AM, today it is the turn of Vaughan Gething, the Assembly Member for Cardiff South and Penarth

We face unprecedented challenges in Wales over the next decade. With continuing Tory austerity and Brexit on the horizon, Wales needs certainty and a vision for the future. This contest is about the future. Not just the future of Welsh Labour but even more importantly the future of our country. We need to make a choice. A choice between management and change. A choice between the past and the future. I am unashamedly the candidate of the future.

Welsh Labour has a proud and glorious past that has delivered change and progress for our country. We have been at our best when we are creative, innovative and bold. But that has required leadership and courage. Wales needs that drive again. We need to challenge ourselves to make Wales a nation that leads and does not simply follow others.

Tackling poverty has always been a core aim for our Party. Welsh Labour has taken action on tacking the historic levels of poverty across Wales, but we need to do more. According to the latest data from the Joseph Roundtree Foundation:

The proportion of households living in income poverty in Wales has fallen over the past 20 years, especially among pensioners and lone parents. In the three year period 1994/97, 27% of people in Wales lived in poverty; compared to 23% for the last few years.”

That’s because of the choices we made as a Welsh Labour Government, working together with a UK Labour Government. However, with the election of a Tory Government in Westminster came the calamitous imposition of austerity.

Austerity has hit Wales hard and our ability to seriously tackle poverty with it. Since 2010 the Welsh Government’s block grant has been reduced by £1.8 billion. This has forced us to make difficult decisions, particularly how we allocate funding to support both public services and investing in our economic future. Tory austerity measures have done no favours to the people of Wales. Austerity is driven by Tory dogma and it has continued despite all the evidence of the damage that it has done. In-fact, levels of poverty, especially in work poverty, have sharply increased as a direct result of Tory choices over austerity and welfare reform.

We need to look to the future. We need to provide hope for people left behind by the Tories. We need to regain the trust of the public who view politics and politics as with more suspicion than ever. We need to address their concerns and listen. Politicians often seem distant from the real lived experience of communities that we represent because we talk about issues that don’t appear relevant in a language that is impenetrable. Talking about more AMs, electoral reform and council reorganisation doesn’t register on the radar of public concern. It sounds like politicians talking about themselves not the public that we serve.

Wales needs a leader not a manager.

Tackling poverty in our country should be the top of any incoming First Minsters list. Particularly tackling the scourge of intergenerational poverty in Wales. That’s why, as part of my campaign to be the next Welsh Labour leader, I developed my Pledge for Wales.

The Pledge for Wales

My Pledge for Wales delivers for every generation of the Welsh population. We will:

  • End the scandal of holiday hunger for our children,
  • Improve the childcare offer for people in poverty, education and training,
  • Free university for young people leaving care,
  • Deliver the Living Wage for public sector workers,
  • Provide apprenticeships for all that want them and
  • Create the National Care Service of Wales.

Ending holiday hunger

Child poverty is a stain on society that must be removed. As part of addressing this we need to address the scandal of holiday hunger for our children.

According to the latest figures by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, overall poverty, and both measures of child poverty, are expected to increase across all regions of the UK in the next 4 years. That is unacceptable. It is a direct result of Tory choices. A direct result of Tory austerity.

For our children, we will fight hunger all year round. Holiday hunger should have no place in modern Wales.

An improved childcare offer.

Childcare is a problem for so many families right across Wales. It can be a barrier to either remaining or returning to work. That’s why I am committed to extending our childcare offer.

I want to build upon the current commitment and extend the offer to parents undertaking work related education and training with 3 & 4-year olds and to working parents of 2-year olds living in poverty. In doing so we will take forward the Joseph Rowntree Foundations recommendation. This will go together with a review of how current provision is working.

Free tuition for young people leaving care.

To help raise the ambitions of young people leaving care, I will abolish tuition fees for care leavers in Wales.

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales recently produced the Hidden Ambitions report. It looked at Wales’ commitment to young people leaving care.

Young people leaving care have the same ambitions as any other young people, but they can become hidden when they do not have a family behind them”

We will raise and support the ambitions of our care leavers, removing some of the barriers they face to in making progress with their education. The Pledge for Wales will guarantee, that every care leaver in Wales, will no longer have to pay for university tuition. To those that want it, we will deliver it.

Delivering the Living Wage for public sector workers.

Wage growth has remained stagnant for many workers in the public and private sector and it hasn’t kept pace with inflation. I want to make Wales a Living Wage nation. We will make a start by delivering the Living Wage across the public sector. I mean the real Living Wage and not the Tory version. We will build upon the work already done by a number of our Labour-led councils. We expect to see the living wage progressively implemented across the public sector just as we have done in the NHS. I want us to step up our efforts to deliver the living wage in the private sector, especially with those firms who bid for public sector procurement contracts.

Providing Apprenticeships for all that want them.

We will deliver an Apprenticeship for everyone that wants one. There are significant local authority schemes to build on. In addition to an increased support budget we will make it easier for businesses to get involved. We will also carry forward the review of provision to ensure that the skills acquired match business need. That is crucial if we are to meet the changing world of work with the threats and opportunities that brings.

Creating the National Care Service for Wales

At the start of the campaign I announced my ambition to create the National Care Service of Wales. This would be the biggest change to care in our country since the creation of our NHS 70 years ago. It’s a change that would end rushed 15-minute calls. A change that would deliver independence and dignity. Dignity for people who need care and dignity for people who deliver care.

The National Care Service for Wales, much like the NHS will be a universal service. Delivered by local authorities and funded with our new tax powers in a ring fenced levy.

We should all be clear, doing nothing is not an option. We cannot pretend that the demand for care services can carry on with the same funding. More of the same simply won’t be good enough.

My Pledge for Wales will help to change lives in Wales. There is more that we could and should do to review our approach and generate a plan for action. I am struck by my experience in trying to deliverer the last cross government tackling poverty plan. We need to take control over what we can actually do and we need a real sense of purpose across government to act. We are still held back by silos within government. We are still held back by our inability to create more work and better work. We need ambition and purpose to make a difference. For every generation across Wales, we will deliver.

Change does take courage.

Throughout this campaign, I have said that change takes courage. I genuinely believe that. Come the next election, Welsh Labour will have been in Government for 22 years. We need to change. To renew our Party and chart a new course for our future.

I said at the beginning of this article that this election is about the future. Between a Wales that shies away from difficult and hard choices, or a Wales that stands up to confront the future and understands that change is essential. But change takes courage.

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