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Why it is time for a social recovery

October 13th 2020

Public services in Wales should lead recovery from coronavirus and help to solve poverty and inequality, says Victoria Winckler as the Bevan Foundation launches its social agenda for the next five years.

Two pupils from Newport work at their desk

The coronavirus outbreak has not hit everyone equally. It’s deepened already high levels of poverty, and brought more people into its grip. It’s surfaced and worsened gender, ethnic and disability inequalities.

Politicians are grappling with how best to repair, recover, rebuild and reconstruct our economy and society – the Welsh Government’s plans for next six months were published last week.

But the severity of the pandemic’s impact, on top of already-stark divisions, needs more than a short-term programme. It needs major reinvestment in our social fabric that will eradicate poverty and inequality for good.

Our latest report sets a far-reaching agenda for how Wales’ public services could transform the lives of people in Wales.

It’s a detailed set of proposals that draws on our recent, carefully-evidenced work. It doesn’t cover everything – there are gaps around aspects of health and social care for example because we simply haven’t worked on them. There is a wealth of changes that will transform Wales. It’s well worth a read, but some of the highlights include:

  • Free, part time, good quality universal childcare will benefit thousands of children and enable their parents to work, study or care for others.
  • A major house building and refurbishment programme will provide a decent, affordable home for people stuck in expensive, damp and insecure accommodation.
  • A new Learning Allowance and the expansion of further education would give young people, the majority of whom don’t go to university, a brighter future.
  • And when times are tough, a new Welsh Emergency Fund would provide essential cash to plug the gaps in Universal Credit.

The beauty of our proposals is that they are deliverable.

This programme is deliverable right now. It doesn’t require new powers – a recipe for long wrangles with the UK Government – and it doesn’t need any new institutions. Indeed a lot of what we are proposing doesn’t even need new legislation – it is simply about using what we have to solve poverty more effectively.

What they do need is investment.

Yes, what we are suggesting does not come free.  Our proposals will require investment in our public services and benefits.  But there are savings to be made, from more effective targeting of resources on people who need them most, and there will be savings from streamlining admin.

Let’s not overlook the major economic stimulus that would come too – our proposals would create jobs, generate demand for other goods and services, and in the long term it would save at least £3bn a year spent on poverty.

But this is about more than money – it is about a decent life for everyone, about the foundations of a civilised society, and about hope for ourselves, our children and Wales.

Victoria Winckler is Director of the Bevan Foundation

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