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Big Issue Founder Lord Bird urges Wales to keep fighting poverty

April 19th 2018

Dean Williams, Big Issue vendor, Sophie Howe, The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue, Director of the Bevan Foundation, Victoria Winckler

With 1 in 4 people in Wales living in relative poverty and the issue costing the Welsh public purse of £3.6 billion a year, we were delighted to welcome Big Issue founder Lord John Bird to our event today to discuss the urgent need for more preventative measures to address poverty and social exclusion.

Alongside the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe, Lord John Bird gave a passionate and heartfelt speech to an audience of over 100 in which he demanded an end to the period of just talking about poverty, and argued for a focus on delivery.

Organised in collaboration with Big Issue Cymru, ‘Prevention and inclusion: lessons for tackling poverty’, took place at the National Assembly for Wales’ Pierhead building and was kindly hosted by Mark Isherwood AM.

Lord Bird praised the Bevan Foundation’s all-encompassing plans to cut the poverty rate in Wales to just 10% by 2030 and ensure no one is ever destitute. He also publicly expressed his support for the Well-being of Future Generations Act, calling on a replication of the Act in England.

He said: “It’s been brilliant to be in Cardiff to help spark a national dialogue about the ways we can work together to tackle poverty. I am delighted to see the Bevan Foundation taking such a thorough approach to understanding and solving the root causes of poverty in Wales, which are ever-present and eating away at our society.”

“I applaud the visionary spirit of the Well-being of Future Generations Act that Wales has committed to – and that Sophie and her team are making a reality. By fixing our focus on prevention, and learning the lessons from Wales, we can build a society based on social justice – and one that offers our children hope for their futures.”

Poverty affects educational attainment, employment prospects, health, relationships and life expectancy. Historically, efforts to address it have focused on curing rather than preventing the problem.

The Bevan Foundation has already taken great strides to tackle the issue by putting long-term prosperity on the Welsh agenda and securing growth hubs in the Valleys. Last month, at the Senedd, we launched the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s new report ‘Poverty in Wales’ which highlighted that poverty rates in Wales are higher than in other parts of the UK. The situation is expected to get worse, with child poverty predicted to reach 40% by 2021.

Bevan Foundation Director, Victoria Winckler, said: “We’re delighted to have welcomed Lord John Bird and Sophie Howe here today and grateful to them for sharing their valuable experiences and sparking such insightful discussion. The Bevan Foundation is wholeheartedly committed to the preventative approach to solving poverty. By ensuring an inclusive economy with diverse businesses, fair and decent jobs and housing that is affordable and secure, we will prevent poverty both from increasing and impacting our future generations.”

Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales said: “Money is not a reflection of prosperity here in Wales, merely a measure of it. Living in poverty in Wales means more than just not having a lot of money. The consequences of poverty are wide-reaching, affecting all things from health, job-status, air quality, educational prospects and employment.  That is why it is important that we see poverty in the round and tackling it becomes everyone’s business – not just for the benefit of people now but because of its long-term impact on future generations.

“Poverty should never be considered an inevitability – the principles within the Future Generations Act around acting to prevent problems, thinking in an integrated way, working with others and involving people in finding solutions holds the key to tackling many of our most challenging long terms problems and can allow us to construct a future where poverty is a thing of the past.”

‘Prevention and inclusion: lessons for tackling poverty’ was generously supported by Capital Law and Pobl Group.

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