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Lifting children out of poverty, the role of the Welsh Benefits System

June 30th 2020

In its efforts to end child poverty, the Welsh Government has designed a number of schemes to support families with their living costs, such as Free School Meals, the Pupil Development Grant – Access and Healthy Start Vouchers. The Bevan Foundation’s latest publication finds that these schemes can be reformed and improved.

Children are the age group that are most at risk of living in poverty, while working age adults who have children are also at greater risk of poverty than those who do not. The extra costs associated with bringing up children such as the need to buy extra food, extra clothes and live in larger housing can push some families into poverty. It can also deepen the poverty experienced by those already in its grip, deny children many of their basic rights, and reduce their life chances.

Schemes such as Free School Meals are designed to supplement the assistance provided through the UK’s social security system and provide vital support for thousands of households across Wales. We found that many families valued the support they received, but there are a number of shortcomings with the current system:

  • Many low-income families are locked out from receiving support due to arbitrary and inconsistent eligibility criteria.
  • Families are deterred from applying for support due to complicated and inconsistent application processes and stigma.
  • The value of the support is not sufficient to lift people out of poverty.
  • There are many costs associated with raising children which are overlooked by the present system, limiting the effectiveness of existing schemes.

To address these issues and to make a clear commitment as to the minimum quality of life all children in Wales should expect, the Welsh Government should pull together all existing support schemes as part of a broader Welsh Benefits System. The Welsh Benefits System should provide additional support, on top of services that are provided universally, to ensure that families who would otherwise not have the means to attain a decent standard of living, can do so. The Welsh Benefits System should, at the very least ensure that every child is guaranteed:

  • A healthy and nutritious diet
  • Access to good quality education
  • Access to adequate clothing
  • A warm and secure home.

The report outlines reforms that should be made to existing support schemes so that a Welsh Benefits System can ensure that no child in Wales misses out of this minimum standard of living. Amongst these reforms are changes to eligibility criteria to ensure every child living in poverty is provided with access to support, an improvement in the value and quality of support provided and improved administration of each scheme to improve take up.

Report format: PDF
Language: English
Page:  33
Cost:  Free

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