Looking back on 2023

Bevan Foundation Calendar displaying January with glasses
Image by Leeloo Thefirst on Pexels
ViewsDecember 31st, 2023

As 2023 draws to a close, Bevan Foundation Director, Victoria Winckler, looks back at the big issues of the year and the Bevan Foundation’s achievements.

I am sorry to being writing this, but 2023 has proved to be as dismal as many forecast:  households have continued to be severely squeezed by rising prices, many public services feel close to collapse despite heroic efforts of their workers, and the rhetoric about some of the most vulnerable people in society has plumbed new depths. It has been a truly horrible year. 

The year began with double digit inflation.  

Even though the rate of inflation has fallen over the year, to 3.9% in November, prices are still rising – something that cost £100 in January 2023 now costs £104.14.  Wages have barely kept pace and nor have benefits, despite the welcome inflationary increase in social security payments in April.  As a result, as the Bevan Foundation’s Snapshot of Poverty survey showed, 15% of people in Wales sometimes or often could not afford essentials such as food or heating, and a further third could only afford the basics but nothing more.  

The Bevan Foundation is proud that it helped to ease the financial pressure on Welsh households over the year, by helping to persuade the Welsh Government to increase Education Maintenance Allowance for low-income learners by £10 a week, by prompting a UK-wide call to unfreeze Local Housing Allowance from April 2024, and by increasing the cash help from Welsh Government for people in financial crisis. We’re also pleased that free school meals for all primary pupils are being rolled out, following the Foundation proving it is affordable, and that steps are being taken to streamline and integrate various devolved grants and allowances into a Welsh Benefits system, following our long campaign.  

Public services in crisis

Across Wales, public services are struggling to cope with unprecedented demand, exhausted workers and lack of cash.  Health services, social care, housing, education and bus services have all been in the spotlight for various shortfalls, with the Bevan Foundation’s monthly State of Wales briefings highlighting that it is almost always people on low incomes who suffer most from failures in public services. Our call for a universal basic services guarantee has been on the back burner, but continues to be a standard governments should aspire to.

Hardest hit 

Some of the most vulnerable groups in Welsh and UK society have been on the receiving end of unprecedented vitriol. People fleeing war or torture are labelled criminals and risk deportation to Rwanda, and if their claim for asylum is upheld they are evicted from their accommodation in as little as seven days. At the same time, homelessness is portrayed as a lifestyle choice and people who are too ill or disabled to work are described as opting for a ‘life on benefits’.  

While immigration policy is not devolved, there is more that Welsh and local government can do to support people in Wales who are suffering its consequences.  Over the year, the Bevan Foundation called for the Welsh Government to recognise the importance of all migrants in Wales, which it is now doing, and to back its ‘Nation of Sanctuary’ with meaningful access to legal advice and provision of essential services. It’s taking some welcome first steps but there’s a way to go.

Who knows what 2024 will bring, but forecasters have never been so downbeat. From KPMG to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the economy is expected to be weak, with rising unemployment, and household incomes are forecast to fall further.  Public spending cuts in UK and Welsh services are set to continue.  In tough times, we can expect the blame game to be ramped up further as politicians of all stripes try to shift public attention away from their actions.

As we go into this next year, the Bevan Foundation will keep creating insights, ideas and impacts to create a fair and just Wales.

But we can’t do it without you. Please help us make a difference with our work by becoming a regular supporter or subscriber.

Leave a Reply


Search and filter the archive using any of the following fields:

  • Choose Type:

  • Choose Focus:

  • Choose Tag: