What will it take to end child poverty?

Poverty Child covering her face
ResourcesViewsJune 20th, 2023

June 19th finally saw the publication of a draft child poverty strategy, but will it make a difference? Our Head of Policy (Poverty), Steffan Evans, shares his initial reaction.  

It’s eight years since the Welsh Government published a Child Poverty Strategy. Between the Covid 19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis much has changed since 2015.

Why do we need a child poverty strategy? 

Child poverty is a major problem in Wales. Just two weeks ago, Loughborough University published their latest analysis of child poverty across the UK. They found that more than one in five children are living in poverty in every local authority in Wales, with minimal progress made in reducing child poverty over the past decade.  

A Child Poverty Strategy provides an opportunity to set out how the Welsh Government intends to address child poverty. It provides an opportunity to review what’s worked, identify gaps in provision and explore how the challenge can be addressed more effectively. Given the Welsh Government has just funded the Wales Centre for Public Policy to advise them on effective anti-poverty strategies you might be expecting something ground-breaking. 

What we have got is mixed.

Some good news

The draft Child Poverty Strategy contains some welcome commitments. The plan reiterates many of the actions already being taken by the Welsh Government. The commitment to the Schools Essentials Grant and Free School Meals make a huge difference to families all over Wales, reducing costs and helping to put money back into families’ pockets. Continuation of these schemes is positive.  

The Bevan Foundation is particularly pleased to see a commitment within the Strategy to establishing a Welsh Benefits System. The Bevan Foundation has long argued that establishing such a system could ensure that families across Wales receive the support they are entitled to. The fact that the Strategy contains a commitment to “accelerate work with partners” is therefore a very positive step.  

Room for improvement  

There are features of the draft Strategy where there is room for improvement, however. Perhaps chief amongst these is the lack of detail. A good example is the commitment on childcare and transport costs, which merely says: 

Focus work across government to find affordable solutions to childcare and transport costs to remove barriers to work and make work pay. 

What does this mean in practice? Is there a target as to how many children should have access to free or affordable childcare in the next five years? What barriers will the Welsh Government be seeking to remove to enable more access to affordable transport for children? Without specific targets it will be very difficult for the Welsh Government to measure progress against its ambitions. 

A question of timing 

Looking to the future, the draft Strategy raises questions about how such documents are developed in Wales. The draft Strategy has been published two years into a Senedd term, 18 months into a three year co-operation agreement. As such it is perhaps not surprising that it is at its strongest in bringing together the existing programmes that are already being implemented and at its weakest on new ideas and initiatives.  

The Bevan Foundation looks forward to crafting a fuller response to the draft Strategy over the summer. Making sure we develop a strategy that works as effectively as possible if we are to ease the grip of poverty on Welsh children.  

One Response

  1. Barbara T. Kennedy says:

    Thank you for providing this overview of the new draft Child Poverty Strategy from the Welsh Government. It’s heartening to see that some important steps are being taken, such as the continuation of the Schools Essentials Grant and Free School Meals, as well as the proposed establishment of a Welsh Benefits System.

    However, I wholeheartedly agree with your points about the need for more specificity in the strategy’s commitments. Concrete targets and detailed action plans are critical in making substantial progress in the battle against child poverty. Your critique on the vague wording regarding childcare and transport costs highlights an essential issue.

    Timing is indeed an important factor, and it seems like the draft strategy might benefit from revisiting with fresh ideas and initiatives rather than predominantly focusing on the continuation of existing programs.

    Your work to review and critique the strategy is vital in ensuring a comprehensive and effective approach to child poverty in Wales. Looking forward to your fuller response to the draft strategy.

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