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Long-term response vital to tackling poverty in Wales, review concludes

26 September 2022

Sustained and coordinated action is needed to address poverty in Wales, according to academics from Cardiff University.

A major 18-report review from the Wales Centre for Public Policy (WCPP), which was undertaken in partnership with the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the New Policy Institute (NPI), provides a substantial bank of evidence for policymakers as they consider how to help those struggling to make ends meet. The work was commissioned by the Welsh Government.

The review highlights how the current cost-of-living crisis – with recent rises in inflation and the cost of energy – has deepened long-standing challenges in Wales, where almost one in four people live in poverty; a situation that has changed little over the last two decades.

A whole public sector response is needed, say researchers, with the Welsh Government having a crucial role to play in supporting and challenging partners to deliver.

Drawing on expert views, as well as the lived experiences of those living in poverty in Wales via focus groups, the review suggests four key areas on which the Welsh Government could focus and mobilise a Wales-wide response:

  • Finding effective ways of reducing costs and maximising income to ensure that households’ basic needs are consistently met.

“You have got to choose which one…Do I pay the gas and electric? Do I make myself more in debt so that we can eat?”

  • Supporting longer-term ‘pathways’ out of poverty through access to better paid work, flexible and affordable childcare and transport and wider socio-economic participation.

“[You] get to your mid-thirties and you are no better off than when you were watching your parents do the same thing.”

  • Creating an enabling environment by tackling barriers such as lack of quality housing, appropriate infrastructure, and green spaces to improve quality of life.

“…a journey that took half an hour in the car was more like two hours on the bus and the earliest option arrived into the city nearly half an hour later than many employers expect you to be in work.”

  • Tackling the mental load and mental health impacts of poverty by addressing the emotional and psychological burden carried by those living in poverty and social exclusion through challenging stigma and promoting respect and dignity to all.

“It’s a vicious circle because no matter what you’re always going to worry about one thing or another. My son is worried to death – ‘how am I gonna manage mum?’”

Dan Bristow, Director of Policy and Practice at the WCPP, said: “Attention has rightly been focused on the response to the immediate energy crisis, but now is the time to start planning for the response over the medium and longer-term too.

“The continually evolving situation owing to the Coronavirus pandemic, cost-of-living crisis, war in Ukraine and the implications of changes to UK and Welsh Government budgets, as well as other factors, point to the need for a dynamic approach to addressing poverty in Wales.

“That said, our work shows that there is no easy solution, just the hard work of leading a whole public sector response, and a relentless focus on delivery.”

Welcoming the review, Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt said: “It’s vitally important that we take a long-term approach to tackling poverty and the root causes of poverty. This cannot and should not be seen as a singular issue, that’s why the Welsh Government has been working tirelessly to ensure a Government-wide approach is delivered to tackling poverty in Wales.

“This year alone, the Welsh Government will spend £1.6bn on schemes targeted towards the cost-of-living crisis and on programmes which put money back in people’s pockets.

“Schemes such as the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, free prescriptions, the Education Maintenance Allowance, free bus travel for the over 60s, free breakfasts in primary schools, the roll out of free school meals for primary age pupils, the most generous scheme for student support as well as funded childcare help for families with the cost of the school day.”

The review includes:

- an analysis of the nature and state of poverty and social exclusion in Wales;
- an overview of what makes an effective strategy to tackle poverty and;
- an international evidence review of effective interventions addressing 12 different aspects of poverty including food insecurity, fuel poverty and household debt.

Read the reports: Poverty and Social Exclusion

WCPP is a member of SPARK - the Social Science Research Park. Based on Cardiff Innovation Campus, SPARK brings together 12 specialist social science research centres and institutes in a bespoke hub, sbarc|spark, which opened this year.

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