Tackling child poverty is a “priority” to the Welsh government, but “a lot more work” is needed for the government’s poverty strategy to be “meaningful”, said children’s commissioner Rocio Cifuentes.
The Welsh government aimed to eradicate child poverty by 2020, but struck out the plan in 2016. Families continue to struggle with rising costs, and many must resort to wearing shoes in the wrong size or substituting milk with water for their breakfast cereal.
Children are regarded to be living in child poverty if their household income falls below 60% of the median income of households in the UK. Cherrie Bija, chief executive of a poverty charity called Faith in Families, revealed that situations where families had difficulties fulfilling their child’s basic living needs are commonplace. One particular child who was offered a grant by the charity had outgrown his sole pair of shoes and could not afford milk for his cereal as his mother’s job at a supermarket was not enough to cover such expenses.
The Welsh government’s consultation on its child poverty strategy identified the main factors contributing to child poverty to be a combination of low wages, low benefits, and high costs. It said that addressing child poverty was a priority, and that existing initiatives such as free school meals and the expansion of free childcare were making a positive impact. However, comissioner Cifuentes asserts that there remains a lot more work to be done.
According to Cifuentes, the Welsh government’s child poverty strategy must be more thorough. She calls for specific targets, actions, deliverables, and timescales to be included. As it is now, Cifuentes thinks that it is ‘too broad, really, to be a useful tool to aid measuring and monitoring how well we are doing towards tackling the huge problem of child poverty.’
But the UK government claims that it is providing more financial support to struggling families than ever before, estimating about £3,300 per household. Their efforts also include raising benefits by 10.1%, increasing the national living wage, and setting aside £50 million to aid people with basic living needs.
Latest figures show that about 34% of children in Wales are still living in poverty. Ms. Bija is concerned not only for the health of these children, but also for their mental wellbeing and futures. ‘Just think of all of those thousands of children every day, right now, going to school or going out into our communities, hungry and cold and tired and anxious,’ she says. ‘What do you think their adulthoods are going to look like?’