Jane Hutt MS, Minister for Social Justice
When the Welsh Government introduced the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010, it placed a duty on Welsh Ministers to set child poverty objectives and to report every three years on progress towards achieving those objectives. Today the Child Poverty Progress Report 2022 will be laid before the Senedd.
In previous years, we have reported on the achievements of our programmes to tackle child poverty; the numbers taking part and our progress with plans for the remainder of the Senedd term. However, the last three years have been unlike any we have had to navigate since devolution. Many of our programmes came to a halt during the Covid lockdowns while others were escalated to address the urgency of pandemic and needs of people across Wales.
In this report, we have therefore attempted to capture the way we refocused our funding and adapted our activity to address the immediate needs arising from the pandemic. We have continued to adapt our programmes to respond to the cost-of-living crisis, which is having a disproportionate impact on families who are already financially vulnerable as a result of the pandemic and many citizens with protected characteristics.
We have also endeavoured to capture other work in progress, which will help to tackle child poverty and mitigate its impacts in the longer term.
The report shows we have continually prioritised and made significant investments in a range of policies and programmes to promote prosperity and prevent and mitigate poverty. Despite this, it remains a pervasive issue and our best efforts have been hindered by decisions taken by the UK Government – for example, decisions to cut the £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit which was available during the pandemic and its wider policies on welfare support and equitable funding.
The UK Government continues to hold the key levers to tackle poverty – tax and welfare powers.
The deepening cost-of-living crisis, the long-term impacts of the decision to leave to the European Union, the economic shocks arising from the pandemic and the UK Government’s mismanagement of the economy have all had a profound impact on the socioeconomic wellbeing of people across Wales – particularly the most vulnerable.
The UK economy is in recession; GDP is forecast to fall by 2%; unemployment is expected to rise and real disposable household incomes are set to fall 7% over the next two years – the biggest fall in history. Against this grim economic backdrop, we anticipate levels of poverty will also rise.
The scale of the undertaking to both prevent and lift people out of poverty in Wales is immense. We will continue to do all we can to support people and create a positive future for everyone, but we need to see concerted action from the UK Government to do the same.
We will continue to deliver on our Programme for Government with a commitment to combat poverty and inequality as a central driver in these difficult times and we will work with our partners, including local authorities, the third sector and those with lived experience to support vulnerable households. Our approach will be informed by research undertaken by the Wales Centre for Public Policy.
I have given a commitment to refresh our Child Poverty Strategy so it reflects the current challenging circumstances and sets out a renewed undertaking to supporting those who need support the most.
A consultation will take place in early spring next year.