Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
Our Tackling Poverty Action Plan sets out measurable targets and milestones to support better outcomes for those living in poverty. These targets reflect the levers available to us in relation to early years, health, education and reducing worklessness, areas where we have the opportunities to make a real difference. This Annual Report shows positive progress is being made in a range of areas and highlights where more needs to be done to achieve our targets.
The report shows we have succeeded in our target to narrow the gap in educational attainment between those who are receiving Free School Meals and those who are not at Foundation Phase, two years earlier than planned.
We are on track to achieve our targets relating to Housing. During the three year period between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2014, a total of 6,890 additional affordable housing units were delivered across Wales, representing 69% of the increased target of 10,000 additional affordable homes by 2016. We are also on course to exceed the target of bringing 5,000 empty properties back to use in this term of Government.
We are working with a range of different partners to create growth and jobs across Wales. Our Lift Programme, which aims to provide 5,000 training or employment opportunities for people living in workless households by December 2017, has provided over 1,800 opportunities since its launch in March 2014, with over 300 people supported into employment.
We know young people who are not in education, employment or training between the ages of 16 and 24 years are more likely to be living in poverty. We are on course to achieve our targets of reducing the number of young people aged 16-18 years who are not in employment, education or training by 2017.
The second annual summary statistics for the Flying Start programme show we are maintaining the performance of the previous year relating to our early years target and 3 year olds reaching or exceeding their developmental milestones in every domain. Management data shows 85% of Flying Start 3 year olds meeting or exceeding their developmental norms for speech and language skills and 92% in interactive social skills.
The report highlights we have more to do to achieve some of the targets such as narrowing the educational attainment gap at age 15 and improving Healthy Life Expectancy. We are taking significant action and investing in these areas. This includes increasing the Pupil Deprivation Grant to £1,050 this year (rising to £1,150 in 2016/17) and taking action to break the link between mental ill-health and poverty.
Our revised Child Poverty Strategy, launched in March 2015, reaffirms our commitment to deliver the three strategic objectives of the 2011 Child Poverty Strategy. These are focused on reducing the number of children living in workless households, increasing skills and reducing inequalities. In addition, and in light of feedback from external stakeholders during the consultation, the Strategy sets out five key priorities which are aimed at supporting low income households in the “here and now”. New commitments for each of these priorities which are food poverty, childcare, mitigating the impact of Welfare Reforms, housing and regeneration and in-work poverty are included in this report.
We are currently refreshing our approach to tackling poverty, ensuring we are focusing more relentlessly on the root causes. All Government departments have been working together to identify ways we can do more to give children the best possible start in life, help people to secure a job and improve their health and wellbeing. Meanwhile, we continue to do all we can to mitigate the effects of the UK Government’s welfare reforms and austerity measures, which have had a detrimental impact on people in Wales.
There is still much work to do, however, this Report demonstrates our policies and programmes are having a real impact on the lives of those who are living in poverty.