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Written Statement - Welsh Government’s Response to the UK Statement on Child Poverty

Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty

On 1 July 2015, the UK Government issued an Oral Statement on child poverty. The Statement outlined their intention to step away from the UK Government target to eradicate child poverty by 2020, which underpins the Child Poverty Act 2010, and introduce legislation to change the way child poverty is currently measured.  This will mean a move away from measuring child poverty using a relative income measure, which is defined as the percentage of children living in households below 60% of the median income.  Instead, the UK Government plans to introduce a new statutory duty to report on measures which are focussed on worklessness and educational attainment. Alongside these new statutory measures, they will also be developing a range of other indicators to measure the progress against the root causes of poverty. This will include measures on family breakdown, problem debt and drug and alcohol dependency.

Whilst the target in the Child Poverty Act is a UK Government target, the purpose of this Statement is to confirm the Welsh Government will maintain its ambition to eradicate child poverty by 2020.

We will also continue to use the relative measure of poverty to assess whether we are delivering against this ambition, as one of a suite of poverty indicators we already use to measure the outcomes of low income households, as part of our Tackling Poverty Action Plan and revised Child Poverty Strategy. This includes indicators on the number of children living in workless households and educational attainment amongst pupils eligible for Free School Meals. We also have no intention of amending the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010, which provides the legislative framework for tackling child poverty in Wales.

Despite recognising the considerable challenges posed by the ambition to eradicate child poverty, our recent consultation on our revised Child Poverty Strategy has shown how important it is to maintain a focus on this ambition. It maintains momentum, prioritises the issue and  sends a strong and clear message to all partners and external stakeholders that tackling child poverty should be a key objective for all of us. Everyone needs to concentrate their efforts to support those living in low income households to achieve better outcomes.

We are fully aware of the significant challenges ahead in terms of delivering on our ambition. Ongoing analysis of the impact of welfare reform in Wales, continues to highlight their disproportionate impact on those around the poverty line and particularly those households with children.  Despite this backdrop, we remain committed to doing all we can with the levers  available.  Our revised Child Poverty Strategy set two new objectives for tackling child poverty in Wales. The first is to use every available lever to create a strong economy and labour market which supports the tackling poverty agenda and reduces in-work poverty in Wales. The second is to support families living in poverty to increase household income through debt and financial advice, action to address the “poverty premium” (where households pay disproportionally more for goods and services) and action to mitigate the impacts of welfare reform.  At the same time, we will continue our focus on reducing the number of children living in poverty, increasing skills to enable parents and young people to secure well paid employment and reducing the inequalities which currently exist in the health, education and economic outcomes of those living in poverty.  

Through our Tackling Poverty Action Plan, we will continue to tackle the root causes of poverty, with a specific focus on investing in the early years, improving educational attainment and supporting people into work. The targets we have in our Action Plan are all driving progress and we remain fully committed to delivering each one.

As stated in the revised Child Poverty Strategy, we will continue to develop our understanding of what it will take to achieve the required shift in the headline indicator on child poverty.  Work will be taken forward to provide an assessment of what needs to be achieved by when, if we are to eradicate child poverty.  We will be using this work to develop interim outcomes and milestones.  Partnership working and a collaborative approach to tackling child poverty will be critical in taking this work forward.