Wales is making progress towards achieving child poverty objectives in a number of areas but still needs to do more Communities and Children’s Secretary Carl Sargeant said today.
Addressing the Assembly, the Cabinet Secretary said:
“Our 2015 Child Poverty Strategy identified five areas where we can do more to help tackle child poverty. Progress has been made in each of these areas.
“Employment in Wales is close to a record high and the number of children living in workless households is at an all time low. We have reduced the gap in educational attainment between pupils eligible for Free School Meals and those who are not, and have exceeded our target for pupils achieving the expected level at Foundation Phase.
“However, we know we need to do more. In 2015, there were still nearly 72,000 children living in workless households and in-work poverty is a growing issue.”
Mr Sargeant highlighted some of the challenges and said a new way of tackling these issues was needed:
“Our commitment to tackling child poverty is not in doubt. However, the decisions and actions of the UK government on welfare reform, which, alongside changes in the labour market play a major part in the forecasted rise in poverty, mean that we are not going to be able to achieve our ambition to eradicate child poverty by 2020.
“The Welsh Government does not hold the primary policy and fiscal levers, especially in terms of the welfare system, needed to enable us to deliver the significant changes needed.
“The issues we face can therefore, only be tackled through new ways of working. Within a context of stretched resources and reducing budgets, we need to focus our efforts where we can have most impact with the levers we have available.”
The Cabinet Secretary set out his vision for tackling child poverty in future. He said:
“I firmly believe that it is time for a new, whole-government approach to building resilient communities to help us deliver on this agenda.
“Improving well-being and economic prosperity are fundamental to improving outcomes for vulnerable children, including those living in poverty. Focusing on three key areas of early years, employment and empowerment will help us to develop communities that can offer children the best start in life; communities that are ready and able to work; and communities that are empowered and engaged, as well as being safe and strong.
“Our statutory framework for tackling child poverty in Wales is provided by the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010. But we also have the opportunity to use the Well-being of Future Generations Act to support a national, all Wales approach to tackling poverty and reducing inequalities, maximising our collective impact in uncertain times with the levers we have at our disposal. Under the Act, a set of 46 National Indicators for Wales will measure national progress towards achieving the seven well-being goals. Progress in tackling child poverty will be assessed using the National Indicators on which the Welsh Government can have most effect.
“We have said before, we cannot tackle poverty alone. Only by working in partnership can we hope to achieve the level and pace of change which is needed to reduce child poverty in Wales. As part of this I have invited organisations to join with us to develop Children’s Zones to help improve the life chances of children and young people living in Wales.
“We need to support families when they need it most and equip services to respond to the challenges of modern times. Our ambition is to make a difference for everyone, at every stage in their lives, now and in the longer term.”