Carl Sargeant, Minister for Local Government and Communities and Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services
Today we launch the Tackling Poverty Action Plan.
Our Commitment to social justice and equality of opportunity makes it essential in the current climate that we continue to drive forward tackling poverty by prioritising the needs of the poorest and protecting those most at risk of poverty and exclusion.
We do so against a challenging economic environment where prospects remain very uncertain and with a severe risk of weakening prospects for jobs across the UK and internationally. There are also clear challenges to the Welsh and UK labour markets associated with the UK Government’s programme of fiscal austerity. In this context the welfare and benefits reforms introduced by the UK Government threaten to drive many of the most vulnerable members of our society into severe poverty and to undermine our efforts to reduce poverty overall.
We cannot do everything that needs to be done but we will do all we can and we will do it well. We will do it not just because it is right, though a life free from poverty is indeed a civil right, but because it makes financial and economic sense. Poverty results in poorer educational, health and behavioural outcomes for individuals. Poverty imposes enormous costs on society from lower economic productivity, reduced social cohesion and increased demands on public services such as health care and children’s services. The lower level of skills; poor health and poverty of ambition that deprivation brings with it are a brake on the potential of the Welsh economy.
Our Tackling Poverty Action Plan and our Strategic Equality Plan will work together to achieve better outcomes for everyone in Wales. Our Tackling Poverty actions will supplement the delivery of our statutory Child Poverty Strategy and build on complementary strategies such as the Fuel Poverty Strategy.
Given that many of the factors that influence poverty directly and immediately are outside our control, it is even more important that we optimise what we can do and that we can measure the outcomes of those actions. The effectiveness of our actions will depend on our capacity to do things differently and to maximise the impact of what we do by being more focused and joined up across departments and with our partners.
The challenges are not ones that Government can meet on its own. We will now engage even more closely across all sectors to take forward and develop the actions in this plan.
This is not about putting a sticking plaster of additional actions on top of existing programmes. It is about tackling poverty through everything we do.
In keeping with our commitment to long-term well being, and consistent with the Cabinet’s declared intention in its statement of 7 March, the key objectives of our Tackling Poverty actions are:
- to prevent poverty, especially through investment in giving children the best possible start in life. From conception through to early adulthood, our aim will be to reduce inequality at the earliest possible stage and break the link between socio-economic disadvantage, educational under achievement and the impaired life chances that flow from these;
- recognising that the best route out of poverty is through employment, we will continue to help people to improve their skills and enhance the relevance of their qualifications. We will also remove other barriers to employment – from practical barriers such as the accessibility of transport and buildings to less tangible barriers such as poverty of aspiration - helping people to move on to and up the employment ladder;
- at the same time, we will increase action to mitigate the impact of poverty here and now. We recognise that for more and more people, even being in work will not guarantee that they can escape poverty. We can act to improve the quality of life of these communities, families and individuals.
For each of these three objectives, the Tackling Poverty Action Plan gives examples of what the Welsh Government has put in place previously, illustrating a long standing “track record” of commitment to social justice and equality; what this Government is already doing to tackle poverty; and what we will now do in addition, to place an even greater priority on action that will have a positive impact for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. We will refresh and report progress on the plan in 12 months.
One of our biggest challenges and opportunities is to make the sum of our actions greater than their parts by integrating them properly. We will aim to do this through the leadership of our Ministerial Programme Board and our Tackling Poverty External Advisory Group.