Vaughan Gething, Deputy Minister for Tackling Poverty
The Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 placed a duty upon the Welsh Government to report progress on the implementation of its 2011 Child Poverty Strategy. Our first progress report is being published today, 29 November 2013. We remain committed to the target of eradicating child poverty by 2020. This target focuses our efforts on making a real difference and reducing the number of children living in poverty in Wales.
Since the Child Poverty Strategy was published in 2011, there has been real progress to align the strategic priorities set out in the Programme for Government, the Child Poverty Strategy, the Tackling Poverty Action Plan and the Strategic Equality Plan. We have a clear focus on tackling poverty as a whole government – and are building on the evidence, evaluation and good practice that has emerged over the past three years. This joined up approach has strengthened the opportunity to improve the outcomes of children, young people and families living in poverty.
This first progress report highlights a number of key developments in Wales:
- The percentage of children living in workless households has been decreasing since 2009.
- The percentage of working age adults with no qualifications has reduced each year since 2006.
- There has been a small reduction in the education attainment gap between those eligible for free school meals and those not eligible between 2009/10 and 2011/12.
Although some progress has been made over the past three years, we are under no illusions that we have a difficult task ahead: The impact of the budget cuts has forced the Welsh Government and the whole public sector to re-think ways of working. The recent years of a flat economy, rising living costs and cuts to welfare are likely to push people further into poverty.
Nonetheless, we are unwavering in our commitment to address child poverty with the levers available to us, as shown in the unique actions we are taking here in Wales: This includes a strong focus on improving the skills of young people in low income households, reducing the number of homes where no-one works, raising the educational attainment of those from the poorest backgrounds and investing in services that help children being brought up in deprived communities.
Going forward, continuing to invest in reducing the link between deprivation and attainment will be critical. Raising levels of attainment and increasing skills will also enable young people and adults to move into well-paid jobs. This will help to reduce levels of in-work poverty in Wales, which have been increasing in recent years.
It is a fact that many of the key policy levers around tackling income poverty (such as changes to the tax and benefits system) lie within the control of the UK Government. Changes to the tax and benefit system in recent years have undoubtedly contributed to the scale of the challenge we face. However, the Welsh Government has a significant role to play in improving the employment, education, skills and health outcomes of low income families.
I believe we are doing more and going further than the UK Government and our determination to act remains. We expect to make further progress through our Tackling Poverty Action Plan, which sets out specific targets and milestones for tackling child poverty and improving the outcomes of the low income families. We will be using the evidence from our evaluation of the Child Poverty Strategy to inform further decision making on where to invest, in order to maximise our chances of tackling child poverty.
We recognise we cannot tackle poverty alone. The public sector, private sector and wider third sector have much to contribute and much to gain from tackling poverty. The Welsh Government remains committed to working with all of our partners to deliver on the objectives of the Child Poverty Strategy for Wales and our Tackling Poverty Action Plan.