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23 April 2015

Tackling poverty in Wales

Tackling poverty in Wales

Wales has seen a dramatic rise in the use of food banks over the past twelve months. On Wednesday, 22 April, Trussell Trust released their yearly report on how many times people in the UK had received three days' worth of emergency food from them. 

In Wales food banks were used 85,875 times, and 30,136 of these food parcels were for children. This was a staggering six-fold increase from the 14,696 uses in 2011-12, with the three main reasons why people in Wales were referred to food banks being: benefit delays (31 per cent), low incomes (24 per cent) and benefit changes (14 per cent).

Fears over growing food poverty in Wales have been mounting for a while, with Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood warning in an Assembly debate on the issue in December 2013 that it could be the next public health emergency.

The same week as the Assembly debate also saw the launch of a report produced by the Church in Wales and Oxfam Cymru which addressed poverty in general. Truth and Lies About Poverty highlighted with facts and figures six common myths about people living in poverty. The Archbishop of Wales has consistently been outspoken about the malaise of poverty in the nation and on 15 April, in an address to members of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales, urged people to vote in the general election and to vote for policies that benefitted poor and oppressed people.

The four main parties in Wales have all released Welsh manifestos and here are some of the ways in which they have addressed poverty:

  • The Conservatives pointed to a decrease in workless households, pensioner poverty, child poverty and inequality under their government while pledging to eliminate child poverty if re-elected.
  • Labour looked at in-work poverty – whereby people are in work but not able to make ends meet – but focused mainly on tackling child poverty. The devolved Welsh government has also recently revised their Child Poverty Strategy for Wales and continues to make tackling child poverty a key priority.
  • The Liberal Democrats highlighted fuel poverty, with rising transport costs contributing to poverty in rural Wales. This emphasis is not surprising, considering that two of their three Welsh seats in the 2010 general election were in the rural constituencies of Ceredigion and Brecon & Radnorshire, and that Montgomeryshire has been held by Liberal/Liberal Democrat MPs for most of the past 100 years.
  • Plaid Cymru touched on a range of poverty-related issues – in-work poverty, child poverty, pensioner poverty and fuel poverty.