This week, the Equality and Social Justice Committee of the Senedd has published the report of its inquiry into child poverty – Calling Time on child poverty: how Wales can do better. The inquiry was prompted by the high levels of child poverty in Wales and concerns about the Welsh Government’s draft strategy to eradicate it.
The report provides stark data and challenge, asking:
“Across the United Kingdom 4.2 million children under 18 live in poverty… Why do we tolerate that when we are part of the 6th richest economy in the world?”
The latest figures show 28% of all children in Wales are living in relative income poverty. That is 8 children in a class of 30. Most child health outcomes are socially driven, with the poorest children consistently and disproportionately disadvantaged compared to their more affluent peers. The Committee’s report recommends a root and branch review of the Welsh Government’s approach as it finalises its new child poverty strategy.
At the iHV, we support the Senedd’s Equality and Social Justice Committee call for a dedicated Minister for Babies, Children and Young People to be appointed to provide a more coherent response to the scourge of child poverty.
Under the current Welsh Government arrangements, the Minister for Social Justice has responsibility for tackling child poverty, while the Deputy Minister for Social Services and the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing lead on children’s well-being issues, and the Minister for Education retains responsibility for their educational attainment.
The Committee is calling for one Minister to be accountable for the wellbeing and happiness of babies, children and young people. This role should incorporate overall responsibility for tackling child poverty and implementing children’s rights with other key areas such as childcare, education and supporting families.
The report is also recommending that the Welsh Government set ambitious and realistic interim and longer-term targets for reducing child poverty, learning from the approaches taken in other countries such as Scotland, Norway and New Zealand.
Jenny Rathbone, MS Chair of the Equality and Social Justice Committee, said:
“Our central message is that the Welsh Government needs to follow the evidence and prioritise those policies which make the maximum contribution to tackling child poverty. This may involve difficult decisions and trade-offs. But it must embed children’s rights in policy and in practice.
“The Government needs to overcome its aversion to setting targets. The evidence from Scotland and New Zealand is clear: targets work. Alongside other measures and milestones, they set the direction of travel, and keep track of progress.
“Finally, appointing a Minister for Babies, Children and Young People would send the clearest signal that Wales is serious about giving every child the best start in life.”