New Welsh poverty figures threaten 2020 child poverty target

New  research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation  released today shows that meeting the Welsh Government’s target of eradicating child poverty by 2020 will mean the rate has to fall four times more quickly over the next ten years than it did over the last decade. The latest figures also show almost one in four people in Wales across all age groups - 680,000 - are in poverty.

The research, carried out by Anushree Parekh and Peter Kenway of the New Policy Institute, shows that the child poverty rate fell quite quickly from the early 2000s up to 2005/06, but has risen again since then. Although the rate is still less than a decade ago, the proportion of children living in low-income households has gone up by five per cent over the last five years to 33 per cent – around 200,000 children.

Half the children in poverty belong to working families where the income they get from their work is insufficient to take them out of poverty. The child poverty target cannot be met just by getting families into work. In-work poverty must come down too.

Yet the employment situation is very bleak. Some 300,000 people are currently either unemployed, economically inactive but wanting work (for instance sick or lone parents), or in a part-time job because they cannot find a full-time job. That is almost one in six of the working-age population and a 50 per cent increase since the employment high-water mark in 2004.

Since then:  

  • Unemployment has more than doubled. 
  • The rise in unemployment has been greater among men than women, especially so among 16 to 24-year-olds (up 23,000 and 5,000 respectively). 
  • Among those aged 25 to 64, unemployment has risen by 22,000 among men and 14,000 among women. 
  • The number of people with a part-time job because they cannot find a full-time one has risen by 23,000. 

At the same time, disability is also an issue affecting poverty in Wales, with a third of low-income, childless working-age adults being either disabled themselves, having a disabled partner or both being disabled.

JRF Policy and Research manager Chris Goulden said:

"The changes to disability benefits will increase the numbers actively seeking work. In an already difficult labour market, this will make it even harder to find work and escape poverty in Wales."

Report co-author Dr Peter Kenway said:

"Eradicating child poverty by 2020 is now a monumental task and we need to go beyond this single target. Making life more tolerable for children in poverty is just as important. The quantity, quality and affordability of services, from play and childcare to health and transport, must be reviewed to ensure that they meet the needs of low-income families. This requires urgent action across the Welsh Government and cannot just be the responsibility of a single child poverty minister - it needs commitment and leadership from the very top."