Tomorrow I await with baited breath the details of this new measure that is set to give “a clear direction for the Welsh Assembly Government’s aim of improving the quality of life and equality of opportunity for every community in Wales.”
This measure will place a duty for the first time on Welsh Ministers to develop a new child poverty strategy for Wales. I thought they already had a child poverty strategy? The Assembly has set a target of eradicating child poverty in Wales by 2020 and this is a key step in meeting that target, so will they?
Well lets have a look at the passage of this measure so far shall we? To get the power Gwenda Thomas proposed an LCO in July of 2007. It was passed in April 2008, and the measure is being introduced tomorrow (3rd March) at Plenary. So that’s around the two year mark so far. So what have the Assembly done to tackle child poverty while they wait for the legislative powers? Can you think of anything?
The WAG has found time to conduct a study into child poverty (in February 2008), with help from a respected children’s charity. It found that:
1 in 4 kids in Wales live beneath the poverty line
1 in 10 kids in Wales live in severe poverty
The report tells us that:
“Child poverty is one of the greatest threats to the well-being of the people of Wales. Despite some reduction in child poverty since the late 90s, the numbers living below the poverty threshold are still some way off the targets for both 2010 and 2020”
Ok so the Assembly needs to do something drastic to meet its targets and more importantly eradicate child poverty. So what far reaching programmes can we expect in this measure to do that, well in the words of Gwenda Thomas:
“This Measure is highly symbolic. It sets a clear direction for the Welsh Assembly Government’s priority in supporting those in society who are particularly vulnerable and most disadvantaged.”
Surely the time of symbolism has passed? Wales was the first to have a children’s commissioner, whose role and impact is unclear to the vast majority of the population. Surely with time ticking away the WAG needs more than a clear direction, it needs action?
We can expect some new programmes from this measure for example new “Integrated Family Support Teams” and placing “a duty on specific Welsh public bodies to identify and take action”, but is this enough?
The study spells out quite clearly that the causes of child poverty are many, for example:
“There is a strong association between severe child poverty and having at least one parent with a disability; a third of children in severe poverty have a disabled parent.
There is also a strong association between severe child poverty and living in a lone parent household (in large part because lone parents are less likely to have paid work than couple households).
Other factors associated with severe child poverty include: living in a large family; living in an Asian/Asian British family; living in a family where mothers do not have any educational qualifications.”
Will there be anything in the measure on these issues? Has the WAG done enough in this measure, which is designed to help eradicate child poverty by 2020, to tackle these root causes? I know it's too early to tell but it doesn’t look like it.
I guess we will have to wait and see