Systemic change is needed if Welsh and local government are to meet the scale of the challenge to alleviate poverty
Poverty has been a long-standing challenge in Wales, but the numbers affected are growing.
Our report looks to help councils make better use of resources to support people in poverty.
Poverty in Wales is not a new phenomenon and tackling poverty, particularly child poverty, has been a priority for both the Welsh Government and councils in Wales. The current cost-of-living crisis means that more people are being affected and families who have been living comfortably are moving into poverty for the first time. Our report looks at the challenges of poverty in Wales and how government is responding.
We found that many of the levers that could be used to alleviate poverty are outside of Wales’s control. The Welsh Government adopted a Child Poverty Strategy in 2011, which was revised in 2015, but this is out of date and the target to eliminate child poverty by 2020 was dropped. We found that councils and partners are prioritising work on poverty, but the mix of approaches and a complicated partnership landscape mean that ambitions, focus, actions, and prioritisation vary widely.
The Welsh Government makes significant revenue funding available but, due to the complexity and nature of the issues, the total level of spend is unknown, and no council knows the full extent of its spending on alleviating and tackling poverty. The short-term nature of grant programmes, overly complex administration, weaknesses in guidance and grant restrictions, and difficulties spending monies means that funding is not making the impact it could. Councils find it hard to deliver preventative work because of the sheer scale of demand from people in crisis.
Despite this, there is a lot of good work happening on the ground to help lessen the impact of poverty. Our recommendations are designed to support decision making in councils and their partners and improve how they target their work.
I acknowledge that scale of challenge that poverty presents. It is essential therefore that Welsh Government and councils maximise their efforts and address the weaknesses identified in my review. We need to ensure all tiers of government work together to help people in need and my recommendations are targeted at supporting improvement.