Adequate standard of living and poverty – Government action
UK Government actions
- In July 2021, the UK Government published its health and disability green paper to explore how the welfare system can better meet the needs of disabled people and those with health conditions.
- In May 2021, the UK Government announced the appointment of a ‘levelling up adviser’ and plans to publish a white paper on levelling up later in the year to introduce initiatives to improve opportunities and livelihoods across the whole country.
- In March 2020, the UK Government announced temporary measures to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including:
- the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, allowing employers to claim a grant to cover 80% of the wages of ‘furloughed workers’. From July 2021 the level of grant was reduced monthly until the scheme ended in September 2021
- the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
- an increase in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit rates, which ended in September 2021 and April 2021 respectively
- the creation of a £500 million ‘hardship fund’
- the provision of food aid for those at greatest clinical risk from COVID-19
- the extension of free school meals to some children of groups with no recourse to public funds.
- In April 2016, the UK Government introduced the National Living Wage. This has increased every year since, and the latest rate (April 2021) was £8.91 per hour for workers aged 23 and over.
- In March 2016, the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 made significant changes to the social security system, including:
- reducing the benefit cap by 23% for families and 26% for single claimants
- freezing the level of certain social security benefits and tax credits between 2016 and 2020
- limiting entitlement to the child element of Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit to two children per household
- removing binding targets to reduce child poverty.
Welsh Government actions
Efforts to reduce poverty relate to both reserved and devolved matters. While social security, many taxes, and employment law are reserved to the UK Government, the Welsh Government has competence over some related areas, as well as having limited tax-raising and borrowing powers.
- In June 2021, the Welsh Government published ‘Programme for government 2021 to 2026’, which sets out its commitments to promote economic, social and environmental justice.
- In May 2021, the Welsh Government announced its intention to develop a pilot universal basic income scheme to support those most in need.
- In February 2021, the Welsh Government extended the Pupil Development Grant access scheme – which helps those eligible for free school meals (FSM) pay for uniform, equipment and activities – to two additional years in primary school and three in secondary school.
- In July 2020, the Welsh Government announced an additional £1.4 million to boost household income and manage problem debt.
- In May 2020, in response to the pandemic, the Welsh Government increased its Discretionary Assistance Fund, which supports people facing financial hardship, by £11 million and relaxed eligibility criteria for Emergency Assistance Payments. A further £10.5 million was announced in the 2021–22 Budget.
- In April 2020, in response to the pandemic, the Welsh Government extended FSM provision to cover the school holidays, and encouraged local authorities to extend provision to children from families with no recourse to public funds. An additional £23 million was made available to extend provision to school holidays in 2021–22.