Adequate standard of living and poverty – Welsh Government assessment
Wales has the highest levels of poverty in the UK, with no significant improvements in people’s outcomes over recent years. The number of people relying on food banks has risen and the percentage of people living in relative income poverty remains high. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is likely to further increase levels of poverty, though the full impact is yet to be understood. While efforts have been made to reduce costs and extend financial support to those living in poverty, the root causes are not being addressed in a comprehensive and systematic way. The primary policy and fiscal levers rest with the UK Government.
- Between 2017–18 and 2019–20, 23% of people in Wales lived in relative income poverty, (approximately 710,000 people) – the highest rate of the UK nations. Children are most at risk of living in poverty; during the same period, 31% of children lived in relative income poverty.
- Disability and being from an ethnic minority group have been linked with a greater likelihood of relative income poverty.
- Between 2017–18 and 2019–20, 120,000 working-age adults in Wales were in relative poverty after housing costs, despite living in households where all adults worked. 71% of children living in relative income poverty lived in households where at least one person was working.
- The Welsh Government’s COVID-19 Socioeconomic Subgroup report (2020) found that factors influencing negative COVID-19 outcomes for ethnic minority people included structural and systemic racism, as well as income and employment insecurity.
- The economic impact of the pandemic has not been felt evenly across Wales. More than one in five households with a net income of less than £20,000 have seen their income fall since January 2021, while roughly the same number of households with a net income of more than £40,000 have seen incomes increase. Renters, lone parents, disabled people and younger adults are also more likely to have experienced declining living standards.
- There was a 69% increase in the emergency supplies provided by Trussell Trust food banks across Wales between 2015–16 and 2020–21.
- In April 2020, there was an 89% increase in the number of people supported by food banks, and a 101% increase in the number of children they supported, compared with April 2019.
- The number of children eligible for free school meals in Wales increased by 30% between 2016–17 and 2020–21.
- Approximately 16% of the working-age population worked in a sector shut down by the pandemic. This was projected to reduce the earnings of young adults, many ethnic minorities, women, and those on lower incomes.
- In 2016, the Welsh Government stated that it would not meet its target of ending child poverty in Wales by 2020 and, as a result, the Welsh Government no longer works towards specifically eradicating child poverty.
- Despite repeated calls from the Welsh Parliament’s Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee to develop a cross-cutting, comprehensive poverty strategy, the Welsh Government has rejected the recommendation on two occasions.
- The Welsh Government’s welfare benefit take-up campaign, launched in March 2021, helped people claim over £650,000 in welfare benefit income.
- The Welsh Government’s ‘Programme for government 2016 to 2021’ strategy, ‘Prosperity for All’, focused on the promotion of economic prosperity, but the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights stated in 2019 that it ‘has no strategic focus … and lacks clear performance targets and progress indicators’.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on adequate standard of living and poverty.