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Sunday, 15 March 2009

Child Poverty in Cardigan

Speech time in Cardigan, Monday night 9th March. I shared the stage with Huw Lewis AM and other local representatives in an event organised by CredCer discuss Child Poverty. Child poverty and all kind of poverty is the greatest barrier to social justice, social mobility and personal wellbeing. Poverty will have a deep impact on the child, their family, and their community. It points people in the direction of social exclusion, education problems, poor employment prospects as well as wider health and social problems. But child poverty in the UK is not inevitable and it should not be considered as being inevitable. Poverty is recognised as a fundamental component of the One Wales agreement – set party politics aside it is so important for Wales and Ceredigion that there are two parties in Wales – Labour and Plaid Cymru – who’s very existence is concerned with social justice – and are willing to cooperate on this matter. We do not agree on all matters but on this matter there is unanimity of purpose. The statistics are truly awful and often hidden, I am not a fan of the Wales Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD). Presently 29% of children live in homes where incomes are less than 60% of median values. While the numbers of families living at or below the poverty line in Ceredigion was slightly lower than the Welsh average of 59 per cent, certain areas were significantly higher. In the Cardigan – Teifi Ward, 77 per cent of families are classed as having low incomes, closely followed with the Aberystwyth – Central ward with 74 per cent. Current economic circumstances are likely to make matters worse rather than better. There is a great danger that the positive and aspirational goals of the Assembly will only alleviate matters rather than being a solution. Lets be optimistic and hope that that will not be the case.
The Index is a combination of criteria Income, Education, Health, Access, Housing, Environment and Community - 7 in total. Poverty is a complex problem and solutions will be defined by the action in each of these areas. There is a particular issue in the Teifi and Rhydyfuwch wards here in Cardigan where a higher than average deprivation score in income and housing is masked by a polar opposite score in accessibility due to their close proximity to the town centre. Where there are problems they are masked and overlooked. It is further compounded by the Minister who has decided that the 2005 version of the index rather than the 2008 version will be used to determine support - particularly in choosing Wards eligible to be included in Communities First areas.

In light of these statistics, it is important that Ceredigion County Council and the Assembly Government reappraise the Communities First areas to see whether all areas of multiple deprivation, including high child poverty levels, are covered and open to additional funding.
The need for a coherent national strategic direction on combating child poverty is paramount – that’s why the immediate onset of work of the Child Poverty Delivery Group in implementing the Child Poverty from March 2009 is crucial. As crucial will be the schemes coming out of this. Schemes that share good practice, increase awareness and deal with cross cutting issues. There is a clear danger in placing poverty in a single policy box and its only by policy proofing each policy for poverty will we achieve the goal of poverty elimination by 2020. The Welsh Assembly Government should poverty proof all of its relevant policies.

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