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Written - Child Poverty Strategy and Delivery Plan for Wales

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Huw Lewis, Deputy Minister for Children

I would like to inform Assembly Members that we will be publishing a new Child Poverty Strategy and Delivery Plan for Wales tomorrow (12 May 2010) for consultation. The consultation period will last for three months – ending on 12 August 2010.

 

The new legislative framework that is now in place through the Child Poverty Act 2010 and our own Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 means that, for the first time, there will be a statutory framework to drive child poverty action stretching from the UK Government, the Welsh Assembly Government, through to local authorities and other public agencies. 

 

The new Child Poverty Strategy sets out the Welsh Assembly Government’s vision for tackling child poverty in Wales and improving outcomes for children and parents living in low income families.  The Strategy will confirm that the Assembly Government will set itself three new strategic child poverty objectives which will provide the overarching framework for our action on child poverty reduction across the whole of Government. The Strategy’s accompanying Delivery Plan sets out the policy action the Assembly Government will deliver to achieve these strategic objective and ultimately our 2020 vision of a Wales where no child or young person is disadvantaged by poverty

 

The Children and Families (Wales) Measure, which became law in February 2010, places a duty on Welsh Ministers to publish a strategy to reduce child poverty, and to keep this under review. This new Child Poverty Strategy for Wales and accompanying Delivery Plan fulfils this commitment for Welsh Ministers.

 

Specifically, the new Child Poverty Strategy for Wales provides strategic direction for the Welsh Assembly Government in relation to tackling child poverty and improving outcomes for those children and young people living in low income households. The framework for the policy action contained in the new Child Poverty Strategy has been provided by the 13 Broad Aims that are set out in the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010. The scope of the Broad Aims demonstrate that the causes and the effects of child poverty are complex, multifaceted and cut across a number of policy areas. And, we are clear that it is only by taking action across these areas that we will be successful in lifting our children and young people out of poverty that so adversely affects their educational, economic and health outcomes. The Strategy’s accompanying Delivery Plan sets out existing and planned policy commitments (from across the Assembly Government) that will help us deliver our vision for tackling child poverty in Wales.

 

The latest child poverty figures show a stalling of progress made in previous years, and an estimated 32 per cent of children in Wales now live in households below 60 per cent of the median income (AHC). The continued existence of child poverty in a modern, civilised and progressive country such as Wales is unacceptable to the Welsh Assembly Government. That is why we have placed the challenge of eradicating child poverty at the very top of our policy agenda.

 

Since its inception, the Welsh Assembly Government has consistently made it clear that reducing child poverty is a fundamental element of its social justice agenda. The new Child Poverty Strategy and Delivery Plan for Wales builds on previous our first Child Poverty Strategy, A Fair Future for our Children (published in February 2005) and the child poverty targets we set out in Eradicating Child Poverty – Measuring Success (published in October 2006). In 2007, the One Wales Agreement included a number of new commitments specifically aimed at tackling child poverty, many of which have been or are being delivered. This included a commitment to establish a Child Poverty Expert Group to provide evidenced based advice on the wider policy requirements necessary to meet the targets for the eradication of child poverty. The Expert Group met for the first time in May 2008 and has provided a series of policy recommendations and expert advice that have shaped the developed of this Strategy. 

 

Children and young people growing up in poverty are vulnerable in a number of different ways. We know they are more at risk of poor health, poor educational attainment, have lower skills and aspirations. They are also more likely to be low paid, unemployed and welfare dependent in adulthood. Although many children from low income families will not experience these outcomes, it is important to note that on average, children who grow up in poverty are at a disadvantage.

 

The risk of growing up in poverty is higher for some children. Children living in workless households are particularly vulnerable: Approximately half of all children in Wales who live in poverty are in workless households. A key strategic objective of this new Strategy is to reduce the number of workless households in Wales. Tackling in-work poverty is also important, however, and improving the skills of parents to enable them to access employment that pays well is also a strategic objective for this new Strategy. Finally, the Strategy has a strategic objective to reduce the inequalities that exist in the health, education and economic outcomes for children living in poverty, by improving the outcomes of the poorest.

 

I am very clear that there is much that the Welsh Assembly Government can do to reduce levels of child poverty in Wales.  And we remain fully committed to this goal.  We understand that we must have an even greater focus on reducing the child poverty levels in Wales and increasing the life chances of children living in low income families. But, we will not be able to achieve our child poverty objectives alone. There is no doubt that much more action is needed across Government at all levels – and across its partners in the public, private and voluntary sectors – to prioritise the needs of this group of children and the families in which they live.  This must be a shared mission and one for which we are all accountable.

 

We know that further and faster progress to reduce child poverty will also depend to a significant extent on strong local delivery.  Therefore, we are also setting out a new direction for developing more effective local delivery arrangements that can better meet the needs of low income families and provide them with the integrated support that they need.

 

During the three month consultation period, we are holding a number of events across Wales. These events will include workshops to facilitate discussion on the content of the Child Poverty Strategy and Delivery Plan, as well as our proposals to develop a new approach to integrated family support and improved local partnership working. We have also developed a children and young people’s version of the Strategy and Delivery Plan – and will be holding specific consultation events with children and young people.

 

I look forward to the next three months and being able to use the consultation period to strengthen the commitments we are putting in place here in Wales, to ensure further progress in the fight against child poverty.