High housing costs and low income blamed as child poverty rises in Ceredigion
Katy Jenkins, local democracy reporter
There are nearly 3,500 children in Ceredigion living in poverty, and the number is rising, an assessment of well-being has found, with high housing costs and low incomes blamed.
Child poverty in Ceredigion is higher than average, the draft assessment of local well-being said, adding that it is a “key regional issue” affecting neighbouring counties also. The county saw the second-highest increase in child poverty nationally since 2014/15.
The assessment, reported as part of the Public Services Board regional meeting, adds that there is evidence “in-work poverty” is increasing and is a challenge for many households, particularly in Aberystwyth north and south constituencies as well as in Aberteifi and Aberporth.
At a recent meeting of the overview and scrutiny coordinating committee, Cllr Mark Strong said there was a misconception that areas like Aberystwyth were well-off but that was not always the case while Cllr Lyndon Lloyd highlighted the risks to older people of falling into poverty as prices increased but their incomes remained fixed.
“Poverty remains one of the biggest challenges for the county. Low earnings and incomes, affordable childcare, Universal Credit reduction and high housing costs/ housing affordability are the drivers of poverty in Ceredigion,” the assessment states.
The substantial piece of work examines all life stages from ‘new beginnings’ through to older people, highlighting main themes along with negative and positive aspects to living, working and the economy in Ceredigion, which feeds into regional work in west and mid Wales.
Public Services Boards across Wales are required to prepare and publish an assessment of the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of its area under the Well-being of Future Generations Act, before it publishes a five year local well-being plan for 2023-28.
A Ceredigion council meeting also heard that the reopening of schools has seen a “substantial increase” in referrals to social services – to levels officers have not seen before – about children potentially at risk.
A report on quarter one combined local operational group figures indicated a “substantial increase” from the previous quarter, and also on the same quarter last year, members of the overview and scrutiny coordinating committee heard today.
Between April 1 and June 30, 2021, there were 116 safeguarding reports that led to child protection strategy discussions/strategy meetings, a report to committee states.
This was up from 99 in the previous quarter with 85 such cases at the same time last year.
Cabinet member for Porth Cynnal Cllr Alun Williams added it was an “extremely difficult period at the moment” with the increase in reports a “rebound” from a reduction during lockdowns but numbers had “bounced back up again and beyond.”
He said officers had said that they hadn’t seem this level of referrals before and the situation was being “replicated” around the country.
The report adds that there were 18 initial child protection conferences and 18 children placed on the child protection register in quarter one, compares to nine conferences and seven children on placed on the register in the previous quarter.
The main referring agency was the police, followed by education staff, which “just shows how dependent we are on the staff in schools for possible referrals and we have to be happy with the support that the school service is giving them in bringing those forward,” said Cllr Bryan Davies.
The main concerns were allegations of sexual abuse or exploitation and physical abuse, which is comparable with previous quarters the committee heard.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.