A report by a think tank has laid out the devastating impact Covid 19 has had on Wales’ poorest households.
The Bevan Foundation is calling on the Welsh Government to take immediate action to support families in poverty in light of the data that was gathered on its behalf by YouGov.
It shows that 328,000 households have seen their incomes fall since the start of the pandemic. This means that almost a quarter of Welsh households have seen their income fall because of the pandemic according to new research.
At the same time a number of key living costs rocketed for households. These include a 41 per cent increase in the cost of heating, electric and water and a 38 per cent increase in the cost of food.
The Bevan Foundation is calling on the Welsh Government to provide free laptops to all children who receive Free School Meals, establish a hardship fund, write off Tenant Saver Loans, and make sure advice is available for people on how they can maximise their income.
It says, whilst the economic impact of the pandemic has hit people across Welsh society, it is the poorest households who have been most greatly impacted, with many forced to cut back on essentials or forced to borrow money.
More than a one in five households whose gross household income is less than £20,000 have had to cut back on food for adults and heating, electricity and water. The same proportion have had to borrow money since the outbreak of the pandemic.
It says that 9 per cent of households have fallen behind on a bill since March, and this rises to 19 per cent of social renters and 20 per cent of private renters.
Dr Steffan Evans of the Bevan Foundation said: “The new data shows that it is the poorest households who have borne the brunt of the economic impact of the pandemic.
“With 700,000 people already trapped in poverty in Wales before the pandemic struck and many others struggling to keep their heads above water, many families have had little room to manoeuvre as incomes have fallen and living costs have increased.
“This is putting a real squeeze on families leading many to cut back on essentials.”
Many families do not expect the situation to improve significantly over the next three months. According to the report, 21 per cent of Welsh households expect to have to cut back on at least one essential over the next three months, with a further 11 per cent expecting to have to borrow money to make ends meet.
Dr Evans added: “Whilst there may be hope on the horizon with the roll out of the vaccine underway, for families trapped in poverty the outlook is bleak.
“Debt families have fallen into over 2020 will have to be paid off whilst there is little sign of the jobs market improving in the immediate future.”
“In the short term there are a number of steps that the Welsh Government could take to reduce the impact of the pandemic on poverty.
“This includes providing free laptops to all children who are in receipt of Free School Meals, establish an EMA hardship fund, write off Tenant Saver Loans and ensure income maximisation advice is provided nationally.
“In the longer term we believe the Welsh Government must invest in public services and bring together all the various support schemes it provides people on low income into a united and reformed Welsh Benefits System.
“We believe that by taking such action we could transform Wales and reduce poverty and inequality.”