Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

Welsh Government “failing to tackle cost of living crisis” says Plaid Cymru

23 Jan 2024 9 minute read
Sioned Williams

Martin Shipton

Only one of the Welsh Government’s 14 recommendations to tackle the cost of living crisis has been delivered, research from Plaid Cymru has suggested.

Late in 2022 the government formed a group of 18 experts to advise it on the impact of the crisis on the people of Wales, alongside actions that should be taken to mitigate its impact.

However, according to Plaid Cymru most are yet to be taken forward and a lack of clarity and commitment on others is crippling families across Wales.

As well as only implementing one of the recommendations, a number of the remaining 13 have not even been explored, and Ministers have since confirmed that others will not be implemented at all, ignoring expert advice.

Almost half of households in Wales are in fuel poverty, and a third of children in Wales are living in relative poverty despite targets to eradicate child poverty by 2020 being scrapped eight years ago.

Analysis

Here are the recommendations, together with Plaid’s analysis of what has happened in each case:

Recommendation 1: Welsh Government (WG) takes action to improve the level of take-up of grants, allowances and benefits support already available to households.

Plaid Cymru Analysis: WG has argued that this recommendation is in the process of being implemented. However, a recent report by the Bevan Foundations shows that this does not seem to be the case. In the report, it states how only 19% of people reported being aware of the Schools Essential Grant (formerly the Pupil Development Grant). In addition, only 17% of people in Wales were aware of Help with the Health Costs. Furthermore, if WG were truly implementing this recommendation, why are we still seeing such low levels of take-up across the board?

Recommendation 2: WG to urge utility companies to engage in more proactive promotion and awareness-raising campaigns for social tariffs and demonstrate improved take-up of these tariffs.

Plaid Cymru Analysis: This recommendation has not been delivered by WG. Meanwhile, prices are continuing to rise across a range of utilities and services, and 45% of all households in Wales are now classified as being in fuel poverty. Utility companies have been offering some social tariffs for services, but there is a lack of awareness from the public of what is available to them. As a result of this, there continues to be a low level of take up.

Recommendation 3: WG uses its powers to convene partner organisations and engage in constructive challenge on progress being made on cost of living-related policies to accelerate co-ordinated action.

Plaid Cymru Analysis: WG has not provided any further information on the implementation of this recommendation. Furthermore, without this clarity from WG, we cannot say whether or not it has been implemented. If it has been implemented, then it highlights a lack of promotion/engagement with the public.

Recommendation 4: WG collates and publishes additional data and information relevant to the cost of living crisis to monitor progress and compliance.

Plaid Cymru Analysis: WG has not provided any further information on the implementation of this recommendation. Furthermore, without this clarity from WG, we cannot say whether or not it has been implemented. If it has been implemented, then it highlights a lack of promotion/engagement with the public.

Recommendation 5: WG introduces an instalment-based Child Cost of Living Payment for low-income households with children.

Plaid Cymru Analysis:The cost of living crisis has exposed low-income families to the effects of food and energy price rises Furthermore, this recommendation would significantly help in alleviating these financial pressures for families across Wales. As stated by the Expert Group, this recommendation can be implemented through a system where households are provided with monthly payments administered by local authorities, like the Wales Fuel Support Scheme.

Recommendation 6: WG introduces an instalment based Disabled Person Cost of Living Payment for households with a disabled person

Plaid Cymru Analysis: The cost of living crisis has greatly impacted the people of Wales, with those with a disability being impacted even more. As stated by the Expert Group, this recommendation can be implemented through a system where households are provided with monthly payments administered by local authorities, like the Wales Fuel Support Scheme.

Recommendation 7: WG extends the provision of free school meals (FSM) to Years 7-11 for those households in receipt of Universal Credit, without a cap on earnings.

Plaid Cymru Analysis: The educational, health and wellbeing benefits of FSMs are widely acknowledged. They help in reducing household costs for families, in addition to boosting financial resilience, providing nutritional benefits and minimising the risks of poverty. However, WG has stated that they will not be implementing this recommendation, so that those within secondary schools can feel the benefits of FSM. This is even more disappointing when you take into consideration WG’s “commitment” to tackling child poverty.

Recommendation 8: WG extends the reach of the ‘Food and Fun’ programme so that it priorities low-income families and runs across all 22 local authorities during all school holiday periods in the Autumn, Winter and beyond.

Plaid Cymru Analysis: WG did not implement this recommendation. Instead, families and children were left without this scheme over the difficult school holiday periods in the Autumn and Winter. This lack of action by WG once again brings into question whether child poverty is a priority for them.

Recommendation 9: WG supports and encourages local activity-based programmes for adults that provide help with costs and health and wellbeing benefits.

Plaid Cymru Analysis: WGt has not implemented this recommendation. Instead, what we have seen is a cut to the allocated funding that would have increased benefits for vulnerable groups in the community and would have allowed the introduction of more preventative measures that could ease the pressure on emergency services. This is another example of WG shifting resources away from a preventative agenda.

Recommendation 10: WG implements the new Warm Homes Programme with urgency, ensuring that the replacement demand-led scheme is procured and operational this Winter.

Plaid Cymru Analysis: WG has stated that it will not be implementing this recommendation by the Winter. Meanwhile, prices are continuing to rise across a range of utilities and services, and 45% of all households in Wales are now classified as being in fuel poverty.

Recommendation 11: WG steps up homelessness prevention by promoting and further investing in Discretionary Housing Payments and the Discretionary Homelessness Prevention Fund.

Plaid Cymru Analysis: The only recommendation delivered.

Recommendation 12: WG alleviates pressures on people in temporary accommodation by ensuring that relevant cost of living help is routinely offered and made accessible to diverse households in temporary accommodation and by providing consistent and targeted support for people in unaffordable temporary accommodation.

Plaid Cymru Analysis: WG has failed to implement this recommendation. Instead, what we have seen is 11,200 people, including 3,409 children living in temporary accommodation. If WG is serious about tackling child poverty and poverty as a whole, implementing this recommendation should have been a priority.

Recommendation 13: WG assesses the early effectiveness of recent mental health initiatives and their impact on low-income groups.

Plaid Cymru Analysis: WG has not implemented this recommendation. Instead, what we have seen is a cut of £15m to mental health funding. This means that work to tackle mental health inequalities, including access to services for BAME people and those in the most deprived communities will be impacted.

Recommendation 14: WG should give public recognition to the first responders to the cost of living crisis, acknowledging the contribution of support and advice services, their employees, and volunteers.

Plaid Cymru Analysis: WG has not provided any further information on the implementation of this recommendation. Furthermore, without this clarity from WG, we cannot say whether or not it has been implemented. If it has been implemented, then it highlights a lack of promotion/engagement by WG with the public.

Failed

Sioned Williams, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for social justice, said: “Months after their own expert group made 14 short term, urgent calls, the Labour government has failed to implement almost any of the recommendations designed to help those facing the brunt of the spiralling cost of living.

“Plaid Cymru has consistently called on this government to listen to experts and implement a child payment policy, speed up delivery of the warm homes programme and extend free school meals to all secondary school children from households who are in receipt of Universal Credit. When it comes to alleviating poverty, we know these policies work and make a real difference to families who can’t afford even the basics.

“In light of stubbornly high levels of child poverty and a continuing cost of living crisis pushing more and more families below the breadline, this Labour government must face up to the challenge and take those brave, bold and radical decisions to truly help those who truly need it.

“The answers are here. The political will is not. Plaid Cymru urges Labour to use all levers and powers available to them to reduce the burden of the cost of living crisis on households across Wales. The children of Wales cannot afford to wait any longer for real action.”

Difficult decisions

A Welsh Government spokesperson responded: “We have taken immediate action in response to many of the expert group recommendations to help people during the cost-of living crisis.

“Due to the current financial climate we have had to make difficult decisions to protect public services and those in greatest need. We will continue to explore opportunities to take forward the other recommendations.”

The spokesperson added: “We are:

* Publishing the Welsh Benefit Charter, endorsed by the Welsh Local Government Association and all 22 local authorities, including the UK Government.

* Reviewing the current water social tariff guidance. Continuing to press the UK Government to introduce a social tariff for energy and to do more on protecting those on pre-payment meters.

* Continuing the roll out of free school meals in all primary schools in Wales as part of the Co-operation Agreement – more than 11m additional free school meals have been served since the launch in September 2022.

*Committed to growing the School Holiday Enrichment Programme (SHEP). In the school summer holidays in 2023, 265 schools took part in 175 SHEP schemes providing 11,100 places for children each operating day.

* Extending the Nest scheme to April 2024 as we procure the new Warm Homes scheme.

* Calling on the UK Government to increase Local Housing Allowance rates to be set at the 50th percentile.

* Protecting funding for the Discretionary Assistance Fund and the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, in the face of an exceptionally difficult financial climate.


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.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
6 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

WG is also failing every person who enters a hospital in Cymru…

They plan to fail every person in Cymru when it comes to our democratic future…

Shifter
Shifter
1 month ago

There must be a election coming plaid been backing the liebour party at the senedd with all thier vanity projects and now they ar moaning about the cost os living in Wales you can’t believe it plaid as olways been a wasted vote.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

Vanity projects are an issue but there is also too much emphasis on “management” which only produces information rather than action.

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Not sure we have the pockets deep enough. Nation wide issue will need funding from the treasury. There are some rather fundamental issues I doubt even Plaid could deal with if they held the reigns of power, unless they had No10 and No11 control.

https://www.jrf.org.uk/uk-poverty-2024-the-essential-guide-to-understanding-poverty-in-the-uk

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
1 month ago

I despair!!! This whole “exposure” is ultimately a very long list about poverty and access to benefits. Nothing about looking at the state of the Welsh economy – is there anyone in the government or it’s lackies Plaid Cymru who understands something very, very simple. Poverty reduction and opportunity is not about access to benefits, it is about the creation of wealth to tackle poverty and its associated evils. How many times must I, and many others, continue to point out that the Senedd has significant economic development powers which it refuses to recognise and use. Easier to keep the… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

Your comment is correct and highlights the lack of any real progress in developing/ enabling a higher level of economic activity. But we are where we are and given that far too many of our people are stuck in a rut of poverty and deprivation, a toxic combination of low purchasing power and poor access to services, or indeed non availability of services, it is reasonable to seek redress through “benefits” in the short/medium term. What remains alarming is the lack of serious commitment to any kind of medium/long term advancement of the economy despite having been in charge of… Read more »

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.