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More must be done to tackle rural poverty in Wales

26 Mar 2024 4 minute read
Cefin Campbell MS

Cefin Campbell, MS Mid and West Wales 

“Rural Wales is in trouble. Probably more trouble than in living memory, and from forces and trends that are unlikely to disappear any time soon.”

This stark warning from Cardiff University Professor, Calvin Jones, is something that I’ve no doubt will resonate with all of us who live and work in rural Wales and call it home. More than a decade of Tory-imposed austerity, Brexit, Covid-19 and now a cost of living crisis have all left their mark on our rural communities.

The Bevan Foundation has shown how a ‘triple squeeze’ from low incomes, high costs and limited state support has meant that rural communities have suffered the most from the rising cost of living.

Layered on top of longstanding and structural issues in our rural economy, the rural premium on key goods and services has compounded the issue of rural poverty.

Urban bias

This is an issue that too often hides in plain sight, with the ways and means we use to identify and measure poverty often failing to accurately capture it, and relevant state safety nets and plans to reduce poverty designed with an urban bias.

Neither more nor less serious than the issue of urban poverty, research shows that rural poverty is nonetheless different: a distinctive policy challenge requiring specific and tailored solutions.

And these solutions are urgently needed. Rates of child poverty in rural Wales, in particular, remain alarmingly high. Ceredigion, for example, has the second highest rate of child poverty of any local authority in Wales.

The failure here lies with Welsh Government, and its approach to tackling poverty, which notoriously includes no specific targets, and fails to account for the fact that poverty has different causes, drivers and manifestations in different parts of Wales.

Transport and fuel poverty, the high cost and limited availability of housing, poor digital connectivity and issues with accessing childcare are all particular issues driving poverty in rural Wales.

Targeted strategy

Since entering the Senedd, I have called repeatedly on the Welsh Government to develop a targeted strategy for dealing with the problem of rural poverty. Having had these calls consistently rebuffed, I have undertaken to develop such a strategy myself, drawing on expert advice and the latest research across relevant fields.

Something that has emerged strongly for me over the course of this work is the need to ensure better rural proofing across all of policy areas for which the Welsh Government has responsibility.

Unlike in Northern Ireland, for example, there is no statutory duty for public bodies in Wales to rural proof their policies or programmes, or to tailor them to the specific needs of rural communities.

I have become increasingly convinced that this is something we need to see introduced to Wales with urgency, drawing on and learning from international best practice.

This will be at the heart of the draft strategy to tackle rural poverty that I will be looking to test-drive at a public meeting in Newcastle Emlyn later this week.

Solutions to poverty in rural areas need to be community led, and that is why I am hosting this event – to offer an opportunity for feedback on proposals around rural proofing, and in specific policy areas like housing, energy, digital, childcare and rural economic development.

I certainly don’t claim that this draft strategy will be the last word on tackling poverty in rural Wales, but it is my hope that it will, at the very least, trigger a new and urgent conversation about it – one that recognises the nature of the challenge it poses to public policy, and that offers new hope that this challenge will be taken seriously.

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Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
20 days ago

More tourists is that the answer?

19 days ago

Erthygl dda. The one pattern fits all policies of Welsh Labour are unfit for purpose and do not help our rural communities kne bit

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