More than 200,000 Welsh children live in poverty – and Brexit will make us poorer

The Lansbury Park estate in Caerphilly, one of Wales’ poorest areas. Picture from Google Maps

Jill Evans, European Election Candidate for Plaid Cymru

Wales is in a child poverty crisis.

Research published this week by Loughborough University for End Child Poverty Network – a coalition of organisations which includes Children in Wales, Oxfam Cymru, Barnardo’s Cymru and Save The Children, found that 29.3% of children were in poverty in 2017-18, a rise of 1%.

That is one in three and more than 206,000 Welsh children living in poverty.

Earlier this year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, found that almost one in four people in Wales are living in relative income poverty.


By 2021-22, it is estimated that 27% of the Welsh population will be living in poverty, and that 39% of children will live in poverty.

Parents have to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their children. We see a growing number of adults and children living in the poorest areas have poorer health outcomes and lower life expectancies. Childcare is expensive and insufficient. The lack of a real living wage pulls more people into poverty.

People in our communities across Wales are suffering because of Westminster cuts, welfare changes and a hostile environment of poverty. The cuts from the Westminster government have fallen hardest on the poor, on women, on racial and ethnic minorities, on children, on single parents and on people with disabilities.

Some of the poorest communities include Cardiff South and Penarth, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf. I’ve long argued that, in some parts of Wales and former industrial areas in particular, our pre-existing poverty has been made worse by austerity and welfare reform.

Growing up and living in poverty is no longer the exception in Wales. It is the norm.

Underfunded

This should be a wakeup call that politics is failing the next generation. This endemic poverty should be part of our past. It doesn’t have to be like this. Poverty is a political choice and it is not inevitable.

Decades of under-investment by the Welsh and UK Governments have led to families having to choose between ‘heating and eating’. While Labour, the Tories and the entire Westminster establishment is fighting over which Brexit they prefer, families in homes across Wales are at breaking point and our communities neglected.

The truth is that the poverty in our communities is a 21st-century scandal, and the Westminster parties have stood by and let this happen. Whether in our cities, towns, and valleys, or in our rural and coastal communities, no one in Wales should have to live with the indignity of poverty.

That’s why, in these European Elections we’re calling for Wales’ European funding to be doubled in order to jumpstart our economy and provide a much-needed boost to working people’s income. Wales needs a massive Transformation Fund so that every household in every community across our nation can benefit from our prosperity.

For decades, Wales has been underfunded by the governments at either end of the M4. We cannot continue on the same path or our communities will simply wither on the vine. Our mission is to make Wales matter, and the massive transformation fund we’re proposing would start to do just that.

We now know that Brexit can bring no real and tangible benefit to Wales. It will result in the loss of £2bn of structural funding, no trade deals, increased tariffs and thousands and thousands of jobs lost. Westminster will never make up the shortfall. Westminster will never protect our economy, jobs and communities from a damaging Brexit deal.

Brexit can only mean more poverty – on top of what we must suffer now.

That’s why on May 23rd, we need to send a message. No longer will we suffer our children growing up in poverty. No longer will we accept underinvestment in our communities as the norm. No longer will we accept future generations condemned to a lifetime of poverty and suffering.

Investment

That’s why on May 23rd we need to vote for Plaid Cymru.

Plaid Cymru wants Wales to remain in the EU so that we can invest in the whole of Wales. For our children and their children’s sake, we cannot accept the risk that Brexit poses to our livelihoods and communities.

As a candidate in the forthcoming European Parliamentary Elections I was glad of the opportunity to pledge to become a Child Rights Champion, working in partnership with Children in Wales and Eurochild. My priorities will include helping to break the cycle of poverty and inequality and ensuring investment in children inside and outside Europe.

I believe in Wales and its people. I believe that Wales can be fair, prosperous and equal. And I know that we need a Wales and Europe that delivers for every child.

That is the what Plaid Cymru will fight for.

Poverty is not inevitable. Poverty is a political choice.

On May 23rd, Wales will choose differently.


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