CHILD poverty continues to rise in rural counties such as Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire - despite a fall in the figures for Wales as a whole

The latest report by the End Child Poverty Coalition shows that while many areas of Wales saw a fall in child poverty between 2014-15 and 2018-19, child poverty rates after housing costs are taken into account continued to grow in six local authorities –Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Gwynedd, Powys and Blaenau Gwent.

Pembrokeshire is now the county with the highest child poverty rate in Wales (31 per cent), once housing costs are taken into account. Ceredigion’s rate is 30.3 per cent and Carmarthenshire comes in at 29.3 per cent.

Worryingly, Ceredigion has seen the biggest percentage rise across Wales at 1.7 per cent since 2015, with Pembrokeshire’s rate the second worst at 1.2 per cent and Carmarthenshire coming in at 0.1 per cent.

Across Wales as a whole, the rate has fallen one percent from 29 per cent to 28 per cent.

The report says many families find that, once their housing costs are paid, they do not have enough money to meet their children’s needs and are left with no option but to turn to crisis help like food banks, and are increasingly reliant on free school meals.

The impact of poverty on children is well documented, with children from low-income families more likely to experience worse physical and mental health; do less well in school; and have fewer opportunities in the future.

The coalition is calling on the UK Government to recognise the scale of the problem and its impact on children’s lives. They are urging the UK Government to set out an ambitious plan to tackle child poverty encompassing not only social security spending but also the high cost of housing and childcare, and investment in children’s services.

South Wales Guardian:

Ellie Harwood, Wales Development Manager for Child Poverty Action Group said:

“Unlike most of the UK, Wales has succeeded in reducing child poverty over the last three years.

“Wales’ progress in tackling child poverty shows what can be done when there is a concerted strategy to take action on the root causes of child poverty. However, our child poverty rates remain unacceptably high and are continuing to grow worse in some areas.

“In particular, the child poverty rate is increasing in some rural and coastal counties, with Pembrokeshire now the local authority with the highest child poverty rate in Wales.

“Whichever way you look at these figures, they show that child poverty exists in every corner of Wales, from the valleys to the coast, in our rural heartlands and our inner cities.

“With the pandemic threatening to push many more families into hardship, we need the Welsh Government to commit to a new child poverty strategy that sets out ambitious and measurable targets for eliminating child poverty altogether.”

South Wales Guardian:

Anna Feuchtwang, chair of End Child Poverty which commissioned the research, said: “This new data reveals the true extent of the hardship experienced by families on low incomes – the overwhelming majority of which were working households before the pandemic.

“The children affected are on a cliff edge, and the pandemic will only sweep them further into danger.

“The Prime Minister must urgently admit to the true extent of child poverty in our country rather than resorting to his own inaccurate statistics. An ambitious plan to put this shameful situation right would be transformational for millions of children.

“As a matter of urgency we are calling on the Chancellor not to go ahead with planned cuts to Universal Credit which would see families lose out on £1,000 a year. Given today’s data, this cut is unconscionable.”

The report is based on data published by the Department for Work and Pensions in March 2020, and on estimates of the effect of housing costs on poverty rates produced by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University.