Child Poverty ... what can Wales do about it?

Thanks to Valleys Mam, I downloaded Victoria Winckler's research paper for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on child poverty in Wales.

     What is needed to end child poverty in Wales?

It's a very good piece of work. And as it's only eight pages long, I really would urge people to read it. It says nearly everything I could think of saying about the subject—and a great deal more that I hadn't thought of—far better than I could say it.

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If I wanted to add anything, it would be that better public transport is one factor that would help (by no means at the top of the list, but on it somewhere). It is mentioned in the paper, though only once. The big things are getting more people into work and improved childcare.

In London, for example, there has been a scheme for those on Income Support to get half price travel on buses and trams. That was introduced by Ken Livingstone but, more surprisingly, Boris Johnson has extended that scheme to include those on Job Seekers Allowance and the new Employment and Support Allowance. The reason is this:

[The scheme] is designed to help people back to work by making it easier to travel to interviews, and access libraries, job centres, and other amenities.

Mayor of London Press Release, 2 April 2009

We sometimes forget that London has a few devolved powers. So if they can do it, why shouldn't we? It's worth noting that this concession can continue for up to six months after the person gets work. I like that, because it might make all the difference to someone's ability to take a job. There is always some uncertainty in the first few months about how things might work out in a new job.

And I would also add the need to better enforce the minimum wage, as there are many examples of employers flouting the rules, and too few enforcement officers in Wales.

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I'd like to widen this discussion. Doing away with child poverty is one thing that must surely unite all of us, no matter what political views we hold. It is shameful, and we must do something about it.

So I'd like to invite people to suggest what we could do in Wales to improve our particular situation. If we are serious about devolving more powers to our Assembly, we are not going to do it simply by arguing in general terms. We need to be able to give specific examples of how the political power to do things differently in Wales will make things better.

I'll start with this. A couple of months ago, I was surprised (although very pleasantly surprised) to read that a 2007 survey had found that a large majority of people in Wales think that the Welsh government should be the body that makes decisions about the benefits system in Wales. I mentioned it on the Syniadau Forums.

Survey respondents were asked about which level of government "ought to make most of the important decisions for Wales" for four key policy areas: Welfare Benefits, the National Health Service, Schools, and Defence and Foreign Affairs. Results are presented in Figure 6.3 below. These show not only clear majority public support for the devolved level of government to have control over areas where they already make many decisions—on schooling and healthcare—but also a similar level of public endorsement for those powers to extend to an area like welfare benefits. The latter is striking, as it is a policy area that currently remains very much reserved to Westminster.

Source

The reply format in a blog is fairly limited, especially in terms of formatting and the ability to include images, etc. So if anyone wants to reply in more depth, you are welcome to respond on a new thread I've opened on the Syniadau Forums.

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1 comments:

Marcus said...

Hi,

Off the top of my head, a longer term policy I would like to see implemented is the ‘pupil premium’ idea, which I believe the Lib Dems have probably been credited with bringing forward.

This can make those kids in poverty a funding ‘asset’ to schools, making the best ones far more willing to take on a larger percentage of said kids. Now that is a blunt view on that issue – I assume that the best performing schools are often in more affluent areas and feature less kids on free school meals.

Ultimately, benefit increases and the like are limited to shift generational poverty – we need to ENABLE people to get out of poverty through work and achievement, rather than artificially keep them out of poverty only via benefits.

I have been meaning to go over the document and make more explicit my ideas, will do so asap.

Marcus

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