2020 vision: no child poverty?

If you are a child living in a home with an income of less than 60% of the median, you are living in poverty.

The proportion of children living in poverty in Wales fell between 1997 and 2003 to 28%.

From 2003, for three years, there were proportionally fewer children in Wales living in poverty than in England. Then, the numbers started to rise and Wales was back at the top of the child poverty league across the four nations of the UK.

The figure currently stands at 33%, higher than the 30% of children who live in poverty throughout the UK.

Or to put it another way:

"This isn't a small minority of Welsh children - this is one in three that we are talking about here". That was how Huw Lewis, the then Deputy Children's Minister, put it in February of this year, just as the Welsh goverment made clear that it intended to stick with its 2020 Welsh child poverty target.

What is that target? To eradicate child poverty by 2020. Not to halve it (that was the 2010 target) or to cut it from one in three to one in eight or nine or ten but to eradicate it.

Back in 2009 I remember sitting in the Senedd with a family from Perthcelyn in the Cynon Valley, talking about those targets with Huw Lewis. It was clear that the 2010 target would be missed. Surely there was no chance, was there, I asked Mr Lewis, that the government would hit its 2020 target either? Not really? Not realistically?

He disagreed with me - very politely and extremely sincerely. He thought it entirely realistic that if the government put tackling child poverty at the heart of its each and every policy decision, eradicating child poverty by 2020 should be, no, was, entirely realistic.

Today, nearly three years and an economic crisis later, the children's commissioners for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are warning that child poverty is likely to rise.

They point a finger at changes to the benefit system - changes the UK ministers say are designed to cut chld poverty.

The Welsh government will point out that benefit changes are very much a matter for the UK government.

Welsh ministers might also point to announcements like this one and argue they are doing what they can for children living in poverty in Wales and those who the commissioners fear might soon be joining them.

But what of that Welsh government target to eradicate child poverty by 2020?

A few weeks ago the current Deputy Minister for Children, Gwenda Thomas, said "we've got to be positive about that ... it's going to be difficult and it wouldn't be realistic for me to say otherwise."

You might think that having targets such as eradicating child poverty is solely a matter of tactics - in other words, you'll never get there but better to go down fighting than to go down quietly.

You might think, as did Huw Lewis, not just that it should be done but that it can be done.

Either way you might be interested in Item 5 of the latest cabinet meeting minutes: "2020 Child Poverty Target"

5.1 the Deputy Minister for Children introduced the paper, which asked Cabinet to consider its policy position on the 2020 target for the eradication of child poverty in Wales.

Short, sweet and so far, no further details from the Government. But it does appear that brutal reality is eating away at the certainties I heard on the visit from Perthcelyn back in 2009.


The Welsh Government has sent this response:

"We remain committed to the aim of eradicating child poverty by 2020. Everything we do is geared towards reducing the damage done to children growing up in poverty, and eradicating it completely in the longer-term.

"The current economic and financial climate make it even more important that we retain our commitment to tackling child poverty, by prioritising the needs of the poorest and protecting the most vulnerable."

"Our ability to reduce child poverty in Wales, in the short term, is clearly dependent on actions taken by the UK Government, particularly changes to tax and welfare payments which are outside of our control. We share the concerns of many people about the pace of the UK Government's welfare and benefit reforms and the potential impacts these changes will have on people in Wales."

"The anti-poverty action plan being developed as part of our Programme of Government, will help establish a system of collaborative working across the Welsh Government as well as our partners to tackle the very serious issues causing poverty in Wales."