Almost a quarter of people in Wales are trapped in poverty

More and more families are at risk of being trapped in poverty in Wales, according to a new state of the nation report.

Almost one in four people are already living in poverty across the country. But the report warns that poverty is on the rise among pensioners, single people and couples with children, while progress on child poverty has stalled.

Rising living costs, especially housing costs, combined with cuts to working age benefits and poor quality jobs is leading to an increased risk of living in poverty for families both in and out of work.

The findings come from the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation as it launches its latest monitoring report, Poverty in Wales 2018, which provides the most up-to-date picture of poverty and its underlying drivers.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said:

“We share a moral responsibility to make sure everyone has a decent standard of living and the same chances in life. Low-paid, unstable jobs, rising living costs and insufficient benefits mean that many people in Wales are locked in a daily struggle to make ends meet. Poverty restricts the choices people can make, leaving families in impossible situations like choosing either to heat their home or pay their rent.

“We urge politicians in Cardiff Bay and Westminster to work with businesses to redesign the job and housing markets so they work better for those people living in the most deprived areas of Wales.

“Loosening the grip of poverty on the lives of low-income families is crucial to the success of the Welsh Government’s prosperity agenda. Change is possible.”

710,000 people in Wales are now living in poverty – including 185,000 children, 405,000 working-age adults and 120,000 pensioners. Wales continues to have a larger proportion of its population living in poverty than England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In the last twenty years Wales has achieved real success reducing worklessness, increasing employment and radically improving adult skills. In all these areas Wales has been catching up with other parts of the UK. But today’s report shows that thousands of people are locked out from this economic success. In the last decade the risk of poverty has risen for people in working families as well as those in workless families (see Notes to Editors) at a time of pressure on public spending, welfare reform and economic uncertainty.

Proportion of working-age adults living in relative income poverty (AHC) in Wales, by household work status

Victoria Winckler, director of the Bevan Foundation said:

"This report shows that too many households in Wales are really struggling to make ends meet. The stress and hardship of not having enough to live on blights people's lives, whether they're children or pensioners, and costs the public purse dearly. The Welsh Government have made a very welcome commitment to 'prosperity for all', so we hope that they will take steps to make it a reality for the 700,000 people in poverty today."

JRF is calling on the Welsh Government to ensure the economy and markets work better for low-income families in the most deprived areas of the country by:

Working with businesses to create more and better jobs – ensuring people are supported to find work, progress in their careers and put away for a secure future.
Reducing costs by building more affordable homes and ensuring high-quality and affordable childcare is available so more people can balance care and work.
Improving the prospects of the next generation by closing the educational attainment gap and ensuring young people leave school with the skills they need.