THE BLOG
21/06/2015 17:38 BST | Updated 18/06/2016 06:59 BST

Findings on Welsh Poverty Shame the Whole UK

Yesterday, Welsh assembly members issued a long-overdue warning over the government's failure to effectively tackle poverty. While poverty in most regions of the UK has fallen in recent years, in Wales the figure has remained static.

Yesterday, Welsh assembly members issued a long-overdue warning over the government's failure to effectively tackle poverty. While poverty in most regions of the UK has fallen in recent years, in Wales the figure has remained static.

Newport, where I come from, is one of the most deprived areas in Wales, and has some of the highest rates of child poverty in the country. As an industrial town, Newport was one of the places hit hardest by the recession, with many manufacturing businesses forced to close - and it has yet to recover. Those out of work are being pushed further into poverty by punitive benefit sanctions, and today's report told us what too many people already knew: that even for those who do find work, employment is no longer necessarily a route out of poverty.

There has been an abject failure to rebuild the Welsh economy to provide the decently paid, secure jobs people need. Instead, we have seen a rise in zero-hours contracts and increasing numbers of people on low pay. As a result, food poverty is on the rise, with the number of families relying on foodbanks doubling in just a year.

Too many children, today's report warned, are living without some of the basic necessities of life: warm homes, sufficient nutrition, and a reliable roof over their heads. This kind of childhood deprivation affects people for the rest of their lives leaving its mark on their health and wellbeing.

The findings of this report are appalling - I'm sure no-one will dispute that. But it is not enough to be appalled: those who have the power to change this must take decisive action to do so.

In recent years, my home town of Newport has been host to expensive, high-profile events: like the meeting of world leaders at the NATO summit in 2014, or the 2010 Ryder Cup - tickets to which cost £100 and over. All too often, towns like Newport are turned into temporary playgrounds for the rich while so many of its residents are struggling to make ends meet - all too often, governments forget that the wellbeing of its citizens should be their first priority.

The Welsh government must do much more to promote stable and fair employment, and to provide support for those in poverty. So far, initiatives designed to reduce poverty have focussed on mitigating its effects - such as encouraging people to eat healthier food - rather than addressing its root causes. The government continues dogmatically with it's austerity agenda, knowing full well the devastating impact it is having on people's lives.

If we are to eliminate poverty, we must legislate to ban exploitative insecure contracts; ensure that welfare is sufficient to support all those who need it; and make the minimum wage a living wage, so that no-one has to rely on foodbanks to survive.