Child Poverty

1. Questions to the First Minister – in the Senedd at on 11 June 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Llyr Gruffydd Llyr Gruffydd Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

3. How is the Welsh Government working with the UK Government to tackle child poverty? OQ61251

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour 2:03, 11 June 2024

(Translated)

Thank you for the question.

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour

Welsh Ministers and officials engage with the UK Government through a range of bilateral and multilateral fora on a range of issues to try and help tackle poverty and improve outcomes for low-income families. We are always keen to stress the importance of tackling poverty in all its guises as our priority. Unfortunately, we do not believe that the current UK Government has been a positive partner in reducing child poverty.

Photo of Llyr Gruffydd Llyr Gruffydd Plaid Cymru

We know, don't we, First Minister, that 29 per cent of children in Wales are living in poverty. That's one of the highest rates in the UK, and we've debated here in the past how Labour in Wales scrapped the 2020 goal of eradicating child poverty, and how we have a child poverty strategy without statutory targets, but as you say, the situation here has been made worse by the UK Government, particularly the Conservatives' cruel two-child benefit cap on families, which leaves the poorest families thousands of pounds out of pocket and adversely affecting more than one in 10 children in Wales. Now, unbelievably, Sir Keir Starmer has said that he won't be scrapping the cap, and at the same time he's saying that he is committed to providing over £200 billion for the Trident nuclear project. Now, that clearly shows, does it not, that the UK Labour Party's priorities are actually in weapons of mass destruction and not supporting struggling families? Are those really your priorities as well, First Minister?

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour 2:04, 11 June 2024

I think that's an extraordinary analogy to draw. I think when you look at where we will be with a manifesto that will be published in the coming days across the UK, with, as usual, a Welsh Labour manifesto as well to accompany it, I think you will see real ambition for the future of families, to grow the economy, to have a positive partnership to provide the high-quality jobs that we could and should have in Wales. You'll also see ambition to ensure that people don't have to live with the indignity of low pay, what that will mean across a range of different sectors, and I think you'll see a genuine reforming approach to what has happened in the mess that is our current UK-wide benefit system.

I think, when the manifesto is published, the Member will have good cause to think again about the ambition of what a future UK Labour Government could do, in partnership with this Government, in addition to what we already do to directly put money into people's pockets: the way that we look to help and support families beyond that, not just the universal free school meals that we should all be proud of—more than 20 million of them delivered here in Wales—but the help we provide, whether it's prescriptions or a whole range of other areas, including school uniform as well. We do those things deliberately to make a practical difference. Our means to make that difference needs to increase, and we need a different partnership with a UK Government that understands why child poverty is a scourge, with the commitment to address and tackle it, as indeed the last Labour Government did, in lifting hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. I'm proud of what we did in the past. I'll be prouder still to play a part in making a difference for children living in poverty here today.

Photo of Jane Dodds Jane Dodds Liberal Democrat 2:06, 11 June 2024

Good afternoon, First Minister. A few of us have raised the issue of child poverty here in the Siambr, and I just wanted to perhaps take another angle on it, which is linking the green agenda with tackling child poverty here in Wales. The Children's Commissioner for Wales calls, in her latest report, that we should be providing free public transport for all under-18-year-olds as part of the child poverty plan. The Youth Parliament here in Wales has also supported free public transport as well, as a way of promoting the use of public transport throughout the whole of Wales. And, finally, Scotland has shown the tangible benefits, with its free bus scheme for five to 21-year-olds generating over 100 million journeys in its first year. So, First Minister, would you agree that providing free public transport is a means of tackling child poverty, and therefore will you do it? Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour 2:07, 11 June 2024

There are many good ideas that we would like to take up now and in the future. There are also things we are already doing today, of course. So, there is a range of schemes offering discounted and free travel for children and young people that we constantly keep under review. We have discounted bus tickets for under-22s through our MyTravelPass scheme. We also have free travel on rail services for under-16s in a number of circumstances where they're accompanied by a fare-paying adult in Wales already. But more than that, contactless pay-as-you-go ticketing across the south Wales metro area will be delivered later this year.

I'm interested in how we have more means available to us. I would like to be able to deliver on a whole range of areas, but I need the resources for us to do so, and we've just gone through an incredibly painful process to get a budget that balances. I think, in the future, we may be able to do something along the lines of what the Member suggests, but I need the resource that I don't have at present. And in the pragmatic choice, we've made choices about how and where we target our resources to make the biggest possible difference. That's the budget that we've passed. I look forward to a different horizon, with greater hope and greater means to achieve our objectives in the future, and I look forward to seeing if that will be enabled by the public votes on 4 July.