Page last updated at 20:43 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 21:43 UK

Welsh child poverty levels rise

Poverty letters on hillside
The target in Wales is to eradicate child poverty by 2020

The number of children in Wales living below the poverty line has increased, according to official figures.

The details published by the UK government show a 3% increase in average poverty risk levels in Wales over the last three years.

In Wales, 32% of children now face living in a home which has less than 60% of the average UK household income.

The assembly government, which has targets to eradicate child poverty by 2020, said it remains a "key issue".

But the Welsh Conservatives have said it showed that Labour's pledge to halve child poverty in Wales by 2010 was now "in tatters".

Social Justice spokesman, Mark Isherwood AM added: "It is a national tragedy that more children are falling into poverty in Wales and that the assembly government's policies to tackle it appear to have failed.

"Over the last 10 years we've had plenty of rhetoric from Labour instead of measures to tackle the root causes of poverty such as educational failure, family breakdown, debt and crime."

'Unacceptable'

In 1999, the average level of risk that that Welsh child would be in a household that fell below the poverty line was 35%.

By the spring of 2007, that had dropped to 29%.

But latest figures for up until July 2008 show that the risk is now up again at 32%.

The Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, Kirsty Williams said: "It is unacceptable that the percentage of children living in poverty in Wales has gone back to the levels it was five years ago."

While the level of poverty appears to be rising in Wales, in Scotland the rate continues to fall, now standing at 25% of children at risk.

Northern Ireland has also kept poverty levels stable at 26%.

The England average has seen a 1% increase, with London topping the regional table for poverty, at 39%.

Labour assembly member Huw Lewis, who chairs the expert group on child poverty, said: "These figures are obviously deeply disappointing and I can only hope they act as the final warning to administrations in Westminster and Cardiff Bay alike that urgent action is required if we are going to deliver on the fairness agenda.

'Economic hardship'

"The Child Poverty Expert Group will be meeting tomorrow and whilst today's news will cast something of a shadow over our agenda, it is important that we continue to advise the assembly government on the action we think is required to help thousands of disadvantaged children in Wales."

Plaid Cymru are in coalition with Labour in the assembly government, but its deputy leader in the assembly, Helen Mary Jones AM, said the record of Gordon Brown's UK government was not helping the issue of poverty.

"The London government has shown a complete lack of commitment to reducing child poverty and this is the result," she said.

"At times of economic hardship, the poorest in society often suffer most, and it seems that these figures once again prove that.

"With people in our poorest communities being hit hard, now is surely not the time to slash hundreds of millions of pounds from Wales' budget. This could further undermine efforts in Wales to reduce child poverty."

Commitment

A spokesperson for the assembly government said: "The priority that we attach to tackling child poverty is illustrated by the early use of new legislative powers to support our most vulnerable children and families," said the spokesperson.

"We recognise that poverty impacts on children and young people in different ways. It is not just about income. We want all children and young people in Wales to have access to experiences and opportunities and not to be disadvantaged by poverty."

The spokesperson also said that the assembly government remained committed to achieving the milestone of halving child poverty in Wales by 2010, and eradicating it completely by 2020.



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