Commissioner calls for action on child poverty in Wales

The children’s commissioner for Wales told the Welsh
Assembly that child poverty in the principality is a national
disgrace, writes Alex Dobson.

The extent of the child poverty problem is highlighted in two
recent reports from major children’s charities. which reveal
that more than a third of young people in Wales live in homes with
less than half the average UK income, and that welsh children are
the poorest in the UK.

Peter Clarke says: “Here in Wales, we do not have an assembly
anti-poverty strategy. Although it can be argued that the national
assembly does not have the power over some of the major policy
weapons to combat poverty, this does not mean that there is nothing
we can do.

“An anti-poverty strategy for children in Wales should be
developed, and it should involve young people directly in it.
Success in eradicating child poverty would be the biggest single
thing we can do to help our children”, Clarke says in his annual
report, which he presented to the assembly on Thursday.

Another key issue the report identifies is the crisis in the
provision of special educational needs, and it says the problem is
not helped by difficulties in joint working between education,
health and social services in the Wales.

Processes are far too slow, and it is the young person who will
carry the consequences of delayed support, particularly in the
critical years when it can be of so much benefit, says the

The commissioner also highlights the lack of respect that many
young people encounter from adults, and he gives his full support
to the campaign to end the physical punishment of children in the

“Many people working with children don’t feel respected
either, and one of the issues we must address is staff recruitment,
training and retention. In too many children’s services staff
morale is low. We need confident and stable staff teams if we are
to achieve the improvement in children’s lives that so many
of us want,” Clarke says.

He was pleased with the response he received from Welsh Assembly
members: “I am here for children, and I expect to be listened to
and responded to and I am not prepared to be seen as window

“But I very pleased that after the presentation of the report to
the assembly the health and social services minister Jane Hutt has
responded by making what I take to be a commitment to moving
forward to an anti-poverty strategy,” he said.

Hutt said she will give a formal response to the
commissioner’s report in the New Year.

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