FROM COVID TO COST OF LIVING – NEW RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS THE CONTINUED CHALLENGES FACING FAMILIES IN WALES
The sheer magnitude of the challenges faced by families in Wales over recent months and years is revealed in a new report published by Save the Children Cymru.
‘From Covid-19 to Cost of Living: 18 months of providing Early Years Grants to Families in Wales’ highlights some of the main problems families are experiencing and how they can combine to make day-to-day lives more complicated and challenging.
Poverty is on the rise across the UK and Wales has the highest level of child poverty compared to all other nations, with nearly 1 in 3 children growing up in its grip. The deepening tragedy of child poverty in the UK has been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis making providing for children much more difficult.
Working with local community partners throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, Save the Children distributed emergency grants across the UK to meet the immediate needs of families. The grants provided beds, highchairs, pushchair, and other essential household items and included learning resources such as books, toys, educational activities, and vouchers to spend on food and essential items like clothes.
Unfortunately, the need for this type of support did not end when lockdown did. The cost-of-living crisis means parents still struggle to afford the items and resources they need to help their children thrive. That is why Save the Children has continued to work with partners in Wales to support families through its Early Years Grants scheme reaching over 1500 children living in 775 household over the past 18-months.
Analysis of the grants’ delivery in Wales over this period shows why these grants were needed and that the key issues families were facing were Covid-19 and the associated lockdowns and the cost-of-living crisis. Each of these huge social and economic events sit alongside a range of other challenges such as issues with benefits, job insecurity, costs associated to new baby, disabilities and health problems, coming to Wales as a refugee or asylum seeker, housing issues, including homelessness and domestic abuse.
Melanie Simmonds, head of Save the Children Cymru said: “Just as the immediate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic began to ease, the cost-of-living crisis proliferated leaving the most vulnerable children and their families facing increasing hardship.
“We all need to work together to address these challenges. Over the coming years through our work, we will try to reduce the number of children growing up in poverty in Wales by working in partnership with others, listening to the latest evidence, and most importantly listening to the voices of children and families and our partners working within communities.”
The Cardiff community-based charity Action in Caerau & Ely (ACE) which supports local residents with crisis drop-in sessions, a volunteer-led toy and shop, a food pantry, foodbank, warm bank, café and community garden and training is one of Save the Children’s main partners in delivering the Early Years Grants.
Nerys Sheehan, Community Support Co-Ordinator for Action in Caerau and Ely said: “Since the pandemic we have seen a huge increase in the number of people seeking help and we now have up to 50 people a week coming through our doors. People are in absolute crisis, in destitute, with no food, no fuel and they have nowhere else to turn. This kind of grant opportunity is a lifeline for so many people but there is only so much we can do. I worry about the months ahead and how this is going to look and affect the most vulnerable in society. It’s going to get worse.”
A single mum from Newport with a one-year-old daughter who recently received a grant said: “I’m going to use the voucher to stock up on food, lots of tins, to see us through because honestly, I am struggling to buy what we need. And I’m going to get some Christmas presents for my daughter. I don’t know what I would have done without this grant.”
Melanie Simmonds feels strongly that turning rhetoric into action to make sure no child misses out is a priority that just can’t wait: “The UK government in its Autumn Statement has made inroads to ease families’ pain but they still face tough times ahead. Increasing the benefit cap in line with inflation is significant. But we believe an extra £10 per month per child into the child element of Universal Credit is needed to provide sustainable support for children and families long-term and that childcare costs and better routes to sustainable work need to be addressed. We also need to ensure that the real-term cuts to the Welsh Government’s funding will not affect families in Wales needing access to vital services.”
To read the full report please click here