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Thursday, September 22, 2016

The need for an effective Welsh anti-poverty programme

There has been some controversy recently over the future of the Welsh Government's flagship Communities First programme after it was omitted from the latest iteration of the Programme for Government and the First Minister refused to deny it was destined to be cut.

More than £300 million has been spent on this programme since 2001 and yet it is difficult to identify what it has achieved. Of course there are individual success stories but Wales has fallen back relative to the rest of the UK in economic terms and the absence of effective measurements means that we have not been able to ascertain if taxpayers are getting value for money or even what the impact of this expenditure is in terms of real outcomes.

When I was on the Assembly we carried out an inquiry into poverty. Unfortunately we ran out of time before we could scrutinise programmes like Community First in any detail. I hope that the new Assembly is picking that up.

However, the two things that were most obvious from the scrutiny we did carry out was that firstly, the Welsh Government's programmes are designed to alleviate poverty not to eliminate it.

That is fine providing they are upfront about it, after all the Welsh Government don't have all the tools needed for an effective anti-poverty drive. However, Ministers are operating under the pretence that they are spending money to eliminate poverty without any evidence to back that up or even that the programmes they are funding work.

Secondly, there appears to be a major failure within Welsh Government to align all its programmes into a coherent anti-poverty drive. Individual Ministers are doing important work with policies such as the pupil premium, healthy community initiatives, funding temporary jobs through Jobs Growth Wales and of course programmes like Flying Start and Communities First, but there is no overall strategy with clear objectives and a co-ordinated approach to tackling poverty.

So when the Western Mail reports that politicians and charity workers have warned about the impact of losing Communities First the story is a bit more complex than that.

In fact the majority of those quoted are not saying the Welsh Government should keep Communities First at all. They are arguing for clarity and a coherent anti-poverty programme that does what it says on the the tin.

The Welsh Government has had long enough to come up with such an entity so why are we still waiting for them to show that they have a way forward on this issue?
Doesn't our definition of poverty run along the lines of 'someone or some family who's outgoings exceed incomings'.


Forget anti-poverty programmes, we need programmes to teach Welsh people and families to 'make do with less, not more'.

It's time we remembered that there's no sin in not having a colour television in each and every room or an annual subscription to Sky costing over £70 a month. And if you really do need to have a 'boob job' done privately you might well be short of holiday spending money for a few years.

Get real!


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