TACOMA, Washington — Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the scenic country of Wales has taken a hit. With almost a quarter of its people living in poverty before COVID-19, poverty in Wales continues to worsen as the economy declines due to pandemic conditions. Low-paid workers in Wales, comprising of the accommodation, food and beverage sector, have seen 78% of their jobs furloughed. By June of 2020, around 400,000 people in Wales had fallen behind on their bills. With a total population of 3.1 million, this group of people struggling to make ends meet makes up a greater part of the total population. Initiatives to aid poverty in Wales have been of some success but the battle against COVID-19 has only just begun. COVID-19’s impact on poverty in Wales has been harsh as already struggling households struggle even further.
Welsh Food Banks Work Overtime
Food banks in Wales have seen a staggering 21% increase in food assistance since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This increase is not entirely encompassing either as other Welsh community groups outside of food banks have been assisting residents with food aid too. The Trussell Trust Foodbank, working to end the need for food banks in the United Kingdom, has a current Welsh network of 117 food banks. Between April 1 and September 30 of 2020, it handed out 70,393 emergency food parcels. In comparison, 58,272 emergency food parcels were handed out in 2019 for the same duration of time.
Wales: Worst Child Poverty in the UK
Out of the four countries that comprise the United Kingdom, Wales has the worst child poverty rates. A whole 200,000 children are living in poverty in Wales, and of these 200,000 children, 90,000 are living in severe poverty. Roughly 600,000 total children live in Wales, meaning one out of every three Welsh children are experiencing some degree of poverty. With low-income jobs vanishing in Wales and a quarter of low-income households skipping meals to save money, COVID-19 only continues to worsen the cycle of poverty.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), a U.K. charity working to end poverty in Wales, has been advocating to the Welsh Government since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic about the importance of empowering individual households. Specifically, the JRF is stressing to The Welsh Government the importance of developing a new childcare offer for children, guaranteeing affordable social rents to residents and creating a “Welsh Benefits System” in the country. Expanding on the Welsh Government’s social housing efforts and existing childcare offer, which have both positively benefited the Welsh during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, these three actions would further expand assistance and ease poverty in Wales.
COVID-19’s Impact on Poverty in Wales
Wales has been hit hard by COVID-19. Having the highest child poverty rates in the United Kingdom, the economy has worsened and those already impacted by poverty in low-income households have since seen the effects of poverty intensify. Food banks are working overtime to aid those in need of food and organizations and charities are calling upon the Welsh Government to invest more in individual households. On top of this, social housing and existing childcare offers have been of much help to the Welsh people. Through further advocating and initiatives, people in the country can recover from COVID-19’s impact on poverty in Wales.
– Dylan James