Work to reduce child poverty in Pembrokeshire is gathering pace as funding is identified to start making immediate changes while a long-term strategy is developed.
A spotlight is being shone on the issues of child poverty in responses to research around 18 months ago that put Pembrokeshire top of the list in Wales, a ranking that “shocked” many officers and councillors.
Members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s policy and pre-decision heard that cash from the Welsh Church Fund has been identified for use to support children in poverty, with the possibility of increasing or extending education maintenance allowance being explored, said head of children’s services Darren Mutter.
The allowance had not increased from £30 a week in ten years, the committee heard.
Around £40,000 of funding a year is available for Pembrokeshire, the committee heard, and it has “gone untouched for several years.”
Mr Mutter said that the working group set up in response to a notice of motion tabled by former St Davids councillor David Lloyd had now met twice, with a third due next week at which representatives of wider agencies in the county will also be coming on board.
There has been “rich and useful” discussion at the Public Services Board on the matter and the work will be extended to include poverty as a whole, as well as child poverty, said Mr Mutter, adding that it is the “operational iteration of that strategy that makes a difference.”
The ‘cost of living’ crisis with increasing food and fuel costs was also going to lead to more people falling into poverty, cabinet member for social service Cllr Tessa Hodgson reminded the committee, and although “there’s no quick fix for this” the council would focus on what’s in its remit to make improvements.
She added that the extension for free school meals in Wales was “good news” and poverty issues were high on the agenda of Welsh and UK Government.