The Rhondda AM has said Covid-19 has underlined the need for the Labour Government to put tackling poverty back on the agenda.
Leanne Wood AM was speaking as figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the pandemic has affected the poorest areas of Wales much more than affluent areas. She added that this highlighted the continued absence of a Labour Government anti-poverty strategy for Wales.
One in three children in Wales live in poverty in 2020 – a year by which a Labour Government pledged to eradicate child poverty at the dawn of devolution two decades ago. When the Labour Government announced in 2017 they were closing down the Communities First programme – which provided millions of pounds of funding to the most deprived parts of Wales - there was no programme brought in to replace it and this has remained the case.
This comes on top of years of austerity which has impacted heavily on the public services relied upon by those with the least.
The coronavirus outbreak has been catastrophic for some of poorest parts of Wales. The ONS said: ‘The most deprived fifth of areas (quintile) in Wales had a rate of 44.6 deaths involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) per 100,000 population; this was almost twice as high as the least deprived areas (23.2 deaths per 100,000 population) and over twice as high as the lowest mortality rate in quintile four (19.5 deaths per 100,000 population).’
The Rhondda AM said this should be a wake-up call for the Labour Government. “It is well documented that poverty kills,” said Ms Wood. “Poverty has an adverse impact on health, on opportunities and, ultimately, on life expectancy. This is exacerbated with a killer virus like Covid-19.
“Wales is now paying the price for having governments in Westminster and Wales that have been unable or unwilling to get to grips with inequality which has only increased under both Tory and Labour Governments. There has to be a concerted effort from all levers of government now to eliminate poverty.
“If the Labour Government is serious about this, they should consider developing an anti-poverty strategy to replace the one they axed three years ago.
“It is not right that the poorest people in society are being failed time and time again. The status quo is not acceptable and change must come.”
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