THE rollout of Universal Credit, a lack of public services and the UK Government’s austerity measures have been cited as key reasons for the high levels of child poverty in Gwent.

A study commissioned by a group of children’s charities found some wards in Newport and Torfaen had among the highest rates of child poverty in Wales, after housing costs had been taken into account.

Independent city councillor for Liswerry Allan Morris complained of underinvestment in parts of the city, like his ward, where the study found an estimated 44 per cent of children were living in poverty.

The average rate of child poverty in the Newport area is 32 per cent.


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“There are youngsters on every street corner craving something to do, and we’ve got high levels of anti-social behaviour because of that,” Cllr Morris said.

“It’s shocking that in 2019 the gap between rich and poor is wider than ever. We as a nation should be ashamed of it.

“Austerity is having a massive impact on the people at the bottom of the pile.”

South Wales Argus:

(Liswerry ward councillor Allan Morris.)

Cllr Morris said the number of food parcels being requested locally was “incredible”, and said children’s futures were being jeopardised because of a lack of funding and public services.

“These children could be doctors, scientists, or sports stars if we had the investment,” he added.

Cllr Morris praised the community spirit on show in Liswerry, saying: “There are a lot of people here dedicating their time and energy [to helping young people] and I take my hat off to them.

“The local football club and boxing club have been producing champions out of kids who would otherwise be on the streets.”


And in Torfaen, the average child poverty rate is 30 per cent, with the highest rates found in the Upper Cwmbran (43 per cent), Greenmeadow, Snatchwood, Trevethin, and St Cadocs and Penygarn wards (all 41 per cent).

Conservative councillor for the Greenmeadow ward Cllr Jason O’Connell said: “Sadly poverty in Wales is now sadly seen as the norm in day to day lives and not the exception - we’ve come to accept it instead of challenging it.

“We have to accept that while the premise of Universal Credit is a good one in preparing for people to enter the workforce the roll out and execution of Universal Credit in Torfaen has had a detrimental impact and will have increased the statistical reporting of families in poverty - the exact opposite of its intention and a key driver of the reported rate.

“The Welsh Government also has an important role to play and I’m constantly frustrated to see the wasted millions of pounds under the name of poverty eradication with little or no results over the last 20 years.”

South Wales Argus:

(Greenmeadow councillor Jason O'Connell. Picture: Torfaen Council.)

Cllr O’Connell cited Welsh Government projects such as the Circuit of Wales as “wasting taxpayers’ money”, suggesting that the money could instead help with “raising the opportunities for those in poverty to earn more by training for the future.”

Like Cllr Morris, Cllr O’Connell also praised the community spirit in his ward.

“We’re blessed in Greenmeadow to have a close community that supports each other in times of need and we have a caring charitable community,” he said. “But I would much rather eliminate the need for these services in the first place.”

Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds, of Labour, said the UK Government’s austerity policies and the rollout of Universal Credit were some of the key factors behind these findings.

He said: “These shocking statistics represent the human cost of nine years of Tory austerity which has done so much damage to our communities here in Torfaen and all over the country.

“Together with the botched Universal Credit rollout, callous UK Government policies are driving up poverty. Torfaen Council is doing what it can to mitigate their worst effects but, ultimately, only a change of Government at UK level can bring about real change.”