If there are those who think that Monmouthshire is an oasis of privilege and wealth set aside from the rest of Wales, I am sorry to disabuse them.

We are the most diverse county with both wealth and hardship side-by-side.

This is underlined by the recent figures from the Department for Work and Pensions, which show that 2,154 Monmouthshire children aged under 16 were living in relative poverty in the year to March 2023.

And these official figures don’t account for housing costs, so we know that this means many more families are struggling financially. The Children in Wales survey 2022 estimated that one-in-three children in Wales are growing up in poverty.

One of the reasons for this are the cuts in benefits and tax credit support for families since 2010, making almost all families worse off than they would have been, with single parents losing the biggest slice of their family budget.

A generation of children have grown up, in an allegedly rich nation, with support being whittled away, even before the covid pandemic and cost of living crisis.

What this means is constant stress and worry, with parents struggling to feed and clothe their family as well as paying bills, often working long hours to try to manage financially.

Teachers and social workers tell me that every school in Monmouthshire has seen an increase in the number of children whose families aren’t able to afford essentials, with an impact on mental health for children and adults.

Control over taxes and benefits sits squarely with the UK government.

Nevertheless, in Monmouthshire we are trying to help as much as we can.

We are working with the Welsh Government to deliver the actions in the Child Poverty Strategy for Wales, which includes a free school meals roll-out in primary schools, increasing Flying Start support for families with babies and pre-school children, increased child-care provision, holiday play facilities, youth support and chances to take part in low and no-cost sport, leisure and cultural activities.

We are starting to close the education gap between children from low-income homes and those from better-off families, and also to get children back into school.

Overall, Monmouthshire is a caring county, and I have been impressed with how many people give their time and work to make sure youngsters don’t miss out, and to help struggling parents.

So "thank you" to the people who organise and donate to foodbanks and babybanks, who donate and collect outgrown school uniform and recycle furniture to ensure that children don’t go without.

Thank you to the Citizens Advice volunteers helping families claim their rights, and all those who run sports and other clubs.

As always in Monmouthshire we work together, in partnership, to help struggling families.