Archbishop John Davies will use an appearance at the National Eisteddfod, the annual Welsh cultural festival, tomorrow (Wednesday) to highlight increasing levels of child poverty in the country. The Church in Wales will lead the event alongside the Children’s Commissioner for Wales as part of a week of activities organised by Cytûn, the ecumenical group Churches Together in Wales, at the Eisteddfod.
The Church in Wales says that an estimated 200,000 children are living in poverty in Wales today, with cutbacks in benefits and public funding for family services significantly adding to the problem. The Welsh Government recently admitted that its target of ending child poverty by 2020 will not be reached.
Tomorrow’s event at the office of the Welsh Council for Voluntary Action in Cardiff will involve a panel discussion introduced by Archbishop John. The discussion will “highlight the issue and provide an opportunity for people to explore what can be done to help those in need,” the Church in Wales said.
The event will begin with an interview by the Bishop of Bangor, Andy John, with the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Dr Sally Holland, about her research on childhood poverty.
The panel includes a number of people involved in church projects directly helping families in poverty, including Catherine Haynes, children’s adviser for the Diocese of Monmouth. Her parish runs a “Holiday Hunger” scheme at the local Tŷ Price centre to provide packed lunches for children at a summer play scheme in Monmouth.
Other panellists are Cherrie Bija, who supports the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon’s Faith in Families initiative to support families in disadvantaged parts of Swansea; Samantha Duggan, who works with Plant Dewi, a children’s project run by the Diocese of St Davids to help young parents. The scheme includes providing “Baby Bundle” packs of essential items for new parents; and another Plant Dewi worker, Sian Cheeseman, who works with the Tŷ Mair family centre in Burry Port.
“Poverty in childhood is an issue the Church is acutely aware of due to the work of our family centres, community projects, food banks, holiday hunger schemes and our collaboration with the Children’s Society,” Archbishop John said. “We see at first-hand how poverty is affecting children across Wales and how the demand for these services continues to increase.
“We fear many children in Wales are having their childhood blighted by poverty - a 'poor upbringing'. We welcome this opportunity to highlight our concerns and help inform the Children’s Commissioner’s work this year on child poverty.”
Speaking ahead of the event, the Children’s Commissioner, Dr Sally Holland, said, “Without a doubt, child poverty is the biggest challenge facing Welsh Government today. We know the scale of the problem, and we know that those families in the most vulnerable positions need more help.
“Churches do some important work to support families who are living in poverty, including food banks, and organising free packed lunches for children at holiday clubs over the summer to replace their free school meals and ensure they don’t go hungry. These are some examples of the initiatives that can really make a difference to the most vulnerable families.
“This year, my office will be meeting with children, parents and professionals from across Wales to hear what they think needs to change, and what extra support they need. We’ll then be recommending concrete steps that Welsh Government and local authorities can take to reduce the impact of poverty on the most vulnerable children and their families.”