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Lord Bird, Founder of The Big Issue, urges Wales to keep doing more to prevent poverty

Today, (19th April) Big Issue founder Lord John Bird and Sophie Howe, The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, spoke to a 100 strong audience at the National Assembly for Wales’ Pierhead, about the need for urgent action to prevent poverty and social exclusion. 

Bird and Howe both spoke at ‘Prevention and inclusion: lessons for tackling poverty’, hosted by Mark Isherwood AM and organised by the Bevan Foundation and The Big Issue Cymru.

Lord Bird praised the Bevan Foundation’s all-encompassing plans to cut the poverty rate in Wales to just 10% by 2030 and ensure no one is ever destitute. He also publicly expressed his support for the Well-being of Future Generations Act, calling on a replication of the Act in England.

1 in 4 people in Wales live in relative poverty and it costs the Welsh public purse around £3.6 billion a year. Poverty affects educational attainment, employment prospects, health, relationships and life expectancy. Historically, efforts to address it have focused on curing rather than preventing the problem.

As Wales’ most innovative and influential think tank, the Bevan Foundation has already taken great strides to tackle the issue, by putting long-term prosperity on the Welsh agenda and securing growth hubs in the Valleys. Last month, at the Senedd, they launched the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s new report ‘Poverty in Wales’ which highlighted that poverty rates in Wales are higher than in other parts of the UK. The situation is expected to get worse, with child poverty predicted to reach 40% by 2021.

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, which came into force in 2015, requires public bodies listed in the Act to think more about the long term, work better with people and communities and each other, look to prevent problems and take a more joined-up approach – to take action to prevent problems getting worse or occurring in the first place.

Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue, said:

“It’s been brilliant to be in Cardiff to help spark a national dialogue about the ways we can work together to tackle poverty. I am delighted to see the Bevan Foundation taking such a thorough approach to understanding and solving the root causes of poverty in Wales, which are ever-present and eating away at our society.”

“I applaud the visionary spirit of the Well-being of Future Generations Act that Wales has committed to – and that Sophie and her team are making a reality. By fixing our focus on prevention, and learning the lessons from Wales, we can build a society based on social justice – and one that offers our children hope for their futures.”

Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales said: “Money is not a reflection of prosperity here in Wales, merely a measure of it. Living in poverty in Wales means more than just not having a lot of money. The consequences of poverty are wide-reaching, affecting all things from health, job-status, air quality, educational prospects and employment.  That is why it is important that we see poverty in the round and tackling it becomes everyone’s business – not just for the benefit of people now but because of its long-term impact on future generations.

“Poverty should never be considered an inevitability – the principles within the Future Generations Act around acting to prevent problems, thinking in an integrated way, working with others and involving people in finding solutions holds the key to tackling many of our most challenging long terms problems and can allow us to construct a future where poverty is a thing of the past.”

Director of the Bevan Foundation, Victoria Winckler said: “We’re delighted to have welcomed Lord John Bird and Sophie Howe here today and grateful to them for sharing their valuable experiences and sparking such insightful discussion. The Bevan Foundation is wholeheartedly committed to the preventative approach to solving poverty. By ensuring an inclusive economy with diverse businesses, fair and decent jobs and housing that is affordable and secure, we will prevent poverty both from increasing and impacting our future generations.”

‘Prevention and inclusion: lessons for tackling poverty’ was generously supported by Capital Law and Pobl Group and kindly sponsored by Mark Isherwood AM.