At this point in time, the UK has not fully entered a Covid-19 recovery phase and the consequences of Brexit are being worked through. It is important to acknowledge that some indicators and research show disruptions, due to Covid-19 especially, which makes planning at a time of uncertainty particularly challenging.
Living with poverty and deprivation can be defined as the consequence of a lack of income and other resources. A person or household living with poverty and deprivation is seen when their resources are below their minimum needs. The variety of needs that are taken into account include their diet, clothing, housing and housing facilities, their environment, education and employment. In other words, anything that affects their opportunities or choices to participate in society are key to measuring poverty.
It has been proven that social and economic disadvantages in early life, and the childhood experiences that may come with these disadvantages, have a detrimental effect not only on the children themselves but also future generations. These lead to the children running the risk of having lower incomes, lower skills and lower standards of health in adult life affecting their opportunities and prospects.
Household incomes and households in poverty
Overall household income levels in Conwy County Borough and Denbighshire are lower than the national average for a range of measures when combined. Measures of household income include wages, welfare support, investments, pensions and other income for all household members.
Annual household income (2019)
Conwy County Borough
Lower quartile income
% of households with income below 60% of Great Britain median
Source: CACI PayCheck data (2019)
A household is taken into poverty if the annual household income (including any benefits received) is below 60% of the average for Great Britain, which puts the official poverty line around £19,250. A greater proportion of households in Conwy County Borough and Denbighshire are estimated to have income below this level than the British average: about 33.2% of all households or around 31,500 households in total.
Direct measures of Child poverty are hard to collect, so we have to look at proxy data to help us understand this issue at the local level.
One proxy measure is children living in households in poverty. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) data shows that there are 4,061 children in Conwy County Borough and 3,560 children in Denbighshire who are living in poverty. This is 19.1% and 18.4% respectively of all children in families which are eligible for child benefit, and is slightly below the average for Great Britain.
The Denbighshire ward of Rhyl South West is home to 1,350 children living in poverty according to this measure, with neighbouring ward Rhyl West having over 1,300 children living in poverty. In addition, the Conwy County Borough wards of Tudno, Glyn, Abergele Pensarn and Colwyn, and Denbighshire wards of Denbigh Upper/Henllan and Rhyl East all have more than 250 children living in poverty.
Another useful indicator, also published by the HMRC, is the number of families with children who are claiming tax credits and universal credit. There are about 17,400 children in both Conwy County Borough and Denbighshire living in families that receive tax credits to help supplement their wages or benefit income, this is about 78% of all children in both areas. The majority of these families are in work but on low incomes and for this measure, the rate for Conwy County Borough and Denbighshire is significantly higher than the level of Great Britain as a whole. This evidence of higher than average in-work poverty is supported by the Annual Survey of Hours and Earning conducted by the Office for National Statistics which shows that average weekly earnings for full time workers in Conwy County Borough are 19% lower than the average for Great Britain, with Denbighshire being 14% lower.
Areas of multiple deprivation
The Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation measures relative deprivation across a range of domains (income; employment; health; education; access to services; community safety; physical environment; housing) at the lower super output area level for the whole of Wales. An area is multiply deprived if, for more than one of these domains, the area has a concentration of people experiencing that type of deprivation. Generally speaking, the greater the number of domains for which there are high concentrations of deprivation, the greater the overall deprivation in an area. This does not necessarily mean that the same people suffer multiple types of deprivation in the area, although we would expect there to be significant overlap. Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) within the 10% most deprived for the overall index tend to be those which are most likely to be eligible for support under funding programmes that are targeted at combatting poverty and deprivation.
An ‘average’ level of deprivation would see 10% of LSOAs amongst the most deprived in Wales.
Conwy County Borough, with 4 of its LSOAs being in the 10% most deprived in Wales (5.6% of all its areas), has a greater proportion of its LSOAs than would be expected in the top 10% most deprived for the access to services domain.
7 LSOAs in Denbighshire are in the 10% most deprived in Wales (12.4% of all its areas) for most of the domains (and especially in terms of health) except the Physical Environment domain. Denbighshire has the top 2 ranked LSOAs most deprived in Wales overall: Rhyl West 2 and Rhyl West 1.
Multiple Deprivation in West and South West Rhyl is among the highest in Wales and encompasses worklessness, low incomes, and poor educational outcomes amongst other things. Unfortunately, Rhyl West 1, Rhyl West 2 and Rhyl South West 2 are identified by the Wales Index of Multiple Deprivation as areas of ‘deep-rooted’ deprivation. Areas with ‘deep rooted deprivation’ are those that have remained within the top 50 most deprived – roughly equal to the top 2.6% – small areas in Wales for the last five publications of WIMD ranks.
The health domain of WIMD measures lack of good health. Of all the WIMD domains, the highest number of areas in Rhyl in the 10% most deprived areas was in this domain; clearly demonstrating the relationship between socio-economic disadvantage and health and well-being. People living in the areas in the most deprived fifth of Conwy County Borough or Denbighshire not only have a shorter lifespan, but also spend less of it in good health compared to those living in the least deprived fifth. There is a difference of 12 years of healthy life expectancy for males in Denbighshire’s most deprived areas when compared to the least deprived (the widest gap for the whole of Wales), and 6.5 years for women. The gap for men in Conwy is 6.9 years and 5.2 for women. Despite overall increases in life expectancy, the gap between the proportion of life expected to be spent in good health in the most and least deprive areas has shown no clear sign of reducing in the last 10 years.
Deprivation and inequality
Welsh Government research indicates that certain groups are more likely to experience poverty.
“…socio-economic deprivation is highly intersectional. Deprivation interacts with protected characteristics, and certain communities of interest and communities of place may also experience worse outcomes in many areas. This intersectionality between deprivation and other characteristics can be thought of as a web, where different areas connect, compounding and exacerbating each other. This makes it no surprise that poverty can quickly become cyclical, or thought of as a trap that is difficult to escape. Unfortunately, disentangling this web is a complex, multifaceted issue that demands work from a wide range of stakeholders.” 
On the basis of national evidence, the following protected characteristics are more likely to live in the most deprived 10% of LSOAs in Wales (ranks 1 – 191):
Females from all age groups are more likely to live in more deprived areas than males.
Younger people are more likely than older people to live in the 10% most deprived LSOAs
Single people are more than twice as likely to live in the 10% most deprived LSOAS compared with those who are married or in a civil partnership. Nearly half of all people living in the most deprived 10% of LSOAs are single.
People who describe their sexual identity as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or anything other than heterosexual/straight (LGBTQ+ ) are slightly more likely than heterosexuals to live in the 10% most deprived LSOAs
People with a Muslim faith
People with a Black Asian Minority Ethnic background
There are equality issues associated with poverty. Welsh Government research indicates the following:
Lone parents had the highest rate of transient poverty and persistent poverty
Single pensioners also had high levels of persistent poverty (similar to the level for lone parents).
Families with two adults were less likely to experience poverty than their single-adult equivalents.
Families with children were more likely to have experienced poverty than the equivalent family type (single or couple) without children.
However, it is important to note that these calculations were based on income before housing costs (BHC) and that this has a significant impact on the numbers of pensioners judged to be in poverty. If the after housing cost (AHC) measure were used far fewer pensioners would be classed as in poverty because pensioners (on average) have much lower housing costs than other types of families.
There are other characteristics to consider beyond the family structure types examined in the Welsh Government study. Differences in the prevalence of particular working patterns within different protected groups also need to be considered. The list below is by no means exhaustive, but illustrative examples include:
Disabled people are more likely than non-disabled people to be workless and therefore more likely to experience poverty.
Women are more likely than men to live in single-parent households, to have low incomes, and to have only part-time work and are therefore more likely to experience poverty.
Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are also more likely, than other women, to be workless and therefore more likely to experience poverty.
A period of ill health, or a worsening condition can cause huge difficulties. For those in work, but who are just managing, it can lead to losing employment and then struggling to get back into work. Unable to support themselves and their family, and without the positive psychological and social support that comes from being in work, their wellbeing can decline and their health can worsen.
The gap between the employment rate for those with a long term health condition and the overall age specific employment rate in persons aged 16-64 is 15.3 in Conwy and 14.9 in Denbighshire. Wrexham has the highest rate in North Wales at 17.2. Both Conwy & Denbighshire are higher than the Wales average of 14.1.
Across Wales and the UK, many people are not food secure (see our ‘resilience well-being goal‘ for further information). Food security is defined as being able to consistently afford, access and use the food needed to maintain good health and well-being. More and more people are finding themselves to be food insecure. Food banks have been set up in communities where people have recognised this problem of hunger with the intention of meeting immediate food needs.
Drawing on research by YouGov in 2021, a UK-wide mapping tool estimates three different measures of adult food insecurity.
Hungryis defined as having skipped food for a whole day or more in the previous month or indicated they were hungry but not eaten because they could not afford or get access to food.
Struggleis defined as a positive response to at least one of the following: sought help accessing food; skipped or shrank meal; gave a reason for not having enough food
Worryis defined as choosing very worried or fairly worried about getting food.
The table below summarises the findings. Just over 10% of people in both counties experienced hunger because they did not have enough to eat, mainly due to struggle or worry; 5% were hungry.
Percentage of adults experiencing hunger because they did not have enough to eat, January 2021
Conwy County Borough
Source: UK local food insecurity of Adults January 2021
While we do not have trend data for food poverty, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research states there is a high correlation between destitution (extreme poverty) and demand for food banks. Demand locally for foodbank parcels have increased across both areas from 2020 according to data from The Trussell Trust.
2,080 parcels were given to 1,283 adults and 797 children in Conwy between April 2020-March 2021 (an increase in demand of 30% for adults and 20% for children on the previous year)
6,339 parcels were given to 3,677 adults and 2,662 children in Denbighshire between April 2020-March 2021 (an increase in demand of 48.21% for adults and 46.2% for children on the previous year)
There are also many low income families who are unable to afford subscriptions to broadband services. Mobile data can be a more affordable and flexible option compared to fixed broadband packages as it can be accessed without installation costs, line rental, or long term contracts. Without access to all providers of 4G mobile data, many customers will not benefit from the same offers or deals that others receive throughout the UK. Data, however, can be expensive; unaffordable even for those in poverty or at risk of socio-economic exclusion.
 Children living in poverty (proxy measure), Apr 18 – Mar 19 – Source: child in low-income families, child & working tax credit & Universal Credit statistics, HMRC
 Child and working tax credits statistics, HM Revenues & Customs
The annual average (median) household income increased by £3,700 between 2015 and 2019 to £27,500. Household incomes in Wales and Great Britain increased during this period too (£3,750 for Wales and £3,700 for GB).
In the same period, the households with the lowest incomes in the area also increased – lower quartile household incomes increased by £2,450 to £15,900. The proportion of household with income falling below 60% of the median for Great Britain decreased by around 1.8%.
Between 2014 and 2019 the number of children living in low income households decreased by 534 in Conwy and 1020 in Denbighshire – a total decrease of 1554 children.
 Children living in low income households. Source: children in low-income families local measure, HMRC
Future trends in relation to poverty are uncertain and will depend particularly on UK government policy on welfare. In recent years, poverty rates for children in Wales have been broadly similar to the UK as a whole.
Future trends in relation to poverty are uncertain and will depend particularly on UK government policy on welfare. In recent years, poverty rates for children in Wales have been broadly similar to the UK as a whole. Increased threats to food security, driven in part by the impacts of climate change and unsustainable practices, is likely to result in increases in the prices of some foods, such as cereals. Certain crops grown in environments with higher carbon dioxide levels have also been shown to produce less nutritious food, which risks increasing nutritional deficiencies in the decades ahead.
Recognised links between poverty and poor health suggest that predicted increases in the prevalence of chronic health conditions may lead to increases in people living in poverty.
Changes to state welfare arrangements are disproportionately affecting those in the greatest poverty, particularly families with children. Recent reductions in the benefit caps, reductions in tax credit entitlements and the introduction of Universal Credit will all have an impact on poverty levels.
Anecdotal evidence from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau reports that over the years they have witnessed an increase in the number of people who rely on the children’s Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to be part of the essential household income, rather than to provide the extra support that a disabled child needs. There is a risk that disabled children living in poverty will be further disadvantaged where their DLA is used for food, heating or rent.
The biggest impact and the one that is likely to have the biggest detrimental effect on families, and especially children, is the Covid-19 pandemic. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research states that destitution (extreme poverty) is projected to be almost 3 times higher in 2022 to 23 than in pre-Covid 19 times, which equates to over an increase of more than 350% in Wales.
The figures reported on have been from 2019 so the true effect of the pandemic on families has yet to be clearly analysed. With the retail and hospitality sectors being the areas that have been most affected, the consequences for families in poverty could be serious, especially in those areas heavily reliant on the hospitality sector.
The impacts on income and poverty levels changes in the wider economy is incredibly difficult to predict, and is heavily influenced by national and international market conditions which are outside of the sphere of influence of local and, increasingly, national government. Based on our analysis of claimant rates, the recent increase in the claimant count, and the time we expect it will take for the employment rate to recover, poverty and destitution, with food and fuel poverty, will be issues affecting adults and families with children over the next five to ten years at least.
 The National Institute of Economic and Social Research, Covid-19 Impacts on Destitution in the UK. Presentation delivered to Cardiff Business School, Breakfast Briefing on 15 June 2021.
People are concerned about child poverty, and the extent to which the public sector is working to improve the quality of life for people and children in poverty. Child hunger is a particular concern for people and they want to understand the root causes for hunger. People also want to ensure we ask those living in deprived areas to find out what they feel would improve their lives.
Homelessness is seen as a factor in deprivation and so too housing quality. Poor housing has been highlighted by people as having a causal relationship with lower life expectancy.
Concerns about the availability and sustainability of transport have been raised in engagement work with the public and officers within the public agencies in each county.
People told us they value community assets like community-run shops, pubs and businesses, and they want to encourage people, including young people, to get involved in their communities.
They identified people with disabilities, including learning difficulties, and older people as people they feel should be supported.
We will need to review this topic as the evidence regarding the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic is more reliable.
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