Living with poverty and deprivation can be defined as being in a situation where a person or household’s resources are well below their minimum needs. These needs include food, clothes and shelter, but also what is needed in order to have the opportunities and choices necessary to participate in society. As well as considering levels of income and access to employment opportunities, which are key to measuring poverty, other considerations might include education levels, health, community safety and access to services.
Social and economic disadvantages in early life in particular increase the risk of having lower earnings, lower standards of health and lower skills in adulthood. This in turn can perpetuate disadvantage across generations. Childhood experiences have a profound effect not only on children’s current lives, but also on their future opportunities and prospects.
Overall household income levels in Conwy and Denbighshire are significantly below the national average for a range of measures. In 2017 it was estimated that median household income for the Conwy & Denbighshire area was 85% of the GB average.
Annual household income (2017)
Conwy & Denbigh
Lower quartile income
% households with income below 60% of GB median
Source: CACI PayCheck data
Measures of household income include wages, welfare support, investments, pensions and other income for all household members
A household is taken to be in poverty if the total annual household income (including any benefits received) is below 60% of the average for Great Britain, which puts the official poverty line around £18,553. A significantly greater proportion of households in Conwy and Denbighshire are estimated to have income below this level than the GB average – about 33.5% of all households or around 31,467 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.
Children living in poverty (proxy measures) – August 2015
Children living in households earning less than 60% of the average for GB
Children in low income families
Children in families receiving tax credits
Children in in-work families
Children in out-of-work families
Source: children in low-income families local measure; child and working tax credit statistics, HMRC
Childhood experiences have a profound effect not only on children’s current lives, but also on their future opportunities and prospects. Likewise, social and economic disadvantages in early life increase the risk of having lower earnings, lower standards of health and lower skills in adulthood. This in turn can perpetuate disadvantage across generations.
In its child poverty strategy 2011, the Welsh Government aspires to the eradication of child poverty in Wales by 2020[i]. Direct measures of child poverty are hard to collect however, so we have to look at proxy data to help us understand this issue at the unitary authority level.
One proxy measure is children living in households in poverty. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) data shows that there are 3,995 children in Conwy CB and 4,110 children in Denbighshire who are living in poverty. This is 18.1% and 20.5% respectively of all children in families which are eligible for child benefit, and is above the average GB rate [ii].
The Denbighshire ward of Rhyl South West contains over 700 children living in poverty according to this measure with neighbouring ward Rhyl West containing nearly 650. In addition the Conwy CB wards of Tudno, Glyn, Kinmel Bay and Llysfaen, and Denbighshire wards of Rhyl South East, Denbigh Upper/Henllan 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. There are about 13,300 children in Conwy CB and 12,100 children in Denbighshire living in families that receive tax credits to help supplement their wages or benefit income. This is about 60% 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 CB and Denbighshire is significantly higher than the GB level.
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 median weekly earnings for full time workers in Conwy County Borough are 10.2% lower than the median for Great Britain, with Denbighshire being 14.6% lower.
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 .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.
LSOAs amongst top 10% most deprived for overall index
Abergele Pensarn 2
Glyn (Conwy) 2
Rhyl West 2
Rhyl West 1
Rhyl West 3
Rhyl South West 2
Rhyl East 3
Rhyl South West 1
Denbigh Upper/Henllan 1
Rhyl South East 4
Source: Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation
An ‘average’ level of deprivation would see 10% of LSOAs amongst the most deprived in Wales.
Conwy CB has a greater proportion of its LSOAs than would be expected in the top 10% most deprived for the access to services and housing domains.
Denbighshire has a greater proportion of its LSOAs than would be expected in the top 10% most deprived for the overall index (Rhyl West 2 is ranked as the second most deprived LSOA in Wales overall), as well as in the income, employment, health, access to services, community safety and housing domains.
Number of LSOAs in top 10% most deprived in Wales, by deprivation domain
As % all LSOAs
As % all LSOAs
Access to services
Source: Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation
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.
[i] Child and working tax credits statistics, HM Revenues & Customs [ii] Child Poverty Strategy for Wales, Welsh Government
The annual average (median) household income fell very slightly between 2013 and 2015 to £23,827, rising to £26,264 in 2017. Median household incomes also fell in Wales and Great Britain between 2013 and 2015 (-£440 for Wales and -£670 for GB). Median household incomes in 2017 have increased by £2,310 for Wales and £2,225 for Great Britain when compared to 2015 levels.
In 2013, lower quartile household incomes in Conwy and Denbighshire were just £13,032. This has now increased somewhat, lower quartile household income for the area in 2017 increasing by £1,980 to £15,012. This is a 15.91% percentage increase, greater than that for that Wales (11.76%) and GB as a whole (14.53%).
The proportion of households in the area with income falling below 60% of the median for Great Britain has decreased very slightly from 34.35% in 2013 to 33.5% in 2017, meanwhile the GB level has increased from 23.4% to 28.1%, therefore the gap between GB and the Conwy and Denbighshire area for this measure has narrowed.
Children living in low income households
Source: children in low-income families local measure, HMRC
This is the latest data available for this measure. Figures for future years may reflect the increased proportion of households with income falling below 60% of the GB median as reported by CACI paycheck.
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 are all having an impact on poverty levels.
The National Audit Office have reported that external organisations are facing increased demands for their services supporting Universal Credit claimants[iii], whilst Trussell Trust research has found that foodbank use increased by 30% in the six months after Universal Credit full service rolled out in an area, compared with 12% in non-Universal Credit areas[iv].
Anecdotal evidence from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau reports that over recent 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.
In their latest report ‘Universal Credit and debt’ the Citizen’s Advice Bureau find that some aspects of Universal Credit risk causing or exacerbating personal debt problems[v].
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.
In its child poverty strategy 2011, the Welsh Government aspires to the eradication of child poverty in Wales by 2020[vi].
There are many national Welfare reforms changes underway, some of which are beneficial (e.g. increase in the national minimum wage, raising of the income tax allowance threshold); but many of which do or will put pressure on recipients and, therefore, services (e.g. benefits cap, an under-occupancy penalty or ‘bedroom tax’, a move to universal credit).
There is much activity, and lots of expenditure in the Tackling Poverty arena. In its child poverty strategy 2011, the Welsh Government aspires to the eradication of child poverty in Wales by 2020. There are three Welsh Government Tackling Poverty programmes at the moment: Flying Start; Families First and Supporting People. All of these programmes offer support with parenting, housing, skills, financial management, etc. A previous programme, Communities First has recently ceased; Welsh Government is offering support to Local Authorities to maintain the most effective aspects of this former programme.
European-funded programmes also exist, including the OPUS programme, and Active Inclusion. The remit of both of these is to get the long-term unemployed (or the economically inactive) back into work.
The national and local strategy to address poverty and deprivation is, increasingly, to support people into work. A Principal Employment Manager is now in post to lead the strategic approach to support people into work in Denbighshire, with the aim of reducing poverty levels.
A Cross-Authority / Multi Service Universal Credit Board has been established and is working to address as far as possible the risks and issues associated with the impact of Universal Credit.
Poverty is a complex arena. There are many different programmes in place, and problems associated with poverty are plentiful and manifest in numerous ways; However, there are a number of ‘trigger’ factors, and some clear routes out of poverty. A response analysis on this topic could look at the effectiveness of the support programmes at steering people away from poverty, and along those routes out of poverty.
[vi]Child Poverty Strategy for Wales, Welsh Government
A common thread in public feedback was that there were too many seasonal jobs with low wages in the area. Non-assured or low salary work effects the ability of families and individuals to make longer term decisions. It also effects the affordability of essential and non-essential services.