Lived experience of poverty and social exclusion in Wales

This report outlines the results of four workshops conducted in different areas of Wales involving people with direct lived experience of poverty and social exclusion. The workshops form part of a broader project conducted by the Wales Centre for Public Policy (WCPP) for the Welsh Government to deliver a review of international strategies, programmes and interventions that aim to tackle poverty and social exclusion, to inform future policies in this area.

The aim of the workshops was to carry out an engagement exercise to ensure that underrepresented voices are included in policy making processes relating to poverty and social exclusion in Wales, as opposed to an attempt to supplement the evidence base with additional qualitative data.

Recruitment was conducted via two third sector organisations who worked directly with the participants: Action in Caerau and Ely, and the Centre for Building Social Action. Forty-two participants participated in the workshops in total, which took part in September 2021.

The findings indicate that the high and rising costs of food and gas and electric presented significant difficulties in managing incomes, which caused considerable stress for the participants. Participants who were mothers of young children highlighted the lack of availability and high cost of childcare as key contributing factors to their experiences of poverty and social exclusion.

Discussions on social security benefits focused on how they were not seen to adequately meet (rising) living costs, and how the communication and administration of benefits are needlessly complicated. The set-up of the benefits system was said to disincentivise participants from seeking work or increasing their hours, while the administration of the benefits system also resulted in some participants feeling dehumanised.

These issues, and lived experience of poverty and social exclusion more generally, were said to have a negative impact on mental health and well-being. The participants made a number of suggestions of what could be done to improve the situation, including education on managing finances in secondary schools, greater support in applying for and understanding benefits, and increased wrap-around support, particularly for finding and maintaining employment.