Child Poverty Casts a Dark Shadow over All Our Futures; Today at a National Child Poverty Conference and Children's Summit Delivered by Save the Children and Children in Wales, James Pritchard, Head of Save the Children in Wales, Will Challenge the Leaders of Every Political Party in the Nation to Reiterate Their Commitment to Ending the Blight of Child Poverty by 2020

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Byline: James Pritchard

T HIS week, up and down Wales, the turn of the seasons has been marked by the hiss and gurgle of central heating systems creaking into life after a few months' break.

For the luckiest among us, the biggest worry is a pipe bursting as the boiler finally gives up the ghost or getting round to bleed the radiators. But for those living in poverty in Wales, the worrying begins even before the weather starts to turn.

Because in Wales today 400,000 adults and 200,000 children live in poverty - and 90,000 of those children live in seS vere poverty.

Their parents face a choice between heating the home or putting food on the table, buying new school shoes or paying the gas bill. Difficult and depressing daily trade-offs similar to those we all have to consider but tougher and more frequent.

Being poor in Wales today means living your life against the backdrop of a stagnant job market and a lack of opportunity. It means living in often isolated, marginalised communities with higher crime rates and poorer health.

Children growing up in poverty are far more likely to live their adult lives in poverty and raise their own children in similar circumstances. They do less well in school and have worse health as adults, they are more likely to struggle to find work and end up relying on benefits and are more likely to be drawn into criminality.

Of course it is a moral outrage for such a wealthy nation to exclude so many young people, but it is also terrible economics. The NHS, the criminal justice and benefits systems and the economy as a whole all pay the bill for young lives blighted by poverty.

That is why, at Hungry for Change, the second national child poverty conference and children's summit being held in Cardiff today, Save the Children will challenge the leaders of every political party in Wales to reiterate their commitment to ending child poverty by 2020.

We want them to promise again to renew the fight against child poverty and to work together on a cross-party approach to tackle it.

This is a promise they all made in 1999 and some progress has been made towards meeting it. More than a million children have been lifted out of poverty since we started working towards that goal. But recently momentum has stalled, with the state of the economy, changes to the benefit system and the rising cost of living threatening to undo the improvements that were being made for the poorest children.

Last month the Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that, unless we change direction by 2020, there will be 800,000 more children living in poverty in the UK. That would mean we would be back, almost exactly as it happens, to where we were in 1999. …