In Wales almost a quarter of people live in relative poverty.
That is a figure that has barely changed for a decade, even though it has been a key focus of government in Wales. Added to this challenge, in-work poverty is now on the rise – simply getting a job is not the route out of poverty that is once was.
At Oxfam, we think it’s time for a new approach to tackling poverty here in Wales. We don’t hold all of the policy levers, but we do hold enough to make a difference. In our work overseas, Oxfam utilises what is known as an “assets-based approach” and in recent years we have been using that approach in our programme work here in Wales.
Put simply, for too long our tackling poverty programmes have focussed on what people don’t have – regularly income and jobs. Target driven programmes mean groups of people are pushed towards similar outcomes, often a specific qualification. Programmes based on geographic areas mean that those who live in poverty but in “well-off” communities are regularly missed.
Instead, we want to see an approach that focuses on what people do have and helps them to build on those assets to forge a more sustainable path out of poverty. Our most recent programme was designed to help people build on these strengths and assets to overcome the problems they might face, and worked with marginalised people in nine communities across Wales.
This programme utilises individual and flexible support and funding. Everyone’s experience of poverty is unique and everyone’s strengths and assets are different, so it’s vital that the programme funding and service delivery takes account of this and is supports people by providing the help they need – there is no point paying for someone to take an expensive qualification when all they need is the money to buy a suit to attend an interview.
Our project delivered a social return on investment of £4.43 for every £1 spent, meaning it provides real value for money for government, too. That’s why we think we need to change the way we deliver our public services at all levels and employ an assets-based approach to help us tackle poverty.