Heating or eating: families in Wales are forced to make tough decisions as the cost of living rises

The poverty rate in Wales remains the highest in the UK according to a report, as campaigners demand government support.

Families in Wales are now choosing between heating or eating as Welsh campaign group Unite Community demand government support.

Unite Community Wales are a union dedicated to campaigning for each household to receive a free amount of energy to cover basic needs and universal free school meals.

Mike Harrison, the Unite Community Wales Chair said, “Fatcats who run these energy companies keep getting richer while our communities get poorer and with winter now hitting us and it getting even more colder we worry for those who can’t afford to stay warm. Something needs to change.”

Poverty in Wales is the highest in the UK according to a 2022 report with recent data showing 28% of children in Wales in 2023 are living in poverty.

Ewan Goodjohn, who campaigns for the Cardiff branch of Unite Community Wales, said “Poverty has become such a huge part of our day to day lives in Wales at the moment. It’s not something that we’ve seen for many decades. If we cant have heating in our homes, food for our kids, then what kind of society do we live in.”

He said, “I’m in college at the moment and I’ve had many friends who don’t have quite qualify for free school meals who desperately need it. I’ve had friends with eat disorders. Friends whose parents do not let them eat. Just having that safety of being able to go to school, and being able to eat knowing that whatever the circumstances, they will get a hot meal would be beneficial to thousands and thousands of children.”

A survey asked practitioners and professionals to name the biggest causes of poverty and 96% of respondents, from all 22 local authority areas across Wales, chose the cost of living crisis as a top five issue.

Harrison said, “The cost of living crisis has made things worse for our communities but we can’t forget this has been a long standing issue, benefit sanctions, stagnation in wages and benefits, kids going hungry, it’s not just come over night. This issue has been years in the making… over the past 10 years things have got worse and worse for our communities but the past year or two have been extra hard. Something needs to change.”

Find the Unite Community Cardiff branch petition here.