The revelation – reported in detail in the Cambrian News – that approaching a third of children in Ceredigion, Gwynedd and Powys live in poverty is highly disturbing.
The trouble is that, for anyone without direct, personal sight of children who are hungry, cold or badly clothed, this will be a scandal hidden from view.
Then the danger will be that this utter disgrace will be relegated to a remote shelf in our personal memory banks and more or less forgotten about.
There are things we can do to stop this happening.
We can push hard for adoption of measures to hack away at the edifice of child poverty.
Money is key to fighting this outrage, to include cutting the excessive profits of utilities companies and curbing the power over food prices of increasingly dominant commodities traders.
Top of any band-aid action, however, should be immediate restoration of the £20 a week increase in universal credit introduced during lockdown in the spring of 2020 and brutally withdrawn 18 months later. Together with index-linking of state benefits, this would provide some help.
Every adult employee, regardless of age, should be paid at least the national living wage – currently £10.42 an hour, which is in any case totally inadequate.
The current varying hourly rates depending on age must all be scrapped, cost of living stresses being much the same regardless of how old you are.
Free school meals should be offered to all children, whether or not their parents are on state benefits, a no-exceptions policy being good for social cohesion.
The price-tag for such measures – including taxpayer help with employee pay for businesses who demonstrate absolute necessity – would be far less than the longer-term bill attaching to social problems and ill-health deriving from child poverty.
We now have the added problem, however, that, without urgent action, child poverty figures could worsen as a result of the surge in UK mortgage rates, and the certainty that some rents will go up as well.
If that happens, the pressure for state financial intervention of the kind outlined, together with action to curb food and utilities outgoings, would finally become irresistible.
For mid Wales families with mortgages now encountering an interest rate of more than six per cent on the average two-year loan, and as a result facing the prospect of becoming part of the region’s child-poverty statistics, it will be instructive to remember the train of events politically that brought us to the current dire position.
On 23 September last year, the regrettable former prime minister Liz Truss and the dangerously over-confident chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, announced their infamous and destructive mini-budget, with its £45 billion of unfunded tax cuts.
The average new two-year fixed rate then was 4.74 per cent, but by the start of November it had climbed to 6.47 per cent, a hair’s breadth from the current figure.
With a general election at most 18 months away, it’s a piece of political history the Rishi Sunak regime will much want to see shoved under the Downing Street door-mat, while issuing an instruction that any transparency-liking member of staff seen in the vicinity with a dustpan and brush will be out the door.
The people of mid Wales, however, are subject to no such injunction.
They will surely look back in anger, and vote accordingly.
Supermarkets aren’t helping as insect population nosedives
Gardeners who spray lethal chemicals on wild plants they choose to call weeds are doing their bit to decimate Wales’s rapidly declining insect populations, while adding to food insecurity.
A reminder from last time: a survey last summer by the Buglife campaigning group uncovered an astounding 75 per cent Wales-wide decline in insect numbers over the 18 years 2004 to 2022.
This was much worse than the 55 per cent fall chalked up for 2021, again in relation to 2004 figures.
In the UK as a whole, the 18-year decline was 64 per cent.
Meanwhile, supermarkets, garden-centres and online sellers carry on regardless, plying equally indifferent gardeners with herbicides designed by their makers to put paid to plants that insects rely on for food. These of course are the very same insects we rely on for so many foods.
As pollinators, these creatures have so far ensured continuing supplies of fruits and vegetables for us all, including spray-happy gardeners who assume such produce will always be readily available. With insects under sustained attack, that becomes a very unreliable assumption.
The life-sustaining ‘weeds’ being shrivelled by over-the-counter herbicides are common - and crucial: clover, daisies, dandelions, creeping thistle, stinkweed, plantain, speedwell, to name a few, all provide bees and other food-crop pollinators, including wasps, moths and butterflies, with pollen, their main source of protein, as well as lipids, sterols, minerals and vitamins. ‘Weeds’ may also provide nectar, the basis of honey – another human favourite.
Some pesticides suppliers are guilty of flagrant greenwash.
In 2021, Tesco and Waitrose signed up to an environmental protection campaign launched by the then Prince of Wales. This is the Terra Carta initiative, a planetary sustainability strategy Charles describes as an “urgent call to arms”.
Waitrose trumpeted their alignment with the scheme, while Tesco boasted being awarded the Terra Carta Seal which, it explained, “recognises positive action towards a more sustainable future and care for nature, people and planet”.
Really? And how is this fine ambition served by poisons which work in opposition to nature and, in so doing, against people and planet? You might like to pop the question next time you roll up at one of mid and north Wales’s umpteen Tescos.