Swansea hopes to lead way to end poverty and debt
SWANSEA could one day lead the rest of Wales in helping people avoid becoming trapped in a cycle of debt and hardship.
This is the hope of a taskforce including Swansea Council, Swansea University, the local credit union and the campaign group Movement for Change which are drawing up plans to help residents facing financial problems which can lead to them borrowing money at extremely high rates.
Swansea Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, Councillor Mitch Theaker, set up the taskforce.
He said: “For the first time Save the Children have launched a campaign to beat poverty in the UK.
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“Problems with the economy, sharp rises in fuel and food costs and changes to the benefit system are all set to have an increasing impact on families feeling the strain, and the temptation to access apparently ‘easy money’ can be strong.
Swansea Council’s cabinet members have all signed up to the local credit union as part an ethical financial alternative.
Swansea Council’s cabinet member for target areas, Ryland Doyle, said: “As an authority we are committed to increasing social inclusion and tackling inequality in our communities. The grip of debt only serves to increase inequality and can cause associated social problems and we are determined to raise awareness of safer options such as credit unions.”
Council leader David Phillips said he was making poverty eradication his number one priority.
Shortly after taking office this year, he said: “For too long Swansea has been a divided city — divided by wealth, divided by poverty, divided by access to opportunity or the lack of it, divided by health and life expectancy.
“We intend to begin to change that. Tackling poverty is at the top of our priorities.”
However, Mr Phillips said he realised the changes would not be possible overnight and would take time. Pledges to decrease poverty were welcomed by charities in Swansea.
Among them was the Cyrenians, which works to tackle poverty and homelessness, and has a base in Swansea’s High Street.
Cyrenians Chief executive Conrad Watkins previously said: “We welcome this announcement and we are very keen to work with the new administration in tackling poverty and deprivation.
“There are a lot of problems to tackle, including the rise in heroin use, particularly with young people. It’s estimated there are up to 6,000 users in Swansea, and yet there are just 650 treatment places.
“And the other issue is homelessness, because we have a toxic mix of welfare cuts and a rise in unemployment, and Swansea has been identified as one of the five most vulnerable cities to public sector cuts. Then you have elderly street drinkers who are ageing.
“Wales historically does not have the funding to tackle the issues, but we have our own ideas about how things can be developed, and are keen to talk to the administration.”