Faith in Families CEO urges public to join government child poverty consultation

With the deadline for participation in the Welsh Government’s public consultation on its draft child poverty strategy looming, Cherrie Bija, the CEO of child poverty charity Faith in Families, is urging people to get involved by submitting their views.

Members of the public can give their views on the draft Child Poverty Strategy for Wales online, by post, or via email, until September 11. The consultation questions can be found online at

 Bija says it’s vital to get the strategy right, especially as child poverty is on the rise. Faith in Families supports children in poverty in Swansea through six cornerstone projects: Bonymaen Community Cwtch, Clase Community Cwtch and Teilo’s Community Cwtch, all of which provide a parent and toddler group a lunch club, a breakfast club, after school and summer holiday activities, community events and training courses. Teilo’s Community Cwtch also has an affordable childcare setting. Bija says the poverty the charity is seeing now is worse than ever.

“I’ve been chief executive for Faith in Families for over 15 years and worked in children’s charities in South Wales for over 25 years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such heartbreaking hopelessness in the communities that we help,” she said. “Child poverty is increasing, mental health and well-being issues are increasing, and the feeling of hopelessness in these families and the feeling of being ignored is worse than it’s ever been.

“Before the cost-of-living crisis, families were already buying the cheapest products in supermarkets. They were already monitoring their gas and electricity use, they were already attending food banks, they were already attending clothes banks, they were already not having any disposable income for anything that brings joy and happiness to their lives. And now with the cost-of-living crisis you have hard-working parents working long hours, and still not being able to provide the basic essentials for their children, which is heart-breaking to see.”

Faith in Families has stepped up its support for families for the summer, when many children go hungry because they are not getting free school meals.

“Swansea has 70,700 children and young people with an approximate population of 237,800 people,” says Bija. “In 2022, 34% of children in Wales were living in poverty. This could mean hungry, cold, anxious, angry and without the resources to thrive. That is approximately 24,038 children in our city – and I believe this to be underestimated.

“During this summer, we are running a number of activities and we’re going to open our centres as much as we possibly can. We will have activities where children will be able to come along and have fun and be silly and enjoy and laugh because we see that that is limited in their lives at the moment. We will continue to provide food services, we will continue to provide advice and guidance, and we will continue to support our families in whatever way that we can.”

Asked for her own view on what the government’s strategy needs to achieve, she said:

“They need to be braver, clearer, and more courageous. In the current strategy, there are no key points that would enable us to observe and measure the difference that the strategy has made. At the moment, the strategy sets out no clear indicators of change in child poverty. For us to have a strategy that is meaningful, it has to have objectives that can be monitored and challenged.”

She added that everyone in Wales now has an opportunity to put forward their views on what the strategy should look like.

“I’m urging people to get involved because this is of huge importance to the future of Wales and its people. To the government, I would say: these are our future generations, and they are growing up in despair, in anxiety, hungry, cold, and fed up. If we don’t do something soon, to prevent these children’s well-being decreasing even further, if we don’t put preventative services into place to enable these children to have a safe and happy childhood, then we are storing up hopelessness for their adult lives. And that is going to cost the government billions of pounds more than the price of preventative measures now.”