It is not long before politicians start thinking about their legacy. One moment they have made their maiden speech, then within a flash of grey hair their attention turns to how they will be remembered. Just like that.

And this week we have seen the first signs of the three-year Mark Drakeford Project to cement the first minister’s legacy in Wales. First came the announcement of a universal basic income (UBI) pilot scheme. It has been billed as the first minister’s “Bevan moment”, according to those who champion the roll-out, in spite of reservations over scope, funding and the powers the Welsh Government have to actually introduce the initiative.

Fantasy politics, some may claim, but it has confirmed beyond doubt that transforming social policy is at the heart of Drakeford’s mission.

The dust had not yet settled before the next big moment came: backing for a bigger Senedd: 90, not 60, members of the Welsh Parliament is looking more and more likely after 2026.

Although I heard few people cry on the doorstep for £12 million a year to bring us more politicians, our assembly-cum-parliament is underserviced – and has been for over a decade – perhaps even since the Richard Commission published its damning findings on the state of devolution in 2004.

In the face of a continued assault on devolved competence and the growing squeeze on Welsh communities – courtesy of the ‘Plan for Wales’ and a destructive Australian trade deal respectively – it’s no surprise that Drakeford wants to strengthen our political framework either, particularly before he departs the political stage around his 70th birthday in September 2024.

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Underpinning all of this is the fact that the first minister has a degree of confidence reserved only for electoral winners just after their triumph. He has a grip both on his party’s direction and government policy like no other leader that has walked before him; therefore no task looks too challenging to master in three short years. There may however be one exception: child poverty.

Even as the first minister’s blueprint takes shape, there is little sign that Welsh Labour has found a way to cope with the rising tide which shames the social conscience of Wales.

It is an epidemic that the whole of Britain has faced for far longer than Covid-19 but new research this week has shown that it is Wales which has the unwanted record for the worst child poverty rates across the whole of the UK.

One in five children below the poverty line. Poverty rates rising across the length and breadth of the country, with all but two local authorities seeing child poverty rates increasing in the last five years. Nobody – not even Welsh Labour ministers – would question that we are in a dire position.

It is by no means an easy blame game, either. The research from Loughborough University for the UK End Child Poverty Coalition showed that figures are not much better in England than they are in Wales.

Indeed many of the worst affected areas are over the border and the UK government – which plans a £20 weekly cut to universal credit in the autumn – has been unsurprisingly unsympathetic to the plight of young people than their counterparts in Cardiff Bay, who have at least put their ever-dwindling supply of cash into schemes such as free school meals. (NB: That is much better than being bullied into feeding hungry children by a footballer).

Alas, doing a ‘bit’ is no longer enough, especially in the midst of a global economic emergency. And we cannot let politicians off the hook either; no matter how affable they are and constrained they may be by other forces at play.

Over the last decade, promises have not been kept by successive Welsh Labour politicians; bear in mind that the party once-upon-a-time promised to end child poverty by 2020. Worse still is that the statistics released this week show that even before the pandemic 200,000 Welsh children were still languishing in poverty. Two hundred thousand.

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That number has no doubt climbed in recent months, and it is terrifying to think where it could go from here if support is not directed immediately to those in need. There are legitimate concerns over how welfare cuts in London impact the situation here, but a lack of momentum on the issue has not gone unnoticed in Wales.

The Welsh Government has a child poverty income maximisation action plan, published in November 2020, but it is yet to be seen what its impact will be.

Plaid Cymru, to its credit, had some innovative ideas to eradicate what ity rightly calls our “national scandal”, including payments to those living below the poverty line. The targets, detailed in the long-forgotten manifesto, sought to cut child poverty by two-thirds by 2030 and end it completely five years later. Though 15 years still seems like a long time for children to continue in poverty.

Amidst the constitutional jostling that is yet to come, as well as plenty of other battles in the Senedd this year, we must not forget that much more important is the health and wealth of the next generation. It is no good having a new curriculum, more Senedd members or a partial UBI scheme if children have no potential to succeed and live a decent life.

The Welsh Government cannot continue to drag its feet. UBI – in whatever guise – may help, but an updated and more comprehensive child poverty strategy – fit for a post-pandemic society with specific targets – should be introduced to tackle this most shameful epidemic that continues to plague our society.

Ask yourselves: Are you prepared to live in a society where children live in destitution and hunger, year-on-year? Do we want to see Welsh children with no hope, opportunities or future because of the conditions that they have often been born into?

And are we a Wales that failed, in spite of promises and commitments, to end child poverty in the 21st century? I cannot speak for the first minister, but I am sure that is not something he will want to be remembered for.