IF the Welsh public sector committed to paying the ‘real living wage’ it could boost earnings for up to 15,000 workers, an investigation into cost-of-living pressures has heard. 

A report has now called for all public sector organisations in Wales to pay the real Living Wage and for the Welsh benefits system to be simplified so hard-pressed people do not miss out on financial support. 

The Senedd’s Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee warns that without cost-of-living interventions there will be more instances of workers experiencing mental ill-health due to mounting financial pressures. 

Social security benefits are run and funded by the UK Government but there are a number of additional payments made available by the Welsh Government, with payments dependent on people’s circumstances such as their finances. 

The committee says an overly complex application systems may mean people are losing out. The committee wants the Welsh Government to explore the idea of a one-stop portal for households across Wales to apply directly for the different means-tested schemes. 

The report says a single simplified system would not only make applications easier but increase take-up and help to end a post-code lottery as systems currently vary by local authority area. 

READ MORE: Majority of people in Wales having to cut back on essentials, warns report

The Committee is pushing for the Welsh Government to look at extending the eligibility of its means-tested schemes to support lower income households with livings costs, energy bills and the soaring price of food. 

It also wants better targeted help at those households that are “off-grid” and not connected to mains gas, instead reliant on heating oil which has also shot up in price. 

Current Welsh Government support, via vouchers such as DAF (discretionary assistance fund) only cover 2,000 of the 275,000 off-grid properties. The report says ‘rob s ust support’ must be made available to off-grid consumers ahead of winter and that longer-term support for harder to reach houses is needed. 

To support those in work the committee wants the public sector to commit to the real living wage, which is calculated by an independent body.  

The Living Wage Foundation has set its current rate at £9.90 an hour while the legal minimum that must be paid to workers over the age of 23 is £9.50. 

The committee was told the gap between the UK Government’s National Living Wage and the real Living Wage for a low income worker could be £700-800 a year and “that gap reflects a lack of ability to just meet basic costs” Dr Deborah Hann, a lecturer in employment and a member of Citizens Cymru told the committee. 

Dr Hann said higher education institutions accredited as living wage employers had resulted in more than 2,000 people had seen their wages in increase while 1,000 workers at the Bridgend unitary authority had benefitted and were able to meet basic costs. 

She told the committee similar increases across local authorities would be “easy to deliver” and lift wages of approximately 14 -15,000 people in Wales to a level that would help them address cost-of-living issues. 

Last week the Welsh Government announced below inflation pay increases for teachers, of five per cent, and health care workers ranging from 4.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent for lower paid staff.

Health care unions have threatened industrial action over the pay offers. The Welsh Government has said it would need additional funding from Westminster to afford higher pay rises.

Businesses should also receive short-term help to meet rising energy and fuel costs, the committee said. 


Paul Davies MS, the Conservative chair of the committee, said: “Although the Welsh Government is trying to support people through the crisis, our inquiry has shown that the support is simply not reaching enough people - the benefits available are complex and that can affect take up. We need to see a simpler system, so the schemes are easier and more accessible to increase take-up. 

“The committee believes the Welsh Government should use its considerable ‘soft power’ to improve terms and conditions for the lowest paid, for example by improving sick pay for social care workers and providing a fair wage for those paid from the public purse.” 

He also said action on heating fuel is needed before the winter. In all the committee has made 27 recommendations. 

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