Rural Wales is in trouble. Probably more trouble than in living memory, and from forces and trends that are unlikely to disappear any time soon. 

This stark warning from Professor Calvin Jones is something that I’ve no doubt will resonate with all of us who live and work in rural Wales.

More than a decade of Tory-imposed austerity, Brexit, Covid-19 and now a cost of living crisis have all left their mark on our rural communities.

Rural poverty is an issue that too often hides in plain sight, with the ways and means we use to identify and measure poverty often failing to accurately capture it, and relevant state safety nets designed with an urban bias. Research shows that rural poverty is nonetheless different: a distinctive policy challenge requiring specific and tailored solutions. 

The failure here lies with Welsh Government, and its approach to tackling poverty, which notoriously includes no specific targets, and fails to account for the fact that poverty has different causes, drivers and manifestations in different parts of Wales. 


Since entering the Senedd, I have called repeatedly on the Welsh Government to develop a targeted strategy for dealing with the problem of rural poverty. Having had these calls consistently rebuffed, I have undertaken to develop such a strategy myself, drawing on expert advice and the latest research across relevant fields. 

Something that has emerged strongly for me over the course of this work is the need to ensure better rural proofing across all areas of policy. Unlike in Northern Ireland, for example, there is no statutory duty for public bodies in Wales to tailor policies or programmes to the specific needs of rural communities. I have become increasingly convinced that this is something we need to see introduced to Wales with urgency. 

This will be at the heart of the draft strategy to tackle rural poverty that I will be looking to test-drive at a public meeting in Newcastle Emlyn this week.

Solutions to poverty in rural areas need to be community led, and that is why I am hosting this event – to offer an opportunity for feedback on proposals around rural proofing, and in specific policy areas like housing, energy, digital, childcare and rural economic development. 

I certainly don’t claim that this draft strategy will be the last word on tackling poverty in rural Wales, but it is my hope that it will, at the very least, trigger a new and urgent conversation about it.