Video report by ITV Wales reporter Siôn Jenkins
A single mum of three from Ceredigion has made an emotional plea for more help to try to tackle poverty in rural areas.
ITV Cymru Wales’ Y Byd Ar Bedwar current affairs programme has followed Sonia Evans from Lampeter since February, witnessing her struggle to make ends meet.
Her money worries have made her feel “very sad and worthless”, she told the programme.
“I feel very disappointed that I have to go and ask for help from places like the foodbank and the Citizens Advice Bureau. But we’re losing everything, and that’s very difficult.”
Sonia says her problems spiralled when her work contract with a children’s centre came to an end at the beginning of the year.
Despite applying for over 20 posts locally, she was unable to get a job and found herself having to claim Universal Credit.
Every month Sonia received around £1,000 in benefits, and a contribution from her ex-husband. But the money has to cover rent payments, she says, along with household bills, diesel for her second-hand car, and food for Sonia and her three teenage daughters.
“There’s no money left at the end of the month, not a single penny,” she says.
“I have to cut down on food, because I have to pay the bills. That’s very difficult, because recently we didn’t have milk for three days and there wasn’t any breakfast for the children.”
A report by the Save The Children charity says Wales has the highest rate of children living in poverty. An estimated 200,000 - a third of Wales’ children - are raised in poor families.
Dr Steffan Evans, from the Bevan Foundation - a think-tank working to try and alleviate poverty and inequality in Wales - spoke to Y Byd Ar Bedwar about his concerns.
“Poverty is a huge problem in Wales at the moment, and the situation is getting worse, rather than better,” he said.
“In rural areas there isn’t the same level of public transport, and the work that’s available pays less than in more urban areas.
“We don’t realise the level of the problem in rural Wales. The numbers may be fewer, and the problem is more scattered, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.”
Since the beginning of the Covid crisis, the Citizens Advice Bureau reports that 42% of households in Wales have seen a fall in their income.
As people rushed to panic-buy goods during the initial lockdown period, Sonia and her family took their own measures to try and make even more savings.
“It’s been difficult for us because the cheaper food was all gone as people were buying it so quickly,” she says.
“So, I’ve found that growing vegetables is so much cheaper, and it’s all here for us. We can just take them from the garden, and wash and cook them.”
Although Sonia has found work with another local charity, her problems are far from over. Her landlord has just sold the house where the family have been living, and now she’s rushing to try and find suitable and affordable accommodation for herself and her daughters.
She said she feels families like hers are "often ignored" by those in power.
“I think that the Government should provide more help for families like ours,” she pleads.
“People think that if you’ve got a roof above your head then everything must be fine. But, the reality is that it it’s not. We need help.”
In a statement the Welsh Government said, “We are committed to doing everything we can to tackle poverty and create a more prosperous and equal Wales.
“The impact of coronavirus is being felt in all parts of our country, and we are making a £40 million investment to support anyone who needs help to find work, education or training or to start their own business.
“We will do all we can within the powers we have, but many of the policy levers to tackle poverty in Wales sit firmly with the UK Government.”
The Welsh Government also recently announced it was funding free school meals for children who need them throughout the holidays up until Easter 2021.
You can see more on this story on Y Byd ar Bedwar on S4C at 8:00pm on Wednesday 28th October. The programme has English subtitles.