Caerphilly households are among the poorest in Wales, but new figures do not show how bad things are according to charities and politicians.
New statistics released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show individuals in the Gwent Valleys are the worst off in Wales, with an estimated average of £13,452 left after tax and benefits, more than £10,000 less than those in London.
This is £1,000 less than the Welsh average and does not consider outgoings such as bills and rent, the latter costing £6,780 per household on average in Wales.
The figures are for 2012 and represent a rise in disposable income in Wales by 3.8%.
But since then the use of food banks has more than doubled, leading to warnings the financial pressures upon people today could be worse.
A new Oxfam report found the number of people using food banks in Wales is disproportionately high compared to the population.
‘Below the Breadline’ also said 31% of workers in Wales earn less than the living wage and 19% of working age people claim benefits.
Tony Graham, the Trussell Trust’s Regional Development officer for Wales, said: “Wales’ real income is always less than much of the UK but we are hit by the same huge rises in the cost of living, such as food going up 40% in the last five years.
“The average person in Wales struggles to get by and to say there is a rise in the standard of living is absolutely ridiculous.
“As a nation we are disproportionately hurt because of the collapse of industry and lack of job opportunities.”
Jan Channing, Operations Manager at Caerphilly Citizen’s Advice Bureau, deals with clients with debt and warned the pressures on people now are greater than in 2012 as the ‘Bedroom Tax’ and benefit changes only took effect last year.
She said: “People are taking out pay day loans just to cover essential expenditure and they are getting into debt because utilities have gone up.
“Things are starting to bite, especially with the ‘Bedroom Tax’, which was new but people are now feeling the effects. People are seeing their working hours reduced.
“The increasing use of food banks is indicative. If people had money to spend they wouldn’t use them.”
Lindsay Whittle, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales East and Penyrheol councillor, said: “The figures on disposable household income provides further evidence of the divide between parts of Wales and the rest of the UK.
“These figures are pre ‘Bedroom Tax’ and the situation is likely to have worsened because of welfare changes.
“Some families in the Valleys are struggling to survive, keep a roof over their heads and have enough money to buy food.
“Politicians are fooling themselves if they think Wales is undergoing a recovery. They need to talk to people in the heart of our communities.”
The Welsh Government’s Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Caerphilly AM Jeff Cuthbert, also warned the figures are outdated and that people were suffering from even lower levels of disposable income.
He said: “More recent research conducted by the Welsh Government, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Sheffield Hallam University estimated the Welsh economy would lose around £1.1bn a year in terms of welfare reforms, with the Gwent Valleys being hit harder than most regions.
“Both Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent fall within the 25 worst affected local authorities in Great Britain in terms of the impact of welfare reform and this is obviously taking its effect on disposable income levels.
“More needs to be done to drive disposable income levels up throughout the Gwent Valleys and I’m glad that Labour-run Caerphilly Council has made a positive step by becoming a Living Wage employer.
“The ONS report positively notes Wales as being one of only four regions where disposable income increased compared to the UK average between 1997 and 2012 and it’s important to recognise this fact”