Shocking statistics reveal true extent of child poverty in Newry

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Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

33% of children in the Newry and Mourne area live below ‘average income levels’

Newry Times has discovered that a staggering 33% of children living in the Newry and Mourne Area live below average income levels. According to recently released figures from the Department of Social Development, Newry comes third in the child poverty league table after Derry and Limavady. The Department of Social Development and NISRA published the ‘Households below average income’ report earlier this month. The report suggests that right across Northern Ireland the figures have increased dramatically and are higher than the UK average. Statistics for 2009-10 show that an extra 14,000 children in the region now live in poverty. This represents a 3% increase on the previous year. Child poverty is based on a measure of households below the average income – where children are living in a family with an income of under £16,224 after housing costs. Fergus Cooper, head of Northern Ireland charity Save the Children, said that the 2009-10 Households Below Average Income survey shows that 28% of children are growing up in poverty in Northern Ireland. He said, “The figure for the whole of the UK is 20%. More worryingly, figures in most regions of Britain actually fell one or two per cent over the same period whereas they rose 3% here. “We know that since 2010, low income families in Northern Ireland have faced rising inflation, growing unemployment and the highest energy and childcare costs in the UK. The Chancellor’s autumn statement removing the promised £110 Child Tax Credit and freezing Working Tax Credits will further hurt hard working families.” On the future fight against child poverty, Cooper added, “The 2020 target is to reduce child poverty below 10%.” In March 1999 the UK Government pledged to end child poverty within a generation, and in November 2006 the NI Anti-poverty and Social Inclusion Opportunities pledge, the government envisaged halving child poverty by 2010 and ending poverty by 2020. The 2010 pledge was missed. In its 2007 report ‘It Doesn’t Happen Here’ – the reality of child poverty in NI, Barnardo’s stated that, “Children most likely to be in poverty include families affected by disability, lone parent families, black and ethnic minority families and large families and children in a family where a parent works.”

Sinn Fein’s Mickey Brady described the shocking statistics as ‘dreadfully unfair’

Speaking to Newry Times, Sinn Féin MLA Mickey Brady responded to the DSD/NISRA report saying, “This report shows that for 33% of children living in Newry today ‘doing without’ will be the norm. “It is dreadfully unfair that in our city we have children who may never know the joy of Christmas. In this day and age it is unconscionable that children should continue to be born into a life sentence of poverty and want.” Barnardo’s made the following recommendations to the OFMDFM Draft Child Poverty Strategy in January 2011 – the strategy is aimed at reducing child poverty:
  • A pilot project to maximize income and increase parental employment in households with no-one working as one potential measure in helping lift families out of poverty. This project is now in the process of being introduced and is called the Child Poverty Reduction Pilot Study. It is due to be operational in early 2012.
  • Identify those children with poor attainment levels and include pilot programmes of proven practice models to address the literacy and numeracy deficit in schools in Northern Ireland.
  • Incorporate the development of a pilot programme to identify and support the current cohort of 16 year olds who will leave formal education in June 2011. This programme would assess those most at risk of dropping out before they leave school and support them to access suitable further education, training and employment.
  • Identify the small but significant number of families using high levels of resources and include the development and implementation of an intensive Family Intervention pilot programme.
  • Identify employment as a route out of poverty for families with disabled children; and incorporate a pilot programme of family support and respite to enable parents of disabled children to access and retain paid employment.
  • Offering good quality and affordable childcare.
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