100,000 children in Northern Ireland living in poverty: Committee calls for radical change

Session: 2007/2008

Date: 17 June 2008

Reference: COFMDFM 21/07

Radical measures are needed to lift over 100,000 children out of poverty in Northern Ireland. That’s the recommendation from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in their Report on Child Poverty, which was launched today.

The Report contains more than 40 detailed recommendations and warns that failing to tackle child poverty will limit the growth of the Northern Ireland economy as well as inhibiting the aspirations of the next generation.

Commenting on the Report, Chairperson of the Committee, Mr Danny Kennedy, MLA said, “This Report shows, in very stark terms, the huge and complex task ahead for the government, politicians and people of Northern Ireland.

“While there are many strands to this report, a number of issues stand out as key to reducing child poverty. We in the Committee believe that identifying and removing the barriers to employment is paramount in any effort to reduce child poverty and an important factor in this is access to high quality, affordable childcare.

“We are also extremely concerned by the recent increases in everyday costs—both fuel and food—which are having a detrimental effect on large numbers of people who are already struggling to provide for their families.

The hard hitting Report commends OFMDFM and the Executive for adopting ambitious targets to reduce child poverty by 50% by 2010 but believes that such targets cannot be met without radical action by departments working together.

Chairperson Danny Kennedy said, “These issues cannot be tackled by one department or programme alone. We must implement policies across government. As a first step we would urge the Executive to include further measures to reduce child poverty in the Programme for Government and to immediately set a target date for the publication of a properly resourced, cross-departmental anti-poverty implementation plan.

“We also call on the First Minister and deputy First Minister to establish an independent expert panel to examine plans put forward by the Executive to ensure that they will impact positively on child poverty.”

The Report also found that improving the health and educational outcomes of families living in poverty had a critical role in addressing the cycle of deprivation and called for increased investment in early years services and for legislation relating to the planning of children’s services to be reviewed to ensure a joined up approach to improving the well-being of children.

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