16 Feb 2011

COMMISSIONER for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, has warned that the Government’s Child Poverty Strategy will not meet the needs of children and families living on the financial edge.

Ms Lewsley said that with no budget attached to the strategy and the threat of cuts from Westminster and the Assembly, the aim of ending child poverty was destined to fail unless real action was taken to alter the strategy.

“I have a real fear that this strategy will do nothing to end child poverty,” said the Commissioner.

“I am particularly concerned that there are high levels of persistent poverty- that is where a child has lived in poverty at least three out of four years.”

“Research within the past three years suggested that 21% of children have been in persistent poverty, compared to eight per cent in the rest of the United Kingdom.

“This information, along with many other sources, clearly implies that child poverty is a deep-seated problem that requires determined action, solid legislation and a commitment from all parts of Government.”

Ms Lewsley said the impact of poverty on children operated on many levels.

“Higher infant mortality, poor physical and mental health, unfit housing, more young people not in education, employment and training, lower educational achievement and poor diet are all associated with child poverty.

“Government must take co-ordinated action, rather than piecemeal action across the 12 departments.”

The Commissioner said that there needs to be better measuring of the levels of persistent poverty to support Government’s work.

“It is essential that the Government tracks the numbers of children experiencing persistent poverty. To do this they must make sure that any survey that will be used to measure persistent child poverty has a sample size for Northern Ireland sufficient to provide a robust measure, comparable with other parts of the United Kingdom.

“This is a deep rooted problem and it is my job to monitor and hold Government to account if they are not meeting the challenge of eliminating child poverty.”

To read the Commissioner’s response to the Child Poverty Strategy click here.