26 Apr 2012

Children’s Commissioner warns of poverty horror facing children

COMMISSIONER for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley-Mooney today said the Northern Ireland Assembly must make children visible as it prepares to debate Welfare Reform proposals.

Speaking at NICCY’s event in Stormont Hotel, Ms Lewsley-Mooney, launched two landmark reports on Welfare Reform, and stated that the Assembly must fight to protect children in the face of the changes to benefits.

“There is a real need to improve the current benefits and social security system, but I fear that many thousands of children and young people will suffer increased hardship and adverse life outcomes. Despite the claim that the Executive has little choice but to implement the same changes as in other parts of the UK, this is not necessarily the case.

“One of my reports explores the ‘parity principle’ and has found many examples for breaking parity with the UK. There is a need for flexibility in adapting the ‘reforms’ to protect children and their families,” said Ms Lewsley-Mooney.

Alex Maskey MLA, Chair of the Social Development Committee, and co-host of today’s event said,

“The two reports released today are an important contribution to the consideration on how welfare reform will impact on children. 

“My Committee knows the pressures that many vulnerable families are already under and that the Welfare Reform Bill has the potential to exacerbate the difficulties they currently face.

“We are committed therefore to working with stakeholders and the Department for Social Development to explore how to mitigate any adverse impact arising from this Bill and protect, in particular, the most vulnerable members of our society.”

The reports show that many thousands of children and young people will suffer significantly reduced living standards. Indeed, few families with children will be unaffected.

“Any reduction in household income has been proven to have an adverse effect on the emotional and physical health of children, as well as the longer term outcomes for those children,” said the Commissioner.

“The Assembly must make sure, for example, that housing benefit is sufficient to ensure that families do not have to spend money on rent, that is supposed to provide food, heat and other necessities for children.

“Children are particularly vulnerable to poverty and are unable themselves to influence their economic circumstances. The inequalities already experienced by many children living in poverty could worsen considerably as a result of this Welfare Reform legislation, if action is not taken.”

You can read the Commissioner’s landmark reports here.


ENDS

Notes to Editors

  • The two reports were launched by Alex Maskey, Social Development Committee Chairperson, at a seminar ‘Welfare Reform: Making Children Visible’ on Thursday 26th April at 1.30pm at Stormont Hotel.
  • The first report Welfare Reform - Assessing the Impact on Children’ Written by Goretti Horgan and Marina Monteith from the University of Ulster is an assessment of the impact of the proposed changes on children’s rights and best interests. It draws on data showing that families with children are being hardest hit by welfare reforms across the UK, and suggests that, as NI is the UK region with the highest proportion of children, and higher levels of disability, it is likely to lose more income than any other region outside London.
  • The second report Welfare Reform - The Parity Question’ Written by Barry Fitzpatrick and Professor Noreen Burrows, explores ‘Parity’ in relation to Welfare and wider social policy. While recognising the pressure on the Executive to maintain parity in relation to Welfare Reform, the report identifies areas where flexibility can be used when adapting the Welfare Reforms within Northern Ireland.

If you have require any further information please contact Patrice Morris (Communications and Engagement Officer) - Patrice@niccy.org or telephone 028 9031 6392 or mobile 07908 918 280.