26 Apr 2012

Call for action as threat to basic living standards looms

COMMISSIONER for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley-Mooney today warned that child poverty could increase if planned welfare reform changes are pushed through the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Launching landmark reports on welfare reform at an event in Belfast, the Commissioner said that the Assembly must fight to protect children or it once again will fail to meet targets to reduce child poverty – leading to worse living standards for thousands of children and young people.

The reports assess the impact of forthcoming welfare reform proposals on children in Northern Ireland, and explore the potential for the Northern Ireland Executive to adapt the ‘reforms’ to better protect children’s best interests.

“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. 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.

“The Northern Ireland Executive must make sure that the particular circumstances here are addressed. We have a larger proportion of children under 18, and a larger proportion of children with disabilities – added to this we have communities still dealing with the legacy of the conflict and a high level of people suffering from mental illness as a result of this”

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 on rent, money which 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.
  • You can view pictures from the launch here.

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.