Scroll down to find out more about this issue - including a summary for children and young people, background information including the relevant Children's Rights, how we are monitoring Government and our work in addressing the issue.

NICCY Dudes Poverty

Summary for children and young people

Currently around 1 in 4 children in Northern Ireland is living in poverty – this means they and their families do not have enough money to have a decent standard of living. Children are more likely to be living in poverty than any other age group in society. Households in Northern Ireland continue to have less income on average compared to other parts of the UK. The high cost of childcare also has an impact on families’ incomes. 

Some children are more likely to be living in poverty, but this does not mean that all children in these categories will be affected. There has been no change over the past two years in the groups of children who are likely to be living in poverty. These are; children living with just one parent, children whose parents aren’t employed, those who live in a house where someone is disabled and those whose religion is catholic or another religion. It is important that Government plans to address poverty take children and young people in to account and make sure that benefit changes to not impact them more severely.

Image of Child Distressed on Side of Street

Information on Poverty

There are 440,000 children in Northern Ireland, and according to Government statistics, one in four of these children live in poverty. That’s more than 100,000 children living in a family which struggles to provide for their basic needs, including a warm, adequate hope, nutritious food, appropriate clothing and childcare when parents are working. Two-thirds of these children live in working households.

Children in poverty are twice as likely to leave school without 5 good GCSEs. They are also more likely to suffer poor mental health and have fewer years of good physical health.

Their parents often have to get into debt to pay to make ends meet and do not have the means to save money for unexpected costs or family outings. As they struggle to make their income stretch at the best of times, when the cost of living increases, parents are no longer able to manage.

Child poverty is not inevitable. It is important to recognise the success of government policy in reducing pensioner poverty. If Government create and put the right policies in place, child poverty can be eradicated.

Relevant Children's Rights

Views from young people

Exploring the Flaws and Strengths in Each European Country’s Mental Health System - Cover

“I think they should make shelters with food, learning and overnight stays plus school should take part in this by making their school a more healthy place by making the schools dinners cheaper so if there are people who need money its easier for them” Young Person, NI

Hands Looking into Wallet

“Working class families have struggled a lot during this pandemic and Government’s response. For example through delayed free school meal provision, is disgusting.” Young person, NI

NICCY Dudes Poverty

“Provide more care for the young people in difficult situations at home… Children and young people need to be taken better care of by perhaps implementing a higher unemployment wage for parents who struggled to provide during these times, or set up more organisations that can provide food, access to the internet and other things to these families.” Young person, NI

Monitoring Government – what is Government doing about child poverty?

In 2016 the Executive published a Child Poverty Strategy which was intended to extend to 2019, but has been subsequently been extended to March 2022. Annual Reports on the Strategy, outlining actions taken were published each year.

In July 2015 a NI High Court judgement on a Judicial Review brought by the Committee on the Administration of Justice held that the Northern Ireland Executive had breached its duty to adopt a strategy to tackle poverty, social exclusion and patterns of deprivation (under the terms of the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006. However, as yet this is not in place.

The New Decade New Approach document included commitments to both an Anti-poverty strategy and a Child Poverty Strategy. In September 2020 the Minister for Communities announced that the 2016 Child Poverty Strategy would be extended to 2022 in order to allow her to determine whether a separate child poverty strategy was required or whether child poverty should be included in the general Anti-Poverty Strategy.

The Commissioner provided clear advice to the Minister that, while it was important to have a focus on eradicating child poverty, this could only be delivered by ensuring that families had sufficient income to provide for the needs of their children. For this reason NICCY advised that child poverty should be addressed through a general Anti-Poverty Strategy that focused on increasing the incomes of people in poverty, rather than mitigating the impacts of poverty on their lives. NICCY is represented on the Co-Design Group advising on the development of an Anti-Poverty Strategy.

The Department for Community’s webpage on Poverty Policy

In 2015 the Executive has also put in place a series of Welfare Supplementary Payments (WSPs) to reduce the impact of welfare reforms on the most vulnerable in Northern Ireland and provide support to claimants as they adapted to the changes. A range of changes were mitigated, including the ‘Bedroom Tax’, the benefit cap and reductions associated with PIP, and families with children along with other households benefitted from these payments. These were continued on in 2020, and the Minister for Communities commissioned a Review of these, which reported in 2021.

The Department for Communities page on Welfare Reform Mitigations and on the Review

Our work on child poverty

NICCY’s work on child poverty has focused on providing advice to Government in relation to its Child Poverty Strategy, the development of an Anti-Poverty Strategy, and the Welfare Reform Mitigations.

In addition to providing advice to government in relation to reducing child poverty, NICCY has also sought to raise public awareness of the impact of poverty on children’s lives and to build support for government action on this matter.

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More Info

For further information on our work on Child Poverty, contact alex@niccy.org.

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