Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales Children’s Commissioners react to UNICEF report on poverty

6 December 2023 News

In a joint response to UNICEF’s child poverty report, ‘Child poverty in the midst of wealth’, the Children’s Commissioners for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales said: “The findings of UNICEF’s report ‘Child poverty in the midst of wealth’ are deeply concerning.

“Comparative international research like this is crucial as it shows how little progress has been made in tackling child poverty in the UK between 2014 and 2021.

“The findings show that the UK ranks 37th out of the 39 comparator countries. Child poverty was, and remains, the most significant human rights issue in our nations.

“We have consistently pressed the UK’s governments to do all they can to tackle child poverty, including calling for the UK Government to increase the income of families in poverty, reform the social security system, provide targeted intervention, safeguard children’s human rights immediately, and end the two-child limit on benefits.

“We cannot accept children going hungry, being cold and unable to learn as simply a fact of life. The UK and devolved governments must acknowledge UNICEF’s warning about the UK’s inadequate efforts and take urgent action to address child poverty immediately.”

The Commissioner for Children and Young People in Northern Ireland, Chris Quinn, added: “It is nothing short of alarming that almost a quarter of children in Northern Ireland are living in poverty, with 61% of them from working households.

“Research carried out here has revealed a clear consensus that the welfare system is exacerbating families’ already challenging circumstances.

“Families are struggling to provide for their children due to the lack of a reliable safety net in the current system. Despite the increasing costs faced by families, the level of financial support provided by the social security system is not sufficient.

“Families who can pursue paid employment feel that the current social security system is a hindrance to their progress. It is therefore crucial to establish a more streamlined and family-oriented system that is accountable to the needs of the people it serves.

“The current system is creating more poverty, causing growing concern about its impacts. Without significant change, this trend is likely to persist.”

He continued: “Just this week we have been reading reports that more than 45,000 children in Northern Ireland are part of families affected by the two-child benefit limit.

“This is not good enough. It is unjust that any child is living in poverty, let alone 22% of all the children in Northern Ireland. Scrapping this policy is a child’s rights issue that needs to be addressed urgently.

“It is imperative that the government takes a rights-based approach to address child welfare issues.

“This means that children’s voices and experiences must be heard and acted upon. A Child Rights Impact Assessment should be conducted on budgetary decisions to identify which policies are adversely impacting them or not helping to improve children’s lives.

The Commissioner concluded: “It is unacceptable that children are hungry, cold and that this is becoming a way of life for them. I would implore our politicians to get back into government and to take heed of UNICEF’s warning about the inadequate efforts to date in addressing child poverty and take immediate action to tackle the issue.”

Notes for editors:

  • Media queries should be directed to the NICCY press office via email at, or by calling 079 175 44177 between 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday.
  • NICCY was established through the Commissioner for Children and Young People (Northern Ireland) Order 2003. This sets out NICCY’s functions, duties and powers and the principal purpose of the Office which is to ‘safeguard and promote the rights and best interests of children and young people’. The age remit includes those up to the age of 18 and those up to 21 years if they have a disability, or have experience of being in the care of the State. The Commissioner has a legal complaints service for children, young people and their families if they have a complaint about their rights or services they receive, or are meant to receive.
  • Further information on the role of the Commissioner or the NICCY office can be found at

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