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'100,000 NI children in poverty'

14-05-2007

'100,000 NI children in poverty'

14/05/2007

UTV News


More than 100,000 children in Northern Ireland - one in four - are living in poverty, according to shock figures released by Save the Children.

The children`s charity called on First Minister the Rev Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to make eradication of child poverty one of the key priorities of the new Executive.

The call is made in Save the Children`s first annual report on the state of child poverty in Northern Ireland - A 2020 Vision - symbolically launched at Clifton House, Belfast`s former Poor House.

Alex Tennant, a researcher with the charity, said: "The eradication of child poverty should be the priority goal of the new Assembly, transforming society, making it a better, fairer, safer place for our children, and for all of us.

"It is hard to think of anything more deserving of our politicians` attention and commitment - children can`t wait."

Back in 1999 British Prime Minister Tony Blair set a target of eradicating child poverty in the UK by 2020 - with two interim targets of reducing it by a quarter by 2005 and by half by 2010.

It was estimated that there were 130,000 children in poverty in Northern Ireland in 1999 - now reduced to 100,000 - and that it should be cut to 65,000 by 2010.

That means action is needed to take 35,000 children out of poverty in the next three years if the 2010 transitional target is to be reached.

The Save the Children report said the restoration of the Assembly, coupled with the main parties` commitment to tackling the issue, had created positive conditions for progress.

Ms Tennant and fellow researcher Marina Monteith, found poverty affected all aspects of children`s lives. It had a devastating impact on their health and education and limited their life chances.

Ms Tennant said: "Alongside the research statistics, we have also created an animated figure called `Kathy` who gives readers a heart-breaking insight into what living in poverty really means.

"She gives up her piggy-bank money so her mum can buy milk and relies on a hot-water bottle for warmth because her family can`t afford to turn on the heating.

"Kathy is a made-up character, but her experiences and stories are real for thousands of children across Northern Ireland. More than 100,000 are living in poverty according to Government statistics - that`s one in four."

Ms Monteith added: "The development of a wide range of creative new policies and programmes will be crucial to getting on track for 2020."

Developing the policies will be a considerable challenge and needs the input of all, particularly children and young people in poverty, she said.

She added:"It is vital that the children themselves are involved in finding solutions. We must all make a contribution - working together on all levels to develop innovative and effective ways of tackling child poverty.

"Most of all we need to be bold, thinking beyond the box and approaching poverty from a variety of angles."

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