Child Poverty statistics reinforce need to bridge east-west of the Bann inequality divide
Sinn Féin Anti-Poverty Spokesperson West Tyrone MLA Claire McGill says that alarming statistics into the extent of Child Poverty in the six counties unveiled today in an interim report by the Committee for the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister reinforces the need for Sinn Fein's response to the draft Programme for Budget to be taken on board in order that a meaningful impact can be made on eradicating child poverty.
The interim report includes written submissions from more than 40 key stakeholders and the committee aims to conclude its inquiry into child poverty in spring 2008.
"This reports findings that 100,000 of children in the six counties are still living in poverty with 40,000 living in extreme poverty with a disproportionate amount of children in both these categories living west of the Bann reinforces the need for Sinn Fein's response to the draft Programme for Budget to be taken on board in order that a meaningful impact can be made on eradicating child poverty.
"There is a commitment within the Programme for Government to work towards the elimination of child poverty by 2020 and to work towards the elimination of severe child poverty by 2012. However, there is now an urgent need to enact measures and apply the necessary resources to help make this objective a reality
"So as part of our response to the Programme for Government, the Budget and the Investment Strategy, we have made a number of recommendations. This includes a review of the Tax Credit system which has seen some of the most vulnerable sections of our society hounded for the return of overpayments which occurred through no fault of their own.
"We are also calling for direct intervention in the 'benefits gap' to ensure that low-income families do not have shortfalls between benefits and rent. Sinn Féin made a number of other recommendations including;
• more affordable childcare;
• action to ensure the full uptake of benefit payments;
• tighter regulations on money lending institutions;
• DLA claims and appeals prioritized for children and the backlog addressed;
• the establishment of a Cross-Departmental Ministerial Task Force on Fuel Poverty charged with allocating additional resources to support energy efficiency solutions for fuel poor homes as a matter of urgency.
"Sinn Féin believes that the re-establishment by the Executive of the Children's Fund would also be a strong sign of the Executive's commitment to our children and young people's futures.
"Tackling poverty and inequality are at the very core of Sinn Féin's ideals and these initiatives have been developed following widespread consultation with key stakeholders.
"The areas where levels of child poverty are greatest are a mirror reflection of the areas of the greatest multi-deprivation in the six counties and the issue of child poverty cannot be tackled in isolation without tackling the structural inequality that has historically and continues to exist in the six counties and border counties." ENDS