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Sinn Féin meet Equality Commission over Poverty Strategy concerns

22 March, 2006

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Poverty, North Belfast MLA Kathy Stanton has meet with the Equality Commission to raise serious concerns about the Anti-Poverty Strategy due to be published by the Department of Social Development and Office of the First and Deputy First Minster in the late spring.

Speaking after the meeting Ms Stanton said:

"Sinn Féin has serious concerns in advance of the strategy being launched especially as it looks as though budgets will not be ring-fenced or money skewed from other departments to tackle poverty. There also need to be specific action plans and targets.

"We specifically met the Commission to see what influence they have had to date on challenging and changing the approach of the departments on this to ensure that the concerns are addressed in a meaningful and transparent way.

"Sinn Féin has submitted out proposals. There also needs to be specific focus on new Targeting Social Need (NTSN) because it is not having the impact intended. Sinn Féin have called for an annual review of NTSN. We were interested to hear from the Equality Commission exactly what is their threshold in relation to the attempt by senior civil servants to exclude so-called 'high-level' policy from being subject to the same Equality assessment as all other policy, and to discover if there are any signs that concerns over this will be addressed.

"Sinn Féin also want to see meaningful action plans on addressing the conflict and social exclusion, neither of which are acknowledged in the draft NTSN policy. Ignoring these key issues makes a total nonsense of any attempt to realistically tackle poverty.

"Any realistic anti-poverty strategy will include specific action plans and targets and address issues such as the need for ring fencing of resources for child poverty. It should also converge with the EU NAPS/INC and have clear definitions in addressing financial poverty, food poverty, child poverty and material exclusion." ENDS

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