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UNICEF Report - government is failing our children

14 February, 2007

Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Children and Young People, West Belfast Assembly candidate Sue Ramsey has said that the UNICEF Report into Child Welfare that places the 'UK' at the bottom of all affluent Western Counties is a challenge to all political leaders that requires a long-term response.

The UNICEF Report shows that of the 21 most affluent counties in the world that children growing up in the UK suffer greater deprivation, worse relationships with their parents and are exposed to more risks from alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex.

Ms Ramsey said:

"If the 'UK' is at the bottom of the pile then where does that leave us, because across every indicator of poverty and social exclusion the situation in the six counties is worse than in Britain.

"Levels of poverty here are higher than in Britain. Incomes are 85% of the British average and one in four households cannot afford to heat their home properly - in 2004, 24% or 150,000 households were in fuel poverty. This is twice as high as the worst region in England. Almost 100,000 children are living in income poverty. On top of this we have an academic selection education system that is failing our young people and huge health inequalities.

"No one should try and make any excuses about the findings of this report. It is a damming indictment of the criminal failures of British Labour government policy. It is further evidence of the urgent need to get local politicians in charge and a break with British government policies that are failing.

"Inequality and poverty emerge as influential factors in determining the experiences of our children and young people. As a society we must wage war on inequality, poverty and social exclusion.

"We need long term responses to the situation. This means, for example, tackling a key issue identified by many and that is a commitment to use falling student numbers to radically improve class sizes and recognising the value of smaller classes and smaller schools in developing the relationships and skills our young need. It means resources to support our families and a greater work life balance to allow parents to spend more time with their children. It means supporting the implementation of a play policy for our children and young people and it means money for community based youth programmes.

"It means that we must tackle poverty on the basis on need. We must tackle not just income poverty and inequality of opportunity but also poverty of aspiration and inequality of outcomes." ENDS

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