Young Ambassadors with Save the Children will today use Derry’s Peace Bridge to launch their campaign aimed at reducing child poverty.
The young people, aged 16-19, will unveil a new exhibition to highlight a history of campaigning and social progress which has impacted on children’s lives.
The month long exhibition, mounted on glass panels above the bridge, highlights how many of the key rights and services children now enjoy only occurred after decades of campaigning in and outside parliament.
The young people hope the exhibition will draw attention to their call for employers to pay a “Living Wage” that parents can raise a family on to help end the scourge of child poverty.
Young ambassador Nicole Breslin, from Derry, explains: “We decided to campaign for a living wage because we believe all families deserve a decent standard of living.
“Most people think children living in poverty are in houses with unemployed parents but that is not true. Half of children living in poverty have at least one parent who works - but on poverty wages.
“In Derry, we have one in two children facing poverty which is why it is so important employers hear this call.”
The Living Wage campaign calls for every worker to earn enough to provide a low cost but acceptable standard of living for a family.
The National Minimum Wage falls short at only £6.08 per hour for an adult. The Living Wage is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation to be £7.20, reflecting the income required to afford essentials.
Another young ambassador from Derry, Marie McGrellis, adds: “This is such an important issue for our group because we have worked hard at school and now, when we start to look for work, we want to be able to earn enough to be able to pay the bills and make ends meet and provide a decent standard of living for our families in the future.
“The exhibition panels present information on historic campaigns such as the abolition of slavery, ending child labour and the fight for universal free education.
“We hope that people will look at this and realise it is so important to challenge the government on this issue and although times are tough and budgets are tight, we must not abandon our lowest paid workers to a life of struggle and poverty for their families.”
Already the campaign is making a difference. Wales kicked off in May with a petition to the Welsh Government. In June, Cardiff Council announced it would introduce a Living Wage to all its workers. Across Britain, more than 140 employers from every sector have chosen to pay their staff a Living Wage, lifting thousands out of poverty.
2012 also marks the first Living Wage Olympics with all 130,000 workers benefiting.
Fergus Cooper, Head of Save the Children in NI, says: “The Living Wage is gaining momentum. By being an accredited Living Wage employer, Save the Children is helping to grow support and we hope that councils and other public sector bodies in Northern Ireland will join us in helping to eliminate child poverty by signing-up to become accredited Living Wage employers.”