Gary Middleton raises ‘shocking levels of poverty’ in Derry with Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey who pledges action

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey insists she is taking action to address poverty after figures showed 27% of 400,000 people living on the breadline in the north are from Derry and Strabane.

DUP MP Gary Middleton pressed her on the issue in the Stormont Assembly.

He asked what she planned to do to ‘tackle the shocking levels of poverty, given that she will be aware that recent figures highlighted the fact that 400,000 people across NI are living in poverty, with 27% of those people residing in the Londonderry and Strabane council area.’

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Ms. Hargey replied: “The poverty figures are well known. They have been highlighted, and everybody has seen that they have been exacerbated as a result of the pandemic. As part of New Decade, New Approach, I had responsibility for taking forward an anti-poverty strategy, which includes child poverty.

“We established an expert panel, which published its report in March. We have now established a co-design group that is working with community organisations and experts involved in the fields of child poverty and poverty more broadly. We have also established a cross-departmental working group, because it is recognised that the issue of poverty does not rest just with my Department but spans Departments. I know that, last week, the Health Committee looked at a report on health inequalities that showed that the numbers have got worse rather than better.”

She said the Executive is considering how the anti-poverty strategy will be funded.

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“I hope that the timeline will be for me to present the strategy, along with the other inclusion strategies, for sign-off and approval in December. There is other work ongoing. I have papers in on welfare mitigations and other protections. There is also the whole housing transformation that we are trying to do, as we recognise that housing plays a fundamental role. We are looking at areas such as Foyle, where there are high levels of people in housing need.”