Child poverty levels ‘a damning indictment’

SDLP Councillor Tina Gardiner.
SDLP Councillor Tina Gardiner.

A Derry councillor has said that a new report claiming that one in three children are raised in poverty, was a “damning indictment” of Northern Ireland’s economic and social policy.

SDLP Councillor Tina Gardiner was speaking after the Western Health Trust presented its Children’s Service Planning Report before the Council’s Health and Community Committee.

The report by Kieran Downey, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services, outlines the challenges, priorities, programmes and measures being developed to try and ensure children have best start and care, and to promote better outcomes going forward.

The report states that as of September, 2016, there were 337 children on the Child Protection Register in the West- a 30 per cent increase since 2011.

The number of children in care also rose dramatically from 400 in 2011 to 588 by 2016.

The western region also has the highest child poverty rates anywhere in the north.

Speaking after the report’s presentation, Colr. Gardiner said this was “a damning indictment on economic and social policy” in the north.

“While it is welcome that the Health Trust is developing its strategy to try to help with these problems, the real causes of poverty have to be addressed through regional economic and social investment,” she said.

For that to happen, Colr. Gardiner said, the region needs a targeted economic strategy, implemented by government.

“Everyone in the region knows that our roads and university are not adequate in a modern economy,” she added.

“Without these in place we can’t get enough investment in jobs and we need investment in high quality training for people who are unemployed – no matter what their age.

“Other European countries have training programmes for people at any age – why do we stop training unemployed people at age 25? The main way to address child poverty is by providing decent employment opportunities for their parents.

“This should not be a region of poverty, it should be a region of job opportunities and growth.

“There is a moral imperative to get the Executive and Assembly back to work so we can ensure our families can lift themselves out of poverty.”