A senior Stormont civil servant has voiced fears over Northern Ireland’s blueprint to tackle child poverty — just weeks before it is due to be made public.
The top official in the first and deputy first ministers’ office (OFMDFM) also warned the long-awaited strategy could be affected by ongoing uncertainty over spending cuts.
A major consultation exercise on the plan is due to get under way in the province on October 25, with the deadline of next March — a year after the Child Poverty Act became law — for an agreed programme to be in place.
The national target under the legislation, agreed by the devolved administrations, is to have fewer than 10% of children living in relative poverty and no more than 5% in absolute poverty by the year 2020.
But senior official Patricia Carey told the Assembly committee which monitors the work of OFMDFM: “My concern is that, given the timescale, we may not be able to do justice to a child poverty strategy between now and the beginning of the consultation process.
“That means that we must rely very heavily on the consultation process to explore and get to the bottom of some of the issues.
“The timescale was quite difficult and tight to start with. One way of dealing with that would be to not commit ourselves to putting everything into the strategy and leaving it for three years.”