Almost half of Londonderry’s children are now living in poverty, latest Government statistics reveal.
The city has emerged as far and away Northern Ireland’s deprivation black spot for young people with 44% — over 13,000 children — now surviving on means below the breadline.
Limavady was the second worst area in Northern Ireland with 34% (almost 3,000) of young people growing up in poor families.
The figures have just been released by the Department for Social Development for 2009-10, which show that across Northern Ireland, 14,000 children fell below the poverty line in just one year.
The north west has consistently featured in Northern Ireland, UK and even European reports on deprivation and poverty in recent years.
In Derry it has now been confirmed that of the 55,600 adults of working age, 43,000 are surviving on incomes that are 60% or less of the national average, with similarly shocking pictures emerging for Strabane and Limavady, which have the highest number of people on low incomes.
Limavady and Dungannon were also found to have the highest concentration of pensioners living below the low income threshold.
Meanwhile the gap between the richest 20% and the poorest 20% in society here has risen, with the former existing on four times more on average than the latter.
Jackie Gallagher, manager of the Derry Citizens Advice Bureau, said the statistics were “no surprise” for those working at the coalface with people in financial difficulties in the north west.
Ms Gallagher said: “Consecutive Governments have said how they were going to try to eradicate child poverty. What the devolved Government at Stormont should be doing is getting serious about that eradication of poverty.”
She said that a vital first step was ensuring people living below the poverty line were made aware of the benefits they and their families were entitled to.
CAB is involved in a scheme with the Social Security Agency which enables people to check which welfare benefits they should be getting.
Ms Gallagher said that she had personal experience of one single parent with disabled twins who received £18,000 in backdated benefits recently because she didn’t realise she was only receiving payment for one child over the previous five years.
The Households Below Average Income (HBAI) survey for Northern Ireland, which based on three years of research, was published yesterday by the Department for Social Development.
Fergus Cooper, head of Save the Children in NI, warned that the present child poverty is rising despite Government vows. “Low-income families have been assailed on all sides with actual reductions in family income coupled with rising inflation. In Northern Ireland, the average family childcare costs are 45%, whereas it’s 34% in Britain,” he said.