Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Persistent poverty in Northern Ireland 'twice that of Great Britain'

The level of persistent poverty in Northern Ireland children is more than double that of those in Great Britain, it was revealed today.

High levels of unemployment, disability, lower wages and poor quality part-time jobs were to blame, a study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) discovered.

A fifth of families in Northern Ireland experienced persistent poverty compared to a tenth in Great Britain in recent years.

Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, called for action by the Assembly.

"The Assembly has already shown that it is possible to intervene to alleviate some of the worst aspects of poverty.

Just as it provided the one-off fuel payment of £150 to families on benefit in winter 2008/09, it could make it easier for people to take 'mini-jobs', allowing those living on benefits to provide a little extra for their families," she said.

"School budgets need to provide for all the costs of education including books, school trips and after-school activities.

"It must also address ways of giving poorer young people access to positive social and leisure activities."

Persistent poverty means being in poverty for at least three out of four years, in this case from 2003-2007.

Reasons for the higher levels of disadvantage included the fact that 31% of the working age population isn't in paid work, higher than any Great Britain region.

High rates of limiting long-term illness, especially mental ill-health, and disability were also to blame, the study carried out by Goretti Horgan from the University of Ulster and Marina Monteith from Save the Children found.

The median wage for men working full-time in Northern Ireland is 85% that of Great Britain.

Poor quality part-time jobs and obstacles to mothers working were also highlighted.

The authors acknowledge that there are some areas beyond the Assembly's control but made six recommendations to the devolved legislature.

They included:

  • Increasing the supply of well-paid, good quality jobs;
  • Supporting those already in work to increase their qualification levels;
  • Alleviating the worst impacts of poverty on children;
  • Addressing the lack of quality affordable childcare;
  • Increasing educational attainment;
  • Providing access to leisure and social activities for poorer young people.

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