£1bn cost of children living below the breadline
The cost of dealing with child poverty in Northern Ireland has reached a staggering £1bn, a new report has revealed.
Almost 100,000 children here are living below the breadline – putting their wellbeing at risk and reducing their chances in life.
The shocking figures emerged in a report by the Child Poverty Action Group, which maps out how poverty is affecting young people in every part of Northern Ireland.
It reveals one in eight of all children in poverty are living in west Belfast.
And there are warnings the situation could worsen because of planned reforms to the welfare system.
According to the people who carried out the survey, child poverty is defined as children living in families where each person has under £12 a day to survive on.
Today's report measured the problem by council area and parliamentary constituency.
Across Northern Ireland, a total of 97,979 children are defined as living in poverty, with the cost estimated at £1,065m.
That cost takes account of services to deal with the consequences of poverty and benefits for people spending more time out of work because they grew up in deprivation.
The most shocking findings relate to west Belfast.
Some 11,604 children live below the breadline – one in eight of the Northern Ireland-wide figure. The cost of dealing with poverty is £126m.
The constituency has a high rate of social deprivation, and other studies have revealed massive levels of unemployment and reliance on benefits.
West Belfast MLA Jennifer McCann said tackling poverty must be a priority for the Executive.
"Our focus must be on tackling poverty, improving life chances, improving educational attainment and providing better health opportunities and living conditions for children and families," she said.
"We have been pressing the Executive to target areas of high child poverty through social change and in an integrated way involving all departments.
"We will continue to do this."
In terms of council districts, the highest number of young people in poverty – some 21,186 – live in the Belfast area.
Londonderry is second on the list with 10,382 children, while Newry and Mourne has 6,567 young people registered as below the breadline.
Alison Garnham, who is chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said poverty has a devastating impact on young lives.
"Children growing up in poor homes are more likely to die at birth or in infancy than children born into richer families," she said.
"They are more likely to be left behind in education.
"They are almost twice as likely to live in bad housing."