Action on child poverty demanded
More than three quarters of the UK districts where child poverty levels are most acute are in Northern Ireland, a new report has revealed.
Eleven of the 14 council wards with more than 60% of children living in families struggling to make ends meet are in Northern Ireland, according to a survey.
The disturbing new statistics are linked to rising unemployment, according to the End Child Poverty (ECP) campaign, a coalition of child charities which includes Barnardo's.
Across Northern Ireland as a whole last year 17% of children were living in homes where parents are without work, as opposed to 13% in 2008.
The campaign has published a poverty map of Northern Ireland, examining the problem at council ward level, across complete council areas and at parliamentary constituency level.
In regard to council areas, Londonderry (36%), Belfast (35%) and Strabane (31%) are those with highest poverty rates. Limavady (26%) and Newry and Mourne (25%) are next on the list. The UK average for council areas is 21%.
Belfast West is ranked the fourth worst parliamentary constituency for child poverty, with 46%, the report said.
Alison Garnham, executive director of the ECP campaign, said: "The Northern Ireland Assembly and Westminster Government must act urgently to prevent a rise in child poverty. Access to decent jobs for parents in Northern Ireland must be a priority and this means the public and private sector working together and investing for the future."
Lynda Wilson, director of Barnardo's NI, said: "Behind today's statistics sit the most vulnerable children in society whose life chances risk being compromised by our failure to tackle child poverty effectively. The grim reality that many families face is of vicious cycles of debt and impossible choices between heating homes or cooking hot meals for their children.
"The NI Assembly is currently developing a Child Poverty Strategy and Barnardo's would like to see an increased focus on improving literacy and numeracy standards and schemes to encourage employment as a route out of poverty and programmes of support for families with disabled children to enable parents to access and retain paid employment."