Bishop urges more voluntary action
A new spirit of voluntary action is needed to tackle poverty in Northern Ireland, a Catholic bishop has said.
More people must provide practical support for the most vulnerable in society, Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor said.
He told an audience at a Challenging Poverty event in Belfast city hall of his hope for greater civic responsibility.
"Let me take this opportunity to appeal for a new mobilisation of voluntary participation to tackle poverty and social exclusion in our society," he said.
He added more people should become involved in Christian relief organisations like St Vincent de Paul.
"Is there anyone so poor that they cannot give something of their time, talent or resources to help others?" he asked.
Approximately 110,000 children in Northern Ireland live in income poverty, according to the bishop. Around 41% of people in lone-parent families do not have enough money and a third of pensioners in rural areas experience poverty.
Statistics also showed Northern Ireland has a higher proportion of households in receipt of tax credits than any other region in the UK and a fifth of the working age population lacks qualifications, the bishop said.
He added: "I could go on but the other statistics in the document only serve to confirm what these headline statistics already tell us, that poverty and social exclusion is a fundamental and long-standing issue in Northern Ireland which no government initiative or policy to date has comprehensively addressed."
Cormac Wilson, president of the northern region of St Vincent de Paul, said his group provided £2.7 million in financial assistance and carried out thousands of weekly visits last year. He said they were beginning to see people approach them who have never sought help before - those in work who benefited from recent peace and prosperity.