SDLP puts baby shower pledge in manifesto for Stormont election
The SDLP has pledged to give every child born in Northern Ireland at least £500 towards long-term savings.
The money would be paid in two £250 tranches when the baby was born and when he or she reached age 10. A third top-up at age 16 would be discussed with other parties, leader Colum Eastwood said.
More than half of children lived in homes with no savings and the nationalist party vowed to tackle the "frightening" increase in child poverty.
Providing up to 30 hours of free pre-school child care per week for working or studying parents was among other promises contained in the nationalist party's manifesto for next month's Stormont Assembly elections.
Mr Eastwood said: "The SDLP will give every child born here the chance to build for their financial future.
"It is unacceptable in an economy as wealthy as ours that children live in homes with no savings or assets.
"That ends now."
The SDLP is one of five main parties and a number of smaller groupings competing in the May 5 poll for 108 seats at Stormont.
Stormont is run through a mandatory powersharing coalition of the five largest parties but plans are in place to create an official opposition during the next five-year term.
Mr Eastwood said his Assembly members would only enter a government after May 5 which meets the needs of people across the North.
"We will only enter into an executive if we can fully sign up to a credible and progressive programme for government."
Other key commitments outlined during the launch in Dungannon in Co Tyrone included:
:: The establishment of Northern Ireland's first ever digital technology and coding academy.
:: Providing greater investment in regional infrastructure projects like roads and railways.
:: Promoting the integrated education of Catholic and Protestant children.
:: Renewing efforts to tackle hospital waiting lists and building around 3,000 new social homes every year for those in the most need.
:: Supporting the creation of nearly 40,000 jobs and reversing the cut in the number of student places.
Mr Eastwood said he was guaranteeing voters' fairness and claimed the Democratic Unionists had outflanked Sinn Fein in government.
He said: "Stormont's current leaders are selling an illusion of progress. More and more though, it is an illusion that only they see and they believe."