Belfast Telegraph

More than a quarter of Northern Ireland adults lack basic necessities like food, heat or clothing: report

Research found that about 1.5 million children live in households that cannot afford to heat their home
Research found that about 1.5 million children live in households that cannot afford to heat their home

By Ed Carty

More than a quarter of adults in Northern Ireland live without basic necessities like food, heat or clothing, research on poverty has revealed.

The amount of people who suffer similar multiple deprivation soars to 36% if they personally experienced violent events, threats and intimidation during the Troubles.

The alarming figures were discovered in the largest study of its kind ever carried out in the UK which examined how a lack of money is impacting sections of society.

The research, compiled by Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland, also looked at the association between poverty and death and injury of close friends and relatives, witnessing violence such as bomb explosions or assaults, imprisonment and forced relocation because of threats, attacks and intimidation.

It found 38% of adults who had a relative injured in the Troubles suffered multiple deprivation; 45% for those who had a relative jailed; and 56% for those who recorded police or army searches of their home.

The highest level of deprivation, 58%, affected people who were forced to move house because of harassment.

Professor Mike Tomlinson from Queen's School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work led the study in Northern Ireland. He said the impact of violent conflict shows similar patterns around the world.

"This is what has happened in Northern Ireland. The evidence is clear," he said.

"Dealing with the past needs to include tackling the deprivation of those whose lives are most blighted by the years of conflict."

Across the UK, the study - Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom (PSE), led by the University of Bristol and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council - found that the percentage of households below the minimum standard of living increased from 14% to 33% over the last 30 years, despite the size of the economy doubling.

It also showed almost 18 million people in the UK cannot afford adequate housing conditions; 12 million people are too poor to engage in common social activities; one in three people cannot afford to heat their homes adequately in the winter and four million children and adults are not properly fed.

Other UK-wide findings include:

  • About 5.5 million adults go without essential clothing.
  • Around 2.5 million children live in homes that are damp.
  • Around 1.5 million children live in households that cannot afford to heat their home.
  • One in four adults have incomes below what they consider is needed to avoid poverty.
  • One in every six adults in paid work are poor.
  • More than one in five adults borrowed in the last year to pay for day-to-day needs.

Professor David Gordon, from the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol, said: "The coalition Government aimed to eradicate poverty by tackling the causes of poverty. Their strategy has clearly failed.

"The available high-quality scientific evidence shows that poverty and deprivation have increased since 2010, the poor are suffering from deeper poverty and the gap between the rich and poor is widening."

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