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Shock figures reveal 120,000 NI children living in poverty

Hospital consultant tells of infants so hungry 'they stuff toast into their nappies'

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More than 120,000 children in Northern Ireland are living in poverty, official statistics have revealed.. Picture posed by model

More than 120,000 children in Northern Ireland are living in poverty, official statistics have revealed.. Picture posed by model

More than 120,000 children in Northern Ireland are living in poverty, official statistics have revealed.. Picture posed by model

More than 120,000 children in Northern Ireland are living in poverty, official statistics have revealed.

The stark figure was disclosed to the SDLP's Mark H Durkan who tabled an Assembly question on the issue.

Yesterday the MLA revealed that 121,000 young people during 2018-19 were deemed to be "living in relative poverty after housing costs".

It comes after a Belfast paediatrician recently warned of the "insidious" effects of child poverty here, revealing that children are driven to such levels of hunger they are stuffing their nappies with toast.

Dr Julie-Ann Maney, a consultant in paediatric emergency medicine at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, spoke out on the issue in an online article published last month and said the divide between rich and poor here had become "vast and accelerating".

She stressed the impact of the Covid crisis had only exacerbated the problem.

"In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Government policy has driven up asset prices for the rich while the less fortunate are enduring withering declines in living standards," she said.

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"I see the evidence of this inequality on a daily basis in the emergency department of the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children."

She added: "We have seen little 14-month-old infants here who are so hungry when you offer them toast and milk they stuff toast into their nappies."

Working in west Belfast, she serves a population that is one of the most deprived in the UK - nearly a third of children in Northern Ireland live in poverty.

Mr Durkan, who also warned the economic impact of the pandemic will only push more children into further deprivation, insisted the figure illustrates the "failure" of our two biggest parties to tackle the problem.

"These figures are a damning indictment of the DUP and Sinn Fein in Government, who have led Government here for over a decade," said the Foyle MLA.

"The economic impact of the pandemic will only see these figures rise. That is 121,000 children who are not only suffering the effects of poverty now but are also at risk of worse outcomes in terms of education and physical and mental health."

He continued: "With the universal credit claimant count rising and set to soar once the furlough scheme ends, more families will find themselves subject to the worse excesses of Tory austerity.

"Of course, Sinn Fein and the DUP went through the voting lobbies together to hand our welfare powers over to a Tory government."

Mr Durkan stressed that it imperative that the returning Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey, "plugs these gaps with a new welfare support package" in order to protect struggling families.

The department has said that it recently announced the extension of the 2016-19 Poverty Strategy to May 2022, adding that the extension of this strategy would allow time for engagement to address child poverty in the longer term.


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