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Report calls for strategy on poverty in Northern Ireland

By Noel McAdam

Northern Ireland cannot afford to have "another lost generation", a report has warned.

It said economic inactivity, long-term unemployment and low levels of educational attainment have "stigmatised" certain areas of the province.

And it added that around a quarter of employees are already earning less than the living wage - starting at £7.20 an hour and due to rise to £9 by 2020, replacing the £6.50 minimum wage.

Local council areas which were at the top of deprivation tables 20 years ago are the same today, the report commissioned by the Labour Party said.

And it concluded: "We believe that the Northern Ireland Government must be ambitious around their determination to tackle poverty, inequalities and deprivation, through a focused comprehensive anti-poverty strategy."

The findings are likely to feed into the debate around the national welfare reforms, which are centre-stage of the negotiations between the five main parties and the British and Irish governments which began last night.

It was established last September by shadow Secretary of State Ivan Lewis to inform an incoming Labour Government, which never happened after the Conservatives were returned in sufficient strength to govern without coalition partners.

Co-chaired by Professor Deirdre Heenan and Colin Anderson, it said: "Northern Ireland urgently requires a flagship anti-poverty programme, which is a coherent cross-departmental strategy that enables working in a joined up way."

It said despite significant efforts and a variety of initiatives by Stormont "there is much more work to do in reducing poverty and intergenerational deprivation".

"We need a renewed sense of purpose and direction that is ambitious for Northern Ireland and its future. We cannot afford another lost generation."

Belfast Telegraph


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