One in four children in Northern Ireland are set to be in poverty by 2024/25, according to new analysis published today (Thursday) by Save the Children Northern Ireland and Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). 

Families are facing a spiralling cost of living, challenging labour marketweakened social safety net, and a widening income gap, according to the new research. 

Analysis in the “Brighter Futures” report shows that, while it was in place, the £20 increase to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits prevented 11,000 children from being plunged into poverty, which contributed to a decrease in the rate of child poverty. 

But with this support now cut, the charities are warning that child poverty in Northern Ireland is on course to rise to 25% over the next five years. 

But the increase is not inevitable. The briefing paper calls on the Executive to:  

  • remove the two-child limit for Universal Credit and child tax credit; 

  • introduce a £20 Northern Irish Child Payment for children in families eligible for means-tested benefits. 

Together, these measures would ensure that 38,000 fewer children are in poverty in 2024/25, reducing the child poverty rate to a historic low of 17%. 

 Peter Bryson, Head of Save the Children Northern Ireland, said:  It’s unacceptable for any child to grow up in poverty. Preventing an increase in the child poverty rate must be the priority of every party in Northern Ireland.  

The shortfalls in our system are forcing families to make impossible choices between food and heating their homes. Even before the pandemic, we just weren’t doing enough to lift children out of povertyAnd without action, the challenges that families are facing now will see more children growing up in poverty in the coming years.  

That’s just wrong. The Executive urgently needs to act if it wants to live up to its commitments in the Programme for Government to give children the best start in life.  

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:  The prospect of a 25% child poverty rate in Northern Ireland is grim but our analysis shows the rise in child poverty can be stopped if we make good decisions for children now.  

 The Universal Credit reforms announced in the Budget will help some low earners, but millions of struggling households will be no better off for the change. The priority must be removing the two-child limit and introducing a new child payment to support family budgets in the poorest households.   

We all want children in Northern Ireland to have a good start. That begins with ensuring every family has enough money to live on. 

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