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“Children can’t wait any longer” for action to be taken against poverty

The stark reality of poverty in Northern Ireland is “children can’t wait any longer,” the Children’s Commissioner has told the Inquiry into Child Poverty in Northern Ireland at the Public Accounts Committee.

Chris Quinn told MLAs at the committee on Thursday (June 20) that no child should have to worry about where their parents are finding the money to pay for their next meal.

The Commissioner said: “Poverty is one of the main priorities for NICCY, and my team and I had identified that before coming into post.

“The effect of poverty is devastating. I have visited many communities, and it is a disgrace that in times of crisis, children’s rights suffer disproportionately.

“It is deeply concerning the delay on implementing an anti-poverty strategy and the impact it is having. There have been very little sustained improvements from 2016 regarding poverty, and that is terribly worrying.”

The Commissioner also told the inquiry that the current models of strategy development, delivery and reporting are not fit for purpose in terms of delivering real outcomes on the ground.

He added that the Government needs to listen to children and young people as well as organisations who work closely with children and families who experience poverty.

Chris said: “According to recent figures from the Department for Communities (DfC), one in four children are living in poverty and that is not an accident – it is a political choice. The resources are not being directed to children and, with early intervention and better investment of public resources, we can lift children out of poverty.

“Why is this not a priority for the Executive – there is no reason for it to be delayed. When requirements to develop and implement strategies are set in legislation, this reflects an absolute commitment to their delivery.

“However, in practice when there is inaction or delay in response to statutory requirements, there appear to be few repercussions.”

The Commissioner concluded: “This is about children and families, it’s their lives that we want to make a difference to.

“When I am speaking with children, they are worrying about the cost of food and where their mummy and daddy will get the money from to buy food and pay bills. This should never be the case.

“Poverty is a solvable problem, and children don’t have time to wait any longer for action to be taken.”