West Belfast is the most deprived district in the North when it comes to child poverty, according to a new report. The rate of child poverty in the area stands at 46 per cent, making it the fourth worst in a survey of all of Westminster’s constituencies.
The disturbing news comes in a new report from the Campaign to End Child Poverty, which places only three parliamentary constituencies, all in England, above West Belfast.
Both Sinn Féin and the SDLP have expressed concern over the alarming statistics with West Belfast MP Paul Maskey saying the figures are “unfortunately not surprising”.
“For decades these wards have seen huge underinvestment by successive British governments in terms of job creation, housing, infrastructural investment and other such factors that affect the quality of life for the people living here,” he said.
“Under the Child Poverty Act the British government are obliged to end child poverty by 2020. The stark reality, though, is that with the current policies being pursued by the Tory-led coalition, these targets could be difficult to reach and will only exacerbate the problem.
“While the Executive is facing this problem head-on with a Programme for Government commitment aimed at eradicating child poverty, they are constrained by the severe British cuts of over £4bn to the block grant along with issues such as the Welfare Reform Bill, higher taxes on fuel increasing fuel poverty and decreased public spending.
“However, measures from the Executive include the development of a poverty outcomes model along with the progressing of a child poverty action plan, in conjunction with the poverty and social inclusion stakeholder forum, which is working to deliver a number of signature projects that would alleviate child poverty.”
Local SDLP Councillor Tim Attwood described the figures as “a scandal”.
“It is a scandal that so many vulnerable children are in poverty in West Belfast,” he said.
“It is vital that children are given priority from the day they are born. Government, statutory and community organisations need to provide integrated and effective support structures in the home, in the nursery school and throughout the school system which ensures our children are educated to a standard that will allow them to leave school with the necessary skills and knowledge to get out of poverty and allows them to make a positive contribution to the local economy and our community.”
Mr Attwood also refused to accept Mr Maskey’s assertion that the British government is to blame.
“It is not good enough for Sinn Féin in West Belfast to blame direct rule ministers for the problem. It is not direct rule ministers who have asked schools to cut their budgets by 11 per cent over the next three years which could result in hundreds of teacher redundancies, cuts in support staff and larger class sizes.”