WEST and North Belfast have the highest rate of child poverty in the North, new figures have revealed. The research for the End Child Poverty Coalition was carried out by Loughborough University.

The highest rate of child poverty in the North is West Belfast with 32 per cent, with the lowest in North Down at 18 per cent. North Belfast was second highest with 28.8 per cent of children living in poverty.

In 14 of the 18 constituencies, more than one-in-five children live in poverty, with a rate of over one-in-four children in four constituencies. 

Deirdre Walsh, Director of Whiterock Children's Centre, is not surprised by the figures.

"These figures are no surprise to me. With the daily enquires we get in the hub for vouchers and support and the referrals we make to the food banks we know that families are in poverty," she said. "This is going to be even harder come the summer holidays with the loss of free school meals and the lack of free summer schemes where food is available.

"We have seen a greater increase in children being in the care of social services. Poverty is at the root of that as well. We are in a dire situation, and it is only going to get worse."

Becca Bor from the Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network said: “This election is a chance to prioritise children and their families.

"The political parties across the UK must urgently address the injustice that in a society as wealthy as the UK, a single child – let alone one-in-four – faces the reality of hunger, cold houses, and social deprivation. 

“Rising costs, low wages, unaffordable and inaccessible childcare and rising housing costs are making it impossible for families to make ends meet. Across Northern Ireland, the Trussell Trust reports an 11 per cent increase in food bank usage this past year. 

“Politicians have a duty to guarantee that our social security system is fit for purpose and is there for us all when we need it. We need an evidence based anti-poverty strategy which invests in children and ensures they all can flourish, rather than push families into poverty."