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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 January, 2004, 19:42 GMT
MPs study NI poverty
Number of children in poverty has increased over 30 years
Number of children in poverty has increased over 30 years
A delegation of MPs has visited Belfast to study the extent of child poverty in Northern Ireland.

Members of the Works and Pensions committee travelled to the nationalist Falls and loyalist Shankill area of the city to discuss the facilities available for young people.

The MPs met representatives from both sides of the community on Wednesday to discuss the growing number of children living in poverty.

The committee, chaired by Liberal Democrat Sir Archy Kirkwood, has been conducting a child poverty inquiry since July last year.

They were told by community activists that serious levels of deprivation could be found in the areas.

We have the highest levels of underweight children, teenage pregnancies, respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma, suicide problems and low levels of educational attainment
Michael Ferguson
Sinn Fein MLA
Sinn Fein Assembly member Michael Ferguson, who helped organise the visit, said government rhetoric on child poverty needed to be matched with real funds.

"We told the committee about the problem affecting an area of 120,000 people, from the Shankill to Poleglass," he said.

"We told them that in 17 electoral wards half the children and young people are living below the poverty line.

"We have the highest levels of underweight children, teenage pregnancies, respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma, suicide problems and low levels of educational attainment.

"The committee was also told that there has been a complete failure by the government to address the impact of the last 30 years of conflict."

The number of children living in poverty has increased over the last 30 years.

Figures show that 30% of all children in the UK are classed as deprived.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has pledged to end child poverty within the next 20 years and reduce it by at least a quarter this year.

Mr Ferguson criticised the level of funding made available to tackle the problem in Northern Ireland.

"If you take an issue like targeting social need, when that was introduced in England it was given a budget, but here it was not," he said.

"The Neighbourhood Renewal Programme in England also had a budget but here it did not."

He said the absence of a devolved administration at Stormont was hampering those who wanted to address the child poverty issue and depravation in Northern Ireland.

The Sinn Fein MLA called for changes to the Treasury's methods for calculating funds to be allocated to government departments in Northern Ireland.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Homara Choudhary reports
"MPs will meet people from both sides of the community to discuss the growing number of children living in poverty"



SEE ALSO:
Third of children 'live in poverty'
13 Oct 03  |  Northern Ireland
NI poverty gap 'is growing'
02 Dec 02  |  Northern Ireland
NI poverty 'must be tackled'
18 Sep 02  |  Northern Ireland


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