Page last updated at 06:44 GMT, Thursday, 12 November 2009

NI has worst child poverty in UK

Mother and child

The level of persistent child poverty in Northern Ireland is more than double that of the rest of the United Kingdom, new research has found.

The study, by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, found that high levels of unemployment, disability and poor quality part-time jobs were to blame.

The charity defines poverty as the experience of a family with an income which is 60% below the UK average.

It called on the Assembly to allow those on benefits to earn extra money.

The foundation's chief executive, Julia Unwin, said: "The Assembly has already shown that it is possible to intervene to alleviate some of the worst aspects of poverty.

"Just as it provided the one-off fuel payment of £150 to families on benefit in winter 2008/09, it could make it easier for people to take 'mini-jobs', allowing those living on benefits to provide a little extra for their families."

'Educational attainment'

The authors of the study acknowledged that there are some areas which need to be tackled that are beyond the Assembly's control but said that efforts must be concentrated on issues over which the devolved administration has some influence.

They said local politicians must address the lack of quality, affordable childcare and support those already in work to increase their qualification levels.

They also said political representatives must increase educational attainment and give poorer young people access to positive social and leisure activities.

Nearly a third of Northern Ireland's working-age population is not in paid work.

At 31%, the figure is higher than any region in Great Britain.

Men working full-time also earn 15% less than their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

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