Page last updated at 18:54 GMT, Monday, 19 November 2012

Child poverty action plan

More than 100,000 children in Northern Ireland are living in poverty, the UUP leader said on 19 November 2012.

Mike Nesbitt said that of this number, 40,000 children were in severe poverty.

He highlighted the figures during his motion which called on First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to publish an action plan for the Child Poverty Strategy.

Mr Nesbitt said £92m was already ring-fenced that could help those children in "persistent child poverty".

"Two years on from promises of a child care strategy, the money remains in an Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) bank account," he said.

He said that this was £12m which could be used to "empower people" who could not afford to work because of the cost of childcare.

Mr Nesbitt also said there was another £80m available in the social investment fund.

It was created with the aim of reducing poverty, unemployment and physical deterioration in certain areas.

The DUP's Stephen Moutray proposed his party's amendment, which called on the Executive to work with the Westminster government and the devolved administrations to identify how it could meet statutory targets and reduce poverty.

He said he was disappointed that the UUP had brought forward the motion when "much work is being done in the Assembly to tackle child poverty".

Mr Moutray said the current difficulties lay with targets set by the Westminster government, which in turn had been affected by the economic downturn.

David McNarry of the UK Independence Party said his amendment would seek to "identify additional funds associated with limiting the damage of the recession for use in combating child poverty".

"My primary concern is that we can resource greater spend on realising and actioning child poverty targets by identifying more money," he said.

The SDLP's Dolores Kelly said she was disappointed that money in the social investment fund had not been spent.

"Worse than that, the money is likely to be spent badly," she said.

Chris Lyttle of the Alliance Party said he would be supporting the motion and he was critical of the OFMDFM department.

"It's clear that the OFMDFM delivery on this important issue is regrettably not a record of timely and accessible action," he said.

Green Party leader Steven Agnew said he was in favour of the motion and Mr McNarry's amendment.

Responding to the debate, Junior Minister Jennifer McCann, said there was a need to look at constituencies where child poverty was the highest and to intervene on a basis of need.

She explained what the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers was already doing to tackle child poverty.

Ms McCann also said that the social investment fund had not been "packaged as a child poverty action plan".

The motion passed as amended by both the DUP and Mr McNarry.


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