Communities Minister Must Prioritise Anti-Poverty Measures

The Alliance Party has criticised Communities Minister, Gordon Lyons, for "not prioritising anti-poverty measures".

MLA Kellie Armstrong said the Minister's inaction was "disappointing" in light of a new report showing that one in five children in NI are living in relative poverty.

Ms Armstrong was speaking as the Audit Office report on child poverty in Northern Ireland showed around 20 per cent of children here are living in relative poverty before housing costs, and between seven and nine per cent are living in low-income households which cannot afford basic good and essential activities. The report also shows little sustained reduction in levels over the last eight years.

"The failure to protect children from poverty is a costly mistake a society cannot afford to make," she said.

"Tackling these issues early also helps take pressure off the system in other places, including the health, justice and education systems. We have an obligation to help those in need, including child poverty, both in the long and short-term.
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"It is disappointing therefore the Communities Minister is not prioritising anti-poverty measures. Progress was made during the previous Assembly mandate on a number of related issues but has now stalled due to the lack of an Assembly and Executive. That means the next budget will now not be influenced by these when being set.

"It's shameful one-in-five children in Northern Ireland are in poverty. The Minister should be focusing on helping relieve this situation and taking some critical decisions towards doing that."

Alliance MLA Sian Mulholland, the party's benefits spokesperson, said the Minister needed to show leadership in addressing the cliff edge those on benefits are facing.

"We need to see quick movement to extend welfare mitigations so there is no gap in support at the end of March 2025, when they are currently due to expire," she said.

"However, this is so much more than a single welfare issue and Alliance will be to the forefront in supporting those who need the government to deliver for them and help lift them out of poverty.

"That's why we desperately need a joined-up, adequately resourced approach to poverty elimination. The Communities Minister has a critical role to play in that and I hope he does."

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