Image: Professor Paddy Hillyard, Queen's University; left, with Jane Craven, guest editor and founder of the Whiterock Children's Centre; Steven Agnew, MLA, Green Party leader and Brian Pelan, Editor of View Magazine, at the Stormont launch of the Child Poverty edition of VIEW Copyright © Kevin Cooper Photoline NUJ
By Claire Savage
With the sun breaking through the clouds and the sky beautifully blue on a bright June day, it’s easy to imagine, upon entering Belfast, that life’s pretty good. As I make my way to ‘the house on the hill’ (aka Stormont) however, I remember my reason for being here – child poverty.
Yes, despite the obvious affluence in parts of Northern Ireland, poverty is still rife. Behind the landscape made picture-perfect by the summer weather today, I was at Stormont for the launch of VIEWdigital’s latest magazine – the child poverty issue.
Driving up the sweeping entrance to Stormont, it’s hard not to feel a slight sense of awe as I think that here, there’s the power to make change happen. Everyone I meet en route to my destination is extremely helpful in guiding me where I need to go. The mood is positive and there’s an overarching sense of helpfulness in the air.
With contributors to the social affairs magazine attending the launch, along with interviewees and people working in the childcare and voluntary sector, the room is buzzing when I arrive. Una Murphy from VIEWdigital subsequently introduces the Green Party’s leader Steven Agnew MLA, who’s here to officially launch the publication.
Strongly opposed to Welfare Reform, Steven tells us that joined up services for children is required. Professor Paddy Hillyard of Queen’s University, says the forecasts for child poverty are “very very severe” and that “we have to either increase the unit of resource or reduce people’s outgoings.”
Guest editor of this latest VIEW publication, Jane Craven of the Whiterock Children’s Centre in Belfast, adds that we need a dedicated children’s representative in government. We also need better funding for childcare issues and a ‘free school day’.
“Every child deserves the right to every experience at school,” she says.
Heading back home, to the north coast, I pass scatterings of blooming buttercups along the roadside, and I think of something else Jane said.
“Put children in the right ‘compost’ and they’ll flourish. If they’re lacking something, then give them what they need to grow.”