Image: A previous issue of VIEW which examined child poverty in Northern Ireland
By Una Murphy
The latest government statistics on child poverty in Northern Ireland may not show the real picture because the impact of a new welfare benefit Universal Credit, due to be introduced next month, is not yet apparent, according to the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma
Income inequality in the north has narrowed, according to the `Households Below Average Income' report for 2015-16, which has been published by the Department for Communities.
The report added that there was now a “historic low” figure of children in absolute poverty with a drop of five percentage point from the previous year to 18 per cent. This decrease was described as statistically significant”
Children suffering as a result of `low income and material deprivation' (which is measured by whether they can afford to go on school trips or a warm winter coat), fell to nine per cent - the lowest level recorded since the new set of measurements were introduced in 2010/11.
Koulla Yiasoum, is tasked with safeguarding and promoting the best interests of children and young people.
When asked by VIEWdigital to comment on the report she said: “The challenge is that we have a number of ways of measuring poverty.
“The relative poverty measure is based on the overall median (or the middle) income for the UK, which can fluctuate and there is reason to believe that the introduction of Universal Credit in GB has resulted in incomes to decrease, therefore the median income level will also have decreased.
“As Universal Credit has not been introduced in Northern Ireland yet, it looks like incomes in Northern Ireland are higher and there appears to be less child poverty, but we know that this doesn’t represent a real decrease in the number of children experiencing poverty.
“The true test is whether the relative child poverty rate continues to fall, over the next year or two when Universal Credit is to be phased in here.
“The aim must always be to eradicate child poverty and it is apparent that we are still a long way from achieving this goal.”