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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

62,000 children in NI trapped in poverty as parents face barriers to work

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More than half of children living in poverty in Northern Ireland could be trapped in hardship because their parent(s) face at least one potential barrier to work or taking on more work, new Action for Children research reveals.

While the government continues to state the best way to stop children growing up poor ‘is to ensure that they do not grow up in a workless household’, the analysis of official data reveals work is often not a route out of hardship for families where every parent is already working full time, or where there is long-term sickness, disability or caring responsibilities.

To estimate the number of these children in poverty whose families have barriers to work, Action for Children researchers analysed government data and found that between 2017 and 2022 there were, on average, 62,000 children growing up in ‘work-constrained’ families in Northern Ireland.

That’s over half (58%) of the total number of the nation’s 107,000 children living in relative poverty – which is classed as a household income of less than 60% of the average, after housing costs.

The research found the major barriers to work these families in Northern Ireland faced included:

- already being in full-time work: around 12,000 children are in poverty despite one or both parents working full-time – including 8,000 children in couple families where both parents are in full-time work;

- disability: a further 21,000 children are in poverty where there was at least one disabled parent, and an extra 8,000 children where at least one child was disabled; as well as

- caring responsibilities: an extra 17,000 children in poverty where there is at least one child under two; and another 4,000 children in single parent families in poverty where the parent is working part-time with a child aged two to 10.

A large proportion of these families experienced multiple barriers, meaning they’re even less likely to be able to improve their income by taking on work.

In Northern Ireland, there were:

- 43,000 children in families with one barrier to work;

- 16,000 children with two barriers; and

- 3,000 with three or more barriers.

Action for Children’s director for Northern Ireland, Lorna Ballard, said:

"Our research shows we need to be honest about why so many children across the nation are growing up poor and confront the myth that work alone is a passport out of poverty.

"Now that we have a working Executive, this is something all political parties must address. Further research is needed into the financial challenges facing these working families so we can find more targeted and effective solutions.

"This should be part of a wider programme of reform that strengthens the social security system and tackles the barriers to work and opportunity that are keeping families trapped in poverty."


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