NGOs call for urgent progress on an anti-poverty strategy for NIJune 28, 2023
NGOs, trade unions, and academics called for an anti-poverty strategy based on objective need to be a day one priority for a new NI Executive at a seminar held in Stormont earlier today.
The event was sponsored by Emma Sheerin MLA, with co-sponsors Gerry Carroll MLA, Mike Nesbitt MLA, Sinéad McLaughlin MLA, and Kate Nicholl MLA.
Northern Ireland has been waiting for an anti-poverty strategy for almost twenty years. The 2006 St Andrews Agreement contained a legal obligation for the NI Executive to develop a strategy to tackle poverty, social exclusion, and patterns of deprivation based on objective need (1).
Following a judicial review taken by CAJ in 2015, the High Court found the Executive was acting unlawfully for not having yet adopted such a strategy (2). In 2020, the New Decade, New Approach agreement contained a renewed commitment to developing the strategy (3).
Progress was made during the last political mandate, with an expert advisory panel and co-design group established to take forward the development of an anti-poverty strategy. However, the Executive collapsed again before the strategy could be implemented.
The lack of an anti-poverty strategy has coincided with an ongoing cost-of-living crisis and a period of major social and economic uncertainty across society, including proposed budget cuts to public services and to the community and voluntary sector (4). UK inflation remains high at 8.7% (5).
Today’s seminar including input from the event sponsors (named above) and expert speakers including as Patricia McKeown (UNISON), Daniel Holder (CAJ), Trása Canavan (Barnardo’s), George Sampson (DfC), Goretti Horgan (UU), Pauline Leeson (CiNI), Bernadette McAliskey (STEP NI), Dr Ciara Fitzpatrick (UU), Dr Alexandra Chapman (UU), Nuala Toman (Disability Action), and John Patrick Clayton, (UNISON /NIC ICTU).
During the event, participants examined what progress has been made to date in developing an anti-poverty strategy for NI, while also considering how to ensure the future strategy is as comprehensive and effective as possible.
The seminar centred on the following key asks:
- The adoption and implementation of an overarching, comprehensive anti-poverty strategy based on objective need as a day one priority for a new Executive. This strategy should have clear, timebound targets and build upon the detailed work that has been carried out to date in order to ensure expedient delivery and implementation of actions.
- In the interim, DfC and all government departments should progress the development of the draft strategy as much as is possible by in readiness for a new Executive.
Robyn Scott, Communications & Equality Coalition Coordinator, commented: “These are desperate times for people living below the poverty line, especially those who were already struggling to make ends meet day to day before the cost-of-living crisis. We urgently need an anti-poverty strategy to protect those in our society who are most vulnerable and least able to adapt to times of economic strife.
“The situation becomes even more absurd when you consider that there has been a legal obligation for the strategy to be developed since 2006. It will soon be twenty years overdue and we have waited far too long already. The anti-poverty strategy must be a day one priority as soon as we have new Executive in place. Further delays are unacceptable.”
Please direct media enquiries to Robyn Scott, Communications & Equality Coalition Coordinator on firstname.lastname@example.org or 075 1994 1203.
- See the St Andrews Agreement and Section 16 of the subsequent Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006.
- Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) and Brian Gormally’s Application  NIQB 59
- New Decade, New Approach, January 2020, p.9
- See, for example, this analysis from the Northern Ireland Fiscal Council: www.nifiscalcouncil.org/publications/nios-2023-24-budget-northern-ireland-initial-summary.
- When measured using the Consumer Price Index. See this ONS bulletin.