West Belfast - 2nd highest levels of child poverty in the UK

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The recent report commissioned by the ‘End Child Poverty’ campaign has found that out of 650 parliamentary constituencies, West Belfast has the second highest levels of child poverty in the UK. Manchester Central being the only constituency to record higher levels of child poverty and deprivation. 43% of children within the West Belfast constituency grow up in poverty. And while this is a reduction on the previous year from 46%, other areas saw a greater percentage drop in poverty levels over that year.

 

West Belfast has constantly been at the top of the statistical lists for the areas of greatest socio -economic deprivation. This has been the case for decades. January’s 2013 release from the ‘Office for National Statistics’ also has West Belfast men as the highest rate of benefits claimants at 15.2% in the UK. West Belfast has also seen a dramatic rise in youth unemployment, with Northern Ireland as a whole amongst the highest youth unemployment rate in the UK at over 20%

The issue of housing sees West Belfast also topping the polls with the highest waiting lists in the North for social housing. At the same time repossessions of home owner’s properties are reaching an all-time high. In recent years West Belfast has also seen a rise in suicides, one of the biggest causes of premature deaths in the area. Alcohol and drug dependency have also spiralled in local areas while food and clothing bank charities are inundated from people seeking help.

What are the local politicians doing about this growing poverty and deprivation? Well in recent times we have seen the passing of the Welfare Reform Bill at the Stormont Assembly. We have seen local politicians being responsible for implementing austerity measures resulting in continual closures and cuts to our public services.

We have also seen Unionist politicians whipping up sectarian division over the moving of the Union flag upon Belfast city hall to designated days only. This situation has seen months of street mobilisation from loyalist working class communities and the rising of sectarian tensions. Many of the marches and roadblocks had seen unionist leaders standing with the protesters while continuing to stoke up sectarian passions with their words. All of this is further creating sectarian divisions while pushing many more into poverty.

While the move to peace from our recent conflict is supported by the overwhelming majority of our citizens, the process though has seen little change for many working class communities. This situation is creating a growing generation of youth many of whom see little material change and such hope for a better life than what their parents had before. Street mobilisation and direct action over a flag plays directly into the hands of the sectarian politicians, street mobilisation and direct action against the savage austerity cuts works to our benefit. Whether it be West Belfast, East Belfast or Catholic and Protestant working class communities across the North, it is time to stand up to the sectarian politicians for our collective class interests rather than to stand with them for their self-interest.

WORDS: Davy Carlin


This article is from
Workers Solidarity 129, April May 2013

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