Roy Beggs MLA has asked the Junior Minister about the importance of education in allowing our young people and their families to move out of poverty in the future. Speaking at the Assembly on Monday the 23rd March, the Ulster Unionist MLA said “The junior Minister highlighted the importance of education in allowing our young people and their families to move out of poverty in the future. Can he explain why early years funding has been reduced for a number of organisations in my constituency, including Kids Korner in the Antiville area, where there are some of the highest levels of child poverty in Northern Ireland?”
Junior Minister Bell responded saying: “In the first instance, we had to look at the key areas. That was the evidence that came to us from a lot of the charitable organisations. We regularly meet Barnardo’s, Children in Northern Ireland, the NSPCC and Include Youth. Many of those organisations came together.
Secondly, we had to look at what the evidence was telling us and where best practice actually came from. In previous mandates and under previous authorities, we had dealt with only 20% of the most deprived wards through Sure Start specifically. The evidence was telling us that, what we had to do in those wards, was to up that by an additional 5%. We have actually increased the amount of help that we are giving to the areas of most acute need. When we go into child poverty statistics and specifically into targets, I am always very conscious of saying how well we have done, but against much of the assessed need in the specific areas of relative low income, absolute child poverty, combined low income and material deprivation, and persistent poverty, we have seen a consistent reduction. The Member mentioned children and education in his constituency. I am not sure how many of the 9,700 children are from East Antrim. I can get him those statistics. I know that some of them are. We were told that the key aspect was to help children in numeracy and literacy because that was the way in which they could lift themselves and, in many cases, their families out of poverty. With that numeracy and literacy strategy, we will certainly have helped a number of children in the East Antrim constituency who were never helped before.”