By Michael Kane
The Department for Communities have revealed statistics showing an increase in absolute poverty in the district area. This came during Tuesday’s meeting of the Derry City & Strabane District Council when department representatives presented the government’s poverty policies, poverty statistics, and plans to develop an anti-poverty scheme.
Perhaps the most shocking finding to those present were the figures showing an increase in absolute poverty from 14% to 16% from the 17/18 period to the 18/19 period respectively. It was also shown that 68% of adults in Derry and Strabane are employed, 4% lower than the Northern Ireland average. The median annual wage was also lower than the Northern Ireland average by over £3,000.
Councillor Shaun Harkin said: “They are just stunning statistics in terms of the scale of poverty here in the district area. It’s actually depressing and very, very worrying.
“On every indicator, every statistic, every box, we’re doing worse, which isn’t to say everywhere else is doing great. It’s just that this is why our district area suffers great levels of deprivation.
“What we actually have is, that we’ve seen an increase in absolute poverty, so Stormont has actually got a poverty producing strategy. We can’t blame this on the pandemic. This all happened before the pandemic.”
Councillor Sandra Duffy was among those who found the statistics stark but was of the opinion that they weren’t surprising.
She said: “We have seen, in this region, decades of under-investment. We have seen over ten years now of Tory austerity, we have all these things going against us. We know the regional inequalities that we face here.
I am myself know and see every day in my contingency work the levels of poverty increase. I know that, I feel it. I also work in the homeless sector. I see the figures there increasing. I see the pressures on families and young people increasing. So these are all things that we need to be working on.”
Councillor Gary Donelly echoed the fact that the district area had been topping all the wrong tables since these statistics began recording and suggested there was nothing to indicate any of it is turning around.
“I don’t think it matters who’s in power. I think it’s just, that is the system. It’s discrimination. It’s institutionalised discrimination.”