Northern Ireland news

One in four children living in poverty, Barnardo's NI warns

Michele Janes, director of Barnardo’s Northern Ireland

ONE in four children are living in poverty and "little has changed in the past two decades", Barnardo’s NI has warned.

The charity said that the next assembly mandate, following May's elections, must deliver and implement a strategy to ensure no child grows up in poverty.

It said many children growing up in Northern Ireland have experienced trauma including poverty, domestic abuse, parental substance misuse, or intergenerational trauma from the Troubles.

Barnardo's, which is Northern Ireland's largest children's charity, launched a manifesto yesterday urging Stormont to prioritise children's mental health and wellbeing. It wants counselling to be available to all primary school children. And it said children should not be subjected to physical punishment.

Director of Barnardo’s Northern Ireland, Michele Janes, said children have to endure a lengthy wait for mental health treatment.

"Currently children referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services face long waiting lists and often ‘age out’ before they even receive their first appointment," she said.

The charity also called for the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Northern Ireland to be increased from 10-years-old.

And it said a standardised relationship and sex education (RSE) curriculum must be taught in the north's schools.

"For too long, children and young people in Northern Ireland have lacked the legal protection that is afforded to their peers elsewhere in the UK," Ms Janes said.

"This must be put right and children in Northern Ireland must have the same protection from assault as adults.

"Barnardo’s Northern Ireland also believes that we need to raise the age of criminal responsibility, and that children in contact with the youth justice system should be treated as children, first and foremost.

"We also want to see a standardised, well-informed RSE curriculum introduced to all schools to help educate young people about healthy relationships, consent, and boundaries."

She said any executive strategy, policy or service "must be trauma-informed and recognise that each child has particular needs that must be addressed alongside the support they are receiving".

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