Belfast paediatrician calls for cost of living pressures on families in north to be made a priority by government
A CONSULTANT paediatrician has called for the cost of living pressures facing families in Northern Ireland to be made a priority by government.
Dr Julie-Ann Maney, a consultant at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, said she fears what the winter will bring for those being hardest hit.
Dr Maney said she and her colleagues had seen the effects of inequality and deprivation on children and young people on a daily basis.
Speaking on Radio Ulster's Talkback, the medic said children "don't really have a voice, so it's up to us as advocates to speak for them and say that this cannot continue, we can't have our children - 26 per cent currently - living in poverty".
"Poverty obliterates their future really, I can make choices for my children because I am in the position to do that, but for poor children those choices just aren't there.
"Most of those families are working families, most of those families are people who have good jobs, but the way the economy is set up they can't cope, they can't meet their basic needs."
The paediatrician as the north has no functioning Executive, politicians here are "not really doing anything about it.
"We've been waiting for a strategy which child poverty would be a part of," she said.
"A child payment has been very successful. They've done that in Scotland - £20 per week per child, which to you and I doesn't seem like a huge amount of money but to those families is a huge amount of money and is life changing.
"Childcare is another issue that needs to be addressed.
"A huge proportion of people's wages is going towards childcare and the government needs to look at it as a priority."
Dr Maney added: "Our children's health is getting worse and we are bracing ourselves in the children's hospital, in the Royal, for lots of illness over the winter period.
"We are praying for a mild winter so that we don't see babies dying because they're so cold and their parents can't afford to put the heat on because oil prices and gas prices are so high".