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Disadvantaged Children

Volume 606: debated on Wednesday 2 March 2016

6. What discussions she has had with Ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive on programmes to support the most disadvantaged children in Northern Ireland. [R] (903785)

This Government are committed to improving the life chances of disadvantaged children by addressing worklessness and improving educational attainment. These are largely devolved issues in Northern Ireland, where the Executive have the powers to address child poverty in areas such as health, education, housing and childcare.

The hon. Gentleman does not need to declare his interest in the context of a question. In any case he has already done so, so he can bang on with his question.

Is the Minister aware of the Shankill children and young people’s zone in Belfast, a programme embedded in the community that aims to address generational disadvantage in the area? Is the Minister willing to meet the zone organisers and share the lessons being learned more widely?

Yes, I am aware of that organisation. I was on the Shankill yesterday visiting two business parks, the Argyle business centre and Duncairn Gardens, in that very sensitive part of north Belfast. I would be delighted to meet them, and if the hon. Gentleman wants to come along too, he would be welcome.

Does the Minister accept that the changes to the welfare system will mean even more disadvantaged children in Northern Ireland?

No, I do not accept that. The changes to the welfare system have proved that what we should do is make work pay. It is having a positive effect, as we see an increase in employment in Northern Ireland. More people and families are going out and securing a wage. That is the best way to lift people out of poverty.