05 May 2006

Half of population earning less than £300 a week

:::u:::

About half of Northern Ireland's population have incomes less than £300 a week, according to a new Government study just published.

THURSDAY 04/05/2006 14:21:32
By:Press Association

It also showed there was a high concentration of people living on less than the UK average income.

The report `Households Below Average Income` produced by the Department of Social Development again flagged up the east-west economic divide, with those in the west trailing those in the east in the income stakes.

It showed that people living in the Co Tyrone towns of Cookstown and Magherafelt were most at risk of being in a low income of all local government districts.

Conversely those living in Carrickfergus or Lisburn, Co Antrim were least at risk.

Around one in five individuals living in low income families did not have a bank account, seven in 10 had no savings.

In 2004/05 approximately half of all children in Northern Ireland were in families with income in the bottom two bands of income distribution.

Children living in Coleraine and Derry were most at risk of low incomes, before housing costs.

At the other end of the age spectrum, single pensioners, particularly single males, were wore likely to be at the bottom end of income distribution.

Pensioners living in Housing Executive homes were at risk of low income, compared to those in Housing Association properties.

Pensioners without an occupational or personal pension were more likely to be in low income status than those in the UK.

SDLP social development spokesman Patsy McGlone expressed his worry about the level of poverty in Northern Ireland.

He said for the levels to be higher than in the rest of the UK was an issue of "grave concern".

Things were particularly bad west of the Bann, he said. "Many families, many pensioners and many single people are struggling to live on low incomes."

Mr McGlone said the situation was not helped by the misrule of direct rule ministers.

"Firstly the Government slapped on a substantial increase in rates, then they continue to threaten to impose water changes.

"Now Lord Rooker has closed down the countryside to building dwellings, which brings into question any commitment the Government has to affordable housing."

He added: "The cost of living is also rocketing while there is a dangerous shortage of well-paid job opportunities west of the Bann. This situation is very worrying indeed."

The MLA said the Government must act following the report.

"They cannot sit idly by while some people in Northern Ireland live in serious levels of poverty."

Bad decisions had been made by direct rule ministers and that was why it was vital to get the Assembly up and running again as soon as possible with full powers to reverse some of the decisions, he said.

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