THE recently published Joseph Rowntree Report once again highlights the huge levels of poverty and structural inequality that exists in the six counties, according to West Tyrone Sinn Fein MP, Pat Doherty.
Mr Doherty believes that the current situation vindicates his party's demand for an anti-poverty strategy in the St Andrew's negotiations so that an incoming Executive would be mandated to adopt and implement measures to tackle poverty and exclusion on the basis of objective need.
Speaking last week, the local MP said, "The statistics contained in the Rowntree Report are startling. In terms of almost every deprivation measure outlined in the Report, levels of poverty and exclusion are greater in the six counties than in Britain and within the six counties itself the levels of deprivation in areas west of the Bann are considerably worse than those in areas east of Bann.
"In overall terms, Some 31 per cent of people aged 16 to retirement lack paid work and that there are high levels of low pay among full-time employees, with some 22 per cent of the workforce paid less than & pound;6.50 an hour with widening pay inequalities between high and low paid workers. Almost one in four households are unable to afford to heat their home properly and almost 100,000 children and 50,000 pensioners are living in income poverty.
"In geographical terms the inequalities between east and west of the Bann are as marked as ever. For example, Strabane and Cookstown stand out for the high proportion of workers who are low paid and the levels of low pay in these districts are twice as high as levels in many Districts east of the Bann.
"The percentage of people of working age with a limiting long term illness, is considerably higher in Strabane, Derry and Cookstown than in other Districts.
"The Districts of Derry, Strabane and Limavady have the highest proportion of overcrowded households and the proportion of people aged 60 and over in receipt of pension credits is highest in Cookstown, Strabane and Omagh."
Furthermore according to the local MP, in 2004, 24 per cent or the equivalent of 150,000 households were in fuel poverty, twice as high as the worst region of England with 40 per cent of pensioners in the six counties in fuel poverty according to the Rowntree Report.
He added, "As fuel poverty is directly related to low income it is no surprise that it is also people in Districts west of the Bann who are at greatest risk.
"These latest statistics show just how little has been done to redress the historical structural inequalities between east and west of the Bann.
"This is why Sinn F้in demanded progress on an anti-poverty strategy in the St Andrews negotiations and this is why we demanded that any incoming
Executive has a duty to adopt a strategy to tackle poverty and social exclusion based on objective need."
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