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New NESC Secretariat Report: Sharing Knowledge and Lessons in Combatting Poverty – A north-south perspective

Poverty is a concern on both parts of the island. This report, written by NESC policy analyst Helen Johnston, finds that similar poverty trends have been identified in Ireland and Northern Ireland, with people who are unemployed, lone parents, and people with disabilities at greatest risk of poverty. Children and young people in both jurisdictions have a high risk of poverty, and have been disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions. Digital exclusion has also been highlighted by the pandemic. Other trends identified are the invisibility of some rural poverty, the increasing risk of poverty faced by people in low-paid work, and the links between poverty and mental health. Some groups in the population are particularly marginalised and at risk of poverty, including people who are homeless, Travellers and migrants. Dr Johnston said that ‘while statistics can be compiled across the jurisdictions, it would be useful to have some common measurements for comparison and to assist in developing appropriate interventions’.

Both jurisdictions have anti-poverty strategies in place or in development. Ireland has the Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025 and in Northern Ireland, an expert panel has prepared recommendations for an anti-poverty strategy. There is limited cooperation between the two jurisdictions in the development and implementation of the anti-poverty strategies. Both Ireland and Northern Ireland have social welfare, educational disadvantage and community development policies in place, along with programmes to support disadvantaged groups and areas.

A key learning from these programmes and initiatives is the importance of state, community, and voluntary bodies working together to address disadvantage, whilst listening to and drawing on the knowledge and experience of people living in these local areas.

While cooperation across the island on addressing poverty is limited some initiatives do support this, such as: the All-Island Food Poverty Network; the new Peace Plus Programme; social welfare summer schools; post-Brexit reciprocal social welfare arrangements; the network for adult learning across borders; the Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South; community grant funding; and cross-border strategic partnerships.

Dr Johnston said, ‘the future challenge is to build on these initiatives by sharing knowledge and lessons to work towards the reduction of poverty on both parts of the island’.

Note to Editors

Read the full report here.

For further information please contact Helen Johnston, 087 4191780

NESC Work on Shared Island

This paper is published as part NESC’s ongoing Programme of Research on the Shared Island Initiative. NESC is undertaking this work at the request of the Department of the Taoiseach to produce a comprehensive report on the Shared Island in 2022.

The NESC research will contribute to building a shared knowledge base and understanding about possible ways in which greater co-operation can emerge across a number of economic, social and environmental areas in Ireland, North and South, and also between these islands, East and West. The research will not address the constitutional question, but will focus on sustainable economic, social and environmental development issues in line with NESC’s strategic remit.