MLAs, civil society representatives, academics and anti-poverty experts crammed into a seminar room in Stormont on the 28 of June to hear about the long overdue need to progress a Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Strategy.

The Equality Coalition, Barnardo’s NI, and the Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network (NIAPN) organised the seminar calling for the development of an anti-poverty strategy to be a day one priority for the next NI Executive.

A briefing, published ahead of the event, highlights that NI has been waiting for an anti-poverty strategy since the Good Friday Agreement, a commitment which was strengthened in law by the 2006 St Andrews Agreement. CAJ took a successful judicial review against the Northern Ireland Executive in 2015 for its failure to implement an anti-poverty strategy. The High Court Judge Treacy concluded that while the Executive had implemented programmes to tackle poverty, it had not implemented an overarching strategy, which ‘must aim to be effective, its effectiveness must be capable of measurement and the actions which are taken in attempting to implement that strategy must be referable back to that overarching strategy’.

Additionally, the High Court concluded that any the anti-poverty strategy had to be based upon objective need.

The concept of “objective need” is obviously central to the statutory provision the intention of which is to remove or reduce the scope for discrimination by tying the allocation of resources to neutral criteria that measure deprivation irrespective of community background or other affiliation.

Judge Treacy, High Court Decision NIQB 59

Progress was made on developing the strategy during the last political mandate, both an expert panel was appointed to give their recommendations, and a co-design group appointed to give theirs. However, the Executive collapsed before the Department for Communities published their proposed draft strategy.

This seminar heard from members of the expert panel, co-design group and other stakeholders eager to ensure that an anti-poverty strategy with a strong rights based approach, based upon objective need, would be ready for consultation as soon as an Executive returns.

Download the full briefing here.

A full seminar report will be forthcoming.

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