More than one in five children in Northern Ireland is experiencing poverty, according to a report by Loughborough University for the End Child Poverty Coalition.
The statistics were calculated based on the number of children who live in a household with a median income below 60 per cent after housing costs are removed.
The report published on Monday shows that 22.2 per cent of children in Northern Ireland are experiencing poverty under this definition.
The figure rises to 28.5 per cent and 27.6 per cent in Belfast West and Belfast North respectively.
The data is for the year ending March 2022, with the report authors cautioning this means it does not cover when “the cost-of-living crisis really took hold” nor the rising inflation that has been particularly prominent in relation to the costs of food and fuel.
Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network (NIAPN), a member of the End Child Poverty Coalition, said it is “gravely concerned” about the high percentage of children who are living in poverty in Northern Ireland and across the UK.
It said 62.7 per cent of children in Northern Ireland who experience poverty live in households with at least one adult in work while 37 per cent of children in lone-parent households in Northern Ireland are experiencing poverty after housing costs are removed.
The End Child Poverty Coalition is calling for the two-child limit for those claiming Universal Credit to be scrapped, as evidence shows children with two or more siblings are more likely to be experiencing poverty.
Households claiming Universal Credit or tax credits can get extra amounts if they have children.
The two-child limit was introduced for children born after April 6th, 2017, generally limiting this additional support to the first two children in a household, with certain exceptions.
A NIAPN representative said: “The numbers of children in poverty across the UK is a massive indicator of a punitive and unjust social security system and wages that remain too low to pull the working poor out of poverty.
“We hope that MPs, MLAs and local councillors use this data to guide their anti-poverty policies and commit to a long overdue NI anti-poverty strategy.”
The figures show that child poverty in Northern Ireland has fallen slightly year on year.
The study also identified Northern Ireland as the region with the lowest child poverty rate across the UK – which had an average of 29.2 per cent.
However, NIAPN warned that the two-child policy disproportionally affects children in Northern Ireland.
It added: “The massive increase of private rents over the past few years whilst the local housing allowance remains frozen will push more children into poverty.
“We are facing a perfect storm of the cost-of-living crisis, high inflation, low wages, no childcare strategy, the two-child policy, massive cuts to public spending, along with a lack of devolved government.” - PA