O’Toole: Executive not serious about tackling poverty

poverty universal credit matthew o'toole Opposition Day

SDLP Leader of the Opposition Matthew O’Toole MLA has said that Sinn Féin and the Alliance Party allowed the DUP to delay action on poverty in the Assembly on Tuesday.

He was speaking after all Executive parties backed a DUP amendment to the SDLP’s Opposition Day proposal to remove the two-child limit.

The amendment removed a call on the Communities Minister to produce a plan to remove the cap by the end of 2024.

South Belfast MLA Mr O’Toole said:

“The SDLP used our second Opposition Day this week to shine a spotlight on the poverty that afflicts many communities across the North. We worked closely with anti-poverty organisations to bring forward reasonable and affordable proposals with clear costings, that were within the remit of the Executive and could be implemented quickly to help those who need it most. Campaigners were clear that these plans had the potential to make a real difference to thousands of families and urged the Executive to back them.

“Prior to the restoration of Stormont, Executive parties were making lots of claims about what they would do if the institutions were restored, chief among them Sinn Féin and Alliance. These two parties are quick to put forward their credentials on social issues like this when it suits them, but today, faced with the chance to support proposals that would really help people, they sided with the DUP. Indeed, many of their MLAs couldn’t even be bothered to turn up to the debate today, showing contempt for everyone impacted by the issues discussed.

“So far all we have had from these parties are non-binding motions on issues which the Executive has the power to do something about. Repeatedly we are told that a budget or Programme for Government are issues for tomorrow when families need action today. Warm words won’t heat cold houses, pull children out of poverty or help parents who can’t afford spiralling childcare bills.

“It is hard not to be cynical about an Executive that won’t commit to action on child poverty at the first opportunity and I know that many among the public feel rightly aggrieved by the lack of progress since Stormont’s return. The SDLP Opposition is determined to be constructive and we will hold the Executive accountable for their failure to support our proposals today. People in the North deserve better than parties that make a shopping list of promises, only to run away when presented with the chance to act.”

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