Belfast City Center

New Northern Ireland report urges to look beyond the Troubles and address social breakdown.

The new report entitled Breakthrough Northern Ireland was conducted by the Northern Irish think tank and urges government to immediately address social problems.

The study which was carried out by the Centre for Social Justice acknowledges that sectarian violence played a pivotal role in current societal problems.

“Although the hallmarks of conflict remain important factors in social breakdown in Northern Ireland, many people face issues entirely in common with social problems across the UK as a whole,” the report says.

The reports highlights the many concerning aspects of the Northern Ireland economy including increasing unemployment levels; high levels of single parent families; widespread mental illness; cannabis use up 50% over the last four years; high levels of economic inactivity.
The report has called for reform of both the tax and benefits systems and the introduction of programs to tackle educational failure.

Gavin Poole, Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice said: “Although social breakdown may be more pronounced in a society marred by a legacy of social division and conflict, the urgent need to tackle the causes of poverty remains the same.”

Social Development Minister, Alex Attwood’s stated in response to the publication of the report (and after meeting Iain Duncan Smith to discuss welfare reform) that he would not compromise on the fundamental principles that those on welfare benefits should not carry any further burden of any budget cuts.

"If there are useful welfare changes that can properly help people get into work this is something that does need to be looked at, but it cannot be a device used to wage war on those on benefits".

On a positive note the study also drew attention to outstanding work by volunteers and communities in Northern Ireland.