West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Mc Aleer calls for review of deprivation measures

Published: 21 November, 2013

West Tyrone MLA Declan Mc Aleer has said that the current methodology used for measuring deprivation must be reviewed as it does not accurately assess the extent of deprivation in rural areas. Mr Mc Aleer was speaking after co-hosting a seminar entitled 'Poverty amongst Plenty' organised by RCN and the Carnegie Trust. The seminar was addressed by Dr David Marshall (NISRA) and Dr Trutz Haase. According to Mr Mc Aleer 'There is a very strong view among rural stakeholders that the current methodology (NIMDM) used by government to assess deprivation underestimates the extent of deprivation in rural areas. 'For example, the NIMDM includes income level as a domain but does not consider levels of expenditure. Evidence suggests that there is a higher cost of living in the countryside. For instance, it is essential to own at least one car and travel time to access basic services such as childcare and shops could be up to 10 times greater than in urban areas. Lack of public transport also makes it a requirement for families to own at least one car, which is a further drain on resources. 'A study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation 'Minimum Incomes Project' in 2010 concluded that rural dwellers need to spend 10-20% more on everyday requirements than their urban counterparts. Mr Mc Aleer added 'There is also concern among rural stakeholders that there is not enough weighting afforded to the 'Proximity to Services' domain in the current methodology. The effect of this lower weighting (10%) is that rural areas are unlikely to feature in the top 10% or 20% of the most deprived areas across the north, and this has implications for funding and anti poverty programmes. 'In fact there are no rural areas ranked in the top 10% most deprived of the 890 Super Output Areas across the north. The closest rural area is Castlederg, which is ranked at 97th. 'Employment is also a key domain of NIMDM (25%) but this measure does not take account of the high level of emigration of people from rural to urban areas to take up job opportunities. This reduces unemployment rates in rural areas but adds to the overall demographic decline of such areas. 'The view was expressed that deprivation is more dispersed in rural areas compared to towns and cities, where it is more likely to be concentrated. The current methodology fails to identify deprivation when it is so widely dispersed. Mr Mc Aleer concluded 'The presentations given by Dr Marshall and Dr Haase were extremely informative and provided much food for thought in opening this important debate. Through Assembly questions, I have previously raised this matter with the DFP Minister who replied that a review of the NIMDM is expected to start in 2014/15. 'Whilst agreement still has to be reached on a preferred methodology, there is widespread consensus among rural interest groups that the current system is not accurately measuring poverty and deprivation in rural areas and this must be factored into any future review'.