Ulster Unionist Assembly Member for South Belfast Michael McGimpsey has called for the re-opening of Belvoir Library as a first step to tackling deprivation and educational underachievement in Belvoir and Milltown areas of South Belfast.
The Assembly Member made the call during an adjournment debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly on Multiple Deprivation in the Belvoir area of South Belfast.
Speaking during the debate Mr McGimpsey said, “I am very aware of the problems faced by many of the families and residents in Belvoir and Milltown as I hold a weekly advice surgery in the area and have done for a number of years. The problems that we encounter reflect the needs of the area as regards housing, benefits, anti-social behaviour and health issues.”
“In respect of multiple deprivation Minnowburn ward in Castlereagh is ranked 82nd most deprived of the 582 wards in the whole of Northern Ireland. This ward includes Milltown and Belvoir and is by far the most deprived in the whole of Castlereagh Council area. While there are parts of Belvoir that are very attractive and people live a very comfortable lifestyle the statistics show a very worrying trend for the area as a whole.”
“Of particular concern are the apparent health inequalities whereby the area is ranked 64th most deprived in the whole of Northern Ireland. That reflects poor outcomes in respect of life expectancy often related to lifestyle choices such as smoking, healthy eating, exercise etc. Such issues are more prevalent in areas of deprivation than in more prosperous areas; Belvoir is no exception. While there is a newly built Health and Care Centre close by more needs to be done to tackle health issues in the area.”
“Educational underachievement is of great concern despite the excellent education provided by the local school and its dedicated staff. The closure of the library was a bitter blow and only served to compound the problems in the area and must be reversed immediately by the Culture Minister.”
“As would be expected unemployment follows the trend of educational underachievement with many families dependent on benefits or low pay employment.”
In conclusion Mr McGimpsey said, “As all the indicators show Belvoir and Milltown are areas that deserve intervention from government to tackle the problems of multiple deprivation. As Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland has a significant role to play and I am calling on him to look at the problems in the area and intervene as he has done in other areas.”