Despite the UK being the 6th largest economy in the world, poverty is rife across Northern Ireland.
Even before the pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis, nearly 1 in 5 people in Northern Ireland were living in poverty. This includes upwards of 90,000 children, 22% of all children.
Welfare Reform and years of austerity measures has crippled public services and social security.
Wages and benefits continue to trail behind the cost of essentials, pushing more households into poverty and into debt. 67% of children in poverty in Northern Ireland live in working households, where at least one member of the household is in paid work. With cuts to social security, such as the two-child limit, where households only receive child payment or tax credits for their first two children, have pushed more households and children into poverty.
Poverty and the slashing of public services has plagued NI before the current cost-of-living crisis, but the reality for so many households today is reaching breaking point. Inflation remains high particularly for essential items like food, rents and mortgage rates are sky-rocketing, energy prices continue to rise, childcare and school costs are out of control, and wages and benefits are nowhere near catching up.
Northern Ireland’s lowest earning households have seen their discretionary income fall by almost half (47.2%) in 2022 (from £35.25 to £18.63), meaning they now have less than £19 per week to spend after their bills and living expenses.
These figures come from the Northern Ireland Household Expenditure Tracker which is published on a quarterly basis and tracks the changes to income and expenditure for the lowest earning households here.
The Household Expenditure Tracker revealed that in Q4 2022 (October, November and December), Northern Ireland’s lowest earning households:
- saw their weekly income after tax rise by only £3 (1.3%);
- experienced weekly spending on basic goods increase by £5.18 (2.4%);
- spent 54% of their total basic spending on rent, energy, food and transport; and
- saw their discretionary income fall for the 7th consecutive quarter since January 2021 leaving these households with less than £19 per week to live on (£18.63).
New figures from the Trussell Trust show that over 81,000 emergency parcels were provided by food banks in their network to the people of Northern Ireland in 2022-23 financial year, with more than 35,000 parcels being provided for children. The number of parcels provided in that 12 month period is a 141% increase compared to the same period five years ago.
16% of all adults in Northern Ireland (or their households) have experienced food insecurity in the 12 months to mid-2022, equating to an estimated 354,000 people. This means that – at some point over this period – they have run out of food and been unable to afford more, and/or reduced meal size, eaten less, gone hungry or lost weight due to lack of money. 7% of households, or an estimated 158,000 people across Northern Ireland accessed support from an ecosystem of food aid across Northern Ireland such as receiving support from a food bank or accessing low-cost food aid from a social supermarket.
– “Hunger In Northern Ireland” June 2023 Report by IPSOS and The Trussell Trust