WITH recent labour figures showing those claiming unemployment benefit has dropped significantly and local support groups stating fewer families are seeking help, things may be on the up in Fermanagh.
However, with large numbers still claiming other forms of benefit, and many people too proud to avail of support from foodbanks and other services, things may not be as rosy as they first appear.
The Northern Ireland Labour Market Report for May shows the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits in the Fermanagh and Omagh district is now 2,147. That’s a drop of 5.5 per-cent on last month, and 16.3 per-cent on last year.
While these figures may indicate a positive upturn in the local economy, there are still a significant number of local people who are not in work and are claiming benefits not regarded as “unemployment related.”
For example, manager of Fermanagh Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) Siobhan Peoples, said there were 8,900 people claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in the district, which is due to be abolished and replaced in the coming month as part of the ongoing sweeping welfare reforms.
“We’re as busy as ever here, and most of our work at the minute is to do with benefit reform,” said Ms Peoples.
“In the month of April we dealt with 1,118 clients issues. Of those, 894 were in regard social security benefits. Only 56 were in regard Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), but 206 were in regard Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) which can also cover people who are not working.”
On the ground, local support agencies said they had seen a drop in demand, but added this may not correlate with the drop in those signing on, as many of their clients are working already.
Kate Beggan, Fermanagh area president for the St Vincent de Paul said: “We would have seen a decrease over the past few months. It has been quiet recently, probably due to the time of year. There are probably plenty of people out there on minimum wage who would come to us.”
Paul Dickson who runs the Enniskillen Foodbank said just under a third of their clients were in work.
“Our service is based on need, not benefits,” he said, explaining their demand was currently lower than average, possibly due to the mild winter and a drop in fuel prices. “We have clients who are working, but have children and are on minimum wage and are not making ends meet.”
Mr Dickson added here may be many more people out there who could benefit from the non-denominational service: “A lot of Fermanagh people are very proud, especially the older generation. They won’t ask for or take help. They see it as charity, but it’s not. It’s the local community helping others in the community.”
To avail of the Foodbank call 07706499724, visit them on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Posted: 2:00 pm June 4, 2016