Poverty crisis deepens as economy stagnates

FERMANAGH families who had been donating to those in need in the community at Christmas are now needing to avail of the same services themselves.
The Arc Healthy Living Centre in Irvinestown has been helping people in the local area for many years, but never has it experienced such a demand for its services than since the Covid-19 lockdown began.
Last week the centre shared a emotional thank you message from a local family, where both parents had lost their jobs at the beginning of the crisis. In their message the parents said items such as tea bags and orange squash had become a luxury they could no longer afford, and when they opened a support hamper from the Arc containing items such as cheese and beans, and chocolate for the children, there was such excitement in their house “it was like Christmas.”
Centre manager Jenny Irvine, pictured, said: “There have been several stories like that, and it is heartbreaking. It’s really difficult and there’s been a huge economic shock to families’ incomes.”
Ms Irvine said those already living on benefits had not seen as big a change in their circumstances, but families who had been getting an income and suddenly found themselves with none were finding it very difficult to navigate the benefits system. As a result, people from a much wider range of backgrounds are now needing the centre’s support.
“In fact, families who donated at Christmas to the foodbank are now families who are requiring it,” she said. “When they were bringing things in they never thought in their wildest imagination one day they would need it.”

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