Fermanagh families crippled by costs at Christmas

THE SOARING cost of living, combined with the continued challenges of the Covid crisis, is crippling many Fermanagh families this Christmas and leading to “insane” demand for emergency aid.
So far this festive season, the Enniskillen Foodbank has handed out over 400 Christmas hampers to households in immediate need, accounting for just under six-and-a-half tonnes of food, and that is not even including the hundreds of emergency food parcels the charity continues to hand out on a weekly basis.
“It’s been insane,” Enniskillen Foodbank manager John Shades told the Herald yesterday (Tuesday). “As of today, we have done 406 hampers.
“The hampers we have done at the minute are working out even bigger than the ones last year. We’ve averaged the weight on them, and the average weight on them this year is 16kg.”
Mr Shades said as well as the hampers, which are made up of food staples to keep households in need ticking over during Christmas, demand for their normal food packs has been as high as he’s seen in ten years.
“On Friday this week we gave away food for just over 110 people, just in one day alone,” he said, noting the rising cost of living was having a strong impact on demand.
“Electric has gone up, oil has gone up, fuel for your car has gone up, everything has gone up but the money that people are getting hasn’t gone up.”
As well as the cost of living, Mr Shades said the stopping of the £20 Universal Credit uplift was continuing to be a significant factor, as was Covid.
“We’ve had a number of people who have come in who are the working poor,” he said.
“A partner may have been put on furlough, for example, and we’ve had several people where they have just lost their employment. We had one guy who came in who had actually lost his business, and that’s one guy who has told us.
“Certainly, the cost of living rise has been the biggest impact, but Covid is definitely still having an impact.”
On a more positive note, Mr Shades said the foodbank had been overwhelmed this Christmas with support from the local community.

To read more on how the community has been giving the foodbank incredible support this year, see this week’s Fermanagh Herald.

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA