FERMANAGH households are facing a “perfect storm” of pain, as fuel, food and all “inescapable” costs continuing to soar each week, and with Covid still rampant in the local community forcing many off work.
With the war in Ukraine sadly raging on, causing economic hardship across the globe, those providing support for those struggling locally have seen an increase in demand in recent weeks, and are expecting the situation to worsen in the weeks ahead.
Jenny Irvine from the Arc Health Living Centre in Irvinestown and her team have been helping those living in fuel poverty for years now, but said demand for their services – which include a foodbank, a sustainable food programme, and help and advice with energy efficiency – has been steadily rising recently.
“It’s like the perfect storm,” she said. “We’re seeing increases in all of our inescapable costs.
“It really is a dreadful set of circumstances coming together.”
Ms Irvine said the continuing rising rates of Covid in the community in recent times was also hitting workers in the pocket.
“A lot of people in this county are on the bare minimum terms and conditions of employment, so if they’re not in work they’re not earning,” she said. “The idea of doing the responsible thing is all very well, but if you can’t pay your bills it’s just a really difficult thing.”
Ms Irvine noted the lack of public transport and the rural nature of the county would impact costs here even further.
“All freight is drawn into Fermanagh in lorries. Everything that comes in here has a cost that will have to be attributed in some way,” she said. “I think we’re facing a very difficult and particular set of circumstances.”
John Shades from Enniskillen Foodbank said they were also keenly aware of the unique rural challenges of the current crisis, which is why they had now set up a new drop-in service at Wark Hall in Belleek.
Open from 1-2pm on Wednesdays, the Belleek outreach joins the foodbank’s other services in Derrygonnelly, Newtownbutler, Irvinestown and, of course, Enniskillen.
Mr Shades said the services had seen an increase in demand recently, particularly from working families, but with costs expected to soar higher, he added “our expectation is for it the next fortnight to go through the roof.”
“It’s just impinging on everybody now, it’s impacting everybody, no matter how much money you have,” he said. “The price of everything has rocketed.”
Both Mr Shades and Ms Irvine urged people not to be afraid to seek out support, and they both also said the local community had been fantastic in supporting their services, despite everyone feeling the pinch.
“There is no shame in seeking help, it is absolutely the right thing to do,” said Mr Irvine, who added places like the Arc had other ways of helping, such as with LED lighting or devices to measure energy use.
She ended on a note of optimism, “Good things can happen if we make it happen, and we’ll get through this, of course we will.”
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