25 Aug 2022
The author Eli Khamarov once wrote “Poverty is like a punishment for a crime you didn’t commit”. The ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ is a euphemism for poverty. The Cost-of-Living Crisis is a term that hides the very real effects that exacerbates poverty or pushes more and more people into the poverty trap.
Too many are waking up each morning wondering what they did to deserve the circumstances they find themselves in, how they will make ends meet, how to get to the end of the week. Such instability, on a very human level, has not been this rife in a generation.
The punishment for poverty is wholly unjust. It incarcerates our society by removing services, jobs, threatening family lives, the sense of ownership of our destiny and our own esteem.
Each week, families are joining the ranks of the ‘working poor’. The inability to heat a home, to meet mortgage, rent or other necessary payments, to buy essentials such as food, clothes and to provide for children.
The word ‘crisis’ makes this situation sound temporary – it is not. We have been at the coalface of over a decade of austerity driven policies from Westminster, the spending power of Stormont has been curtailed as a result, and to compound this we now have a global crisis that has seen fuel prices soar with the price of essential goods rise as result. Inflation is set to hit a high of 13 per cent. All this as incomes stagnate and winter approaches.
The Community Foundation recognises the need to act. Over the past three months, the Foundation has allocated £300,000 towards tackling the Cost-of-Living Crisis. £200,000 has been allocated towards an Older Peoples fund with a focus on food and fuel, a £50,000 donation has been made to the Fuel Bank Foundation to build local initiatives, £20,000 to the Rio Ferdinand Foundation to assist the employability prospects of refugees and asylum seekers, a section of our society closest to the edge, and our own Staff & Trustees fund has made a donation of £25,000 to the Trussell Trust to tackle hunger. We have also contacted our existing grant holders to allow them to reprofile budgets and targets in response to this crisis.
We intend to do more. We continue to examine what we can do as a Foundation, to build more partnerships and provide guidance in areas such as the Emergencies Leadership Group reconvened by the Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey.
It is very clear that we need to see an urgent response to the very real challenges that people in our communities. A flexible and agile community and voluntary sector are already stepping up to the mark. But this challenge cannot be the sole domain of charitable foundations and trusts, food banks and grassroots organisations. There must be an Executive in place at Stormont.
Currently there is over £435m that can be released if an Executive is formed that can be used to ease pressures. The formation of an Executive would also see the ability to bring forward a much needed Anti-Poverty Strategy which is crucial at this time. Furthermore, a functioning, collective Executive will have a stronger voice to demand more spending powers and tax varying abilities from the Exchequer providing more tools to tackle this crisis.
With every day that passes more and more people will be struggling to make ends meet. Let us see all those elected stand up for these people, be their voice and champion by returning to an Executive tomorrow… before it’s too late for many.