The Law School’s Dr Ciara Fitzpatrick has been highlighting the implications of the current Cost of Living Crisis on individuals and families in Northern Ireland. She has been sharing anonymous snapshots of the realities of life in destitution on her Twitter profile. She claims that the stigma attached to being in poverty has prevented those affected from speaking publicly about their experiences and therefore much of the pain remains hidden from view. Individuals and families who do not have the means to meet basic needs have been silenced following years of political rhetoric and policies which have sought to encourage personal responsibility.
Today she has spoken with the BBC in an effort to emphasise that responsibility for the current cost of living crisis sits squarely with the government. If immediate action isn't taken, we will witness a destitution surge of mammoth proportions. A recent report by the National Institute for Social and Economic Research (NIESR) suggest that destitution in Northern Ireland is set to rise to 67% which is more than double the rate forecast in other regions of the UK. This equates to around 25,000 more households who will be unable to meet their basic needs (food, light, heat and products needed to meet basic hygiene needs). This figure doesn't take into account the recent collapse of the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland or indeed the wider geo-political fall out from Russia's invasion of Ukraine last week, which has caused the price of oil to increase rapidly.
As reported by the BBC, Finance Minister Conor Murphy has warned that £300m allocated from HM Treasury in Westminster to Northern Ireland cannot be allocated without Executive approval, which means that it will remain unspent at a time when people need it most. Dr Fitzpatrick called on the DUP, who left the Executive last month (due to slow progress on Northern Ireland Protocol negotiations) to resume their leadership position to enable the devolved government to immediately put in place protections to prevent spiralling destitution.
Dr Fitzpatrick’s intervention is based on research conducted by Prof Grainne McKeever, Dr Mark Simpson and Dr Ciara Fitzpatrick, Destitution and Paths to Justice.