Mary McManus, manager of East Belfast Independent Advice Centre and Bob Stronge, Chief Executive of Advice NI, at the launch of VIEW’s latest issue
By Kelly McAllister, reporting for VIEWdigital
Over 5,500 emergency meals were given out by a foodbank in north Belfast last year it was revealed at the launch of VIEW’s latest edition held at the Wolfhill Centre in Ligoniel yesterday.
Among those in attendance were VIEW editor Brian Pelan, Bob Stronge, Chief Executive of Advice NI, Alliance Party councillor Peter McReynolds and Mary McManus, manager of East Belfast Independent Advice Centre and guest editor of the latest issue of VIEW magazine that looked at the impact of austerity.
Ms McManus said: “The policy of austerity is not about saving money. Austerity is a political choice. These facts need to be remembered and constantly reiterated.
“It should not be business as usual in advice centres as we try to meet the demand from the hoards of people who need advice due to welfare reform.
Some of the food which is being delivered in emergency parcels to people suffering benefits hardship
“It is not business as usual when parents cannot afford to feed their children over the school holidays or afford a uniform for school.
“It is not business as usual to be on the phone to St Vincent De Paul looking for a promise that they will get to a family that evening who are sitting in a house with no heating and it is not business as usual having to refer people to food banks or hand out food parcels.”
Sinead McKinley, advice worker at the Wolfhill Centre in north Belfast
Mr Stronge added: “We at Advice NI are very aware of the impact of welfare reform and we are very concerned about the future.
“There is a lot of stuff that has come through on the Universal Credit. We have no government, we don’t know what is going to happen. We need to make sure that we have the proper infrastructure in place to support people.”
VIEW editor Brian Pelan said: “Once the welfare mitigations package runs out in 2020 the situation facing working class people on benefits is going to get even worse.”