Member Spotlight - December 2018

This editions’ member spotlight focuses on the North Belfast Advice Partnership, which comprises Ligoniel Improvement Association, Ballysillan Community Forum, The Vine Centre, Tar Isteach and the Ardoyne Association.

The partnership works across North Belfast providing free advice on benefits, debt and housing, as well as crisis intervention food parcels.
Sinéad McKinley of North Belfast Advice Partnership gave a poignant account of her View from the Frontline at Advice NI’s AGM in November, detailing the impact of welfare reform on her clients. Sinead said in her 20 years’ experience within the advice sector she has never seen a more cruel benefit than Universal Credit. Sinead called on the advice sector and all political parties to continue fighting to make things better.
Sinéad and the staff working within NBAP are inundated with clients on a daily basis suffering the effects of poverty due to Universal Credit. The service is providing 300 Christmas hampers this year to families in need – a huge increase from the 40 hampers given out two years ago. They have also seen an increased need to provide emergency food parcels to households in north Belfast throughout the year.
On the run up to the roll-out of Universal Credit in north Belfast on 14th November this year, NBAP delivered a series of awareness sessions in the area. Since then, staff have been assisting many clients who have faced financial hardship due to welfare reform.

One lady who had recently lost her husband and who acts as main guardian for her young granddaughter, discovered she would have to wait five weeks for her first payment. Even worse, this coincided with the run up to Christmas, an expensive time of year for everyone.

Another NBAP client had to move on to Universal Credit due to a family bereavement was left with just £190 to live on for a month, causing them to incur huge rent arrears.

Another individual approached NBAP because they didn’t know how to claim Universal Credit. They had already missed out on payments for two weeks, and would now have to wait a further five weeks for a payment.