CAB manager reveals shocking scale of borough’s food poverty crisis

CAB chairman Billy Snoddy and Mayor Thomas Hogg at the CAB AGM.
CAB chairman Billy Snoddy and Mayor Thomas Hogg at the CAB AGM.

More and more Newtownabbey people are having to turn to foodbanks for help as the problem of food poverty worsens.

The shocking scale of the borough’s food poverty crisis was highlighted during Newtownabbey Citizens Advice Bureau’s AGM, when CAB district manager Pat Hutchinson revealed that the organisation is having to help increasing numbers of people who are unable to afford food for their families.

She said that people come to the CAB office in Rathcoole “every single day” asking for help because they don’t have any food. And she revealed that the Bureau is having to refer more and more clients to foodbanks or storehouses run by local churches for assistance.

“Every single day we have at least two or three clients who need food,” Mrs Hutchinson told the Times. “It takes real courage to come in here and say ‘I have no food and I’m desperate’.

“It beggars belief in this day and age that some people don’t actually have any food. To be able to help someone in that respect is very important.”

Mrs Hutchinson, who has worked for Newtownabbey CAB for 30 years, believes that problems such as food poverty and fuel poverty are getting worse.

“Not only are we seeing more people who are on benefits, we are talking about the working poor - people who get out of their beds every morning to go to work and are on very low incomes and are struggling to pay whatever they need to pay and suddenly find that they don’t have any food or can’t heat their homes. I think that is an important group of people that we need to target and help,” she added.

The AGM, which took place at the Dunanney Centre on June 25, saw Newtownabbey CAB chairman Billy Snoddy launch the organisation’s annual report for 2013/14.

The publication reveals that between April 2012 and March 2013 local CAB staff dealt with more than 33,000 enquiries and recovered £5.4million for clients in unclaimed benefits.

Pointing to the fact that that figure represents £16 for every £1 the CAB gets in funding, Mr Snoddy said it shows the “value for money service” provided by the CAB, with millions of pounds being put back into the community and the local economy.

He also revealed that CAB money advisors are currently helping clients deal with £12.5million of debt, including mortgage arrears and payday loans.

• Read the full story in this week’s Times (on sale now)