Northern Ireland needs to move its focus from the past to working on the bread and butter issues and providing for a brighter future.
That is one of the key messages from a report due to be launched at Stormont on Monday based on the stories of young people, families, pensioners and other concerned groups.
The research, part funded by BBC Children in Need and led by eight community groups from across Northern Ireland working with the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, QUB and the Open University, was compiled to form the Communities in Action report.
One of the three key police messages arising from the research, which features the views of 80 participants, is that young people want politicians and those in charge to listen to people on the ground and work together to find solutions in order to move Northern Ireland forward.
Looking at the participants’ experiences of poverty against the statistics currently available, the report found many people are facing financial crises and this in turn is affecting their mental and physical health.
One participant said: “I feel like I am walking on the edge of a cliff and at any moment I will fall off.” Another said: “At the moment all I see is darkness. And next year is going to be really really tough.”
Sammy Douglas MLA, who is sponsoring the event said the worst effects of the recession are evident among the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.
“In my constituency office on the Newtownards Road, I am confronted on a regular basis by the impact of the recession, particularly on low income families, young unemployed people, the elderly and working class communities,” he said.
Geraldine Wilkins, Community Development Officer at the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, said the research shows the human experiences behind the statistics.
“Statistics on poverty are important for shaping policy,” said Geraldine. “But numbers cannot replace the real life stories of these local communities. This report provides a unique insight into the devastating physical and emotional impacts of recession and austerity.”
The reports three key findings are that people need financial and targeted support initiatives to help address the gap between falling incomes and the increasing cost of living; many individuals and families are in crisis and this is taking a toll on mental and physical health; and young people are saying to move the focus from the past to build for the future.