Billy Kennedy on Churches: Concern over acute cost of living crisis

The Irish Presbyterian Church has expressed its deep concern regarding the significant and rapid increase in the cost of living, particularly in relation to electricity and energy supply.

By Billy Kennedy
Saturday, 12th March 2022, 7:45 am
Updated Sunday, 13th March 2022, 9:58 am
Hoy trinity Church, Newmills
Hoy trinity Church, Newmills

The church, through its council for public affairs, has called on the Northern Ireland Assembly to urgently find ways to mitigate the worst effects of this cost of living crisis.

Church moderator the Rev Dr David Bruce said: “While the cost of living has been rising since the end of last year, the record breaking fuel and energy prices represents for many people a very real personal crisis for them and their families, faced with the choice of either ‘eating or heating’.

“For others the cost of living crisis, which is having an impact across the island of Ireland, also comes with the additional potential risk of homelessness.

“Last week in Northern Ireland, for example, one leading energy supplier announced a 39 per cent increase in gas prices from next month. Northern Ireland’s Consumer Council estimates the move will impact just under 190,000 customers at a cost of around £240 a year.

“With increasing numbers of families struggling to afford basic essentials, especially families and individuals on universal credit and social welfare, without additional support more people will find the increase in energy costs, combined with rising food prices, difficult to cope with.”

Dr Bruce said that In 2020/2021 food banks in Northern Ireland distributed nearly 80,000 food parcels, compared to just over 37,000 in 2018/2019.

“There has been a steady increase in those falling into fuel and food poverty in recent years, a situation that is being exacerbated by the global outworking of Russia’s unprovoked and unlawful invasion of Ukraine last month.

“Foodbanks, many of which are supported by Presbyterian congregations across Ireland, are reporting an increase in requests for support, with one foodbank in the greater Belfast area reporting a 25 per cent increase in demand since Christmas,”

Dr Bruce added: “I echo the concern of colleagues who have stated that governments cannot expect faith, charity and third sector organisations alone to meet the needs of those living in poverty today.

“Elected representatives must also do all they can to alleviate the growing financial pressure, due to the current cost of living crisis, that increasing numbers people in society are under, especially those who are on its margins.”