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Siobhán has now completed a final draft of the ‘Women Living with Debt’ research paper. It is now being signed off by the Consumer Council who have provided some funding for this research. It is hoped that the final paper will be published sometime in April 2022.

The research paper contains a significant amount of evidence from local women on debt and the impact on their lives of living with debt. It also contains a lot of evidence on the impact of cuts to the benefits system and increases in the cost of living on these women and their families. This powerful evidence from local women is used as the basis for making a series of recommendations for change.

Siobhán wishes to thank the Women’s Centres and Consortium partners who helped to arrange focus group sessions and individual case studies for the research paper. Without your help it would not be possible to collect and present this evidence which helps to give a voice to local women.

Siobhán spoke to the Women’s Caucus at the Northern Ireland Assembly about the impact of poverty and cost of living increases on women. Evidence from the Consortium’s research papers was used to brief the Caucus and Siobhán encouraged them to place on their agenda for the next mandate the forthcoming publication of reviews into Discretionary Support and Welfare Mitigations as well as the possible introduction of a Northern Ireland Child Payment.

Siobhán provided an initial summary of the cost of living evidence from the yet to be published Women and Debt research at the Consortium’s AGM. Siobhán was able to detail the impact of cost of living rises on the women she spoke to. It showed that many of these women were struggling after a decade of welfare reform and austerity cuts which had already impacted on their household budgets and now they were facing these steep cost of living costs. This impacted on their ability to feed their families, heat their homes and provide for their children. The resulting stress and mental health impacts were clear and Siobhán voiced some of their experiences to those attending the AGM.

“Sometimes I struggle between turning the heating on and feeding the children. As a mother you’d go without to make sure the kids have what they need. I’ve made dinner sometimes and there hasn’t been enough for everyone so I’ve lied and said it’s alright I’ve eaten so that I can try and make it stretch.”

“I don’t put the heat on as much. I don’t like a cold house but I maybe just have it on for an hour for when my son is getting up. The living room is very cold. But we have to watch when we put the heat on because we can’t afford it.”

Siobhán also provided an update to the Communities Committee at Stormont about the research work of the Consortium highlighting the ongoing impact of welfare reform and austerity policies on women. Siobhán informed the Committee about the forthcoming research and the impact of cost of living rises on women which were very evident in the research. She informed the Committee about the Consortium’s concerns about the impact on low-income women and how the collapse of the NI Executive could make it more difficult to help them with all these issues. Siobhán particularly highlighted concerns about the impact of the collapse of the Executive on the publication of important Reviews into Discretionary Support and Reform of Welfare Mitigations which have the potential to help many women. She also supported the call from the Gender Equality and Anti-Poverty Expert Panels for the introduction of a NI Child Payment which would help many low income families with children. Siobhán urged the Committee to consider these issues in the new mandate.

You can watch Siobhán’s input at the Communities Committee session here (from 3:30minutes).