NEW Research – The Impact of the Cost of Living Crisis on Women in Northern Ireland
Siobhán will be carrying out a series of focus groups across Northern Ireland looking at the impact of the Cost of Living Crisis on women. These focus groups will discuss the coping mechanisms that women are using to get through this Crisis and how they are personally impacted by it.
The focus groups will look at the price increases which have had the greatest impact on household budgets, borrowing/debt to make ends meet, the impact of the Crisis on physical/mental health, the impact on children, how it has impacted on women’s ability to take part in social activities and what women feel would help them to cope with the increases in the Cost of Living.
Please contact Siobhán as soon as possible at email@example.com if you would like to host a focus group session with a group of women in your area.
Women Living with Debt
Siobhán continues to carry out engagement with a range of people and organisations on the findings from the Consortium’s research paper on ‘Women Living with Debt’:
- Meeting with Emma Sheerin, Sinn Fein (with NI Women’s Budget Group)
- Meeting with Secretary of State for NI – discussing debt research and Cost of Living impacts
- Meeting with Edwin Poots and Phillip Brett, DUP (with NI Women’s Budget Group)
- BBC Spotlight interview on paramilitary lending aspects of the research
- UTV View from Stormont interview on Debt/Cost of Living aspects of research
- Speaking at NIWEP Webinar – Building on the Experiences of Women and Girls
- BBC Good Morning Ulster Interview on paramilitary lending
- BBC Radio Foyle Interview on paramilitary lending
- Meeting Human Rights Consortium on ICESCR Submission – discussing where the research feeds into this work
- UTV View from Stormont Interview on paramilitary lending
- BBC Talkback interview on paramilitary lending
The full version of the report is available on the Consortium’s website here:
A shorter summary of the report is available on the Consortium’s website here:
NI Affairs Committee – Paramilitary Lending
On 18th January 2023, alongside Elaine Crory from WRDA and Sonya McMullan from the Women’s Aid Federation NI, Siobhán gave oral evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on the issue of paramilitary lending. This evidence was based on the findings from the Women Living with Debt report which formed the basis of the Consortium’s written submission to the Committee.
You can watch the oral evidence session here:
You can read the Consortium’s written submission to the Committee here:
APPG on Poverty – Call for Evidence on the Inadequacy of Social Security Benefit Rates
Siobhán prepared a Consortium submission to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty’s call for evidence on the Inadequacy of Social Security Benefits. The goal of the APPG is to increase understanding of poverty among parliamentarians (Westminster) and to seek all party solutions, while drawing on a range of outside people and knowledge.
Using findings and recommendations from the Consortium’s ‘Women Living with Debt’ report and previous research papers on Universal Credit and the impact of Austerity and Welfare Reform Siobhán outlined that current levels of social security benefits are inadequate and do not help to alleviate poverty at current levels.
The Consortium’s response highlighted that welfare reform/austerity policies have weakened the ability of the social security system to protect people from poverty and these changes have disproportionately impacted on women particularly lone parents. The response also raised concerns about the impact of the Cost of Living Crisis and the circumstances that exist in Northern Ireland which make it more likely for people to have to rely on social security benefits. The Consortium’s response called for a benefits system which is more responsive to the actual cost of living and much more closely based on what it costs to afford a basic standard of living. The response also highlighted the success of the Northern Ireland mitigations package and the potential to strengthen it further.
You can read the Consortium’s submission to this call for evidence here:
View Digital Magazine – Cost of Living Crisis Edition
Alongside Dr Ciara Fitzpatrick, Ulster University and Andy McClenaghan, British Association of Social Workers NI, Siobhán has guest edited a Cost of Living Crisis special edition of View Digital Magazine.
The magazine is packed full of articles from people with lived experience of the Crisis, workers, activists, researchers, academics and funders all discussing the Crisis, its impact and what needs to be done to help people get through it. It includes an article from Chrysalis Women’s Centre in Craigavon and the editorial piece discusses the impact of the Crisis on women (a longer version of the editorial piece includes quotes from the Consortium research paper on Women Living with Debt).
Siobhán will be joining Dr Ciara Fitzpatrick to speak at the launch of the print copy of the magazine at Queen’s University, Belfast on Tuesday 31st January at 6pm.
You can read the Cost of Living Crisis Special Edition of View Digital here:
You can also register to attend the in-person launch of the print edition of the Cost of Living Crisis in Queen’s University, Belfast here:
The Department for Communities (DfC) has issued a call for evidence on the introduction of a Debt Respite Scheme for Northern Ireland.
Breathing Space is a new debt respite scheme which came into operation in England and Wales in May 2021. The scheme provides temporary legal protection from creditor action for those with problem debt, meaning that most interest, fees, and penalties are frozen, and that most enforcement action and contact from creditors is paused for a ‘breathing space’ period. There are two types of breathing space available in England and Wales: A Standard Breathing Space and a Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space.
Siobhán is working on a final draft of the Consortium’s response to the proposals to introduce a similar scheme in Northern Ireland. It will detail concerns about the low uptake of the scheme in England and Wales due to restrictive eligibility criteria particularly around the Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space. The requirement that an Approved Mental Health Professional must certify eligibility for a Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space is acting as a barrier to referrals. Higher levels of mental health problems and scarcity of resources for secondary mental health services in Northern Ireland means that changes must be made to the eligibility criteria in order for this to provide a workable solution to people in mental health crisis in Northern Ireland.
If you have any comments you wish to add to this call for evidence please contact Siobhán as soon as possible. The closing date for receipt of comments on the call for evidence is Wednesday 1st February and details of the Call for Evidence are available here:
Siobhán has submitted a Consortium response to the Department for the Economy’s consultation on introducing legislation for Miscarriage Leave and Pay in Northern Ireland.
The Consortium’s response broadly welcomes the Department’s plans to extend entitlement to leave and pay for workers and employees who have experienced a miscarriage up to the end of the twenty-third week of pregnancy. We believe that this extension rights a wrong in the existing provisions which currently do not allow for this and addresses this unfairness.
The Consortium called for employers to be even more flexible and generous to employees in this difficult situation and to view the proposals in the consultation as a minimum entitlement. This could include longer amounts of leave, more flexible leave periods and full pay during any leave.
The Consortium’s response is available to read here:
Campaigns: Cliff Edge Coalition
Siobhán continues to work as part of the Working Group for the Cliff Edge Coalition on strengthening the welfare mitigations package in Northern Ireland. The focus of Cliff Edge work will now be on strengthening the mitigations package and supporting the recommendations in the Welfare Mitigations Review Report. A meeting to discuss a renewed plan of action around the strengthening of the mitigations is due to take place in the coming weeks.
Campaigns: Keep the Lifeline
Siobhán continues to attend meetings of Keep the Lifeline to discuss ways in which changes can be made to the social security system to help people through the Cost of Living Crisis. Siobhán will attend a briefing to discuss a new joint campaign between the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Trussell Trust calling for reform to Universal Credit.
Campaigns: NI Child Payment
Siobhán continues to the meet with the working group for the Northern Ireland Child Payment Coalition. The introduction of a NI Child Payment was a recommendation by the Gender Equality and Anti-Poverty Expert Panels and in the Feminist Recovery Plan. As part of this group Siobhán met with Cara Hunter from the SDLP to discuss what the payment might look like and how it might be introduced in Northern Ireland.
Campaigns: Coalition of Carers
Siobhán has joined the Coalition of Carers which is chaired by Carers NI. The Coalition is made up of a number of organisations all working to highlight the key issues that carers are facing across Northern Ireland. Siobhán attended her first meeting of the Coalition and will input into the campaign in the coming months.