Conference held to address issue of poverty in local communities
25th February 2020
Experts and organisations from across Northern Ireland joined forces at a conference in Omagh today to identify ways to work together to tackle poverty and its impact on communities at a local level.
Organised by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in association with Fermanagh and Omagh Community Planning Partnership, ‘The struggle is real: Living on the poverty line – a call to action’ conference, brought together delegates from the statutory, community and voluntary sectors and elected representatives at the Strule Arts Centre in Omagh.
With 17% of people in Northern Ireland and one in five people in Fermanagh and Omagh living in relative poverty, the Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Siobhán Currie said the conference was designed to be evidence driven and solution based.
“This conference was a call to action to address the problems for those living on or below the poverty line.
While we were not going to eradicate poverty today, what we can and must do, is to collectively seek to address some of the contributory factors to living in poverty and to bring organisations together to support the most vulnerable in our community to move out of poverty and to lead lives which allow them to reach their potential.”
Delegates heard from a number of speakers about the reality of poverty, initiatives that aim to reduce poverty and good practice and solution focused approaches to ending poverty. Speakers and contributions were from Advice NI; Ardess Share Foodbank; Belfast Food Network; Children in Northern Ireland; Department for Communities; Christ the King Primary School, Omagh; Fermanagh and Omagh Community Planning Partnership; Fermanagh and Omagh District Council; The Fermanagh Trust; Trussell Trust NI; and Ulster University.
Two new poverty themed initiatives for the Fermanagh and Omagh area were also launched at the conference.
The ‘Enhancing Children’s Right 2 Food in Schools’ is a pilot initiative which will involve Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Fermanagh and Omagh Community Planning Partnership working with primary and post primary schools with a Free School Meals Eligibility over a 40% threshold to enable them to increase free access to nutritional food and snacks. This initiative is supportive of the principles set out in the ‘Children’s Right to Food Charter’.
Support towards the development of ‘Social Supermarkets’ within Fermanagh and Omagh was also announced. This initiative, with financial assistance from Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and the Public Health Agency, will see the Fermanagh and Omagh Community Planning Partnership support three foodbanks from the area who have expressed an interest in developing towards a ‘Social Supermarket’.
The ‘Social Supermarket’ model provides a wraparound service such as providing additional advice and referring those accessing the service to other agencies and service providers who can provide additional support and assistance.
Information and ideas gathered from the conference will help to inform the development of a 10-point plan which will outline how collectively, the statutory, community and voluntary sectors can work together to help bring about real and positive change to those living on the poverty line in Fermanagh and Omagh.
Video recordings of key speaker contributions will be hosted on Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s website to facilitate information sharing and further learning.