The Struggle is real: Living on the poverty line – a call to action

Poverty Conference    Speakers
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Information on each speaker from the Poverty Conference: The Struggle is Real held on Monday 24th February 2020 can be viewed below.  The presentations given by each speaker can be opened by clicking on each link at the bottom of this page.

View the video presented at the Conference here

Alan Mitchell, Data Scientist, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council

Alan Mitchell is a Data Scientist with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. Alan has over 10 years’ experience in analysing socio-economic data to discern statistical trends and utilising statistical information in policy formation. Alan is a passionate advocate for evidence-based decision making and ensuring data and statistics are well communicated across all stakeholders. Alan continues to play a leading role in developing and monitoring the suite of population indicators in the Fermanagh and Omagh 2030 Community Plan. Alan holds a BSc First Class Honours Degree from Queens University, Belfast.

Kevin Higgins, Advice NI Head of Policy and Research and Welfare Reform Mitigation Working Group

Kevin has worked in the advice sector in Northern Ireland for over 25 years, both as an advice worker with an independent advice centre (Advice Officer, Ballynafeigh Community Development Association), with a CAB (Manager, Falls Road Bureau), with Law Centre NI (Legal Adviser) and latterly in a support capacity in his role within Advice NI. Advice NI is the umbrella organisation for independent advice centres in Northern Ireland – with members annually dealing with over 100,000 people, processing over 250,000 enquiries mainly on social security benefits, housing, consumer, employment and debt issues.

A large part of Kevin’s work revolves around addressing social policy issues raised by Advice NI members and responding to consultations. Welfare reform has taken up much of Kevin’s time since the Coalition Government came to power in 2010, raising awareness of the impacts of the social security benefit cuts and the social security benefit reforms. Kevin was part of the Welfare Reform Mitigations Working Group chaired by Professor Eileen Evason and is currently an independent member of the DfC NI Joint Standards Committee.

Paul Armstrong, Trussell Trust NI, Operations Manager

The Trussell Trust support a network of more than 1,200 food bank centres across the UK. Together they provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaign for change to end the need for foodbanks in the UK.

Paul has recently joined the Trussell Trust as Operations Manager for Northern Ireland. Following his graduation from Ulster University with a BSc in Housing Management, he spent ten years in the social housing sector in Northern Ireland. After working for several different housing associations, Paul joined the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations where he supported housing associations to understand how policies such as welfare reform could impact upon tenants and their communities.

Louise Cullen, BBC News Journalist

Louise began her career in journalism with the Reuters bureau in Belfast, before joining the BBC in October 1999. After a spell in the Newsroom and Radio Current Affairs in Belfast, she became the voice and producer of the News in the West, BBC Radio Ulster’s bulletin service for the region. From there, she moved to covering County Tyrone, before returning to be based in Belfast. She covers a wide range of stories, from politics and courts to features and live reporting, but has a passion for putting people at the heart of her work. Originally from Belfast, she now calls Fermanagh home.

Avril Hiles, Department for Communities, Head of the Fuel Poverty and Homelessness Team

Avril has over 20 years’ experience in Housing within central government but is relatively new to both areas for which she is now responsible. Previous experience includes the policy and legislation governing the Private Rented Sector in Northern Ireland, the Co-ownership Scheme and Performance of Registered Housing Associations.

Kim Weir, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Community Planning Officer

Kim took up post as Community Planning Officer in Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in May 2016; prior to this she was the Council’s Manager of the Policing and Community Safety Partnership where she was responsible for managing the partnerships work in respect of accountability of policing and implementation of community safety projects. Kim holds a BA Honours Degree in Arts Cultural Management and is currently in her final year of completing a Masters in Community Planning and Good Governance at Ulster University. Kim’s passion is to influence policy change to support the less privileged to ensure equality of rights for all.

Roisin Darcy, Principal Christ the King Primary School & Nursery, Omagh.

Roisin has over 25 years teaching experience with 13 years as a primary school Principal. She has been Principal of Christ the King PS & Nursery for the past 7 years. Christ the King PS is situated on the Gortin Road on the outskirts of Omagh and has an enrolment of 210 pupils. The school is within a Neighbourhood Renewal Area with a high percentage of children receiving free school meals.

Lauri McCusker – Director of the Fermanagh Trust

Lauri has overseen the development of the Fermanagh Trust’s work for 21 years. Prior to this, he was a community development worker with the Devenish Partnership Forum, helping alleviate poverty and disadvantage in the Devenish area of Enniskillen. Lauri’s early career saw him employed in the Department of Economic Development – Economics Branch and as Economic Development Officer in Fermanagh District Council. A trained facilitator, Lauri’s expertise includes Community development, governance and education, income generation and fundraising. Lauri has led on a number of significant research reports on a range of issues including Community development, Community Energy, Maximising Community Outcomes from Wind Energy Developments and the development of Social Enterprises. Lauri is a Director of DTNI, sits on the NI Trusts Group and is actively involved in a range of local and regional groups in a voluntary capacity / advisory role.

Dr Sinéad Furey, Ulster University, Lecturer in Consumer Management and Food Innovation

Sinead is Lecturer on the Consumer Management and Food Innovation under-graduate degree programme in Ulster University Business School, and a proactive member of Belfast Food Network’s Advisory Group. Sinéad completed a Doctor of Philosophy degree in food poverty researching the characteristics, extent and location of food deserts in both rural and urban areas of Northern Ireland in 2001. She is an expert in food poverty and food policy, who has worked on consumer, food and nutrition policy in the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland, Education and Training Inspectorate, and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland. Dr Furey has co-authored publications with Professor Martin Caraher: Caraher, M. and Furey, S. (2018) The economics of emergency food aid provision: a financial, social and cultural perspective. London: Palgrave Macmillan; and Caraher, M. and Furey, S. (2017) Is it appropriate to use surplus food to feed people in hunger? Short-term Band-Aid to more deep-rooted problems of poverty London: Food Research Collaboration. [ISBN 978-1-903957-21-9]. Sinead is also a Member of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, of the Royal College of Physicians Ireland.

Alison McCullagh, Chief Executive Fermanagh and Omagh District Council

Alison took up post as Chief Executive of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council on 1 February 2020; prior to this she was the Council’s Director of Regeneration and Planning where she was responsible for the Council’s Planning, Tourism and Economic Development and Funding and Investment departments. Alison is the lead officer for the Council’s Growth Deal work in association with Armagh City, Banbridge, Craigavon and Mid Ulster Councils and has an interest in community led development and regeneration.

Councillor Siobhán Currie, Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Chairperson

Cllr Curries interests include the Environment, Tourism, Irish Language, and Em-powering Women. Cllr Currie has worked as a volunteer on several grassroot projects, both at home and overseas, and believes strongly in communities’ ability to do amazing things when supported and empowered.

She loves the Irish language and she sits on the district fora for the language which have been instrumental in developing the language across Fermanagh and Omagh district.
With a career background in Environmental Consultancy, and proud of the natural beauty of Fermanagh and Omagh district, Cllr Currie believes that sustainable tour-ism development is important both to protect and promote our natural environment, and to create sustainable jobs.

Natasha McClelland, Ulster University, PhD Researcher in Rural Food Poverty

Natasha is completing a multi-disciplinary Doctor of Philosophy degree with the Ulster University Business School and School of Environmental Sciences at Ulster University in rural food poverty. Natasha’s study is looking at the impact of rurality on consumer’s access to food, by using indicators and variables associated with the structural causes of food poverty in order to create an ‘at risk of food poverty index’. Natasha’s presentation will discuss how rural dwellers are disproportionately impacted by the distributional consequences of rurality in terms of their food accessibility and food affordability.

CPP Chairperson Cllr Anne Marie Fitzgerald

Cllr Fitzgerald is the current Chair of the Fermanagh Omagh Community Planning Partnership and former Chair of Omagh District Council. She is a registered medical nurse and now works in the ambulance service. Cllr Fitzgerald is also a Council Mental Health Champion and believes that citizen’s health and well-being is paramount. She regularly helps people to avail of support in the local area and is delighted to see the issue of poverty being brought to the fore, in the hope that it makes a real change for local people who are struggling.

Should you have any difficulty opening the presentations or require further information, please contact the Community Planning and Performance Team on:

Telephone: 0300 303 1777
Textphone: 028 8225 6216