New Northern Ireland wide school funding will be a ‘lifeline’ for families

The number of people living in poverty across Northern Ireland is rising dramatically as the costs of basic essentials like food and fuel skyrocket. Many are struggling to feed and clothe their families and are at a financial breaking point.

David Watters, Chair of the Belfast Charitable Society commented “There is no doubt that the cost-of-living crisis will mean more and more children will be growing up in poverty in Northern Ireland. The evidence of this is already being seen in schools, as increasingly children are arriving hungry and with inadequate shoes or winter coats for the cold, wet months ahead.”

David’s comments echo those recently reported by The Ulster Teachers Union, who are seeing teachers’ concerns for their pupils shifting from issues within the classroom to their health and welfare outside the school gates, potentially going back to a cold, dark house.

He continued “Belfast Charitable Society has been addressing poverty for over 270 years and knows all too well the detrimental and long-term impacts poverty has on children. Young people need help, and they need it now, therefore we are increasing our efforts to do what we can and would encourage others to do the same. This is about taking responsibility and direct action at a time of real need”

Today, Belfast Charitable Society released over £100,000 to post primary schools in the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland to help with the additional costs faced in feeding their pupils.

Furthermore the Society, with partners The James Kane Foundation and Hunter Smyth Fund, will contribute to the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation Bursary Programme in North Belfast. The bursaries will be targeted at 16+ year olds who face financial barriers which may prevent them from continuing to AS / A-Level, further or higher education, employment or apprenticeship.

Speaking on behalf of the schools Mary Montgomery, Principal of Belfast Boys’ Model, commented “Research, statistics and experience tells us that children who are more disadvantaged are far more likely to underachieve in school. The effects of the cost-of-living crisis are already having an impact on our young people as families slip into poverty. It is a very worrying time. These funding announcements today will be a real life-line for families and for schools who are at the coal face of this crisis, seeing first hand children arriving hungry and cold from home. The bursary programme in North Belfast will also be a huge help in breaking down financial barriers to support students. Whether that is to cover application fees for university, buy a new suit or travel fare for a job interview or to encourage young people to progress to AS or A-Levels, the fund will offer fantastic flexibility to tailor to individual needs.”

David Watters concluded, “It is a sad indictment that the need today is just as great as it was 270 years ago when the Belfast Charitable Society was established. We will now, as we did then, continue to respond quickly to the needs of those living in poverty and do all we can to address disadvantage in Belfast and across Northern Ireland. These new grants are part of this ongoing work, helping to support hundreds of the most vulnerable children in our society today.”