Antrim and Newtownabbey emergency response support for 135 children during pandemic

One hundred and 35 children have benefited from an emergency response programme in Antrim and Newtownabbey during the Covid pandemic this year, councillors have been told.

Seventy families have been in receipt of financial help to be given basic items such as food, clothing, baby necessities, household products and educational aids.

Financial assistance totalling £33,000 from the borough council was awarded to Save the Children through the Covid-19 Community Support Fund to deliver aid to needy families in the borough.

The programme, delivered in partnership with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, Sure Start and Community Advice Antrim and Newtownabbey, was available to families with a child aged six or under who were experiencing “extreme hardship” in February and March this year.

Councillors have heard that Community Advice Antrim and Newtownabbey referred eligible clients to the programme  and described how families experienced “a sense of relief when offered the support, a sense of dignity in how support was provided”.

Council officers will now be exploring further opportunities for partnership working to provide future family support during the next few months.

Recently, Community Advice Antrim and Newtownabbey reported that among clients in the borough, 40 per cent have experienced reduced income as a direct result of the Covid pandemic with a “high level of poverty” in some households.

Community Advice also stated that during a 12-month period, the organisation can receive as many as 8,000 welfare benefit and appeal inquiries from clients in Antrim and Newtownabbey which has resulted in the return of £1.3m.

Eight hundred welfare benefits appeals for clients in Antrim and Newtownabbey remain outstanding with some dating back as far as 2017

Currently, there is a backlog of 9,000 appeals pending in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, Newtownabbey Foodbank has reported its “busiest ever year” during the past 12 months.

Antrim Foodbank has had a 52 per cent increase in its usage since February. In March, it fed 368 people in the town,  149 of whom were children.

Antrim Foodbank says: “These stats may, to an extent, reflect our recent focus on getting the word out about the help that is available to people in crisis in our town. These stats may also reflect that, as a community, we are continuing to fail those most vulnerable members of our community.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter.


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