Support lifelines as Lisburn families struggle through cost of living crisis

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
The people of Lisburn have once again proven the strength of the local community as groups across the city come together to support those in need.

As the cost of living crisis continues and fears mount over how families will afford to heat their homes, clothe their children, and feed everyone as the winter looms closer, community groups and organisations are offering much needed support to anyone who needs help.

From foodbanks and school uniform banks, to debt advice and help with benefits, or even just a listening ear in times of worry, there is a group in the city that can help and the message they all want to get across is that you are not alone, help is at hand.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Gillian Lewis, from the Healthy Living Centre, which is part of Resurgam based at the Laganview Enterprise Centre in Old Warren, has said it is vital that everyone works together to help those most in need,

Gillian Lewis, Resurgam Healthy Living Centre ManagerGillian Lewis, Resurgam Healthy Living Centre Manager
Gillian Lewis, Resurgam Healthy Living Centre Manager

“We all work very well together in Lisburn,” she said. “For me, it is really important for people to know there is no wrong door to knock on, wherever you go, it will open up all the support you need.”

Community groups, organisations such as the foodbank, hygiene bank and uniform banks, as well as local churches and charities, are offering vital support for anyone struggling finacially in Lisburn.

Poverty grinds people down,” continued Gllian. “I have the utmost respect for people who can ask for help.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Lisburn foodbank, which is based in Graham Gardens, has provided emergency food and support to 22,137 local people since opening in 2013 and the numbers reaching out for help are increasing every day.

The well stocked shelves at the School Uniform Bank at Trinity Methodist ChurchThe well stocked shelves at the School Uniform Bank at Trinity Methodist Church
The well stocked shelves at the School Uniform Bank at Trinity Methodist Church

Figures from the local foodbank have shown a 40% increase in people needing support in the month of July 2022, compared to the previous year. Since January 2022 Lisburn Foodbank has fed 1,102 people, 488 of these were children.

As general costs of living continue to rise, and the winter months draw in, Lisburn Foodbank expect to see a continued rise of people walking through their door in need of support.

A spokesperson for the foodbank said: “Lisburn Foodbank do not think that anyone in the community should have to face going hungry. That is why we provide three days’ nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people who are referred to us in crisis. Lisburn Foodbank are part of a nationwide network of foodbanks, supported by The Trussell Trust, working to combat poverty and hunger across the UK.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Lisburn Foodbank believes the increase in local people needing support is due to people’s finances being hit by the rising costs of food, gas, oil, electric and fuel; increasing rent costs; insecure work; relationship breakdown and illness.”

Volunteers at St Vincent de Paul are there to help everyone in LisburnVolunteers at St Vincent de Paul are there to help everyone in Lisburn
Volunteers at St Vincent de Paul are there to help everyone in Lisburn

If someone needs emergency food support from Lisburn Foodbank, they will need to contact one of the referral agencies to get a food voucher.

Referral agencies that those in the community can go to for a voucher consist of, but are not limited to, local MLA offices; Housing Officers; Support & Social Worker (if you have one) and the local Community Advice office.

For a full list of referral agencies and further information on how to get a food voucher, you can get in touch directly with Lisburn Foodbank by calling 07756 965868 or emailing [email protected].

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

People who have used the Lisburn Foodbank have found it to be a lifeline in these difficult times. One user said: “Since having my kids (three under 4 years) I haven’t been able to work and have fallen into debt.

Some of the delicious food available at the Community Fridge at the Laganview Enterprise Centre in Old WarrenSome of the delicious food available at the Community Fridge at the Laganview Enterprise Centre in Old Warren
Some of the delicious food available at the Community Fridge at the Laganview Enterprise Centre in Old Warren

“With my family being able to get support with food from the foodbank, it has allowed me to get on top of the debts that had spiralled out of control.”

Another commented: “The foodbank was there for me when I was too embarrassed to talk to my family and friends about my struggles with putting food on the table for my family.”

And another user admitted: “The help I received from the foodbank gave me hope, and made me feel like I could get some control of my life again.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Whilst help from the foodbank is means tested many local community groups are also offering cheap meals, leftover food or fresh produce. At Ballymacash Community Centre local people can help themselves to fresh vegetables from the community garden and at Resurgam, which is based at Laganview Enterprise Centre in Old Warren, people can also help themselves to fresh produce and food from the community fridge, which was recently established at the centre.

Gillian Lewis from the Healthy Living Centre at the Laganview Enterprise Centre explained: “The community fridge is about reducing waste. It is food that was going to be disposed of by supermarkets but it is absolutely fine for human consumption. It is for anyone and people who use the service can also volunteer as well.

“We have a food store in the community fridge as well so if people need emergency food made up and the foodbank is closed we can provide that.

Some of the products available from the Hygiene BankSome of the products available from the Hygiene Bank
Some of the products available from the Hygiene Bank

“The major thing we are seeing at the minute is the impact of the cost of living crisis. There are so many people who are living just on the poverty line.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We hope that people won’t sit and be stuck as there is usually a way we can find to help them.

The Healthy Living Centre has also teamed up with the Hygiene Bank to provide products to anyone who can’t afford personal or cleaning products.

When Covid hit the country in 2020, many people began to struggle financially but help was at hand locally thanks to the Hygiene Bank in Moira, which launched during the height of the pandemic.

Partnering with Boots in Moira, Lisburn, and Lurgan, the small team of volunteers began to collect essential supplies for personal hygiene, as well as household cleaning products and even nappies, which they could pass on to community groups to help those in need.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Coordinator Catherine explained: “During Covid we decided that rather than products going to Belfast we would set up in Moira so that the products could be used locally in the area, as well as in Lisburn, Lurgan, and Dromore. Any money raised or products donated is ring-fenced for the local area.”

When it first launched, the Moira Hygiene Bank connected with the Foodbanks in Moira and Lisburn, and any products donated were passed along so that the Foodbanks could distribute it to those in need. However, as time went on, Catherine also reached out to community groups such as the Resurgam Trust and Atlas Women’s Centre, who could also distribute products to people who may not be eligible to use the Foodbanks.

“Our aim is to end hygiene poverty,” continued Catherine. “We are moving towards making products available for everyone. If you are not eligible for the Foodbank, you can go to your community project and get products from them. We want people to reach out before they are in crisis.”

If you would like to find out more about the Moira Hygiene Bank, how to donate or to volunteer, visit or email [email protected].

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

With the new school term fast approaching, many parents are concerned about being able to afford new school uniforms for their children, adding even further to their financial burdens.

Thankfully two local uniform banks, one at Trinity Methodist Church in Lisburn, and another at Hope Church in Hillsborough, have been helping desperate parents to get their kids kitted out for September.

“The bank is here to provide quality pre-loved, or donated new, local school uniforms, boots, shoes, trainers, plimsolls, school bags and stationery,” explained Emma Davis who set up the School Uniform Bank (SUB) at Trinity Methodist Church.

“Any family in need of help can avail of it and no referral is necessary.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

St Vincent De Paul at St Patrick’s Church in Lisburn is a valuable resource for helping anyone in the community and can offer assistance with benefits, fuel vouchers, advice, and vital support.

Damian French, from St Vincent de Paul Lisburn, explained: “SVP is a Christian voluntary organisation, working with people experiencing poverty and disadvantage. We were established in Ireland in 1884 and our focus is on a practical approach to alleviating the effects of poverty on individuals and families in crisis, irrespective of their race, colour or creed.

“Our seven volunteers in the Lisburn conference are committed to offering assistance and advice to those that contact us whilst respecting their dignity and confidentiality.

“SVP Lisburn is part of the multi- agency support hub (MASH) and enjoy the benefits of working and sharing resources with other Churches and groups to achieve these aims.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“These charities working together to tackle the cost of living crisis is a good role model for other council areas to follow.”

If you need help from St Vincent de Paul, where volunteers can assess the level of need and the best help that is available, email [email protected] or call 028 9035 1561.

Another faith based service in Lisburn is Christians Against Poverty, which brings together churches across the city to offer support to people who are finding themselves in financial difficulty.

The Manager of the Lisburn Debt Management Centre, Paul Baillie, said: “Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a UK charity working with over 800 affiliated churches to deliver debt help, budgeting guidance, support to find work, life skills groups and more.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“There are 20 CAP debt centres throughout Northern Ireland, including one in Lisburn, which offer free debt counselling available to anyone.

“Without free debt help it would take a client living in Northern Ireland an average of 51 years to repay debts.

“CAP is on hand to offer practical, emotional and holistic support, supporting clients the whole way through their journey out of debt until they are debt-free. To find out more information, you can visit or call 0800 328 0006.”

A recent report published by CAP this summer stated, “At Christians Against Poverty we have already seen calls to our debt helpline rise by 37% in the first six months of this year, compared to 2021. During July’s heatwave in the UK, we handed out more emergency fuel vouchers to clients struggling with energy bills than we did in the coldest month back in January 2021.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

With further increases to the energy price cap expected in October, CAP is concerned that increasing numbers of people coming to us simply won’t have enough income to cover just the basics of food, fuel and a place to live. Our big worry for this winter is that just to live, is going to cost millions of people everything they have.”

Previous CAP clients who have been supported with their debts have said, “The more I was in contact with CAP, the more I began to see things changing in my life”, “Now I feel in control, I don’t have to choose between petrol, food or heating” and “Not being judged was a very big part”.

Read More
Uniforms banks are inundated with parents who are desperate for help

Having someone to talk to during financial struggles can be a vital resource for people and Atlas Women’s Centre, which is based at Bachelor’s Walk, is always on hand to offer a listening ear and support when needed.

Gay Sherry-Bingham, Atlas Women’s Centre Manager stressed how important it is to be able to talk to someone if you are struggling to cope. “We provide a free Listening Ear Service delivered by counsellors and student counsellors,” she explained.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The café is still affordable, we probably need to increase costs but we realise that over the winter this will be a warm space where people can come to and treat themselves to a cuppa. The crèche facility is only 50p to cover snacks and if parents don’t have this we understand.

“We work in partnership with many organisations, such as CAP who deliver free budgeting and money management programmes, Lisburn Foodbank and Spar Lambeg to help with food poverty, and The Hygiene Bank Moira who donate hygiene products that are free for centre users. We also provide free sanitary products.”

Find out more about Atlas Women’s Centre online at

The message from these, and other groups working hard in Lisburn to offer a lifeline to people, is that help is there if you need it, you don’t need to face this crisis alone.