Rising bills starting to make a major impact locally

Rachel McNabb


Rachel McNabb

WITH rising energy prices and inflation hikes Ballymena residents are facing huge increases in their household bills.

And according to those in the borough who provide support for individuals and families in financial difficulties the situation is not going to get better any time soon.

John Maxwell, Manager of Christians Against Poverty Debt Centre in Ballymena said he expected more people will need help with rising bills in the coming months.

He commented: “The main problem is that people can take up to two years to address their debt which tends to be as the result of a relationship breakdown, loss of employment or health issues. On the other hand it can be the debt which causes health issues so it is a vicious circle.”

John added: “I can't say at the minute that clients are coming thick and fast to us because they are not. Normally we would have around two clients a month.

“However, the price of gas and electricity has already gone up and it is only going to get worse. I know myself as I see the price of diesel increasing and it takes about £70 to fill the car.

“These things are going to add up and up and when you are on an already limited budget there is no way to cut back.

“People who are on benefits or low incomes that is where the problems will arise as there is simply no room in the budget to pay more for things as they are already stretching their money as far as it can go.”

John said the charity's emergency aid can help clients with the cost of food and heating as well as electricity and gas and can cover expenses for a broken fridge or cooker.

In addition, Ballymena Baptist Church partners with Christians Against Poverty to run the CAP Money Course which has been proven to help many people over the last six years.

The course is designed specifically for people who have had a change in circumstance or who are struggling to manage their money.

Ballyloughlan Presbyterian Church have started a ‘Cap Jobs Club’ which takes place on a Thursday from 10am until 12 noon.

This course is aimed at helping people get back into work.

The Elim Church on Castle Street has set up a Christians Against Poverty Life Skills course which aims to give people confidence to buy good food and then to budget properly.

For more information or to register your interest in CAP Money simply email johnmaxwell@capuk.org or call the freephone number 0800328006.

Meanwhile, the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) said it was helping up to 80 households in the area every week, compared to 35 weekly referrals before the pandemic.

SVP's Northern Regional President Mary Waide said levels of poverty in the town were rising and that families with one parent working were struggling to pay bills.

She said: "For people who are living on the margins and trying to keep their head above water, it is just becoming impossible.

“Among those needing support are families who never needed help before.

"I would say nearly a majority are people who are working, where there is one parent working and they just have not enough money to make ends meet. We would help them with food vouchers, electricity, their gas and we would supply oil for them,” she said.

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