The cost-of-living crisis is having a large effect on people in Fermanagh with one local service reporting a sharp increase in the number of referrals.

Samantha Gallagher, Welfare Reform Advisor at Community Advice Fermanagh, spoke to The Impartial Reporter this week about the rising cost of living.

Speaking about how the recent rise in prices have impacted the Community Advice service, Samantha said: “The service has never been as busy – [there are] a good 100 clients a week more than usual.

“The type of clientele hasn’t changed, but more people are now panicking and wondering how they can maximise their family income.”

Emphasizing how wide-ranging the issues present in Fermanagh are, Samantha said: “[The cost of living] is impacting everybody across the board. It doesn’t matter if you’re on benefits or not because it’s increasing so much.

“Nobody’s wages are increasing, nobody’s benefits are increasing. The budget has become tighter.”

Some people are checking if they are entitled to additional money to maximise their income by having benefit checks, Samantha said.

“You would be talking a lot of people who either meet the criteria whereby their wages are low enough to be supplemented by a benefit, or they may be just about over the threshold, and therefore don’t get anything.

“A lot people are just over the threshold to be getting any of the £200 Emergency Fuel Payment, and they’re not getting it because they’re not in receipt of Universal Credit”

Giving an example to this newspaper, Samantha said: “One man had phoned up two weeks ago and was panicking because his £200 had not come in for the Emergency Fuel Payment.

“He and I had a discussion and turns out he works in a minimum wage job; he isn’t entitled to any benefits; so he was not entitled to the £200.

“He assumed every household was getting that money, and he hadn’t had oil in his house since December 27.”

Many have put the recent rapid rise down in energy prices down to the ongoing invasion and war in Ukraine. However, Samantha says there are other factors at play.

“I don’t think it’s solely linked to it [Ukraine], because I think if we watch the trends, and any sort of information that I’ve read from the Consumer Council, they have indicated that this [energy price hike] has been a trend from before the war.

“I suppose it would be very naive of us to think that it is only to do with the unrest in that region. There are lots of reasons why there are [energy cost] issues in Northern Ireland at the minute, and they’re certainly not helped by the fact that we don’t have an Executive.”

Listing some of the factors driving up energy cost increases and the resultant financial pain for people, Samantha said they were linked by “low wages in our region, the fact we are so heavily reliant on oil, the fact the infrastructure is terrible”.

She added: “Even the money that is earmarked for our hospitals and education, I feel we are relatively neglected [in this part of the country].

“When you add all of those things together, it creates an area where we’re not supported, and then everything else has gone up.

“You can see a gradual increase in oil and diesel in particular, and the electricity has been through the roof.

“I had a family there last week I spoke to, and in the month of February last year, they used £50 of electric as a family of two adults and two children, and it’s gone up to £95 this February. That’s a huge increase, yet their usage is no different.”

Giving a further example of the rapid cost of living, Samantha said: “This morning, I had a lady who ordered 300 litres of oil in three weeks ago, and she paid £200 for it. But then her neighbour needed oil this morning – and 300 litres today is £400, so it’s doubled in price in three weeks.”

Encouraging the importance of discussion regarding personal finance, Samantha said: “It’s such a taboo subject – people are afraid to say, ‘I am struggling’. But it’s perfectly okay to say if you are, and it’s perfectly okay if you want to double-check your family finances.”

If you wish to contact Community Advice Fermanagh, you can do so by calling 0739 492 1753.

Staggering rise

One charity which helps those in Northern Ireland with fuel has seen a staggering rise in requests for help.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP), has revealed that the number of requests for help with fuel in February has increased by a staggering 497 per cent on the same period last year, and is 152 per cent higher than the number of people seeking the Society’s support for fuel in January.

While calls for help with electricity were the highest, these requests were closely followed for assistance with gas and home heating oil from people across the region.

Mary Waide, Regional President for the North Region of SVP, said: “In my 20 years as a volunteer with SVP, I have not before witnessed the depth of poverty that such a diverse range of people are currently experiencing.

“I am very concerned for the families who are every day having to make impossible choices of whether to put food on the table or heat the home. I would appeal to anyone fearing where they will find the money to fill the oil tank, top up the gas or put electricity in the meter to contact SVP rather than go without.”

If you would like help from SVP, you can call 028 9035 1561, or to make a donation, see