‘….People are being failed everyday….’

The next episode of UTV’s current affairs programme ‘Up Close’ will examine poverty in Northern Ireland in an in-depth programme, ‘The Poverty Spiral’, which airs on Tuesday 17th December at 10.45pm on UTV.

UTV Reporter Judith Hill and the Up Close team have spent weeks looking at the impact that poverty is having on our most vulnerable members of society, speaking to many people who are struggling, and the worrying trend that despite help from many sectors, both statutory and voluntary, the situation is getting worse.

The half hour programme starts off at St Patrick’s Soup Kitchen in Belfast, a real safe haven for many people.  We hear from users of the facility and what it means to them, as well as from some of the volunteers who week in week out keep everything going.  Paul McCusker, who runs the kitchen, shares his frustration that they can only respond to a crisis.  He says, “There isn’t enough done around prevention, education, early intervention.”

Susan Duncan, who works for the Welcome Organisation, explains how they help homeless people get a bed for the night, many of whom are battling alcohol and drug addiction. She too highlights that people need help earlier to get to the right services.

Academic Prof. Eileen Evason talks about the challenges that many local people are having as a result of the Universal Credit system, with many finding the online application process very challenging, compounded by a long wait for first payment once approved. She comments, “…..[This] was designed by people who clearly have never been short of money in their lives….”

Judith Hill says, “This programme would not have been possible without the cooperation and honesty of our interviewees who have been affected by poverty, as well as those workers and volunteers who are so committed to helping.  Poverty is a 365 day a year issue but we wanted to shine a light on how hard it can be at Christmas, not just financially but emotionally.  And despite the difficulties people are having, there are messages of hope and positivity throughout the programme.”

Tony Curry, Programme Editor at UTV said, “Up Close allows us to go in-depth on some of Northern Ireland’s biggest stories – stories that need further analysis, investigation and explanation. Poverty affects people year round and is especially magnified at Christmas time.  Judith and the team are not shying away from the issue, and we hope the viewers come away with a better understanding of poverty in Northern Ireland. “

‘Up Close – The Poverty Spiral – Tuesday 17th December 10.45pm on UTV.

“Making this programme has changed me. I thought I understood poverty and
homelessness; I was very familiar with the phrase that each of us is only two or three pay packets away from ending up without a home.  But to listen to people’s back stories and understand the reality of that is totally different.  To spend time in St Patrick’s soup kitchen on Donegall Street and see the range of people who come there for support is eye opening.

“One woman, who has a job, spent nights sleeping in her car because she had no accommodation. While the back stories of some of those living on the streets are heart breaking too.  We met a young guy who used to be a youth worker – but now beds down each night in Belfast city centre.  His life had just spiralled out of control.

“I’ll never forget the regret in their eyes; whether it was Glen casting his mind back to playing football as a teenager – and wishing he could have just one more moment in front of the posts; or Rachel telling me she never thought she’d be someone who would end up on the streets. I could see how for each of them life could have gone – and still could – go either way. I felt their sadness, but saw their fighting spirit too.

“Each of their stories were marked by tragedy, they each had their battles – and as I listened to the life events that had impacted them, I was able to understand how each of them had got there.

“What has been moving too has been witnessing the incredible spirit of people in Belfast; those who intervene to offer help and support.  And there are so many of them out there. But I think what I take away too from this is that those getting the help are the brave ones.  They’ve been able to reach out for help and own their difficulties.  I can’t help wonder how many others out there are trapped in dark, cold houses – living impoverished lives – fearing for the future, but not yet able to ask for the help they so desperately need.”

For further information, contact Olivia Johnston Communications Manager, UTV on 02890262122

Leave a Reply