Northern Ireland suffers from some of the worst poverty in Western Europe according to a report produced by a consumer watchdog. The Price of being Poor released by the Consumer Council found that our wages are the lowest in the UK and those who have least are expected to pay more for essential good and services such as the use of transport and fuel poverty.
Fuel poverty exists when a household has to spend 10 per cent or more of its income on heating the home to a satisfactory level. The number of households affected by fuel poverty in Northern Ireland has increased significantly in recent years. In 2006, research showed that 34 per cent (226,000) of households in Northern Ireland were in fuel poverty.
This figure rose to 300,000 households (44 per cent) in 2009. It is now believed with rising fuel prices and the current economic climate that fuel poverty levels here have risen above 50 per cent. The effects of fuel poverty can be devastating with just under 950 winter deaths between last year as households are left choosing between food or heating. The report also found that 72% of survey respondents do not have life insurance.
In an era of mass unemployment and cuts in essential social services the statistics in this report could not be more stark in terms of the devastating impact capitalism has on our everyday lives. Reports such as these only tell us that we already know and no amount of pandering to politicians will change our class society which enriches the few.
We need action not words as the fight against police brutality and social deprivation rings out from the streets of London. We need to collectively organise in our communities and workplaces to resist every cut-back and job loss. We need to build a better society for all which places social equality and freedom at its core.
The report can be downloaded from http://www.consumercouncil.org.uk/publications