SDLP West Belfast councillor Paul Doherty has said that the removal of holiday hunger payments is putting huge strain on families.
Mr Doherty, who runs community solidarity organisation Foodstock, said the group was struggling to keep up with the demand for support.
Holiday hunger payments to families were withdrawn by the Department of Education due to budgetary pressures.
Councillor Doherty said:
“The removal of holiday hunger payments is having a huge impact on families in Belfast and across the North. This vital lifeline provided families with a small amount of money to help feed their children during the school holidays, for many it was a godsend at a time when costs were mounting and its removal has made it increasingly difficult to put food on the table.
“Every day families are calling into Foodstock to see if we can help them with food parcels. It’s heartbreaking to see the pressure that these parents are under, with many of them finding themselves in a desperate situation with nowhere else to turn. While we help everyone we can I am seeing a huge increase in demand which points to the situation in many homes in our city. I’m seriously concerned that behind closed doors children are not getting enough to eat.
“Whatever financial difficulties Stormont is facing, we are talking about children going hungry and that’s what the cut to holiday hunger payments will result in. When savings need to be made, we should not be looking at cutting support for the children and families who need it most. These payments are still available in Britain and I can’t understand why we are expected to go without here.
“The Department of Education needs to look at the impact this short-sighted decision is having and reintroduce these payments immediately. I understand the difficult position they are in, but with the power vacuum that exists we need somebody to take responsibility and step up to ensure that no child goes hungry due to the removal of these payments.”