News that Northern Ireland health workers are being offered food bank vouchers to help them make ends meet was met with an angry response yesterday.
NHS staff at the Royal and Ulster Hospitals in Belfast will be given the chance to use the service by union Unison.
The union says low paid workers struggling to pay rapidly spiralling bills will leave many staff with no option but to take the vouchers.
Reacting to the story, Sinn Féin health spokesman Pat Sheehan said hospital personnel are “bearing the brunt of relentless Tory-DUP austerity”.
The MLA added: “It is ridiculous that Health Service workers in Belfast are to be offered food bank vouchers.
“This is a direct result of the Tory government’s austerity agenda now supported by the DUP which has cut the block grant and frontline services year on year.
“Health and Social care staff are the systems greatest asset without which we would not have the services we have today.
“Staff delivering frontline services often do so in very challenging circumstances.
“Pressures on the system and workers conditions has contributed to recruiting and retaining workforce in the HSC.
“HSC staff need to be valued and working towards a real living wage for HSC workers would demonstrate that.”
Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson Roy Beggs MLA said he was “shocked and appalled” at the news.
He added: “This is an abhorrent situation, and one which I suspect is directly linked to the fact that health workers here are now paid much less than their counterparts across the rest of the UK.
“Only last week I revealed that this year’s pay increase can’t even go ahead in the absence of a local Executive and Health Minister.
“Workers across the health service here are working under totally unprecedented pressure in circumstances that are only continuing to get worse.
“The NHS would simply not be the institution we all know and cherish were it not for its staff. The fact that some are now about to receive food vouchers should be a wake-up call as to just how serious the situation has become. We can’t afford to lose any more health workers, yet that is something I fear will happen unless steps are taken to quickly rectify the shortfall in wages here.”
SDLP North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon branded the development a “disgrace”.
She said: “It is a disgrace that health service staff who work tirelessly to care for us and our families are forced to rely on food banks to feed their own families.
“This is what happens when health workers are paid low wages, often not even paid what they are owed due to pay blunders not of their making and denied the pay rise they have a right to and deserve because there is no Health Minister in place.
“Words will do little to help these health workers. They need and deserve action. An Executive and Assembly could act to help these workers and the thousands of others in work across Northern Ireland who are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table.”
Alliance health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw said a minister is needed.
She added: “This pay award issue should long since have been dealt with. Health and social care workers are under incredible strain, exacerbated by a rising cost of living.
“This is yet another example of the DUP and Sinn Féin putting narrow interests ahead of the broader population. We should have a Minister in place to deliver fair pay.”
Keep up-to-date with all the very latest news, what’s on, sport and everything else in Belfast and beyond with the Belfast Live app.
Only select news that interests you by picking the topics you want to display on the app’s homepage. Plus, our enhanced user experience includes live blogs, video, interactive maps and slick picture galleries. Download it now and get involved.
Parliamentary reports show first speaker only - follow this lnk for the full transcription.
Articles may come from parliamentary reports, various public news feeds and Google News Search. Content is republished here for context. Copyright is respected and remains with the original author at all times. Original Article:https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/belfast-news/nhs-workers-food-bank-vouchers-15166480