Remember these?


Milk tokens. If you ever used these, it was probably because you or your family weren’t well-to-do.  In recent years, these have been transformed into ‘Healthy Start’ vouchers, though they are still given to people who are pregnant, or who have children under the age of four.  According to the Health Start Scheme, you qualify if you’re at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old and you or your family get:

  • Income Support, or
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or
  • Child Tax Credit (but not Working Tax Credit unless your family is receiving Working Tax Credit run-on only*) and has an annual family income of £16,190 or less (2014/15).

I decided to look a bit more into this and see how many vouchers have been given out to people locally – I remember them growing up in a working class area, so it would be interesting to see if these are still as widespread given the onslaught of austerity and the impact it is having on communities.

BtP asked the Scheme to outline how many vouchers had been redeemed in NI since 2007/8 when the milk token scheme was changed, and to outline the total cost of vouchers redeemed here in the same period.

Since 2007/8, vouchers to the value of £25.2m have been redeemed here.  Whilst this might seem a lot, the actual number of vouchers issued in NI since April 2008 shows the prevalence of these vouchers across NI.

From 2008 until 2010, one million vouchers were issued each year to recipients in NI.  From 2010 until 2013, this rose to 1.1 million.  The figure from 2014 until 2015 also 1 million.

Whilst the scheme is means-tested and for those on specific benefits, it could be argued that the number of vouchers issued to NI by the UK Department of Health in this period shows a steady uptake by those eligible and therefore a steady number of people primarily in working class areas in need of this support.



Exclusive: Temp accommodation use exposed

Whilst we revealed that the Housing Executive spends £18.8m across the region on temporary accommodation, and the spend on some of these areas might seem spectacular, what is actually behind the figures is shocking.

As part of the original housing FOI, we asked for a breakdown of who was placed in each of these types of accommodation.

As part of this, the Housing Executive categorizes people into five groups:

  • Elderly – A household of one or more adults where at least one of the adults is 60 years of age or more
  • Single – A single individual
  • Small Adult – A household of two adults (aged between 16 and 59)
  • Large Adult – A household of three or more adults with one or less children
  • Small Families – A household of one or two adults with one or two children
  • Large Families – A household of one or two adults with three or more children OR a household of three or more adults with two or more children

The monthly figures we received are from Sept 2013 until Feb 2016.

Private single lets being used to temporarily house small families are the most prevalent – used by 1,312 families, followed by private single lets being used by single people, housing 1,034 people respectively.


AMENDMENT 19/5/16: The Housing Executive have been in contact regarding the above paragraph.  They state that families are placed in accommodation “in line with their accommodation needs” and that their definition of ‘private single lets’ are not one bedroom properties, but one property unit.  We are happy to make this amendment.

Non-standard refers to exceptional placements in B&B’s, Guesthouses, Hotels where access to general temporary accommodation is not immediately available – these have been used a total of 1,268 times to house all categories of people – the highest of which were single, followed by small families.


Elderly people – those aged 60 or over, had to be placed in temporary accommodation a staggering 233 times, 89 of those in single private lets and 69 in non-standard accommodation.  This has happened more times in January-February 2016 than in the whole of 2013.

These figures represent the number of times each of the respective category have been placed in that accommodation, not the number of individuals.




In total, these types of accommodation were used 17,126 times in the period April 2010-February 2016.  In terms of addressing the problem, only 471 social housing properties have been built in 2015/16 up to the 16th March 2016.

In total, the number of times people have been placed in temporary accommodation doubled from 2013 to 2014, and remained largely steady in 2015.  Figures for 2016 are only available for January and February, but already more elderly persons have been placed in temporary accommodation than in the whole year of 2013.

Exclusive: Housing Executive £19m bill for temp housing

In the last five years, the Housing Executive has paid £18.8 million to provide temporary, and in cases emergency accommodation for people across the region.

The shocking figures have been released to BtP in a detailed Freedom of Information response.  We asked the Housing Executive to outline:

“The cost, per district since 2011 of providing emergency accommodation including hotels, bed and breakfasts and other types of accommodation broken down by accommodation type, and the number of individuals including children that have been placed in these since 2011 broken down by month, as well as the number of times in total per month these types of accommodation have been used.”

In total, a whopping £18,823,275.42 has been paid out for temporary accommodation for those presenting as homeless, this does not necessarily mean that the applicants are without accommodation.

This includes properties such as private rented, bed and breakfasts, NIHE hostels, private hostels and hotels.  In 2008 NIHE introduced a Block Booking accommodation model which continues to be used.  Income for this Block Booked accommodation circa 350K per year has not been included in the figures we were given.

By far the highest amount paid out in NI has been to a 70-bed hostel in Belfast’s University Street – Queen’s Quarter – which has been paid an eye-watering £4.7m from 2011 – this is almost comparable to the entire cost of providing temporary accommodation by all Housing Executive offices in Belfast and Derry.  It only accepts referrals from NIHE Homeless Services Unit and Emergency Duty Team.

All this, despite the fact that according to the Minister for Social Development, only 316 people in the entire S Belfast constituency have been accepted by the Housing Executive as ‘homeless’.


Queen’s Quarter Housing, University Street Belfast

The highest individual NIHE area office spend is Lisburn, at £1.8 million, and the smallest from Cookstown, with a spend of just under £6,000 – though a health warning is attached to these – some offices such as that on the Shankill, have not provided full information and the Housing Executive stress that a new IT system introduced in 2013 is the cause – though other offices can provide full costs from April 2011 until Feb 2016.

The top ten spenders on temporary accommodation are listed below – note that massive difference between Queen’s Quarter – which is one establishment and not a Housing Executive office, and the rest.


The top ten area spends are outlined below.


We spent a number of days analysing the data and mapping these to major regions across NI.


As expected, all of the Belfast offices spend more together than any other area, followed closely by the three Derry offices at almost three million – bigger than all of the areas marked in red.

Lisburn on its own has a significant spend, followed, strangely, by Bangor and Newtownards in the North Down constituency which many would deem to be somewhat affluent in many places.

If we look at how these costs are to be addressed, the building of social housing should be a huge priority.  However, it has been revealed that from the 2010-11 period until the present day, there has been a relatively low number of housing units built right across NI – indeed it fell year-on-year from 2011 until 2013/14.


Perhaps this should be a huge priority for the incoming Assembly.

Tomorrow, we outline who is being placed in what accommodation, from elderly people to families. Tuesday at 7pm.

Keep up to date with us on or on twitter at @beyndtheplrs


Information released to BtP under Freedom of Information by the Department of Education show schools in Derry and West Belfast are spending thousands of pounds under the Extended Schools Programme to provide breakfast clubs for their students.

The Department of Education’s (DE) extended schools programme provides additional financial support to eligible schools to help improve the life chances of children and young people particularly from deprived areas.

BtP asked the Department to outline ‘the number of schools i.e. Nursery, primary and post primary that offer free breakfast clubs for pupils either funded from their own budgets or from the Department specifically (please specify funding stream) broken down by Assembly constituency since 2011′.

The Department informed us that:

‘the Department does not hold information on the provision of free school breakfasts across the entire schools estate.

However the additional resources made available via the Department’s Extended Schools (ES) programme can be used for a range of activities including breakfast clubs. The focus of the ES programme is on improving educational outcomes, reducing barriers to learning and providing additional support to help improve the life chances of disadvantaged children and young people.’

£2.65m has been spent as part of this programme across the region since 2012-13 to cater for Breakfast clubs.  Each year from 2012-2015 with the exception of 2014-15, 2014 schools right across the region have benefitted from the Extended Schools programme.


In each of the years from 2012 until the end of 2015 inclusive, at least one Derry school and one West Belfast school have been included in the 5 highest-spending on breakfast provision for their students in NI.

In the Foyle constituency, the top school for spending on breakfast clubs alternated between either St Patrick’s Primary or St Joseph’s Boys School in Creggan.

In West Belfast, it is St Mary’s CBS or Christ the Redeemer Primary School respectively.  Of all the data BtP received from the Department of Education, St Patrick’s Primary School in Foyle has by far the largest budget, at almost £17,000 in 2014-15.


Earlview P.S is situated in South Antrim, whilst Christ the Redeemer and St. Mary’s CBS are situated in West Belfast.  St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s Boys are in Foyle.


Again, the same schools are in the top five with the exception of Fleming Fulton in this year, which is situated in South Belfast.


The 2014-15 figures mirror those of 2012-13, in a different order, with South Antrim, West Belfast and Foyle schools topping the spend.


The 2015-16 figures suggest St Paul’s in South Armagh and St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s just outside Derry join the other schools that are static throughout the figures.

For the first time, we are going to release the full FOI response we received from the Department, showing all of the school figures. (.xlsx format)

Breakfast_Club_Extended Schools 12.13

Breakfast clubs provided through Extended Schools programme 13.14 14.15 and 15.16…