Fuel, Transport and Food Poverty Mapping in Fermanagh and Omagh District Council

Sinéad Furey, Paul McKenzie, Natasha McClelland

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


Executive Summary
Globally, regionally and locally citizens are emerging from a Covid-19 pandemic, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, a cost-of-living crisis and geopolitical instability. All of these have impacted on householders’ ability to afford the basic essentials for living particularly in Northern Ireland where 17% of households live in relative poverty. Compounding this is the rural premium whereby there can be affordability and accessibility departments as a result of living rurally and Fermanagh and Omagh District (FODC) is predominantly rural with 70% of the population living outside the two main towns of Enniskillen and Omagh.

This research investigated the spatial patterns of fuel poverty (a household's inability to keep adequately warm at a reasonable cost), transport poverty (affordability of transport) and food poverty (insufficient economic access to an adequate quantity and quality of food to maintain a nutritionally satisfactory and socially acceptable diet) to identify if rurality increases the risk of fuel, transport and/or food poverty in FODC. The study aimed to provide food, fuel and transport poverty maps in order to inform poverty alleviation policies and programmes and targeted interventions at District Electoral Area level to maximise impact and ensure those most in need are supported. This is because tackling poverty is a priority which has been identified in the Fermanagh and Omagh Community Plan 2030. This research will help assess the impact the COVID-19 pandemic, cost-of-living crisis, as well as the rural premium has on residents in Fermanagh and Omagh. Assessing the symptoms and the data and evidence will allow for Community Planning to work in partnership to collectively address the root causes.

Fuel poverty: Ulster University created an area-based risk index for fuel poverty for each Census Small Area (SA) across NI (N=4,537) in 2017. Across the 11 council areas, FODC had the highest average eligibility score (49.48) compared with North Down and Ards which had an average eligibility score of 35.07. Within FODC, the highest eligibility was in rural areas (open countryside followed by villages) while urban areas (notably Omagh) have lower eligibility scores on average. Cluster analysis identified neighbouring areas that may benefit from targeted interventions. The clusters of highest eligibility (20% of Council area) are in “Open countryside” and are generally located along the border with Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan. There is an understanding that cross-border shopping is possible, however without firm evidence to support this theory, the border effect is outside the remit of this study. This would require a further independent research study. It was concluded that the majority of SAs within the Council area will benefit from support schemes such as oil buying networks and energy support in the short term, but (fuel) poverty is a chronic problem requiring more sustainable, longer-term support that addresses the root causes including insulation upgrade programmes and possible exploration of renewable/green energy schemes.

Transport poverty: Transport poverty can be caused by a range of factors such as low population density, car dependency, and affordability and accessibility of public transport, compounded by personal health/mobility issues. For example, people who have regular bus services convenient to their home may be transport poor due to their individual inability to use public transport. Areas of higher population density are typically at lower risk of transport poverty and FODC has a low population density compared to other areas of the UK. Additionally, more than one in three (34.8%) of domestic properties in FODC are more than a 10-minute walk from an existing bus stop. This, coupled with infrequent buses and areas of deprivation and poverty, indicates increased risk of transport poverty for a number of SAs in the Council area. There are SAs with 25% or more households with no vehicle ownership: Lisnaskea (Intermediate settlement), Irvinestown, Maguiresbridge, Fintona and Dromore (Villages) in addition to Belleek, Newtownbutler, Rosslea, Tempo and Drumquin (Open Countryside). Lowest vehicle ownership tended to occur in Omagh and Enniskillen which have a greater range of key services nearby and may also benefit from greater public transport provision. A combined transport poverty risk score concluded that Intermediate settlements and Villages have the highest average combined risk score followed by Open countryside, Medium Towns and Large Towns. Of the 84 Small Areas at high risk of fuel poverty, 22 of these Small Areas also have a high risk of transport poverty.

Several socio-economic groups (young renters, pensioners with disabilities or long-term ill-health and people on low incomes) are at particular risk of increases in motor fuel expenditure which makes them susceptible to transport poverty. The majority of young renters occurred in Omagh and Enniskillen though Irvinestown also had 25% of young people renting. Within FODC, there are 10 SAs with almost 20% of young renters, five of which have 20% of homes with an income below 60% of the NI median. Three of these SAs are in Omagh (Lisanelly ward, Drumragh ward and Killyclogher ward), one is in Enniskillen (Erne ward) and the other is in Irvinestown (Village). Drumragh ward in Omagh, Killyclogher ward and Irvinestown ward have a large proportion of homes with no vehicle access. Elderly people with long term health problems are also at increased risk of fuel and transport poverty. Elderly people with long-term health problems were mainly located in Omagh and Enniskillen though there was a relatively high proportion in Irvinestown (Village).

Food prices and availability in FODC: Healthy Food Basket price and availability audits for typical family shopping lists were conducted in 46 stores across FODC settlement types between August and October 2022. Of the retail outlets surveyed, 29 (63%) were in a rural settlement and 17 (37%) in an urban settlement. There were cost variations between stores for the shopping baskets with rural prices on average more expensive than urban prices. This may be explained, at least in part, by the characteristics of the stores in the retail audit sample. Small shops are more likely to have higher prices and smaller shops are more likely in rural areas. Furthermore, the presence of discount stores and other multi-nationals impacts the average prices audited in the area. This pattern also held true for food availability resulting in geographical disparities within FODC boundaries and therefore not all households have the same equal access to food. It is important to note that these findings assume that household food purchases are completed in one local shop, when in reality shopping can occur across a range of stores.

Food poverty: The At Risk of Food Poverty Index (ARFPI) is a pragmatic measurable index that identifies SAs at greatest potential risk of food poverty. It is a multi-variable, area-based food poverty risk index, mapped at regional scale. It is used to understand the role that location plays in determining food poverty and is used to identify area-based vulnerabilities and solutions to food poverty. In 2017, Ulster University developed the ARFPI and created an area-based risk index for each Census Small Area. Food poverty risk was calculated for each SA across NI with values ranging from 0.46 (Stranmillis ward, Belfast) to 68.31 (Glenderg ward, Derry & Strabane). Glenderg has the highest AWP eligibility score (fuel poverty) and food poverty risk score in NI. Across the 11 Council areas, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council had the third highest average risk score (39.06), with Mid Ulster and Newry, Mourne and Down having highest averages across NI. The ARFPI (2021) showed that FODC had the highest variance of all Council areas, suggesting substantial variation in food poverty risk within the Council area. It is important to note that the ARFPI encompasses multiple structural indicators of food poverty beyond food costs and availability as it integrates a range of variables such as income, deprivation, ownership, retailer density, education and health to develop an aggregated overall risk score at CSA. Within FODC, the algorithm showed that values ranged from 8.78 (Castlecoole ward, Enniskillen) to 62.72 (Belcoo and Garrison ward). Furthermore, FODC had the second highest minimum risk score of all Councils in NI, suggesting a high level of food poverty risk in the Council area.

Costs for retailers ranged from a minimum of £86.72 (Intermediate settlement) to £119.94 (Open countryside) with an average of £109.15. Of the 46 sampled stores, 29 (63%) had prices above the average. The majority of these retailers were in Villages (9) and Open countryside (8) though Omagh (Large town) had 7 retailers with prices greater than the sampled retailer average.

Availability for retailers ranged from a minimum of 26.4% (Open countryside) to 96.2% (Medium town) with an average of 76.41%. Of the 46 sampled stores, 19 (41%) had availability below the average. Most of these retailers were in Open countryside (11), followed by Villages (4). Again, Omagh (Large town) had 4 retailers with availability less than the sampled retailer average.

Application of Ulster’s At Risk of Food Poverty Index (ARFPI) found high risk across all settlement types though, in general, rural areas tended to have higher scores, with the majority of these occurring in Open countryside (73 SAs). The clusters of highest eligibility (“High-High” – 15% of Council area) are in the North East of FODC and are mainly in Open countryside areas though 15 SAs in Omagh (Large town) and 4 SAs in Fintona (Village) are also classified as high risk clusters for food poverty.

There are six full time Emergency Food Providers within FODC – 2 in Omagh (Large town), 2 in Enniskillen (Medium Town), 1 in Lisnaskea (Intermediate Settlement) and 1 in Kesh (Village). In addition to these full time services, one of the food providers operates an outreach service in Irvinestown (Village)) Belleek (Open Countryside), and Newtownbutler (Open Countryside) on approximately a one hour per site per week basis. Further sites for outreach activity may be added.

The mean risk score for FODC is 37.50 and two of the SAs with emergency food providers have risk scores below the average i.e. lower eligibility (Kesh, Lisnaskea). Of the four SAs with emergency food providers and risk scores above the mean (i.e., higher eligibility), the highest risk score is 49.60 (Irvinestown, Village).

Multiple poverties: The clusters used to identify SAs experiencing high risk of fuel, transport and food poverty were amalgamated to identify areas experiencing more than one type of poverty. There were 157 Small Areas in FODC that were classified as high risk clusters for either fuel, transport or food poverty. Of these, 52 SAs (33%) experience at least two types of poverty. There were 4 Small Areas that had high risk clusters for fuel, transport and food poverty (all three poverties) containing over 900 domestic properties. These areas were in Fintona ward, Derrygonnelly ward, Florencecourt and Kinawley ward (Open countryside) and Devenish ward (Medium town). Overall, there are multiple poverties occurring in Open countryside areas and Villages which are considered “rural” areas. However, “urban” areas also experience clusters of high fuel, transport and food poverty.

Recommendation: It is important to note that verification (ground truthing) is needed in order to increase confidence in the models. The Affordable Warmth Programme (AWP) was verified during initial creation in 2013-14 and obtained very high levels of accuracy (Walker et al., 2014). However, the original verification process for fuel poverty occurred almost a decade ago. No verification has been done for the transport or food poverty indices. Ideally data from FODC on referrals could be integrated with the models in order to ground truth the models. Verification is required to ensure that all at-risk households are offered the help required and no vulnerable households are omitted. Greater integration of data and expertise between Councils and University departments can lead to improved data models and improved targeting.

Original languageEnglish
Commissioning bodyFermanagh and Omagh District Council
Number of pages72
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 5 Apr 2023
EventPresentation of FODC CO-Poverties Mapping Report - Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Mar 202315 Mar 2023


  • Food Poverty
  • Fuel poverty
  • Transport poverty


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