Poverty rising amid ‘perfect storm’

Comment & Opinion

IMPOSSIBLE CHOICES The theme of this year’s SVP annual appeal, Impossible Choices, reflects the reality of thousands of people who are struggling to make ends meet. The society’s national president, Rose McGowan, is pictured launching the appeal with Emily Moylan (8) and Adam O’Meara (5).

Pandemic and soaring cost of living lead to record numbers seeking help

It might be hard to believe, but the Society of St Vincent de Paul has received more than 200,000 calls for help this year, up by 17 percent from this time in 2020, as more and more families experience poverty throughout the island of Ireland.
Last year the number asking for help was 170,000 – more than double the amount of people seeking help a decade ago. Those figures are continuing to rise, with requests coming in for much-needed food, fuel, education, and of course gifts for Christmas.
Going through our Local Notes section, you will see SVP branches (or conferences) in all corners of Mayo. They too confirm that families up and down the county have been in touch on a regular basis over the last number of months.
In our edition of November 23, the local Westport branch of St Vincent de Paul launched their annual appeal. They revealed that on average they are receiving four calls from new families in the area seeking help every week.
President Marie Ruane said many of these families are living in constant poverty, and the thought of the costs ahead of Christmas can feel like a weight folding in on them.
“Our society provides support and friendship to those in need, and we are committed to working with them through their current financial difficulties and helping them in any way we can,” Marie said.
“We depend entirely on donations from the public and corporate donors for this work, and thankfully the generosity of the people of Westport to SVP over the years has been outstanding. However, due to the increased demand we need their continued support now, more than ever.”  
Last year, families in need nationwide received direct assistance of approximately €30.5 million. This included help with money and food, paying energy bills with payments direct to utilities and solid-fuel suppliers, and supporting children, young people and adults.
Due to the pandemic,  SVP last year started distributing vouchers. That will continue this year too, rather than delivering physical gifts to children at Christmas. The society has seen that this system actually empowers people, it gives them that dignity to go out and buy the toys their children ask for.
SVP has over 13,000 members and volunteers operating through 1,200 local conferences through the country. At the launch of the national appeal last month, National President Rose McGowan said that the escalating cost of rent, energy and petrol and soaring inflation on living expenses has only exacerbated the problem facing families under severe financial pressure.
“We are facing a perfect storm for families contending with a cost-of-living crisis on multiple fronts. Energy prices are soaring, we are seeing rents rise well beyond what people can afford and increasing transport costs are also putting pressure on low-income households.
“We are deeply concerned that during the coming months this crisis will come to a head as households are unable to find extra room in the budget for escalating energy costs,” she said.
So, in the coming days as people finish their Christmas shopping and put their final plans in place for the festivities, maybe make a decision to say no to some of the extra trimmings. Instead, make a donation to SVP, who in turn will make sure a family under pressure will get some much needed help.
Donations can be made online at www.svp.ie or over the phone by ringing 0818 176 176 – or just touch base with a member of your local conference.