Charity workers suffering trauma over poverty levels
CHARITY volunteers working to help recession-hit families are so traumatised by the enormity of problems facing some households they have had to be provided with special counselling.
The revelation came as the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) urged people not to donate damaged or second-hand toys this Christmas.
The charity said it is now struggling to cope with the greatest flood of requests for help in living memory, but said it is "greatly heartened" by the level of donations received from the public.
SVP southern director Brendan Dempsey said some of their volunteers have been so shocked and upset by dealing at first hand with the consequences of poverty, loss and disadvantage that they have come away visibly upset.
Volunteers told the charity that they needed specialist help in coping with the sheer scale of the problems -- and SVP decided to offer counselling.
"This is something we have never had to do before," Mr Dempsey said, "But our volunteers have been totally taken aback by the sheer scale of the poverty problem. . . It can be very upsetting."
The society stressed, meanwhile, that a significant number of families now contacting them for help this Christmas have never before sought help from a charity.
Mr Dempsey added that the charity now wants to offer families in need new toys for their children -- and not damaged or used toys.
"It is bad enough for a family having to ask for toys for their children for Christmas. Second-hand toys really take the dignity away from families and we don't want to do that," he said.
"I hope people don't mind me saying that -- I hope they understand but people's dignity means a lot too. In some cases it is about all they have left," he added.
The poverty plight this Christmas has been worsened by the fall-out from the recent Arctic weather, which has badly hit family budgets through higher-than-expected fuel and heating costs.
Mr Dempsey warned that many Irish families had already defaulted on their utility bills and were struggling to cope with mortgages.
"A lot of people are in a lot of trouble. Some of these families have no income and it is now only a matter of time before they cannot meet their mortgage repayments. There is a lot of panic and anxiety out there," he said.
Mr Dempsey pointed out that, in Cork alone, calls for help to the SVP soared by almost 50pc last year, and are spiralling again this year.
"There has been a huge influx of people who were quite solvent before the Celtic Tiger got sick and died. These were families who were hard-working, maybe living in a three-bedroom semi-detached houses."