THE society of St Vincent de Paul has expressed its concern over what it described as the "appalling" levels of poverty that exists in communities across North Cork.
Pay Murphy, the president of St Vincent de Paul in Mallow, told The Corkman that in 2012 the society has been spending €1,500 per month on food for desperate families.
Mr Murphy revealed that its winter fuel bill is currently running at €3,500 per month for families who are finding it increasing difficult to heat their own homes.
"Our members are seeing at first hand the impact that the economic crisis has had on struggling households. Calls for assistance have increased considerably this year, as the impact of cutbacks to incomes and services has been most felt by those least able to afford it," said Mr Murphy.
He said that in 2011 the Mallow branch of the society alone spent €170,000 helping struggling families, including €48,000 on food and food vouchers, €49,000 on fuel and energy bills and €25,000 on education related necessities.
Mr Murphy said that in the lead up to Christmas last year the society helped out approximately 300 local families as opposed to 180 for the same period in 2010.
He expects the figure for 2012 will rise above that of last year.
"Things have been getting worse over the last year. We are now spending more on fuel and food than we have ever done before. Were it not for the enormous generosity of the people of Mallow and North Cork, there is no way that we could keep going," he said.
"People are dependent on our help to get through each week. It is not uncommon for people to come to us for essential food items just to tide them over until they get their social welfare payments. There is not a week that goes by without people come to us seeking food parcels," he added.
Mr Murphy described government claims about protecting the most vulnerable as "rhetoric", saying the reality was the programme of austerity is imposing severe hardship on people with the lowest incomes and the least resources.
"There is an obscenity in Irish life today in that many in leading influential positions, and on the high level of pay that some sectors still enjoy, tell the less fortunate they must suffer more," he said.
"I would like to offer a word of advice to our Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Before he takes another €3.5 billion out of the pockets of ordinary people on budget day, he should consult with members of St Vincent de Paul in his home town of Castlebar.
"I am sure the problems there are the same as in Mallow or any other part of Ireland."