independent

Tuesday 16 September 2014

We should not write off good work done by many charities

Published 24/12/2013 | 05:38

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A SHOCKING new survey compiled by two of Ireland's leading trade unions shows that one in 10 Irish people now suffer from food poverty. Among them are pensioners who must choose between food or fuel, and families with young children struggling to cope with unemployment, persistent government cuts and increasing taxes and charges.

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Poverty is not easily defined, the problem being one of where to draw the line between those who are merely not well off and those who slip below the breadline and are actually poor.

The 'Hungry for Action: Mapping Food Poverty' survey, conducted by the Mandate and Unite trade unions, avoids this connundrum by focusing on the narrower issue of food poverty. It doesn't still doesn't define 'poor' but it gives a very good indication of the numbers of people who are struggling to survive. And the numbers are shocking.

Food poverty is defined as: Being forced to go without a meal at any time in a two-week period because it couldn't be afforded; being unable to afford a meal with meat or a vegetarian alternative every second day; or geing unable to afford a roast dinner or vetgetarian equivalent once a week. This might not be dire poverty, but it is a sign of real hardship. People like to eat well and if they can't afford to do so it shows that they are really down to brass tax. We can take it that other areas of their lives will be similarly affected.

The revelation that over 450,000 people are now going hungry in Ireland as a result of austerity and a collapse in their incomes could not have come at a worse time, as charities everywhere scramble to try and undo the damage caused by the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC), which used charity money to top up some of their executives' already handsome salaries.

It stands to reason that the increasing level of food poverty being experienced in Ireland has put serious demands on the very charities that serve to help them, so how unfortunate it would be if these charities were to suffer for the faults of a handful of other organisations.

What happened at the CRC was appalling and people are justifiably horrified at the revelations. But instead of tarring everyone with the same brush, perhaps we should rememeer the fantastic work that has been done by so many of our local charities for the good of our people.

Of course people need to be cautious, but that doesn't have to mean walking past the collection buckets this Christmas. Instead, why not ask questions about where your money is going? Or give to those you know will spend your money locally. But don't simply write off the good work of so many charities for the failings of another. As the recent food poverty survey shows, people have rarely been worse off, so let's not compound their misery by failing to help.

As the old adage says: 'Charity begins at home' - and never before has that phrase carried so much weight.

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