Charity reveals impact of austerity
The number of calls from people desperate for help have doubled over the last five years, a leading charity has revealed.
Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) said its 11,000 volunteers are now making 400,000 home visits a year to families who are struggling to survive.
The cost of helping those most in need pay basic household bills has also soared to more than 40 million euro a year, up from 24 million euro in 2007.
SVP vice-president Tom MacSweeney said the profile of those seeking assistance has radically changed, while their needs are varied and often complex.
"The families we visit are not just those on social welfare, they include people in low-paid employment, the self-employed and people in good employment with debts that they cannot handle," he said.
The SVP launched its annual appeal on the theme "we can't do it alone" to highlight the struggle society has in matching calls for assistance with the resources available.
Collections will be held at church gates in December, while donations can be made via www.svp.ie, in person, or through giving tree and food appeals.
Mr MacSweeney said the bulk of assistance goes to helping families with food, education and energy, which has tripled in recent years.
"We depend entirely on donations from the public and corporate donors for this work," he said.
"The generosity of the Irish people to SVP over the years has been outstanding.
"Despite their own difficulties there are many individuals and organisations that somehow find something to give to SVP and this generosity is absolutely welcomed and essential for the SVP to support those in great need."
Mr MacSweeney said volunteers see first hand the impact that the economic crisis has had on households, both the long-term disadvantaged and those experiencing need for the first time
"The cumulative impact of austerity measures to date on individuals, families and communities has been devastating," he continued.
"Statistics show that overall there are 734,120 people - 16% of the population - in Ireland living in poverty."
SVP supports families nationwide as well as managing 970 social housing units, 344 emergency beds per night for the homeless, 15 day care centres, 150 shops, and many breakfast, homework and revision clubs.
"Our work is dedicated to helping the weakest and most vulnerable in our society," Mr MacSweeney added.
"This means not only providing practical support but encouraging self-sufficiency and campaigning for social justice."