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Monday 15 October 2018

How SVP is a lifeline for those left to struggle in rural poverty

Kieran Stafford, president of St Vincent de Paul, in Clonmel, Co Tipperary. SVP is about a leg up, not handouts, he says. Photo: Joe Kenny
Kieran Stafford, president of St Vincent de Paul, in Clonmel, Co Tipperary. SVP is about a leg up, not handouts, he says. Photo: Joe Kenny

Ian Begley

While there are clear signs of economic growth throughout the country, many rural families are still deprived of even the most basic services.

Rural communities are recovering notably slower compared to larger cities like Dublin.

As a result, the charity St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has been a lifeline to families with financial burdens unique to their locality.

"There's no doubt that the economy in rural Ireland is recovering the slowest," said Kieran Stafford, national president of SVP.

"We have families from these areas seeking our help every day of the week."

Mr Stafford, who is based in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, said transport costs were a major concern to people living in isolated areas.

"We come across cases where people would have to spend €50 on a taxi just to get to a bus stop," he said. "If they have a hospital or doctor's appointment then the cost of transport alone could really set them back.

"You also have situations where it would take a long car journey just to get to their local shop, which increases their daily expense."

SVP helps hundreds of families and individuals in rural communities who struggle with transport costs each year. The charity believes reliable transport helps people secure a job and take care of their family.

"Local shops in these areas tend to be a lot dearer compared to the likes of Aldi or Lidl that are located in larger towns," he added.

"Housing is also a big concern because you have more people from cities and towns moving to rural areas due to lower rent.

"We now have situations where family homes are overcrowded and everyone has to be accommodated under the one roof," he said.

Students from lower income brackets in rural Ireland are also profoundly affected by recent Government cuts.

"Because the non-adjacent grant was reduced to 30km, it is now less expensive for a student to get to college if they lived 60km away," said Mr Stafford. "This is creating a massive strain on families."

Mr Stafford said that finding accommodation in Dublin and other cities could be "an absolute nightmare" for disadvantaged students in rural Ireland.

"It's really sad whenever a student with enough points for college or university simply can't afford to go," he said.

SVP helps with the cost of fees, accommodation, transport, childcare, books and material for disadvantaged students.

"Generally, we like to try to stick with someone until they finish their course and are in a position to get a job," said Mr Stafford.

"However, we don't see it as simply handouts - it's more about giving people a leg-up."

The SVP president added that many people from rural communities tend to be ashamed asking for help.

"Our message to any of those people is simply pick up the phone and call us," he said.

Irish Independent

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