SVP struggling to cope as 60,000 seek assistance
MORE than 60,000 families and individuals are currently dependent on the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP).
Over the next four months, the society expects "an unprecedented level of demand for help" -- particularly if Ireland suffers another Arctic winter, when fuel bills will soar.
The figure emerged as the charity warned it was struggling to cope with the demand for help -- and pleaded with the Government not to slash supports for the poor.
The SVP launched its pre-budget submission yesterday as it emerged that the society will have doubled its overall support budget in three years.
Calls to SVP regional offices doubled between 2007 and 2010 -- and fears are mounting that 2011 will see another explosion in pleas for help.
SVP president Mairead Bushnell said Ireland now faced a social crisis. "There is a palpable worry and uncertainty among people on social welfare and low pay about the coming Budget," she added.
The society warned that cuts to social welfare and child benefit rates have had a devastating impact -- and further cuts will push thousands more deeper into debt and poverty.
"For many who are struggling with poverty, debt and unemployment, the future holds considerable uncertainty, and sadly their numbers continue to grow," Ms Bushnell added.
Last year, the SVP spent €75m on direct assistance and services. The society provided €16m in cash assistance, more than €9m on food, €6.7m on energy and over €4m on costs related to education.
The personal tragedies and the level of poverty problems are so challenging that the charity has provided counselling for its volunteers for the first time.
Despite the recession and ongoing income crisis, donations have risen in some areas.
In Cork, a recent SVP flag day showed a 25pc increase in donations.
Church-gate collections in aid of SVP in Cork have shown an 11pc increase year-on-year.
Meanwhile, mothers are skipping meals in order to have enough to feed their children, according to new research.
It has also shown that parents often refuse to bring their children shopping to avoid pester-power for toys and treats.
Mothers told the 'Food on a Low Income' report from state agency Safefood that they were particularly angry with efforts by schools to enforce healthy lunch policies as the food was too expensive.
Low-income families said they chose to buy ready-made food because it was more filling and cheaper.