"No evidence" of economic upturn as calls to charity increase

In November, the number of calls received by the charity in the eastern region was 10% higher than the same month last year

"No evidence" of economic upturn as calls to charity increase

Children from Margaret's National School Choir at the launch of the SVP Annual Appeal. 16-11-2016 Image: Leah Farrell/Rolling News

The Society of St Vincent de Paul is seeing “no evidence” of any economic upturn on the ground with up to 65,000 calls for help expected this Christmas.

Speaking to the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk this morning, the society’s vice president, Kieran Stafford said if anything, the number of calls for help across the country is on the increase.

The society’s Cork mission has reported a 10% increase in requests for help this year with volunteers expecting to send out three times more Christmas Day hampers than last year.

In November, the number of calls received in the east region - encompassing Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare - was 10% higher than the same month last year.

“We are not seeing any evidence of any upturn amongst the people that are approaching us for help. Year on year we are spending the same amount of money in assisting people,” said Mr Stafford.

“Certainly we are seeing no improvement for people on social welfare, low incomes and people who are working part-time.

“Single parents in particular are the ones who are most at risk of poverty and they would be the group of people we assist most.”

A spokesman for the charity said the numbers of people seeking help has increased hugely since 2008 - with the numbers still far higher than pre-recession levels.

Mr Stafford said the “simple reality” is that without the ongoing generosity of the Irish people the charity will not be able to continue supporting families facing the prospect of poverty.

“We are facing this kind of need at all times. We as members go out and we visit people in their homes, we sit down with people, we listen to their stories and we hear what the problems are,” he said.

“We are getting calls from people who had previously been donors to us. We are dealing with this all the time.”

He said unforeseen circumstances regularly push struggling families into poverty:

Each year, Christmas “puts enormous pressure on people” according to Mr Stafford. He urged anyone considering borrowing money over the holiday season to avoid moneylenders adding, "the Credit Unions are the place to go if you need a loan:" 

“Obviously at Christmas the need is more acute because when you are on low-income, when you are struggling, any kind of event just puts more and more pressure on you,” he said.

“We would see instances where people would go into debt in order to fund particular presents and surprises for their children at Christmas which is completely understandable.”

Mr Stafford said one Central Bank licensed company lends money door to door with an interest rate of 168%.

“We are dealing with these problems all the time where people’s incomes are completely used up in trying to keep up with payments on high interest loans,” he said.

“People are paying these high interest loans and they are basically robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“You can imagine the money that you would pay back on even a small loan with those kinds of interest rates.”

There are a number of ways to donate to St Vincent de Paul on the charity's website, SVP.ie.

Mr Stafford said the public has been "absolutely magnificent" in donating to the outreach in the past.

“We have over 11,000 volunteers throughout the 32 counties of Ireland and we work tirelessly all year round but especially at this time of year to try and ensure that in the homes we visit there will be no empty cupboards, no empty fireplaces and that people will not have an empty Christmas," he said.