Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Every year since 1997 we have seen the number of people looking for help increase" - no win for the poor - SVP

The poor are going to have to carry a considerable burden in this budget the Society of St Vincent de Paul in Ireland has warned. 

Speaking following the launch in Dublin of the SVP’s annual appeal, National Vice President, John Monaghan said the organisation had seen calls for assistance increase by 35 per cent across the country as a whole while in certain areas, such as Cork, the level of calls had increased by 50 per cent.  

Professor Monaghan said the likely impact of December’s stringent budget would be that “those who are outside poverty at the moment, who are hanging on by their fingertips, will be pushed into poverty and those who are in poverty are going to be pushed even deeper into it.”

He said the three most frequently requested areas of help the SVP are contacted about relate to buying food, help with energy bills, and financial assistance with education costs such as books for kids.

Last year SVP spent over €66m in Ireland assisting people who got into financial difficulties.  
Half of that money was spent on maintaining SVP’s services, such as the 13 hostels it runs for the homeless, and its provision of over 1,000 units of social housing, many of which are inhabited by older people who otherwise would have nowhere to live.  In addition, SVP also provided breakfast clubs, resources centres and courses for single parents, and respite holidays for the elderly. 

The other half of the money raised was spent on aid to those in need of food assistance, (€7.6m); energy costs (€5.8m) and education (€4.2m) while another €10m was spent on family, funeral and housing costs.  

Professor Monaghan said practically all that money that SVP spent last year came from the general public “who are incredibly generous and very supportive of us.”

According to John Monaghan, “The thing that worries us is that nearly a quarter of all the people coming to us now have never been with us before. Many of those find it difficult to approach SVP.”

Asked if he felt disillusioned in light of the current economic circumstances, Professor Monaghan told CINews, “Absolutely, and the reason is this. Back in 1997- 1978 we were spending about €18m a year. If it is the case that unemployment dropped dramatically during the Celtic Tiger, which it did; and if it were true that welfare rates were absolutely luxurious – then maybe somebody could explain to us why every year since 1997 we have seen the number of people looking for help increase and we’ve seen the amount of money that we have had to hand out increasing?”

Clearly, despite what the Government thought it was doing, it wasn’t doing enough because there are now more people in poverty than there ever was before and there are more people coming to SVP than has ever been the case. And there will be even more again next year after the budget on December 7th.”

John Monaghan told CINews that the SVP is hoping that they could “tap into the incredible generosity of the people in the country and get them to live out the real message of Christmas – that message of love and hope, particularly the message contained in the gospel of looking after one another at difficult times.”

He added, “What we are trying to say to people is that it is far better to light a candle than curse the dark. If people can come on board with us then we might be in a position to light many candles throughout the country and bring a little bit of hope into what is otherwise a very dark time for the country for people.”

Meanwhile, Oscar winning singer songwriter Glen Hansard and award winning singer songwriter Damien Dempsey are to release a new version of the well-known ballad, The Auld Triangle on December 3, to raise awareness and funds for the Society of St Vincent de Paul.

The single will be available to buy in record stores and to download from iTunes. In all there will be three tracks, with Raglan Road and Not on Your Own Tonight coming with The Auld Triangle.
Some 9,500 volunteers work with SVP through 1,200 local groups countrywide.