Lower income families will need SVP more than ever

by Gazette Reporter

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) is a household name in Dublin and across Ireland. For over 176 years, it has helped families on lower incomes, many of whom live well below the poverty line.

Last year SVP helped over 160,000 people and had expected that figure to rise by about 10% this year. However, that figure is expected to rise dramatically with so many suddenly out of work, many now impacted by the reduction of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. 

Liam Casey who lives in south Dublin has been a volunteer with the SVP for over 40 years. As regional president for the SVP Eastern Region (incorporating Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow), Liam is fearful of a second wave of the coronavirus and the devastating impact this could have on lower income families, along with an expected economic recession and Brexit still looming.

“Listening to the medical experts, we’re likely to have a second wave,” he told Dublin Gazette. “There are reports of a big increase in retail sales in national media but I can assure you, the people the SVP help are not charging out the doors to go spending since lockdown has lifted.”

“Most of the people we deal with are on the edge,” added Liam. “Any unexpected expense, such as family celebrations – communions, confirmations or say, a funeral which is a huge burden on family income.

“With the minimum cost of a funeral about €5k, how do you cope if you’re on standard social welfare?”

Education the way forward

The SVP believe that education is the way to get families and individuals out of the poverty trap.

Liam explained: “Education sadly is a huge expense on those who need it most; middle class families have children with access to iPads, laptops, Wifi, iPhones and printers.

“During Covid-19 restrictions, it was all Zoom and WhatsApp groups but many families we know of don’t even have access to Wifi.

“Neither do they have access to a table to work at, or to work from home and sadly, are unable to interact with schools without Wifi. The pandemic has put more pressure on families with low income.

“Many families and individuals did not have large outdoor private spaces; libraries were closed, public parks and leisure centres were closed so there were other pressures on families living in smaller accommodation.”

The SVP helps to provide clothing and additional financial burdens, to help with utility bills, “a leg up during difficult times,” said Liam. He thanked Daniel O’Donnell and his wife Majella whose appeal on the Late Late Show raised over e1.1m for the charity.

Liam added: “We have 44 charity shops in total, all of which closed on March 16. The shops are a huge revenue stream to support our work. We’re re-opening the shops all across Ireland but we have to restrict numbers, to purchase signage, clear screens, etc.

“We are delighted with the response to date so thank you to our many volunteers and supporters”.

Liam notes that home visitation continues to be the core work of the organisation, and that educational costs are a growing burden on families with low income.

“We introduced a bursary programme in recent years whereby students attending third level courses, PLC courses, college and university places can apply. We gave out €500,000 last year”.

Students are also helped by the SVP buying a ‘Leap Card’, a transport tickets valued circa €70.

Christmas

Christmas puts dreadful pressures on so many families. The society give out hampers at Christmas, plus toys and giftware through the SVP Christmas Toy Appeal.

Another special mention goes to Brendan O’Carroll aka Mrs Browne.

“A quintessential Dub, Brendan has given us vouchers for the past few years, enabling us to help hundreds of families to celebrate Christmas in the Dublin area. Vouchers for Dunnes Stores’ turkey and ham, Christmas cake, and so on and they’re watching the bold Mrs Browne on the telly as they get stuck into Christmas dinner!”

With economic recession and Brexit looming in the not too distant future, Liam is expecting huge pressure on the society’s support this year.

“When we visit people’s home to help, it’s very humbling; to realise that a perfect stranger has to open up and tell two SVP strangers about their private financial situation and family pressures.

“Please contact the SVP helpline at 01 855 0022 or apply for assistance online at www.svp.ie All applications/ calls are treated with complete confidentiality. We are always looking for new volunteers; we provide training and refresh training to members who’ve been in the SVP for many years”.

DonationsDonations can be made through www.svp.ie by calling 0818 176 176; by post to SVP National Office, SVP House, 91-92 Sean McDermott Street, FREEPOST, FDN5235, D 1, DO1WV38.  All donations can be directed for use in your local

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