The St. Vincent de Paul Society has said it will need an extra 10m this year if it is to meet rising demands for help from embattled families.

On 1st December 2008, the Society has launched its annual report and annual Christmas appeal, saying it is receiving an unprecedented level of requests for assistance.

Rising food, energy and school costs are the main problems being encountered by families squeezed by the recession.

The organisation’s National President, Mairad Bushnell, said it would have to spend over 50m this year to help people in need and needed 10m in donations now if it is to service the extra requests it is receiving.

“In the first nine months this year calls for help’ are up 37 per cent in Dublin, 36 per cent in Cork and 30 per cent in the mid-west,” she revealed.

“Most other areas are under huge pressure too and in some areas, two in every three calls are coming from families with children and more than one in four calls are from people who never had to use our services before,” Ms Bushnell added.

“And now as recession bites with unemployment up and projected to hit over 8 per cent next year we’re seeing a growing sense of fear and hopelessness”.

She said many people needed assistance with basic outgoings such as heat and food – a situation the Society had not encountered for more than a decade.

Ms Bushnell criticised the recent Budget which, she said gave “minimal” increases in welfare, pensions and fuel allowances which were wiped out by rising prices.

And she said it was not enough for the St Vincent DePaul Society to provide money, food, clothes and social housing to people in financial distress. “We must also offer people real hope that their dreams, aspirations and potential can be realised”.

Ms Bushnell said while the Society could help with basic expenses, many people had huge debts and were referred to the Money Advice and Budgeting Service, which has also been inundated with enquiries.

She urged people to contact her Society rather than using unlicensed money lenders for funds to tide them over.

National director Kieran Murphy echoed Ms Bushnell’s comments, describing the rise in the number of people seeking help as “staggering” and even worse than in the 1980s.

“The1980s were different – the downturn was not as rapid as in recent months and people were not as burdened with debt as many are now,” he remarked.

St. Vincent DePaul has 9,500 volunteers who made some 300,000 visits to people’s homes in 2007, giving an estimated 2.8 million hours of their time.

The Society’s current annual expenditure of 46.2m has risen by 9 per cent in the past year.

This year’s annual appeal week runs from December 7th to 14th and collections will be taken up throughout the country on SVP Sunday, December 14th.

Further information

see the Society’s website, www.svp.ie