Calls for assistance to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has reached unprecedented levels and the SVP is urging the Government not to cut the incomes and services that are a lifeline for these men, women and children.

Calls for help to the SVP regional offices have almost doubled between 2007 and 2010 and in a pre-budget submission launched today SVP National President, Mairead Bushnell says, “Ireland is facing a serious social crisis and there is a palpable worry and uncertainty among people on social welfare and low pay about the coming budget. The SVP says that the cuts to social welfare and child benefit rates to date have had a devastating impact on the people it assists. Further cuts including the proposed flat-rate annual household charge will push them further into debt and poverty – they have no more to give”.

– “For many who are struggling with poverty, debt and unemployment the future holds considerable uncertainty, and sadly their numbers continue to grow”, said Mairead Bushnell.

“We know that people in poverty cannot survive any further cuts to incomes and services. One parent families and other households with children, people living alone, migrants and some of the self-employed are particularly vulnerable”, she said.

The SVP submission entitled, ”Don’t Cut Their Lifeline” – Poverty Hurts Us All” refers to recent research on child deprivation funded by Barnardos and SVP which found that many children are now going without the essentials needed for an acceptable standard of living in childhood, such as three meals a day, their own books for reading and taking part in clubs and activities.

The submission makes 50 requests to the Government on welfare and work, education, energy, health, housing and the homelessness. These requests are mainly to preserve and protect rates and eligibility criteria.

While supporting measures to tackle and prevent social welfare fraud the SVP says that its work with individuals and families “tells us that fraud is not a widespread problem. Instead the complicated nature of the social welfare system results in anomalies, delays and barriers for individuals and families trying to access payments”. It gives an example of a married man with four children being helped by an SVP Conference. He receives Job Seekers allowance and on two occasions last year got some temporary work. Each time he informed his local Social Welfare office. In both cases his payment was cut off, including his Rent Allowance, for 4/6 weeks after the work dried up. He subsequently had an opportunity to do some further temporary work but was afraid to apply as he didn’t want to repeat the same scenario again.” He feels that the system is discouraging him for seeking work.

Last year the SVP spent €75m on direct assistance and in providing services. In terms of direct assistance the SVP has provided €16m in cash assistance, more than €9 on food, €6.7m on energy and over €4m on costs related to education.

The SVP operates 14 hostels, 15 daycare centres, 11 holiday centres, 150 shops and 66 housing schemes. And it has 10,300 volunteers active through over 1,000 home visitation Conferences as well as hospitals and prisons. In addition it provides exam revision classes, after school activities, homework clubs and breakfast clubs.