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Big jump in calls to SVP for help in wake of COVID-19 closures

By Cian Molloy - 05 April, 2020

"Our fear is that the impact of the pandemic will be most acute for individuals and families already living in poverty," said SVP president Kieran Stafford.

There has been a big jump in calls for help to the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP), which has received some 15,000 pleas for assistance in March, with COVID-19 measures frequently cited as a cause of financial distress and other hardships.

There have been some harrowing messages received with a lot of people experiencing stress, anxiety and dealing with social isolation,” said SVP national president Kieran Stafford.

Many people who were in ‘precarious’, or part-time, work and who are now laid-off for the duration of the emergency are struggling to pay household bills, even when they have access to some state supports, says the society.

Other vulnerable groups include: Lone parents feeling particularly socially isolated and struggling to pay for gas, electricity and food as a result of school closures; Single adults living alone, with health conditions and in receipt of disability payments, are worried about isolation and their ability to pay the bills; and there are pensioners living alone at home all day who are now unable to afford to keep their homes warm.

“We are continuing to work with and advise government through the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection as well as utility companies, on ways to alleviate the worst effect on those struggling financially, in particular lone parents who have been finding the additional cost associated with children out of school, isolation, reduction in employment and creche closures,” said Mr Stafford.

“We are also working with the HSE, Department of Health, Local Authorities and other organisations. Many of our members are active in local community support groups which have been formed around the country.”

Overall, requests for help from the SVP are up on average by 10% for the first three months of the year. More than 44,000 people have reached out to the Society for help with basics like food and fuel.

Mr Stafford said: “Our fear is that the impact of the pandemic will be most acute for individuals and families already living in poverty and that they will be joined by thousands more in the coming weeks as the unemployment rate is expected to reach 17%.

“We are also extremely grateful for the donations we have received from members of the public as our shops and church gate and general collections have stopped.”

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