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Extra support needed for those already under stress, say charities

By Ann Marie Foley - 26 March, 2020

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has welcomed the increase in the state’s COVID-19 payment, but said that those already living in poverty will struggle without additional support.

“In the coming weeks, we expect to see an increased demand for our support as families find themselves in financial stress and hardship,” said Kieran Stafford, National President, SVP. “It is important that sufficient preventative measures are put in place so that families don’t fall deeper into poverty. Taking the right steps now will reduce demands on supports and services in future.”

His colleague Dr Tricia Keilthy, Head of Social Justice, SVP, stated: “If it [COVID-19 payment] is combined with an adequate and accessible form of rent supplement, many individuals and families will be prevented from falling into poverty in the coming weeks.”

The new payment is available to people who recently lost their jobs as a result of  COVID-19 related business closures. However, SVP points out that there was no announcement about increasing the rate of Jobseekers Allowance, pensions, disability payment and child payments.

“People in receipt of social welfare and living below the poverty line will be faced with additional energy, food and healthcare costs during the crisis, yet there are no additional income measures to support them,” said Dr Keilthy. “People in poverty are more likely to be in poor health, have a disability, or to be caring for others, so it is vital additional supports are provided during the crisis to keep them afloat.”

The charity recommended that the government provide:

– a temporary top-up payment to the poorest children (€30 per week for children over 12 and €15 per week for children under 12) to help families with the additional costs of food, heating, educational resources and indoor social activities associated with school closures.

– an extension of the Fuel Allowance period to the end of April.

– double social welfare payment to help households on limited weekly incomes to purchase the supplies they need during COVID-19 restrictions.

Separately this week, the Barnardos children’s charity issued an urgent appeal to the public for help through the COVID-19 crisis.

The children’s charity is currently working with 1,580 families and another 600 are waiting for help. The charity has had to adapt to ensure it can continue to work with children who were already in very vulnerable circumstances.

“Barnardos is rapidly adapting to meet the new needs of families,” said Mary Gamble, Barnardos Director of Fundraising. “The families we work with, who were already living in stressful situations, are now experiencing a pressure cooker effect – children are living with domestic abuse, parental mental health challenges, neglect, acrimonious separation and family breakdown and addiction – now with no escape.”

These families are also in need of food, nappies and other essential items that they would have received on visiting Barnardos centres. The charity wants to continue providing these practical supports, but also support such as advice for people on establishing and maintaining routines. It is compiling and distributing activity packs for children.

“This gives us an opportunity to physically see children who require high levels of support in the home environment – giving us vital ‘eyes on the child’,” stated Mary Gamble.

The charities need donations during this time of crisis.

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