A charity has been supporting a significant number of Cork families in recent weeks as they struggle to meet the cost of communion and confirmation bills.
South West Regional Co-ordinator for the Society of St Vincent de Paul, Gerry Garvey said they are now helping more middle-class families than ever who are trying to keep their poverty a secret from friends and neighbours. This is in addition to families who have consistently availed of the service.
Mr Garvey said they have been dealing with well in excess of 100 families, in Cork city alone, unable to pay for communion and confirmation celebrations. The charity typically provides assistance for parents funding communions early in the year. However, the late onset of communion season means they have had to tap into funds at a time when demand for their services is already high.
Mr Garvey said that while the summer months are mostly quiet for the charity, winter brings about significant challenges in the form of fuel and electricity expenses. He added that much of the time, the most difficult part of dealing with poverty for families is the stigma it brings.
"Many sectors were doing badly before the pandemic but Covid has been the cliff edge for people."
Some of the families the charity is dealing with were comfortable financially before finding themselves in arrears.
"So many have lost jobs and businesses who were struggling even before Covid hit. The PUP was keeping them going. The biggest fear for people is that others will find out that things aren't good for them. We can only imagine how difficult it must be for people in these situations to share this kind of information."
He said that denying children communion celebrations should not have to be an option for families.
"They need to mark this occasion in some way because the alternative means depriving the child of very important memories. People struggling financially have the right to mark this occasion like any other child would."
Mr Garvey continued: "People are often afraid to admit this is happening because they feel like a failure in some way.
The anti-poverty advocate explained why charities like SVP are so important during communion season: "You are creating memories that people will have for the rest of their lives. It's a lovely feeling to know that families are able to enjoy the basics."