ST Vincent De Paul has been facing mounting pressure as its regional offices deal with 30 calls an hour from parents struggling with back-to-school costs.
It comes amid a cost-of-living crisis aggravating struggles for families across Cork. Calls to SVP offices across the country have risen by almost 20% compared to last year.
Representatives from the charity expressed concern about the extreme pressure being placed on household budgets. South-west regional coordinator Gerry Garvey described the palpable worry he is seeing.
“On top of the back-to-school costs, we have families ringing us in a blind panic to make sure that we would still be able to give out coal in the winter in light of the price hikes.”
“We are telling people to contact us again at the start of October when the coal list is open. All we can do is reassure people that-in spite of the high price of fuel-it will still be provided to those who need it.”
He highlighted the difficulties for those calling. “If you exhausted every loan and every credit card it is still going to take you time before you pick up the phone to call a charity. Sometimes people agonise about this for as long as a week before finally making the call.
“We are having parents opting to go hungry themselves just so their children can eat. Others are not eating because they will end up on the street if they don’t pay rent. Rent is soaking up such a huge percentage of people’s income now that there isn’t anything left.”
“People are often so self-conscious when it comes to charity that they will ask for help for their children and not for themselves. It’s only when you are engaged in conversation with a person that you realise there is a lot more going on than was initially divulged.”
The Budget 2023 measures SVP are advocating for include the expansion of free schoolbooks to all primary and secondary school students, at a cost of €40m. They are also seeking increased supports for children experiencing educational disadvantage in non-DEIS schools, with a proposed €4m educational equality fund.
“Parents tell us that by the time the bills are paid they have little, or nothing left to buy food, and are struggling to pay for schoolbooks and uniforms as well as requests [for] parent contributions,” Rose McGowan, SVP national president said.
“Many parents tell us that they feel they are failing their children by not being able to cover the increasing costs at back-to-school time. This has a huge impact on parents’ mental health and well-being.”
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