The year began with a 20 per cent increase in calls to the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP ) for help. This demand has continued, and despite the SVP being at a loss itself due to the pandemic (the Society had to cancel their church gate collection for a second year ), Castlebar SVP volunteers have gladly met this increased demand for help.
A particular focus for the SVP has been the ‘working poor,’ notably those in employment who have suffered due to a change in circumstances. These are the people who are unlikely to have supports like medical cards, regular welfare payments, rent supplements, Back to School and fuel allowances etc, but for whom bills continue to arrive.
Another concern for the Castlebar volunteers has been families who are trying to meet the cost of education and training. To support young people and promote education generally, Castlebar SVP established a separate conference to commit to this work.
On the upside, according to a volunteer, Castlebar SVP has helped many people with bills, particularly Electric Ireland bills. Electric Ireland established a Covid Hardship Fund to help those struggling due to the pandemic.
The SVP is the only charity Electric Ireland engaged with to administer this fund, due to the volunteers’ experience in assessing need and the great reputation this charity enjoys. How the fund works is that anyone with Electric Ireland for longer than 12 months can have a financial credit added to their account. This credit will be used against the customer’s usage and cannot be refunded as a cash amount. Credit can also be provided for electric or gas ‘Pay as You Go’ (PAYG ) meters. Customers need not be in arrears to benefit from the fund and can access this offer more than once.
The idea is that customers in need can then use the money they would have spent on their bills to pay for other necessities instead, like healthcare and education, etc. The fund closes at the end of December and, with the increased demand on volunteers for Christmas, anyone seeking to benefit from the fund should do so sooner than later.
Instead of the church gate collection, the SVP will post blue envelopes to most houses in the Castlebar area in early December. The envelope explains the different options for donating. One can, of course, always contribute to their local SVP conference at any time via the national website: www.svp.ie For anyone in need of support, feel free to contact Castlebar SVP on (094 ) 9023207 or email [email protected] in confidence.