A large number of households in Galway are currently in “desperate” circumstances and will be forced to turn to moneylenders as a result of any decrease in social welfare payments in the upcoming budget.
That’s according to Val McNicholas of St Vincent de Paul, who told the Galway Independent this week that they had seen an 48 per cent in the number of local residents seeking their help over the last 12 months.
Mr McNicholas, who is the Area President with the charity, said that households would be further pushed into poverty by any further reductions to lifeline funding.
“As the recession has lengthened, it has made it more difficult for people because they have used up any spare cash they might have had in the form of savings and so on and they are now down really at the bottom of the well,” he said.
“People are living from week to week and have come into organisations like St Vincent de Paul because they are finding it so difficult as things stand at the moment. Any reduction whatsoever will make it even more difficult from them to survive. It’s not as if they have any disposable income, basically everything that they get goes to keep body and soul together for themselves and their children.”
Mr McNicholas said that local meetings had shown that families are currently struggling to pay for basic necessities and many would be forced turn to moneylenders over the Christmas period to meet the expectations of the festive season.
“We would be making the same case as many other associations, which is that those who can pay should be those required to pay. Those who need help from St Vincent de Paul certainly cannot afford to pay. It’s not as if they are spending their money on booze and cigarettes and other luxuries. People are really desperate and particularly at this time of year, when fuel increases start to hit and they cannot afford to buy coal, oil and pay their electricity bill.
“Everyone has increased expenditure at Christmas, because kids don’t understand that their parents don’t have the money. So unfortunately people do go to moneylenders and those moneylenders charge absolutely absurd rates of interest, which of course is just putting people further into the vicious circle of poverty.”
He added that support services and financial help is still available from agencies such as St Vincent de Paul and urged anyone experiencing difficulty to get in touch.
“They need to try and budget as effectively as they can, spend their money on essentials and come to organisations like St Vincent de Paul that are here to help them. Despite the pressure on us, we are here to help, we still have money and thankfully the good citizens of Galway continue to contribute because they know the money is being spent locally. The message we would really like to put out there is that we are here and we can help.”
St Vincent de Paul West Region office can be contacted on 093-26293 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.