Last year the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SVP) received just over a quarter of a million calls for help to its regional offices and local Conferences throughout the country.
This was a 10% increase in the calls for help received in 2022.
The bulk of the calls, just over 90,000 (36%), requested help with food.
Energy and utility bills was another area of need with almost 20,000 calls received, while another 33,000 calls were from people struggling with both food and energy costs when they reached out to SVP for help.
Calls increased at specific times of the year with just over 34,000 from families who needed help at Christmas.
Back to school costs, third level costs, household goods, furniture, clothing, support with health related costs, issues with mortgages and rent or funeral expenses made up the majority of the remaining 77,000 calls.
In the region of 30,000 people sought SVP help for the first time in 2023.
SVP points to the CSO Survey of Income and Living Conditions which shows there are just over 875,000 people experiencing basic deprivation which means going without essentials such as adequate nutrition, warm clothing and heating.
Rose McGowan SVP National President said "Only a portion of people living in poverty and deprivation approach SVP for help and we know how hard it is to make that first call. But our support is here in a confidential and non-judgemental way and the only criteria for help is need. It is important to recognise that behind each of these statistics is a person or a family trying to tread water in a sea of rising living costs. The mental toll on people of ongoing financial difficulties, poverty and lack of certainty about the future is to the forefront of our work in communities.
“Despite the additional cost-of-living support payments made by the Government, there are many people who continue to struggle to meet basic family expenses. Our main concern at the moment is the number of households in arrears on their gas bills or those who cannot afford an oil fill. With another cold snap on the way, we are worried this situation will get worse as people try to manage debt and current usage costs.”
Dr. Tricia Keilthy, SVP Head of Social Justice said: “While reductions in energy prices as well as food prices in the coming months are welcome, the cost of living crisis is far from over for people in poverty. Low pay, lack of income supports, rising housing costs and homelessness, unaffordable childcare and lack of transport are just some of the challenges we are facing.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, we know with the right policies Government can make a difference. For example, in September calls for help to SVP with back to school costs fell due to the free school books scheme and the increase in the back to school allowance. We hope to see a similar impact when free books at junior cycle are rolled out.
The Government has committed to reduce consistent poverty to 2% or less by 2025 and the rate stood at 5.3% on 2022. To reach this target we need to see in 2024, a move towards benchmarking our social protection system to what people need to live, increased investment in education across the life cycle, better pay, training and employment supports to address in-work poverty, and significant strides by the Child Poverty Unit in the Department of An Taoiseach to set us on a path to ending child poverty.”