MITCHELSTOWN VINCENT DE PAUL COUNTS THE COST OF DOWNTURN
As the economic crisis takes hold, the staff and volunteers at St Vincent de Paul are dealing with more and more people needing their help.
In Mitchelstown, at the St Vincent de Paul facility based at the Ozanam Centre, the organisation is counting the cost of the downturn in the economy, the recent budget and the Christmas season. Liam Roche, vice-president outlined the society’s struggles over the last few years.
“2010 has come and gone but for many it has been a year that will remain in people’s minds unfortunately, not for any particularly good reason. For those of us whose privilege it is to help families that encounter financial or other problems, it is heart-rending to see so many young people struggle to keep their basic utility bills up to date.
“The weeks leading up to Christmas, in particular, were very revealing. While there may have been an element of ‘jump on the bandwagon’, one could not but be touched by the pressure and stress young people were enduring to provide the most basic of the basics for their families.”
ALL TIME HIGH
“Our requests for help, not only in Mitchelstown, where unemployment must be a factor, but also throughout the entire Cork region, was at an all time high. Fortunately, our appeals were heard and like the requests, the generosity of donations to our society was also unprecedented. Our sincere thanks to those who gave so generously,” Mr Roche said.
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE NOW TURNING TO THE SOCIETY FOR HELP?
Liam Roche again takes up the story: “There are many young people, indeed in most cases, very capable young people, who bought into the dream of owning their own homes at prices, which subsequently transpired to be totally artificial and inflated.
"Their dreams very quickly turned into horror stories when their jobs, which at an earlier stage looked well capable of repaying mortgages of two hundred thousand euro plus, were no longer there. Most of these people now find themselves surviving on Job Seekers Allowance with 50 - 70% of their income committed towards their mortgage.”
“We, in the St Vincent de Paul Society, cannot address problems of this magnitude but we can help by knocking a slice off the ESB or gas bill, thereby preventing disconnection that would leave a family in darkness and, of course, a resulting reconnection fee to an already overdue account.
"Indeed our sincere thanks must go to the ESB, Airtricity and An Bord Gais for their tolerance by not disconnecting customers during the month of December. However, this doesn’t mean the problem is gone away, it has merely deferred it to January,” Mr Roche continued.
FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS TO BLAME SO, WHO IS TO BLAME?
“In very simple terms, our financial institutions came to realise the property business was taking off and the more money they had out on loan the greater the profits they were making.
"As highlighted in Shane Ross’s book, The Bankers, they actually employed the services of economists not particularly to advise them or their customers, but to deliver the bank’s line (here is the money) to the media and to do so without upsetting the Government.”
“Estate agents too, were not found wanting in driving the upbeat agenda forward. Our society are now meeting many of the victims of this uncontrolled greed. Injustice and greed are strong words but if the cap fits, then we should wear it.
"For many decades those of us who were fortunate enough to have jobs enjoyed annual income increases. These increases have been practically 100% percentage based and while the principal of narrowing the gap between the well off and the less well off has always been acknowledged, in reality every time an increase was granted the gap widened.
"Take the simple example of a national increase of 10%, the person on an income of €100,000 receives an increase of €10,000 whereas the person on €10,000 receives an increase of €1000. Difference €9,000,” Liam Roche continued.
THE SAME PRICE
“Still, they both pay the same price for their loaf of bread, their bottle of milk or their gallon of petrol. Benchmarking, which I feel has been the injustice of our generation, has widened this gap further in the direction of the North and South Poles. The progression of these policies over the last four decades coupled with a total absence of financial regulation or control has left us with a very selfish and unjust society,” Mr Roche said.
Did the recent budget add to the problems faced by the St Vincent De Paul in Mitchelstown?
“The pre December budget discussions were also very revealing. An enormous amount of radio and television time was devoted to the subject. As our politicians, union representatives, reporters and those representing various groupings tried to take scores, it had the effect of giving much focus on incomes. Incomes of two, three, four, five hundred thousand euro and far beyond are no longer seen as abnormal. These figures do not include bonuses or expenses.
"Undoubtedly, there are many in our society who could take a hit of 50% at this level without having a huge impact on their lifestyle. However, if I could make a suggestion for the new year, let it be that we spare a thought or a prayer for the family on €20,000/25,000 or less with more than 50% committed to paying a bank loan for several years to come,” Mr Roche concluded.
The Mitchelstown Society of St Vincent de Paul and indeed nationwide will continue to offer support in our communities and we must be thankful that this help is available to everybody. For more information contact the Society of St Vincent de Paul in Mitchelstown at 025-84733.
Thursday 13th January 5:57pm