A record 228,301 calls for help were made to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SVP) in 2022 and there was a further increase in January of this year.
The 2022 figure represents a 19.5 per cent increase on 2021 and already this year some SVP regions are experiencing a similar increase over the same period last year, the charity claims.
Calls for help with energy and utilities to the Society were up almost 40 per cent in 2022, and first-time callers grew by 24 per cent. Households with children accounted for 66 per cent of those requests – with 45 per cent of all requests coming from one-parent families.
SVP head of social justice and policy Dr Tricia Keilthy said that the society called for a €20 weekly increase in social welfare rates in Budget 2023 to keep individuals’ incomes standing still as the cost of living increased rapidly.
Increasing core social welfare rates by a further €8 is required to ensure those on the lowest incomes are not pulled further into poverty, SVP said.
“As the Government is considering the future of the current cost-of-living package and what supports can be continued, or new ones introduced, we strongly urge targeted support to households in crisis. Government can no longer rely on short term responses to what are longer term problems.” said Dr Keilthy.
She added: “With increasing numbers seeking help, not only from SVP, but also from other charities and applications for Additional Needs Payments to Community Welfare Officers (CWO) around the country at a record level, it is clear that the number of families struggling needs to be addressed.”
Looking ahead, SVP is calling on Government to set the basic rate of social welfare at a Minimum Essential Standard of Living.
This would be a floor, under which no one would be expected to live and where everyone could afford the essentials to live and participate in Irish society.