THE Enniskillen St Vincent de Paul conference (branch), in its annual report, has identified workers on low pay as, ‘the new poor’.
The report notes: “This is something that has been noticed by many SVP workers in recent times, that many of our new clients are in full-time employment but find that they are no longer able to cope.
“Salaries and wages are unchanged but living costs have increased. Many of these families have never been in need before and often don’t know where to turn to for help or advice.”
The Enniskillen president, Tom Martin told the Herald that it was a case of, ‘wait and see’ what the new Conservative government would do as regards people on benefits.
“Have the cuts really hit her yet”, he wondered.
At any rate, his SVP team (it numbers up to 017 members) are ready for the challenge and, as the report explains, while demand is constant, so too is people’s generosity.
“Our main source of income continues to be our weekly collections at St Michael’s, Enniskillen and St Mary’s Lisbellaw. “In 2014 we received almost £18,000 which was supplemented by approximately £17,000 from other donations and collections. We are very grateful to all those who have been so generous but, unfortunately, last year we spent £25,000 more than we received, so we have now become dependant on the income from the (SVP) shop to continue providing help.”
Mr Martin explained that while the conference was ‘the prime part of our activity’, the shop served to generate income. “It is run on as low a cost basis as possible. Everybody who works there is a volunteer. There’s nobody in the shop getting paid and your readers might like to know that the shop staff are a mixed community.
“Although we’re a Catholic organisation, it doesn’t stop people who is not a Catholic being a member or a helper.”
Despite its name, the Enniskillen SVP conference also looks after the parishes of Garrison and Belleek where it does not have a presence.
During 2014, the conference received almost 1,100 requests for help, of which 85 per cent were from Enniskillen parish.
Broken down by month, the stats show that the three winter months, October (95 requests), November (100) and December (441) were the busiest.
In response to proven need (each caller’s request is vetted by two SVP members), a total of £68,000 was given out, including £20,000 for food and the same amount for fuel.
Tom Martin stressed that all money donated is spent on the needy and that the members pay conference expenses out of their own pocket.
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