EDITORIAL: How well off are we in reality?

January 13th, 2019 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team


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NOW that the Christmas spending splurge has abated, people who succumbed to impulse purchases using credit cards or other loans will be counting the cost in the coming weeks and months as the repayments fall due. The commercial monstrosity that the festive season has spawned over the years has increased expectations, which makes people feel they have to spend more to fulfil them and many stretch themselves too far financially. 

Most can handle it, but there is an increasing number of families that need to seek help; the St Vincent de Paul Society said that it got a greater-than-anticipated number of calls in lead-up to Christmas and that it does not expect a slowdown in the calls for help it will receive in 2019. SVP was expecting to receive about 50,000 calls for help over the winter months, however that number was almost reached in November and December alone, so it will be exceeded very early in the new year. 

In spite of all the government ‘spin’ about how much the economy has improved in recent years, it is clear that the rising tide is not lifting all boats, as SVP reports that calls for help to the Society are now over 130,000 a year, about 11% more than five years ago. 

National president of SVP Kieran Stafford confirmed that, while the improvement in the economy is welcome, it has not improved conditions for everyone, adding that ‘our 11,500 members in every county in Ireland who visit families in their homes see the stark reality behind the statistics for thousands.’

Help with the costs of food, fuel, education and utility bills remain the highest number of requests it receives from families struggling on inadequate incomes. However, SVP is getting more calls than ever from people unable to meet growing costs of private rental accommodation so expensive has it become in all parts of the country.

Mr Stafford also said that people who struggle to make ends meet week in and week out are often chastised for their circumstances, particularly if they are homeless or out of work

through no fault of their own: ‘Often those who ask for help are viewed as somehow the cause of their own misfortune.’

It is totally disingenuous – insulting even – to blame people on low wages for their circumstances, given that so many are on the minimum wage with little job security, trying to make what is regarded as a living wage an impossibility. It is adding to the two-tier nature of our society by driving a further wedge between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’ Unfortunately, the people in the latter category bear the brunt of the inequality as they depend on public services that are almost dysfunctional especially in the areas of health and housing.

This is not the kind of society that the founding fathers of our nation aspired to and the current government needs to step up to the mark to improve people’s lot, otherwise they will be on the receiving end of a backlash from disgruntled voters.

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