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Families forced to make a choice between ‘heat or eat’

November 28th, 2022 3:00 PM

By Brian Moore

SVP said more people than ever are forced to contact them for the first time, for help this winter.

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IT’S a case of ‘heat or eat’ for many West Cork families this winter, according to a local charity.

‘We are experiencing over 1,500 calls a week from people in the south west region who are struggling to make ends meet,’ Gerry Garvey, south west regional co-ordinator of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) told The Southern Star.

‘People are panicking, especially when it comes to energy costs and the increase in food prices, it really is a case of heat, or eat,’ he said.

The SVP south west region, covering both Cork and Kerry, has logged a 30% increase in the numbers of calls from people right across the region, this winter.

‘We had a call from one lady, who has a machine that she needs to help her breathing and she was afraid to turn this on because of the electricity costs,’ Mr Garvey said.

‘This is extremely dangerous and we feel that there could be many more people in this situation out there. We want to let people know that we are here to help.’

He said the charity was also seeing an increase in the number of people calling on them for the first time.

‘These are people, many with full-time jobs, who would never have considered reaching to out for help before and this is solely due to the increase in energy, fuel, food and rent costs,’ he said.

‘We are stretched, but we are doing all we can to support people who need help. We are gearing up for one of the most difficult periods for the south west region in many years,’ Mr Garvey continued.

‘Energy costs are crippling, but unfortunately that’s not the only issue. The rising cost of food has also impacted our funds, and we need to ensure that we increase the food vouchers we provide in accordance with the cost of living and the heightened food prices.’

He said the overriding theme that SVP is seeing this year is that, in addition to struggling and vulnerable people, the cost-of-living crisis is pushing full-time lower income workers further into poverty. ‘We are receiving calls from people who are in despair every day because they are struggling massively to cope with basic living expenses,’ Mr Garvey said.

However, it is not only the SVP who have seen an increase in the numbers of people looking for support.

‘This is going to be a very tough winter for many families in West Cork,’ said Jessie Anthony of money and budget advice organisation Mabs, which has offices in Dunmanway.

‘We have people contacting us who never expected to be in a position where they are struggling to pay, not only their mortgages, but also utilities and other day-to-day costs.’

‘We could see the concerns many families had as they saw the cost of living increases back as early as August and September last, and many more can see that this winter is going to be very tough.

‘We want everyone to know that we offer a free service. My advice is don’t let your difficulties spiral out of control, contact us sooner rather than later,’ Ms Anthony said.

The annual SVP south west car draw 2022 was launched this week and is a key fundraising event for the region, with tickets and free post return envelopes delivered to every household in Cork and Kerry and the added option of buying tickets online. Donations are also welcome through both channels.

Raffle tickets are €5 each from www.galabid.com/SVPcardraw  or contact SVP at Ozanam House, 2 Tuckey Street, Cork.

The final date for entries is  Friday January 6th.

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