Charity pays funeral cost for families in debt

ONE of Ireland’s biggest charities is paying for more funerals — many of them due to suicide — as growing numbers of households buckle under financial strain.

Launching its Christmas appeal yesterday, St Vincent de Paul (SVP) said now was “a time of tremendous despair”, reflected in rises of up to 50% in calls to their offices looking for help.

SVP national vice-president John Monaghan strongly criticised Finance Minister Brian Lenihan for targeting cuts to social welfare and the minimum wage in the forthcoming budget.

Speaking at the launch, Ryan Tubridy said he and 2FM set up Tubridy’s Toys for Tubs Appeal after he read “painful real stories” of people helped by SVP in the Irish Examiner earlier this month.

Mr Monaghan said a disturbing development was emerging. “Another unfortunate side-effect is, sadly, we are being asked to pay for a lot more funerals than we ever had to do in the past. The really harrowing thing is that many of them are to do with suicides or drug-related deaths.”

SVP president Mairead Bushnell said events like deaths in the family are what often tip struggling households over the edge.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people on low incomes who manage heroically from one end of the week to another, but events knock the whole system out and the events tragically include funerals, but they could also be a new baby, a Confirmation, back to school, Christmas. That knocks the meager budget.”

She added: “People are in a very dark place now, a lot of people.

“Calls for assistance to our offices are absolutely unprecedented — 50% some places, 35% in others.”

She said while Christmas was a difficult time for many families, the week after Christmas these families “have absolutely nothing — down to a slice pan”.

Mr Monaghan said the headlines at the moment were “bailouts and the IMF” and added: “We are talking about real people, people who woke up this morning worried what was going to happen for the rest of the day and how were they going to get through.”

He said SVP spent €53m in 2008 and €66m in 2009. With calls up, he said they would be spending more this year. He expressed concern that online donations were down in November.

Ryan Tubridy said his toy appeal — all of which goes to SVP — was “a lovely accident”, sparked after he read out examples of SVP cases from the Irish Examiner on his radio show.

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