Fiacre Hensey confirmed yesterday Clare’s largest voluntary organisation has seen a doubling in the distribution of Christmas hampers to people in need in the past couple of years.
Mr Hensey said many of the hampers, containing essential food stuffs, were given to what he termed the “new poor”.
He said: “These are people, frankly speaking, who have never experienced want or need. There are the younger families who have kids born into plenty but have hefty mortgages and can’t repay them.”
He said: “Many came to us for hampers at Christmas. You could readily see that these people have never asked for something before in their lives. They are so happy to get a helping hand because they don’t know how they are going to cope. They are the new poor, totally uncomfortable with it and no experience of it.”
Clarecare is the county’s largest voluntary organisation employing 500, providing services to 10% of the country’s over-65 population and a variety of other services to people on the margins. “For older people, people who have lived through the 1980s, they are more able to manage these problems. The ‘new poor’ are the most vulnerable. Other people who have always been poor — which is a sad fact of life — are better at coping and better able to handle the situation.”
Mr Hensey said: “I think it is going to get really serious andI don’t think the economic situation has bottomed out in any way; we are a long way from the bottom there.”
He also expressed concern yesterday as to how the organisation will continue to be able to provide the same level of service in the face of cuts and increased pressure on services.
“The last three years for Clarecare have been particularly difficult. That is largely due to two things: the major one is funding and we would have taken hits on funding in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and it is very difficult to sustain the level of services as the level of funding goes down.”
He added: “It is ironic that, for certain services, the demand goes up at the same time when funding goes down. We have not to date cut our services even though our funding has been hit. That is really down to the goodwill of staff and the ethos of Clarecare.” He warned: “There is a limit as to how long that can be sustained”.
Mr Hensey said Clarecare’s funding was cut 3% cut in 2009, 7% in 2010 and 3% in 2011.
“There is no reason to suspect that there won’t be a 3% cut or something like that next year,” he said.
Meanwhile, Clarecare’s staff had a wage freeze in 2009 and cuts of 3% in 2010 and 2011.