Major Charities Close to Breaking Point

Leading charities are warning that they are almost at breaking point in the face of unprecedented demand for their services. With Christmas now approaching, it is expected that this demand will only increase.

With the much antipated budget now confirmed for 9 December, Focus Ireland, Barnardos and the ISPCC have all reported a massive drop in donations (as much as 20%), along with a massive rise in the number of people calling on their assistance.

National president of the Saint Vincent de Paul (SVP), Mairead Bushnell, has described the levels of despair and desperation that SVP volunteers are encountering on a daily basis. With people facing insurmountable debts and struggling to make ends meet in this economic climate, Bushnell has accused the Government of being out of touch with the struggles of low and middle income families today.

"Every new proposal or suggestion to solve our economic problems targets low and middle income earners. While at the same time money can be found to bail out the banks and pay huge salaries and bonuses," Ms Bushnell told a recent SVP conference. "We put food on the table, heat in the home and help children remain in school. But we are volunteers with neither the skills nor capacity to solve all of the problems of those in huge debt or in psychological distress brought on by the loss of their jobs or the shortage of money."

Head of SVP, Professor John Monaghan, has also spoken of the grave concerns over whether or not the charity’s main source of income – its annual appeal at the end of November – would be enough to fund those services now so in demand. "This is what carries us through the year, but people who used to contribute are now the ones looking for help," he said.

Similarly, Mark Mellett, director of fundraising at Focus Ireland, has commented on the struggle the charity is currently facing to keep up with the surge in demand for its service. The housing and homeless charity worked with 5,500 people in 2008, yet by the end of the first six months of 2009, the number of people the charity was working with had already risen to 4,000.

There is a similarly daunting story at the Irish Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC), where the director of services, Caroline O'Sullivan, has been quoted in the national press as saying that drops in the organisations income were putting "severe strain" on its ability to provide services to children and families across the country.

"Families nationwide are under increasing pressure and as a result, more are seeking support," she said. "This, coupled with fundraising in the current economic climate, has placed a strain on the ISPCC’s ongoing ability to provide a service for all children who need it."

Echoing these concerns, Director of marketing and fundraising with Barnardos, Ruth Guy, has also been quoted as saying that if the organisations budget deficit continued into next year it would have to look at curtailing or cutting projects as "a worst-case scenario".

Lise Alford of the 3Ts suicide prevention charity said that funding cuts were putting a real strain on the ability to deliver frontline services. "There has never been a greater need than now," Alford said. "All suicide support services are reporting a 20%-25% increase in calls. Instead of cutting funding, it needs to sustain funding going forward."
Meanwhile, figures released from the Department of Social and Family Affairs have revealed that almost 200,000 people are now receiving weekly emergency welfare payments to help with mortgage payments and basic needs such as food, clothing and heat.