Families struggling with education costs putting extra pressure on Vincent de Paul resources

Eamonn Lacey

Eamonn Lacey

Calls for assistance to St. Vincent de Paul in Clonmel have increased by 30% this year with pleas for help dramatically increasing from self employed people and families struggling to fund third level education costs.

Vincent de Paul in Clonmel has spent up to €500,000 providing assistance to struggling families in the last twelve months and spent another €200,000 in a special education fund.

Kieran Stafford, the Clonmel based regional president of VdP, said the seven conferences in Clonmel were having to deal with far more complex cases.

Huge problems have arisen in the areas of the self employed and education, apart altogether from the demand placed on the organisation in the traditional food and energy supports for families struggling to cope with the economic crash.

Mr Stafford said that they were having to deal with a substantial increase in calls for assistance from the self employed who when things turn against them have tremendous difficulty accessing social welfare supports.

“There are huge debt issues among the self employed and when income falls or a business goes people are having difficulty accessing social welfare. they can be waiting months due to the prolonged decision and appeal system in place,” said Mr Stafford.

The Clonmel VdeP member said that this was a category of people who had never presented themselves at the door of the organisation before.

“They find themselves in a very difficult situation, a very traumatic time for families. These are business people who now find themselves in a very unfamiliar situation. People are going from a situation where they have enough money to pay all their bills and then their income has disappeared and they are trying to adjust with little or no income and it is a huge shock,” he said.

Mr Stafford said that in Clonmel there were seven branches of Vincent de Paul, including a special branch set up to deal specifically with education costs. To date this year Vincent de Paul has spent €200,000 on education costs, the vast majority of which, approximately €175,000 has gone on third level education costs.

“There has been a massive increase in appeals for help in relation to third level costs because families with income around €40,000 are struggling to meet the costs because the partial grant they get is just not enough on top of their bills for mortgages and other debts,”

He said they have come across cases in Clonmel where parents had to tell their children not to fill out the CAO forms because they could not afford to send them to college.

“These would be parents where their income has fallen or one of them has lost a job and the costs of sending a family member to university is just too high,” he said.

He said the VdP in Clonmel were trying to address the third level issue in a small and measured way by providing €1,000 or €2,000 to try and help but sometimes that was not enough to make the difference between sending somebody to college or not.

He appealed to the government to increase the thresholds for access to the grants for accommodation/ maintenance and registration fees.

Clonmel Vincent de Paul will be launching their annual Christmas appeal at the end of this month and have appealed to the Government prior to the budget not to take decisions that will inflict more suffering on struggling families.

“Our priority in the budget is to try and protect social welfare recipients and we hope that payments are not reduced and we want the government not to make it even more difficult for middle class families are who are finding it hard to survive any more difficult,” he said.

A major funraiser for St.Vincent de Paul in Clonmel will take place at the Park Hotel on Friday, November 25. Proceeds from the double Johnny Cash and Cliff Richard tribute bill will go to the Vincent de Paul’s seven branches in the Clonmel.(See details of concert on Page 25).