BY Ryan McDougall | January 4 2019 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Charities and foodbanks are ‘picking up the slack’ from government, says SSVP head

As report reveals the huge scope of SSVP Scotland’s work, president says the state is failing on poverty.

Charities are picking up the slack from government when it comes to helping the vulnerable, the head of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SSVP) Scotland said, as the group’s annual report revealed the incredible contribution of lay Catholics to the country.

Jim McKendrick, president of SSVP Scotland, said the work of Catholic charities such as the SSVP verges into what the government should be doing, and that without them the pressure on society could be overwhelming.

In the last year, SSVP Scotland members have visited the homes of more than 45,000 people, have carried out more than 10,000 hospital visits and have assisted almost 6,000 families financially, who are often in need of emergency benefits.

The charity’s work also involves providing shelter for the homeless who often have to wait for lengthy periods of time before finding accommodation.

“Often we look after the homeless until they get into hospital and when they get out they’re given a house, but there’s no furniture or food,” Mr McKendrick said.

“It’s not just us, but the food banks and other communities are picking a lot of this slack—the government should be better and more formal about doing things about it.”

Other work carried out by the SSVP last year included the opening of two rehabilitation centres to help people with drug addictions.


Crucial need

In 2019, Mr McKendrick believes the SSVP are now ‘more crucial than ever,’ echoing the words of the Ayr SSVP president, Pat Snee, who in November told the SCO that he thinks there ‘is just as much of a need now for the SSVP as there was 150 years ago’ when the Ayr branch was founded.

In 2016, a report by Oxera, one of Europe’s leading economics consultancies, found that the befriending programme of the St Vincent de Paul Society in England and Wales reduces costs to the NHS and social services and improves mental health, bringing £11 million worth of benefits to society.

“If we weren’t doing what we do then societal care would have to pick it up,” Mr McKendrick said of the report’s findings.

He added: “And the benefit system doesn’t really work properly, as people can often wait up to six weeks without any money.

“That’s the sort of norm anyway. It’s a four-week wait to evaluate their entitlement and then another two to pay them.

“It’s something that should change. Nobody should wait that long without money.”

Mr McKendrick said that in addition to helping those currently in some of the toughest situations a person can face, they are also now pushing to change the root causes of social problems.

For instance, the charity is campaigning for more employers to pay the living wage.

“Next year we want to really develop the social justice side of things,” he said.

“We want to consolidate the sort of stuff that we’re doing there and there are a number of areas that I’d like to see us doing something about.”


Gospel values

Mr McKendrick said charitable Catholic organisations carry out crucial work around the world.

“These various organisations are all trying to live out their Faith through Gospel values,” he said.

“They look at poverty needs and they try to address them through what the Gospel tells them to do.

“SCIAF, Pax Christi and Justice and Peace are more overtly addressing the causes of poverty and it’s ridiculous that they have to do so.

“But they’re all really motivated by living out these Gospel values.”


Mass transport

The SSVP last year arranged 204 caravan holidays for families who are unable to afford a break away.

The charity also revealed in their annual report that they transported almost 38,000 people to Mass last year.

Next year they hope to be able to provide breaks abroad for families, in order to give people the opportunity to see parts of the world they may otherwise never be able to afford to travel to.

2020 will mark 175 years since the SSVP began its work in Scotland.

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