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Catholics must fight ‘indifference to the poor,’ retiring SSVP head says

Scotland’s Catholics must fight society’s growing ‘indifference’ to the poor, the retiring head of SSVP Scotland has said. — By Matt Meade

Jim McKendrick said the plight of struggling families has grown worse over the last five years as austerity measures continue to bite.

He also believes the growing crisis of loneliness among the elderly has to be tackled.

Mr McKendrick (right) made the comments as he steps down as national president of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SSVP) in Scotland after five years at the helm.

He said: “People always used to put money in a beggar’s cap, but now too often people will walk past them.

“There seems to be more of an indifference. Members of our society also see a lot of family poverty, because of low earnings.

“For example, people who have been made redundant and have to wait to get onto Universal Credit.

“That means they have no money for six weeks despite having maybe two or three of a family to feed. To some extent the rules create some of the poverty.”


Worsens with age

Last month, the SCO revealed that SSVP members financially assisted almost 6,000 families in 2018, many of whom needed emergency benefits.

They also visited the homes of more than 45,000 people.

Mr McKendrick, an SSVP member for around 40 years at St John’s in Stevenston, Ayrshire, added: “Loneliness is a big problem which will obviously get worse as people grow older.

“There’s now about 50 per cent of people living in single households on their own.”

Mr McKendrick, a former accountancy lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, will step down from his role this month.

As president he has travelled across the country to spearhead members’ vital work to help fight poverty in their communities.

He praised the charity’s ‘special work’ initiatives, including Ozanam Clubs for the disabled, Mini Vinnies youth groups and the Rendu Project, which supports hearing impaired adults.

He also paid tribute to hardworking members and said: “The number of hours that members put in to provide 45,000 visits to people’s homes in one year is astounding.

“I’ve been impressed with their dedication, enthusiasm and love of the society.”

SSVP Scotland office manager Jacqueline Laird thanked Mr McKendrick for his years leading the society. “Jim is a valued and respected Vincentian and I have been privileged to work closely with him,” she said.

“He brought a wealth of professional experience to the role of National President.

“I have been struck by how his work always integrates the spirituality and history of the Society, which is rare.

“It is reflective of Jim’s care and concern for those most in need that he will continue his Vincentian work as Chair of Trustees for The Louise Project at The Space, Govanhill (www.spaceglasgow.org.uk).

A new president of the SSVP Scotland will be elected on February 16.

  • To find out more about the work of the charity visit ssvpscotland.com


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