THE President of St Vincent De Paul in Clare has said the dysfunctional rental market is causing huge issues for many families.
This week it emerged that the average rent sought for residential accommodation in the county exceeds €1,000 per month and St Vincent De Paul is seeing the impact the red hot market is having on people around the county.
Denis Carty told The Clare Champion, “Obviously a lot of the people that come to us for support would be living in private rented accommodation and the cost would be a big issue for them.
“It has had a really bad impact on a lot of people, they have had to move out of Ennis or other towns to get accommodation and the accommodation isn’t of a great standard. It adds to their transport costs and to their heating costs.
“For people who are driving, the cars are much more expensive to run and to repair. It’s kind of a vicious circle for people we support.”
Children’s lives are being badly affected by the instability in the renal sector, with their parents having to take them out of schools where they are settled.
“If you have children they’ll have to go to a different school. There’s a cost for those children too in breaking up their friendships, their social connections, their school supports, all that kind of thing.
“We come across people in precarious situations, either homeless or staying with family or friends. Sometimes they are a long way from the school the children are registered in, so getting there is very expensive, so that’s a big issue.
“One of our conferences is working with a family that are working, they’re on a low income and they’re just above the threshold for social housing. Their landlord has served them with notice to quit, the moratorium is finished, and they’re worried about where they’re going to be in September. Are they going to be in the same area? This is a lot of pressure and stress for that family.”
Denis said that in many cases, people who are struggling are forced to accept relatively substandard accommodation, which adds to fuel and electricity costs.
Chronic shortages in rental properties causes rents to spike across the country.
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He said that the closure of schools made things even harder earlier during the various lockdowns. “It has been really difficult during the pandemic, the children have been at home more so they’ve had to spend more on energy. They’ve had to get broadband, had to get a laptop or tablet so they can do their homework, there’s been a combination of things.”
During 2020, Clare St Vincent De Paul saw a 20% increase in requests for assistance, as the pandemic struck.
While that’s a dramatic rise, Denis feels that there are probably people who could do with additional support, who haven’t sought it.
“A lot of St Vincent De Paul conferences felt they weren’t seeing the people coming forward that might need assistance. Some of that is because the Government, unlike the previous economic crisis, gave so much support with the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. That cushioned the blow for a lot of people.
“Also we feel that sometimes people are ashamed to come forward, they may be people who have contributed to St Vincent De Paul in the past and somehow feel it isn’t for them.
“But our attitude would be that we all need help in life, from either our family or friends or community. St Vincent De Paul is about giving people a hand when they’re in need.
“Our national president has said that the only criteria for help from St Vincent De Paul is that you are in need. We’re there for everybody.”
Within a few weeks children will be back at school, and August/September tends to be a busy time for St Vincent De Paul, with additional costs for families.
“Often times people would be coming to us looking for help with debt and utility bills or motor expenses like fixing the car. But when you meet with them you’ll find then that they have significant costs in terms of getting the children back to school.
“Sometimes some people will sacrifice paying the electricity bill to pay school costs, get the uniform or get the children into activities.”
In a recent pre-budget submission to Government, St Vincent De Paul sought some measures, which they feel would help struggling parents.
“One of them was around school books, that they should be free at primary and secondary school. We also called for an end to voluntary contributions. They’re voluntary but they’re a burden on the people that we support.
“We hear people telling us they have to pay €200 or whatever, and they pay a certain amount, but they’re under pressure to pay the rest of it.”
The charity also requested that capitation rates for schools would be restored to 2010 levels, which they feel would have the knock-on effect of taking pressure off parents.
Anyone who wants to contact St Vincent De Paul for support can do so by ringing 065 6824188 or by using the request help section on www.svp.ie.
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.