SVP commends Government and Utility Companies response to the Covid-19 crisis but warns that moneylenders could take advantage of those in financial distress
The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has commended the ongoing efforts of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Utilities companies to protect vulnerable and low-income households from the negative financial impacts of the coronavirus crisis.
But the Society has criticised moneylenders who may try to take advantage of people and families in financial distress over the coming weeks.
Commenting on a recent nationwide leaflet drop by a moneylending service, SVP national president Kieran Stafford said: “I was outraged when one of the leaflets was dropped into my own home last weekend. You just have to question the timing of these leaflet drops.”
“Everybody in the community is putting their shoulder to the wheel. There has been such a surge of people pulling together but unfortunately, we fear moneylenders will end up targeting people who will just not be able to repay loans at the exorbitant interest rates they are charging.
It appears to be “outrageous opportunism” seeking to exploit vulnerable people during the coronavirus,” he continued.
There are an estimated 330,000 customers of moneylenders in Ireland.
SVP has frequently called for a statutory maximum cost of credit, which can be charged by a moneylender and that consumers should have better access to sources of low-cost credit. This could be achieved through the introduction of a statutory interest rate cap.
Last year, the Society also called for moneylenders to be forced to carry a ‘tobacco style – high cost loans’ warning on their advertising and literature.
The Society has welcomed the introduction of the new emergency pandemic payment and confirmation that low-income working families can continue to receive vital benefits, like the Working Family Payment, if their hours are reduced. They have asked the Minister to extend fuel allowance until the end of April to help families with additional heating costs due to self-isolation.
“The Department of Social Protection has engaged positively with our recommendations on supporting low income households through this crisis. We know that their staff are working very hard to ensure people can get the income supports they need, and we would like to acknowledge and thank them for their hard word.
Throughout the crisis we will engage with the Department to ensure no one falls through the cracks,” said Mr. Stafford.
The organisation also commended the measures implemented by the Utility Companies and Energy Regulator early this week. All companies have suspended disconnections and pay-as-you-go gas customers will have emergency credit of €100 during the Covid-19 crisis.
SVP are continuing to support people who request help. They have asked that those seeking support to contact the SVP via telephone or online facilities, as drop-in facilities are not operating.
“We will play our part in this crisis and do our best to respond to those in need. We also have a duty of care to its volunteers and members with underlying health issues or with immediate family with such issues, and we have been advised our volunteers to take extra precautions and not to attend meetings or visit clients. Depending on the situation with local Conferences, home and emergency accommodation visitations may be curtailed but alternative arrangements will be made to provide support as much as possible.” Mr. Stafford said.
All 234 Vincent’s shops across the country are closed and no
church gate collections or other collections will take place for
the foreseeable future.
SVP Regional contact details are available on www.svp.ie/offices