St Vincent de Paul wins Big Society Award

By Shelley Marsden

THE Christian voluntary organisation established in Paris nearly two hundred years ago, and active in England and Wales, has won the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award.

David Cameron said:  “The St Vincent de Paul Society turns concern into action. The Society’s incredible numbers of volunteers build on a 200 year history of lending a practical hand to support those in need.

“I’m delighted to recognise all 10,000 St Vincent de Paul volunteers, and the staff who support them to do their vital work, with this Big Society Award.”

Adrian Abel, National President of the SVP, said: “It is so appropriate that this award has come in the bicentenary year of our founder’s birth. The award recognises the work of our 10,000 volunteers who give around one million hours of voluntary service, by befriending people with needs in our community.  The SVP provides practical opportunities for people to turn their concern into action, truly a Society with a big heart.”

The SVP cares for people who are lonely or in need of practical assistance, with a ‘one-to-one’ approach. It has some 10,000 volunteers across England and Wales.

These volunteers befriend individuals, giving emotional and practical support such as food parcels, clothes and furniture. In 2013 volunteers made over half a million visits to nearly 90,000 individuals and families across England and Wales.

These visits were made to the housebound, older people, hospitals, residential care homes, travellers, the homeless, refugees and people with mental health disorders, regardless of race, colour, religious belief, ideology or gender.

One of those that continues to be helped by SVP last year is *Deirdre from Ireland, a mother of four who has long suffered at the hands of an abusive partner.

The chaos of her life was compounded by the fact that one of her sons was in prison, one daughter suffered mental health issues and the other daughter was also in an abusive relationship herself. She has a drink problem, but is desperately trying to keep it under control.

She now lives alone in the four-bedroom property which had once been the family home. It is completely run down and the local authorities have been urging her to repair it, which of course is beyond her means.

With three spare bedrooms, Caitlyn can expect to be completely hammered on the bedroom tax and is finding basic living extremely difficult. SVP members take food to her on a regular basis, which is absolutely essential, as is the sympathetic ear and friendship they offer.

In addition the SVP organises volunteering groups in schools and universities, provides debt advice at its support centres and runs over 40 shops in economically disadvantaged areas.

*Real name has been changed.

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