According to prices measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), consumer prices were 10.1% higher in September 2022 than a year before. Between September 2021 and September 2022, domestic gas prices increased by 96% and domestic electricity prices by 54%. Caritas Salford, a member of Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) – the Bishops’ Conference agency promoting domestic social action – has made alleviating the dreadful effects of this crisis a huge priority.
Patrick O’Dowd, the director of Caritas Salford, spoke to us for our monthly At the Foot of the Cross podcast, giving an overview of what the charity is doing to ease the burdens of struggling families.
“We’re really proud to have launched the Caritas Bishop’s Fund,” he said. “It’s been operating for a few years now, but actually received some additional support through the Diocese of Salford, and through all the benefactors who have helped us build up this crisis support fund for families and people in acute need across our area.
“People are able to make bids and applications to that fund, and they are reviewed very quickly. Support can then be offered through school parishes and schools to provide really basic material support.”
Patrick relayed some shocking statistics about the devastating effects of the crisis, with hundreds of thousands of children lacking the bare essentials, families plunged into precarious positions, and even households with one member working are struggling to make ends meet.
He said: “Research from the University of Loughborough highlighted that about 228,000 children, we believe, living in Salford diocese are living in poverty. And that’s as high as about 42% of children in Manchester, one of the biggest, most populated areas in the city.
“It’s about 40% of these households that are actually living in poverty where there’s at least one person working, which I think is quite a significant figure in itself.”
He added: “It’s really tragic, considering people are working and yet they don’t have enough income to be able to support themselves or their families.”
Patrick explained that a key part of Caritas Salford’s role is working with other Catholic agencies, as well as local authorities, to try and ensure the needs of the people are met:
“I think the other thing to say is that we have an extraordinary relationship with other Catholic partners – the Saint Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) being a prime example of that – and other Caritas agencies that are in neighbouring dioceses as well, and charities like Out There who operate from Trafford local authority, working with the families of prisoners.
“So there’s a really strong network across the Catholic charities and parishes and schools community in our diocese.
“And I think our role is to try and animate that and where we can provide support and assistance to sign-post out to other agencies who can try to work with parishes as well.”
Cardinal Vincent Nichols gave a statement in September about the cost of living crisis, saying:
“The work of our local parishes, and of Catholic charitable agencies, is based on the firm conviction of the inherent dignity of every person. No one is to be cast aside or ‘discounted’.”
Charities like Caritas Salford are in the vanguard of efforts to ensure no-one is left behind.