How Castlebar SVP helps locals in need

The work of The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) in Castlebar is funded by their Vincent’s shop on New Antrim Street, people who kindly remember them in their will, and the annual appeal by way of a blue envelope delivered to every house in early December.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul is the largest voluntary organisation in the country and has operated in Ireland since 1844.

The SVP is exceptional in that 90 per cent of donations are spent on those in need and only 10 per cent on administration.

The requests for help to SVP nationally have increased by 20 per cent each year for three years, and members of SVP realise it is stressful for those struggling and that it can be difficult to seek help.

One member of Castlebar SVP said: “Nationally we receive nearly 2,000 calls for help every month, all from ordinary, decent people – you never know when you are going to hit a blip in your life.

"Our spend on assistance in Castlebar increased by 40% this year, mainly on food and fruit, oil, coal, bills, education and training grants, occupational therapy (OT) and psychology assessments for children.

“We are all volunteers, not experts, but a lot of us have a professional background with a vast work and life experience to share for the benefit of anyone in need.

“We find that many clients fall between two stools whereby there is no government agency or organisation that can or will help them, but we can step in there because that is what we do a lot of the time, and we are good at it.

“Needs are changing. These days it is usually workers who are worse off. For example, research by UCC shows that the people most likely to go to a moneylender would be the higher paid worker, not people on a low income or welfare.

“So now we are really trying to target the ‘working poor’ and those whose circumstances have changed, leading to difficulties.

“Workers are struggling due to childcare costs, expensive heating and electric bills, rising mortgage interest rates, the price of petrol to get to work.

"And now try to put your kids through college . . . our members have been through it, so are happy to assist with needs when we can,” said the local SVP member, who added: “Research by the Living Wage Technical Group, of which SVP is a member, shows that the Living Wage – as opposed to the National Minimum Wage – will increase to €14.80 per hour for 2023/2024.

"The minimum wage hourly rate for 2024 is €12.70, a gap of €2.10 per hour. It is estimated that one-in-five workers are earning less than the Living Wage, which is ‘the minimum rate required for a full-time worker (without dependents) to afford the goods and services that people have agreed are essential for enabling a life with dignity’.”

Castlebar SVP has two main conferences that helps locals.

Holy Rosary members visit people requesting help with cost of living challenges predominantly (tel. 094 9023207), and St. Aloysius conference helps with anything to do with children's wellbeing and developmental needs, and can give grants to assist with the cost of education all the way up to third level (email:

The SVP has a large role in town, with 50 social housing units.

It is rewarding work but the volunteers do a great job, providing a much needed service – for which they could do with some more volunteers to support their tenants.

Castlebar SVP also needs volunteers for hospital visitation and their shop.

A local volunteer said: “I would highly recommend young people, when they leave school and go off to college, to think about joining the Society of St Vincent de Paul because they will have an instant family and friends – while also doing good.

"SVP suits young people because many are interested in economics, sociology, politics, spirituality and social justice issues, and the SVP ticks all those boxes. All one needs to join the SVP is to respect our Catholic ethos and have a sense of humour.”

All donations to Castlebar SVP are much appreciated. For more information visit