Vulnerable families face 'impossible choices' this Christmas

A new joint festive appeal has been launched for donations to help struggling families this Christmas. Credit: Sebastian Gollnow / PA Images

Some families face "impossible choices" this Christmas, one of Northern Ireland's leading charities has warned.

St Vincent de Paul, the largest voluntary charitable organisation in Ireland, launched a joint festive appeal with the Salvation Army, supported by the first and deputy first ministers, for donations to help struggling families.

Mary Waide, regional president for St Vincent de Paul, said: "Traditionally a time of hope, for some families we support this time of year is filled with worry and dread.

"These feelings have been heightened with the impact of the pandemic and while we are all considering a different kind of Christmas this year, some families will be faced with impossible choices.

"The choice of heating their home or putting presents under the tree. The choice of buying Christmas dinner or new clothes for their children."

Major Paul Kingscott, the Salvation Army's divisional leader, said the group was inspired by the Christmas message to reach out to families in need with presents for children who might otherwise miss out.

"Through our frontline work in towns across Northern Ireland, we have seen first-hand the impact of the pandemic on the families we support. That's why we look forward to working with our good friends at St Vincent de Paul again to bring Christmas cheer to children and young people who might otherwise go without."

First Minister Arlene Foster said: "The devastating impact of Covid-19 has brought real hardship to many homes. Too many parents and carers are feeling real stress and anxiety about affording the basics of heat and light, never mind putting presents under the tree.

"Over the last 40 years the kind and generous people of Northern Ireland have supported this appeal and the amazing work of the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul. I would urge everyone to do so again this year and help to make sure that no child wakes up without a gift on Christmas morning."

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said the year had been hugely challenging for the vulnerable, adding: "The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the problems in our society and too many families are facing serious hardship and difficult choices this Christmas.

"We want all of our children and young people to wake up on Christmas morning and have a present to open, especially this year when many family budgets have been hit hard.

"I have no doubt that the kind and generous spirit of our people will shine through once again and that the donations received will help to support many families and put smiles on the faces of thousands of children."