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Steer clear of the loan sharks this Christmas

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The Society of St Vincent De Paul has urged people to avoid the temptation of moneylenders this Christmas after a new survey found that families plan to spend an average of €1,500 on presents, food and drink and socialising.

Families with children are most under pressure at this time of the year to cough up for toys, food and seasonal extras, SVP spokesman Jim Walsh remarked.

However they should not spend what they do not have and avoid taking out loans that could prove far too costly.

“There is a huge temptation to get a few hundred euro here and there but by resorting to moneylenders it could lead you into staying with them for a very long time because of their interest rates,” he insisted.

“We would urge people to look for help. The SVP spent €43m on helping families last year – that has doubled since 2008. Mainly people are looking for assistance around issues such as energy, education and food so the upsurge in the economy is not being felt by everybody.”

The charity has consistently complained about the impact of the recession on household budgets. Any benefit granted in the last budget has been swallowed up by additional costs, taxes and charges – including the increase in the PSO levy given to energy companies earning huge profits.

“At this time of the year we do get an upsurge in people looking for extra, mainly for kids. We give very little cash these days, it’s mainly toys or vouchers for food or fuel,” he revealed.

The latest survey on consumer spending found that two thirds of the public intend on keeping their Christmas outlay on a par with 2013, despite upbeat assessments on the state of the economy.

Gifts are set to be the biggest cost at €620, according to the survey by Empathy Research which was commissioned by insurance giant Aviva.

Food and drink will set families back around €340, with socialising set to cost €230.

Home decorations, Christmas crackers and Christmas Day outfits are expected to cost €210.

One fifth of families said they plan to cut back spending on gifts, food and drink while over a quarter of people want to spend less money on decorations and 19% want to cut out buying Christmas Day outfits.

Last Christmas the SVP had a 25% drop in donations during their Christmas appeal, which was blamed on controversy around the salary top-ups for charity bosses.

They launch their 2014 appeal on November 19.

Connacht Tribune

Pedestrian seriously injured in Furbo hit and run

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A man in his 40s is in a serious condition in hospital following a hit and run in Furbo last night.

He was a pedestrian who was walking on the R336 road near Furbo Church, when he was hit by a car around 8.30pm.

The driver of the car failed to remain at the scene.

The road is currently closed with diversions in place while Garda Forensic Collision Investigators conduct an examination of the scene.

Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to the collision to come forward, particularly any road users who may have dash-cam footage recorded in the area between 8pm and 9pm.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Drug use in Galway at ‘frightening levels’ says top Garda

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Use of illegal drugs has reached ‘fairly frightening’ levels across the city and county, according to Galway’s top Garda.

Chief Superintendent Tom Curley said that only about 10% of the drugs in circulation in society are detected by Gardaí.

He said that there had been increases in detection of drugs for sale or supply and for simple possession in the city and county so far this year.

Cocaine in particular was an issue in Galway, he said, but increased drug use was evident in “every village and town in the country”.

In his report to the latest Galway City Joint Policing Committee, Chief Supt Curley said that there had been a 22% increase in detection of drugs for sale or supply in Galway, up 14 to 78 at the end of September.

There had been 108 incidents of drugs for simple possession, up by 15%.

The amount of cocaine seized in the first nine months of the year amounted to €538,838. The level of cannabis seized amounted to €361,872.

Ecstasy (€640) and heroin (€2,410) were also seized, according to the Garda report.

Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) said it was a concern that cocaine had overtaken cannabis for the first time, in terms of the street value of the amounts seized.

Councillor Eddie Hoare (FG) said that the Garda Drugs Unit needed to be commended for the seizures.

Councillor Alan Cheevers (FF) said it was concerning that use of cocaine had escalated.

In response to Chair of the JPC, Councillor Niall McNelis (Lab), Chief Supt Curley said there were some instances where parents or siblings were being pursued by criminals over drug debts accrued by family members.

He added he would continue to allocate resources to the drugs problem.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Up to 20-week waiting period for youth mental health service in Galway

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Young people in Galway have highest waiting times in the state for an appointment with the Jigsaw youth mental health service.

That’s according to Galway West TD Mairéad Farrell who revealed that waiting times for an appointment here are currently up to 20 weeks.

“Figures released through a Parliamentary Question have shown there are significant wait times for counselling appointments with Jigsaw, the mental health service which provides vital supports to young people, in Galway,” she said.

“Demand for the Jigsaw service in Galway and across the State continues to grow, however, as a result youths are waiting up to 20 weeks to get an appointment. With young people from Galway currently experiencing the longest wait times at 20 weeks.

“Every expert in child and adolescent mental health will tell you that early intervention is absolutely vital in avoiding enduring and worsening problems in the future.

“Yet, these figures reveal that if a child or young person seeks out care they are in all likelihood going to be faced with extended waiting periods which are simply unacceptable and put them and their mental health at a very serious risk,” she added.

Deputy Farrell said that young peoples’ mental health had been adversely affected during the pandemic – with loss of schooling, sports, peer supports and even their ability to socialise with friends impacting.

“Jigsaw have experienced a 42% increase in the demand for their services and this cry for help from our young people cannot fall on deaf ears,” she said.

“There is also an element of postcode politics, that depending on where you live you may get treated quicker.  Some areas have a three-week waiting time while others are left waiting for 20 weeks.

“Uniformed mental health treatment is needed – so our young people can access the care they need, when they need it and where they need it.

“I have called on the Minister to urgently engage with the service to provide a solution,” she concluded.

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