Caritas around the country is arranging special help for families at Christmas. Caritas Salford, for example, is helping around 5,000 children and families with practical support, but they also have the Caritas Bishop’s Fund accessible for parishes and schools to apply for small grants for those who need help with such expenses as shopping bills or funeral charges. The Caritas office of Northampton Diocese has invited parishes to take part in a campaign producing ‘Bags of Kindness’ containing food, clothing, toiletries and gifts.
Caritas Shrewsbury reports an increasing high number of families referred to them due to Covid and needing Food Bank vouchers and money for heating, utility bills and home basics. “This Christmas, Caritas will be travelling around the diocese giving food vouchers to those in need and toys for the children who may not be getting anything else” The Tablet was told; “and recently we have been successful in gaining two funding pots and are offering an application service for those who may need essentials.” They say some families have faced hardship because of slowness in the benefits system and when nothing is done to help, it can lead to crime, housing loss, family breakdown and mental health problems. And Caritas Shrewsbury reports that a high percentage of children have suffered domestic violence or lost a parent due to Covid, cancer or suicide.
Caritas Westminster has produced an Advent Giving Calendar which suggests a way to reach out to people facing hardship by following along each day and eventually making up a food parcel. Each day in Advent, the relevant angel on the calendar will inform what needs to be bought to add to a collection. Completed packages are then taken to the drop off point of a chosen project. Caritas Westminster has also teamed up with Advice For Renters Money and Let's Talk Money to put together tips on planning an affordable Christmas and these are being shared throughout Advent. Tip one was “Make a Christmas Budget: Work out how much money you have for Christmas shopping and food before you start shopping.”