.- Almost 950,000 Spaniards received assistance from Caritas to meet basic needs in 2010.
The figures were up 550,000 from three years ago, according to a Caritas report on the impact of the economic crisis in Spain.
Of the 950,000 people who received aid, 300,000 were assisted by Caritas for the first time, mainly due to growing unemployment. According to the coordinator of the Caritas Study team, Francisco Lorenzo, 74 percent of those seeking aid were families. Seven out of every 10 people requesting assistance came after receiving little aid from government-run social services, he added.
Lorenzo said social services programs are burdened by excessive bureaucracy, limited resources and a lack of personalized follow-up. While applicants usually wait four days for their first interview with a Caritas representative, they wait almost one month to be interviewed by a government social worker.
Most applicants, Lorenzo pointed out, are people who have been left unemployed and unable to find work for an extended period, parents between the ages of 20 and 40 with one or two small children, unemployed young people seeking first-time employment, and single mothers.
Amid the increase in applicants—which so far this year numbers 1.8 million—the Catholic Church in Spain has doubled the amount of money it has set aside for economic assistance for families, totaling $43 million. Roughly 42 percent of funds set aside last year were used for food assistance, while 32 percent went to help pay for rent and mortgages.
The secretary general of Caritas in Spain, Sebastian Mora, said the report was not meant to be a “criticism” of public services but rather “a call to social and political institutions and organizations to work responsibly.” Caritas seeks to complement and not substitute the work done by social services, he said.