By Maria Paravantes
Social service agencies in Greece say they are seeing an increase in families seeking aid for their children amid austerity measures brought about by the collapsed economy.
“Undoubtedly … we have seen a rise in families coming to us for help, and this is indeed a reflection of the current socioeconomic circumstances,” Asylo tou Paidiou charity President Polyxeni Dimou told SETimes.
A growing number of unemployed parents are seeking financial assistance, and to a lesser extent, child care, Paidika Horia SOS Welfare Director Stergios Sifnios told SETimes.
The activities of his organisation, he explained, centre around hosting children until the parents can find work.
Dimou said her organisation teams up with volunteer-teachers, social workers and psychologists. “We offer children home from 6am to 5pm, provide four meals a day, teach them, and offer sports and art activities,” she said.
Welfare and charitable organisations say single mothers have been particularly affected and are seeking shelter and basic necessities for themselves and their children.
Paidika Horia SOS is attempting to address the plight of single mothers through its Family Strengthening Programme.
Sifinos explained the programme aims to successfully reintegrate single mothers and their children in society through “counselling, psychological backing and material support”.
Hamogelo tou Paidiou President Costas Yannopoulos told SETimes there is an alarming increase in child neglect.
“Many parents cannot rely on their own extended families for support, as pensions are now meager. The psychological pressure is enormous. Some turn to alcohol, drugs or simply fall into depression, unable in the meantime to care for their children. It is a chain reaction,” he told SETimes.
Despite the increased pressures that welfare organisations and charities face, most say the government does not support their work.
“Not only is the government not supporting the work of charity groups, but they are hampering our efforts. Thanks to a new law, all donations made to charities will now be taxed,” Sifnios said.
Media attention regarding the plight of families has led to one positive development in the current crisis, according to Yannopoulos.
“People across the country are coming together voluntarily to offer whatever they can, and this form of social cohesion is very much welcome.” he said.