Record numbers seek Christmas aid

Charities report significant increase in the number of people applying for assistance during the holiday season

Aid organisations expect that rising poverty figures will lead to a second straight year of a record number of people applying for Christmas aid (julehjælp).

Klaus Nørlem, the secretary general for Dansk Folkehjælp, said that he expects the 11,000 applications last year to increase by at least 20 percent this year.

“That’s what we’ve experienced in past years. It’s down to the general rise in poverty and the fact that more people are aware that they are able to apply,” Nørlem told Kristeligt-Dagblad newspaper.

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Collecting at voting stations
During the local elections on Tuesday of last week, Dansk Folkehjælp took the opportunity to collect money from the voters who flocked to schools and libraries across the nation.

“We did it out of necessity, because we need to collect more money. The alternative is a smaller aid package for the individual family and that’s not something we want to see,” Nørlem said.

Other aid organisations, such as Frelsens Hær, Kirkens Korshær, Blå Kors and Mødrehjælpen, also expect more families in need this holiday season.

“We are already up at around 2,500 applicants, which is almost four times as high as at the same time last year,” Mads Roke Clausen, the head of Mødrehjælpen, a charity that helps mothers, told Kristeligt-Daglbad. 

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Coupons sold at supermarkets
Frelsens Hær, the Danish branch of The Salvation Army, has implemented a new concept in an effort to raise more aid funds. Instead of just setting up piggy banks where people can donate cash, the organisation is now selling coupons in supermarkets because an increasing number of Danes no longer carry cash with them.

Frelsens Hær is just over halfway through its application period for this Christmas and the 6,715 people who have applied through them thus far is almost equal to the total number of applicants just five years ago. The organisation expects that number to at least double before the end of the application period this year.

“More people are applying because the social services at the councils are recommending them to do so,” Lars Lydholm, the head of information at Frelsens Hær, told Kristeligt-Dagblad. "So you can say that the public sector has outsourced this task to us.”

The Danish Red Cross expects to assist 5,000 families this year, which is 1,000 more than last year and almost 3,000 more than in 2009.

A Christmas aid package usually consists of a gift card to a supermarket or a food basket with Christmas goods.

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