The great divide: desperate families turning to St Vincent de Paul but consumers set for record Christmas spree

The gaping chasm opening up between the haves and have-nots in Irish society is exposed in a series of stark reports today.

While shoppers prepare for their biggest ever festive splurge, thousands of families are waiting on homes or vital healthcare.

As mortgage approval rates jump again, there are also still large numbers of homes ending up in the hands of corporate investors.

Retailers are hopeful of a buoyant Christmas amid reports that Irish households will spend an average of €2,690 in shops this December.

The Christmas Retail Monitor 2018 from Ibec predicts that after a strong Black Friday, we will spend more than ever this festive season.

Despite the threat of Brexit, many consumers are optimistic of pay rises in the new year.

Mortgage approvals have also jumped, both in terms of volume and value. Irish banks approved a total of 4,262 mortgages in October, up 11.4pc in a month.

But the stark divide is revealed in a Social Justice Ireland report which notes the 700,000 on healthcare waiting lists, 500,000 homes without broadband, and over 11,000 people homeless. It slams Government policy for failing to tackle causes of poverty and inequality.

Its director, Dr Seán Healy, highlighted a "mistaken belief that economic growth will trickle down to benefit everyone in a fair and just manner".

He said this had led to "successive Governments implementing policies that give priority to economic growth over all other areas".

But he added: "Economic growth alone is not enough.

"More is required if we are to have a society which addresses the basic needs and promotes the basic rights of its population."

St Vincent de Paul has also warned of the rise in "hidden poverty" in Ireland with many families forced to turn to it for the first time in 2018.

"The main reasons would be people looking for housing supports, low income earners and then people with health issues," said its call centre lead, Linda Murray.

Meanwhile, Independent.ie can reveal that one in five homes built using Nama funding has been sold to corporate investors - including property investment funds and private equity firms.

More homes have been sold to investors than were utilised for social housing, the new figures reveal.

It also emerges that the vast bulk of properties built using funding from the State bad-bank have been sold in excess of prices considered 'affordable'.

More than a third were sold for prices in excess of €400,000.

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