The number of people struggling to make ends meet has doubled during the pandemic, according to a new survey.
The St Vincent de Paul research shows that nearly one-in-five people were finding it difficult to manage in January – up from 9% before the pandemic began.
Some 37% said they have had to cut back on essential heating and electricity to due to rising energy costs in recent months – with 17% cutting back on other essentials including food.
Meanwhile, nearly half of renters are worried about making rent in the coming months.
On Breakfast Briefing with Shane Beatty this morning, SVP Head of Social Justice and Policy Dr Tricia Keilthy said the findings are “very stark”.
She said people who were already more vulnerable to poverty are worst impacted
“For example, almost half of single parents said they have cut back on essential heating and 37% have cut back on other essentials like food,” she said.
“They are very stark figures but they would really align with what we are seeing in terms of the support we are providing to people at the moment who are really struggling with those costs across the country.”
She said COVID restrictions led to a further increase in inequality across the country.
“What is quite obvious from the research is that people on the lowest incomes - people who were struggling already - had to go into debt,” she said. “They had to use savings during the pandemic.”
“Better off households were able to build up savings and then they have a better buffer in terms of the price increases we are experiencing at the moment.”
The Government is this evening expected to announce a €450m plan aimed at easing the cost-of-living crisis.
The plan will include an energy grant of up €200 for every household in the country and other more targeted measures, including an extension of the fuel allowance.
Dr Keilthy said it is essential Government gets its right.
“There is a real danger we could see a deepening of poverty unless the supports that we hear announced from Government are sufficient to help people stay afloat and ensure they can meet their living costs,” she said.
She said the supports must be targeted to those more impacted “to prevent serious hardship in the coming weeks and months”.
“There is a lot of worry out there as well,” she said. “The survey found that almost 40% are worried about their ability to meet their household energy costs in the next months.”
“One-quarter of people are worried about meeting their rent or mortgage in the next six months so really it is about giving people assurance and the security they need to meet their living costs.”