'Those who are on the breadline.. they haven’t a hope of making ends meet': Government urged to do more to address cost of living crisis

SVP said that there have been 'a lot' of calls from people in Cork seeking the charity's assistance.
'Those who are on the breadline.. they haven’t a hope of making ends meet': Government urged to do more to address cost of living crisis

The call to action came from Gerry Garvey, the Society of St Vincent de Paul’s (SVP) south-west regional coordinator, as he warned that there have been “a lot” of calls from people in Cork seeking the charity’s assistance.

THE Government has been urged to introduce further measures to help mitigate against the spiralling costs of living.

The call to action came from Gerry Garvey, the Society of St Vincent de Paul’s (SVP) south-west regional coordinator, as he warned that there have been “a lot” of calls from people in Cork seeking the charity’s assistance.

“Targeted supports is the key thing. Targeting the niche groups that are under severe pressure,” he said.

“We’re heading into summer where it’s calmer waters if you like, because none of us need to put on the heat as much so the energy requirements are way lower...

“Come September, we would be really concerned because it’s all going to start again – you’ll have the back to school costs, you’ll have the colder weather coming in, and you’ll probably have a big build-up of bills that people haven’t managed to clear.”

Mr Garvey, of the country’s largest voluntary charitable organisation, was speaking to The Echo following the publication of the 2021 Survey of Income and Living Conditions by the Central Statistics Office.

Worrying figures

The charity has welcomed the decline in headline poverty rates in 2021 identified by the CSO survey, but warned that behind the headline figures are some very worrying data for those already in poverty.

The survey showed that the at risk of poverty rate was 11.6%, down from the 2020 rate of 13.2%. However, without the Government’s Covid-19 income supports, the 2021 at risk of poverty rate would have been 19.9%.

“I would say the Covid supports — while they were very welcome and it was a fantastic initiative by the Government — they did camouflage an emerging trend that we’ve been seeing for quite some time of poverty and particularly what we call ‘the new poor’, that’s those working in low-paid jobs,” Mr Garvey said.

“We all feel the pinch... but those who are on the breadline, those who are on minimum wage and sometimes even lower than it, they haven’t a hope of making ends meet — not with the increasing costs of food and utilities — and we’ve been seeing that trend creeping up for probably about the last two years,” he continued.

SVP head of social justice Tricia Keilthy said nationally the charity had seen an increase in calls this year.

“So far this year, SVP has taken over 62,000 calls for help, an increase of 15% compared to 2021.”

Scale of poverty 'too high'

Meanwhile, Social Justice Ireland director Seán Healy described the CSO figures as concerning.

“The sheer scale of the numbers of people living in poverty is worrying, particularly when we consider the impact of the Government pandemic income supports in cushioning households from the worst effects of the pandemic,” Dr Healy said.

“The scale of poverty is still far too high and presents serious policy challenges as Government continues to fail to give poverty reduction the priority it requires and people deserve."

He added: “In addition, the number of people experiencing deprivation, including one in six children, is a clear sign that despite several years of sustained economic growth, many people’s circumstances have not improved at all.” 

The SILC survey shows that one in four households with children found themselves in arrears on their utility bills on at least one occasion last year, while 42% of households said they had at least some difficulty in making ends meet last year, compared with 46.5% of households in 2020.

The survey found that 5.6% of households said they experienced “great difficulty” in making ends meet last year.

Social Justice Ireland issued a number of policy recommendations including calling on Government to support the adoption of a living wage; to commit to targets aimed at reducing poverty; and to benchmark core social welfare rates to 27.5% of average weekly earnings.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

EL_music

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more