'People are struggling': Cash-strapped families in Cork using back-to-school allowance to pay for food and fuel

Caitríona Twomey, who runs Cork Penny Dinners, says she has been inundated with messages from parents desperate to see their children equipped with supplies before they return to school in September. 
'People are struggling': Cash-strapped families in Cork using back-to-school allowance to pay for food and fuel

Hair salon owner Joseph Byrne, who has dedicated much of his summer to gathering school supplies for cash-strapped families, said he is being approached by people desperately trying to provide for their children.

Cash-strapped families in Cork are using their back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance to pay for food and fuel, says Caitríona Twomey, who runs Cork Penny Dinners.

Ms Twomey says she has been inundated with messages from parents desperate to see their children equipped with supplies before they return to school in September, having spent the allowance on increased living costs.

“People are struggling throughout the summer to get their kids ready to go back,” she says. “It’s going to be very difficult. We have been inundated with messages. It’s not just copybooks and pencils that children need. It’s jackets, shirts, shoes, and uniforms. There are only so many hand-me-downs you can take. Children need things that will last.”

Ms Twomey says: “All walks of life are being affected by the cost of living. No child wants to feel different, but families are facing immense pressure.”

Families desperately trying to provide for children 

Hair salon owner Joseph Byrne, who has dedicated much of his summer to gathering school supplies for cash-strapped families, is being approached by people desperately trying to provide for their children.

Following a successful donation drive last year, Joseph and his team from Joseph’s Hair Salon in Glasheen are now also operating as a drop-off point for school supplies to benefit families in need.

Joseph has taken a proactive approach, delivering many of the supplies while continuing to raise awareness of his fundraising drive.

He opened up about the emotional phone calls he has been receiving from families.

“One woman called me in a very bad way from her hospital bed,” he said. “She gave me a contact for her doctor so that I would know her case was genuine. She had been in an extremely difficult situation and needed help with getting her children back to school. I would love to find a way to help families enjoy their summer holidays without having this kind of pressure.”

Under pressure 

Mr Byrne has received several phone calls from under-pressure parents.

“I’ve had people ringing saying that they will take whatever I can give them because their children have so little,” he said.

“It was particularly hard for one woman who rang me because she had six children and couldn’t afford to buy them all supplies to go back to school.”

He said that no child should have their self-esteem affected by poverty.

“We have given everything out, from markers to copy books and geography sets,” he said. “The last thing I want is for a child to be bullied because they have less than the others.”

He said he believes it is unacceptable that families are being forced to suffer as a result of the cost of living.

“Being the youngest of seven, I didn’t always have what the children had,” said Joseph. “While we were happy back then, those were different times. I don’t believe that any child should have to go without in this day and age.”

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