A CO-ORDINATOR for St Vincent de Paul (SVP) in Cork has said it is ‘frightening’ how many calls the organisation is getting from households where both people are working as the cost-of-living continues to spiral and people find themselves unable to make ends meet.
Gerry Garvey of SVP said people who previously never called the charity are now reaching out for help.
“We are seeing a lot of people struggling with increased energy bills in Cork now. We are getting a lot of calls from people from all over Cork.
“We are getting calls from people who wouldn’t ever have called us before.
"What is frightening is the number of calls from households where both people are working, but they still can’t meet their needs,” he said.
“We are seeing people of all ages.
“It is very concerning to see older people who are retired and living on their pensions. They are afraid of their lives to put on the heating.
“They would be telling us they are only putting on the heating for half an hour at night, wearing three jumpers and using a hot water bottle to keep them warm.
“There is a huge amount of anxiety and worry out there. Hopefully, it will all settle down.
“The weather will be much milder, and the heating won’t be as big an issue allied with the passing on of the lower wholesale prices. I do think we will get over the hump,” Mr Garvey added.
Mr Garvey appealed to people who are struggling to reach out to the SVP.
“We have a strong energy support scheme. We would encourage people who are struggling and need our help to please pick up the phone.
“We always say to people that they probably didn’t think they would turn to a charity, and they might be embarrassed.
“Everyone can hit a bad patch. This is their time and need to get the support.
“When and if you can afford it they can give a few bob back in the future.”
Nationally, SVP recently launched a report which sets out a series of actions Government and the regulator should take to mitigate the impact of extraordinary energy prices on people in energy poverty and prevent a further rise in hardship.
The recommendations include the introduction of a social energy tariff targeted at households on means tested social welfare payments and new consumer protection strategy that provides a multi-annual approach to increasing protections for customers in energy poverty as well as vulnerable customers.
Using Central Statistics Office data from the 2022 survey of income and living conditions, the SVP report showed that an estimated 377,000 people lived in homes unable to afford adequately heat in 2022. This compared to 160,000 people in 2021.
The report also showed that an average estimated electricity bill has risen from around €1,000 in early 2020, to its current price of over €2,100.
This massive increase in the cost of energy has led to an acute level of need said Issy Petrie, SVP research and policy officer.
“Every day, SVP members are supporting people in energy poverty who are getting bills there is no way they can afford, or who are struggling to keep their prepay meter topped up, or oil in the tank.”