Almost 20% of people cutting back on essentials due to rising cost of living

A recent Red C poll conducted on behalf of SVP found almost half of renters fears they will not be able to pay their rent over the next six months.
Almost 20% of people cutting back on essentials due to rising cost of living

Muireann Duffy

The number of people financially struggling since the onset of the pandemic has doubled according to a recent Red C poll.

The research, carried out on behalf of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) found 17 per cent of people have cut back on how much they spend on essentials due to rising energy costs.

In addition, almost half of renters said they are worried about their ability to pay their rent over the next six months.

The poll, conducted last month and comparable to previous studies, found the number of people who said they are financially struggling increased from 9 per cent in 2020 to 18 per cent in January 2021.

Just shy of 40% of people said they have cut back on essential heating and electricity use due to soaring energy prices, while the 17 per cent figure represents those who have cut back on other essentials, such as food.

Among unemployed people, 48 per cent have cut back on essential heating and electricity, while 61 per cent of renters (both private and local authority housing) have made the same cutbacks, and one quarter of this cohort have reduced spending on other essentials.

The research found almost 40 per cent are worried or quite worried about how they will meet energy costs and approximately 25 per cent said they worry about covering other expenses, such as rent and mortgage repayments.

These fears are particularly present among single parents, with 66 per cent worrying about covering energy costs, and 44 per cent worried about housing.

Overall, 9 per cent of renters said they are already behind on their rent and 29 per cent are worried they are facing eviction over the next six months.

The figures come as the Government is due to announce measures to ease the pressure caused by the rising cost of living.

A doubling of the €100 energy credit announced last year may be on the way, in addition to an extension of the Fuel Allowance season.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath insisted Thursday's announcement will not be a 'mini-budget', but added the Government is aware of the need for intervention but must do so in a way which helped and did not make the situation worse by driving up inflation.

Ahead of the announcement, and in light of the Red C poll findings, SVP have called on the Government to "frontload available resources to households on fixed and low incomes through increases in core welfare payments", adding families with children should receive extra support.

The society also recommend a four-week extension to the Fuel Allowance season, the establishment of a discretionary fund to support households with extra living expenses and utility debt or costs, and the establishment of a renters arrears fund to prevent a rise in homelessness.

SVP also suggest increasing the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and Rent Supplement scheme "to end the practice of top-ups", and finally to monitor utility disconnection data and strengthen consumer protection measures.

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