The poorest households have been shouldering the worst of "disastrous budget cuts" introduced during the recession, according to children's charity Barnardo's.

Its Chief Executive Fergus Finlay said the worst-affected are the one-tenth of the population who are officially recognised as going hungry.

He said the cuts he was referring to had widened the gap between rich and poor since the beginning of the recession.

Many families are now living without a safety net and in fear of next month's Budget, he added.

The comments were made as the charity launched its pre-Budget submission in Dublin.

The children's charity highlighted the need to protect what it calls "crucial services" such as the free pre-school year, frontline education supports, and child welfare and protection services.

However, it also underlined that child income supports are also crucial to protecting vulnerable children in the immediate future.

The charity's Head of Advocacy Catherine Joyce said while reform of child income supports was long overdue, it is crucial that it protects vulnerable families.

She cited recent official figures showing that family allowances cut the at-risk of poverty rate by half from 39% to 19%.

Mr Finlay said that despite the undoubted challenge facing the Government in the forthcoming Budget, it is essential that families who simply cannot afford any further attack on their incomes are protected.