St Vincent De Paul has reported an increase of 20% in the number of requests for help since the beginning of this year, compared to the same period in 2021.

"It has been a very difficult year for the households that we're supporting. Since January we have taken over 110,000 requests for help," Dr Tricia Keilthy, Head of Social Justice and Policy with St Vincent de Paul, told RTÉ’s News at One.

"We’ve taken calls from people who have only €5 left after they paid the bills to feed their families and now parents are grappling with back-to-school costs on top of all these pressures," she added.

"When you’re on a very low income and you’ve no slack on your budget, the only option is to make your shopping basket smaller. So, the issue of food poverty is growing unfortunately," Dr Keilthy said.

"Energy was the big issue during the winter months. Many people have carried debt from the Covid-19 pandemic and then prices started to rise so those households really started to struggle," she said.

"For households in rural areas the extra cost of transport and home heating oil really added pressure," she added.

She said supports that were provided in March helped but now people have started to notice increases in their shopping basket.

Dr Kielthy also called for a "targeted response" to the cost-of-living crisis.


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"One-off measures are not going to be enough. We need to increase social welfare rates by €20. We also want to see more families brought into the fuel allowance net so we'd like to see it extended to people in receipt of the Working Family Payment, which would give a net benefit of almost €1,500 of increases to the fuel allowance," she said.

"That would be a much better use of resources. That would cost €68m compared to almost €400m to provide the Universal Energy Credit. They are the type of choices that we want government to make," she added.

"We are also calling on Government to make education genuinely free by ending the practice of voluntary contributions through adequate funding and providing free school books to all children at primary and secondary level".

Earlier this summer, Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned that the cost-of-living crisis could last into the spring of 2023.

Speaking on RTÉ's Prime Time, Micheál Martin said Russia's approach to gas and the uncertainty around the price of energy meant the situation could get worse before it gets better.

"We think the winter is going to be very difficult. We have to really look at this over the medium term," he said.