St Vincent de Paul has called on the Department of Social Protection to give two weeks of extra fuel payments because many families are struggling with utility bills. 

The charity is also recommending discretionary payments for people on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, who do not qualify for the fuel allowance.

While there is a moratorium on disconnections of utilities, St Vincent de Paul says this does not help families who are pre-pay meters and many are spending more because they need to heat their homes all day as people are not going out to work, school or college.

There is also the extra cost of keeping children connected to their school by via digital devices.

Anna Kelly, President of St Vincent de Paul food bank at Bawnogue, Clondalkin in Dublin, said that demand is up at the food bank there and many people do not have enough money for food after paying other bills. 

She said there are people looking for help who would have donated to the food bank in the past.

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Tricia Kielthy, Head of Social Justice at St Vincent de Paul, said that this has been seen in many areas and the third lockdown has been the hardest for many as families without work have built up debts and some owe a lot of money on utilities. 

The charity has lobbied the Department of Social Protection. In reply, the department has pointed to the €3.50 per week increase in the Fuel Allowance and to the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme.  

It said this is a targeted payment available to people and families in difficulty and this is particularly true in respect of fuel or energy costs.

People receiving the PUP are eligible for the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme and the department has been sending out emails to make people aware of this.

At the food bank in Bawnogue, Ms Kelly said that mental health is something that the families who go there talk about. She said that the effect of the pandemic and lockdowns have been "enormous".