The number of people struggling financially has doubled since before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new poll conducted by RED C on behalf of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP).

The poll also reported an increase in the number of people worried about being able to pay rent and for essentials such as food and heating.

It suggests that the number of people struggling financially has risen from 9% to 18% since the start of the pandemic.

Of the 1,036 people surveyed, 37% said they had reduced their essential heating and electricity use.

Those who say they are cutting back on essentials such as food stands at 17%.

Almost half of those questioned, who are renting, said they were worried about their ability to pay their rent in the next six months.

A quarter of renters in both private accommodation and local authority housing have cut back on essentials like food in response to rising energy prices, and 61% of renters in local authority housing have cut back on essential heating and electricity.

SVP said it is critical that the Government benchmarks social welfare payments and minimum wages to an adequate level and in line with living costs.

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The charity's head of Social Justice and Policy said the impact of Covid-19 has left lower income families exposed and there is a "real danger" of a deepening of poverty.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Trisha Keilthy said: "We also see that that's not being evenly felt across the country, some groups are feeling it more.

"For example, half of single parents have cut back on central heating and 37% have cut back on other essentials like food.

"We’re also seeing renters as a group that really struggling ... over half are worried about their ability to pay their rent in the next six months, 9% are already in arrears and 29% are worried about facing eviction in the next six months."

Earlier, the Regional Manager for South Leinster MABS said they are hearing "very, very worrying reports" about people trying to stretch their finances.

Michelle O'Hara said working families are coming into the Money Advice and Budgeting Service for support and that different people are being impacted in different ways.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said people are collectively experiencing problems with increased food prices.

While the energy rebate is welcome, she said, she is concerned about the sustainability of these measures and that longer term solutions are needed.