Ireland's church leaders have called for more Government support for people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, amid cases of people requesting ready-to-eat food from food banks as they cannot afford the electricity to cook it.

They have said immediate practical measures should go hand-in-hand with a refocusing of government policy to eliminate poverty.

The statement was issued on behalf of the heads of the Catholic Church, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches and the Irish Council of Churches.

One of the signatories to the statement, President of the Irish Council of Churches Right Reverend Andrew Forster, highlighted incidents where people have asked for food at food banks that does not require cooking, as people cannot afford the electricity to do so.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Bishop Forster said: "I heard two stories from a food bank recently. One was of a young mother who came into the food bank and asked for food she didn’t have to heat up because she couldn't afford the electricity for her cooker.

"Another was of a lady who was a habitual giver to a local food bank, who is now having to take contributions from the food bank."

He added: "We’re really moving into unprecedented times, and as we move into the winter, things can only get worse.

"We all know how heating costs have risen hugely and we're moving in the double-digit inflation figures. So, what, as a group of church leaders, we are doing is asking not just Government, but all of us in society to sort of redouble our efforts to help those who are most vulnerable now."

In the statement, the leaders said they were "deeply concerned" with the impact of rising prices and the governments' response in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

"As leaders of Churches with a presence across the island we are deeply concerned by what we are seeing on the ground, with the increasing energy and food prices disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable, often leaving people with impossible choices to make, missing meals, and falling into arrears on bills," the leaders said in a joint statement.

They said the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland had created a statutory requirement for the Northern Ireland Executive to produce an anti-poverty strategy - something which had never been done despite the 25 years which had elapsed since the agreement was signed.

They said the Republic of Ireland badly needed a "cross-party anti-poverty strategy" to address issues in a comprehensive way.

"We want to join our voices with many others, calling for more practical support to be delivered urgently through direct government initiatives in both jurisdictions and also via grassroots charity and community partnerships," the statement said.

"This must go hand in hand with a longer term refocusing of government policies to deliver real and meaningful social justice and eliminate poverty across this island."

The statement was signed by Most Reverend Eamon Martin, Catholic Primate of All Ireland; Most Reverend John McDowell, Church of Ireland Primate; Right Reverend Dr John Kirkpatrick, Presbyterian Moderator; Reverend David Nixon, Methodist President, as well as Bishop Forster

Bishop Forster said the plea came as many people are experiencing a "sort of a personal catastrophe" coping with rising costs.

He said that the politics in Northern Ireland is "tricky" with all the complexities of trying to get the Executive up and running.

However, he added that "politics really matters when it comes to putting food on people's tables and that's where the struggle is at the moment, and what we're doing is calling on leadership right across society to redouble effort to deliver help to those most in need.

"This is no longer about a small margin of society. This margin is growing and growing and growing, and more and more people this winter will fall into food poverty and fuel poverty."

He said all people in leadership, whether it is political, civic or church leadership "can come together to do something about this and to make our society a better one."