Ireland has a "cost of living crisis", Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy has said, saying those who are struggling are being forced to choose between heating their home and putting food on the table.

The "huge" price hikes in the cost of food, transport, energy and insurance means that small increases in things like the minimum wage have been "eaten-up by inflation".

Deputy Murphy said it was "frankly insulting" that the Government was "patting itself on the back" about its policies when set against the fact that families are facing a projected €1,300 increase in energy costs this year alone.

In the Dáil, she accused the Government of "tinkering around the edges" with its budgetary tax policy and said the 30 cent increase in the minimum wage had been "decimated" by inflation.

In reply, the Tánaiste said he accepted that the cost of living "is rising very fast" and the 5% increase here and in Britain has note been seen "in a very long time".

However, Leo Varadkar said most of the costs were outside of the control of the Government because they were "largely" driven by international energy price increases and difficulties with supply lines.

Mr Varadkar rejected the accusation that the Government's income tax cuts were tinkering around the edges, saying a worker on a wage of €40,000 per year could, over three years, expect to have €2,400 a year more in the pocket.

He said the Social Democrats, Labour or Sinn Féin had opposed the policy.

Mr Varadkar said he accepted that when it came to childcare and healthcare, Ireland's costs were out-of-step with our EU partners and this was an area he would focus on "in particular" over the coming years.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of One Family (a group representing single-parent families) said inflation is causing a nightmare for people and called for the Government to implement a long-term strategy to help those in need of help.

Karen Kiernan said: "People's homes will still be cold next year, if they're cold this year".

Some people are not buying enough food so they can continue to heat homes and pay rent, she said, adding that the price of basics such as bread and pasta are also rising.

She told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that there is an €80 gap a week for lone parents in the cost of living and it is very difficult for them not to get into debt for basic things.

Ms Kiernan said the €100 free credit for electricity bills is great but it would have been better had it been put into long-term supports for families in need.

She pointed out that many families are in the private rental sector and have no control over the quality of their heating or insulation.

"It can cost twice as much if you're in a BER G rated home compared to a C rated home," she said.

"We would like to see more support for very poor children and families to make sure that they're not going to be cold for the next couple of months..... one of the things we'd like the Government to do is to have a discretionary fund for people who are in arrears or risk of disconnection," she added.

While the costs may come down over the coming months, she said, right now there are families out there struggling, who don't have enough to pay their bills and are too cold and extremely stressed.