Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald said the crisis in both housing and health has got worse since the general election two years ago.

She said the cost of living has reached an unbearable level for many people.

"The €100 credit for energy bills comes very late," she told the Dáil during Leaders' Questions.

This morning, the Cabinet met to sign off on a €210 million legislative plan which aims to assist households struggling with the rising cost of electricity bills.

Under the scheme, all domestic electricity customers will receive a once-off €100 credit, which will be operated by ESB Networks.

The scheme will not be means tested and will also apply to people on pre-pay contracts. People will not need to apply for it.

Ms McDonald told the Dáil that costs are so far out of control that this will not be a game changer, and the benefit will be cancelled out by further price rises.

Responding, the Taoiseach said Government is making progress on housing but there is a long way to go.

Micheál Martin said the health service "stood up" during the pandemic but this has had an impact on waiting lists.

He also said that inflation has picked up across the world and warned that that geo-political tensions in Ukraine could make things worse as regards gas prices.

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The cost of living is a key issue, he said, and the Government would do more to help people weather very significant price increases.

Labour leader Alan Kelly branded the Government's €100 energy credit as "a joke, tokenistic and absolutely insulting", given that families are facing increases of between €3,000 and €4,000 due to the dramatic rise in the cost of living.

Speaking in the Dáil, he asked the Taoiseach: "How many families can absorb that?"

Mr Kelly said he accepted that international factors, such as the spike in gas prices, have had an impact but he said to the Taoiseach: "It's your job to deal with them. It's not an excuse."

The Labour leader said the Government needed to introduce policies such as a rent freeze and seek a once-off derogation from the EU regarding the obligation to impose VAT.

In reply, the Taoiseach said the Government would not "add fuel to the inflationary cycle" because it would only "put people through more hardship".

He said the cutting of VAT was not feasible and asserted that last year's budget contained numerous measures to help families such as childcare, reduced GP costs, tax breaks, and children's hospital charges.

The Taoiseach said the Coalition would engage with social partners and was prepared to take further measures if required at the appropriate time.

The Labour leader said: "I don't believe you get it... what you're proposing is meagre."

He argued the Government could secure a derogation from the EU on VAT.

The Tipperary TD added that "workers have every right to deal with inflation, because your Government will not deal with it" by seeking pay rises.

However, the Taoisech said that "chasing after an inflationary cycle has never worked" and the Government and social partners needed to approach the problem in "an intelligent way".

If agreed at Cabinet today, the legislation on the energy bills could be considered by the Oireachtas as early as next week, and the energy credit introduced before the end of March.

It is understood that the Coalition will seek support from Opposition parties to waive pre-legislative scrutiny in order to speed-up its passage.

This morning, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said the "focus for now was on getting this measure implemented".

Speaking on his way into the Cabinet meeting. he said that this measure was in addition to measures introduced in the budget, including the increase in the fuel allowance and increases in core social welfare rates.

"We are concerned about inflation, we do realise people are under very significant pressure with their household bills, this is one measure, but Government will absolutely keep this issue under review and consider further steps if they are necessary," Mr McGrath said.

Also at Cabinet this morning, Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien was to seek approval to allow Dublin's O'Devaney Gardens project proceed to construction.

The development of the former apartment complex, near Stoneybatter, has been the subject of political and planning rows for more than a decade.

The total number of homes contained in the plan being considered today is 1,047 homes.

The development involves 275 social housing units, or 30% of the total, and 248 affordable purchase units, which is 22%.

The remaining 524 units, or 48%, is set to be private housing.

However, there is some ongoing engagement between Dublin City Council and the developer, Bartra, to provide some additional cost rental homes out of the private housing stock.

Additional reporting Paul Cunningham, Laura Fletcher