Education, rising energy and living costs crippling low-income families

by Rose Barrett
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BY Rose Barrett

Education costs and the lack of affordable student accommodation is a pressure going to hit Dublin families hard this year, said Marie Cronin, President East Region SVP (Dublin, Kildare & Wicklow).

The Society of St Vincent de Paul hit its highest demand ever last month for food hampers and festive supports. Ms Cronin noted that household incomes were vastly reduced where two adults had been out of work during Covid restrictions and this led to mortgage arrears backing up.

“The ‘new poor’ were people who never had to ask for help before, and were in fact, a key level of support over the years to the SVP. These families are now finding it hard to feed their families and keep on top of bills.”

However, she warned the lack of affordable housing in Dublin, either to rent or to buy, and the increasing cost of third level education and energy bills, were adding to the financial burden of low-income families.

Cramped accommodation impeding education

“We see huge pressure on families in poorer areas, with three generations living together because there simply isn’t affordable housing to buy or rent. I’ve seen people who’ve had to declare themselves as homeless and present to emergency accommodation.”

Living rooms are now bedrooms, claimed Ms Cronin and there’s no longer room for youth to study or indeed, for families to have ‘down time’ together.

Libraries were never more important she felt but, after Christmas and the spread of Omicron, she hoped the situation wouldn’t get worse, and that libraries would have to close. 

“Sixth year students need to prepare for the Leaving Cert. The pressure is dreadful, they shouldn’t be impacted because of cramped housing conditions, no private space to study. They have potential but may not attain the high results/points they aspire to, because of the housing situation.”

Ms Cronin added it was clear during Covid how children and students in poorer areas were impacted with schools closed.  “They had less Ipads, and often poor Wifi service – zoom calls for children living in tight accommodation is not ideal!”

“The stress on families supporting third level students is just awful – the cost of accommodation, travel and fees are horrendous and putting a massive strain on family budgets.

“Remember,” she noted, “students are not out partying every night of the week, there are no big parties or social events. That’s gone, these kids are just trying to survive, and they are experiencing food poverty also.”

Escalating Energy Costs

National President Rose McGowan said the situation for those struggling financially has worsened with massive increases in energy costs and living expenses.

“We are facing a perfect storm for families contending with a cost-of-living crisis on multiple fronts. Energy prices are soaring, we are seeing rents rise well beyond what people can afford and increasing transport costs are also putting pressure on low-income households.

“We are deeply concerned that during the coming months, this crisis will come to a head as households are unable to find extra room in the budget for escalating energy costs.

“In those circumstances, they will inevitably turn to SVP for help. Need is the only criteria we apply when people seek our help. But to provide that help we need the generous support of the Irish public that we are seeking through this 2021 Annual Appeal.

“We are appealing for donations to be made locally, online or over the phone that will help people survive into the new year.”

Ways to donate:

Onlinesvp.ie and nominate your local area

By phone:  0818 176 176 (ROI) or 028 9075 0161 (NI) and nominate your local area

By post: to SVP, PO Box 1234, Dublin 1, cheques made payable to ‘Society of St. Vincent de Paul’ or direct to a regional office, addresses can be found on www.svp.ie

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