Going to bed at 7pm to keep the lights off: damning report shows impact of cost-of living crisis

Going to bed at 7pm to keep the lights off: damning report shows impact of cost-of living crisis

A mother who shares care of her children only tops up her electricity and gas meters when her children are at home, and goes without when they are with their father, just to make sure she still has enough for when they return.

Another described how her son needed GAA runners after getting blisters, but had not said anything about it. His parent felt so guilty but said: “Even if he had told me, I wouldn’t have been able to afford them”.

Meanwhile, some parents in rural areas say they cannot afford to even leave the house as often as they used to because of their worries about petrol costs.

These were just some of a slew of examples cited of how families are struggling to make ends meet amid the surging cost-of-living in a new report from Barnardos on the impact of the crisis on children.

The damning survey from the children’s charity found that over one third of parents (37%) have had to cut back or go without heating their home in the past six months, while one fifth have had to cut back on food as the cost-of-living crisis impacts families across the country.

A similar proportion (23%) had gone without electricity.

It also found seven in 10 parents said they sometimes or always worry about not being able to provide their children with daily essentials such as food, heat or electricity. Just one in 10 parents said they never worry.

Parents say they are fearful of paying bills, feel guilty about having to always say no to their children and their mental health is worsening due to cost-of-living pressures.

One parent said: “He has no lunch going to school, he can’t afford to go places with his friends, he is sitting in a cold room trying to do his homework.” 

To help make ends meet, parents are forgoing luxuries or, in some cases, even basics for themselves.

Of parents who said they had cut back, half said they had gone without medicines/medical or dental appointments over the last six months, while 70% had cut back or gone without clothing.

One said: “My birthday the other day. Got money from my own family. Spent it on dinners for my kids.” 

The children’s charity said parents had highlighted how one-off supports like the electricity credit had helped some families “get out of a hole” temporarily but that it did not solve the long-term problems they are facing.

“As the cost of living crisis continues there is a risk that more and more children will be pulled into deprivation and spend longer and longer without sufficient food, heat and electricity,” the report said.

Barnardos chief executive Suzanne Connolly added: “It is vital that the Government introduces proactive, targeted policies to ensure that all children in Ireland, at an absolute minimum, live in homes that have sufficient food, live in appropriately heated accommodation and don’t go without electricity. Because childhood lasts a lifetime.” 

Barnardos made a number of recommendations to Government for action to support families such as income supports, expanding hot school meals programmes and ensuring low-income families are on the lowest tariffs.

Case studies (from the Barnardos report)

“One mother uses coal to heat her house. A bag of coal in her local shop has doubled in price. As a result, sometimes she cannot light the fire, as she just cannot afford to. She will only use it when it is really needed. She will only heat one part of the house, her child’s bedroom and only keeps it on u

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