Barnardos calls for €5m fund for struggling families

In its pre-budget submission, the children’s charity also calls for free schoolbooks and a ban on voluntary school contributions

A €5 million fund to give struggling families same-day emergency payments to cover heat, electricity and food as well as a €20 hike in social welfare rates is needed to stop children going hungry and cold this winter, according to children’s charity Barnardos.

It also called for a reduction in spiralling school costs – to include free schoolbooks and a ban on voluntary school contributions – as part of its pre-budget submission to the Government.

Desperate families are increasingly turning to the charity for financial help over the past six months of the cost-of-living crisis, while families who were already struggling “are struggling considerably more”, it said.

Suzanne Connolly, chief executive of Barnardos, said the Government had “not gone far enough” to help families facing the greatest levels of disadvantage.


“Resources must be focused on those most at risk of going without,” she said.

“We know that childhood lasts a lifetime – the longer a child spends living in a household without essentials, the greater the impact on their current and future wellbeing and development.

“There is real concern that the impact of continuing cost-of-living increases will worsen as the year progresses and families face increased winter heating and electricity costs.”

Research carried out by the charity in June shows more than a quarter (28 per cent) of parents in Ireland are cutting back on heat, while almost a quarter (23 per cent) are reducing their electricity usage to try to make ends meet.

A third are buying less clothes and “alarmingly” one in six have cut out medical appointments or medicines. Half of parents in Ireland simply cannot afford to send their children on after-school activities or trips because of hardship.

More families “on the cusp of poverty are being pulled into real deprivation, their standard of living being drastically affected by inflation”, the charity said in its submission in advance of Budget 2023, which has been brought forward to September 27th.

Barnardos is taking “more and more calls” from families pleading for help with food, clothing and basic household items as well as heating their homes.

“Families on low incomes do not have the money necessary to cover the recent increases,” the charity told the Government.

“Unfortunately, this inevitably has an impact on the wellbeing of children living in some of those households.”

On social welfare payments, it has asked for a €20 rise in general rates (at a cost of €675 million), an increase of €12 for the Qualified Child Increase Payment for over-12s and a €7 rise for under-12s.

Social welfare payments generally should be linked to “minimum essential standard of living” costs, it said.

Recently introduced extensions to fuel allowance from 28 to 32 weeks were not enough and the scheme should be expanded to more families, particularly those on working family payment, Barnardos added.

Child agency Tusla should be given another €6 million for community and voluntary organisations while a pilot free schoolbook scheme should be extended nationally, at a cost of €20 million, it suggested.

Schools should also be given enough State funding so they do not have to ask parents for voluntary payments (believed to total €65 million), according to the submission, while the hot school meals programme should also be extended.

Brian Hutton

Brian Hutton is a freelance journalist and Irish Times contributor