Cost of living: Childcare and transport measures being examined -Tánaiste

‘People are feeling the pinch and it’s more than a pinch, a lot of people are struggling,’ Leo Varadkar says

The Government is looking at further measures to help with the cost of living crisis, in particular focusing on childcare and public transport proposals, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar has said these were areas the Government could help and do more .

The Tánaiste was speaking during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil on Thursday, after Sinn Féin's deputy leader Pearse Doherty said the Government had "lost control" of the cost of living crisis.

Mr Doherty said the crisis was reducing the living standards of low and middle income households, and that workers and families were “really struggling”.

The Donegal TD said while many factors were beyond the State's control in terms of rising prices, "soaring rents and unaffordable childcare are not beyond the control of this Government".

“In many ways, they have reached such unaffordable levels because of Government policy,” Mr Doherty said. “The Government can and must respond.

“We in Sinn Féin fully recognise that every household can’t be protected from every single price increase, but low and middle income households must be supported and in this regard, the Government has lost control of the cost of living crisis.”

He said electricity bills had risen by 28 per cent, gas bills by over 50 per cent, the cost of home heating oil had almost doubled and rents had increased by up by 12 per cent.

Mr Doherty said the most vulnerable in society were being faced with choices of “whether they should eat or heat their homes” and that “shamefully” the Government had not increased social welfare rates in response to historic levels of inflation.

He said his party had been consistent for many months calling for a “mini budget” to support low and middle income households and asked Mr Varadkar were the Government planning to introduce any further measures.

In response, the Tánaiste said the Sinn Féin TD had not acknowledged the measures already implemented by the Government to help with the cost of living which was “not fair”.

He said there had been packages of measures totalling €2.4 billion which was “considerable and more than would be the case in any budget”.

Mr Varadkar said there were areas where the Government “can help and can do more” such as childcare and the cost of public transport adding “we are working on proposals in those areas”.

Mr Varadkar said inflation was at levels “we haven’t seen for a very long time”.

“People are feeling the pinch and it’s more than a pinch, a lot of people are struggling to make ends meets. It’s affecting households, families and also businesses in terms of the cost of energy,” he said.

“People see it when they fill their car with petrol or diesel, you really see it when you see your electricity or gas bill, and increasingly you’re starting to see it in other areas such as the cost of groceries as well.

“It is true that those affected the most are those on the lowest incomes, because they spend more of their incomes on food and energy than people on middle and higher incomes do but I don’t think it’s the case that it’s only affecting people on low to middle incomes.

“People on average incomes of €40,000 to €50,000 a year, working full-time are being affected too.”