Cheryl Barry, a single mother of two children, describes increases in costs since last summer as “crippling”.*
Based in Co Waterford, she has a university degree and is completing a master's.
“The only way to escape being poor is to get a really good, well-paid job. Otherwise life is extremely tough, and only getting tougher.”
Studying full-time, she remains on the One-Parent Family Payment. Her current weekly income is €329. This will fall to €296 in April when fuel allowance stops being paid. Money “is in one hand and out the other”, she said.
“The heating I use very sparingly, only in the morning and when the children come home from school. Electricity is about €30 and gas is about €40 a week. We live kind of out of town so I have to have the car to get the kids to and from school and get the shopping. Fuel for that was about €25 a week a year ago, now it’s about €40.
"I'm in Aldi almost every day. Last year it would have been about €70 a week to feed us. Now I would spend at least €90 a week, if not more. Everything has gone up 20c or 30c. People might laugh at the 25c increase in bread but when that's on everything, it comes down to having to choose what you do without. It's a horrible position to be in."
Rent for their council house is “not too bad” but has also recently increased. “You just can’t keep it all going sometimes. I’ve sold trainers and clothes online just to be able to put the heating on . . . You are constantly caught and you can only budget so much. It is a struggle. No one wants to have to choose between food, heating and health. You feel you are failing as a mother.”
Tracy Hayde, also a single mother of one daughter (7) and living in Thurles, Co Tipperary, worries about the forthcoming fall in her income, from €281 a week to €248, when the fuel allowance ends in April.
She has to travel to Limerick weekly for hospital appointments. "Filling the car used to cost €50 and is now €80 . . . It's about half a tank to do the return trip."
Home heating oil costs her about €100 every two months, and is used “as little as possible”. She spends about €60 a week on food but has had weeks where bills and car fuel left her with just €10.
"I'll hope I have meat left over in the freezer, or tins of tuna, so I am not completely stuck. Eggs are fantastic. St Vincent de Paul are great as a last, last resort. They might give me a Lidl voucher to get me through.
“I’m not able get as much food as I used to for the money. Bread is gone up to an awful price. I used to be able to get it for 40c and now it’s gone up to nearly a euro.”
Asked what steps the Government could take to help families like her, she said: “They need to reduce the cost of fuel for starters. And I know a lot of people would go mad if they did this, but they could do with increasing social welfare rates a bit, even if it was just the children’s allowance to allow parents have a decent standard for them.”
*This article was amended on February 7th, 2022