Families ‘pushed to brink’ as hikes kick in

Families already swamped by rising service costs and increasing bills could be pushed to the brink and end up as “the new poor”, experts warned yesterday.

As the effect of sizeable hikes in electricity and gas introduced last October sent bills for winter energy soaring, householders also face hikes in car and health insurance as well as reduced child benefit payments from this week and cuts to pay as a result of the ending of employees’ PRSI allowance.

Hard-pressed homes will also see fuel hikes, motor tax and VRT will go up, while yesterday also saw the Central Bank reveal another fall in the amount of personal credit being lent to people by banks.

With mortgage lending at a 40-year low, it highlights the pressure being placed on householders amid warnings that many families will now no longer be able to sustain cuts to household budgets.

Simon Moynihan, communications director with price comparison site bonkers.ie, said budget cuts alone would take at least €1,000 off a typical four-person family over the course of a year, even without considering increased costs for energy and other services.

“I think people have already shopped around and prices are still going up,” he said. “If you have already done everything, I don’t know [what they can do]. Something will have to be cut and what is there to be cut?”

Consumer spokesman Dermott Jewell said: “This month, and for the remainder of this year, it will be a matter of a lot of things being cut out. Not every budget is going to be able to facilitate it and that is the worrying aspect.”

While greater pressure is being applied to the so-called “Squeezed Middle”, spokesman for the St Vincent de Paul southern region, Brendan Dempsey, said he expected even more families to begin availing of SVP services after a Christmas period that was “enormously more busy than any other year”.

Referring to “the new poor”, he said SVP Cork expected to have spent more than €6m in 2012 on helping clients, at least €500,000 more than the charity spent in 2011 in the region.

And on upcoming cuts amid rising costs he said: “You ask what a tenner here and there will do — it will break families.”




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