Quarter of people cut back on food and energy during pandemic, SVP says

Quarter of people cut back on food and energy during pandemic, SVP says

The survey found that 43% of the population reported experiencing at least one form of financial strain due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A quarter of people are cutting back on food and utilities and almost one-in-ten tenants are falling behind on their rent due to pandemic, according to a new survey by the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP).

Based on a representative sample of 1,026 adults, the survey found that 43% of the population reported experiencing at least one form of financial strain due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

That includes 24% of respondents cutting back on food, heating or electricity due to cost, while 22% are using savings to meet ordinary living expenses and 14% are falling behind on bills such as rent, mortgages, utilities or other regular payments.

In addition, 7% of those surveyed are going into debt (personal loan, credit cards) to meet ordinary living expenses.

Those experiencing the greatest financial impact include many of those who were vulnerable to poverty prior to the pandemic including low-income families with children, lone parents, renters, and people with disabilities.

More than a third of one-parent families had to cut back on heating or had fallen behind on bills, and for people unable to work due to illness or disability, 42% reported going without heating due to cost due to Covid-19, compared to 18% of people at work.

Those renting are also hard-pressed during the current crisis, and SVP said the protections for tenants with Covid-19 related rent arrears are "too narrowly defined, difficult to access, and can be particularly challenging for vulnerable tenants to navigate". 

Almost one-in-ten renters reported that they have fallen behind on their rent and a quarter stated they were in arrears on other regular payments.

Dr Tricia Keilthy, SVP head of social justice said: “Lone parents and people with disabilities are the groups most at risk of poverty in Ireland today and Covid-19 has added huge additional pressures to these groups as they navigated the practicalities of self-isolation and increased food and energy bills from being home.

We are concerned that if the eviction ban is lifted, and without a financial mechanism to address rent arrears, many people in the private rental sector will be put at risk of homelessness.

"These findings point to a divergence in experience during lockdown, with those most vulnerable to financial strain and poverty feeling the brunt of the negative economic consequence of the pandemic. 

"While the Government policy response has mitigated significant income losses through the pandemic unemployment payment and wage subsidy schemes, this data shows that additional interventions for those most at risk of financial distress are needed to ensure the public health crisis is not followed by a deeper debt, homelessness and poverty crisis."

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