Calls for help to the Society of Saint Vincent De Paul (SVP) are up 20% this year, as the cost-of-living crisis heaps more hardship onto households.
South West Regional Co-Ordinator of SVP, Gerry Garvey, said this year has been “relentless.”
“Across the board, there have been increases in requests for assistance,” he said. However, one group, in particular, has been increasingly seeking help.
“It's what we call ‘the working poor’ that are coming to us now — people who are working in relatively low-paid jobs — they’re probably a fraction above the limit to be able to get family income supplements and all of the other (welfare) support,” he said.
Mr Garvey said this cohort who are “caught in the middle,” are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, have little money left over after paying rent or mortgage payments, and require assistance in getting food.
“It’s scary a time for everyone,” he said.
The charity said that renters are among those more vulnerable to poverty and are finding it particularly difficult to manage rising energy costs.
They said that cutting back on essentials like food, going into debt, or using savings to pay bills is now a common practice.
One man living in Coolmine, Dublin, who preferred to remain anonymous said he has reached poverty for the first time.
The PhD student, aged 23, is studying at Trinity College Dublin and has resorted to seeking support from SVP.
Due to an issue with his application, he did not qualify for payment this month. However, the college granted him a loan of €1000 to meet his rent which costs €850 per month.
“My parents are having the same financial difficulties as well so I had to give them money for my sister’s textbooks and stuff,” he said.
He tried to seek further support from his college but found that the services that typically provide financial assistance to students are closed until next month.
He had to convince himself that he needed support to be able to get food.
“It’s a little bit embarrassing,” he said.
He said PhDs receive a stipend of €18,500 if they qualify which works out at €1,541 per month.
He said that it was a "kick in the teeth” when Simon Harris announced the incoming increase of PhD stipends to €28,000.
He worked out that he receives €8.50 per hour for the amount of work he does as a PhD student.
He has made contact with SVP who has arranged to supply him with food vouchers.
A spokesperson for the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science said that the department is monitoring the issue of stipends, and is examining a range of options to support students in this year’s Budget.
The spokesperson also said that the stipend of €28,000 will only apply to PhD students on the Innovate for Ireland programme, and not to all new PhD students.