Energy credit reaction: 'I used to pay €92 for gas, but that has gone to €152 in a month'

Energy credit reaction: 'I used to pay €92 for gas, but that has gone to €152 in a month'

Special needs assistant Linda O’ Sullivan. Picture: Tom Honan

Linda O’Sullivan, a lone parent and special needs assistant, said that budgets often overlook one-parent families — but the €500 lump sum payment to those on working family payments announced in Budget 2023 will be “a massive help”. 

In general, she said the budget is "quite positive", but the devil will be in the detail.

“I’ve never had anything like that before,” she said, referring to the working family payment boost.

The double child benefit will also be hugely helpful to me as a one-parent family, but also to other parents struggling in families.

“The €12 social welfare increase will, again, help so many.

“The free school books in primary school is going down very well. If they could extend that to secondary school, everybody would be happy.” 

Reductions of up to 25% in childcare fees were also hugely important, she said, adding that better funding of childcare is vital to help lone parents to access education and the workforce.

The VAT removal from menstrual products to tackle period poverty was also very welcome.

“One concern I would have is what happens when all of these double payments and once-off lump sum payments have been made,” said Ms O'Sullivan. 

When January hits, that’s when we’ll see what the budget really did."

She had hoped to see an extension of the eligibility criteria for medical cards and was happily surprised to see eligibility for GP visit cards extended.

"It should have happened a long time ago," she said. 

"A lot of people are just slightly over the threshold or they weren’t ever eligible before. That’s definitely going to help people.

You still hear horror stories of people not being able to access a GP because they can’t afford it."

Ms O'Sullivan, a mother of two, works full-time, but winter energy bills are becoming a real worry. She hopes the €600 energy credit will help ease that burden.

“Gas and electricity have gone through the roof,” she said.

“I used to pay €92 per month on level pay for gas. That’s gone to €152 now [an increase of €60 in one month]. That’s massive."

She had hoped to see the fuel allowance extended to include more one-parent families. And she would still like to see those in receipt of the working family payment being able to access some of the welfare entitlements that other social welfare recipients receive, such as the household benefit package, which did not happen in this budget.

But other newly-announced once-off payments will help her shoulder the rising costs of living this time.

A reduction in VAT on food would also help, she said, but that was not included in Budget 2023.

Her grocery bill has been rising steadily, and despite hunting between shops to find the best value, prices have risen across the board.

“You’re not getting the change that you would have before," she said. 

"Things have become so expensive. Even own-brand products are more costly than before.

“It’s not the finer things in life one-parent families are finding hard to manage — it’s just getting the necessities.

There’s something wrong in the country when you’re working and struggling. And more and more people are working and struggling now. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to just get by.” 

She said that one-parent families are often overlooked, and although there were many measures which would help in Budget 2023, there were some omissions which may impact one-parent families. 

"Weirdly, there was no mention of the single person child carer tax credit," she said. "They did list increases in other tax credits, but seem to have left that one out. 

"There was no mention of child maintenance either. 

"And the living alone allowance had a €200 increase, but one-parent families are unfortunately exempt from that. They could allow a one-parent family to access that, as it’s one income in the home.

"You’ll always find holes in the budget, but overall it was quite positive."

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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