National Policy Manager, Barnardos
We work with over 16,000 children and families in 56 services around Ireland every year. Over the past six months, staff have witnessed the majority of the families we support face additional financial pressures as a result of increases to cost of living.
Families with financial difficulties are struggling more, making stark choices about which daily essentials they can and cannot afford. Parents who have managed in the past with tight budgets are beginning to seek help with bills. Their standard of living is drastically affected by inflation, and they are on the cusp of deprivation.
Children going without necessities
More children are going without necessities. Families we support have no disposable income for social activities, such as after-school activities or trips. These are essential parts of childhood and something they should be entitled to.
We know that childhood lasts a lifetime — the longer a child spends living in a household without essentials the greater the impact on their current and future wellbeing and development.
There is often nowhere for these families to go to access funds and make up for the shortfall between income and costs of energy, food, clothing and heating. They are being forced to rely on external sources of support to provide their children with essentials.
We are receiving an increasing number of calls asking for help with food, clothing and basic household items.
Effect on mental and physical health
We are receiving an increasing number of calls asking for help with food, clothing and basic household items with more families earlier in the year asking for assistance heating their homes. More families are proactively looking for financial support. We are calling on the Government to focus resources on those most at risk of going without in Budget 2023.
In addition to financial pressures, the families we support often deal with other adversities and issues, such as parental separation, poor mental health and inappropriate accommodation.
Struggling with the increases in the cost of living is placing an additional strain on parents and exacerbating these underlying issues. This can take their attention away from parenting.
How to ease financial pressures
Barnardos staff always consider families’ individual circumstances, appreciating that to help them focus on parenting, it is important to support them. Cost of living increases have meant staff are doing as much as possible to provide families with practical financial help, such as support with food parcels and making sure they have access to heating and electricity.
By addressing some of their financial pressures, they can help place parents in a better position to support their families; thereby addressing their children’s immediate needs.