Energy costs putting people under pressure

By Aideen O'Flaherty 

CALLS to a local Saint Vincent de Paul (SVP) conference in the run-up to Christmas are up by 10 per cent compared to last year, with the charity expressing concern about spiralling energy costs putting additional financial pressure on people who are already struggling to makes ends meet.

Demand for food in SVP’s food bank in Cherry Orchard also saw a sharp rise last week, where the average number of people receiving food from the food bank is usually between 90 and 100.

However, last week over 160 people turned up asking for help.

Cherry Orchard02

Volunteer Barbara Corry helping out at the Cherry Orchard food bank 

 Marie Cronin, the SVP area president for Clondalkin and Ballyfermot, told The Echo: “People who weren’t even on our books came to the food bank pleading for food.

“These are people who wouldn’t normally be coming to us, but they’re so desperate for help.”

Adding to the demand for food, SVP also has concerns about two energy providers increasing their prices, which may cause some people to go without electricity or heating this Christmas, while other people are trying to bypass using central heating in order to reduce their bills.

Ms Cronin explained: “A lot of the newer houses in Cherry Orchard and Tallaght don’t have fireplaces, they have pre-pay electricity meters.

“Some people have started using gas and convector heaters, while people in apartments are using electric heaters.

“We haven’t had people ask us for bottles of gas to heat their homes in donkey’s years, but now people are asking again.”

After carrying out a price comparison on the main bill-pay electricity and pay-as-you-go electricity providers, SVP found that pay-as-you-go customers can pay anywhere between €103 and €274 extra per year, based on standard electricity consumption.

Ms Cronin said: “We’re having awful trouble with pre-pay meters, when people can’t pay bills they’re put on pre-pay meters.

“Pre-pay is a lot more expensive than ordinary electricity, and that is a big problem with it.

“You can’t make ends meet if you don’t have the money in the first place.

“Something should be done at government level – it shouldn’t be up to St Vincent de Paul to keep houses warm this winter.”

People who are struggling are advised by Ms Cronin to contact the charity.

“If people are struggling, then please don’t go to a money lender,” said Ms Cronin, “come to us.”

People seeking assistance can call SVP’s Dublin office on 01 855 0022 and they can direct you to your local office. Parish offices can also direct people to their local conference of SVP.

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