independent

Saturday 20 January 2018

We are very scared – you can't imagine what it's like on €200

ANNE MARIE O'CONNOR

'WE ARE scared, very, very scared'.

Those are the sentiments of just one unemployed woman, Ingrid O'Brien, following a cut of €8 in her social welfare payment during last week's crushing Budget.

Ingrid says she is not going to be able to manage with another cut in her social welfare.

' That's a fact,' she said. ' They tell us that everybody has to have a cut in income, that the politicians already have had a cut in their income. So have we, the Christmas bonus, and believe me, as a percentage of our income, our cut was a hell of a lot greater than the politicians... and what of the bankers, what cut have they had?

'Until one tries to live on less than €200 per week, it is difficult to imagine what it is like for most of us,' she explained.

'We have all seen the TV programmes about wealthy people who try it for a week and they succeed, but only because they come to the programme with good clothes, good shoes, and a knowledge that no bills will come in the door during the programme. Try it for a year, two years, and for old-age pensioners, it is for the rest of your life,' added the New Ross woman.

Medical cards, one of the socalled 'perks' for those in receipt of social welfare, although very welcome, are not used every week, and do not add very much to the household budget for most, according to Ingrid.

In breaking down weekly household bills for those on social welfare, rent can range from anything from €25 per week to €75 per week, depending on if you live in a council house or a privately owned home with rent allowance supplements. The previous €200 allowance quickly becomes €180 if one is lucky, to €125 if unlucky.

'We get about €25 per week for each of our children. Not many people can feed, clothe, heat and treat a child of any age €25 per week,' said Ingrid, adding that Christmas is 'unfortunate' in that it comes in the middle of winter, a time when some €50 per week is set aside for fuel to heat her home.

'We don't have the money to buy extra during the summer, we never have any extra money. We just play catch-up. But we manage, most of the time,' she said.

'We don't have lots of treats other people have. You don't see us when we don't have foreign holidays. You don't even see us when we have no heating or food on our table. These also don't happen every day of the week, but they do happen. They happen behind closed doors and you don't see us,' she added.

For Ingrid, the hardest times of the year are her family's special days such as birthdays when they want that pair of designer jeans or shoes that cost a whole week's income.

'Especially Christmas, when their friends are getting this year's special gift, you know you are going to have to struggle now that the Christmas bonus has been taken from us,' she explained.

'We live from hand to mouth, without any spare money, but we manage. But we are scared. We are terrified'.

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