A new report from the Society of St Vincent de Paul has shown that there are around 140,000 children in Ireland living in homes with a leaking roof, damp walls or floors.
That is in addition to the 4,000 children currently living in emergency accommodation.
The report also shows over half of the poorest children in families are reliant on social welfare are not in receipt of the Fuel Allowance.
Analysis of data from a sample of 9,000 five-year-olds shows that living in an inadequately heated home is linked to an increased risk of asthma and more frequent antibiotic use in young children.
It also found that one-in-seven single-parent families are in severe energy poverty.
SVP Head of Social Justice, Dr Tricia Keilthy, says children are one of the most exposed groups to the risk of energy poverty and growing up in a cold home has a distinct negative impact on a child’s health.
“The findings suggest that policy levers to alleviate energy poverty and improve the quality of the housing stock will lead to significant health benefits and a reduction in health expenditure in the future” she said.
The report found that in 2018, 10.5% of one parent households said they could not afford to heat their home.
31% of single parents are spending 10% of their income on energy.
It also found that 11% of households with children were in arrears on their utility bills, compared to 3.3% of households with one adult over the age of 65 and 4.7% of all households without dependent children.
SVP spent more than €5 million helping people with the cost of energy in 2018.
This is an increase of 20% on the previous year.
The Society expects to receive over 50,000 calls for help this winter, many from families struggling to pay the bills and keep their homes warm.
SVP National President, Kieran Stafford said, over the next few weeks and months, SVP will be visiting families who dread wintertime and find it impossible to heat their homes.
“Our volunteers will meet families trying to cut down on bills by living in one room of the house during the winter months.
“Others will be sitting in the cold and dark because they have nothing left at the end of the week to top up their pre-pay meter,” he said.
The Warmer Home Scheme, which is a free energy efficiency scheme available to social welfare recipients who own their own home, received additional funding in Budget 2020.
The Fuel Allowance was also increased.
While these enhanced supports are welcome, SVP says current policies and schemes are failing to effectively target children experiencing energy poverty and many families won’t be compensated for the carbon tax increase.Tags: