AS the Cabinet met this morning to discuss possible Budget cuts of €8 to the dole and €10 to child benefit, the real toll of the worsening economic situation for Ireland is exposed in responses to independent.ie.
Ministers are looking in particular at savings of about €700m for the Department of Social Protection, including reducing eligibility for the lone parents allowance.
Readers joined the debate online in unprecedented numbers to reveal the hardships they are already enduring before Budget 2012 is announced in two weeks time.
In sometimes very moving glimpses of life on social welfare, some readers have written of the kind of poverty that means they have to skip meals and cannot afford to heat their homes.
One commentator identified as Marian wrote: “I didn’t have dinner with my child today, I had a few plain crackers. There wasn’t enough for both of us to eat. Didn’t put cheese on them as I had to make sure there would be some for his lunch tomorrow.
“Dinner tomorrow....well I will see what I can rustle up...there's one egg left......potato pancakes and a fried egg for him tomorrow.....me.....I think there are some crackers left!
“Some people say that €8 is a packet of fags....I’ve never smoked. Some say it’s a pint or two....I’ve been out socially twice this year and never drink more than three.
“That €8 is the difference between whether or not I can light the fire for next few days or whether or not I have the money to get the bus into town to go to my next hospital appointment or not.
“I have spent the vast majority of my adult life working....paying taxes.....now, when I need Social Welfare assistance the thought of it being cut is soul destroying.
“I find myself reluctant to apply for jobs knowing that it will be incredibly hard to work for a month ‘til I got paid.....let alone being able to afford to get something to wear to work. But I do apply and hope to find something soon. Not working and having to listen to those who have no idea how hard it is to live is devastating.
“Roll on Wednesday when i get my next Social Welfare....I have a weekly meal planner done out.
“Fingers crossed nothing unexpected pops up........better get some 39c packet of crackers just in case!!!”
P12345 wrote: “I am also on disability benefit. I am constantly going without food for at least one day a week with these cuts.”
John wrote: “If you earn a good wage and you lose €100 a week in tax it’s not the end of the world, but when you’re on benefits and lose €8 a week it seems like it.
“There are very few people that would chose to live on benefits if they had a choice. The people that earn big money still have to pay more until the rest of us get back on our feet and we will do our bit then.
“But don’t kick a man when he’s down, give him a hand as it might be you next.”
Sgt Pepper added: “Previous cuts in social welfare for people on disability and carer's allowance, education fees make college no longer an option for many low income families. Medical card for dentists reduced to covering just 2 fillings and extractions only. It costs €120 for a filling at my dentist. That's two thirds the weekly rate of someone receiving €188 a week.”
Jackanto101 wrote: “I worked for years in slave labour jobs where many men left after two or three days. I paid my taxes like everybody else. A heart attack later and I'm on disability.
“Do you think the €188 per week compares to over €600 per week after tax. Try to pay for food, ESB, phone, tax and insurance, maintenance and NCT, petrol, clothes, heating. Now to top it all off I have to pay a tax for owning my home, a charge for having a septic tank and also water charges. How far would you get on €188 per week?
Pauly added: “What kind of living standards will there be for the poor in a few years time ? Is it going to be okay to go around on a donkey and cart, live on boiled potatoes and see kids with no shoes on their feet ?”
“I do not have a medical card (and thankfully am in good health), do not screw the system for money that I am not entitled to, am desperately searching for work or a Jobs Bridge internship, do not intend on leaving the country as I believe that somebody needs to stay to drag us out of this mess, and never got in any trouble in my life,” wrote V88.
“Yet here I am trying to live on less than €100 a week after rent, with bills to pay and no other source of income than the pittance that the Department of Finance deem to be enough to keep chiseling away at and still be enough to live on.”
Michael said: “Myself and my fiance have two kids together. We've had our heating turned off because of inflation. I paid over €1,200 January last, didn’t use it all summer and they sent us a bill of €1,400. We’re were on social welfare at the moment. I’ve worked since I was 16 in construction for wages less than the dole...”
Shanemdonnelly added: “I hate this country. Irish people will complain, but accept the cuts. There will be less jobs in 2012. I’m trying so hard to find a job but can't. This month I applied to 250 places.”
Mumof2 wrote: “Both me and my partner have lost our jobs in the last year. Neither of us has been able to find employment since, having two young children to support. We already find it extremely difficult to cope and often rely on child benefit to help with paying one thing or another. We have had to move home and give up many of the luxuries in life and now we are expected to survive on less again and to pay more for products.”
Mary wrote: “I am currently on illness benefit due to a cancer diagnosis six months ago. I was made redundant last year, so the illness benefit is my sole income at the moment until such time as I can return to the work force.
“I have worked all my life here in Ireland and paid my taxes. I have never been in receipt of unemployment assistance as I always managed to stay in work over two decades. I am not in receipt of a pension yet as I have 10 years to go (maybe that too will be abolished!).
“I have huge ongoing medical and diet related costs due to my illness which I pay for out of my own pocket, any savings I had are now depleted.
“I expect all benefits to be cut in the next Budget including mine. I never thought I would be in this position that I find myself in now , ie redundant, ill and at the mercy of the State.”
Paul Kennedy wrote: “I am attending a car boot sale this weekend at which I will sell the remains my cd and book collection. I sold about half of them last year to buy some Christmas presents for my children and have something for Christmas dinner that's not from the Tesco value range.
“ I won't have this option next year, however I have been looking at the dietary habits of the dog. This non productive member of my household uses between €4 and €5 worth of food a week.
“As a disabled person with limited mobility I cannot use him for walks so his food will replace the Christmas "bonus" lost a few years ago. I have nothing left to sell and anyway with the higher VAT on the "luxury" of Lidl dog food I'll save even more.
“I may also save a bit more by making a coat out of a duvet and not lighting a fire, Carrots are cheap and I could improve my eyesight and live without the luxury of lights. Good lord Rover you might get a reprieve if only I can get this cold fusion sorted and wave goodbye to the coal man and the ESB.”