Families going hungry to pay off debts
MANY families don't have enough money for food because their income is spent on repaying debt.
Examples of couples surviving on just €15 worth of groceries a week and a struggling elderly couple surviving on meagre rations were provided at yesterday's launch of a new online tool to help people work out the amount of money they need to live on.
Michael Culloty, spokesman for the state budgeting service MABS, said repayment plans had to be based on the reality of a household's income.
"The vast majority of people want to repay what they owe and sometimes place extreme hardship on themselves and their families to do so. In MABS we see this all the time," he said.
The online calculator at www.MISc.ie, created by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice (VPSJ), along with MABS, is designed to allow households to work out the minimum amount of income they need to provide a decent standard of living -- without luxuries.
The calculations are based on more than 13 years of research and include 16 areas of spending -- ranging from food and clothing to insurance costs and household services.
Professor John Monaghan, national vice-president of the SVP, said civil servants would also be able to "stress test" the likely affects of any changes they are proposing to pensions, social welfare rates and minimum wage.
"Clearly the amount of money people have to live on is not adequate, if it were they wouldn't be coming to us in such numbers," he said.
Dr Bernadette Mac-Mahon, director of the VPSJ, said the calculations allowed enough for a household to live on with dignity, but without luxuries.