Children's charity facing requests for food
Children are asking Barnardos for food because there is not enough to feed them at home, the charity said today.
The campaigners have also warned that parents are bringing sick children to the pharmacist rather than the doctor because they cannot afford medical fees.
In a pre-Budget report called Dreading December 2010, Barnardos said further welfare cuts could mean families having to cut meat from their shopping or go without one full meal a week.
Carmel O'Donovan, project co-ordinator with the children's organisation, said many of those in the firing line of cutbacks were already struggling before the recession struck.
"More children are going hungry - some of our services are being asked by children if they can take food home for later because there just isn't enough at home," she said.
"We have encountered families who are now going to the pharmacy to try to get diagnoses because they can't afford to go to the doctor.
"Families applying for medical cards can wait up to six months before being approved or receiving the card.
"In the interim they are having to think carefully before they attend a doctor - weighing up the risk to the child's health versus the implications for the whole family of having 50 euro less to spend on the household that week.
"That is not a position any parent should have to be in."
Ms O'Donovan said Barnardos workers dealing directly with disadvantaged children have seen a marked deterioration in conditions on the ground over the past two years.
Families are increasingly reliant on moneylenders just to get through the month while children are waiting longer for tests and treatments where early intervention is crucial, such as domestic violence cases, she added.
Barnardos demanded the Government leaves basic social welfare and child benefit alone in next month's slash-and-burn Budget.
The children's charity also called for a new Christmas payment for families on benefit supplements after the abolition of the seasonal bonus last year.
Fergus Finlay, Barnardos chief executive, said poorer families were now having to make choices on whether to pay for food or heat or doctors or school books.
"Children's futures are on the line," he said.
"Cuts to social welfare, education and health spending will push more children further into poverty and disadvantage.
"Communities will be left without any hope for a better future for their children and intergenerational cycles of poverty, disadvantage and social welfare dependency will be further entrenched.
"Both the short and long-term impact of that will be huge, not only for the children and families affected but for the whole of Irish society."