The number of people seeking help has risen by 36% this month as the ‘perfect storm’ of spiralling price hikes shows no sign of abating
AS the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite, the Money and Budgeting Service (MABS) has revealed that the number of people in North Cork seeking financial assistance has almost doubled over the past year.
The service-delivery manager with MABS in North Cork, Tim Galwey, told The Corkman the number of people calling their Mallow and Charleville offices has increased by 45 per cent when compared to this time last year.
Mr Galway said the figure this month was up 36 per cent when compared to September 2021, due to what he described as a ‘perfect storm’ of spiralling living costs continuing to put people under immense financial pressure.
“Rising back-to-school costs, spiralling utility bills and increases in fuel, groceries and basic household items and mortgage rates have created the perfect storm. People who have never struggled before are now coming under increasing pressure to make ends meet,” said Mr Galwey.
“Traditionally, our client bases would have been social welfare or low-income based. However, as time goes on, we are seeing more and more people from so-called ‘middle Ireland’, for example households with two decent jobs and solid incomes, beginning to struggle financially,” he added.
He said of particular concern to people were energy bills, with many people going into arrears and being faced with the possibly of disconnection.
“In many instances, energy bills have almost doubled. For example, my own two-monthly bills had previously averaged around €230/€240. My most recent one came in at €435. Bearing in mind this was for the summer, this has gone crazy,” said Mr Galwey.
He said that for many households, discretionary-spending power is now a thing of the past and people have to think very carefully about how and where they spend their money.
“Already we see people are not going out as much and socialising far less than they used to. Whereas before people may have had some little bit extra money after paying their bills, they are finding this has all been swallowed up. So, people have to think twice about having that night meal out or visit to the cinema or pub,” said Mr Galwey.
“People now have to think about how that daily bottle of water or cup of coffee may be costing them more than €20 each week ,which over the course of a year can run to well over €1,000. People may not see it like this, but when you are struggling financially, these are the kind of things that can make a big difference,” he added.
Mr Galwey urged people, in particular those who have never experienced financial difficulties in the past, not to be afraid of approaching MABS for help.
“If I am being honest, things are likely to get worse and we are anticipating getting a lot busier over the coming months and years. That is why the services we offer to the public are going to become increasingly more important in the future,” said Mr Galwey.
He was at pains to point out that MABS was a free, independent, non-judgemental and confidential service.
“The first and possibly most difficult step is asking for help. It is very difficult for people who have been getting along with things for years to come to terms with the fact they are now struggling. But, we would urge them to reach out to us for help and advice,” said Mr Galwey.
“The staff at our offices in Mallow and Charleville are vastly experienced and have helped hundreds of people over the years. If they can’t help people directly they will point them in the right direction. The important thing people need to realise is that help is at hand, all they have to do is ask for it,” he added. The MABS office at 25 O’Brien St, Mallow, can be contacted on 0818 072440 and at Rathgoggin South, Charleville, on 0818 072420, weekdays from 9.30am to 1pm and from 2.30pm to 5pm.
“Ideally we would like people to book an appointment, but if people are under immediate pressure we will absolutely take walk-ins,” said Mr Galwey.
“If in doubt, simply pick up the phone,” he added.