Sceptical | 

Leo Varadkar questions results of survey that revealed shocking food bank figures

Almost three in ten parents skipped meals or cut portion sizes so that their kids would have enough to eat, according to the Barnardos survey

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks at Government buildings on Tuesday morning. Photo: Damien Storan.

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has questioned the results of new research that suggested one in ten Irish parents used food banks to feed their children in the last year.

Almost three in ten parents skipped meals or cut portion sizes so that their kids would have enough to eat, according to the Food Insecurity in Ireland: Impact on children and their parents survey, which was published last week by Barnardos.

Speaking outside the Department of the Taoiseach this morning, Varadkar said he “would wonder about the scientific basis” of the report as he was dubious about its findings.

“I did see that survey – we’ll certainly take it into consideration,” he told Newstalk reporters this morning.

“I would wonder about the scientific basis of that survey. One-in-ten families using food banks would be over 200,000 families using food banks – I’m not sure that is correct.”

The Barnardos survey was carried out across a sample of 1,000 adults aged over 18. However, it was primarily targeted at parents or guardians of children under 18, with a total of 477 respondents representing this cohort.

Mr Varadkar argued that there was a lack of parents or guardians participating in the survey.

“When I read the survey, I saw that most people who were asked to participate in the survey didn’t respond, so I’m not sure if that figure is correct.

“But whether it’s correct or not isn’t necessarily the point. Nobody doubts that there has been an increase in the number of families struggling to make ends meet.

“We had seen poverty fall year-on-year in Ireland for a number of years and because of the cost-of-living crisis, that has gone backwards and that is a big problem,” he added.

Following the survey, Barnardos called on the Government to take action against child hunger in Ireland.

The charity said that while the once-off lump-sum welfare payments introduced as part of Budget 2023 “provided some protection against the cost-of-living crisis”, these measures are short-term solutions and run the risk of “wearing off”.

Varadkar insisted that measures such as the recent minimum wage increase, tax reductions, and boosts in welfare payments have helped people in “different ways”.

“Notwithstanding all of that, it is very clear to me that a lot of families are struggling,” he said.

“A lot of people on social welfare and pensions are struggling too because [while] in a lot of cases, the increases in income, tax reductions and increases in welfare have been enough to meet inflation, which is running at about 7pc or 8pc, that isn’t true for everyone.

“That is why we are going to have to have some targeted measures that particularly help those who need it the most – like pensioners, like people on social welfare payments and also working families.”

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