30th October 2020 | Coronavirus, Press Releases

Debate on non-essential retail items tone deaf to needs of lower-income families – Patrick Costello TD


Green Party Spokesperson for Justice and TD for Dublin South-Central, Deputy Patrick Costello, has called the debate on essential versus non-essential retail items tone deaf to the needs of lower-income families, after the news that children’s clothing is not deemed essential by some.

Commenting on the matter, he said: “The debate on essential versus non-essential retail items has completely neglected the fact that online shopping is not a viable option for many families. In a 2011 report, the ESRI estimated that 17% of people do not actually have a bank account or if they do, they prefer not to use it.”

“When budgeting on a small income, many people prefer to use cash so that they know exactly how much they have to spend and they are not subject to hidden charges. The move to cashless transactions has hugely impacted low income families throughout the lockdown. The second barrier is access to the internet which is particularly challenging for low income families in rural areas.”

“We have to remember that what may not be an essential item to one individual may well be essential to another. Nobody should be forced to prove to a retailer that they are marginalised in order to buy their child a pair of socks, as is now being suggested.”

“Over 90,000 children in Ireland live in consistent poverty. That is 90,000 children who live in households where there is very little income and where they cannot afford very simple things like a warm winter coat, to heat the home, or a roast dinner once a week. This is happening on our doorstep and yet some people are suggesting children’s clothes aren’t essential because we can all just shop online? The debate is completely tone deaf and out of touch.”

“We are in the run up to Christmas now and not all families can just bulk buy in December. It’s the same way school supplies need to go on sale well before September, it gives lower-income families an opportunity to spread their spend. It may seem minor to some to force shops to pause their offers and super buys, but this can have a big effect on families who can’t get offers like that online and were completely reliant on them.”

“If we are really all in this together, all decisions regarding public health measures should be poverty-proofed going forward and the needs of people on the lowest incomes considered properly,” concluded Deputy Costello.