Back-to-school costs a major source of stress

By Aideen O'Flaherty 

THE PRESIDENT of a local St Vincent de Paul (SVP) conference has said she has seen a “significant” increase in the number of families receiving help from the charity for back-to-school costs, adding that the number of families needing help from them took the charity “by surprise”.

This follows a report by SVP noting a national 20 per cent increase in calls to the charity for help with back-to-school costs.

Back to School

SVP stated that it is their view that the delay in processing the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has placed additional strain on families who were already struggling on limited incomes.

Marie Cronin, the SVP area president for Clondalkin and Ballyfermot, told The Echo: “We’re halfway through helping [people with back-to-school costs], but from what we’re looking at, at the moment there’s a huge amount of people.

“It definitely took me by surprise – we weren’t expecting [the demand] to be this big, because we felt we were on top of things, but the amount of new people coming on stream has surprised us.

“We’ve had families going directly to schools to try and get help from us because it’s taking them a bit longer to get through to us.”

The cost of uniforms, books and voluntary contributions are putting families on lower incomes under pressure, according to SVP, and they added that Transition Year costs have become a “significant source of stress” for parents in recent years.

The overall cost of sending children back to school, according to a survey conducted by the Irish League of Credit Unions this summer, is €999 for a primary school child and €1,379 for a secondary school student.

Ms Cronin said: “We understand [where the parents] are coming from, and we’d go out of our way to help them.”

SVP has made a number of pre-Budget 2019 recommendations for combating school costs, including ending the voluntary contribution system, and increasing funding for the School Book Rental Scheme and the School Meals Programme.

SVP will present to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills this Thursday (August 31) to outline proposals for a funding model reflective of the cost of providing a free, universal, and quality education.

Families seeking assistance can call SVP’s Dublin office on 01 855 0022 and they can direct you to your local office, and parish offices can also direct people to their local conference of SVP.

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