AN IRISH charity has said requests for help with back-to-school costs have rocketed by 20 per cent with some parents facing costs of €900 per pupil.
The Society of St Vincent De Paul (SVP) said the increased requests for help will see it receive over 6,000 calls from parents by the end of August.
The charity says the delay in processing the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has placed additional pressure on families with limited incomes.
SVP says a sense of obligation to make voluntary contributions is among the reasons parents are overstretched financially.
“August is the busiest month for school costs in SVP and calls continue to come in this week from worried parents,” said SVP Social Policy Officer Marcella Stakem.
“We know this time of year is stressful for most families as they try to meet the costs of uniforms, books and ‘voluntary’ contributions, and that these costs bear most heavily on families with limited incomes.”
Transition year costs
Meanwhile the charity says some parents are paying between €300 and €900 per pupil to participate in the traditionally optional Transition Year programme between their Junior and Leaving Certs.
“Transition year costs can be significant, particularly if a family has more than one child in secondary school,” said Ms Stakem.
“TY has lots of social and educational benefits for students, but as it becomes mandatory in more and more schools, the Department of Education have to seriously examine how the costs impacts on low income families and put in place measures to promote participation.”
SVP wants social welfare payments to reflect the higher costs faced by families with children over the age of 12.
It says that Budget 2019 can alleviate pressure on parents by making child benefit payable until the end of school and reversing the cuts to the Back to School Allowance.
On Thursday, SVP will present to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills to outline proposals for a funding model that is reflective of the cost of providing a free, universal and quality education.