Parents will have to dig deeper into their pockets this September with the cost of sending children to school on the rise again – BREEN.

September 3rd, 2008 - Pat Breen

Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Clare T.D. Pat Breen said today that parents will have to dig deeper into their pockets this September with the cost of sending children to school on the increase once again.

Deputy Breen points to the study commissioned by the Combat Poverty Agency which highlighted the difficulties that the costs on such families is having on their children’s continued participation in the Education System. 

“The reality is that the cost of getting children ready to go back to school is expensive and while the Back to School and Footwear Allowance for primary and post primary schools scheme is in place, many families find that the allowance is not enough. Parents also face the problem of having to pump out more on school transport charges this year”.

“The Combat Poverty Conference held in June last heard international evidence that the “more unequal a society is economically, the more unequal it is educationally” That conference also discussed examples of how Irish Educational policies exacerbates inequalities, highlighting the over reliance on voluntary contributions, the cost of books and the failure to put any system in place to monitor the unequal outcomes in educational attainment.”

“I raised these concerns with the Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin T.D. and I am disappointed that in spite of the issues raised by the Combat Poverty Agency she refused to review the grant aid available to families to meet the cost of school clothing and footwear. She fails to understand the financial difficulties facing families stating as she does that the “overall cost of clothing and footwear has fallen by 3.7% over the past twelve months”, what about all the other additional monies that parents have to come up with, school transport costs alone have risen by a whopping 70%.”

“Indeed the entire School Bus Transport System if facing a year of uncertainty due to the Governments mishandling of the removal of the fuel rebate scheme.

“Children will be left at the side of the road if school transport operators have to withdraw their services mid-term due to unexpected costs.”

” If private operators start pulling their services it will have a devastating impact on rural school children and their families who have to find alternative modes of transport. The Government already increased school bus charges due the rise in fuel costs, however, these have not been passed on to the companies which operate the school bus routes.”

“The Government needs to state clearly in advance of November if there will be a replacement fuel rebate scheme for school transport services.”

See parliamentary Question underneath for your information.

Question No. 197 Ref No: 26111/08

To the Minister for Social and Family Affairs

 

To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to review the grant aid available to parents to meet the cost of school clothing and footwear; if her attention has been drawn to the recent Combat Poverty Agency conference highlighting the financial difficulties that families face putting children through school; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

 

 

– Pat Breen.

 

 

*

For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 2nd July, 2008

R E P L Y

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Hanafin T.D.)

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear allowance scheme provides a one-off payment to eligible families to assist with the extra costs when their children start school each autumn. The allowance is not intended to meet the full cost of school clothing and footwear but only to provide assistance towards these costs.

A person may qualify for payment of an allowance if they are in receipt of a social welfare or Health Service Executive payment, are participating in an approved employment scheme or attending a recognised education and training course and have household income below standard levels.

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme is an important support for parents at a time of particular financial strain. The improvements to the scheme in recent years have provided a major boost to meeting the financial costs associated with return to school for those who are most need assistance.

Since 2005, the allowance has been increased from €80 to €200 in respect of qualified children aged from 2 to 11 years and from €150 to €305 for those aged from 12 to 22 years. These are increases of 150% and 103%, respectively. In 2006, the income limits for BSCFA were increased by €50 to €100 above the state pension (contributory) rate. 

The number of children benefiting from the allowance increased from 161,000 in 2006 to over 180,000 in 2007. The annual expenditure on the scheme has increased from €16.7m in 2005 to €40m in 2007. Over €46m has been provided for the scheme in 2008.

These improvements in BSCFA are very significant when viewed in the context of clothing and footwear price trends. According to the Consumer Price Index for May 2008, the overall cost of clothing and footwear has fallen by 3.7% over the past twelve months.

The adequacy of back to school clothing and footwear allowance payments will be kept under review. Any changes to the structure of the scheme, rates of payment, income limits or amendments to the qualifying criteria would have cost implications and would have to be considered in a budgetary context and in the light of resources available for improvements in social welfare payments generally.