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02 Oct 2022

Making Cents: School it just around the corner in Limerick

Making Cents: School it just around the corner in Limerick

The cost of preparing a primary school child for the year ahead is €1,195 and €1,158 for children in secondary school

THE IRISH League of Credit Unions has discovered in research they carried out recently, that the rising cost of living is having a significant impact on school costs and the burden it’s placing on families is very real.
This has always been the case but has probably been exacerbated this year by the cost of living increases we’re experiencing.
They’ve found the cost of preparing a primary school child for the year ahead is €1,195 and €1,158 for children in secondary school.
In a separate study, children’s charity Bernardo’s Ireland uncovered that the average costs for just the basic needs for a first-class pupil is €814, it’s €424 for a fourth pupil and €722 for those in fifth year.
The impact all this is having, is that the number of parents getting into debt over back-to-school costs has risen from 5% to 29%. With the average debt people are getting into amounting to €339.
Bernardos also found that 69% of primary school parents and 74% of secondary school parents are worried about meeting the costs this year. And almost 50% of all parents, regardless of whether their child was in primary or second school said the cost-of-living increases were the reason they would find it much more difficult to meet these back-to-school costs.
And some effort has been made in recognising the difficulty parents are facing. For example, school transport fees are being suspended for the 2022-2023 school year, there has been an expansion to the hot schools’ meals programme which will include an additional 60,000 kids, and the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance (BTSCFA) has been temporarily increased by €100 for each eligible child under the scheme, bringing it up to €260 for children aged between 4-11 and €385 for children aged between 12 and 22.
So, if someone had two kids aged 5 and 7 and they satisfied the BTSCFA criteria they’d receive a back-to-school allowance of €520.
If someone had three kids aged 8, 13 and 14, they’d receive €1,030 under the BTSCFA scheme, again assuming they satisfy the eligibility criteria.
For children aged between 18 and 22, in order for them to qualify they must be in full time second level education in a recognised school or college.
With all of that in mind, I want to outline how you qualify for this particular benefit because according to the Department of Social Protection, 151,000 families will benefit under this scheme which will cover almost 262,000 children.
And even though the payment has already been made to about 120,000 families in July (they were contacted automatically in June notifying them that funds were on the way) there may be some who haven’t received any letter or any money and perhaps they may qualify.
If this is the case, they still have time, but not very long either, because the official closing date to apply for this benefit ends on the 30th September 2022.
In an instance like this, and parents received no letter in June, they’ll have to apply on-line and I’ll explain what they have to do in a moment.
But first I’m going to outline what the rules for the BTSCFA are, who qualifies, how you make a claim etc.
Okay, the BTSCFA opened on the 20th June 2022 and runs until the 30th September 2022. And it’s a once off yearly payment which is means tested.
And to avail of the allowance, you need to meet the following criteria.

Eligibility Criteria
You may qualify if you are:
n Getting a social welfare payment (including Working Family Payment and Back to Work Family Dividend or a Health Service Executive payment, or
n Taking part in an approved employment scheme (back to work scheme) or
n Taking part in a recognised education or training course, or
n Getting a Daily Expenses Allowance (formerly called Direct Provision Allowance) for a child in education (or for yourself if you are 18–22 and returning to full-time second-level education), or
n Involved in an Area Partnership Scheme, or
n Attending a FET (formerly Fás) training course
Each child being claimed for must be aged between 4 and 17 or aged between 18 and 22 and returning to second level education.
You must also be in receipt of an increase for a qualified child (IQC) in respect of each child for whom the allowance is being claimed for, although there can be exceptions to this in certain circumstances.
And you and each child who you are claiming the allowance for, must be resident in the state.

Means Tested
The payment is means tested and the assessed weekly household income must be less than a certain amount in order to qualify, and the amount will depend on the number of children you have. For example, if you have one child the weekly income limit is €620. It’s €668 if you have two children, €716 if you have 3 and €764 if you have four. The amount is increased by €48 for every child.

And all your dependent children are taken into account for the income limits, including children who do not qualify for BTSCFA because for example they are under the age of 4.
There are some income sources that aren’t used and counted in the means test and that is where the monies come from child benefit, rent supplement, working family payment, guardians’ payments , blind welfare allowance, mobility allowance, domiciliary care allowance and the rehabilitation training allowance.
And your total household income includes all social welfare or health executive payments but excludes any PRSI contributions. And if you have savings or investments they are included in the assessment but any amounts up to €5,000 are not. The next €10,000 is however and is calculated at €1 per €1,000, the next €25,000 it’s €2 per €1,000 and €4 per €1,000 on the balance.

How to Apply
If you haven’t been contacted and you believe you meet the criteria, you should apply for the BTSCFA payment online on at www.MyWelfare.ie.
And let me repeat, the closing date for applications is the 30th September 2022.
If you did apply and your application was refused, you have the right to appeal the decision by writing to: The Department of Social Protection, Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance Review Section, Social Welfare Services, Department of Social Protection, College Road, Sligo, F91 T384, outlining why you are unhappy with their decision and asking that your claim be reviewed. You should request a review of your application within 21 days of getting a decision.
Last couple of things worth mentioning about the BTSCFA and they are, you cannot claim for a child who is not resident in the State. And foster children are not eligible either because the financial support parents get from Tusla includes help with the cost of clothing and footwear for the child.

Liam Croke is MD of Harmonics Financial Ltd, based in Plassey. He can be contacted at liam@harmonics.ie or www.harmonics.ie

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