CALLS FOR back to school help from worried parents and guardians have increased by 20% this summer, according to the Society of Saint Vincent De Paul (SVP).
The Society is expecting to receive over 6,000 calls from parents for help with school costs by the end of August.
“August is the busiest month for school costs in SVP and calls continue to come in this week from worried parents,” SVP social policy officer Marcella Stakem said.
“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,” she added.
According to SVP, the delay in processing the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has placed additional pressure on families with limited incomes.
Transition Year (TY) costs, which can vary between €300 and €900 per pupil, have also become a significant source of stress for parents in recent years, according to the society.
“Transition year costs can be significant, particularly if a family has more than one child in secondary school,” Ms Stakem said.
“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.”
“The reality is that the education system is still seeing the effects of the recession,” Ms Stakem added.
“Capitation grants to schools were cut in 2010, forcing schools to seek ‘voluntary’ contributions from parents for running costs.”
Current funding for the school books scheme is also inadequate as many secondary schools are not offering the scheme or ask parents to pay a significant contribution, she added.
“It is estimated it would cost approximately €40m per year to have an entirely free school books scheme. This is very achievable, and a good start would be providing an additional €20m in Budget 2019.”
The society is also calling for social welfare payments to reflect the higher costs faced by families with children over the age of 12.
Budget 2019 can be used to alleviate pressure on parents by making child benefit payable until the end of school and reversing the cuts to the Back to School Allowance, according to SVP.
This Thursday August 30, the society will present to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills to outline proposals for a funding model reflective of the cost of providing a free, universal, and quality education.