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Making Cents with Liam Croke: Get help with those big back-to-school expenses

Making Cents with Liam Croke: Get help with those big back-to-school expenses

Parents can be entitled to State financial help to subsidise those big back to school expenses

It’s that time of the year again, when the outgoings of parents with children returning to school take a big leap.

It’s very expensive for anyone, regardless of their income or savings levels. Over the course of a year, parents will spend about €1,400 if their child is in secondary school and close to €1,000 if they’re in primary school. According to research commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions, 78% of parents admitted it was difficult for them to comfortably afford basic costs like uniforms and books.

Obviously, if you have two or three in school at the same time, the outlay is significant and, for many, it’s beyond their ability to fund from income alone, or from savings. So, they are having to miss paying mortgage payments and utility bills because they don’t have a choice. Or, they have to take on debt to fund the costs.

There are initiatives which were introduced to help families meet the cost of uniforms and footwear for children returning to school, or going to school for the first time, and it’s known as the Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance (BTSCFA)

The scheme opened on June 1 with the closing date for applications set at September 30. The allowance paid for each eligible child aged between 4 and 11 on, or before, September 30 2019 is €150. The allowance paid for each eligible child aged between 12 and 22 on, or before, September 30 2019 is €275.

To qualify for this payment, a number of conditions have to be met:

You are currently in receipt of a social welfare payment which includes the working family payment and the back to work family dividend.

If you are taking part in an approved employment scheme

You are taking part in a recognised education or training course

Getting a daily expense allowance for a child in education

You’re involved in an Area Partnership Scheme

You're attending a FET or Fáilte Ireland training course

Your child must be aged between 4-17 on or before September 30 2019. If they are aged between 18 and 22, they must be returning to full-time second-level education in a recognised school or college in the autumn of 2019.

You cannot claim BTSCFA for a child that is not resident in the State. Foster children are not eligible either because the financial support foster parents are in receipt of, includes help with the cost of clothing and footwear for the child.

Your income is also a factor on whether you qualify for the payment.

Total household income, which includes income earned, your main social welfare payment, maintenance payments etc. must not exceed certain weekly income thresholds and they are: one child - €600.70; two children - €637.70; three children- €674.70; four children €711.70.

There are other sources of income you may be in receipt of, but are not taken into account, when arriving at the above numbers.

They are monies you are in receipt of from children’s allowance; a rent supplement payment; a working family payment; guardian’s payments; blind welfare allowance; rehabilitation training allowance; rehabilitative employment; domiciliary care allowance and a mobility allowance.

Any savings or investments you have, are also taken into account including investment properties, but not your family home. They are assessed as follows: First €5,000 not taken into account; Next €10,000, €1 per €1,000; Next €25,000, €2 per €1,000; Balance €4 per €1,000.

As I advised already, the scheme opened on June 1 and many families automatically qualified for this payment and didn’t have to apply for this payment and would have received the payment in mid-July. If people didn’t receive a letter confirming they qualified for this payment, they must apply for the allowance. You can get application forms at an Intreo centre, a social welfare office or at citizens information centres.

You can also get an application form by texting Form BTSCFA followed by your name and address to 51909 or you can request the form by emailing

Once you have completed the application form, you need to return it along with supporting documentation to: Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, College Road, Sligo, F91 T384. You can apply on-line using

You'll be notified if your application has been successful. If you have been refused, you can appeal by sending a letter to the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance Review Section, outlining why you are unhappy with their decision. You should do this within 21 days of getting their decision.

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