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08 Aug 2022

Laois Offaly TDs welcome school cost measures

back to school

Measures designed to ease school costs were welcomed by Laois/Offaly TD, Barry Cowen, while constituency colleague Brian Stanley TD  was more cautious insisting more needs to be done. 

The measures were announced yesterday by Minister for Education Norma Foley in order to help families with school going children. They include an additional €50 million social welfare and €17 million in educational measures. 

As part of the package,  eligible schoolchildren will get a €100 increase in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear allowance.  For eligible children between aged 4 to 11 it will bring the allowance up to €260 and for eligible schoolchildren over 12 to €385. 

A further measure relates to the School Meals Programme, with an additional 310 schools, recently designated as DEIS schools last March, being invited to participate in this programme. 

Anyone who has applied for and receives a school transport ticket for the academic year 2022/23 will not be charged a fee for their school bus ticket this year. This will provide families with savings of up to €500 on the cost of tickets. Further details on how the scheme will operate will be announced shortly and communicated directly to families.

Deputy Cowen said: "We recognise this is an expensive time of year for families, particularly those with a number of children in school. The announcement of a targeted suite of measures to help families with back to education costs this September across transport, clothing, footwear and meals, builds on the additional cost of living supports we have introduced since Budget 2022 and I believe it will be welcomed by many parents. 

“As set out yesterday as part of the publication of the Summer Economic Statement, further measures which will take effect this year to assist with the rising cost of living will be announced as part of the Budget in September. However, it is appropriate that we take action now to help with back to school costs given that these expenses are being incurred at this time of year and today’s initiative will be of immediate benefit to parents who are grappling with these costs.”

His constituency colleague, TD Brian Stanley has said that the Government’s three back to school measures are welcome but missed the majority of working families who are under severe financial pressure.

He said his party has set out a package of measures to ensure families get a break from the cost of living crisis by extending the Back to School Allowance to middle income families. They also want to see measures to reduce back to school costs such as voluntary contributions, school books, uniforms and transport. 

Deputy Stanley said: “We know families in Laois and Offaly find back-to-school costs a huge burden every year, but even more so this year, with the cost-of-living crisis getting worse.”

He said: “An Irish League of Credit Unions survey found that the average back to school cost for one child at primary school was €1,186 and €1,491 for a secondary school. It also found that 24% of parents get into debt trying to pay these costs, sometimes borrowing from money lenders.’’

"The book lists, uniform and the letters for voluntary contributions are already coming through the door. This is not an issue that can wait until the Budget in October, these bills are hitting people in the here and now,” explained Deputy Stanley. 

“Sinn Féin’s proposal calls on them to act now and ensure working families get this crucial support to deal with school costs over the summer. Our proposals include six measures to support families with these costs,” he said. 

“We would give the Back to School allowance to middle income families, targeting those on a Household Gross income of €80,000 and less, with 500,000 additional children qualifying. We would also increase the Back to School allowance by 50% for those who already get it. This would increase supports from €160 to €240 for parents with a child aged 4 to 11 and from €285 to €427.50 for children from the age of 12 up.”

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He said his party would also work towards a fully free schoolbook scheme for children. “We also set out how we would eliminate fees in the school transport system on a phased basis and provide seats for an additional 10,000 children.”

“This state is 75 years behind the north in introducing school books, where it was done in 1947. We would enact Sinn Féin’s Affordable School Uniforms Bill straight away alongside our Bill to abolish voluntary contributions, which can put families under pressure to fork out hundreds of euros,’’ said Deputy Stanley. 

“While the new measures are welcome, the working families who missed out on this cannot wait until budget time. Primary and secondary education is intended to be free under the constitution and legislation, but the reality paints a different story,” Deputy Stanley concluded.

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