Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy has called on the Government to honour its commitment to increase capitation grants for primary and secondary schools.
Deputy Troy made the comments following the publication of an annual back-to-school survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions which found that getting children equipped for starting or returning to school next month is costing an average of €999 for a primary school pupil and €1,379 for a secondary school student.
Two-thirds of families say the outlay puts them under financial pressure and one-third of families are going into debt to cover the costs this year — a proportion that has risen to 36%, from 29% last year, despite the fact that the costs have fallen slightly. as families prepare themselves for an influx of school related bills as September approaches.
Deputy Troy said, “Back to school costs represent a major financial challenge for many families. The cost of sending a child to school can reach up to €1,500 between new uniform costs, book expenses, transport charges and voluntary charges which aren’t really voluntary whatsoever. This doesn’t take into account additional costs associated with extra-curricular activities such as school trips. This latest survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions highlights some very worrying trends as more and more families seem to be turning towards unregulated money lenders in order to finance the cost of back to school”.
Of those who are in debt due to back-to-school costs, more than one in four (27%) have borrowed the cash from a moneylender — a substantial increase on the 20% who were in the same position last year.
More than half of this group said they had borrowed at least €400, but a quarter said they had borrowed more than €800, and they may have to pay back hundreds more in interest.
Half of those who used moneylenders said they had no other choice, as they had a bad credit history, while the rest said they needed a guarantee of getting the money and they could not have the same certainty with banks or credit unions, which have more stringent loan-approval processes.
“Last year St Vincent de Paul revealed that a record number of parents made contact with them looking for assistance in meeting back to school costs. Parents are struggling to meet these costs which are rising year on year. It’s becoming even more challenging as more and more schools are requiring parents to purchase new technology such as tablets.
“There is an onus on schools to reduce the back to school costs wherever possible. Generic uniforms should be encouraged alongside book loan schemes. However, the Government needs to acknowledge that the capitation grant no longer comes close to covering back to school costs for parents.
“In the 2016 Programme for Government, Fine Gael committed to increasing capitation grants for both primary and secondary schools to help pay for the services they provide to schools. However the Government has failed to move on this commitment since coming to office. This simply isn’t good enough.
“Schools are crying out for additional funding. The costs associated with running a modern school continue to rise yet the Government has decided that the schools don’t need any additional funding. The end result is school principals are having to pass these increased costs to parents.
“Budget 2019 needs to take into account the rising cost of schools and the impact it is having on families, the Government simply cannot allow a situation to continue whereby more and more parents are being forced to turn to unregulated money lenders in order to fund back to school costs” concluded Deputy Troy.