Charities swamped as school costs bite for parents
STRUGGLING parents are swamping charities with calls for financial help as the return to school looms.
A survey by Aviva shows that 87pc of parents are facing serious financial strain at this time of year.
Nearly half said they could not afford to take a holiday this year, while 30pc admitted they would have if they had no back-to-school expenses.
The Irish Independent this week revealed a backlog in processing applications for the Back to School Allowance -- which offers financial support to cash-strapped parents.
Aviva's survey of 559 parents revealed that it costs between €200 and €300 per child to fund books, uniforms and other back to school necessities.
Marketing director for Aviva, Vanessa Hartley, said it highlighted the extent of the financial pressures on families.
Aviva announced a reduction in the cost of its Level 2 Hospital Plan to ease this burden.
Meanwhile, St Vincent de Paul said there was a significant increase in calls for assistance with education costs.
This ranged from help with primary and secondary back-to- school costs, to help with third-level finances.
"The calls are coming, not just from from families who are on social welfare, but also from low-paid workers who are struggling," said SVP's Mairead Bushnell.
She said some have applied for the allowance but have been refused.
Overall, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of calls for assistance the society receives.
In the first five months of this year, the SVP Dublin region experienced an increase in demand of 37pc, Cork was up 53pc, Galway city was up 46pc and the mid-west was up 20pc.
In addition to providing direct assistance, the SVP is involved in providing services such as homework clubs, funding breakfast clubs, organising revision classes and working directly with schools to support disadvantaged pupils.
Meanwhile, the delays in processing claims for the allowance have been criticised by the Fine Gael social protection spokesman Michael Ring.
"Delays in processing claims from hard-pressed families mean that many have still received little or no state support for new school uniforms, shoes or books," he said.
Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv insisted that the claims were being paid promptly in many areas of the country.