Sunday 25 September 2016

Thousands of families to get 'back to school' allowance

Published 15/06/2015 | 02:30

Willie O'Dea
Willie O'Dea

Over 105,000 families are to automatically receive the 'back to school' clothing and footwear allowance with their social welfare payment before the end of July.

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The Government has said the payment will be issued for almost 190,000 children at a cost of €26.5m.

Last year, thousands of working families claimed they were excluded from receiving the allowance after falling outside the payment's income threshold.

To qualify, a family's total household income must be below a certain limit, which depends on the number of children and parents in a family.

But many in receipt of the family income supplement have found they are ineligible for the payment because it uses different means-test rules, or that they earn as little as €5 over the income threshold.

The reduced economic circumstances of many families also resulted in tens of thousands of extra people applying for the grant.

The stringent means testing led to many children's charities calling for a review of the income limits.

However, despite the calls, limits will remain unchanged on last year's figures.

Couples with three children will have to earn less than €623.20 to avail of the scheme, while lone parents will need to have an income of less than €469.70.

Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay has again urged the Government to increase the threshold for hard-up families.

He said: "This allowance doesn't offer much for families who need it, but it is still very important.

"It is essential that the Government lower these thresholds."

Fianna Fáil spokesperson for Social Protection Willie O'Dea has also called for more spending in the area.

He said: "This is a payment that has seen the most severe cuts and suffers the most stringent means tests.

"I would like to see more targeted spending. Instead of the Government trying to buy votes with Christmas bonuses, they need to reinvest here," he added.

The payments were cut by one-third in 2014 from €150 to €100 for primary school children aged four to 11, and from €250 to €200 for secondary school students aged 12 to 17.

Tánaiste and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said the Government is "committed to assisting families who are under pressure financially".

She said the bulk of payments will be issued by the end of July.

Irish Independent

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