Families face long wait for school allowances
HARD-pressed families may be forced to wait weeks for back-to-school allowances to be processed following a deluge of applications.
Since the start of July, more than 71,000 fresh applications have flooded in and the Department of Social Protection said new applications were arriving at the rate of 1,000 a day.
Nearly 200,000 parents have applied for the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance which provides for grants of up to €305 per child for qualifying families.
While 127,000 households received allowances in June, another 71,000 applications have been made since the start of last month, the department confirmed yesterday.
While €82m was set aside for the 2011 allowance, it is believed the latest surge in applications could cost at least €12m more than was already budgeted for.
The department said it would take a number of weeks to clear the huge volume of claims and applications were being processed in the order they were received.
While it was working on clearing the claims, it appealed to the public not to contact the department unless they had heard nothing within eight weeks of submitting their applications.
Children's charity Barnardos suggested that school principals should consider offering uniform-free days at the start of the new school year to help ease the pressure on families.
Its chief executive Fergus Finlay said a large number of additional families were under financial pressure this year and that the extra numbers had overwhelmed the system and department officials.