Pupils risk returning to school with no uniform
THOUSANDS of children risk returning to school later this month without a uniform as a government department struggles with a massive backlog of applications for financial assistance.
Despite rolling out a new automated system for the delivery of the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance supposed to eliminate the need to make applications, the Department of Social Protection still got 66,000 applications between the start of July and this week.
Of these, 45,000 have still to be processed and more than 1,000 applications continue to arrive at the department each day.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul has asked schools to make allowances for pupils who might have to return to school at the end of this month without a uniform.
The charity also warned there was a risk that eligible families who did not receive their payment in time could fall into arrears on household bills or resort to using moneylenders in order to pay for uniforms and shoes.
The department took over the administration of the allowance from the Health Service Executive following a public outcry over huge delays in families getting their payment last year.
The new automated system, where the department used its database to identify eligible families, was meant to ensure a smooth flow of payments in time for the start of the new school year. Some 127,000 payments were issued using this system.
However, 66,000 families believe they have been overlooked despite being eligible for the allowance and have now had to apply.
A spokeswoman for the department said they expected to have the majority of cases processed in advance of the new school year.
For children aged under 11, the allowance amounts to €200; while for children aged between 12 and 17 it rises to €305.