5,000 families call charity for food and utility bill help
A record number of families have appealed to the St Vincent de Paul charity for help with back-to-school costs this year.
More than 5,000 families - many of them who are working - rang the Catholic charity last month seeking help for food and utility bills after back-to-school expenses left them struggling.
Although the Department of Social Protection provides a Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance for low-income families, many of the callers turning to the SVP for help earn just above the means-tested threshold, said an SVP spokesman.
"One person I know missed it by just €15," he said.
Many of the callers cite the huge cost of so-called 'voluntary contributions', which are typically in the range of between €100 and €150, as a big ask they can ill afford.
The fees are typically for such things as school books, school meals and trips.
"Voluntary contributions are a big problem for a lot of people," he said.
"Back to school this week has been a really exciting time for lots of children and their parents," added the SVP's Tricia Keilthy. "But for many low-income and struggling households, the preparation for the new school year has been a huge source of stress and anxiety, with the prospect of further requests throughout the year for contributions for education, exam and extra-curricular expenses.
"As well as the ordinary costs of school, some of the emerging issues that we see include the huge costs of transition year registration and trips and an increasing requirement for expensive digital devices."