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Extra €100 to cover back-to-school costs as study finds one-third of parents getting into debt

One in 10 parents considering an illegal moneylender to cover costs


Barnardos CEO Suzanne Connolly

Barnardos CEO Suzanne Connolly

Barnardos CEO Suzanne Connolly

The cost-of-living crisis is pushing more parents into debt to meet rising back-to-school costs, with almost one-third unable to pay such costs.

The results of a new survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) came after the Government announced school transport fees will be suspended for one year and the Back to School Allowance will increase by €100 per child under a €67m cost-of-living package from August.

The survey found 29pc of parents are getting into debt to pay for schools costs, up 5pc from a year ago, with the average debt now €339.

One in 10 parents said they are considering using an illegal moneylender, while 23pc are using credit cards to fund back-to-school purchases, up 6pc from last year.

The survey found the most expensive secondary school item this year is transport, costing €213, up from €195 last year, reflecting rising fuel costs.

School books and uniforms are costing €210 and €195 respectively.

After-school care is the top expense for primary school parents at €184, up €27 on last year, followed by extracurricular activities at €167.

Sixty-seven per cent of parents said they will deny their children extracurricular activities because they cannot afford them. This figure rose from 46pc last year.

The survey of 764 parents also revealed 65pc of schools are seeking voluntary contributions averaging €124 for primary and €146 for secondary. Contributions rose an average €11 from last year.

While the majority of parents (74pc) use their general monthly income to fund school costs, more than a third rely on their savings.

Around 23pc of parents said they will use credit cards to pay for school costs, while 3pc will rely on a bank loan.

Of those surveyed, 89pc said their income or household costs have been affected by rising inflation this year.

“The costs of sending children to school this September are the highest since the ILCU started its annual survey in 2017,” ILCU head of communications Paul Bailey said.

“This, on top of the rising costs of living and high inflation, will heavily impact on households across the country. What is particularly concerning is the increase in the amount of parents reporting that they will go into debt to send their children to school.”

Barnardos chief executive Suzanne Connolly said parents are “stressed” and “worried they might not be able to afford clothes and shoes”.

She said they were having to “prioritise daily essentials like food, electricity and heat” over school costs. “We know the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance does not fully cover back-to-school costs,” she said.

Áine Lynch, chief executive of the National Parents Council Primary, told the Irish Independent: “We’re concerned, in particular, about voluntary contributions. We feel education should be free to children. We’re constantly told voluntary contributions don’t feel voluntary to parents.

“The charges define the relationship between the parent and school to a financial

“That’s a problem, as we know the importance of the relationship between the school and the parent.

"If that relationship is framed under financial stress and tension, it impacts on children’s education.”

The new Budgetary measures, aimed at struggling families, will see the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, paid to parents on certain welfare and education schemes, increase by €100 per child and be paid in August, before the new school year. Transport fees will also be waived. The maximum a family can pay for transport for secondary students is €500 per year and €150 for primary pupils.

However, families will not have to pay at all for the coming year. “We’re very conscious that there will be additional burdens that are placed on families as they prepare for the return to school,” said Education Minister Norma Foley.

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