School's out, bills are in: Parents pay €800 for summer camps on average
Parents are coming under massive financial pressure to occupy their children during the long summer break.
Days after primary schools have broken up for two months, it has emerged that some parents are facing bills of up to €800 to put two children into summer camps.
Thousands of children are set to take part in summer camps, with cash-strapped parents struggling to meet the cost.
Large numbers of families are unable to afford the costs involved, according to chief executive of the National Women's Council, Orla O'Connor.
There is also significant stress on parents to book children into the best of the camps, said head of the Consumers' Association Dermott Jewell.
He said peer pressure on their children to attend the same ones their friends are going to could see parents shelling out more than they expected.
Summer camps can be expensive but if parents want to see change they should speak to the camp providers to see if they can get better value for money, Mr Jewell said. "I think it's important to remember that these camps are businesses and they need to make money somehow.
"But many parents would like to have more say in what the camps offer their kids as value for money can sometimes be hard to find," he added.
The prices of these camps vary greatly, according to a survey carried out by the Irish Independent.
Among the better-value options are the GAA Cúl camps, which are €55 for the first week, and cheaper for second weeks, and cheaper if sisters and brothers are also signed up.
But it costs €800 for three weeks in the Gaeltacht, and as high as €995 for two weeks of residential accommodation at the DCU summer scholars programme.
French, Spanish and German colleges are designed to improve students' proficiency in the language, but the cost can exceed €1,100 for four weeks for a single child.
Prices vary for junior or senior level for language courses.
Bed and board is paid for in the total bill for such courses, but parents can expect to pay up to €50 for phone credit and trips to the shop and more for college-approved transport to and from major cities.
This can bring the total cost to nearly €1,000 per child.
Ms O'Connor said that unless one parent is staying at home, many summer camps are unaffordable.
For a majority of working couples, they cannot afford to reduce their work hours or take unpaid annual leave for the next eight weeks.
"We don't have good flexible work hours in Ireland, we don't have flexible options in a lot of employment," she said.
She said that parents who work in the public service can avail of "term time".
This means that parents can take two months off in the summer and then their wages are averaged over a year.
But this is not an option for most workers in private companies.
Ms O'Connor added: "If you look across Europe, you would have a wider range of options, similar to the term time scheme we have here but in private companies.
"We're calling on the Government to introduce a right to request flexible work practices because we need to get this discussion going between employers in Ireland," she added.
The Irish Independent surveyed a range of summer camp options available across the country. These included sporting camps including rugby, soccer, GAA, tennis and basketball; language camps, such as the traditional Gaeltacht courses, as well as courses in French, Spanish and German, and arts and crafts.
Five-day rugby camps cost from €85 for girls and boys aged from six to 12, although this dropped to €75 for a second sibling.
The FAI runs five-day soccer camps around the country for girls and boys aged up to 14, for €65 for the first child with additional savings for siblings.