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Cash crisis for parents over back to school bills

CHARITIES are bracing themselves for an unprecedented rise in parents looking for help with back to school costs.

St Vincent de Paul says it expects the problem to reach crisis point over the next three weeks.

Pleas for help rose by 50pc in some areas last year and the society is anticipating an even bigger increase this year.

In Tallaght alone there were 900 requests for assistance with back to school costs last year and this figure is expected to rise when children return to school in September.


A spokesman said that education, energy and food were the three top areas where people looked for support. The full extent of this year's back to school difficulties, he added, would only become clear in a few weeks.

The society had 1,200 conferences across the country and these raised funds for their own local area.

It was expected, however, that some of the poorer areas will need help from the regional funds because of the back to school burden.

The Irish League of Credit Unions recently calculated that Irish families were spending an average of €400 per child to go back to school.

This includes €229 on uniforms and shoes and €182 on schoolbooks. Three in four parents are also asked to make voluntary contributions of €130 on average.

It found that 54pc of parents are forced to borrow for back to school costs. Credit cards are used by 16pc, savings by 13pc, the Back to School Allowance by 12pc and Credit Unions by 7pc.

The ILCU found that the school costs were putting significant pressure on household budgets and leaving some families unable to pay their bills.

The St Vincent de Paul said it agreed wholeheartedly with the ILCU findings and those of Barnardo's children's charity which recently said the message from parents was that "families are struggling to meet the extensive costs of sending children to school".

The ILCU has urged all parents to shop around for the best value in back to school items like uniforms and books.

"We recommend that you check what you have left over from last year and then make a list of everything you need to buy and stick to that list.

"Eight per cent of those surveyed already speak to their credit union about back to school finance and budget management, so if you want advice on budgeting or some guidance on applying for a loan, visit your local credit union and talk to a member of staff."