PARENTS face more financial headaches after it emerged that just 40pc of applications for the Back To School clothing and footwear grant have been processed so far.
As the new school term draws ever closer, figures released by the Labour Party reveal that 71,000 applications have still yet to be processed.
The grant has been criticised for not going far enough by Barnardos chief Fergus Finlay after a study found that the cost of sending a child to school was now more than €800.
Research by the charity revealed the average basic cost for a child starting first year in second-level schools was €815.
It also found parents had spent more on school books this year than 12 months ago.
"Despite the extreme financial pressures facing families with children, costs associated with sending children to school have risen," Mr Findlay said.
The rate of the allowance paid for each eligible child aged two to 11 before the beginning of October this year is €200, while the allowance rate paid for each eligible child aged 12 to 17 is €305.
Labour Dail deputy Joanne Tuffy said that families in financial trouble were in desperate need of this grant and called for the HSE to be more prepared for the application avalanche to make the necessary staffing arrangements before the situation gets out of control.
"I understand that more than 120,000 applications have been received but that only 49,000 have been processed," she said.
"This would suggest that when it comes to getting children back to school in a few weeks' time, many thousands of families, who badly need this additional support, will simply not have it.
"The beginning of the school year is a time when families face huge expenses between buying books and stationery, paying for transport, contributions to the school, etc.
"The grants provided to assist in the purchase of shoes and uniforms provide some level of relief to families who are under financial pressure -- but only if they receive the support when they actually need it."