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Working Poor in Rural Areas hit Hardest By Punitive School Transport Costs – Conway-Walsh

23 July, 2015 - by Rose Conway Walsh

The ‘Working Poor’ in Rural Areas as hit hardest by punitive school transport costs according to Mayo Sinn Féin General Election candidate Cllr. Rose Conway-Walsh.

Speaking  on the week that hundreds of  parents across County Mayo struggle to meet the end of  July deadline to pay up to €650 to Bus Eireann so their children can get the bus to school Cllr. Conway-Walsh said:

“The single annual charge for second level pupils of €350 and the €100 charge for national school pupils is a huge burden on many low income families.  The income threshold for medical cards is so low for a two parents and two children at €350 that even those in consistent poverty are forced to pay.  These parents have no where to turn to and often end up borrowing the money just to get the bus tickets for their children.  They don’t qualify for the Back to School Allowance and the Community Welfare Officers are unable to help.  Medical care eligibility should not be used as a measure to assess whether households can afford to pay for school transport.”

“One thing the Government could do straight away is extend the free scheme to GP Visit only medical cards who are not currently eligible.  Of course, there are areas such as Ballycroy that even families on full medical cards are not eligible for free transport because of the nearest school rule.”

"The inflexibility of the whole school transport system and the changes in the criteria regarding minimum numbers mitigate against families living in rural areas. The fact is that the Fine Gael/ Labour Government has failed to correct the flawed Fianna Fáil policy around school transport. The depopulation of rural Ireland will never be addressed while these policies remain in place but I, with Sinn Féin, will continue to Stand Up for the West and fight for an affordable school transport system that doesn't push families into poverty."

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