Government oblivious to reality of back-to-school costs - John Brady TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has said that the Government remains utterly oblivious to the reality of back to school costs. Deputy Brady was speaking having held meetings on the issue with Barnardos and St. Vincent de Paul along with his party colleagues earlier today.
Teachta Brady said:
“As the new school term quickly approaches parents’ right across the country are struggling with back to school costs. Annual surveys carried out by Barnardos and the Irish League of Credit Unions have put total costs at up on €900 for primary school and almost €1,500 for secondary school.
“The Government are driving people further and further into debt and into the arms of loan sharks who charge massive interest rates. With that, the Government are also placing huge pressure on voluntary organisations such as St. Vincent de Paul to assist families with additional costs. These organisations are left to spend millions annually to fill the gap left by Government cuts.
“The cuts made to education by Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil before them has led to these increased costs. In many cases schools are left relying on voluntary contributions from parents’ year on year to keep the school open.
“Another issue which must remain under the spotlight is access for lone parents to education. The situation as it is now is a prime example of the incompetence of the last Government in refusing to foresee the consequences of their actions.
“Lone parents were eligible for the Back to Education Allowance while in receipt of the One Parent Family Payment however, those now moved to Family Income Supplement are not.
“Lone parents are being denied access to education because they have lost the One Parent Family Payment or they have not been unemployed for 234 days. These eligibility conditions are absolutely ridiculous.
“The Back to Education Allowance should do just that, it should be an incentive to return to education instead, welfare policies for lone parents are barriers to employment and to education.
“Sinn Féin has proposed a number of measures, including the restoration of the Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance, the extension of the School Meals Programme by 15%, increased capitation to primary and secondary schools by 10% over a Dáil term and an increase in the Schools Book Grant by 30%.
“We also want to see changes to the eligibility criteria for lone parents to allow them to access education if they so wish.”