Back to School Costs Put Families Under Financial Pressure
Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff has said that many local families "are feeling the heavy financial burden of meeting the cost of children returning to school."
Mr McElduff said:
"The financial burden of the new school term is now as big a strain on the average family budget as is Christmas or trying to afford a summer holiday. The cost of a child going to school is on the rise every year and in some cases it can cost between £400 and £500 for a Year 8 pupil starting the new school year.
"That figure may seem high but not when you add up the price of a new school uniform, new shoes, the additional cost of PE gear and other necessary items.
"The low income and the low wage economy in the North means that many families are being put under serious financial pressure. If there is perhaps two or three children going to school in the same family, then the financial pressure on the family concerned is serious indeed.
"I have been lobbying the Department of Education to offer greater financial assistance to low income families. The current Clothing Allowances Scheme allows for a maximum grant of £67 in the case of a child who is under 15 years and £72 in the case of a pupil who is over 15. These figures are not realistic and do not go anywhere meeting the cost of a school uniform in 2006.
"Minister Maria Eagle wrote to me on 11 August 2006 in response to a letter which I wrote to her on 21 July 2006. While giving some information about the level of assistance available, the Minster did duck the issue of putting a price on a school uniform in 2006. I had specifically asked the Minister to give me her opinion and the opinion of her Departmental colleagues as to how much it would cost to clothe a child or a young person for the new school term.
"Even where both parents are working, there is a strong case for greater financial assistance. Often, couples are told that there combined income is maybe £10 over the threshold for financial assistance. This threshold needs to be changed to reflect the reality of the high cost of living in 2006.
"I intend to raise this issue again in direct dialogue with the Minister when we meet in the near future to discuss a range of educational issues."