The Saint Vincent de Paul’s (SVP) regional offices took, on average, 30 calls an hour from parents unable to meet the costs of sending their children back to school.
“I’ve bought an ipad and books which cost me €1,400 this year, I still have their uniform to buy. I’m doing my best to keep it all together,” said one parent.
The overall demand for the SVP services are up almost 20 per cent compared to last year. Almost half of requests came from one parent families.
Rose McGowan, SVP National President said that while the increase this year in the Back-to-School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BTSCFA) and free school transport was helping families, these measures are only temporary and are still a long way off meeting the needs of families struggling with school costs.
“Parents tell us that by the time the bills are paid they have little, or nothing left to buy food and are struggling to pay for schoolbooks and uniforms as well as requests parent contributions.
“Many parents tell us that they feel they are failing their children by not being able to cover the increasing costs at back-to-school time. This has a huge impact on parents’ mental health and well-being.”
In one day in early August the SVP took almost 450 calls, with many parents explaining the guilt and pressure of feeling like they weren’t doing the best for their children.
One parent said: “The back-to-school allowance didn’t even cover the cost of his books this year. I still have copies, shoes, school bags and uniforms left to buy and that’s without doing the shopping and covering all of our bills.”
While another said: “All of my partners wages go on rent and are now using our family’s savings to keep on top of energy and food bills. I feel like such a failure but trying to cover all the back-to-school costs has really made things difficult.”
Niamh Dalziel, SVP Research and Policy Officer said, “We have set out in our Pre-Budget submission a number of ways that the government should address school costs and provide genuinely free primary and secondary education to all students.
“We want to see an end to the practice of voluntary contribution We are asking for the capitation grant to be restored to 2010 levels at a cost of €28 million. This should be a first step in ending the practice of voluntary contribution through an adequate funding system.
“To help inform this longer-term goal, we have commissioned research with parents and secondary schools to ask them about the impact of voluntary contributions on their finances so that we can fully understand the issue.”
The survey of parents is open until the 11th of September and can be found here.