About 1,700 families per day applying for back-to-school aid

About 1,700 families are applying every day for State supports to help with the cost of sending their children back to school.

Almost 50,000 claims have been made over and above the 115,348 homes already issued with payments of €39.3m on foot of having received, last year, the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance from the Department of Social Protection.

The department made the payments in mid-July in respect of more than 205,000 children of those families.

But since applications opened earlier in the summer, a further 47,000 claims were received for manual processing, equivalent to an average 1,700 a day. The figures compare to around the same level of applications as this time last year, although families can apply up to the end of September for assistance.

Of the 19,336 applications processed and finalised, 17,264 families qualified and 2,072 did not. The payments to successful applicants covered 33,000 children but the department has not yet finalised details on the amount paid out.

Among the eligibility criteria are that the household income must be below certain levels, ranging from €410.10 a week for a lone parent with one child up to €712.60 for a couple with six children, and with proportional increases for additional children.

The payments have been cut since last year when the scheme cost a total of €90m, from €305 to €250 for dependent children up to the age of 22 and from €200 to €150 for younger children.

These changes, and the increase in the eligible age of children from two to four, is expected to see the spend fall to €69m this year.

But families are feeling the effects of the changes, with almost half of those who responded to the Barnardos school costs survey having applied. Most had received their payment last month but said the reduced payments have left them with a greater shortfall to meet from their limited budgets.

Others indicated the strict criteria excludes them, even when they were just over the income thresholds and need the payment to help cover costs of sending their children to school.

One respondent had applied for the allowance but was put over the limit by the family income supplement (FIS) they receive.

“Our FIS was then cut off — it is up for renewal. We won’t get a decision on it for 20 weeks. A conservative estimate for sending four of our five children back to school in September, with one starting in secondary, is €3,000,” they wrote.


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