Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has said it is the responsibility of parents to rear their children rather than taxpayers as he warned against hopes for a reversal of cuts to a back-to-school support payment.
His comments came after children’s charity Barnardos urged a gradual restoration of the full Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, which was cut during the recession.
Asked if the previous rate would be restored, he said the allowance for low- income families was paid in addition to child benefit payments of €1,600 a year.
“The responsibility for rearing children lies mainly with parents, not with the taxpayer. The taxpayer and the Government are there to help,” Mr Varadkar said.
Barnardos suggested an extra €14m next year would allow an extra €50 to be paid for each child.
The current rate of €100 for primary-school pupils and €200 for older students are both €100 less than the pre-2012 payments.
The minister also said there is a huge variation from school to school in different charges sought from families and that work could be done here. There could be a “standardisation of fees and charges” being paid, he suggested.
“This is particularly important around school books as well,” Mr Varadkar added.
He said all these issues might be looked at in the context of October’s budget.
Barnardos’ school costs survey highlighted overall bills facing parents are similar to last year, with uniforms, books, and school charges amounting to almost €400 for a fourth-class pupil and €775 for a first-year student.
The level of variety on uniform costs was something which Fianna Fáil said requires a firm government directive to school boards. Former education minister Ruairi Quinn had asked all schools to consult with parents about policies around the use of generic or customised uniforms and sports gear.
“It truly is remarkable that more schools have not taken on board calls to make school uniforms more cost effective. While the Department of Education has given advice to schools to standardise the selection of uniforms, many have not taken on board this guidance,” said Fianna Fáil children and youth affairs spokesperson Anne Rabbitte.
The Barnardos survey also found that most parents are asked for a voluntary contribution from their children’s schools, but are often pressured to pay up if they are unable to do so or are late in paying.
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