€100 extra in back-to-school allowance as survey finds 29% of families are living on credit 

€100 extra in back-to-school allowance as survey finds 29% of families are living on credit 

Parents are spending an average of €1,518 on each secondary school student's return to school, up €27 on last year, with the cost for each primary school pupil up to €1,195, an increase of €9 from 2021.

Cash-strapped families are to get a €100 boost in the back-to-school allowance along with a package of other measures, as the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) warns that almost one-third of parents are getting into debt to send their children back to school. 

On Tuesday, the Government announced a €67m one-off back-to-school package which includes:

  • A €100 increase in the back-to-school allowance, to be paid in August;

  • Extension of the hot school meals scheme to 60,000 more children;

  • A waiver on school transport fees for 121,000 children, including 15,500 children with special needs.

Combined, the measures will represent a saving of €9 a week for families affected, the Government said.

The announcement came as it emerged that two-thirds of families are finding back-to-school to be a financial burden.

Parents are spending an average of €1,518 on each secondary school student's return to school, up €27 on last year, with the cost for each primary schoolgoing child up to €1,195, an increase of €9 from 2021, according to a new survey.

The ILCU's annual survey found that many parents of school-age children are falling into debt due to the cost of starting a new school year, with the number of families living on credit rising to 29%, or just under a third of all those surveyed, up from 24% in 2021.

The average debt of those parents is €339.

The ILCU’s head of communications Paul Bailey said that the costs of sending children back to school this September are the highest his organisation has seen since it began running its annual survey in 2017.

'Particularly concerning'

He said that the willingness of more parents to incur debt in order to finance the return to school is “particularly concerning”.

“We are also seeing a huge increase in the number of parents using their credit cards to purchase back-to-school items,” said Mr Bailey, while urging families to consider cheaper forms of finance such as bank loans.

Meanwhile, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath, in announcing the new back-to-school measures, rejected opposition claims that this was a panicked move, despite the fact that the minister had said as recently as Monday that any exceptional measures would not be announced before September.

He said that, because July is the time when parents usually pay school transport fees, it was prudent to bring forward these measures included in the budget, which is due to be delivered on September 27.

“I would reject that. We are of the view that this is the time to specifically address back-to-school costs,” said Mr McGrath.

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys said the extra €100 per child in the back-to-school allowance will benefit 260,000 children.

“If your child is up to 11 years old, you get €260, and if your child is 12 years and over, you'll get €385 in the back-to-school allowance,” said Ms Humphreys. 

With the cost-of-living crisis biting hard, and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe acknowledging that it is “difficult” to say if people will be better off when new budgetary measures kick in in late September, the Government came in for a deal of criticism from the opposition earlier on Tuesday.

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall told the Dáil that it is “unforgivable” that a new budget would not be introduced for the best part of three months, with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald agreeing that a September budget would be “grossly insufficient” given the urgency of the situation.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar replied that the Government “is responding”, but said that when an increase was first announced to the back-to-school clothing allowance last January it had not anticipated the inflationary situation being as extreme as it currently is.

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