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The Back To School allowance was higher in 2007 than it is now

The government must act to provide relief for parents who spend up to €1,500 on back-to-school costs for each child, according to Social Democrats Children’s Spokesperson Jennifer Whitmore.

“Last year, a survey from the Irish League of Credit Unions revealed that 24% of parents go into debt when they are trying to pay back-to-school costs. That is hardly surprising when the Back To School allowance was actually set at a higher rate in 2007 – 15 years ago – than it is now.

“We know that families are already struggling to meet to heat their homes and feed their families. Back-to-school costs are an additional burden that will send many families over the edge. There are measures the government could adopt now to alleviate this pressure.

“For a start, the Back To School allowance should at least return to its previous peak – 2010 levels – when it was paid at a rate of €200 for children under 12 and €305 for children over 12.

“The Minister announced a review of the School Meals Programme, which supports 1,500 schools, in April. This review now needs to be fast-tracked to ensure that any expansion of the programme can be done in advance of the new school year in September.

“Finally, as a country, it is time that we made primary and secondary education genuinely free. Doing this would cost a total of €238 million – just 2.5% of the overall education budget – and it would have a hugely beneficial impact.

“It would mean that parents no longer have to pay voluntary contributions; schools capitation grants would be at sustainable levels; there would be no fees for books; classroom resources would be paid for and the School Transport Fee scheme would be entirely covered.

“School capitation grants have not increased since budget 2020, when they went up by just 2.5%. Meanwhile, the costs of lighting, heating and a range of other services have increased exponentially since then. When schools cannot cover their running costs, that burden falls on families who are asked to contribute. This has gone on long enough. The government must act.”

28 June, 2022


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