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Back to school measures welcomed by Laois TDs but ‘majority of families left out’ says one


Two Laois TDs say that the government’s back to school measures are welcome but one says ‘missed the majority of working families who are under severe financial pressure’.

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley says his party have set out a package of measures to ensure families get a much-needed break from the cost of living crisis.

This, he said, would involve extending Back to School Allowance to middle incomes families and increasing the allowance for those already receiving it, as well as cutting spiraling back-to-school costs such as the price of voluntary contributions, school books, uniforms and transport.

Brian Stanley said: “We know families in Laois and Offaly find back-to-school costs a huge burden every year, but even more so this year, with the cost-of-living crisis getting worse.

“An Irish League of Credit Unions survey found that the average back to school cost for one child at primary school was €1,186 and €1,491 for a secondary school. It also found that 24% of parents get into debt trying to pay these costs, sometimes borrowing from money lenders.

“The Book lists, Uniform and the letters for voluntary contributions are already coming through the door.

“This is not an issue that can wait until the Budget in October, these bills are hitting people in the here and now.

“Sinn Féin’s proposal calls on them to act now and ensure working families get this crucial support to deal with school costs over the summer.

“Our proposals include 6 measures to support families with these costs.

“We would give the Back to School allowance to middle income families, targeting those on a Household Gross income of €80,000 and less, with 500,000 additional children qualifying.

“We would also increase the Back to School allowance by 50% for those who already get it. This would increase supports from €160 to €240 for parents with a child aged 4-11 and from €285 to €427.50 for children from the age of 12 up.

“Sinn Féin would also work towards a fully free schoolbook scheme for children.

“We also set out how we would eliminate fees in the school transport system on a phased basis and provide seats for an additional 10,000 children.

“This state is 75 years behind the north in introducing school books, where it was done in 1947.

“We would enact Sinn Féin’s Affordable School Uniforms Bill straight away alongside our Bill to abolish voluntary contributions, which can put families under pressure to fork out hundreds of Euros.

“Our package would make a big difference to families’ finances by putting money back in their pockets to help with back-to-school costs.

“While the new measures are welcome, the working families who missed out on this cannot wait until budget time.

“Primary and secondary education is intended to be free under the constitution and legislation, but the reality paints a different story.’’

However, Fianna Fail TD Sean Fleming says the measures are designed to help families with school-going children returning to school in September.

Deputy Fleming said: “We recognise this is an expensive time of year for families, particularly those with a number of children in school.

“The announcement of a targeted suite of measures to help families with back to education costs this September across transport, clothing, footwear and meals, builds on the additional cost of living supports we have introduced since Budget 2022 and I believe it will be welcomed by many parents.

“As set out yesterday as part of the publication of the Summer Economic Statement, further measures which will take effect this year to assist with the rising cost of living will be announced as part of the Budget in September.

“However, it is appropriate that we take action now to help with back to school costs given that these expenses are being incurred at this time of year and today’s initiative will be of immediate benefit to parents who are grappling with these costs.”

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.