Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue has called on the Government to guarantee that all families entitled to the Back to School Allowance receive the payment in advance of the new school term.
Reacting to two new surveys on back to school costs, Deputy McConalogue also called for greater use of technology in schools to cut down on the cost of books.
“We cannot continue to accept a situation where so many parents are forced to go without food or are unable to pay basic household bills just so they can afford to send their children to school in September,” said Deputy McConalogue.
This year 205,125 children are eligible for the Back to School allowance.
The Donegal North East Deputy says he is calling on the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton to guarantee today that each and every one of them will receive the payment in the next two weeks.
“Last year we saw a chaotic situation where thousands of families who were eligible for the payment were waiting months and didn’t receive it until well after the school term began. This was attributed to the introduction of a new automatic system last year, but there are no excuses this year for any delays.
“The excessive burden of school book costs must be addressed once and for all. People are justifiably wondering why families are paying up to €250 per child each year for books, when there are so many affordable IT alternatives on the market these days. Instead of expecting children to carry heavy books to school every day, children could have all their reading on one light weight tablet that would last them a few years. This has the potential to be much cheaper and more convenient in the long-run, and it would increase the everyday use of technology from a young age,” he said.
He added that families who are being squeezed from every angle at the moment need to know that the Government is taking some action to alleviate the increased financial pressure they face at this time every year.