Government back to school measures shows pressure works, but many will still get no help – Matt Carthy TD
Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy has said that the government measures on back to school costs announced last week will mean that many struggling families will not receive any assistance.
The Cavan Monaghan representative said:
“The measures announced by government on back-to-school costs show that pressure works. Until Monday of last week, the government were determined to wait until September before taking any action on back to school costs for families, even though that would be too late for many parents who are struggling with school costs right now.
“I welcome that the government have taken on board some of Sinn Féin’s proposals.
“However, they must realise the scale of the cost of living crisis means that many families who do not qualify for the Back to School Allowance are also really struggling.
“A family with one child in school, and with a total household income above €620 per week – well below the average wage – will not qualify.
“Many people on wages like that, and above, are really struggling week to week. For those families, they will be put to the pin of their collars as they face bills of hundreds of euros on school costs; sometimes over a thousand euro.
“Under Sinn Féin’s proposals, 500,000 additional children – targeting families with a combined household income of €80,000 – would have been eligible. This would have given help to those who don’t qualify currently. Under the government’s proposals, many of these families will still not get anything.
“So, the government finally woke up to the reality when it comes to back to school costs, but they have a way to go still.
“Government must come back and consider Sinn Féin’s proposals to extend Back to School Allowance to middle income earners, as well as cutting the cost of books and uniforms, if they really want to get to grips with this crisis.”
Letter from constituent
During his contribution to a Sinn Féin private members motion on Back-to-School costs Deputy Carthy read into the Dáil record extracts of a letter he had received from a constituent.
He told the Dáil:
“I commend Sinn Féin’s Education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire not only on this motion but on forcing the Government to a point where, despite its protestations, it was unable to hide from the fact that measures had to be introduced to support families with the costs of sending their children back to school.
“I welcome the measures that were announced. I particularly welcome the announcement of free school transport, and I hope it will become a permanent measure. I also hope the school transport scheme will be expanded so we can get rid of the ludicrous situation where school buses in my constituency are passing children who have to get into the family car to get to school because they do not qualify under the arbitrary criteria that are in place.
“With regard to the financial packages that have been announced, I wish to put on the record extracts from a letter I received this morning. It states:
‘I am a 30-year-old full-time working mother of three and have worked from when I was 16. I got married at 24 and have never been on benefits.
‘In 2020 we bought our home and in December 2021 I had my third child. I had to return to work in March of this year, three months after having that baby, as the €250 a week payment was not enough to keep food in my children’s mouths and a roof over their head. My husband also works full-time but due to the increase in costs it was just not possible for me to stay at home any longer. The government have added an extra two weeks for parental leave, which is wonderful, but what about the mothers who cannot even take the six months maternity leave off because of affordability issues?
‘In September I will have two children attending school and recently I went to apply for the back to school allowance. I didn’t even get past the first stage because the question was “Which of the following payments are you receiving?”. As I said previously, none, so therefore I am not entitled. I cannot afford the €1,000 on school supplies. I also have child care to pay and again I am not entitled to any subsidies. This is an unfair situation.’
“Minister, I have no option but to write back to that mother and tell her that nothing has been provided by the Government for her situation because it has not extended the eligibility criteria for the back-to-school allowance.
“According to Minister after Minister, no other measures will be in place until the end of September, a month after her children go back to school. I again appeal to the Government to introduce an emergency budget that will provide supports for families such as the family of this mother.”