More back-to-school support is on the way to help families in difficulty in September, Tánaiste promises


IMPROVED back-to-school supports are on the way for this September, said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

e revealed forthcoming steps after being told in the Dáil that the end-September budget would be late for parents who need to find money in August to pay for their children’s schooling.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar accepted that the rising cost of living could mean a drop in living standards this year regardless of what the government does, as more people would fall into fuel poverty or live in actual poverty. But he said talks would be held at ministerial level to see what could be done to improve back-to-school support.

Education, social protection and public spending ministers are in talks ordered by coalition leaders, he revealed.

“It remains to be seen if they can come up with measures to improve support for families when it comes to back-to-school,” he said.

He listed the government’s actions, but Sinn Féin and the Social Democrats accused him of ignoring families who are burdened with up to €1,500 per child in back-to-school costs.

An independent TD, Michael Collins, said the government was “acting like a British landlord” during the Great Famine, looking the other way when hardship was before their eyes.

Union leader Ivana Bacik said five bills would be pushed into tomorrow’s session as the government happily ignored the cost-of-living crisis ahead of the summer recess in two weeks. People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said pensioners have lost about €3,500 so far this year and the coalition wants them to wait until September.

Róisín Shortall, co-leader of the Social Democrats, said Electric Ireland announced a further price increase just last Friday which would increase gas costs by a further €250 and electricity costs by €164. “Other providers will undoubtedly follow suit,” she said.

“Families who are already struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table also have to deal with the huge costs of going back to school – up to 1,500 euros per child,” she said.

“School fees were actually higher in 2007, 15 years ago, than they are today. It’s really pathetic,” she said, noting that nearly one in four families went into debt last year to pay for back-to-school expenses.

“This year the number is likely to be significantly higher. And why is that? Because the government refuses to help,” she said.

At yesterday’s Summer Economic Statement, Public Expenditure Secretary Michael McGrath said one-off exceptional measures would not be announced until the September 27 budget, almost three months away.

“This delay will guarantee one thing,” Ms Shortall said. “More and more people who are currently struggling to make ends meet will end up in poverty and debt.”

It is truly unforgivable that the government will be “going on holiday” for two months, she said. There is still time for the government to reconsider and do the right thing by introducing an emergency budget now “before it’s too late,” she said.

The Fine Gael leader acknowledged that back to school is a very expensive time for families. “It puts a lot of pressure on the family budget, as it does when you go back to college,” Mr Varadkar said

But the government reacted, he stressed. “The back-to-school allowance for clothes and shoes will be paid from next week.

“For children from four to eleven years there is an increase of 160 euros, for children from 12 years 285 euros,” he said.

Mr. Varadkar pointed out that there has also been an increase in the SUSI third-level scholarship, which starts in September. More people were eligible for the scholarship, while students were allowed to earn more in the summer without it affecting their scholarship for the next year.

“The government accepts that when we announced increases in the back-to-school allowance for clothes and shoes in January, we didn’t expect inflation to be as high as it is now,” he said. “Our projections were for inflation of maybe just 2 or 3 percent. And now it’s closer to 10pc.

“And that’s exactly why. minister [for Education Norma] Foley, Minister [for Social Protection Heather] Humphreys and Ministers [for Public Expenditure Michael] McGrath was involved in talks yesterday and today at the request of the Taoiseach, Minister [Eamon] Ryan and I

“It remains to be seen if they can come up with measures to improve support for families when it comes to going back to school. And we recognize that the end of September is too late in this regard. This work goes on.” More back-to-school support is on the way to help families in difficulty in September, Tánaiste promises

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