The government has left middle-income families behind on its newly announced back-to-school grants, Sinn Féin claimed today.
Leader Mary Lou McDonald called on the coalition to “follow the logic of its own reasoning” by supporting those households that are not eligible for welfare.
The government said “certainly not” that households on €621 a week were “home and hosed” and that it was “an easy trip for them,” she said.
The new moves left a significant number struggling, she said.
Public Expenditure Secretary Michael McGrath acknowledged there were income caps on the newly announced back-to-school grants.
But Sinn Féin typically chose the lowest, he said.
On Tuesday, ministers announced an additional €100 in school back-to-school payments.
The amount for 4 to 11 year olds increases to 260 euros, for each student over 12 years of age it increases to 285 euros.
The move will benefit 260,000 children and 150,000 families, Mr McGrath said.
He pointed out that the government will also abolish student transport fees for next year, saving families €500 a year.
The free hot meal program is also being expanded to all DEIS schools, now providing meals to 60,000 students.
The total costs of the new measures amount to 67 million euros.
Mr. McGrath said that Sinn Féin’s “newfound advocacy for middle-income families” would fool no one.
The party’s recent emergency budget proposals did not include a single measure related to back-to-school, he said, and its alternative budget last year did not provide for increases in student clothing and footwear allowances.
But he added to the new concessions: “For many it will not go far enough. We recognize that.”
However, Mr McGrath said the government’s latest budget provided an extra €400 a year for those earning €700 a week.
But Ms McDonald said: “With the cost of living crisis ever worsening and for weeks we’ve been telling you parents are now facing huge back-to-school costs and that an autumn budget for families would be far too late.
“Time and again, ministers lined up to parrot the government’s mantra that the 2023 budget – almost three months away – is the only way to help.
“And then, yesterday at dinner, after weeks of obstinacy and just two hours before a Sinn Féin motion urging the government to act, your position changed.
“Suddenly the government was able to intervene by raising the rate of the back-to-school grant for those already receiving that payment.
“You could have saved all these families weeks of worry by making that announcement and making that decision sooner. However, I welcome the U-turn by your government.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/government-accused-of-leaving-behind-middle-income-families-in-its-back-to-school-support-41818300.html The government has been accused of failing middle-income families in their back-to-school support