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Barnardos Calls on the Government in Budget 2023 to:
'I can't afford back to school costs without having to miss meals to cover it. God forbid how we'll heat the house come winter.' (Secondary school parent)
Barnardos' Back to School Survey 2022 highlights the majority of parents are worried about meeting back to school costs this year and most will find it harder as a result of recent cost of living increases. Parents are finding themselves under considerable financial pressure to meet costs with some having to take worrying measures to meet them.
Suzanne Connolly, Barnardos CEO, said: "Barnardos is calling on the government in Budget 2023 to recognise and introduce measures to alleviate the pressures that families are under. Parents have told us that their children's back to school costs are placing considerable financial pressure on them, particularly as a result of rapid cost of living increases.
"Barnardos believes that no parent should face financial pressure and struggles in trying to meet what are essential costs for their children's education. No child should feel any anxiety about their parents' ability to meet school costs.
"The Government has increased the back to school allowance this year by €100 to reduce pressures on families, something Barnardos very much welcomes. However, we think the government could go further and set out plans to provide a genuinely free school system for all children.
"The underfunding of schools has meant that parents are left trying to help schools meet shortfalls in funding through voluntary contributions. The government must provide adequate funding to schools so that they no longer have to rely on additional contributions from parents.
'Barnardos is calling on the government to take further steps in providing free education by introducing free schoolbooks, ensuring all schools allow for affordable uniforms, ending voluntary contributions and maintaining the recent increase in the back to school clothing and footwear allowance.'
Parent Spokesperson Sarah, mother of four children, three of which attend primary school shared her views in the survey 'Living in a rural area, it's not just the school costs it's also the huge costs of transporting the children to school. Fuel, tax, insurance, the living costs in the home, heating food and electricity. We have no other choices to get children to school, it has gone beyond crazy at the cost of living these days. The government need to spend time in the real world.'
This year's survey found:
The basic cost of sending a child to school in 2022 remains substantial across primary and secondary: the average cost of the basics needed for a fourth class pupil is €424; a first year pupil is €814 and a fifth year pupil is €722
Over two thirds of primary (69%) and three-quarters of secondary school parents (75%) are worried about meeting costs this year, (25% primary and 32% secondary said they were very concerned).
Almost half of parents (46% of primary and 48% of secondary) said recent cost of living increases had made it much more difficult to meet costs with a further one third of parents (36%) saying it had made it slightly more difficult.
Schools continue to ask parents to buy crested or branded uniforms with 75% of primary and 95% of secondary school parents reporting they are required to do so.
'The government need to realise that people need better supports to cover the cost of back to school. I work and I find it degrading that I have to borrow from people to get my child what he needs for school.' (Primary school parent)
'I bought all books for 1st year then was told she needed an iPad. I had to borrow for that. I struggled so much last year then Christmas came I was in so much debt I found it hard to pay off. This caused me stress and anxiety - I couldn't sleep at night. I felt like such a failure not being able to provide for my children. I am so worried about this year.' (Secondary school parent)
'I really don't know how we are going to get three children ready for school and it breaks my heart as we are a normal hardworking middle-class family but yet we are finding ourselves on the poverty line.' (Primary school parent)
'I am a single parent with three children. Unfortunately, the cost of living has increased so much that I am barely scraping by and I have to sacrifice a lot to ensure we have our basic needs met. I don't go on fancy holidays or buy loads of clothes or luxuries. We manage to meet our basic needs and that is it. It doesn't feel like we are thriving it feels like we are surviving.' (Secondary school parent)
View our Back to School Survey 2022 infographic here