A NUMBER OF parents have expressed concern about delays in receiving the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA).
Some people say they applied for the grant several weeks ago but have yet to hear back, with many taking to Twitter to vent their frustration as the new school term approaches.
One mother wrote she was “starting to panic” as her children are due back in school in less than two weeks.
A spokesperson said the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection “understands the concerns of parents and guardians and appreciates the pressure that families are under in meeting costs associated with children returning to school”.
“The Department apologises to all customers who are waiting to hear on the status of their application. The Department would like to assure these customers that every effort is being made to ensure that all applications are processed as quickly as possible.”
Due to the backlog, the spokesperson said call-answering times are “currently longer than usual” and asked people to “bear with us”.
The department is currently processing applications received in the first week of July.
The department has received approximately 36,000 applications over the summer months (with the bulk of these, about 28,000, received in the month of July).
The spokesperson said extra employees are being assigned to the relevant section to help improve the processing times. Awarded applications are due to be paid within five working days of the decision.
The allowance provides a once-off payment to eligible families to assist with the costs of clothing and footwear when children start or re-commence school each autumn.
This year the government is providing €49.5 million for the scheme, which operates from 1 June to 3 September. The rate of the payment is €125 for children aged four to 11, and €250 for children aged 12 and over.
“Similar to arrangements in previous years, the majority of this year’s BSCFA payments for approximately 104,000 families in respect of approximately 190,308 children were fully automated and parents were not required to make an application to the department,” the spokesperson said.
The total amount paid to families with an automatic entitlement was €33.45 million and these payments were made during the week commencing 9 July, they added.
Families who did not receive an automatic payment in 2018 and who wish to apply for this means-tested allowance are required to make an application to the department.
More information about application forms can be read here. The scheme is open for new applications until 30 September.