We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Social Protection minister Joan Burton announced an increase in Back to School allowance funding this year - but applications for the allowance have led to a major backlog, with just days to go before the school year begins. Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
Back To School

Department’s six-week backlog in processing back-to-school allowance forms

There is a major office backlog in processing applications for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.

SOME OF IRELAND’S most struggling families could be forced to wait until well into October, or later, in order to receive their government allowances for school clothing and footwear.

This evening the Department of Social Protection confirmed that it had received tens of thousands of applications for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) – causing a massive backlog in the processing of applications.

Having only opened applications for this year’s BSFCA at the start of July, the Department is currently only processing applications received in the second week of that month.

With 66,000 applications received for the allowance so far, and the Department only able to process 1,000 applications a day, it could be months before some successful applicants begin to receive the allowance – with the school year beginning in just a few days.

An internal memo sent by the Department to the country’s Citizens’ Information Centres last Friday confirmed that the former was still processing applications received on July 12 – just eight days into the window for applications.

A further memo bearing today’s date, seen by, said the Department was still processing applications dated July 12 – potentially indicating that the backlog of applications could take months to clear.

The two memos confirm that while the Department’s offices have been accepting applications for over seven weeks, only applications received before early in the second week have yet been appraised.

The memos ask Citizens’ Information offices to advise customers that they should not directly contact the Department, lodging queries about the status of their application, until at least eight weeks after their application has been submitted.

They also said the Department would write to all applicants as soon as a decision has been made on their applications – and advise offices that applicants should not call the Department for direct information on whether they have been approved or denied.

Growing backlog

Parents qualifying for the allowance are entitled to receive €200 for children aged 11 and under, and €305 for children between 12 and 22, to cover the costs of clothing their children for school.

The majority of the 66,000 applications for the BSCFA received so far, the Department has confirmed, are from people who are already in receipt of vital allowances like the Disablement Allowance, Occupational Injury Benefit and Carer’s Payments.

127,000 customers were automatically approved for the payment at the start of June, based on having qualified previously and having already met the criteria for this year.

Figures given by the Department earlier this month indicated that over 40,000 applications had been received by then – but the Department now faces a face against time as the backlog continues to mount with just days to go until the start of the school year.

A spokesperson for the Department failed to return contact with when asked to confirm the contents of yesterday’s memo to Citizen’s Information Offices.

This year marks the first time in which the payment has been directly administered by the Department, at its offices in Letterkenny. It was previously administered by the HSE, who last year had to take on extra staff as demand for the allowance surged.

The Department has assigned €82m for the payment this year, an increase on last year’s allocation of €77.4m.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.