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School transport fees to be waived for the year as Government announce back-to-school package

The proposal is set to cost €67 million.

Ministers Michael McGrath, Norma Foley and Heather Humphreys announcing the package this evening
Ministers Michael McGrath, Norma Foley and Heather Humphreys announcing the package this evening
Image: Tadgh McNally/The Journal

Updated Jul 5th 2022, 7:10 PM

THE GOVERNMENT HAVE announced that school transport fees are set to be scrapped for the 2022-2023 school year, as part of a new package to curb back-to-school costs.

The package will also add an additional €100 to the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance, raising it to to €260 for a child up to 11-years-old or €385 for a child over the age of 12.

Additionally, there will be an expansion of the hot school meals programme to include an additional 60,000 children.

Education Minister Norma Foley said that the plan to waive school transport fees was a “significant investment” and that a total of €500 will be saved by families who use school transport.

Parents who have already applied for bus tickets will have them processed as usual, but will not be charged.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said that the updated back-to-school clothing allowance would benefit the 120,000 families who are currently on the scheme, but that she expected this to rise.

“This is a very expensive time for people when they have to kit children out to bring them back to school,” said Humphreys.

“Overall, I expect that this will benefit some 150,000 families this year, in respect of over 262,000 children.”

Announcing the package this evening, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said that he believed it was the right time to provide more assistance on a targeted basis.

“This is the time when costs are being incurred through July and august and into September and given the nature of the measures, we felt that it was best to make an intervention at this time rather than waiting for a budget in late September,” said McGrath.

“That would be too late in relation to some of the direct costs that arise for families at this time.”

Overall, €67 million has been allocated to these additional measures.

It comes just hours after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that ministers were meeting to discuss proposals around reducing the cost of back to school ahead of September’s budget.

Varadkar said that Budget 2022 had not anticipated the current level of inflation and previously agreed back to school measures were not enough.

“For that reason, Minister McGrath, Minister Humphries and Minister Foley are in some discussions today and yesterday to see if there is anything we can do to enhance the back to school package, acknowledging that September will come too late for back to school, and that work is underway,” Varadkar told the Dáil.

He said that 120,000 families would be receiving the Back to School Clothing and Footwear allowance next week, for approximately 200,000 students.

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A spokesperson for St Vincent De Paul told The Journal that recently many of its calls now relate to “requests for financial help with parental contributions, schoolbooks, digital equipment, and the cost of school uniforms”.

Louise Bayliss, the founder and spokesperson of Single Parents Acting for the Rights of Kids, said that single income households are particularly vulnerable to the cost of back to school.

“You’re relying on one income and you’re not getting help like the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance,” she said.

“Normally from about August, you hear parents starting to worry about back to school or maybe even mid-July, but it’s already started. It started before school even finished.”

Before the package was announced, Sinn Féin were set to bring a motion on reducing the cost of back to school to the Dáil this evening, calling on the Government to commit to do more on the issue.

“Back-to-school costs are hitting families now and they need support urgently, not vague promises of something that may or may not materialise in a few months,” said Sinn Féin’s education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire.

About the author:

Tadgh McNally

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