Govt Urged To Tackle Back To School Costs

The Government is under pressure to relieve the cost of sending children back to school as the amount of families struggling to cover the expense rises.

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul reported a 4% increase in requests this year from families unable to meet the costs.

Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin responded to the "extremely worrying" figures by reiterating his party's demand for a free books scheme as part of an overall package to mitigate the issue.

He said: "We need to take heed of what SVP are calling for, they are there on the front line, dealing with families who are worried about the cost of going back to school. 200-300 calls to a national charity per day about back to school costs is a damning indictment of Fine Gael's idea of 'recovery'.

"Labour is on board with SVP's call for making school books free and ending voluntary contributions and have fully costed proposals as to how this can happen.

"Labour has introduced legislation to ban the practice of schools soliciting direct donations in any way that substitutes for, or is in effect, the imposition of fee for access to education. We are calling on the Government to ensure that this legislation passes through both Houses of the Oireachtas.

"In the upcoming Budget, the Government can end the practice of paying for school books. Labour proposes to introduce a Free Schoolbooks Scheme to be extended to all primary schools immediately, and to be extended to all secondary schools in two years' time. The Free Schoolbooks Scheme will be funded through general taxation. This will form a substantial part of our pre-budget submission and will be delivered if Labour are returned to government.

"Parents shouldn't be forced to pick up the tab for the failure of the Government to fund the actual costs of educating our children. Even in schools where parents have access to a book rental scheme, it still requires a payment of around €50 a year for an essential part of children's education.

"This is an extremely stressful time of year for parents who are struggling, it is time for the State to be a bit more cognizant of this and lift the burden on parents by dealing with so-called voluntary contributions and school books."

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