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Parents still go into debt to fund their children’s schooling

By Ann Marie Foley - 26 July, 2017

Parents are more concerned about the cost of sending their children to school than the possibility that they might be bullied.

A survey has revealed that 4 per cent of parents get loans from money lenders to fund back to school costs, and another 16 per cent use a credit card. Some 29 per cent of parents go into debt of some sort to pay for their children’s schooling, and others have to cut back on food or paying vital bills to cover costs.

This is according to the annual Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) survey which states that the average return to school spend continues to increase.

Commenting on this year’s findings, ILCU Head of Marketing and Communications Emmet Oliver said that “It’s clear that the back to school spend is still so much of a financial burden on parents that they are forced to deny their children some basic items, as well as sacrifice spending on family holidays and even food.”

The number of those using moneylenders was up by 1 per cent on last year. “While the rise in numbers using moneylenders was marginal, we would find any increase like this concerning and would really encourage parents to instead talk to their local credit union, where interest rates are fair and capped by law,” he added.

Almost four in ten struggling parents say they cannot buy their children new school shoes. More than two-thirds say they can’t afford extracurricular activities, while 36 per cent say gym gear, and a further 36 per cent say school trips, will be the items cut from the back to school list as they struggle to cope with costs.

The good news is that more parents are in a position to finance back to school costs through their monthly income –  71 per cent compared with 64 per cent last year and 41 per cent the previous two years. However, the survey also finds that 72 per cent of parents feel the back to school spend is a financial burden, with more than a quarter (27 per cent) saying the costs will impact negatively on household bills.

The actual cost of school continues to increase and the survey shows the average back to school spend continues to rise to almost €1,209 per child this year, an increase of 2 per cent on 2016 (€1,185) and a rise of 4.7 per cent on 2015 (€1,154).

The average spend per primary school child has increased by €81 since last year to €1,048. The costs per secondary school child have fallen from €1,474 to €1,401.

There is good news on uniforms, which cost 21 per cent or €39 less this year. However, the costs of extracurricular activities, school lunches, books and so-called voluntary contributions are increasing or remaining static. Activities cost an average of €187 per child, school lunches €154 and school books €150. Fees and voluntary contributions remained the same as last year at €113. The vast majority of parents (71 per cent) say they will pay a voluntary contribution this year.

Many families make sacrifices such as reducing family holiday spending (43 per cent), summer camps and other summer activities (28 per cent). Others will also have to cut back on paying household bills (27 per cent), credit card bills (11 per cent), food (11 per cent) and loan repayments (9 per cent).

Parents are more concerned about the cost of sending their children to school than the possibility that they might be bullied.

The Credit Union back to school costs survey is just one of many taken each year. Barnardos currently has an online survey running where parents can complete an online survey form.

Last week when NGOs in Ireland attended the annual Pre-Budget Forum, June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos said “Access to free primary education is a right for all children and it can be realised for as little as €103m per annum, just €185 per pupil. This would cover the costs of books, classroom resources, remove transport fees and voluntary contributions and raise the capitation rates back to 2010 levels.”

The NGOs stated that succeeding in education unlocks children’s potential and enables them to escape poverty. However, participation in the education system comes at a cost that pushes many families into debt. (See catholicireland.net 23 July 2017)

For the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) survey see: https://www.creditunion.ie/

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