Government accused of leaving behind middle-income families in its back-to-school support

The Government has left behind middle-income families in its newly announced back-to-school supports, Sinn Féin claimed today.

eader Mary Lou McDonald called on the coalition to “follow the logic of your own argument” by assisting those households that do not qualify for welfare benefits.

The Government was “surely not saying” households on €621 a week were “home and hosed” and that it was “plain sailing for them,” she said.

The new moves left substantial numbers struggling, she said.

Minister for Public Expenditure,  Michael McGrath, acknowledged there were income limits for the newly-announced back-to-school supports.

But Sinn Féin had typically chosen the lowest one, he said.

On Tuesday ministers announced an extra €100 in the back-to-school payments for pupils.

The amount for those aged 4 to 11 will rise to €260, and that for each student aged over 12 will rise to €285.

The move will benefit 260,000 children and 150,000 families, Mr McGrath said.

He pointed out the Government was also abolishing school transport charges for next year, meaning a saving of €500 annually for families.

The free hot meals programme is also being extended to all DEIS schools, and will now be giving nourishment to 60,000 pupils.

The total cost of the new measures is €67m.

Mr McGrath said Sinn Féin’s “newfound advocacy for middle income families” wasn’t going to fool anyone.

That party’s recent emergency budget proposals did not contain a single measure related to back-to-school, he said, and its alternative budget last year had not offered any increase to clothing and footwear allowance for pupils.

But he added of the fresh concessions: “For many it won’t go far enough. We acknowledge that.”

Mr McGrath said however the Government’s last Budget had provided an extra €400 a year for those earning €700 a week.

But Ms McDonald said: “Given the ever worsening cost of living crisis and for weeks, we have been telling you that parents face huge back-to-school costs now and that an autumn budget would be far too late for families.

“Time and again, ministers lined up to parrot the Government mantra that budget 2023 – almost three months away – was the only way help.

“And then at dinner-time yesterday, after weeks of stubbornness and just two hours before a Sinn Féin motion calling on the Government to act, your position changed.

“Suddenly, it was possible for Government to step in with an increase in the rate of the back-to-school allowance for those already in receipt of that payment.

“You could have saved all of those families weeks of worry, by making this announcement and taking this decision sooner. However, I do welcome your Government’s U-turn.”

Leave a Comment