Sinn Féin area representative Conor McGuinness has said that families in Co Waterford are borrowing from money lenders in order to cover the cost of sending their children back to school. The annual back-to-school costs survey carried out by the Irish League of Credit Unions shows that over one-third of families are borrowing money to cover these costs and of those 27% have borrowed from a money lender at rates of up to 188% APR. A similar study released this week by Barnardos shows that costs have risen again this year.
Conor McGuinness, who is a political and economic advisor with MEP Liadh Ní Riada and vice-chairperson of Dungarvan Credit Union, said “with 36% of families taking on debt in order to cover costs associated with going back to school we’re in danger of seeing people enter unsustainable and damaging cycles of borrowing. The pressure of voluntary contributions, books, uniforms and shoes, coupled with general increases in the cost of living, is causing parents to forgo spending on other items like healthcare, transport and household bills”, he said.
“Education is a fundamental human right and a social good. Children should be able to access the education system equally, irregardless of the socio-economic background or financial situation of their parents”, he continued.
”I have spoken with Sinn Féin education spokesperson Kathleen Funchion TD about this issue and I am glad that Sinn Féin is publishing a fully costed policy document outlining our proposals for the funding of schools. These proposal include increased funding for School Book Schemes, a €35 million increase in Capitation Funding to pre-recession levels, and regulation around the area of voluntary contributions to ensure no child is disadvantaged due to his or her parents inability to pay”, Conor McGuinness said.
Sinn Féin has also criticised the delay this year with the payment of the back to school clothing and footwear allowance and called for the Government to outline a time frame for payment as soon as possible.