Free education must be introduced to counteract the punitive costs of back to school for those parents who do not qualify for back to school allowance as well as the need to increase the payment.
Certainly the back to school allowance needs to be increased to at least its pre-2011 rate of €100 per child attending primary school and €200 per child attending second level school. As it stands these amounts cover a mere 10% of the actual cost of children accessing what is supposed to be a ‘free’ education system. However, there are many families in Mayo and throughout the country who are on low wages and are left with minimal disposable income after paying mortgages, medical expenses, motor insurance, property tax and other bills yet do not qualify for a back to school allowance or indeed a medical card.
The pressure on these families who may also have children attending third level and again get no grant is enormous. The overall circumstances of the household including the actual income and expenditure should be taken into account when assessments for support are made.
Realistically the cost of items associated with attending school are not going to decrease so the government must look at the costs that are within their own control such as the cost of School Transport. €650 for two children going to second level school is just too much. How can we say we have a free education system and at the same time charge €350 for one child to travel to school? This particularly affects children living in rural areas like Mayo where we do not have the option of public transport. For that reason alone school transport charges should be scrapped.